Sunday Morning Going to Church

The year was 1934. Our family was Papa, Mama and us 4 kids. We lived on a 20 acre farm on McNutt creek. Papa worked hard on the farm and also at the mill in Bogart. This is a recollection of Sunday morning at our house. I think it was the same at many houses in Oconee County, GA.

Mama was usually up before any one else, it didn't matter if it was Sunday morning, Christmas morning, or the morning that she was giving birth to our brother Billy. She was in the kitchen starting a fire in the wood stove, making biscuits and gravy. If we had any eggs over the five dozen that she sold each week for 20 cents a dozen, then we had scrambled eggs for Sunday morning breakfast. Our meat for breakfast was fatback and on special occasions it was homemade sausage that Mama had made with lots of sage, stuffed in a cheesecloth tube, and hung in the smoke house to cure.

As soon as Mama had put the biscuits in the oven she would come to each on her sons and daughters, give them a kiss on the cheek, tell them that she loved them and let them know that breakfast was ready. (She never yelled, "Get up", or "come And Get it".) Of course we could already smell the wonderful odors coming from the kitchen. The house was only one bedroom, which was for Mama & Papa. Us kids all slept on pallets in the parlor. The two girls were up first, they headed to the warm kitchen where on a side table Mama had a washbowl and pitcher filled with warm water. They would wash their face and hands and then help Mama set the table. The two boys were next, we used the same water that the girls had used to wash our faces with. Mama says that girls don't get dirty so we can use the same water. When breakfast was almost ready then Mama would wake Papa. (On Saturday night Papa usually did extra work at the mill as a night watchman for 40 cents per hour. This was 15 cents an hour more than he made during the day as a mechanic at the mill.) Papa would come in the kitchen singing a hymn, usually something like "Shall We Gather at the River" or "At the Cross, At The Cross"

Tom, my brother and I had our own version of this song:

"At the bar at the bar where I smoked my first cigar.
And the money from my pockets rolled away.
It was there by chance, that I tore my Sunday pants,
And now I have to wear them everyday"

We all joined in singing, and said grace before the meal. Mama had made at least two dozen biscuits and we had our fill, some with freshly churned butter and blackberry jam that Mama had made and some topped with gravy. It would not be until 4 PM before our next meal, so Mama made sure that we cleaned our plates. Then we said grace after our meal.

We all had chores to do before we went to church. I was four years old and Tom was five, our job was to roll up the pallets, store them in the closet then take six of the kitchen chairs and place them in the bed of the farm wagon. These were for the women to sit in as we went to church. Betty was seven years old and Nancy was three years old they would help clear the table and wash the dishes. Papa would harness the two mules and hook them up to the wagon.

Sunday morning was bath time for the Boys. Papa would take a cake of homemade soap and us boys to the creek scrub us good with the soap and dunk us in the creek. Papa would have a towel and clean underwear hanging from the branch of a tree. We would dry off and head back to the house in our clean underwear. When we got back home the girls had had their baths in the washtub on the back porch.

I don't think we had "Sunday best clothes". The three older kids all wore bib overalls, and Nancy had a real store bought dress given to her by Aunt Carolyn.

In the wagon Mama and Betty sat in the chairs, Papa drove the mules and us three younger kids sat on the tailgate with our bare feet dangling. We stopped at the neighbor's house to pick them up, Mr. Cooper sat next to Papa, Mrs. Cooper and her thirteen-year-old daughter sat in the chairs. This left two chairs that were empty. Some times we would pick up neighbors who were walking to church, but most of the time these chairs were reserved for the minister, his wife, and two boys who would come home with us at least once a month for Sunday dinner. It would take us about one hour to get to church. Tom knew all the good places where we could jump off the back of the wagon, run to the side of the road, pick some wild plums, grapes or blackberries, run to catch up with the wagon with a mouth full of tasty fruit. What a life!

Papa was a deacon at church, he took the collection and sometimes if the preacher was ill or otherwise absent then Papa would give a short sermon. Mainly he would talk about being good to each other. Mama was the assistant choir director and she played the piano for the hymns. She never took piano lessons, but she sure could play loud and with gusto.

After Church we would all go outside. The kids would play and the grown-ups would visit for about half an hour. Slowly the crowd would leave, some people in their cars, others walked, but I sure loved the ride home in the old farm wagon. On the way home sometimes I would fall asleep in my mothers arms.

From the memoirs of Charles W. Brown. Son of Louise Elizabeth Autry and Joseph A. Brown