Mollie did not depend on others for help—I do not ever recall her asking for or getting assistance from anyone—of course, there were no government programs to aid those in need.
Mollie’s only available resources were monies earned from working on the plantation—and sometime borrowed money from the plantation owners which she would pay back later—and clothes that were given by extended family members. My older brother moved to Miami, Florida and later also my oldest sister who had a son leaving him back home with mother who would send mother money when they could.
Seven years later, still a young woman, Mollie had four additional children plus a grandson belonging to her oldest daughter to care for on her own. She had a miscarriage between the second and third child. I remembered when times were very hard, and we had very little. As a plantation worker, Mollie worked in the fields chopping and picking cotton, peas, peaches, shaking peanuts, picking up pecans, and shucking corn, picking black berries, she also worked at a canning plant where they canned many food products. Many days Mollie would work from early morning until sunset in the evening. She earned menial wages of fifteen dollars a week chopping cotton. The most money earned was from picking cotton, peaches, pecans, corn because they were weighted by the pound. On the other hand, Mollie always had a way to make ends meet,
To ensure that the family always had food, Mollie did not hesitate to put in action her God-given wisdom, she had a separate area on her property where she planted different vegetables—cabbage, collards, mustard, turnip greens, peas, sweet potatoes, green onions, okra, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, hot peppers, watermelon, sugar cane. When it was time for meat, Mollie knew all the wild animals and birds that were good to be eaten (rabbits, squirrels’, possums and birds). Being such a good cook, the way Mollie seasoned and simmered those meats, one could hardly tell the difference.
Mollie was also a very multitalented individual. She made small throw rugs from old stockings and quilts from scraps of fabrics, by hand (between the late 30s and early 50—only one quilt remaining). She baked cakes, sweetbread, sweet egg bread—yummy—the three or four layer chocolate cake—the lemon cheese and pineapple cake was the bomb! She also made sweet potato pie, blackberry and peach gobble, egg custard, cornbread turkey or chicken dressing that no one could top! Oh, my—how could I forget!!! When we could not afford to buy cold drinks/soda pops or even a bottle of grape or strawberry Kool-Aid, she made sweetened water (sugar and water mixed together), add a slice of lemon—now we call it lemonadeJ). Mollie was, indeed, a survivor. She was an expert when it came to making pot-ash soap from
hog scraps??? However, or whatever she made it from, it surely cleaned and whitened our clothes.
She was a wiz when it came to canning and storing foods for the winter and hard times; she canned peaches, blackberries, pears, and peas.
Looking through the eyes of wisdom, Mollie made preserves from watermelon Rhimes. Oh the pear preserves was to die for—if you don’t believe me, ask my brother Joe—LOL! Ironically, Mollie raised her own chickens and hogs; at times, she would kill a hog and preserve the meat for almost a year. Not wasting any part, she made souse from pig ears, pig feet, pig tails).
In those days, we had no refrigerator, just a little icebox. Today, that is called a cooler. One thing Mollie did that really amazed me was when she dug a hole in the ground, lined the hole with pine straws, placed sweet potatoes inside and then cover it with several more layers of straws. She covered the hole with a wooden board or tin which kept the potatoes fresh for months.
Although, Mollie never taught her children about slavery and how black people (in general) were treated in earlier times, it was not long before we realized that prejudice and slavery was a fact of life then, especially for blacks. On one occasion, I recalled me and my sister taking the bus to the Americus to look around. On our journey we stopped at the window of a small restaurant to buy hamburgers. As we approached the front window, the attendant immediately ordered us to go to the back window. In another instance, on our way home, while waiting at the bus station, I went into the restroom. Totally unaware of segregation, differentiating “White`s” from “Colored”, I could see the hateful resentment on the white women’s faces, staring at me as if I had committed a crime—I said nothing! When we got on the bus, I also recalled not sitting at the back of the bus, either. As a teen, I realized I was very bold during those times—Was I—or was I living under God’s protective hands? I would say the latter!
Mother was very industrious and multi-talented; she made rugs from old stockings and quilts from scraps of fabrics. She baked sweet treats: cakes, sweetbread, and sweet egg bread— yummy!!! The vanilla, lemon cheese and pineapple cake was best, and the sweet potato pie, blackberry and peach gobble and cornbread turkey or chicken dressing—that no one could match. And, oh, how can I forget! When we could not afford to buy cold drinks/soda pops or even a bottle of grape or strawberry Kool-Aid, she made sweetened water (sugar and water mixed together). Not only was mother a survivor, she was also an expert when it came to making pot-ash soap from hog scraps. However or whatever she made it from, it surely cleaned and whitened our clothes.
She was a whiz when it came to canning and storing food for the winter and hard times. Looking through the eyes of wisdom, she canned peaches, blackberries, pears, peas—and oh, that pear preserves really was “to die for”—if you don’t believe me—ask my, brother, Joe (Lol)! Ironically, Mother raised her own chickens and hogs; at times, she would kill a hog and preserved meat for almost a year. Not wasting any part, she made souse from pig ears, pig feet, pig tails. We had no refrigerator, just a little icebox. Today, that is called a cooler. One thing Mollie did that really amazed me was when she dug a hole in the ground, lined the hole with pine straws, placed sweet potatoes inside and then covers it with several more layers of straws. She would then cover the top with dirt which kept the potatoes fresh for months.
Photo by Andrew Neel