Appalachia Granny

Fall Fun When Granny Was A Girl

old picture of family standing by house

Granny with her brothers and sisters (Granny is the small girl on the far right of the second row)

I was helping Granny yesterday and we got to talking about fall of the year when she was a girl.

Someone would usually give Granny’s mother Gazzie a bushel or two of apples and she’d process them for winter use. Fall was the time of the year for harvesting black walnuts too.

They’d all help gather walnuts and then hull them to allow for drying before they began to get the goodies out of the hard shells.

Granny loved black walnuts so much that she’d gather her own sack of walnuts to carry around and break open whenever she got a hankering for them. She said she remembered one particular time she was sitting outside cracking black walnuts and eating them as fast as she got them out. Her Uncle Byers, Aunt Grace, and their children were leaving for Detroit and came to say goodbye.

Last week four of Uncle Byers and Aunt Grace’s children came to visit Granny—I was glad to be there and hear the old stories and share in their laughter.

Like most kids Granny said they’d gather leaves in the fall of the year and have a lot of fun jumping in them. They had one rake and between it and gathering leaves by the handfuls they’d soon have a giant pile to play in.

One of the places they lived had a hill that dropped off on each side of the house. Granny said she couldn’t remember why, but her and her younger brother James seemed to get ready for school before any of the rest of the bunch.

While they were waiting for the others to come out and for the bus to come Granny and James would take an old straight back chair and lay it on its back for a sort of sled. Fall of the year meant frosty school mornings and Granny said they had the best time sliding down the hills on the frosty grass. Sometimes they’d make it all the way to the bottom.

As Granny reminisced about fall of the year when she was a girl I was pleased that some of the things that stand sharply in her mind are still common today.

Black walnuts and apples are still a huge part of fall of the year in Appalachia and most kids still love to jump in a pile of leaves.


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  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    October 26, 2021 at 12:01 am

    I have fond memories of seeing my Grandma sitting out under that great big walnut tree in her front yard. The sun would be shining and she would be cracking those walnuts and picking out the walnut kernels. She had yard chickens and sometimes a hoggish ole hen would run up and snatch a bit of the goodie out of Grandma’s hand. That would aggravate her a lot but I never heard her say a bad word. She would pick the goodies out and when she collected enough she would mail them off for money. Life in those mountains meant very little money so they would have to barter things like eggs for coffee, and whatever they had available. I loved my dear Appalachian grandparents dearly. They were kind and good to me. I never ever heard them complain about things they didn’t have. They would say, “I’ve got a plenty.” And in their minds they did. To be content is a rare quality in this day and time. We need more thankfulness and contentment now.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    October 22, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Would like to know how Uncle Byers came by his name…

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 10:25 pm

    On the way home from a doctors appt this AM I stopped at a black walnut tree beside the road and picked up about a gallon of walnuts. After they dry for a spell I’ll crack them and see if I can get my wife to make some fudge. As a kid I roamed through the woods gathering walnuts to sell in town near Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    October 21, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    When I was a small child there was a really large black walnut tree in our back yard. I loved to crack them open and eat the walnut nut. They were just the right size for throwing at someone also! I use fall of the year and spring of the year also. Dennis Morgan

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    October 21, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    Ps…I forgot to mention that my mommy used black walnut cracking as punishment . If my 4 ugly brothers or me did something bad, we were sent with a cup to that big flat Rock at the edge of the yard and told not to come back inside til we’d cracked the cup full…and there better not be any shells in that cup!!

  • Reply
    Julie Humphreys
    October 21, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    My mother taught me to like black walnuts. My grandpa on her side who died when I was in first grade was from Kentucky so she had some of the experiences that you talk about. Now I live in Idaho. I once entered some black walnut cookies in the state fair and won first place. I think they were either very unusual or one of the judges had fond memories of their childhood!

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    October 21, 2021 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing Granny’s memories. It brings back memories of my own.
    We always dried apples when I was young. Momma would make what we called Apple Jack’s, fried apps pies, with tbem
    The lady standing behind granny in the picture looks alot like you.

  • Reply
    Linda Logan
    October 21, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    Appalachia is in my DNA from generations of ancestors. The more you describe the simple things of Life where you live, the more I can literally smell the rarified air, the piney scents and hear the crunch of the leaves and giggles as the kids jump in the ‘big’ pile. That’s GOOD WRITING, friend. You are very appreciated. And Happy Fall Y’all!

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    We use to jump in leaves to as children. My grandson does now. Another thing we do in the Fall , before winter is gather wood. We cut wood so its not so cold in the winter. We just can’t be out there in the cold like that no more. Granny was a little cutie.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    What a great photograph! From the style of those dresses I guess it was taken in the late ’40s or early ’50s. I well remember the young ladies wearing that style. If right about the time, I’ll venture to guess that your Granny and I are near about the same age. I’m a ’42 model, a rare one if you’re an automobile. 🙂

    Walnuts. My Pa and 2 of his brothers were sent to the orphanage at Thomasville after their daddy died in 1897. Unfortunately, the couple hired to run the orphanage misapplied money meant for food; so the children were underfed and always hungry. Many died of starvation as graves at the school will testify. Yes, it was horrible. The kids foraged for food constantly. In the Fall, black walnuts were plentiful in the woods.

    One day, while foraging in the woods, Pa found a tow sack full of hulled black walnuts. Such a find, though fairly well hidden, was manna from Heaven to a 10-year old boy who was always hungry, and fair game for taking. He hid the bag even better. He waited ’til the wee small hours then ‘snuck’ out of the dormitory to retrieve his horde. He brought it back and carefully hid it in the attic of the dorm.

    Because they looked out for one another, Pa told his brothers about his find intending to share it. Lo and behold! His brother, John, had gathered those walnuts and hid the tow sack. He had been back to get it to share with them and was mightily disappointed to find it gone. (A tale told often by my Pa and heard also from my Uncle John)

    • Reply
      October 21, 2021 at 2:00 pm

      ps: Another similarity I noticed: I count 9 siblings in that photo, 6 girls and 3 boys. I’m from a family of 9, but it was 6 boys and 3 girls. I’m guessing that your mother was the seventh child. I’m the youngest.

      • Reply
        October 21, 2021 at 2:29 pm

        Robert-thank you for the comment! Granny was born in 1940 so you are right 🙂

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    I love the post today, and Autumn is always a beautiful fun time in the mountains. I quit having the patience for Black Walnuts, as it seemed they were too difficult to crack. We had them everywhere. Apples is a different matter, and much like one of your posters said we just cut the bad places out. Bare feet and Honey Bees and Yellow Jackets did not mix, so we usually had lots of stings around all those old apple trees. I could not help pausing on Kat Swanson’s post about children making their own fun. We sure did. I was even fortunate enough to have a pair of homemade stilts, and I would walk for hours on them. I developed such ability to keep my balance in slick snow with slick boots and with the practice on stilts along with crossing creeks on slick logs I never fell as an adult. All that homemade fun made us strong and helped us learn good balance and how to avoid injuries. I look forward to more of Granny’s memories, because they are so typical of the childhood I experienced.

  • Reply
    Barbara K
    October 21, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    Just an observation…

    I noticed you use the term, “in the fall of the year.”
    My dad and relatives, all Kentuckians, used the same expression rather than, “in the fall.”

    Maybe a southern term?

    • Reply
      October 21, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      Barbara-we do say fall of the year and also spring of the year 🙂

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 10:53 am

    In my earlier comment I left this out, I think the one thing I enjoyed the most in the fall was squirrel hunting with my daddy and walking through the woods in the fall with my granddaddy looking for lighter or rich pine wood. My family called this wood lightened.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 10:21 am

    I too enjoy the fall of the year! I remember my mom fixin all kinds of apple and pumpkin recipes. I remember playing all day in a huge pile of leaves. By the time us five kids and our friends from our neighborhood were finished with the pile of leaves, it almost resembled mulch….lol

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    October 21, 2021 at 10:16 am

    Apples , and the jars of applesauce mommy put up , were a part of everyday life in the coalfields of Va. We were poor and I remember once that applesauce was all my brothers and I could find to eat for dinner. My mamaw and I would walk around the mountain to several old appletrees to collect what they’d dropped. Mamaw taught me to shoo away the yellow jackets and pick up most every apple, saying yes , that apple might have a rotten spot where it hit the ground, but the other half was often the sweetest apple you’d ever eat. I thank her for teaching me that lesson that I’ve tried to apply to many situations in my life. Mountain kids could entertain themselves all day long with nary a bought toy. Leaf sliding down a hill using a long cardboard box bananas came in…well when the Mick or Mack let us have those boxes , hours of fun was ahead !

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 10:12 am

    I remember taking up sweet potatoes, peanuts that would be roasted later on during the winter and ate while sitting or laying in the floor around the fireplace and turnip greens. I also remember killing a hog in late fall or early winter and my grandparents picking up pecans and black walnuts that would be cracked and picked out during the winter evenings. Another big memory is my mother, granddaddy and other neighbors picking cotton by hand for some of the farmers that grew cotton. They would be trying to make a little extra money, it paid something along the lines of 3 cents a pound.

    If anyone is interested and wants them I have some black walnuts they can have. I live in southern Greenville County, SC.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    October 21, 2021 at 10:08 am

    Thank you for sharing Granny with us and her memories. Even as a young girl I loved to listen to stories from my Mother and her sisters. Now that I will be 71 next month, I find myself sharing these same stories with our grandchildren. Thankfully they also enjoy them. I am from the Piedmont, north central NC, we still love to travel to NC mountains for apples. I think of you as a kindred spirit, Tipper, and am so blessed by you and your sweet family. God bless you!

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 9:34 am

    When I was young, we gathered black walnuts and cracked them on the raised hearth in front of the pot bellied stove. I still love black walnuts and use them in recipes that call for pecans or walnuts. My daughter hates the taste that she claims overpowers everything else in a recipe. My lane is so covered with black walnuts it’s hard to drive over them. My friend said she thought someone should be tickled to come pick them up. I told her I doubted it since they could buy them at the store already shelled and packaged. The squirrels are working around the clock as they carry and store them in some secret place in the woods.

    • Reply
      Donna Northcutt
      October 21, 2021 at 4:17 pm

      I live in the oldest part of Winchester, TN & there are plenty of people in my neighborhood who will pick up the black walnuts for you “for the taking”.

      I don’t know if that is an expression used in other places, but here it means they will pick up things (walnuts, pecans, used appliances,… almost anything) & take them as long as you don’t expect them to pay you for the items.

      The old gentleman who picks up our black walnuts up goes around on an old riding mower, pulling a home-made wooden cart / wagon to haul them in. He cleans & picks the walnuts & sells them to supplement his social security.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 8:54 am

    I enjoyed playing in those big pile of leaves too and gathering apples. Some of the apples were little scrappy things but you gathered them anyways. The older generation, almost all gone now. didn’t waste anything and the scrappy ones were just as good when fried up.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 21, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Yes, simple and homegrown pleasures in Granny’s childhood. Over time, life proves them to be the best kind.

    I make four big piles of leaves here each fall but there is nobody to jump in them. And back when I was in grade school we slid on cardboard down the fill slope of US 27 which was seeded in fescue grass. Works just about as well as sledding on snow. Couldn’t steer much though!

    I am a gatherer to. You name it, I’ll gather it out of the wild; grapes, muscadines, walnuts, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, blackberries, huckleberries, mayapples, etc etc. Even if I don’t know what I’ll do with them, I’ll gather them anyway and figure it out later.

    • Reply
      October 21, 2021 at 10:02 am

      Mayapples are one of the things dad taught me to eat, but only the inside of the ripe yellow fruit. He said that all other parts were poisonous.

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    October 21, 2021 at 8:22 am

    My old eyes just about popped out when I read “Uncle Byers” in this one!

    • Reply
      Don Byers
      October 22, 2021 at 7:31 am

      Brad, would like to hear from you….and see if we are related…thanks! Don Byers
      [email protected]

  • Reply
    Denise R
    October 21, 2021 at 7:58 am

    I remember my dad raking up the leaves to burn and my sister and I trying to help, but we were still pretty little. Anyways we would jump in that pile of leaves and have a blast!

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Good memories of our lives are like honey for our soul. Sooo sweet.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    October 21, 2021 at 7:42 am

    You must know I personally think the world of Granny! She’s just a national treasure and I enjoy hearing her stories from the past. Would you believe I just found out what a chestnut looks like? Once there were billions literally of them and got taken out by a FOREIGN NO GOOD BLIGHT!!! I collect black chestnuts and shell them. I put sugar and spices on them and bake them as a special treat. I’m going to the chestnut tree and my plan is to toss a bunch over the mountain close by just to see what could happen… oh Lord let them grow!!! I remember fall jumping in leaves as a child. Let’s face it— leaves were free and decent entertainment for the little ones. I’m into things that cost simply your time and energy to create hours of fun!!! Spend all you got on toys, junk and wants and you’ll soon have no money at all…

  • Reply
    October 21, 2021 at 6:57 am

    Even though apples are in short supply this year we have a bumper crop of walnuts. It’s rare to see anyone hulling them around here anymore. I remember every fall hulling them for extra money and hopes of their use in Christmas candy to come. It’s good your keeping a record of Granny’s past for future generations of your family.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 21, 2021 at 6:38 am

    I used to live just over the mountain from Hendersonville NC, the Apple Capital. Every fall they had an Apple Festival and it was, for sure, all about apples. People came from all over for the festival and to buy bushels of apples. Apples grow so well here in our mountains.
    My grandmother had four big apple trees, all different varieties. She put up a lot of apples…canned, frozen, and dried. The were a significand part of their winter diet!

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