George A Bane Autobiography Part 1


Here is the first section of my Papaw, the late George A Bane's, autobiography. We found this when we were cleaning out his and my memaw's old house in September. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I will be posting the whole thing here as I transcribe it (it is handwritten on several notebooks and loose sheets of paper.) Enjoy!

Update: The whole autobiography is now collected in one place in a variety of formats (as a web page, a PDF, and a printed book).

This little skit is not intended to be a literary masterpiece, but solely for the purpose of refreshing my memory, to enable me to travel back into time some forty odd years, to the great depression of nineteen and twenty nine. The depression hit my family in my first year in school, and believe me, it hit hard.

My father was what was known in those days as a "public works" man. Most of the time he worked as a bookkeeper at the saw mills in South Mississippi. When the roof fell in on the economy, there was no work to be had, period. My dad stayed on the go most of the time looking for work, and I mean any kind of work regardless of salary.

I am sure it is hard for our present generation to comprehend not having some kind of welfare program, so as a result, if you didn't have the money, you didn't eat. Believe me, lots of times we didn't eat. I remember running to the front door of whatever shack we happened to be living in at that time, to see if Papa was coming down the road with a 24 pound sack of flour on his back, and an eight-pound bucket of lard, and maybe, just maybe, a five pound sack of sugar. If he did, Mama would start getting the old wood stove hot, so she could make some biscuits, saw mill gravy and sugar molasses.

We moved around from one place to another and stopped wherever Papa could find work to do. During this time, Mama's favorite expression was, quote, "Walter! A rolling stone never gathers any moss."

We finally moved up into the red clay hills of Neshoba County and started share cropping. This is where the land owner furnishes the land, a mule, plows, etc. He also advanced around fifty dollars to buy a few groceries with, before the crop was gathered. Usually we had borrowed most of our half before gathering time.

We half-and-half farmed for about three years, and Papa managed to buy a piece of land with a livable house on it. We never did really own the place, but the owner had more land than he knew what to do with. So we did the farming and turned over what little cotton we made to him, and we were allowed to keep the seed, which we sold, and kept the money.

During the winter, we cut and hauled stove and fireplace wood into town and sold it for $3.00 a cord. We also made cross ties, cut sweetgum stove blocks, and hauled them to the mill. The depression was over with as far as we were concerned. We had plenty to eat and a few dollars to buy clothes with. I don't want to give the impression that we were living high on the hog, but it was a tremendous improvement over the way were living before we moved out on the farm.

During all this moving around, I managed to hop skip and jump from one school to another until I finished grammar school and some high school. They were not as particular about keeping records in the little country schools back then as the schools are now. So I took advantage of this lousy record keeping and skipped a grade or two when I changed from one school to another. I don't know how I managed it, but I did pretty good in the grade I skipped up to!

I would be doing the school system quite an injustice if I didn't mention something about the school system I attended back in my boyhood days. Several of the schools were well constructed buildings, and equipped with all of the essential equipment but not all. From the third through the eighth grade, the building consisted of six rooms with a hall down the middle. Each room has a pot-bellied stove with a big wood box beside it. It was left up to us boys to tote wood from the outside wood pile to keep the wood box by the heater full. On the back edge of the campus behind the school building was located the sanitary facilities. The four holer on the right hand side belonged to the girls, and the one on the left hand side was the domain of the male gender. The boys privy was usually pretty well filled at recess and dinner periods. Not only to relieve the call of nature, but to break out our OCB cigarette papers and a sack of Bull Durham and roll a fag like the cowboys did in the Tom Mix movies, If you couldn't raise this dime it took to buy a sack of old north state and a book of OCB papers, you would hang around and try to get someone's butt before he smoked it down to his lips.

If you saw a bunch of boys heading for the woods, you knew there was a little misunderstanding that had to be settled in a manly sort of way. Our professor didn't exactly smile on this sort of behavior, and most of the time he found out about it by the time the bell rang. He had a paddle about three quarters of an inch thick, and he knew how to use it. You see, this was before the Supreme Court ruled out corporal punishment. This kindly made us weigh our desire for mischief against the effects of that darn paddle.

The only organized sports we had was basketball, and we played it on an outside court. I never did much playing, but I was the official score keeper. We had one fellow that flunked the twelfth grade for three years so he could play ball and drive the school bus. The prof finally gave him a passing grade and diploma whether he wanted it or not.

Now for a few words about the school buses. The buses didn't belong to the schools. They were contracted out, and the lowest bidder got the route. There were no rigid specifications as to what kind of vehicle it would be. Consequently, most of them were retired log or stove trucks with a wooden shed built on it with two benches on each side. I remember one morning the driver hit a big mud hole real hard trying to make it through without getting stuck. Well, we made it through the mud hole, but the whole dang body fell down on top of us. Nobody got hurt, but we had to walk the rest of the way.

Well, I finally graduated from the little six room grammar school and started in high school about ten miles down the road. One good thing was that we had a much better bus, and the school building was much larger, but we still had to play basketball on an open court.

We had a Kholer light plant to furnish electricity to operate the water pump, which had to be running to get a drink of water at recess and lunch time. The thing was not only contrary, but was about worn out, to boot. Is just so happened that I was the proud owner of a T Model truck with a wafford gear in it. If you were mechanically inclined and knew the proper words to use, it would serve you well. It seems I was endowed with both. Soon after I started school there, the Kholer plant gave up the ghost just before the dinner bell rang. Consequently, there was no water to wash down the baked sweet potatoes in the lunch boxes, paper sacks, wrapped up in newspapers, or whatever. No one seemed to know anything about the water system, and I wanted to eat my baked potato and boiled egg real bad. I decided to transfer my experiences with the T Model truck to the water pump. They say ignorance is bliss, but when you jump into something you know very little about and everything turns out right, it kind of makes you feel important. Well, that's what happened to me. From then on, if I wanted to miss a class just before dinner period, all I had to do was tell the teacher I had to go and check out the water pump. That's probably why I am so dumb in some subjects now.

(to be continued)

Read Part Two Here
Read Part Three Here
Read Part Four Here
Read Part Five Here
Read Part Six Here
Read Part Seven Here


This is great

This is great! I am teaching the depression in class right now. Do you mind if I share it with them?

Love. it.

Carry on.

I had found this a few years ago and Mom wouldn't let me do anything with it. I am so glad you are getting this down on something more permanent. It's good reading it again!

Great piece!

I've read many a history diary and found this interesting.

Love to learn more when you have time.