Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Childhood stories

Posted May 16, 2011

What is your most interesting childhood memory? It can be funny, poignant or life changing. Please share. 

Veteran Raleigh attorney Sam Johnson recently sent me a copy of his book A History of My Journey. It contains some wonderful memories of his life growing up on a farm in Sampson County. Sam was born in 1927 and recalls summer trips from the farm to Carolina Beach where his uncle owned a large cottage. I loved the story about John Henry Burnett: 

“He had a large eight bedroom oceanfront cottage with big porches. He enjoyed surf fishing and would wade out into the ocean wearing a shirt and tie and long pants. I never saw him without a tie.” 

It was hard work back on the farm. Sam Johnson remembers how his father got a jumpstart in the morning: 

“It was customary for my father to occasionally have an eye opener in the early morning hours. He would take a sip of white lightning from a jar out in the barn followed by a swallow of water. There was no other alcohol drinking the rest of the day.” 

The book also contains a poignant story about the depressed economy and Sam Johnson’s mother Katherine giving as much as she possibly could one Sunday at church: 

“The memory of my mother placing a nickel in the collection plate is fixed in my mind. Her hands were rough and gnarled from hard work in the field. When I make significant contributions as a successful adult, I think back about her sacrifice and effort.” 

I thank Sam Johnson for his terrific book,  keen memory and colorful stories.  What about your stories?


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  • dharper22 May 17, 2011

    During the depression my folks had 1000 Minorca hens and a large garden. We traded eggs and potatoes at Abe Mezvinsky’s Ames Wholesale Grocery for credit. That would buy the lye needed to make the soap. It also paid for other essentials such as sugar,flour and peanut butter from a large barrel.

    Abe was a colorful Jew. He had a son, Ed Mezvinsky, who was a great athlete. First team All-state in football and a member of the state champion basketball team at Ames High. Ed went into politics after graduating from an Ivy League college and was elected to congress representing the 1st Iowa District. After serving his terms in Congress he went into business in Pennsylvania. That’s where he got in trouble. He was convicted of fraud and spent several years in prison. Imagine our family's surprise last year when we learn his son Marc, old Abe’s grandson, was marrying Hillary Clinton, daughter of President Clinton and Senator/Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Small world!

  • nc_jcnumber5 May 16, 2011

    When my mother's mom died while she was very young, her mother's sister - "Aunt Joye" to all of us 7 JC's in the Crissman household - raised her and lived next door to us. Aunt Joye never married, so each of us took turns spending the night at her house. In the morning, we were always greeted at the breakfast table by a cold Coca Cola in a bottle, and two of those Merita cinnamon buns with the white icing, which she had heated in her oven so perfectly that they melted in our mouth. Before we would leave, we were able to go into her closet and get a dime from the "dime jar", a small glass jar with a slit in the top. I still have that jar on my mantle at home, still full of dimes.

  • outlawtaxi May 16, 2011

    After I arranged for my friend to pick me up the next morning at 5 to beat the heat I told my grandmother & aunt that I'd bring some new potatoes home for lunch the next day. I asked my Chicago cousins if they wanted to help dig potatoes, & they said "dig potatoes? Don't they grow on a plant, like on a bush?" After we explained how they grew, one said, "oh, maybe about 10 I could help." I told them that by 10 I'd be home ready for a shower so I could go to the hospital after lunch to see my folks, & that I had dibs on the bathroom when I got there. Sure enough, the next day I went to the potato patch & after we were finished my friend brought me home. I started to the bathroom & here comes my cousin strolling out of the bedroom to take her shower. I told her "no, I told you yesterday I had dibs when I got home" & my aunt, who had heard the whole thing the day before, took my side. I'll never forget the city slicker cousins who didn't know what a day's work was or how potatoes grow.

  • outlawtaxi May 16, 2011

    When I was in 9th grade my father was ill with cancer and in the hospital. Since my aunt lived next door and my grandmother lived on the other side of her and we were in Arkansas and out in the country, my parents felt safe enough leaving me to stay by myself in the evenings. I'd catch a ride to town (21 miles) to see them at the hospital every day and then a ride home with whoever was going that way, since I wasn't quite old enough to drive by myself (I was 15). In late July some distant cousins from Chicago came to visit my aunt, and our large family overflowed my grandmother's house, so one of my out-of-town aunts and those cousins stayed in our house with me that week. It so happened that the potato patch that we shared with the farmer who my dad worked for was ready to dig that week. The farmer called me to ask if I could help dig potatoes the next day, and of course I agreed. I was at my grandomther's house when I got the call.

  • mcatfan May 16, 2011

    I remember as a teenager I worked in a grocery store owned by 3 brothers. We delivered groceries back then. Everybody didn't have cars and many of them would catch a ride to town, buy their groceries for the week and I would take them and their groceries home. If they couldn't get to town that week, they would call in what they wanted and I would take it to them. We would charge their groceries and they would pay us once a month when they got paid. I sure miss those days when you could trust everybody, never locked your car or your house.

  • blytle May 16, 2011

    I remember St. Mary's Street in Raleigh -- the section across Glenwood that eventually becomes Lassiter Mill Road -- when it was a very poorly paved 2-lane street. Whenever we would hear the siren of the firetruck in the distance, we would rush to the front yard to see the fire truck racing down the street, because there was always a fireman on the back of the truck, bouncing up and down and hanging on for dear life. We loved watching for him!

  • katizs May 16, 2011

    One of my favorite choldhood memories started the summer I was 12. We lived where a train track ran across the front of our house and with my 3 siblings ever time we would hear a train coming we would go out to the front yard and wave to the engineers and the men in the caboose (yes it was before the caboose was eliminated) and through this action, we had one specific engineer we learned came through our area every 3 days and he started making contact with us by tossing out small notes from the crew in their water jugs and we learned their schedule and they would blow the whistle a certain way when they would reach our neighborhood - we in turn would write notes about who we were and I remember standing 12 inches away from a train track holding a 6 ft pole we had found with our letters attached to the end and hearing that train engine slowing down so the engineer could come out on his steps and grab the note as they passed by ~ we do keep in touch with one still to this day

  • Killian May 16, 2011

    I think of myself sitting with my two best friends, completely unaware of the irony of a white girl, a Korean girl, and an African American girl being so close. We had no clue what prejudice was, unable to fathom hating someone because of skin color. The only time it ever came up was when we would joke that God baked Lyala a little too long, me not quite long enough, and Kim was perfectly timed! =)

    I've carried that into my adult life, raising my kids to understand that skin color means nothing; it is what's inside a person that matters.

  • bigredtruckman May 16, 2011

    My grandfather was never one to do things half way. He decided that our sandbox did not have enough sand. Three DUMP TRUCK LOADS later, he thought that we had enough sand to play in. My brother and I had many great times playing in our huge "sandbox".

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Bill Leslie