Nannie Mae Jordan
The personal account of Nannie Mae Jordan.
Handwritten at age sixty-five by Nannie Mae Jordan, who was transferred to Heaven at age ninety-two, the following was a Christmas gift to her granddaughter. It is the personal journal of Grandmother Jordan’s growing up years.
We came up through the depression. We have lived through recessions and epidemics, but God has been good to all of us. These were tough years, but we didn’t know that they were supposed to be any better.
Our Kannapolis town consisted of Cannon Mill and the houses around it, with a grocery store here and there. When people began to move here they brought all their belongings in flour sacks, card board boxes and beat up old trunks, on horse drawn wagons.
Grownups worked from 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M making 30 cents a day--$3.00 for 2 weeks’ pay. When I went to work at age 16—I made $1.80 a day, which eventually was raised to $2.40 a day, so I worked in the mill and in the evenings and on Saturdays I worked at Belk (nothing was opened on Sundays).
Dad and Mother raised seven children, Mary Lou being the oldest. I was next, Lennie, then Charley, Bernice, then came Doris and Delton. Our Grandmother Tilley delivered us all. She was a housewife and lived to be 101 years old. We didn’t have much money, but Mother and Dad taught us about God and how to accept His gift of love, Jesus Christ, and how to treat our fellowman. They gave us the greatest heritage anyone could ever have—when Christmas came, we knew what the Christmas story was all about, and knew the true meaning, although our Christmas was about as bare as our little cedar tree, which was decorated with homemade ornaments on Christmas Day. It was a happy time; we felt secure and loved. Seldom anything was wrapped or tied with a bow. When we got up Christmas morning we could spot the gifts under the tree. Girls had a doll, maybe a tea set; the boys had some kind of toy, car or truck, marbles, slingshot. We all got tablets and pencils and crayons for school. Each of us had a stocking (that had been worn and washed) and, of course, we hunted the biggest sock to hang, for in it we got an apple, orange, banana, tangerine, nuts and some of the hardest candy ever made. It had all been bought with hard work and love and we were all happy as we read our Christmas story, and sang about Jesus, and sang the lovely Christmas carols.
It was major news when a street was paved, a little store was constructed or a couple new houses were built to start a neighborhood, the arrival of electric refrigerators to replace the ice boxes in homes and in grocery stores. Spigots were installed on back porches and people didn’t have to carry water from neighborhood wells or pumps and there was greater progress when bathrooms replaced the outdoor toilets after World War II. Outdoor toilets were turned over many times, during Halloween, for the “trick or treat” deal.
Radios were a big deal; not everyone owned one. There was one radio station in this part of the country, WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina. It gave us songs by Kate Smith and Rudy Vallee, Big Band Music and some comedy by Amos and Andy. Every Saturday night every radio in town was tuned to Nashville WSM Grand Ole Opry until about 10:00 P.M. Those of us, who sang and played, had our own show and our entertainment.
Doctors made $2.00 for an office call; those who didn’t have it didn’t have to pay. They made $25.00 for seeing the mother once or twice during pregnancy and delivering the baby. Babies were born mostly at home. Joyce and Mendall were born at home and Judy at the Mooresville North Carolina Hospital. Dr. White delivered Joyce (dry birth); Dr. Whicker delivered Mendall; Dr. Painter delivered Judy.
When someone died, the flower girls always wore white dresses. Each carried a wreath and stood on each side of the walkway as the Funeral Director brought the casket down between the two rows of girls. The body was always brought home, never left at the Funeral Home.
Most of our clothing was homemade. Dad bought sacks of feed for the chickens. The sacks had very pretty flowers dyed into them, and other designs. Mother would make our dresses and aprons and bonnets from the prettiest selection; the others were used for bloomers or boiled out and used for slips and pillowcases. Our hats and gloves were ordered from the Spiegel Catalogue (later using the old catalogue for our outdoor Johnny). We got to pull our shoes off after the cold winter and take off our undershirts on May 1st. That was a special day.
I remember going to my Grandparents’ home above Statesville, riding in a covered wagon to visit them and to attend Camp Meetings in a brush arbor—sawdust trails and some of the hardest homemade benches, made from rough lumber on which we sat, but the sweetest services. The Lord was present. There’s where I found Christ as my personal Savior, my Dearest Friend, and coming King. Mother and Dad had “planted” the seed in my heart and “watered” it, but I had to take Christ as my Savior, personally. I’ve never forgotten that moment, and the experience is just as real today as it was, that moment. From a child I’ve always known a family altar and Bible Reading, and I’m grateful for my Christian Heritage.
The houses in which we lived were poorly constructed. The windows rattled when the wind blew. Winters were cold, so we slept with lots of homemade quilts on the bed to keep us warm. We had feather and straw mattresses. We would take them out and sun them. We slept on iron and wooden beds.
We carried water from the street from a well. Later a pump was put on each block, and gatherings around the pump were always good fellowship. Each day we took the cow to drink water from a tin tub. It seemed she would drink forever. At night the water would freeze in the buckets in the house, so we had to heat the water in order to start our breakfast. Later, spigots were put on the back porches, a real treat for us all. We no longer had to carry our water from across the street.
Three-room houses rented for $3.00 and $4.00 for 4 rooms. The ceilings were high. A light bulb was put in by getting on a chair, and a little chain was attached and then a string was fastened to the chain and tied to Mom and Dad’s bedpost. When someone was sick and in bed, to keep the light out of their eyes, we would attach a piece of cardboard over the light bulb. Two children slept in Mom and Dad’s bedroom.
Our days and nights were cold during the winter months. When chores were finished, we would all huddle around the fireplace. Our faces would be red from the heat and our backs red from the cold; our legs would be red and white-blotched from sitting too close to the fire. When the bucket of coal or the wood would burn out we would go to bed, after our Devotional Period. Our childhoods were happy ones, centering around the home, church and neighbors and friends.
After school each day we would put on our work clothes and feed the chickens, the hogs, milk and feed the cow. I didn’t learn to milk the cow; that was Mary Lou’s job, but my job was to take the cow to the pasture in the summers, where our church’s current Rest Home and Nursing Home are now built. We pulled a little red wagon around the neighborhood and gathered the cold bread for the hogs, bread that mothers didn’t need for their bread puddings. We brought in the stove wood and coal and in the mornings we took turns building the fires—no lotion for hands.
Our houses didn’t have screens for the windows, so our fly swats were made from a long reed, and paper sewed together and split up to the reed. One of us would shoo the flies away while the others ate until our turn came to eat, provided our part was left.
We churned our milk after it had clabbered, to make buttermilk and butter. We sold milk and butter, so Mother and we girls would mold the butter in a wooden mold with a beautiful flower design on top—1/2 lb. and 1 lb. molds. We always had a garden, our meat from the hogs and eggs from our chickens. We picked blackberries for pies and we had milk and homemade bread three times daily. Peanut butter was rare, but you could buy it loose in cardboard boxes. I recall the early grocery stores having sugar, lard, dried beans and peanut butter that were scooped out of a barrel and put into cardboard trays. Pork chops, sausage and livermush came out of the ice box, kept cool by blocks of ice. Nothing was wrapped. Loaves were bought whole and we sliced them at home. Bananas were bought by the stalk. Kraut was made in big three or four foot barrels. The stalks of the cabbage were also pickled. The Jewel Tea man sold coffee, tea, flavor and sold bedspreads as he made his two-weeks’ call at our front door.
Real baths (65 years ago) were taken on Saturday nights, so we would be clean for church on Sunday. The water was carried from a well or pump and put on the cooking stove to heat. When it boiled, it was poured into the Number 3 tin tub and cooled down with cold water, and we bathed before the fire. The least dirty member of the family, the baby, was bathed first. After your bath someone would rinse you off, by pouring a little water (it was rationed, too) over you and then it was two’s time to hop in. After everyone had his bath, the water was used to scrub the kitchen floor. By this time there were plenty of suds in the water, so we would side along on the floor as we scrubbed, always managing to get a few splinters under our toenails or in our heels, which made more work for Mom and Dad. The splinters hurt, but it hurt just as much getting them out.
I remember the self-player piano, which Dad bought for us by their sacrificing. It had rolls of beautiful music, which we all enjoyed. We all wanted to play like that, instantly. So in order for us to learn our music, Dad had the self-player portion taken out so we would practice, instead of playing the rolls. They gave all of us music lessons but only one, Bernice, out of the seven became an accomplished musician. She also taught music. I remember when I was about five years old Dad promised Mary Lou and me a little umbrella if we learned the musical shape notes. We made a special effort to learn them quickly because our hearts were set on getting the umbrellas, and they were worth working for.
As a family we would gather around the piano; someone would play and we would all sing. It wasn’t long until neighbors and friends were joining us. I played the mandolin; Mary Lou and Charley, the guitar. Someone would play the juice harp—one the jug and another the washboard, also the pots and pans—and it began to take on a country tune as we sang the songs of faith, love and assurance. The trials of the day seemed to fade away.
Dad had a choir of about 50 young people at North Kannapolis Baptist Church who were dedicated to the Lord and used their talents for His glory. Dad also taught music in our home for everyone who was interested, teaching them the notes. Dad taught us music daily, which took much time and effort but today is appreciated, very much. (Added note: They were taught to sing “shaped notes” and learned to sing and recognize them as do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do. One song in this stack of 4 x 6 cards even today has a choir song written out with the words and the “do, re, ti, do” etc. written above the words so she could sing alto!)
There were very few people that had cars during my young days, but when fortunate enough to own one it sure beat walking. Our Model T Ford had as it was called, a running board that you stepped up on to get into the car. It also came with a crank—that you started the car with, in front of the car—then you would put the crank back into the car until you needed it again. The car had curtains (celloid)) with little windows made into them. The driver had a little slit in his curtain to use to give his hand signals for turning. After the hot sun and the cold winters, the celloid windows became so dark, so we would punch little holes in them to see out. When the family went to see relatives in the mountains, everyone got on all the clothing possible and then piled quilts and blankets on our laps and feet because there was no heat. On winter nights when there was going to be a freeze, the car radiator would be drained of all the water and then refilled the next morning, after the water was thawed out from the buckets of water that had been drawn the night before.
Mothers and Grandmothers’ homemade remedies, called “The Medicine Kit”… but the kit contained love.
- Bee Sting – apply fresh tobacco juice or snuff saliva depending on who was the handiest, Grandpa or Grandma.
- Jiggers – scrape off with dull knife blade and apply kerosene or turpentine.
- Common Boil – apply strips of fatback directly to the boil and leave on until brought to a head.
- Sprains – red clay moistened with vinegar, made into a mudpack; apply as a mini-cast; soak in hot water daily until soreness is gone.
- Internal medicine – a large dose of castor oil for bad colds, also Epson salts. In the Spring a generous dose of sulphur and molasses.
- Lice – Fried out meat grease, loaded with salt. Apply to scalp and leave on overnight. Wash with soap the next morning.
- Injury – If a nail or broken glass was stepped on, kerosene was poured over the foot and tied up with a clean cloth. We didn’t know what a “bandaid” (adhesive bandage, added here) was.
- Chest Colds – an application was made from homemade lard, kerosene and a dash of camphor. Apply this, after adding powdered mustard to a clean cloth and put on chest, or onions roasted in the fireplace, mixed with flour and powdered mustard and water, making a paste also for chest, and rest. This was good also for bronchitis or pneumonia.
(Daughter Joyce Carter added this info, looking back: It is interesting that two of her three children became dermatologists.)
We walked to school always, whether it was snowing, sleeting, raining or the sun shining. When the bell rang, we lined up by grades and marched into the classrooms. Then, at the end of the day we marched out and stood in line until the bell rang or they blew the whistle; we were then dismissed.
We always looked forward to recess. It was fun time. There was a first grade and a high first for the more advanced students. The Blue Back Speller and the Baby Ray Reader were used along with other materials.
When school was out for the summer, we sold our books to the ones getting promoted. We sold them for two cents and three cents. If I could have envisioned what should have been one of my priorities, early in life, I would have read daily and read many books while out of school, for I have realized my lack of knowledge through the years because I didn’t read lots.
Cannon High was our high school, named after Charles A. Cannon, who owned the town—a fine Christian man who helped many young boys and girls go to college, through the scholarships that he gave.
It was about one and a half miles to Cannon High from our home, so we walked every day. Grades were from the seventh through the eleventh. We came up during the Depression, so public education was packed into eleven grades.
As we came home at lunchtime, the trains moved slowly, so we would hang onto the sides and ride to the closest point home. If the trains had stopped, blocking our crossing, we would climb over or under the train. We saw no danger.
I was in the ninth grade when our high school burned. Everyone was rushed out, so I forgot my winter coat.
I remember our principal was Mr. W. J. Bullock; our Superintendent was Mr. R.O. Purser. Mrs. Annie Livingood-Hartsel was our Home Economics teacher. I made an apron for my project, something needed at home.
After the fire burned our school, classes were set up for the remainder of the year at Aycock Elementary School (where I am presently a Reading Tutor).
The graduates of 1934 had their graduating exercises at the Y.M.C.A. (now demolished) with a beautiful Y.M.C.A. now built, also a library, a senior citizen’s building on a large plot of land, built by Mr. David Murdock, who bought the town from Mr. Cannon. “Paw Paw” (Leonard, her husband, the name the grandchildren called him) and I were at the ground-breaking.
In the class of 1934 there were fifty-three graduates. Many had dropped out to go to work, along with myself. Cannon High was ten years old at the time of the fire. The school was rebuilt within the next year for $100,00.00. Mr. Bullock contacted Washington, D.C., the P.W.A., Public Works Administration, so they put unemployed carpenters, masons, electricians and plumbers to work building the new school. Mr. Bullock got a promotion to Superintendent and Mr. J. W. Harbison became our principal.
After rearing (helping) our three precious children, that God had blessed our home with, I went back to school at night for three months and received my GED certificate on January 27, 1977, after being out of school since the age of sixteen years old. I finished at the age of fifty-eight.
I am now in my twelfth year as a Reading Tutor at Aycock Elementary School in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and love my work. (She taught reading for fifteen years at Aycock.) I have the names of all the students that I have tutored. I encouraged them to set their goals high in life, and to make the most of time and read lots of books.
Aycock is a sixty-two year old building with no air conditioning except in the newer part but we will have window fans in 1990 and the school will be abandoned in the mid-90s, probably used for offices.
After finishing school, by attending night classes, I have taken some extra courses: “Adventures in Attitudes,” a course in “Psychology” and a “Basic, Computer class.” I audited a “Medical Terminology” class and now, I am taking art at the original art class. I have painted four pictures in the last two months, giving you, Marshele, the first gift.
I love to learn, so I plan, Lord willing, to take at least one class each year, along with my other work at church and at school.
(This is the end of Mother’s journal to her granddaughter: blank pages yet to be written, never completed.)
Postscript by daughter (Joyce Carter): Nannie Mae Jordan-Bost (a Bride again) died at age ninety-two, bedridden, flat of her back, unable to even turn over, speechless for the last two years of her life. I feel certain that prayer to God was her silent communication those two years. She had a way of enriching the lives of all who had the privilege of knowing her…whether actively living life or silently waiting to enter the Presence of Jesus Christ. We will see her again! I am grateful for that Truth.
Thanks, Marshele, for asking your Grandmother many years ago, to write her life’s story when asked what you would like to have for a Christmas present. What a gift!
Joyce Carter added: I located another page in her own handwriting:
(1) Finished GED, high school, January 27, 1977. Began September 23, 1976. Classroom located up over Gem Theatre. I studied Math, English, Science and Social Studies two nights a week for three months.
(2) Took Notary Public course May 20, 1987 in Old Court House in Concord, North Carolina.
(3) Renewed Notary Public course in 1992.
(4) Started tutoring reading (to individual students at Aycock Elementary School) January 2, 1978. Worked until May 1993, fifteen and a half years.
(5) Went to Holy Land (Israel), Jordan and Egypt. Left October 3, 1977, stayed six days.
(6) Went to Israel for a month with Joyce, 1993
(7) Went on a Dr. Stanley cruise to Alaska with Joyce. The cruise was ten days on ship, Sun Viking, 1995
Additional note she wrote: Cabarrus Memorial Hospital (in Concord, North Carolina) opened July 1937.
Author: Nannie Mae Jordan
(Transcribed by Joyce Carter Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)