MUSING WITH CECIL BUFFINGTON
MusingWith Cecil Buffington
1946 - After The War In Jefferson, Georgia
In October of 1945, just a month or so after my birth, the minimum wage had risen to $0.40 per hour. This was $16.00 per 40 hour week. This would be $64.00 per month. Needless to say it was hard to have many luxuries with so little money coming into the family. Even with two working it was hard to get by in the period right after the war. I find it hard to imagine those times in life when an individual could live on $64.00 a month. Many times we talk about simple times. These weren't just simple times, these were really "hard times”, probably one of the most difficult times to live in during American history.
My early childhood in Jefferson was one of getting by without the things we consider as everyday normal in the modern times of our country. While we did have electrical power, we mostly had to provide the other everyday needs for ourselves. We had the famous "outdoor privy" or "outhouse" as many called them. Our water came from wells we had dug on site on the Bennett property and much of our food came from on-property gardens. Store bought groceries consisted of items like pork and beans, sardines, buttermilk and a loaf or two of bread. Cornmeal, flour, cheese, pinto beans and rice were provided by a government commodity program. My grandmother seldom bought meat items since we usually had a hog in the freezer and a few chickens running around in the backyard.
I have always said that my dad was the best gardener that ever lived. I really believe he could grow things better than anyone I have ever seen, He would plant green beans, white and yellow squash, corn, egg plants, cucumbers, pepper, various peas, cantaloupes and watermelons. My mother would can much of these garden items or freeze them for winter use.
There was the occasional hog that was raised for a meat supplement to our vegetables.
My dad was also an avid hunter. He would often cook squirrels, rabbits and possums. Yes, he really did like to eat possums. I can truly say I never tasted one bite of those things. Just a look at the greasy, slimy water that was cooking them almost turned my stomach. My dad was also the best rabbit box builder that I have ever seen. He would set out 10 to 12 boxes all over the wooded area behind our house. I would often check them out for him after I got in from school. Sometimes I would bring home three or four rabbits. My dad never killed anything that I can remember just for fun or just for the sake of killing it. It was always for food that he would clean, freeze and cook somewhere down the road.
My uncle Ray Williamson was an avid fisherman. We often times would spend the entire day during the summer over at Bell's Lake on the Winder road fishing for bream or bass. Early on I really liked to fish, but as I grew older, I would lose the patience to sit on a bank for long periods of time and not catch any fish.
I think back to the occasions when my grandmother would decide we would have chicken for Sunday dinner. She would have me chase down one of the chickens in her backyard. Then she would grasp that bird by its head, spin it 'round and 'round until the head was twisted from its body. On many occasions I watched as that headless chicken danced all over the yard until its heart finally stopped beating. My grandmother would then clean it, cut it up and we'd have it for that big Sunday dinner. I can't say I miss those type of chicken-killing days, but it was a sign of the times, just as so many things of today are signs of the time.
The war may have ended, but it was obvious to the people of Jefferson the consequences of that great war would remain for a long time.