The Little House at 49 Park Drive
Home is Where the Heart Is
I was born in 1948 and when I was about two years old, daddy moved the family from the mountain where he had grown up to the cotton mill village of Tuxedo, North Carolina. Most of the houses on our street (Park Drive) all looked the same. Each house had been constructed with timbers cut and sawed at local saw mills from the virgin timbers that surrounded the countryside. In those days lumber was much bigger than the standard timbers builders use today. A 2 X 4 was actually a 2 X 4 and a 2 X10 or 12 measured to the exact mark. The houses were built to last but ours like most in the village only had four rooms, a living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms.
I don't know why but the houses had no closets, Maybe it was because during the period many had large dressers and other furniture to accommodate the few articles of clothing most wore daily to work and a special place was reserved for those Sunday go-to meeting articles like a white shirt, nice dress for the ladies or if a man had a suit, it was hung in a separate place like a nail driven into the wall.
The mill houses for the most part had cold running water. Any water that might be needed for washing dishes after meals was generally heated on the kitchen cook stove fired with wood or the heater in the living room. Mama always kept a pan of water on the heater in the living room for such purposes and on Saturday night, we took our baths to get ready for church on Sunday. Pan bathes sufficed each morning before heading out the door for school with mama making sure we had a clean face and hands. We had no bathroom only a trail off the back porch to the privy. It wasn't until I was in high school that I had the privilege of taking my first hot shower.
After Green River Mill was sold to J P Stevens they sold the houses in the village to the tenants who were former employees. Each had the first option to buy the house in which they lived. Daddy bought ours and over the years made upgrades as he could afford them. The first thing he did was to put sheet rock on those beaded board walls in our living room and kitchen. My Uncle did the work on weekends. The ceilings were also dropped and cellotex was added overhead. The old chain pull light fixtures were replaced with modern fixtures and the toggle switches on the walls were rewired and handsome wall plates replaced those ugly ones.
Most all houses stood on pillars made of brick and were open. Daddy hired a block mason to under pin our house and new steps replaced the worn out wooden ones built in the 1920's. Our house like most on our street had a front porch. The village folk sat on the porches in the evening and read their newspaper or Bibles. Sometimes neighbors talked across the street to one another.Our newspaper boy was Bill Wise and he came faithfully on his bike promptly at 5 o clock each afternoon.
Daddy had added insulation to the walls when my uncle installed sheet rock in our living room and kitchen. The two bedrooms were never insulated and during the winter months they were very cold. I always told my friends we woke up tired from having to hold up all those bed covers mama had put on our bed. The old wood heater gave way to a Siegler oil heater which kept us plenty warm and as mama had done previously, a pan of water was always on that oil heater during the winter months for those Saturday night baths and dish washing.
Mama got a new electric range which really made her cooking for our family much easier. Daddy built a back porch to our house and it had a tin roof. A new freezer was bought and for the next 20 years held its proper place to store the fresh vegetables daddy grew in his garden. That old freezer finally died after 40+ years this past summer and I took my mom to Lowe's to get new one, this one much smaller.
There are only a few remaining houses in the old mill village and only two on Park Drive. The new road that came through in the mid 1970's destroyed the village that I knew as a youngster. Mill village folk were good people. They lived at the edge of poverty but most were able to rear their families on the wages they earned. The strong moral and work ethics have been passed on now to their children and grandchildren who may never know the harsh realities experienced by their forebears..