Arabi

It was kinda sad but exciting the day we moved from Chula to Arabi. Daddy would be working for the same man, Mr. Berry Rigdon. He owned several turpentine operations, a dairy there in Chula and I don’t know whatelse. He and his family lived in a fine house in Tifton. It was raining and our little dab of furniture was on a gum truck getting wet and we were in the old blue Chevrolet. A car we dearly loved, felt almost rich riding in that car. The house was huge, big white house with a wrap around porch. We all had a bedroom and a fireplace was in every room. We learned later that day that every fireplace smoked too.

I had slept in the room with the boys and now had my own room. The porch was a great place to play and the well was right there on the back porch. That was quite common in South Georgia where water was not very deep into the ground. Of course the bathroom was still located outdoors, but then we didn’t know there was any other kind except for a few rich city folks. Since ours was located beyond the wood pile I always went with Bud at night. He had this thing about the dark. I figured if we both ran as fast as we could we would be okay. One night I fell over a piece of wood and was running so fast it knocked the breath out of me. We still ran after that, but not as fast. I would stand outside and guard for him and he would do the same for me.

We knew most all the hands but some of them were special. Becky was one of the women who helped Mur. She was a sweet kind lady whose husband treated her badly. Back then nobody even thought about divorce or leaving a bad situation. Becky had several children and no education so she, like many others, did the best she could. We also had a special friend in Leroy. He worked for Daddy for years and he was a good person. He would kind of keep an eye open for us and make sure we were okay. He had been gambling one night with a bunch of men and they got mad with him, maybe for winning, or perhaps they thought he was cheating. They or at least one of them got a gun after him and we heard him yelling and opened to the door for him to come in. We didn’t think they would try to come in our house but they shot a few rounds outside. Mur and Daddy weren’t home so we felt good saving Leroy. He would have helped us. I remember being scared though and Daddy had a big leather jacket hanging over the back of the kitchen door. I got that and put it around me. It made me feel much safer. Daddy could keep you safe from most anything. I wish all children could have that feeling.

Again we lived near the railroad only this time we didn’t have to cross the tracks to cross the highway, which was still 441. The tracks were just beyond our back yard. We still waved at the engineer and he would blow the whistle when he saw us. We still had a big commissary and sometimes Daddy would bring a whole box of little chocolate cakes to the house. He knew I really loved them and that was a special treat. The Rent’s ran a little store across the road and when we saved up and each had six cents we would go over and get a RC cola and a penny wheel cookie. That would last us all afternoon.

This was during the big depression and almost every day hobo’s or hitchhikers would stop at our house to ask for food. Many times they were folks on their way to Florida seeking work. Many were from all different states, especially northern and mountain areas that had no work for people. Men were traveling anyway they could to try to find jobs. We learned later that these travelers did frequently place a mark on the electric poles to let other travelers know they might get food here. We had little and it was certainly simple food but when we had it we always shared. Often men wanted to chop stove wood (everybody had wood cook stoves) for food. Occasionally someone would ask to sharpen your knives or scissors. Only one time do I remember a hobo who jumped trained ask for food and we fixed him butter biscuit with jelly, which was all we had, and he took it and threw it away. We decided he wanted something better, but so did we. Only maybe one time did we ever think about being a little afraid of anyone who stopped by. Really no one thought of being afraid because these were just average people down on their luck because of the times we were living in, it was no fault of their own. Once in awhile it would be a family just trying to get to other family members that might be able to help them in their tight times.

We were greatly blessed because Daddy did have a job. We were all in school and had it much better than many people. I started first grade in Ariba. That was 1936. Our school was on the other end of town so we walked to and from school. James always assumed the role of looking after Bud and I, so we always walked together. Back then there was no pre-k or kindergarten. You started in the first grade and went through the eleventh grade except in Florida they had only ten grades long after Georgia had 11.

Our school was a white wooden two story building, no bathrooms, no heat or air and no water. Across the dirt road was a pump and while one child pumped you cupped your hands to hold the water and drink. There was an outdoor toilet out back but I don’t remember ever going out there. Each classroom had a pot bellied stoved in it and there was a wooden frame built around the base on the floor and then filled that with sand. Usually coal was used. Two children sat in a desk which was double so it was good if you liked the person you shared the desk with. The old wooden building was two stories and it had a great big bell that the principle rung every morning. The big boys would help him to get hold the rope and swing way up in the air. I thought it looked like fun but I don’t think girls ever tried it.

I remember we had a field day one time and everybody was across the road (a dirt road with very little traffic) in a field. Some played ball while everyone else watched. I was bored so I decided to just go home. I had no idea that you just wasn’t suppose to leave. Everything turned out okay, but James did spend a lot of time hunting me.

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