This story started the day I was born. I can sit back and see the different periods of time go by.
I grew up in the 1930s and ’40s, going to the cotton fields with my father. He was a sharecropper farmer. After he had his crop in, he would work with the people who had larger farms.
I remember seeing the hogs hanging from tree limbs and the people working on them. He would help at hog-killing time for the meat. I can remember when he would bring home buckets of sorghum syrup. Again, he helped make syrup and got paid in buckets. If you had food and a place to live back then, you were lucky.
Then farming — like everything else — got bad. The landowners asked for more of the crop. It was hard to get a piece of land that was big enough. The landowners cut the size that they shared. That made less for the man who was farming the land.
My last year living on the farm was in a house at the end of the Hardin Bridge. The house sat between the river and the road at the end of the bridge crossing on the right from Kingston. I remember hearing my mother and father talk about moving to town. I was so small that I didn’t know the difference between town and country. I soon found out.
In the country we had our fish hole on the river. We had all kind of playing areas. There was no one else but the family. My father ran into an old friend who offered him a job in construction. The next thing I remember, we moved to what was called Wright Row; it is now called John Davenport Drive.
We lived there until the spring rains came. The creek that ran though the woods below us got up into the house. After it went down, we moved to Armstrong Street that ran off of Allen Street. Armstrong, since those days, has ceased to exist. The pipe factory took it in when they built there.
Then I found out about town living. I turned 6 and off to school I went. I remember that I stood out in the crowd. The others wore a different type of clothing. I wore overalls with a red pullover shirt and blue tennis shoes. If you don’t think you will stand out with those clothes on, give the little fellow a bowl hair cut.
But it didn’t take long for me to fit in. The first year I made a lot of friends. I also met a lot who were not friends. You see that funny-looking skinny boy who took no guff from anyone? Like then, and like it still is, there were little groups that stayed and played together. That was a long time ago. On occasions I will run into someone I went to school with, but they are few and far between. At recess time the wall at the Elm Street School held the same group for about five years.
There was no cotton-picking in the city. There were farmers who came to the city and picked up people and carried them to the cotton field. You would load on a truck and they drove you to the field. The cotton field was a playground for some kids. Back when we went to the cotton fields, it was a work area. Those kids did not have to work for a living.
I went to Neely and then to Rome High — I believe that they called the high school Hill Toppers or something like that. I wanted to play football, but the coach told me I was too small. At that time I weighed about 110 pounds. After being told that I was too small, I never cared anything about football.
Then came the point where I had no choice but to quit school and go to work, at the age of 13. My first job was washing dishes at a cafe. From dishwashing to short order cook. I didn’t care for cooking, so I got a job at construction. Worked there until I went into service. I never quit learning, for when I wasn’t at work you could find me with a book or a paper of some kind, reading and learning.
We were being processed into the Army and at night had nothing to do. I talked to a sergeant and he let me into the library. There was only material there that pertained to the Armed Forces. I found a book on the Signal Corps and began to read. I did that for several nights. Then came the time for a test to see what branch of service we would be best for. You guessed it — I was put into the Signal Corps. Tell me it don’t pay to read.
I came out of the service and a couple of years later went on the Rome Police Department. I walked a beat on Broad Street for a while. Then I was put into a patrol car where I worked until I was promoted to the rank of detective sergeant. From detective I went back on patrol as a sergeant. I was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. I was Watch Commander until retirement.
From hanging hogs in trees and butchering them to now, I have seen a lot of changes. Most of the changes have been for the best, but a lot haven’t.