Front Porch Memories
By Bill Shephard
All of the houses that I lived in as a small boy had large front porches. That was true of the houses that made up the mill village where I spent my childhood years. All of the houses had either three or four rooms on the inside, and two porches on the outside. The large front porch was where folk did their visiting and relaxing after a long day’s work. That was true at the Shepard’s house on the village!
During the early years of my childhood life on a mill village was a simple existence of living and working. Neighborly visits were about the only socializing one did and that happened rarely and on weekends. Workers at the big mill were up at 4:30 a.m. and, after a large breakfast, were off to the mill where they would work twelve long hours! When they returned home a hot meal was usually waiting, and the day was over.
In the summertime when the daylight hours were longer there would be time left for sitting on the front porch and visiting. If other things, such as gardening or feeding the pigs were not in need of doing, Dad would head for the front porch to sit for a while. Mom would hasten to clean the kitchen and put leftover food away, then join Dad on the front porch. I liked those days! Mom would have taken off her kitchen apron, brushed her long hair a little and joined Dad on the big porch. They made a memorable picture sitting side by side in the porch swing. I liked those times best of all. They just didn’t seem to happen as often as I liked. It did seem that there was always something else that Dad needed doing outside the house and Mom was equally as busy on the inside! If Mom wasn’t washing the clothes and ironing clothes, she was at the old Singer machine sewing! So it was good to see them sitting side-by-side and swinging back and forth.
Often times on Sundays, if we were not visiting relatives in the nearby country, Mom would make a large bucket of lemonade and place it on the front porch where we would all be gathered. Of course that would depend on whether the ice man had visited the village of Friday or Saturday. If a small piece of ice remained, Mom would use it to cool the lemonade.
It would be so good! Usually a neighbor would saunter over, take a seat on the porch and join in on whatever conversation was going on. They were always welcome and if they had children we would play games in the large front yard while the grown-ups talked.
There really wasn’t much to talk about in those times. We didn’t hear much news. We never had a newspaper, no radio or telephone, so what was left to talk about? Perhaps a new neighbor had moved into the village, or something different had happened at the mill; there was always something to keep the conversation going.
Often a musician with his guitar, or mandolin happened by and would be welcomed to stop and pick and sing awhile. I really enjoyed those times! When that happened large crowds would gather and stay for as long as the musicians would stay. I can still remember the names of some of those early entertainers: Charlie Self and Elvin Baker were two of the frequent visitors. Both were good musicians
When the sun would begin to sink behind the treetops, visitors would begin moving away. All would say how much they had enjoyed the day and move on.
Dad would move the chairs back inside. Tomorrow would be the beginning of a new week and next Sunday seemed a long way off
Until next time!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.
His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.