At the young age of 93 Charles Fletcher has published another book. A Story and a Smile is a compilation of some of Charles’s past writings along with a few new stories, all of which are told to bring a smile to the reader’s face.
A Story and a Smile is part fiction and part history. Charles has told me he’s a storyteller not a writer. He’s also often shared the purpose behind all the books he’s written:
Charles wants the younger generations to know and understand what it was like to live in the mountains of Western North Carolina when he was a boy.
I’m glad Charles has undertaken the task of preserving his own snapshot of history for if he hadn’t, the stories would have been lost forever.
Enjoy this sneak peak from the book:
Saturday Night Bath written by Charles Fletcher
When I was growing up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, there was one event that came every week. This was fifty-two times a year and always on a Saturday. And usually the time would be just before we were going to bed for the night. What we did was take our “Saturday night bath.”
Although we’d bathe every day with what we called “wash down as far as possible and up as far as possible,” but the whole bath was every Saturday night. This was not as simple as you may think.
There was quite bit of planning and lots of work in this weekly ritual, and it involved the whole family, that is except for Dad. He usually did his bathing at the paper mill where he worked. There were modern bathrooms at the mill complete with a shower room. He took his own soap and towel.
First a large galvanized washtub was brought into the kitchen. The next thing needed was the water. Here again it took some manual labor to fill the tub with water for the bath.This usually was the job for TJ, my younger brother, and me.
Some places that we lived at had a spring. This meant that there were many trips from the house to the spring with our ten quart water buckets. In our younger days this was quite a task because we were not strong enough to carry a full bucket of water and had to make a lot of trips to the spring. At other places we lived we usually had a hand dug well with a well box and a windlass with a rope and a water bucket. The bucket was tied to one end of a rope which was wound around the wooden windlass. We would unwind the rope until the water bucket was sunk below the top of the water in the well. Next we would crank the windlass until the bucket with the water was near the top where we could grab-hold and empty it into the tub.
We would only fill the tub about half way full. We would fill several large cooking pots and set them on our old wood burning stove. When this water began to boil we poured it in the tub of cold water until it was warm enough to bathe in.
The order of bathing was that the oldest person was always first. The bathing then continued down the line according to age until the youngest was given a bath. Sometimes the water was a bit dirty for the last bather. It depended on how many children there were in the family.
We always used soap for bathing, but sometimes we didn’t have “store bought” soap. We then had to use the soap that Mom had made from the excess fat from the hogs that were slaughtered at hog killing. This was a very strong soap that was made from the grease of the fat with lye added. Sometimes the lye had to be made from burning wood and collecting the lye from the ashes. If you were not very careful the soap would make blisters on the skin.
My brother and I sometimes did our bathing in the creek in the warm summer months this was fine. Not only did we stay clean, but there were some places where the water was deep enough for us to swim. In the cold months of winter we would sometime be brave enough to get in the creek.
A sad note about the creek that we bathed in many years ago: It is now only a trickle of water running down through the fields. I was visiting the community where we lived in the 1930s
and saw the sad condition of our favorite bathing place. Only enough water is flowing to call it a branch instead of a creek. This was in 2007.
My oldest son, Gary, asked me how an adult could bathe in such a small place as the wash tub. I explained that first you would sit in the tub with your legs hanging on the outside. You washed the part of your body that was in the tub then stood up in the tub and finished washing your legs and feet. This was no problem for us children. We could sit in the tub with our feet inside.
We were mountain people and were taught by our elders the way to survive and do the many things that had to be done without any outside help. After all, we didn’t have the many things that we have today to make life a lot easier with our daily tasks. We did survive, we kept our body clean, and we had our “Saturday night bath” in the 1930s.
All the books written by Charles Fletcher are available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The books can also be purchased directly from Charles himself. You can contact him directly at [email protected]
Charles generously donated a copy of the book, A Story and a Smile, for me to giveaway here on the Blind Pig. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway has ended.