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Excerpts from How We Used To Live

The following was taken from a recent posting on the Afrigeneas Mailing List.

Thanks Alva.

Gee Sadonya, some of this sounds a lot like where and when I grew up in
NC, only mine was 20 yrs earlier in time LOL. Our neighborhood was part
of the "nicer" poor black area I guess, as we all had window glass.

The insides of all the houses I remember as painted, but with whatever
color one could get one's hands on, probably leftover from someone
else's "job" - everyone's 4 walls per room might not all be the same
color, but they tried to blend or match the colors so it didn't look too
strange. I have to laugh now, since it is not too uncommon to see a
lovely room in a home now with one wall painted a different color or
shade as a sort of highlighting. The outside was painted, generally
white, and most of the large yards were kept neat and tidy, and well
planted with "umbrella trees" and "snowballs". There were 2 steps up to
a small front porch, with just enough space for 1 chair. The back porch
was very small, perhaps about the size of a square of a now-a-day's

The yards were huge!! Our back yard ran straight back for 2 blocks!! I
KNOW this to be true, because over the early years when I was growing
up, the city bought the land (took it, really) and cut 2 streets through
behind and parallel to ours... and there was still a big back yard left
by today's standards.

(Out in the country, some of the homes were unpainted, inside and out,
but most of them were "really" poor - many were still tenant farmers or
share croppers.) There was a middle step or level a few blocks away
from us that was economically (I guess) between our house and those in
the country, which we called a "shotgun" house. Don't know if anyone
knows of them in these days...It had a hall that ran straight through
from the front door to the back door, with a couple of rooms on each
side of the hall. People said someone could be shot off the back porch,
which was miniscule, and the perpetrator could escape by running
straight through and out the front, which porch was only a tad bigger.
Most of these were unpainted too, and had only one window per room. My
feeling was that people rented these, rather than owning them.

Our street was not only unpaved (few streets in black neighborhoods were
at that time), but there were large ditches that ran along the edges on
both sides of the street, with a large board or plank across to the
yard. (This was used to exit a car and be able to get to the house.)
In bad weather, you hoped and prayed the wind hadn't blown the plank
aside or into the ditch! Neither was there a real walkway up to the
house, just a footpath through the lush grass.

We had an outhouse for several years, and ours had a real toilet seat
over the hole in the "bench" for comfort. We used a "slop jar" at
night, if necessary. I remember when indoor plumbing came... Must have
been about 6 or 7. We had always had "running water" in the kitchen,
but no bathroom. We were so proud! Our new bathroom was tiny, having
been installed in a closet! since there was no other available place to
install it... Talk about cramped! The tub was so short that adults had
to keep their knees bent. You could stand in one spot and reach
everything! But it was inside! And no more heating water for the "tin

For heat and cooking, we had several little potbellied stoves that
burned wood and coal. In the winter, sometimes they'd heat a "flatiron"
and wrap it in cloth to keep your feet warm under a mountain of blankets
and quilts. These covers were so heavy, you sometimes wondered if you'd
be able to turn over in your sleep. When we finally upgraded to oil
heat, we thought we had died and gone to heaven LOL. The elders were
afraid the "fumes" really would kill us, and often warned us to leave
the windows open at night. Finally got a gas stove for cooking.

Sorry I got so longwinded... I hadn't thought about some of this in


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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