We spent a lot of time in the kitchen in the shacks so here is a little story about that.
Usually the crowing of a rooster would wake us up. I could hear the voices of my parents in the kitchen, if Daddy hadn’t left for the field yet. Usually he was gone early. Once we started school, Daddy would drag us out of bed by the feet, if you didn’t get up when he called you. He expected us to be punctual and not miss the bus. Once our heads hit the floor, we were generally somewhat awake and didn’t dare crawl back into bed.
When we were younger, we all made our way to the kitchen for breakfast together. It was a sparse room with worn linoleum floors so cracked and brown that the pattern wasn’t visible any longer, especially in the traffic areas. The room was dingy with its unpainted walls and the single light bulb that hung on a cord from the ceiling.
Cast Iron Skillet
Mama, looking tired and frazzled as usual, stood at the old stove in one corner cooking a big iron skillet of scrambled eggs. I thought. “Not scrambled eggs again!” But they were plentiful on the farm with the one hundred fifty chickens we had.
The stove was a small apartment size with burners on the top and a mini-size oven underneath. Later Daddy would buy Mama a full size electric stove. Mama would love that stove except for the oven that would not heat very long and for some reason they never got it fixed. Looking back on it, I imagine the reason was not enough money when we were doing fine with it the way it was in Daddy’s mind.
Daddy usually went to his mothers for breakfast. Sometimes he would leave just before sunrise, long gone from the house by the time we got up. After Mamaw fed the men, they would head out for another long hot day in the cotton fields. She would join them after she did the dishes and walked out there from the house.
We all seated ourselves at the table that was to the left as you entered the room. The older kids sat on a wooden bench against the wall that Daddy built for us complete with a footrest and boards on the side so we wouldn’t fall off. The younger ones sat in high chairs arranged around the table, some of which didn’t have trays on them. Daddy had placed a sheet of plywood on top of the original table to make it large enough to accommodate all nine of us. I don’t think we ever owned a tablecloth in those days. Did they even make one big enough to cover an eight by four foot sheet of plywood?
Next to the table on the left hand wall was a door to the outside. This door was for ventilation purposes in the summer time. Window screen nailed to the doorframe kept the door permanently shut and kept the bugs out.
The old white icebox sat between the outside door and the small opening that led to an open space with a few shelves for can goods and dishes. This space had no door.
On the far wall was a freestanding porcelain sink with drain boards on each side, but no cabinets. Starting at age six, I used to strand on a chair there to reach the sink and help Mama with the dishes.
A view similar to this one except this is from creative commons. We didn't have a camera in those days
Next to the sink, through a small window, I could see my grandparent’s house down the old dirt road. The aged stove was in the far corner. We inherited it, as we did most of the furniture in that old house. The oven went out shortly after we moved in, so we did all the cooking on the top burners only.
On the right hand wall was a door with a window that opened into a hallway and the addition to the house that started out as three sharecroppers shacks joined together to make one house. Also, an old bench once belonging to a picnic table sat in the kitchen. This was the place we had to sit as punishment when caught doing things we weren’t supposed to do.
As I looked around the room, I thought there must be a better way than this. I wondered why the only thing we ever painted in that house was the doors and they were a sea green color. Mama explained to me later that they wanted the house to look old-fashioned. Oh my, I would think it would look old-fashioned anyway.