Appalachia Appalachian Writers

A Story and a Smile

A story and a smile written by charles fletcher

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.

Charles Fletcher


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.




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  • Reply
    May 8, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Can’t say I ever bathed in a galvanized tub, however during Desert Shield-Desert Storm…we had a community shower… It was made of lumber with a hundred gallon tank on top. I cut the fill port on top of it a little larger so as to fit an immersion heater down inside to heat the water up a bit just to knock the chill off of it… That sure was living it up in the desert…!

  • Reply
    Margaret Johnson
    February 19, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    We are so blessed that Charles Fletcher has gifted the world with another book. If I’m not lucky enough to win this book, you can bet I will be purchasing a copy. Tipper, I do enjoy and appreciate all that you do. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Candy Davis
    February 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I have read other stories very similar to this, which is where the phrase “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” comes from, as the water would be so dirty by the time the youngest got washed, you couldn’t see through it!
    I really enjoy The Blind Pig and the Acorn. My mother’s family came to NC in the mid 1700s and her branch, on both sides, eventually ended up in Clay and Cherokee counties, specifically Murphy and Brasstown. I have several cousins with a Brasstown address and more in Murphy and Peachtree. From reading your blog, I am certain you know at least one of these cousins! My grandfather was born there in Clay County in a house built by my great grandfather, who was a Lt. Col. in the CSA, which is still standing and owned by a cousin. You might drive by it everyday!
    Anyway, I have spent much time in your area and feel like WNC is my home. I actually do have a home in Macon County, which I love to spend time at. I always go to Murphy when I’m in NC and love it. I live in Florida but feel much more connected to WNC.
    Thanks for all your postings!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Tipper,I’m getting caught up with your blog.MY 3 sisters sent me air fair to visit them in AZ.Were all from different states-WI-Mn-In-and Hi.I’ve been here in Hi. 11 or 12 years so a visit to the main land was welcomed.Cousin Jeanie drove sister from Wi. So sisters,Elda-Mae Bernita; Belva-Jean Sharon;Rita-Marie Janice and Cheryla-Rae Karen had a wanderful reunion,were all in our 70’s. Us 7 kids took our baths like Charles except we did have running water and the baby got the first bath and the oldest the last.Good memorys! God Bless.Jean

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    February 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Please enter my name for the book give away I love old stories !

  • Reply
    Debbie Nobles
    February 19, 2016 at 9:31 am

    I love to hear the stories that he writes.As a retired teacher it is so important to record info for the younger ones.My grandparents were born and raised in WNC 1890 and 1891.I have nothing more prescious than their stories.Thank you for doing what you do.I would love to win his book.

  • Reply
    February 17, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    I thought I was the only one hooked on cocktail sauce.
    I use it on cheese sticks, chicken wings, fish sticks and fish filets.
    I make my own with ketchup and lots of horseradish.
    Glad to know someone shares my love of cocktail sauce.

  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    February 17, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Looking forward to reading Charles Fletcher’s new book. Thanks for the excerpt.

  • Reply
    Jerry in Arkansas
    February 17, 2016 at 7:57 am

    I enjoyed Mr. Fletcher’s story. I’m glad he’s writing these stories to help future generations learn about the past.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    February 17, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Beautiful story. Brings back memories. When we first moved to the “country” there were no bathroom facilities at all in the place, only a room where it was planned to be. We had a “shack out back” and the weekly baths took place in the small kitchen because that’s where the pump was, over the kitchen sink. Our Mom would fill galvanized buckets of water and set them on the stove to boil. The little ones got bathed first, two at a time, only in a little water. I think she bathed them first because the warm bath would get them drousy enough to put to bed. Then Mom would add more hot water from the boiling buckets with each group of two children as the water in the tub cooled. I was the oldest and bathed last. The water would be murky, but warm and comforting anyway. The hardest part was dipping out all that dirty water until you got it low enough the whole tub could be taken to the back door and emptied.
    But yeah, every Saturday night (as we said, “Whether we needed it or not.” LOL) Between Saturdays, was what we called “bird baths” where you just washed your face, underarms, nether regions and feet generally with water dipped out of the sink basin, hence the name “bird bath.”
    I remember one child on Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things (anyone remember that funny show) told Art a story about those bath routines but in his house, seems his Mom didn’t warm the water between each child. The last one getting there just got the last bath regardless of the water temp left. Well, Art asked him if he liked warm baths or cold baths better. The boy said he didn’t know. He’d never had a warm bath. And I remember we laughed and laughed.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Carol Killian
    February 16, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    I enjoyed the story by Mr. Fletcher. Please enter me in the drawing.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Oh, what memories that story brought back to me…we got our baths after Mother got thru with the rinse water from the wringer washing machine, then after the baths, she would use that water to scrub the floors…my brothers had to build the fire under the iron wash pot to boil the clothes, before Mother got her washer….then she would make the lye soap…WE didn’t know we were poor, cause everyone else was the same way…WE had to iron on Sat. after washing on Friday….and it was everything, dresser scarves, pillow cases and all our clothes…Then my mom married my step father and moved us to his house…Lordy, I thought we were rich, I was 15, and he had a TV, inside bathroom, had bought loaves of bread, an upright piano, and a set of encyclopedias….now coming from a house that when we moved out of it, they used it for a hay barn….we were uptown for sure!!!
    I love those memories though, that was in ’57…my kids would not survive a day back then..would love to win the book….just reading everyone’s stories brings back so many childhood memories…thanks, Tipper…

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    I can’t ever remember not having running water. It came out of the mountainside and into a reservoir Daddy had built which served as a catch vessel and a refrigerator. From there a pipe brought it into the kitchen. Another pipe drained it off into a ditch behind the house.
    Nobody in our community had a well. The first requisite to building a house was to find a good spring that was far enough above the site that you didn’t have to carry water. Of course we had to carry our perishables to the spring but that was far preferable to lugging buckets of water. Most people had a spring within a few yards of the house. Those who didn’t would pipe the water to a spring house close by. We were hydraulic engineers back in them days, we just didn’t know it.
    Some folks even had their outhouses built over the creek. I call that a continuous flush toilet. It was a nice amenity to have but troublesome to those who lived farther down the creek.
    We used to “go to the river” in the summer for our bath. We didn’t take along any soap though. We would scrub ourselves with sand from the river bottom. Now that’ll remove “rust” from more than elbows and heals. That’ll make a Civil War cannon shine like a DeLorean. I think they do the same thing at the Dermatologist’s office nowdays, call it microdermabrasion and charge you a small fortune.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    February 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    When I was a kid we had the same Saturday night bath ritual in the galvanized washtub. The order of bathing wasn’t necessarily by age, though. Whoever was considered the dirtiest had to wait until last!

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    February 16, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    So many memories came flooding back to me as I read about the bath and having to go and get the water, except we got ours from the spring that had been dug,and had to carry wash water too,and coal or wood for the stove to cook the meals .
    That was the way of life back then and we survived thanks to our parents .
    I wouldn’t trade how I had to grow up ,for anything I learned to make do with what we had if I had to I know I could do it all over again,I’m not saying I want to , but I had a mom that could make a pot of pinto beans feed an army as the saying goes .
    Those were good times and bad times , and I thank God He was with us all the way.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I really enjoyed reading Mr. Fletcher’s story. What a wonderful storyteller he is! My Granny Mandy told us how she would take part in what they called the “Ten o’ clock treatment” on Saturday night. So grateful for tubs and showers!

  • Reply
    Marge Fraser
    February 16, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    I loved reading Charles Fletcher’s story. My mind conjured up all kinds of images! Delightful!
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Mr. Fletcher is always fun to read, I love his true-life stories of youth. There was an older man who use to come to my shop. He was 93 back then also, and his name was Mr. Kilpatrick. I loaded several cuts of big Maple and Walnut in his truck. We called him “the bowl man” and one day he brought me a Candle Holder he had made and signed on the bottom. I cherish that thing today! He seemed to always have that warm smile, I miss him…Ken

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    February 16, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Charles’ story was reminiscent of my growing up here in East Texas. Mom was always first to bathe though. I can remember Mom and grandma making the lye soap, too. I don’t have youth anymore, but I’ll always have those memories.

  • Reply
    colleen Holmes
    February 16, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Didn’t know about Charles. Wow! 93. Good for him. It’s never too late!!!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I loved Mr. Fletcher’s story about the weekly bath and I would also love to win his book. I remember all the stories my parents and grandparents told about growing up.

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    February 16, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Ah Saturday night bath. This story with minor details adjusted could be the story of our family in the Missouri Ozarks of the 1940s. I think the order was a bit reversed as Mama took care of bathing the younger ones first. There were seven of us kids. Being always, as Mama would put it, persnickity i insisted in bathing in fresh water which was all right with her if i did the extra work. In the summers we did the Sat. night ritual at the spring. Luckily as of my last visit in 2010 the spring flows as strong and clean and cold as it did 70 years ago. Looking forward to reading more of Mr. Fletcher’s tales.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 16, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Thank God for running water! I grew up drawing water from a deep well with a windlass like Charlie described–it’s one of the reasons I’d never want to live off grid unless I could manage hot running water somehow. I can’t remember how many bucketfuls it took to fill the wringer washer & two rinse tubs and for the daily tasks plus canning and freezing for the winter. I often think of it and I’m so thankful for indoor plumbing!!

  • Reply
    William Sims
    February 16, 2016 at 10:30 am

    I can relate to the article by Charles Fletcher, bathing from a tub with heated water poured in the tub. Also, very well remember drawing water up with windlass from a well. We usually kept a “drinking dipper”, hanging on a nail.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Mom used to bath my sister and I in the backyard when we were very small; but that was in south Texas is the midst of the drought in the 50s – no water was wasted. At my Kansas grandmother’s, bathing in the tub in the kitchen was the routine. Grandma had a well and a wood stove. Sister was a baby then and I was too small to carry more than a little water in an old lard bucket so Mom would haul the water (Dad stayed home on the farm – Mom, sister, and I rode the train to and from Kansas). The Saturday night bath got us cleaned up for church the next day. One thing different, in our case, the children were well dusted off before bathing and then were the first to bathe – youngest first. Then the adults, The women went last. I recall jokes about the men should go last so there wouldn’t be any unexpected pregnancies. For much of my early childhood, although swimming in a pond or a creek in Kansas or the irrigation water in south Texas didn’t concern me, I worried about going swimming at a public pool for fear of getting pregnant!

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    February 16, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for sharing, and preserving, the way of life of past generations.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    February 16, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Charles Fletcher gives us a fine glimpse through the window of time into the daily lives of yesteryear. Um, I guess it would be the weekly lives in this case. I’m sure his works offer many more such interesting glimpses that would be more telling than what we read in history books.
    The creek that dwindled to a mere branch is interesting. One likely reason is reforestation of the watershed with the demise of small scale family farming. Forest soils absorb far more rainfall that do pastures and cultivated fields (in the way land was cultivated in those days of yore).

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 16, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Tipper, Thanks for including Charles’ story in your post. I loved reading it.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    February 16, 2016 at 9:50 am

    The book sounds wonderful. Reading it would make me a little home sick for the mountains, Barbara

  • Reply
    Marge Borchert
    February 16, 2016 at 9:44 am

    I can definitely relate to Charles’ stories. Bath night was Saturday night, and during the week, it was “sponge baths”. Sunday dinner was on the “good” china. We started the meal with homemade soup, an entree of meatloaf , mashed potatoes & vegetables, and the most delicious homemade apple pie. I miss those wonderful meals of my childhood. We were poor, but I never knew it. My mother sewed our clothes, and baked like an angel. My childhood memories are a great comfort to me— Charles you are inspiring me to get writing them down!!! You inspire me to feel you’re never too old to write down precious memories!!!
    Marge Borchert

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 16, 2016 at 9:36 am

    What a wonderful story. It reminds me of stories from mom and dad and grandpa too. Back then you had to work to get clean. Now it’s turning a handle and jumping in a hot shower. There’s really no excuse not to be clean these days.
    If my my name is drawn please put it back in the hat and draw another since I won the RADA whisk recently. Which I like by the way! Thanks Tipper!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 9:27 am

    I’m much younger than Charles, but my life as a child in Eastern Kentucky was very much like his. We had our Saturday night bath in the galvanized tub too. Daddy was a tall man that would not fit in a round tub. He was a coal miner that needed a bath more frequently. Somewhere along the way he was able to buy a large oval tub. That was good for him, but not for us girls, as it took twice as much water to fill. The three of us and Mom had to carry water from the creek that was a good distance behind the house. We also used lye soap for bathing. I have often wondered if we used it for washing our long hair.
    I pre-ordered the book before it was published. Couldn’t wait to read it!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Oh, yes! Saturday night was bath night, and we lived in the city. I do, however, remember in the summer when we were at a bungalow in South New Jersey when we had to use the giant wash tub and an outhouse for bathroom necessities. Thanks for a piece of your life living in the mountains.

  • Reply
    William Roy Pipes
    February 16, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I hope I am still able to write novels at 94 as Charles Fletcher is doing. I am 78 and have written seven novel, plus several short stories. There is no end to Appalachian stories to tell so perhaps I’ll I write a while longer.

  • Reply
    wayne smith
    February 16, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I will be buying this book.

  • Reply
    wayne smith
    February 16, 2016 at 8:58 am

    I love stories about western N.C. Reminds me of my childhood.

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    February 16, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Tipper: Charles is one amazing fellow. His stories seem so familiar to me. Especially those chilly waters of the creeks which have just about disappeared were mighty important in our lives!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 16, 2016 at 8:34 am

    I’m not 93 but I still remember baths in the zinc tub in the kitchen. When I was small, we had a wood-burning cook stove and no running water in the house. At the time and place, a bath s the wash tub was just standard procedure and nothing extra-ordinary. In later years I took wash basin baths in that kitchen when I had to break the ice in the pan. I must have been tougher then.
    One summer Dad, my brother and I logged down on the farm. It bordered a big creek on two sides and at the end ofcthe day we would go take a bath at the swimming hole. The biggest trick was to get the sand off your wet feet before putting clean clothes on.
    By the way, anybody know how wash tubs were sized ? I’ve always heard of ‘a #2 wash tub’ and I have seen the big “2” in the bottom center of the tub. Was that with reference to depth, diameter, gallon capacity or what ?
    The ‘good’ in ‘the good ol days’ did not mean “easy”. It means a time in which all things taken together were more satisfying to the spirit.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Good morning! You never cease to entertain 🙂 Thank you so much for all the thought you put into each of your posts. I truly love the stories and look forward to them every day. Thank you for all you do!

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    February 16, 2016 at 8:26 am

    I remember my Grandaddy taking a bar of soap and a towel and walking down over the bluff to Buck creek in Pulaski county. All good memories.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 16, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I enjoyed Charles Fletcher’s story.
    Even though it has been many, many years ago, I too enjoyed the pleasure of the galvanized bath tub routine. My parents were assigned government housing after moving to the secret city from Western NC for Dads new employment. There was only a small shower, no tub. Mom hated it and couldn’t handle trying to bath three children in a shower, especially the younger boys.
    Soon there was a large galvanized tub, placed on towels, filled with water, warmed on the coal stove that was used to heat the house. We had a hot water heater, but Mom being frugal kept a aluminum kettle of water sitting on that stove to add as the water cooled. Being the oldest and a girl. I soon learned to take a shower by myself. Soap up, wash the possible and rinse off the soap in the shower…Washing my hair wasn’t done every time I took a bath. A shower cap was placed on my head to keep water out of my ears as much as to keep my hair dry. I seemed to be prone to throat and ear infections as a child. The boys were privileged to take tub baths longer, until they learned to “scrub the rust off” as Mom called it. They soon learned to bath themselves in the shower too, but with behind the ear, elbow and heel inspections…ha
    Those were the good old days…
    Thanks Tipper and Charles,
    PS…Mom brought that tub with her from NC…with Daddy’s protesting, she told me later. His thinking, they would never need that old tub again!

  • Reply
    Donna Wilson King
    February 16, 2016 at 8:16 am

    What a great treasure this book will be as documentation of how life used to be!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 16, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Great story, thanks Charles. That mill town was my home also, I’m one generation behind you. Both my parents grew up in that mill town. Both my folks worked at Champion, the paper mill.
    I grew up with running water but when we went camping and there was no running water my mother would say “wash up as far as possible then wash down as far as possible then wash possible.” I always thought that was the funniest thing ever.
    Thanks for preserving out history!

  • Reply
    Lonnie Baker
    February 16, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Nothing like a good giveaway.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 7:47 am

    That’s exactly how my family bathed weekly in the winter. In the creek in the Summer several times per week. Sadly our creek is only a dry ditch now. If we got into poison ivy Dad would add bleach to the bath water when it came our turn – painful!!!

  • Reply
    Al Glenn
    February 16, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Please enter me in the drawing … love “A Smile and A Story by Mr. Fletcher”
    Keep up the Great work with Blind Pig

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    February 16, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Thanks for this. Great story!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 5:15 am

    I always enjoy any of Charles Fletcher’s stories. Even though he writes about Western North Carolina, these sound like many stories my parents shared. I especially love the way those hard times could be turned into big adventures, and those struggles resulted in responsible adults.
    It is always sad to go back and look at scenery we enjoyed as a child. Adult eyes leave out the magic.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 4:42 am

    Congratulations to Mr. Fletcher on the publication of another book! And thanks also for the giveaway. Please add my name to the drawing, Tipper – this sounds like very entertaining and interesting reading 🙂

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