grew up in the Holly Springs community during the Great Depression. Our mailing address was Steprock. Our elementary school sat on the west side of Highway 157, and the Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church sat on the east side. We attended both the school and church.
Each summer for many years, the church had a revival, and Rev. Carlin Vick was the preacher. This visiting minister stayed in the church members’ homes and ate his meals with them. He stayed with my family many times.
The only ones in our home during revivals were my mother Ollie Bell Joyner, my sister Cleta and me. Our father drilled water wells during the summer months and came home only on weekends. My father was Eulys Joyner. He and my grandfather Joe T. Bell owned a water well drilling rig during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. I believe this business started when my father married my mother in 1919. While the men were off drilling, we were usually working in the fields during the day. This included the times that Bro. Vick would stay with us. He would stay inside, preparing his sermons and resting, when at our farm home.
Once, while Bro. Vick was staying with us, neighbors came in the middle of the night to get my mother. Her cousin had gone into labor and Momma’s help was needed. In those days women had their children at home. No one went to the hospital for delivery.
Momma awoke Cleta and me and told us we would have to cook breakfast for Bro. Vick. I was about 14 and my sister was 11 years old. Our mother gave us specific instructions, including killing a chicken, and words of assurance, adding “I know I can count on both of you to get it done.”
We woke up early, built a fire in the wood-burning cook stove and put on a teakettle filled with water drawn from the well. The hot water would be used to scald the feathers off the fryer we were to choose. But the chicken we had in mind turned out to be a marathon runner who did not want his head on the chopping block. We chased him all over the barnyard until we were exhausted. Finally we got him in a corner where he couldn’t escape us.
We caught him, and the axe fell. By that time the water was hot enough to scald his feathers. I knew how to clean a chicken so I handled the unpleasant preliminaries. Cleta helped me cut him up, roll the pieces in flour and fry them. We put the pieces of chicken in an iron skillet with heated shortening to fry until golden brown. We also peeled some potatoes for fried potatoes. We fried some eggs, and made scratch biscuits, “thicken” gravy, oatmeal and coffee.
We were two very busy girls and very proud of our accomplishments.
Bro. Vick complimented us on making such a nice breakfast. I’m not so sure how much he ate of it or how much of the chicken yard chase and other efforts he might have witnessed. This took place during the 1930s. Growing up on a farm in those days was a real challenge. I’m glad my parents taught us how to work. Cleta and I always start laughing when we mention this meal. After all these years we still enjoy telling our friends about Bro. Vick’s breakfast.
Can you imagine two girls ages 11 and 14 being able to fix a meal like that in these modern “push-button” days? The minister would be lucky to get a cup of instant coffee and some toast.
(The writer is a member of the White County Historical Society who lives in Lodi, California.)