Tater Day in Marshall County

I’m sure a lot of you have never heard of Tater Day, right?  Well, stick around and I’ll tell you how we celebrated Tater Day.

Just in case you don’t know, “Tater” is a nickname for potato.  Tater Day is held in Benton, Kentucky and is the only celebration in the world to celebrate the sweet potato. It was started in 1843 as a celebration of spring and was a time when all of the townsfolk would get together and trade in sweet potato slips which are used to grow the plants.  It is also the oldest continuous trade day in the United States, in which goods such as guns, ‘coon hounds, tobacco or livestock are swapped or sold. Tater Day brings to town carnival rides, games, a market, a potato eating contest, mule pulls, and a “biggest potato” contest, which attracts large potatoes from across the county. The biggest part of the festival is the parade, which completes one circuit around the town.  It includes political floats, Marshall County High School marching band, horses and buggies, clowns, vintage cars, horses, Miss Tater Day, and other things for which Marshall County is known. There is also Junior Miss Tater Day for little girls ages 5 to 12, and Little Mister, Tiny Miss, and Baby Miss Tater day pageants and floats for the younger kids.  And no parade is complete without a Grand Marshall.

From the time I can remember, Mom, Mawdie, Cheryl and I attended the Tater Day festivities.  In the beginning, we kids skipped school to go to Tater Day. All the teachers knew that any kid enrolled in a Marshall County school was going to be absent that day to go to Tater Day; but since Tater Day fell on a school day, the schools were expected to be in session.  It finally became such a problem for the school system that they decided to make the first Monday in April a school holiday. Do you know how much that deflated all of us who delighted in skipping school for just one day?

We first went to Aunt Annie’s (Mawdie’s sister) house in Benton and then walked to the end of her street to watch the parade.  After the parade, I would meet up with some of my friends and we would go to the fairgrounds to ride some of the carnival rides that were set up.  When it was time to eat lunch, I would make my way back to Aunt Annie’s house because you didn’t want to miss out on the best cooking in the world.  Aunt Annie and Mawdie would cook all morning – we would have chicken/dumplings, sauerkraut, stewed potatoes, green beans, corn, cornbread and fresh homemade pies.

At the end of the day, we went home with all kinds of good leftovers and sunburned bodies and making plans for the next Tater Day adventure.

See ya next Wednesday.

Springtime at our House

Now that it’s getting a little warmer and spring is in the air, I thought I would take you back to when we would do our spring cleaning in the house and yard.

Cheryl and I had to help Mom with spring cleaning the house and we took all of the mattresses and box springs outside to air and also so the hardwood floors could be waxed and buffed.  Now, back then, the springs in those beds weighed a gazillion pounds and we had to take them out of the house and bring them back in without touching those precious hardwood floors. We had to help mop, wax and buff the floors and it had to be done to perfection.  Everything on the beds and all curtains were washed and hung outside because we didn’t have a dryer.  And then, some of the curtains had to be ironed, which was always a fun job.  Even though Mom cleaned every week, my job was to dust every single trinket in the living room and I know for a fact that there were thousands of them.  Each one had to be taken off the furniture, the furniture dusted, then each trinket dusted and placed back on the furniture in the exact same order in which it started. Once we finished the inside of the house, we moved to the yard.

All of the rocks, leaves, dirt and the occasional chicken poop left over from winter had to be raked into a big pile and put into a washtub.  We burned what we could and then hauled the rest of it to the dump down the lane from the house.  I’m here to tell you that washtub was heavy; it took two, and sometimes three, people to carry it.  I mean, Mom and Mawdie didn’t fill it half full; it was running over with all that stuff. Usually, I helped Mawdie carry it and we had to make several stops between the yard and the dump before we got there. It would take a couple of days just to get the yard cleaned but it always looked so good when we finished.

We had some great times at that house.  In my grandmother’s backyard stood a Serviceberry Tree (we pronounced it sarvis).  The tree had little dark red berries that were really sweet and yummy. Cheryl, Greg and I climbed that tree every year to eat those sweet berries.  The birds got most of good ones at the top of the tree.  We also had a couple of mulberry trees and a persimmon tree, but persimmons could only be eaten when they were very ripe; otherwise, the taste was bitter.  And, I think there were a couple of pecan trees in the yard too.  My dad absolutely loved pecans and spent many afternoons sitting under a tree cracking pecans and eating them.

As soon as it was warm enough, Mom, Mawdie, Cheryl and I would sit on Mawdie’s front porch at night and listen to the whippoorwill who sat on top of her house singing.  Since we lived in the country, there were no street lights and the only light we had was the moonlight or the end of the cigarette that Mawdie smoked.  I tell ya, it was nice sitting in that old swing and just enjoying nature at its best.  I would love to go back for just one day and relive some of those great memories.

See ya next Wednesday.


Sports at Our House

Did you and/or your family play any kind of sports?  My mom’s favorite sport was cleaning the house and watching her soap operas; but my dad, little sister and I were into the more physical side of sports.

When I was small, my dad played on a minor league in Paducah, along with his brother and some of his best pals.  We spent lots of weekends at the field watching him play.

Dad also loved to bowl.  He was in a league that played every Thursday night. After supper, we would hop in the car and go to Gateway Lanes in Draffenville. Cheryl and I played pinball with our friends while he bowled. Back then it was still okay to smoke inside buildings and you would have to cut your way through all the smoke floating in the air. I remember one night my dad was having a great night and got to the point where he might get into the 240 Club.  This meant he had to bowl at least 240 to make it.  It was tense and he had to get a strike; his last throw was a strike that barely gave him his 240.  They added his name to the board and I believe he even got a little trophy.  A very good night for the Thomassons.

When we were a little older, Dad started a junior bowling league for us kids at Gateway.  A couple of my friends from school, Cheryl and I were on a team and several of my friends from school also had their own teams.  You need to remember that scoring was not automatic back then and you had to know how to calculate the scoring.  And me being a math whiz (NOT), scoring was not usually an easy thing.  To top it all off, Dad had me doing all the standings for the team each week so I had to figure the scoring plus the handicaps for each player and team.  When it came down to the end of the season, we girls were bowling against a team of boys for the championship and they thought they were the best in the world.  Yep, we beat them.  One of the boys who was Cheryl’s age even cried.  That made the win so much better.  Can you tell we were a little competitive?

Speaking of bowling.  Once when Uncle Rip and the family were home from Massachusetts, Dad took Cheryl, Tommy, Johnny and me bowling. On the way home, we stopped at the Kentucky Maid and got fountain cokes which was a real treat for Cheryl and me.  As we were driving back home, Tommy rolled down his window and threw his glass of ice into a car that we were meeting.  It was summertime and I’m sure the other driver had his window down. Dad nearly had a cow; you just didn’t do something like that in Marshall County because everybody knew everybody else and it wouldn’t be long before someone would be knocking on your door asking why this happened.  Dad took off and I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever seen him drive.  It was kind of funny though and I bet my dad laughed too although he would have never let us see it.

As I said, we are competitors when it comes to sports and I have more sports stories for you that I will share at another time.

See ya next Wednesday.

The 1964 Marshall County Tornado

On March 4, 1964, I was a sophomore at North Marshall High School and it was a pretty routine day except that one of my best friends, Cindy Goheen was celebrating her 16th birthday and I was going to spend the night at her house and help her celebrate.  What I didn’t know was that I would forever remember that day because a category 4 tornado hit the south end of Marshall County and killed three people.  This tornado also injured 24 people and caused between $50,000 and $500,000 in damages.

We were sitting in the cafeteria and it was storming outside and you could see the dark clouds toward the south.  As we sat there, several of us heard a piercing scream which we later learned was the tornado.

School was let out and we went to Cindy’s house.  When we got there, her mother told us what had happened.  This was on a Wednesday and we had planned to go to church but her mother decided we should stay home.  As I have said in an earlier post, you didn’t miss church unless you were at death’s door and my parents weren’t too happy when they found out that I had missed church.

My dad was preaching at Fairdealing Church of Christ at that time so on Sunday when we went to church, we were told of the devastation of the storm.  People told us stories of how close the tornado came to their houses.  There were boards in trees, buildings totally flattened and so many people left without homes.  I think there were a few miracles that day too.  One lady from church told us that she was feeding her baby in the kitchen when she saw the tornado heading her way.  She grabbed the baby and tried to get out of the kitchen; however, the door slammed and she couldn’t get out.   And, you know, the kitchen was the only room left standing after the tornado passed.  Her husband crawled under the corncrib because he couldn’t make it to the house.

After lunch on Sunday, we drove around the south end of Marshall County to see the damage first hand.  I tell ya, that was a scary sight. Where houses, barns, and even businesses once stood was nothing but rubble.  It was hard to believe that wind could be so strong as to just completely destroy everything in its path. But it did.

My mother was always afraid of storms; but after that, she was even more afraid.  I have to tell you a little funny about something my sister did to our mom.  One day it was storming like the devil and warnings were issued for our area.  And even though it was storming, Mom was busy cleaning house (her favorite thing to do).  She said to Cheryl, “if you hear anything besides wind, you tell me.”  She wanted to make sure we would have time to go to the basement if a tornado was coming our way.  In a little while, Cheryl said to her, “I hear something besides wind.”  Well, Mom went into a tee-total panic and asked her what she heard.  My sister said, “I hear rain.”  Luckily, she didn’t get a beating over that one.

See ya next Wednesday.