Appalachia Pigeon Roost

December in Pigeon Roost 2

The Gunter Cabin - Fontana Village NC

The 1974 Winter Edition of the Foxfire Magazine contains a compilation of newspaper articles written by Harvey Miller. At the time of the magazine’s publication Miller’s weekly column had been around for sixty years and was till being published in the Tri-County News located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

1972

When have you ever seen the rough bare walls of a house that had to be covered with newspapers instead of wall paper, as I don’t reckon there was any wall paper then to buy?

I remember our old log cabin home was kept papered with newspapers as long as we lived in it and when the papers yellowed with age, my mother would put on new paper right on top of more paper until it would get “baggy” and tear loose and hang down and when it would do this, she would strip off all the paper and put on a new job.

My mother would paste up the papers on the walls with sticky wheat dough, which was a good bait for mice to gnaw on and get holes into the paper. Talk about hearing mice riddling the paper! You could hear them all night long.

Some women would put blue stone in the wheat dough and said that would poison and keep the mice from eating the dough.

But newspapers was hard to find even enough to paste up in a whole room as it took a lot of papers even to line just one room. Big newspapers was hard to paste up, especially up over the loft and if you didn’t get the papers started straight, they was then hard to ever get them straight again.

My mother liked to paste up catalogues but they was not thick and as warm as newspapers. The outside of the log cabins was chinked and daubed up with mud and all holes in the cabin walls had to be stopped tight with sticks, papers or small rocks, as if there was any holes where the wind could blow through, it would tear down the papers off the wall.

We’ve had people who was visiting us and they would stand an hour or two at a time and read papers pasted on the walls. One time my mother in pasting up papers run out of printed sheets of paper and so to try to get done with the work of pasting up the papers, she found a box of old love letters of her daughter’s (my sister) and she pasted them on the wall and the fun of it all—my sister went and got married a week after then to another sweetheart besides the one who had wrote her the love notes. But anyway, the old love letters at least on one side was read and reread by folks until they was so yellowed with age that the writing could not be made out. My youngest sister like to read them love letters and she would giggle and giggle while she was reading them old love letters written to her sister. My mother would laugh at her and asked her if she was learning to write love letters the reason that she was reading them so much. My mother told her that is if she didn’t stop looking up on the loft to read the papers that she would be crosseyed.

I heard of a large family that once lived back here in the mountains and the parents went off one night to stay awhile and visit their neighbor, and when they come back their little children had tore every paper they could reach on the wall and burnt them in the fire-place and they said that they got cold and they set fire to the papers to make a fire to keep warm. But that sure was dangerous about setting the log cabin on fire.

I heard one time of an old couple that lived way back in the mountains and after they had passed on some very costly valuables was found by surprise that they had securely hidden behind some papers that was pasted on the wall.

The old log houses that was lined inside with newspapers made the house kind of air-conditioned. Yes, it made them cool in summer time and warm in winter.

In closing this item, who remembers when you had company that would eat dinner with you that someone would have to stand over the table with a fly flap to keep the flies away so you could eat. I recall the fly flaps was made out of paper cut in a fringe and tied on a stick and talk about flapping at the flies! You sure had to make it rattle fast to keep away the swarm of flies, as you know the windows was raised wide open at the bottom to let in air and there was nary bit of screen on them. Boy! oh, boy! Was that good or bad days that I have wrote about? If you can’t remember about what I have written, ask your grandma or grandpa about it!

12/7/72


I hope you enjoyed the old article as much as I do. My favorite part is the mother pasting up the old love letters. I’m sure that was exciting for everyone…and maybe a bit embarrassing for the girl and her new husband.

Although I’m sure papering the insides of the walls was frustrating in many ways, I’m positive attracting mice was the worst!

Last night’s video: Traditional Appalachian Ambrosia | 2 Recipes.

Tipper

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Robert
    December 17, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I have seen new wallpaper printed to look like old newspapers. My brother’s wife had a bathroom papered with it.

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    December 17, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    When Daddy came home after serving in the Army during World War II, he and Mama rented their first little home called the Dover House. I was born there over 75 years ago. Times were hard for them back then. Someone had papered the walls with newspapers and magazines to keep out the wind. It was a cold November day in 1946 and time for me to be born. Mama sent for Grandma and Aunt Lydia to stay with her while Daddy went to get the Dr. I couldn’t wait to get here so Mama gave birth before Daddy and the Dr. got there. My grandma and Aunt Lydia delivered me. My parents had not decided on a name for me and I remember Mama telling me that she saw a picture of Barbara Stanwyck and Lucille Ball pasted on the wall by her bed and she named me Barbara Lucille and I’ve carried that name all my life. It’s different, it’s unique, and Mama shared the story with me of how I came to have my name. Mama was an excellent storyteller and made it sound so exciting! I’m thankful for my Appalachian Heritage and that my love and my roots run deep in Appalachia. – Barbara Lucille

    • Reply
      Jenny Young
      December 18, 2021 at 12:11 pm

      Oh I love this story!

  • Reply
    Doreen
    December 17, 2021 at 5:02 pm

    That’s a good story. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Reply
    Michelle Arwood Heckman
    December 17, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    Tipper, I just recently found your blog and absolutely love it. Today when I came across this one I was completely ecstatic that my family made it on your blog. My Great Grandmother (Nora Barnett-Arwood) and Harvey Miller’s mother were sisters. My Great Grandfather Rev. John Henry Arwood was the Rev. in Pigeon Roost.

    • Reply
      Amanda Hollifield
      December 17, 2021 at 10:15 pm

      My great grandfather was Lem Honeycutt who was son of Sarah Arwood Honeycutt – daughter of John Henry Arwood.

      • Reply
        Michelle Arwood Heckman
        December 29, 2021 at 3:51 pm

        Amanda, it truly is a small world.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    December 17, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    You know it was hardback then. My dad’s house had a dirt floor. It was a one room house. I’ve seen houses with newspapers on the wall. I like it. I think it’s unique. At least you would have something to read. I live stories like this.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    December 17, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Great story, I really enjoyed it. I have seen many old houses with newspaper on the wall. About the flies, my dad told me he had to keep the flies away from the meal sometimes when he was a boy.

  • Reply
    Mary Hodges
    December 17, 2021 at 11:13 am

    Hi Tipper, this story about the fly flapper reminded me of my Mom We were having a revival at church, so as you know the women would have the preachers over for Dinner. Well our pastor come with the evangelist and of course me and mom were trying to keep the flies at bay. I was standing next to my mom and she was after a fly…it landed on our pastor’s back, in his white shirt, yes, my mom swatted that fly and the pastor jumped, because my mom was strong and had a tremendous right hook. I started laughing, I couldn’t stop so she sent me outside! Mom was mortified . Our pastor was a good sport about it, I think mom’s chicken n dumplings did the trick

  • Reply
    Winnie (Wendy)
    December 17, 2021 at 11:05 am

    I remember my pap telling me they had dirt floors (he was born in 1912). He said they would get so hard it was like walking on tile floors. I just can’t fathom it.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    December 17, 2021 at 10:52 am

    My mommy was lucky to have money to buy wallpaper , and in my parents old house that my husband and I are re claiming, I find many layers of wallpaper, all having pink flowers on them . Our neighbors had no money for such luxury as bought wallpaper so they used newspapers to cover the walls. They never took time to put them straight ,instead pasting them ever which a way on their walls and ceilings. The unemployed dad there thought of himself as an artist so maybe the angled newsprint was him being different in an arty way! The few times I was in that cabin I remember standing with my head slanted to better read the walls.
    My favorite story about newspapers on the walls was told to me by my great aunt Arty who was born in 1895 . She said she’d worked hard on putting up new papers with the flour and water paste she’d made. The mice had started to nibble on the paste but once she looked and saw the wavy outline of a snake under the paper. When I asked what she did ,she said she just took her broom handle and tapped on the snake and it went back down. .She said everybody had black snakes under the floors, welcomed to keep the mice away. When I asked her how she knew it wasn’t a poison snake, she said she never let herself think like that. She also told me that when she had her first house, she only used certain pages as her husband was off fighting the war…that would have been WW1…and she could not stand being reminded of war.

  • Reply
    Donna Brewton
    December 17, 2021 at 10:41 am

    Gracious … don’t we have it easy ?!! Miss Cindy said “Hard life, feeding your family and keeping warm.” Yes mam.
    After Christmas I’m treating myself to ordering a Foxfire book or two. Have seen some used advertised on Amazon and Thrift Books. Love the true stories and tall tales. Christmas Cheer

  • Reply
    Lori Hughes
    December 17, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Oh, Tipper, thank you for sharing that article. The story was so lovely and I enjoyed it so much

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    December 17, 2021 at 10:09 am

    Interesting story! I have read in books about papering walls. I can’t imagine what a tiring job that would be. Those good mountain people used whatever they had to survive. Take care and God bless!

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    December 17, 2021 at 9:51 am

    As a boy roaming the hills and hollers of e.ky. I remember seeing several old houses with newspapers on the walls and split shingle roofs. I do remember reading some of the papers and their dates but can’t remember the subjects or dates 60 odd yrs. later. The old log cabins have all fell down by now or been removed.

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    December 17, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Rats and flies! Ugh! We live on a farm so I see plenty of them around the property.
    My Mamaw was very frugal and she would have papered with newspaper if she needed too. I still smile when I put up her little Christmas tree that left to me. It has bread ties to hang some of the ornaments.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    December 17, 2021 at 9:25 am

    Dad worked in another county for a while and decided to rent a house and move us there with him. The house had papered walls that entertained a new reader for many hours. Mom glued the loose edges with a paste made of flour and water but I don’t recall ever hearing mice gnawing on it.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    December 17, 2021 at 9:18 am

    Not newspapers! I remember a small company that made cardboard (actually everyone called it pasteboard) boxes went bankrupt. They had an auction to sell off the equipment and other things. A neighbor bought about three truckloads of boxes. He cut them apart and used them to insulate his house. He always bragged that he had never spent such warm winters. Of course, when his house burned all the cardboard just added fuel to a spectacular fire.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    December 17, 2021 at 8:53 am

    This sure makes one know the good ole days were not always good. I remember when my mom made wallpaper paste from a mix of flour and water. One of my 2nd cousins told of her uncle coming to their house drunk one night and eating the wallpaper paste her mom made from flour thinking it was gravy. Had the nerve to complain next day about the gravy. 🙂

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    December 17, 2021 at 8:25 am

    I was told that my grandmother, Nancy Jane Bryson Byers papered her kitchen with newspaper for insulation. The log cabin they lived in before the frame house is standing at the Heritage Center at Blairsville, Ga.

    • Reply
      Barbara Parker
      December 17, 2021 at 7:53 pm

      Don, is the old cabin you’re referring to the one that was built by Daniel England? He was my great, great grandpa. My Grandma was Harriett Elizabeth England Nix.

      • Reply
        Don Byers
        December 17, 2021 at 9:35 pm

        No. The Byers cabin. At the Union County Heritage Center. Behind the Mock house. It is located next to my Grt-Gnd-pa Mauney’s barn. We acquired both when I was a member of the Board of Directors, Union County Historical Society. The England cabin was reassembled out somewhere around the farmer’s market.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 17, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Never experienced this with a log house but the old board and batten houses had the same problem of wind through the cracks. I recall as a kid one could get a heavy gray paper to put on the walls as prep for pasting on wallpaper. It was tacked up with one inch square “washers” used to keep the tack head from pulling through. I have a vague memory of Mom making her own paste to put up wall paper in our old house (long gone now). It was mostly built of lumber salvaged from old company houses but got sheetrocked or paneled over in my time.

    This post reminds me of what the “Barnwood Builders” find in those old log houses they salvage. I have seen several were behind the latest finish wall there was newspaper pasted up. Our ancestors knew all about re-use, re-purpose, re-cycle. They were doing it long before it became “cool”.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 17, 2021 at 6:12 pm

      I wrote a guest post on the Blind Pig in 2012 that speaks of those wallpaper tacks and how they liked to work their way out of the wall and land pointy end up just waiting for bare footed kids. I found more than my share of them!

  • Reply
    Margie G
    December 17, 2021 at 7:36 am

    I enjoyed the stories about papering the walls with newspaper and wheat dough to stick. It’s apparent these people were able to use whatever was at hand to improve their living conditions. I liked where the writer stated they’d plug holes in the chimney and house with tiny rocks, sticks, mud or whatever to keep the wind and cold out. I’m not surprised the same papers kept it cool in summer as a bonus! People now say “oh what will we do if we can’t go to the store?” Let me tell you folks can barter homemade items with neighbors, friends and like minded people. I’m not living in fear or trepidation. I can use whatever is at hand for my needs, wants, desires. The older I get, I find fashion, fads and running oneself in debt make no sense at all. I YAM WHAT I YAM! Like it or lump it I say…I once flew into Louisville’s airport to connect to a puddle jumper into WV. I was exhausted and nauseated. I thought I need to find my gate to connect. About that time, I looked up and saw an old feller with an old leather belt holding his suitcase together. I said “Self, that old man who clearly don’t give a crap, is headed into WV so follow him… my hunch was 100 percent spot on… lol WV mountaineers are truly brave and free.

    • Reply
      Kevin Knight
      December 17, 2021 at 11:07 am

      Thanx for your post, I am from West Virginia and I agree!

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    December 17, 2021 at 7:30 am

    Those were hard times, different times. Mountain folks had to be resourceful. Just a few days ago, the local newspaper announced that they were going digital only with the daily news. A large local paper mill, that produced newsprint, ceased operation. Future generations may not even know what a real newspaper looked like. Times are changing.

  • Reply
    Jimk
    December 17, 2021 at 7:02 am

    Brings back memories, my friends and I tore down my grandparents house back in in 1973 to make room for my parents to build thier house after buying my mother’s home place.
    My friends and I would spend hours reading the old newspaper articles pasted on the walls when we got to that of many layers of plaster, paint or wallpaper that had accumulated over time it would have been great to have taken pictures had we been thinking. Waste not want not was part of the mountain way, even old newspaper. The stories mention of letters was great but I bet awkward for the person intended for.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 17, 2021 at 6:51 am

    And we think we have it hard! I’m trying to imagine spending a day trying to glue newspaper onto the walls, in layers of course, for warmth. That was a hard life, just trying to keep warm and feed your family.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    December 17, 2021 at 6:32 am

    I really enjoyed this post. I hate flies and mice! If I see even one of them in my house – I go on a warpath to get them out (dead) quickly! If I had been the daughter whose love letters had been plastered all over the walls, I would have felt betrayed by my mom. I am sure there was nothing truly embarrassing in those letters, but matters of the heart are hard to share when you are young. I think her new husband would have felt jealousy maybe. I wouldn’t want to read the old love letters of the person I was married to! And I would never subject the person I loved to the memories of past “loves” in my life, I would consider their feelings first. It is funny, though, all these years later, that her mom wallpapered the house with those letters! Thank you for posting this!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    December 17, 2021 at 6:27 am

    Wow!! What a story, I would surely like to read more of them. I remember as a child hearing rats gnawing on an old Sears and Roebuck catalog during the night. Lol I was sure someone had broken in the house and was just sitting there in the dark tearing out the pages to carry away with them. Noises in the dark can conjure up all sorts of fears . Thanks again for the Blind Pig and the Acorn. Merry Christmas ❤

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