A Hoosier Chronicle

My name is Evelyn Frances (Heighway) Beeson. I was born March 11, 1907 in Bourbon, Indiana, a small town in the north central part of the state. My father was a common laborer, what we now call a "handyman", but his specialty was roofing and plumbing. He was busy most of the time, but there wasn't much plumbing to be done in Bourbon at that time, for very few people had city water. And no one in town had electricity until I was about six years old.

My first memory is of moving from Main street to a small house at the edge of town. It was about two blocks away. Dad moved with a push cart, borrowed, I suppose. I can remember following him down the street. A neighbor man had given me a corn husk doll which I treasured, and I carried it with me. I was three years old.

The house had five rooms, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms, and a living room which we just called "the room". We had no furnace, just a wood and coal range in the kitchen and a heating stove in the living room. This was first a pot belly stove and later a hard coal stove which we thought very elegant. After my sister Eunice and I went to school and did our homework in the dining room we got a new Franklin stove. This was a little low stove with sliding doors in front like a fireplace. A small fire kept this room cozy.

I was oldest and Eunice three years younger, then Erma came along five years later. I don't remember being jealous of Erma, but she did get a lot of attention, as she was sick a lot. In alter years a doctor said she was epileptic, but I doubt that. She would just pass out and didn't have the seizures common to epilepsy. She died of a benign brain tumor at age 42, and I suspect this may have been a problem all her life.

We were quite poor, but we children didn't realize it. In the small town there were many people in like circumstances, so we never felt underprivileged. Mother remodeled clothes for us, and we didn't think anything of "hand-me- downs." Altogether, there were seven children in the family, so the younger ones got the recycled clothes from the older ones. I can remember going to school with holes in my shoes. I would put a fresh piece of cardboard in my shoe each day to keep my feet dry, and eventually would get new shoes.

Dad did the best he could, and we always had food on the table. We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, and mom always made a lot of jelly for our bread. In the fall, Dad always put fifteen or twenty bushels of potatoes in the cellar, and nearly that many of apples. We raised the potatoes, and picked apples for a neighbor to pay for ours. He also always put down a barrel of dill pickles. How we ate that many, I don't know!

Mother also canned peaches and cherries from our trees, and some years we made a big kettle of apple butter. This was done outdoors, as it took a long time to cook down. The apple butter needed no sugar, but Dad would get some boiled-down cider from the cider mill to put in it. This was thick and dark like molasses. With the spices, it made the apple butter very tasty.

We always had a large garden, and the cabbages, squash, and sweet potatoes would last well into the winter. Mother also dried corn and apples, and later learned how to cold pack green beans and corn.

Yes we had meat on the table too. Mother always raised chickens, and during World War I she started raising ducks. HOw we enjoyed those big duck eggs when the price of eggs was so high in the stores. Mother also sold some of her chickens, and would get a good price for them. She charged $1.00 each no matter what the were in the stores. This was in a time when many men made only $1.00 or $2.00 a day for hard work. Chicken was considered a luxury to be used only for Sunday dinner, or when the preacher came.

When I was six or seven years old, Billy Sunday came to town to preach the dedication of the new Presbyterian church. The church was not finished, just the foundation and rough sub-flooring was completed. But they put in undertaker's chairs and had the service.

Billy Sunday was staying at the home of the local department store owner, whose name was Jim Fribley. Jim came to Mother and wanted to buy two of her best young chickens. She asked him to wait until she talked to the girls. Eunice and I had picked out two of the young chickens for our own and had named them. I forget the name of my chicken, but Eunice's was named Marilyn Cecil Mary, all of that! Mother asked us if we would be willing to sell our chickens to Mr. Fribley, as they were the finest she had. After a little reluctance we agreed, and Mother told us we should always remember that the great Billy Sunday had feasted on our chickens.

Billy Sunday preached the dedication service and after the service went out to the little Bourbon ball park and umpired a game of baseball. They wanted him to play, but he refused. He had been a big league ball player before he was converted and became the greatest evangelist of his time.

Chickens and eggs are much cheaper now since they have what I call the huge "chicken and egg factories". A man told my grandson that in the place where he worked the chicken house was so long he couldn't see clear to the end of it. Incidentally, our county is considered the "Egg Capital of the World".

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