MANN TALK: Farm Sundays in FDR Days

by Perry Mann
Perry Mann
Perry Mann

Sunday began on Saturday. It was the day that my grandmother surveyed her chicken flock and decided which one of them would be in the pot for Sunday dinner. She would gather up her apron into a container, pour a handful of cracked corn into it, walk into the chicken yard and call chick, chick, chick. The henhouse gang was soon at her feet pecking corn. She would maneuver to be above the chosen victim; in a flash she would have the chicken by the legs. She would secure the wings and feet, go to the chopping block and with an ax sever its head. Then she would scald, pluck, eviscerate and make it pot or skillet ready.

Sunday was a day of rest. No work except what had to be done. Cows were milked, pigs were fed, dog and cat fed. Breakfast was prepared and eaten. The rest was mostly for males. The women had to prepare the biggest meal of the week: Sunday dinner. Much was done early toward preparing that meal because church attendance was a must.

My grandfather sang in the choir. He had a hymnal with shaped notes. The shape of the note determined it musical value. He also had a tuning fork. He would dress early while the women rushed about doing necessary chores and would sit on the porch in a split bottom, strike his tuning fork on the banister and sing quietly to himself. He was practicing for his choir responsibilities.

My grandparents had a closet about the size of a telephone booth. It contained their Sunday best, which wasn’t worn except on Sundays and at funerals. Someone always had to tie my grandfather’s tie. Aunt Sadie did it for years. I also helped to tie it when I learned how. Grandmother dressed in black with some lace here and there and flat-heeled shoes. Spike heels would not do on country roads. Before leaving for church, my grandmother, whose only income was from the sale of eggs, would call me into her bedroom and take from a purse a dime for me to contribute to the collection at church.

It was time now to depart for church. It was a half mile walk but all walked. In the early years the walk was a country road, dust in summer and mud in winter. Later a hard surface road was built not far from the house and gave easier access to the church. The church was the Mt. Pisgah Methodist. It was a box of a steepled church with wooden benches, a wood-fired stove on either side, a pulpit and a wrap- around railing with a cushioned runner for the sinners to kneel on when confessing sins or converting. My aunt played the organ and grandfather sat with the choir. Grandmother had her friends. I got with my buddies. Sunday was about the only day my buddies and I got to be together in summer months with the exception of a fishing expedition in the Greenbrier on some holidays.

Before preaching, there was Sunday school. The congregation was divided into four groups according to age. Granddad and grandmother sat in one corner of the church with the oldsters, Aunt Sadie taught a class of youth and I sat with Punk, my buddy, with the teen group, which was taught by Uncle John Carden, who was my mother’s uncle and was married to my GrandfAther’s sister. We always received literature that had Jesus’ picture on it and was inscribed with Scripture. The Scripture was the teaching theme for the day.

After a break outside and lots of talk, the call came to reconvene for preaching. First there was a hymn or two. One I can hear now: “I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses and the voice I hear falling on my ear… .” Then, there was the collection; and, after another hymn, the sermon. Different preachers had different styles. But most were passionate and bombastic. Hell and Heaven were real. The former for the bad and latter for the good--- good being church going believers. Usually there was a call to come forward to the altar to confess sins. To accompany this call the choir always gave forth with a hymn with these words sung over and over: “Almost Persuaded.” Once, after the call to come had gone long sans any sinner coming forth, I suggested to Punk that we go forward for the fun of it and to accommodate the preacher. We did and went to the kneeling place and had an intimate conversation with the preacher.

Church over, there was the collection of congregants outside to determine who would have dinner with who. Always, on Sunday after church someone went with someone else to have dinner. My choice for dinner guest was often my buddy. Punk and I were inseparable. It was an irritant to the adults. But we were alike and our thinking and genetic composition were close. So Punk came home with me to have helpings of the chicken grandma had sacrificed on Saturday for the meal on Sunday.

Punk’s family was a victim of the Depression. His father lost his job and had no other prospects than to come to the home of his widowed sister. She had a farm that adjoined my grandfather’s farm. There were Lonnie, Bessie and five children, Punk being one of them. They had no cows or horses, so they had to exchange man-power for horse-power. Their lot was tough. So when Punk came to eat with me he had as many glasses of milk as he dared ask for. And when I ate at his house I discovered when I lifted my knife for butter to spread on my bread, there was no butter on the table.

After dinner we were free. But we had to abide by the Old Testament. We could not do anything forbidden by it. But Punk and I were pagans. We knew that in Hinton there was a theatre where motion pictures were presented and we had the money for admission. So we went to the highway and hitchhiked to Hinton to see “Dark Victory” starring Bette Davis. After which we had the problem of getting back to Mt Pisgah before the evening service so that our sin would not be discovered. We hitchhiked and were successful. We were in church with innocence writ all over us for the evening service.

Punk and His brother marched across Europe and were those who helped to make possible the victory of the Allies over the Nazis and who survived to come home to the land of their fathers. I too tagged along and visited many places in North Africa and Europe: Italy, Corsica, France, Algeria and Tunisia. And, I came home to celebrate with Punk. I later did his will and attended his funeral.

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Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV. He was born in Charleston, WV in 1921. For David M. Kinchen's review of "Mann & Nature," a collection of Perry Mann essays, click:

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