(My mother, Joyce Clinton Rogers, was born on July 1, 1935. If you who follow her paintings on Instagram @mymothersart or on Facebook, you know that she is still actively painting, but the most treasured of all her paintings is the one of her grandfather in front of his home in Epley, Mississippi. Below she shares her personal memories of her grandparents, and what life was like growing up in the 1940s in rural Missississippi. It will help you understand why this painting is so special.)
by Joyce Clinton Rogers
When I was a little girl in the 1940s, my parents took me to spend a week in the summer with my Clinton grandparents who lived on a farm in Epley, Mississippi (located between Sumrall and Hattiesburg). I may have gone several summers– I’m not sure. I may have forgotten.
There wasn’t much a young girl could do but explore, so I did. A short walk away past the cemetery was a small bridge over a creek. It was fun to swing my feet into the cool creek water and see what critters were in the water.
My granddaddy was a farmer and a well-digger. Our whole family, my three sisters and three brothers, loved to play around the well. We had running water and electricity and a real bathroom at the teacher’s home at Oak Grove where we lived– but not my grandparents. My grandparents had an outdoor toilet and a Sears & Roebuck Catalogue for toilet paper. (I’m not kidding!) They had a tub used for washing clothes, vegetables, and for getting a bath, and goodness knows what else.
The story is told that granddaddy got baths by waiting ’til dark, stripping and pouring buckets of well water over his head, then drying off naturally by swinging in the swing on the front porch. One night, my Aunt Carol was entertaining a boyfriend on the front porch, and granddaddy’s arrival caused quite a stir!
I remember the house well. Our family visited every Sunday afternoon for years. I did a painting of the ole house, which hangs in back of my favorite chair where we live now. The farmhouse had no electricity and was heated by fireplaces and the kitchen by a stove. The stove had a door that opened and you put firewood inside. There were two fireplaces, one in each bedroom on each side of the house. When we went to visit in the wintertime, we sat on the edge of one of the two beds in the rooms to the right. If others came in, we just slid over. Grandma sat in her chair on the left of the fireplace, and granddaddy sat on the right.
On holidays, occasionally we might eat at the farmhouse. If that was the case, we came early so mama could help with the cooking. And oh, what a great feast we would have! We’d have fried chicken, lots of vegetables from their garden both fresh and “canned” (stored in jars), biscuits and cornbread, casseroles and desserts. As the oldest granddaughter, I got some jobs. Grandma made buttermilk and butter by placing milk in a jar, and I shook the jar until buttermilk and butter formed and separated from the other milk. My arms would get so tired!
I remember well hearing granddaddy say the blessing. He was loud! After he finished, he said, “Now you see what’s here…” I can’t remember what else he said (to finish that phrase). If any family remember, I wish you’d tell me how he finished that statement.
Speaking of being loud and praying, I had an interesting experience on one of my summer visits. I was on the swing on the front porch while granddaddy’s young pastor visited with him. I heard granddaddy praying loudly. I realized that the pastor didn’t come to pray for granddaddy, but for granddaddy to pray for him. Or maybe both ways.
Grandma always wore a long simple dress down to her ankles, an apron and her hair in a bun on top of her head. On Sunday, she wore a white apron. Granddaddy wore overalls and clean ones on Sunday.
Grandma swept the yard with a broom. She didn’t want grass growing in her yard. There was a rooster in the back yard who chased me. I was deathly afraid of him.
There was a long back porch where vegetables might be stacked or the washtub might be the bathing place for the more genteel. On the end of the porch near the kitchen was a shelf where a bucket of water with a dipper and a washpan stood. This is where you got a drink of water and/or washed your hands. Yes, we all drank from the same dipper.
Granddaddy never owned a car. He used his plowhorse, Dolly, to pull the family wagon to go to Sumrall for supplies and to church on Sunday. You can see him with Dolly in my painting.
Known in the community as “Uncle Charlie” and “Aunt Marthy,” this is how things were in rural Epley in the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s. Both are buried in the little Clinton Family Cemetery with their parents, their grandparents and some of their nine children and grandchildren, including one of my brothers, Donald Clinton. Also buried there are my parents, Rankin Anderson Clinton, Sr. and Lucy Rutledge Clinton, and Gwen Clinton, the first wife of my brother Sam.