Nannie Maude Reynolds shares memories and thoughts about Winston County’s past.
My mother sewed on our old treadle sewing machine. It was used as a bedside table when it was not in use for sewing. We had two double beds in the room where the fireplace was and the sewing machine sat between them. Mama made all our clothes except for those that someone gave us. We loved hand-me-downs. Mama was a good seamstress and she made clothes for our friends too. She never had a pattern. She used to hold the material up to us and measure it before cutting it. She measured the length of our waists and our skirts. Sometimes we saw someone wear a dress made in a certain pattern and we would come home and tell Mama about it. The next day we would have one like it. Mama was a good manager of money. She bought up pieces of cloth when Daddy sold the cotton crop every fall and saved it for special occasions. She bought material for school clothes and for Sunday dresses. We had only one pair of shoes at a time. Sometimes the soles would wear out and we would have to go to school barefoot. No matter how hard times were, it seems we always had shoes and clothes for the coldest weather.
The material for sheets and bed linens was a different story. I don’t remember ever buying a sheet back in those days. In the spring, we bought fertilizer to put under the cotton and corn crops and for the garden. We always emptied the fertilizer sacks and saved them. We boiled them in the wash pot with lye soap until all of the letters came out and then we rinsed them in two tubs of cool water. If the letters were not completely out we had to re-wash them. We used lye soap with which to wash them and hung them in the hot sun to bleach. We made sheets with five sacks. We used the sacks for pillow cases, bath towels and dish towels, too. Mama saved the raveled thread that was used to sew the sacks after being filled to the brim with fertilizer She used it to repair ripped shoes and overalls. Some mothers crocheted beautiful doilies with it and used them on the backs of chairs and on tables where they sat a lamp. We embroidered designs on the dish towels and scarves to go on tables and backs of the dining chairs. When they were starched and ironed they were beautiful. Some folks made bed spreads from sacks and used a technique called ‘tufting’ to create beautiful designs on the spreads. I am sure if we knew where to look for them, there are still some in existence. The good quality of the fertilizer sacks would rival the linen material that was so expensive. The feed sacks were for dresses. We seldom got feed sacks because we grew all the feed that we fed our animals. We did feed the pigs ‘hog shorts’ before killing time but we fed all the animals corn and hay from our own fields. We never had feed sack dresses after we grew up because they were so scarce. It takes 3 or 4 sacks to make a dress and we rarely had that many. Our underwear was made from flour sacks. The flour sack material was more dainty and pretty and white. New babies wore flour sack gowns and kimonos with tiny little embroidery on them. They looked much like the expensive little kimonos made from batiste today.
All these memories serve to remind me of the proclamation by Paul that he would always strive to be content in whatever state he found himself. We were very happy and content even in the meager circumstance in which we lived. Paul said in Hebrews 13:5 ……Be content with such things as ye have. For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” And besides that, everyone else wore fertilizer sacks and flour sacks and feed sacks if they were lucky.
Editor’s note: Nannie Maude Reynolds is an author and Winston Countian. She has written four books including “Home For Christmas”, “The Road South”, “A New Generation’ and two histories of Noxapater with Betty Suttle. To purchase one of her books contact 662-724-4631.