Small Towns

  • Country Kids

    St. Matthews was surrounded by farms. In fact, you could walk one block and find farms. We would go down into the watermelon patch, break the watermelon open, eat the heart out—that was one thing. Then we had chickens [that] ran loose in the town. Everybody had chickens, and then you had a lot of loose ones. We decided to give a chicken supper one night, so we went around and picked up all loose chickens. We kids fried the chickens and invited all the parents and everyone to eat their own chicken. We used to pick cotton. There was a cotton field right near our house, and, all of the kids, we went down and started picking cotton. At that time you had big croaker—open croaker bags—that you’d put the cotton in, and they had a balance to weigh it, so we one time put some bricks in the cotton to make it weigh more. The bricks weighed more than the cotton, so we didn’t get away with that. We had quite a varied young childhood.

  • Story from: Cohen, Mordecai ("Mortie") |
  • Drummers

    In small towns you had to have people come in to sell you. They were very good friends of the merchants—in fact, that’s how my father landed in St. Matthews. He worked here in Charleston, and a drummer told him that, “I called on a small town in St. Matthews and they could use a store there, it’s a good business town.” So my father, who had never been to St. Matthews, didn’t know a thing about St. Matthews, went there and opened a store. They made the rounds and they would help each other. If one store needed something and another store had it, the drummer would know which stores had things. Like my father worked with two merchants in Orangeburg. If he needed something, we would go over to Orangeburg and pick it up—it was around twelve, thirteen miles from us—and they would do the same, come over to St. Matthews and get something they needed. Drummers played a major part. They stayed at your home, because they didn’t have hotels or things there, so if they came, they would come home for dinner and—I don’t remember them spending nights there, but I remember many of them eating there. They carried the news. You didn’t know what was happening in other towns, so they let you know about everyone: whose child was sick, whose child got married, who ran away from home. You knew all of the gossip from Columbia, Orangeburg, all of the smaller towns, you knew what was happening through the drummers.

  • Story from: Cohen, Mordecai ("Mortie") |
  • Pioneers

    There never was a Jewish section of Greenville. Where we lived—where my parents lived—the only Jewish families near us were my grandparents. And the reason my parents got the house they did was because it was near my grandparents. But most lived in other areas, scattered all over. When I went to grammar school, I was the first Jewish student who went there, the second was my brother. Period. And that was all. When I went to junior high school, in high school we had other Jewish students who had come before.

  • Story from: Bloom, Jack L. |
  • New People

    Piedmont Shirt Company, which was founded as I remember in the late ’20s by Shepherd Saltzman, was to the best of my recollection the very first of the garment manufacturing businesses that came here headed by Jews. Now there may have been others not by Jews. Beginning in the ’30s we started to get chain stores, which meant we started getting a salaried class. Piedmont Shirt Company had a salaried class. Most of them had been shop owners, store owners, so they were entrepreneurs on their own. We had at that time two doctors, both of whom had married non-Jewish women. They may have belonged to the Temple of Israel. I was the very first Jewish lawyer to come to Greenville. Now we have five or six, nothing like Columbia or Charleston. We have never had the impact in Greenville. We had a mayor, Max Heller, who did quite well financially. He came here from Austria, very fortunate to have had a woman from Greenville [who] went to Vienna in the late ’30s, met Max, [he] told her he wanted to come. She knew Shep Saltzman, Piedmont Shirt, who brought him over. And he brought his family. And from then on we have branched out. Now we have got something of everything. I don’t really know all of them. We have a lot of new people here, in diverse types of business. We have a good number of doctors, several dentists. Charles Adler is a dentist, we have another one at least. And so now I think we are part of a more generalized situation. We don’t have Jewish-owned stores anymore. You see? Those have gone.

  • Story from: Bloom, Jack L. |
  • In Every Little Place

    Chester had Jewish families all along. When my mother first came south she told me she once saw a colored woman, just got married and she had a cheesecloth veil, and so proud of it, and barefoot. And on Saturday afternoons they would all come in from the farm—they were all strictly rural—they would come in from the farms and they would fill the streets. Chester has gone down so much. There was a television series made several years ago and they used Chester as its backdrop. My uncle, Abe Balser, owned some buildings and they’ve sold them all since then, but we went to see the place and they had false fronts, some of which were still left there because they haven’t had the energy to remove them. But there are Jewish families there. There were Jewish families then. I don’t know what’s happened. There were Jewish families in every little place in South Carolina.

  • Story from: Bloom, Jack L. |
  • Home Remedies

    We had Louis Schlessinger, who had a general merchandise store, like cloth and women’s dresses, that kind of store. We had Frank Simler, who had a haberdashery. And we had another Levenson family, who had that same type of store where you had the general merchandise. My father’s store was the only one that sold everything: a little fatback, harness, collars, plows, things for the farm and more—and groceries, more than anything else. It evolved into things to wear, but mostly it was a food [store]. I can remember the big rounds of cheese—it was the big round with the wooden cover, and it had a slicer that looked like a guillotine or something, it came down and sliced. That’s the best cheese—you could never find it again—oh, I loved that cheese. They sold what they called johnnycakes, and the johnnycakes was a huge cracker, kind of sweet, like a vanilla wafer—maybe not quite as sweet—and, oh, about four inches around. It was not a little thing, and if you put cheese on one of those johnny crackers, you had a meal. It was delicious. Daddy would order a barrel of herring for our own use. Other Jews in town would say, “Frank, can we get some herring?” Some of the old folks, the black, white, old ones come in, “Mr. Frank, I got such a bad backache, I don’t know what’s wrong with my backache.” “Well, if you eat some of this stuff I got here, it’ll get rid of your backache.” So Daddy would sell them a salty herring. He knew if they drank enough water, they’d get rid of their backache, especially if it was caused by kidneys. Sweet cream and alum was his remedy for [poison oak]. And in the store there was a huge drum where they sold kerosene, and if Daddy got a cut, or anybody, Daddy would take them over there and pour the kerosene on it and they were all right. Don’t ask me why it didn’t kill them, but it cured them. Daddy was very good with animals and very rarely did he ever need a veterinarian to come over. He knew what to do, and he taught my brother. He knew what to do for animals. I went to my brother one time and said, “Daddy said send him some medicine for the pony, something wrong with the pony’s eye.” He had the pony for Joe, I think, at that time. And I said, “God knows, my eyes got bloodshot coming up here.” So he went up to his animal hospital, and he sat there a minute, and took out a thing, and said, “Open your eye,” and he put some stuff in and it cleared up. He said, “Here, take the rest to the pony.” We used the same stuff.

  • Story from: Schlosburg, Ella Levenson |
  • The Minyan

    Friday nights we have ten people at the minyan, counting women. We have a good many intermarried couples here. It’s so hard to say [what the future of the Anderson Jewish community is], I just can’t. You know, every once in a while we have a spurt and then they all leave. Like we have a Jewish doctor that came here in Iron Oakes, Dr. Roland. I think his wife’s from Lexington. I think she’s not Jewish. He comes every once in a while, but there’s not much to being here, you know.

  • Story from: Fleishman, Libby Kirsh |
  • A Nice Jewish Crowd

    LF: I did know a good many Jewish people down here [in Anderson when I first arrived]. We had a big crowd of Jewish people down here then. ’Cause you know you’d see from all the children and everything. We had poker games goin’, we had mahjong games goin’, bridge games goin’. Had a nice, nice Jewish crowd then. We always had card games going on and then there was the Elks Club that we all belonged to. In fact, that’s where your father-in-law passed away. SR: That’s absolutely right. The joke in the family is he was sitting there with a winning hand and keeled over.

  • Story from: Fleishman, Libby Kirsh |
  • Giant People

    There were either four or five Levy brothers and they said it was really magnificent watching them go down the street because all of them were over six feet tall. Their mother and father both. All of them, four sons and the parents. People would step back to watch these tall people go down the street. I met a few of my father’s first cousins. I met a few of them a few years back and maybe they shrunk, I don’t know, they didn’t look that tall to me. I mean, I was a teenager and I’m not very tall myself, but they didn’t seem that tall to me. But the stories were that there were these giant people walking down the street and people would stand back to look at them.

  • Story from: Ferguson, Conie Spigel |
  • Cousins Married Cousins

    [The families] always lived in town and maintained homes in town [Camden, S.C.]. And the family lived almost in a row on Broad Street, a row of families like—well, the Hirshes weren’t related but next to the Hirshes were the Shanks, which were cousins, and in-laws, and much intermarriage went on. And because back in the earlier days there were no Jewish people to marry so cousins married cousins if they were far enough away, you know, distant. We had a little house, which was the only non-Jewish person on the block, Mimi Nickle. And then our big house. The landscape was done—my grandmother, it was called Greenleaf Villa, and the landscaping was done by—she had an Italian landscaper come over and lay it out. There were three fountains and each fountain got higher so when you sat on the piazza, the front porch, you could look out and see these fountains spraying. The hedges were all trimmed and there were archways of boxwood. It was a lovely place to live and very large, three stories, and the third story was a formal ballroom, a real ballroom. Later we put it into a pool room. We had a full-size pool table up there. I never went up there much because I was too young, I wasn’t interested in pool at all. But my older brothers were. It was nice living there except for the winters when you froze to death, in the summers when it was hot and no air conditioning and no deodorants. And I always remember that everybody smelled when I was a kid. I could never get over that.

  • Story from: Baum, Norman E. |
  • Foreclosing

    While the Baum family were planting cotton they also were] merchants. And what they did, how they gained a lot of the land they got, they would back a farmer and give him money for fertilizer and food and so forth for half of his crop. And so many of the farmers couldn’t pay off at the end of the thing so the family foreclosed on a lot of the land. So they began to get all this land. I remember when I was a very young boy down near Boykin, South Carolina, there was a piece of property that was right on a lake and my mother was furious with my father for not foreclosing on it. Said the man is so far behind you’ll never catch up and you’ll lose all your money. And my mother made my father—she was a businesswoman and my father had no business sense whatsoever—and she made my father foreclose on this land. And I don’t know what happened to it. I have no idea. But this was when I was very very young.

  • Story from: Baum, Norman E. |
  • Yudedum

    We had the Yudedum Club here for the Jewish boys. It was a bunch of Columbia boys got together and named it the Yudedum. They used to give big dances. And the Charleston crowd would come up. Augusta crowd. Savannah crowd. They used to come from all over. I was always dating a Jewish boy from Charleston as I said. And he would come up for it. And they had wild dances. They would always go down to the bootleggers and buy a pint of liquor or a quart of liquor. We used to go bootlegging in those days. And they would always elect a queen. I’m trying to think of the Rosen girl—her first name. She was red headed. It was Lou Rosen’s sister. Katie, I think it was. She was one of the queens. It was quite an event.

  • Story from: Kahn, Helen Greher |
  • The Junior League

    They had the Junior League formed here in Sumter, but they called it the Junior Welfare League, because you had to have certain status before the National Junior League would have qualified. They wanted to qualify, they wanted to apply. So they followed certain guidelines. They didn’t have any Jews in ’em—they had a couple of ’em, but they were all questionable Jews. They were Jews, like one parent was Jewish and one was not, and then after those children grew up they married Christians and went to church and things like that. So it’s arguable—for instance, Patty became a member, because by her time they took people who was known to be Jews, but only if they were the kind that they thought they should have in the group. My mother took a dim view of that thing from the word go, and she was aware of it because of Minnie and Rosalie, our cousin, who grew up Jewish but changed early on. Rosalie did because she married a non-Jew and raised her—baptized her children and everything. Minnie never married and never had any occasion to do anything and left money to the temple, but she never came to temple, to a service or anything, but she never identified with the Christians either. So they came around to sell raffle tickets to that organization, that was having a raffle—my best friend across the street came. Momma said, “Virginia, I can’t possibly buy none,” and explained it to her, and she gave her the big tale, and the whole history of the Junior League, of that Junior Welfare League. She said, “That’s how it is, and so any organization like that, I’m not patronizing it. I know you wouldn’t expect me to do it.” She said, “Mrs. Barnett, you gotta be wrong. It can’t be. I’ve never heard such a thing, and I can’t believe it. I’m going to go and find out and I’ll let you know.” And she never did find out anything that [changed her mind].

  • Story from: Kaye, Ruth Barnett |
  • The Lebanese

    And I would say that the Catholics particularly [were close to the Jewish community] for the reason that so many Catholics were Lebanese, and you had a very similar economic background and they’ve been equally as successful as the Jewish, second generation, my generation, the Lebanese in Georgetown have all been very successful people. They’re doctors and dentists and merchants, successful merchants, and that sort of thing. There was a similarity because of the time in America, and the manner in which they came. They came as peddlers the same as Mr. Kaminski. He didn’t have a monopoly on peddling, you know. He just happened to be a more successful peddler than most people.

  • Story from: Rosen, Sylvan Lewenthal |
  • Purim Ball

    SR: I didn’t know what the word anti-Semitic meant ’til I went to college. We used to celebrate Purim parties and things like that, and we integrated. And you know we’d have outsiders as well as—this was an activity that’s gone by the way, but we used to have Purim parties very frequently, you know, every year. MR: As a matter of fact, the only one that I can remember, they probably had it at Fotlin [?], they called it a Purim Ball. They had an orchestra, a community dance. After that we had, when I was coming along and when his children [were growing up], we had parties for the congregation. But back before that, the community used to come to the affairs like that. SR: You had some anti-Semitic, just like you had anti-Negroes, but generally speaking it just wasn’t a—There wasn’t any difference, sometimes we’d go to the Catholic church on Christmas Eve, you know, with a group of Catholics. We’d go there sometimes. It wasn’t all one-sided. The Jews did the same thing as the non-Jews did. We participated in their affairs just as they participated in ours. MR: You know, the families were close. Protestant and Catholic, and the Jewish families were close. And if they had children your age and they were having something at the Episcopal church or the Methodist church, well, you went with them. You know, you went there. There was no proselytizing that I can remember or anything, on either side.

  • Story from: Rosen, Sylvan Lewenthal | Rosen, Meyer |
  • The Hyman-Schneider Business

    My father came to South Carolina and went to work first, I believe, at about fifteen years of age. He went to work for—the first person that I know of that I ever heard him say he went to work for was a Mimnaugh, who was in the mercantile business in Orangeburg, South Carolina. M-I-M-N-A-U-G-H, something like that. It was a right prominent name later on in Columbia. They had a relatively large store. And how he came in contact with it I don’t know but he later had some connection with Bubba Strauss, who had also married into the Weinberg family in Sumter. I don’t know what the itinerary was but he went to work for, he went to—Isaac Strauss had a son who apparently was not as stable as he might have been, and Papa went from there, as I understand, to either Summerton or Summerville, and assisted in the management of some cotton, textile business. Not a needle business, it was, you know, probably a cotton gin or something of that kind, or maybe just dealing in cotton, but it had to do with raw cotton. From there he came over here [to Georgetown] to work for Mr. Ringel. He and his brother-in-law. I never heard Mama and Papa talk about how they met or how they got married. It might have been one of those pre-arranged weddings, you know, in those days. But, anyway, they were married and settled in Georgetown and they went in business originally as a Hyman-Schneider business. Mr. Hyman from Darlington was probably the financier, put up the money. That business failed by reason of Mr. Hyman’s speculation in real estate, and one thing or another. And they reopened as the New Store and they continued in business as partners until my father died. And then the business evolved from a mercantile business to a furniture and appliance business which Harold and Philip continued until they retired.

  • Story from: Rosen, Sylvan Lewenthal |
  • Georgetown Merchants

    Ringel was a person that came down here, and I don’t know when he came but he had children that were born in America. He originally had a store down here on Santee, and I think—I’m not positive again—I think it was the Sittenfields that owned the store building that he came in, and there was an industrial banker here by the name of Mr. Morgan and Mr. Morgan induced Mr. Ringel to leave South Santee and come to Georgetown to go in business, and he was very successful. During the time that he was in business, he must have brought in—oh, I don’t know how many, I can’t remember, of course I don’t remember all of them—but starting with, say, my father and Mr. Schneider and possibly some others about that same age, he just brought young Jewish people, children, to come down here to work for him. And I would say that virtually every one of them ultimately went in business for themselves. I think that was the same inducement that brought Schneider and Rosen into Georgetown. Now, not any of them that I know stayed in Georgetown, but there were merchants in Conway and Kingstree and other places that all started working for Mr. Ringel and then ultimately went in business for themselves in some of these other small communities. And to tell you how he, or why he, came in—except that maybe Mr. Ringel was looking for some clerks at that time, and they knew of each other, and it was just normal employer/employee contacts and ultimate employment. That’s just an analysis of the situation. But I don’t know how many—do you remember, there must have been, I guess—well, there was Kalisky, there was Childs, and there was Popper, and Mr. Schneider, and there were others, too, that went in.

  • Story from: Rosen, Sylvan Lewenthal |
  • Classy Goyim

    I raised my children in Barnwell. I took my son—Mick roomed with him one year at the Smolen’s before he was bar mitzvah, one summer, and of course I took Arnold to everything in Augusta. Girls were not bat mitzvahed in those days, and when Margie became twelve years old, we were very friendly with the Episcopal minister—he’s still living, he’s a minister in Sumter, South Carolina, Mr. Martin. He came to see me one day and says, “You know, Libby, you’re depriving your daughter of a lot of fun. All her girlfriends, I have a little thing for them, a little drop-in every Tuesday night. We do not talk about Jesus and we do not talk about religion.” He says, “We play games, we do crossword puzzles, we sing songs,” he says, “and that’s all we do.” He says, “I would not hurt her, I’m not going to give her no pork or nothing, I only give them a little piece of cake.” He says, “It would not hurt her to come to my house, let her have a nice evening.” All of those children in the Episcopal were the aye, aye, aye [the upper class], you know, the Episcopal people are sort of the classy goyim—I don’t know if they’re all classy but in Barnwell they’re all classy. So I sent her. I sent her. I sent her one time, and I sent her the second time, and the third time she came home—Charlie would go and get her, at ten o’clock it was out—and she came in the house, she said, “Mother, he did talk to me a lot about the Jesus and had a regular program all around Jesus.” I said, “Well, that’s his business, he wants to convert you but he’s not going to do it.” School was almost out, and from that day on out she did not finish school in Barnwell. We sent her to Bernard Academy. That was in Gainesville, Georgia. They had a Hillel Foundation there ’cause they had Riverside—that was a boys’ school, had a lot of Jewish children there.

  • Story from: Levinson, Libby Friedman |
  • South of the Border

    Alan, of course, was in the beer business. That was his primary business. All of a sudden, North Carolina went on the county option system, and they voted these counties dry. Well, Miller and he said, “You need to have a beer outlet on the county line so you can retain at least some of your beer customers who will come and buy beer,” which they did. So he bought an acre of land which is the middle of the Sombrero shop, the original, where that tall thing is. And he built a cinder-block building to put cold beer. He just put a walk-in cooler and they were going to sell beer there, period. At that time Dixon Lee, who was the sheriff, said, “Alan, I cannot give you a county beer license unless you serve food.” Alan said, “I don’t want to get into the restaurant business.” He said, “If you want the beer license you got to at least make some semblance of selling food.” Harold and he were out there one day, and said, “What are we going to call this.” “Well, it is south of the line. We’ll call it South of the Border.” All of this thing was done almost accidentally. They had some little champagne velvet beer signs. I will never forget them, because I was in college and I came back and they had turned, because they were square—they’d turned them catty-corner and painted them purple, lavender. South of the Border, eight miles. They went to Fabe and got kosher corned beef and I guess hamburgers, and that is how South of the Border started. It was forced on [them] by the sheriff. It was also simultaneously, when the tourist traffic moved on Highway 1 to 301. And it would open like at one o’clock in the afternoon and close it at one o’clock at night. They couldn’t close the doors. And it started growing. It was two or three years before he built a motel. If you took statistical data, and if you had a management expert give you an opinion, like we have on our gas houses, there is no way in the world that South of the Border could work. Except it did. And it is his creation. It is his baby. He did it all.

  • Story from: Schafer, Joseph M. |
  • Not the Direct Route

    James Dillon or John Dillon, one of the two, had an old store, or a store in Little Rock, which was the centerdom of what was then Marion County in this area. So they had decided to sever off and make Dillon a separate county. And Atlantic Coastline Railroad at the time was going to run a main route into Florence. It was supposed to go through Little Rock. There was a fellow there, his family is still around, named James Hamer. He said, “They ain’t messing with my farmland. I ain’t letting no train tracks go through my farm.” So, Mr. Dillon said, “I will give you all the land you want over here if you move into Dillon.” So, the Atlantic Coastline Railroad came here. That is what formed Dillon. If you would follow the railroad track it goes down here about twenty miles to Pee Dee and almost makes a dogleg to go to Florence. So it was not the direct route. Dillon became a railroad stop and grew to what you see it today, which is not that much, but it’s home.

  • Story from: Schafer, Joseph M. |
  • Authentic History

    I had occasion in, let’s see, it would be about 1980, I was holding court in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and the General Assembly had just built a brand new building in Columbia which was dedicated to and named after Senator Rembert Dennis, a state senator for many years, who was from Moncks Corner. I guess the entire city of Moncks Corner had observed that as a holiday, and I adjourned court for the day and went to Columbia for the dedication ceremony with three other fellows. Coming back, the fellow who was driving the car, said he was tired of I-26 and he was going to take the old way back to Moncks Corner. Coming back, he went through the first town that had any familiarity to me which was St. Matthews, South Carolina, because I had relatives that used to live in St. Matthews. I think you interviewed Mortie Cohen. When I was six years old, I took my first train ride and went to St. Matthews to visit. The next city we came to was Elloree, and I saw a sign that said “City Hall” and I asked the driver to stop. I said, “You all have got to give me ten minutes or so.” I said, “All of my life I’ve heard that my grandfather was mayor of Elloree in 1896 but I’ve never seen anything pertaining to it. No documentation or anything.” I went into City Hall and there was a young girl working there and I asked where would I find some old records. I told her what I was looking for and she said, “Well, look upstairs. We’ve got a room full of filing cabinets with records.” So I went upstairs and, sure enough, they had a room full of filing cabinets but the last date they had on them was 1930. I came down and, explaining to her further what I was really looking for, and by that time, the chief of police came in and I explained to him and he said, “Oh, Mrs. So-and-so would know all about it.” So I said, “Well, how do I find Mrs. So-and-so?” He said, “Well, go down such-and-such a distance,” and he gave me directions which were reasonably complicated and so I said, “Listen, Chief, you’ve got to do me a favor. I’m going to get in your car and these fellows can follow me in their car and you’ve got to take me to this lady’s house because I may not find it. It’s the first time I’ve been in Elloree and probably the last time I’ll be in Elloree.” And he took us and we kept knocking and knocking and knocking on the door and there was no answer. So I said, “Damn it, I’ll never get back. I’ll never see this lady.” We started to leave. About that time, we heard a lot of noise, maybe a hundred yards away in the back of the house. So I said, “Let’s go back and see what’s going on.” So we walked back there. There was this lady. I would say she weighed about ninety pounds and my best recollection, she was about ninety-two years of age. This was in the heat of the summer and she had in her hand a saw. She was sawing off the limb of a tree. I interrupted her and I saw she was a little perplexed. She couldn’t quite understand what I was saying and she said, “Come on back to the house.” We all went back to her house and sat in her living room. And before she did anything, she got us all a glass of iced tea and she put on a hearing aid and she said, now I can hear you. I turn my hearing aid off, I take it off, because these cars and trucks going up the highway make so much noise I can’t stand it. So she put her hearing aid on and I again explained to her that my mother was born in Elloree and that my grandfather supposedly had been mayor of Elloree and she said, “Who was your mother? Mary or Eva?” I said, “Eva.” She said, “I remember the day she was born.” She said they lived right next door to us. She said, “Come here.” She took me out to her back yard and showed me there was a path that went from her house to my grandparents’ house, which was no longer there but the path was still there and she said, “I remember the day she was born.” She said how excited we all were. She took out a book and showed me where my grandfather was in the Volunteer Fire Department, a charter member, and was mayor and so forth, and she even loaned me the book with a firm commitment that I would return it within two weeks. I tried every way in the world possible to get a copy and in the two weeks I mailed the book back to the chief of police, who was to return it to this lady and I assume he did. Unfortunately, I never did get a copy and the next time I got to Elloree was a number of years later and she had passed away and her daughters, who were living, had no idea in the world what happened to her book. All her possessions were scattered and she had several children. They all left South Carolina except one and I went to the library in Elloree and they don’t have a copy and I haven’t found anybody in Elloree that does have a copy. I’ve got a couple of books on the history and their versions do not bear out what this original book that she had did. I think they’ve got my grandfather listed as mayor in 1902 instead of 1896 or something like that and it doesn’t say anything about the Volunteer Fire Department. It’s not as authentic a history of Elloree as this earlier book was. But one of these days, maybe I’ll get a copy of it.

  • Story from: Robinson, Klyde |
  • Burning the Kaiser in Effigy

    When the First World War [came], I was living there [South Carolina], of course. Grandmother’d come down to visit and they’d all be talking. When my grandmother came to visit, she and Momma, if there’s something they didn’t want us to hear, they talked in German, and I’d get real mad ’cause I loved to know what was going on. In the early days when she came, which was during the war—and I was a small, very, very tiny child—they said they was speaking French. I always thought this was a darling sidelight—they told us they were speaking French. My little friends across the street would be there playing and they’d be speaking. “What’d they say, what’d they say?” And they said, “We’re speaking French.” Because Germans were the terrible guys, and the Kaiser we burnt—I can remember burning the Kaiser in effigy on the school grounds. I went down to see it—Momma took me at the end of the war—and that’s how I’ll always know that word “effigy.” They burned the Kaiser in effigy. They had a thing like a hanging gibbet, and they had a thing hanging made out of straw like a scarecrow, and then they lit a fire under it and they burned it, and that was the Kaiser. They burned the Kaiser in effigy. There was a lot of hatred about the Germans, and so they said they would speak French.

  • Story from: Kaye, Ruth Barnett |
  • The Most Happy Southerner

    [My mother] lived in a gentile way, but it wasn’t a country way. They always lived in town, and they made that—Daddy always made that point. Anything that took place on the farm went through overseers, and he issued the orders. He was the man in command. They came to the store—he kept in touch with the farmers, they were sharecroppers and they had this little space of land. They came to the store every Saturday and there’d be big conversations about what was going on. He’d ride up there, I told you, in the buggy, and then in the car, and he’d drive around and see how things were, but only in like an overlord way. The day-to-day running of the thing was the overseers who carried out Daddy’s orders—you know, program. So Momma lived in town and never thought of herself as a farmer—I won’t say she didn’t think of herself as a farmer’s wife, ’cause of course that’s what she was, and she loved it, loved the country, loved to drive up there—but she didn’t personally connect with the operation of the farm. She became the most happy Southerner you ever did see. She loved the South. She loved the people. She loved everything, but she was not like everybody else down here—she was more kindly in her attitude toward the blacks. But she would always excuse the Jews down here, that “Well, you know that’s how it is, and they’re all so afraid that if you gave ’em an inch there would be a revolution, they’d come and murder you in the beds and all, these people just so narrow-minded that’s what they think.” She always spoke kindly of the southern attitude, but she was not that way. I don’t say that she was a great crusader in the other direction, but she was a humanitarian-thinking lady, and I turned out to be like her. Whereas the others are more out-and-out Southerners, in my family.

  • Story from: Kaye, Ruth Barnett |