Appalachian Food

Memories from Choestoe Georgia

yeast bread

We got bologna, cheese, “light bread” and sody (soda) crackers at our stores. And, I have had bologna and cheese sandwiches. But mostly, we made our own bread, and my mother could make wonderful loaves of “yeast” bread. Such a wonderful smell emanated from the kitchen some afternoons when my younger brother and I walked the mile-plus from Choestoe School (a two-teacher excellent country school) in our neighborhood. My older brother, Eugene, and my older sister, Louise, were older than Bluford and I, and they were already in high school, riding the school bus, catching it at the “Morris Ford” over the Notla River and on the highway from us. But Choestoe School was the greatest.

We had big snows in the wintertime, and we made snowmen that lasted long after the ground snow had melted, but we didn’t think, I guess, to make an igloo. I wish I had been that creative.

Now let me ask you one: Did your daddy ever make you a “french harp” somehow out of two or three pieces of wood put together in the right way, with the center piece being “cut out” somewhat like the real “french harp.” We kids were fascinated with his real French Harp–and his Accordion, which he played, and we always were pestering him to “make music” for us, or else let us play on the instruments. So he made us our own French Harps! I’m not sure they really made music, but we hummed and blew, pretending we were making music as our Daddy did!

One thing you can say about Appalachian Folks: They are creative, inventive, and hard-working–and extremely family oriented. We worked a “big” farm for a mountain farm, had all we needed and to sell ‘way down at the Gainesville Farmers” Market, and later to the Atlanta Farmers’ Market.

My Daddy was the sorghum syrup maker for Choestoe farmers (and others, farther away), making about 3,000 gallons every fall from “Blue Ribbon” sorghum cane. We had large patches of cane on our farm, and much of our income came from the sale of this syrup. It was at least a six-week span in the fall, making syrup from our own cane, and that of others who hauled theirs in.

For many years Daddy powered his mill to grind the cane into juice with two sets of mules going round-and-round to turn the iron grinding rollers that juiced the cane. He would not work mules more than 4 hours at a time it was such grueling work for them. We had a cousin who lived with us during the weeks of syrup making. He was crippled from an accident to one leg, but he could sit on that stool and push the cane through those steel grinders. And at night, after the mill finally closed down, my younger brother Bluford and I knew we would hear one of Cecil Alexander’s “travel tales” with which he delighted us. And, after my mother died when I was age 14, my father went before the school Board to get “hardship case” excusal for me to work at home during the six weeks of syrup making.

I did my lessons, because another dear cousin teacher at the high school brought my assignments in weekly batches by my house, and collected my homework, tests, projects and the like to take for my teachers to grade. I got counted present because I was officially excused, and did my work at home. When it came time for graduation in 1947, I had been chosen the “summa cum laude,” graduate–except in high school we didn’t use that term I had learned in Latin classes. But I was thrilled to make a commencement address, even though I had missed six crucial weeks every fall because of doing my part in cooking for 15 or more work hands and providing them a “southern farm” style home-cooked meal. None of them ever complained to the cook; they ate what I served them and thanked me afterward. And this is the story of “what I did” part of the time while I was growing up.

I think that life was good for me. I missed my mother terribly, and wanted so often to ask her how to do something or seek her advice about a situation. But through it all, I learned to be self-sufficient and to accept whatever work came my way and seek to do it to the best of my ability.

—Ethelene Dyer Jones

—-

I hope you enjoyed Ethelene’s memories as much as I did!

Tipper

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    tmc
    May 6, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Enjoyed reading about the day gone by, I can remember a country store us boys would ride our bicycles to, they would have baloney in the big sticks and also the cheese, they’d slice it how ever thick you wanted it, the soft drinks were so cold there would be a bit of ice in the bottle, we would go around picking up bottles on side of the road wash them up and sell them to the store for a nickle per bottle. Good memories.

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    May 5, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    I enjoyed your writing very much. My life was begun near Choestoe also, up on the hill from Stink Creek. That is a wonderful area and it will always remain a part of me. The first five years of my life were lived there near my grandparents home, John Frank Nix and Harriett Elizabeth England Nix. Most likely you have heard of them. I loved them dearly. I hope you will keep writing. We all need to relive some of our memories. Sincerely, Barbara

  • Reply
    Jeff Loflin
    May 5, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Tinder tips of raw asparagus old cheeseburgers hot dogs and any other types of sandwiches you like especially grilled cheese sandwiches AR awesome. Enjoy

  • Reply
    Darrell Cook
    May 5, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    I much enjoyed this story by Ethelene. I remember Gene Dyer and Bluford Dyer. Bluford was well known for his syrup making and Gene Dyer and his wife operated a country general store. Choestoe was long closed when I was born, but I did attend a small school and we were quite creative kids. At Town Creek Elementary we made blow guns using bamboo from behind the school. Of course we used our Barlow or Old Timer knives. All boys had pocket knives. I do not remember anyone ever getting cut using their knives- except cutting off cane heads from the sorghum cane.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    May 5, 2020 at 4:01 am

    Enjoyable post. Thank you. When I say light bread I have to explain it every time.

    I grew up in southern Ohio, it is a very southern place. By happenstance I live in northern Ohio now. When people don’t understand something I say “ I speak northern Ohio as a second language.”

  • Reply
    Charline
    May 5, 2020 at 12:47 am

    I am reading this late, but I so enjoyed it. Thank you, Ethelene!

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    May 4, 2020 at 11:12 pm

    I truly have enjoyed Ethelene’s memories….. I’ve always loved sorghum syrup on a hot biscuit slathered with butter. Gosh it makes me hungry just thinking about,,,,

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    May 4, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Love your stories especially making syrup, pronounced SURP, in my growing up lingo. Did you sop the pan with a piece of cane after the surp was made? Mighty tasty.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    May 4, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    Gosh Ethylene what a grand story, thanks Tipper for sharing it with us. You are what I would call a self made lady.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 4, 2020 at 11:45 am

    I too remember when we got real snow. We did build igloos. We also built snow forts with tunnels to crawl from one to the other. It takes a lot of snow to do that. Now 3 or 4 inches is a big snow.
    Ethelene, don’t say that life was good for you. That insinuates that life is over. The best moments of your life could still be ahead for you. I pray that is so! You are a treasure!

  • Reply
    Tommy
    May 4, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Wow! Best entry yet (and there have really been some good ones). How i love these stories of how our seniors came up. I looked on the Web to see if there is a compilation of her stories but couldn’t find one. If anyone knows of any i surely would appreciate letting me know.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 4, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Tipper,
    I agree with my buddie, Don that when I saw Chosetoe in the Title, I knew I was going to get a good read from Ethelene. I love her writings, she’s been through alot.

    I remember sitting on the first row with my brothers and their wives, remembering Mama’s prayers when I was little. God heard My Mama’s Prayers, I was in my Thirties when she died. Betty Jo Brown Roper, Bud’s wife, heard me sniffling and put her arm around me and whispered “I love you little Brother.” She’s now 85 and calls me often.

    I can’t even fatham, losing one’s Mama at 14, like Ethelene did. She’s a Strong Woman with a pleasant outlook on Life. …Ken

  • Reply
    Dee
    May 4, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Thank you, Ethelene, for bringing your life stories to us! Of course, we can all relate to some of it especially if we are old enough:} I remember the french harp and oh my how my Daddy loved the “Blue Ribbon” sorghum cane his family grew. I was blessed to have my Mother and Daddy up to their 87th year. It really must have been tough to lose your Mother at such a young age.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    May 4, 2020 at 10:18 am

    It’s been bologna and cheese sandwiches getting me through this pandemic. As a matter of fact, I’ve been doing a lot of back to basics to deal with all this.

    I’m thankful for the memories and stories I can rely on in troublesome times.

    Thank you for sharing your memories Mrs. Jones. They remind me to keep remembering my own!

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    May 4, 2020 at 9:12 am

    I always love her memories. Work ethic was probably the number one thing I remember but there seemed to be a lot of love and caring for your family and neighbors. Somewhere along the years we have lost some of that.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    May 4, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Stories like this could inspire young children so much. As one who helped my grandson with his reading, there was little in his readers to teach him principals as he learned to read. This had to be difficult to lose one’s Mother so young, and also lose weeks of the school year working hard at such a young age. This shows how one can overcome and excel. I love this story, and thanks so much to Ethelene Dyer for sharing her memories.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 4, 2020 at 9:01 am

    When I saw Choestoe in the title, I said to myself “Oh, boy, this will be from Ethelene.” Thank you, Tipper and Ethelene for recalling and honoring a time when common sense and hard work prevailed. It is badly needed in this day when common sense is increasingly uncommon.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 4, 2020 at 8:19 am

    Ethelene describes a good life overall, though with sorrows and troubles. I love the description of how family and school were fitted to work together, a case by case and common sense solution done locally. We have lost so much when every problem has to have a top-down solution and must only happen one way.

    I know what she means about wanting to ask her mother. I think each of us who have been parted from parents and grandparents have that happen, but especially so in her case with all the responsibility so young. But as we know, when one is raised with responsibilities one becomes responsible sooner and does not consider it remarkable. And it carries through life. Your girls illustrate that but I expect they don’t think about it. They were just raised that way.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 4, 2020 at 7:26 am

    Tipper–Wonderful reminiscences from Ethelene, and her final sentence was in effect a creed for staunch mountain folks in days of yesteryear.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 4, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Thank you, Ethelene, for sharing your childhood with us. I did, very much, enjoy your story. I had french harps made for me as a child. My Dad made them . They were somehow made of two pieces of wood and I think we blew air through it, but that is all I can remember of it now. That was a long time ago.
    Very different times back then!

  • Reply
    Earl Cagle
    May 4, 2020 at 7:21 am

    I truly enjoy Mrs. Jones writings. I have a pint of syrup that has a Bluford Dyer label on it, a souvenir from when my Dad bought syrup from Mr. Dyer. Dad would load the syrup, along with honey and apples onto his ’50 Ford pickup and deliver them to stores in North Georgia. On weekends in the Fall he had a road side location he would park at and sell to the leaf watchers traveling through the mountains. Her history writings are a great pleasure also. I treasure her research on my Patriot ancestor John Nicholson.

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