Memories of our county – Toys

Nannie Maude Reynolds shares memories and thoughts about Winston County’s past.

We were never bored. I am not sure if we knew the meaning of the word. I hear it often these days as I listen to the conversation of our youth and children.  They have toys, or things they call toys, all over the house. One has to be careful as they walk in my house for fear of stepping on some intricate part of some machine or other. As I write this article, I have to constantly tell my 5 year old great-grandchild to wait until I get through with this article so that he can use the computer.  They have toys such as iPads, Dindles, DS, cell phones, video games, and their own computers.  I cannot even use most of these ‘toys’.  In my day we had plenty of toys.  We had cars, trains, motorcycles, our own homes, and many more. Our cars were made by laying a square bale of hay on the ground and sticking a stick in the ground in front of it with a bucket lid nailed to the end of it for a steering wheel. The clutch and brake was a spring from an old set of bed springs that we found in a gully down in the pasture. Another form of car was a discarded snuff bottle. We made roads and tunnels and bridges  for them under the house in the damp dirt. Our train was several apple crates attached end to end with a pretend engine. Our planes were wings attached to our backs from an old umbrella or some other piece of stretched fabric. We made our own homes by sweeping a section under the trees in the woods behind our house. We made rooms by dividing the space with limbs from fallen trees. We searched the whole place for pieces of broken dishes and old pots and pans that had been discarded. We save all the old tin cans and buckets that were emptied at our house. The bucket lids were our plates and the tin cans were our glasses. We stacked old boards for shelves and made beds by piling leaves. We either sneaked some sheets from the house or we begged Mama to let us carry them to the playhouse. Our dolls were made from ears of corn with beautiful silk for hair. We rarely had bought dolls. These homes in the woods could keep us occupied all day long. Our parents never came to look for us and they let us stay as long as we wanted to. Of course we had made beds, milked cows, swept floors, and churned before we were allowed to go to the playhouse. We met our friends in the woods from their house and we made roads, homes, school houses and churches.  One of the most fun things we had was a toy made from a metal band that must have come from some kind of bucket or barrel. It was only around 10 inches in diameter. We found a piece of wood about 3 feet long and 2 inches wide. On one end of it we nailed one of Daddy’s tobacco cans that had been opened and flattened. We cupped the tobacco can on two sides and we were able to push the metal band for hours. We ran up and down the road with it and made the sounds of cars on the speedway.  I was reminded the other day of the ‘flying jenny’. My Daddy cut a tree down in the pasture around 36 inches from the ground. I do not know where he got it, maybe from someone’s sawmill, but he brought home a plank that was 2 inches thick and 8 inches wide. It must have been all of 20 feet long. He bored a hole in it in the center and attached it to the tree stump. We climbed aboard the ends and someone would push us around and around the tree stump. We flew, hence the name, “flying jenny.” Grace Wilkes Beck told me that she remembers my Mama bringing us a picnic lunch out to the flying jenny and we ate there without having to quit for lunch. If one had slipped up on us as we worked on our homes, they would have known the extent of training we had at home, because they would have heard the words that our parents used with us as we talked to our dolls and neighbors in the woods. We said Grace, went to church, prayed, spanked our children for misbehavior, and generally taught them what we had been taught. That is the way it should be, isn’t it?

Nannie Maude Dewease Reynolds