Profiles of Mountain People

Robbinsville NC 1940s

bowl of peaches

“My Grandparents lived in Robbinsville North Carolina. In the late 1940s my family would visit and I remember; the Jersey cow, two pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and more, but most importantly, I remember the porch. It wrapped around from the front to the side kitchen entrance and seemed huge to us children. The front porch faced a main road which led to”Town” and Snyders General Store. We would sit on an old sofa, there were two, and wave to each passerby. This would go on for hours, so much fun for kids. The side porch held Grandma’s Washing machine a bench with two square tubs; the works. The machine was powered by a gasoline engine which had a foot “kick starter,” like a motorcycle and Grandma Polly’s Foot was more than adequate to get that thing going. The drain flowed to the street along a shallow ditch. We sailed many a toy boat in this stream. There was an Ice Box beside the Washer, which was loaded with a large block of ice regularly. I recall a “Spring House” but no refrigerator inside. We snapped beans, shucked corn, peeled peaches (Grandma made Peach Butter from the peels.) Most of all I remember Grandma’s story telling. The children would sit very close to her and to each other on the old sofa as she told one after another. My favorites would scare the Devil himself. The “Sack Man” who grabbed mean children and carried them off in his bag. “Red handled Butcher Knife” stained, of course by blood. There were tales of Graveyards and Ghosts that made weird sounds and chased people at night. There was an old Indian Grave on the hill close by and “Soco,” was not to be disturbed by noisy children. On and on, the pleasures of visiting Grandma and Grandpa as a Child were part of a never ending story which I love to tell. Thanks for listening.”

—Chuck Howell



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  • Reply
    Jane Ford weaver
    September 4, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    I grew up close to Robbinsville and many of those memories were not of visiting my grandparents but every day things for me because we lived with them until we built our own house when I was around ten. Until then I had the porch on two sided but only one swing. Anyone remember the “cellar” where all the canned produce was stored?? Along with crocks of pickled corn beans and kraut?? Also the potatoes? Have so many memories!!!

  • Reply
    Bill Garren
    September 4, 2021 at 11:50 am

    I live by myself I have 3 brothers but they have their own family and lives your blog and celebrating Appalachian makes me feel like part of your family is sure do enjoy listening to your girls sing and play together it makes me feel less alone it brings back a lot of memories I look forward to seeing your post and videos thanks for making my life a little better thanks your friend Bill Garren

  • Reply
    September 13, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Is this still relevant for today? Or have things changed with ice fishing? What I’m curious about is how this will carry out, like what will the trend be for this type of stuff?

  • Reply
    August 23, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    So nice to enjoy every detail of Mr. Howell’s sharing, and all you others too.. with every one, I let my mind form a picture of what I think it would look like, sound ,feel….. the picture of those peaches above in that colorful bowl is beautiful..ya almost want to reach right in there and grab one, you know just how the fuzz feels, fragrance smells, and oh, the juiciness….then there are the preserves, cobblers, peach ice-cream and…….peachy yumminess.

    • Reply
      Patricia von neumann
      August 24, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      I was born in robbinsville nc in 1944. I remember grandma’s wrap around porch the smell of flowers and those wonderail peaches and apples she canned. She had 2 huge black tubs at the creek and my mother washed clothes there. We lived on old tallulah rd. And oh the fireflies were beautiful. I returned there in 2003 to bury my mother at farley graveyard. I saw only one firefly

      • Reply
        Patricia von neumann
        August 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm

        And I definitely remember the sackman

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    August 23, 2019 at 11:32 am

    The “Porch” was and remains a most wonderful invention. I live in the country and many of my evenings are spent on the porch, watching the lightning bugs, and listening to the night sounds. I also do much of my pre-canning work, like stringing beans, peeling apples, etc. on the porch. My favorite time is when my children and grandchildren visit and we sit on the porch together talking while the children play. I can’t imagine ever choosing to live where there was no porch looking out over a rural setting.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 23, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Wonderful memories. The sack man is one I never heard of. Must be akin to what they told us as children about the rag man and the soap man carrying off dirty raggedy kids.

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    August 23, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I have an old square tub from my aunt’s estate. I have always wondered why it has that shape.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 23, 2019 at 8:13 am

    And I daresay that in terms of cash alone Mr. Howell’s grandparents may well have fit the definition for being in poverty. But his memories prove they were rich in the things that matter most. He is a blessed man. So was his Grandma on that porch and she knew it even though he didn’t yet.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Those days on Grandpa’s porch are among my most cherished. As I look back it was but a shack of a house with one long porch. In childhood my world was a giant playground, and that old house seemed much like a mansion to me. The porch had two swings, and week ends found oodles of cousins along with young aunts and uncles piling up on which ever swing we deemed the safest.
    We lived in a Coal Camp until I was 10, and I looked past the coal dust and roughly built houses. In my eyes it was a magic Coal Camp. The mind of a child can sometimes see the world through rose colored glasses. Thanks so much to Chuck Howell for his story. My favorite was where they sailed their boats in the water from the drain. We had a real life “sack man” as children, and we would run when we saw him. In actuality he was a harmless old man who sometimes carried a sack after he had participated in a hog killing. One of the things I still feel badly about all these years later.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 23, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Wonderful memories! Mama’s “papa” died when I was very young but I remember my brother & me sitting on his lap out on the porch listening to the tall tales he would tell us. There was a peach tree up at the end of our garden and there’s no telling how many he peeled & fed to us .

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    August 23, 2019 at 7:47 am

    Thank you for sharing! Those wonderful stories will soon be lost unless we share them with each other and with the children. I truly believe the old stories (especially the scary ones) are so much richer than the video-type stories kids today hear. What is especially poignant is that you talk about sitting close together. Today, too many kids live in their own technology”bubbles.”

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    August 23, 2019 at 7:34 am

    What wonderful stories we all have to tell. I love every one.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 23, 2019 at 7:10 am

    Tipper–An interesting peek back and what I would argue remains the most truly traditional mountain town–in terms of speech patterns, clinging to the old ways, and general outlook of the population–to be found in the southern Appalachians. The absence of interstate highways and the fact that there are only a few miles of divided four-lane in Graham County is no doubt a factor, although the endless, noisy influx of motorcycles hasn’t helped.

    Presumably the grave mentioned in the story is that of Junaluska. There’s a little memorial area there and the setting is a lovely one. It’s right on the edge of town.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 23, 2019 at 6:59 am

    I have similar memories of visiting my grandparents home in the country. There were cows to milk, chickens to feed, and hogs to slop . . Then in the summer there was gardening and putting up food, lots of work! Corn and hay put up for winter feeding the animals. There was also gathering and splitting wood for the winter heat and cooking.
    In the winter it was still milking the cows and feeding the chickens. The hogs are slaughtered in the fall and no new ones till spring. The winter was sewing/mending/ quilt making kind of things. Going to bed at dark to save electricity for lights. Life was not easy in those days!

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