[Transcript of interview with Justine Marie Jones, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]

Recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District’s 2010 Big Read.  We are speaking with Justine Marie Jones.  The date of the podcast is March 12, 2010.  Good morning, Marie.

Good morning.

And you’re going to tell us a story today about your childhood, right.

Oh, I’d love to.

Ok.  Well, tell me where were you born.

I was born in Oregon County in 1926 in a log cabin.

In a log cabin?

In a log cabin and we lived in a log cabin for about 10 years.  And I slept on straw.  I didn’t have a mattress or anything, none of the people down in that area had mattresses.  Most all of them had took material and made a bag and filled it full of straw and then they would fix it for us to, you know, sleep on.

What was that like sleeping on straw?  Was that kind of uncomfortable?  Did it poke you?

No ma’am. If you haven’t done anything before you don’t miss it.

[laughter]  I suppose that’s true.  What was the cabin like?  How big was it?

Well, the one that my mother and father first had was just a little old cabin about 10 by 12 and they had orange crates and apple crates and things like that to make them a table and furniture. Back then it was very poor, very poor.  Back in 1920 that area was real, real poor but everybody was in the same shoes so nobody made fun of nobody.

Sounds good.

The more they could help out the more that it was better, you know.  Well, after that I got up big enough, I’d say about 6 months old, my mother had a horse collar.  Dad had horses.  And she picked out a new horse collar and put a little quilt over it, set me down in it, put a quilt around me so I’d set up, and gave me a big fat piece of meat.  Hog meat.

When you were six months old?

Yeah, about six months old and I’d sit there and chew on that and it would get greasy, greasy, greasy. But I was happy and mom, she was fixing, you know, cleaning house.  And then, after I got up oh, probably three years old or so, she’d take me to the cotton field with her.  We raised cotton.  And she’d take me to the cotton field and I’d have on one of those big dresses that you know reaches almost to the ground and I’d hold that up and I’d put a green, some cotton in it, and some cotton in it, and everyone would brag on me and go “look at Marie!  She’s gonna’ be a good cotton picker”, you know.  Then as I growed on a little big older, my dad didn’t have any boys to help him, there was four of us girls.  There was oh a pretty good size from I’d say from four to ten.  And he was gonna’ make some molasses; he had a molasses mill. So he said ok, girls, I don’t have any boys, so out in that field.

So off you went.

So out in the field we went.  And we started grabbing those leaves off of that cane stalk to make molasses.  We pulled, those kids pulled, the leaves off of them and my dad come along and cut the cane stalks, put 'em on a wagon, took them down to a well or a spring.  Had the mill down there 'cause he had to use a lot of, you know, heat and stuff to make fire to cook the molasses.  And had this old gray horse to put her to the end of a big, long piece of a, of a tree, I called it back then, you know a tree, and tie it to her neck you know, and she’d just go round and around and round and around, and as she’d go by that thing would squeeze out the juice out of the cane stalk.  And talk about friends!  We never knew we had so many friends until we’d start making molasses.


Everybody wanted to come by and see Robert, Robert Combs, see what was going on with him.  Well, what they wanted was some good old homemade molasses. And then after that we got to goin’ to pick cotton over around Senath, Missouri, and Kennett, Missouri where they had lots of cotton.  And we’d load up in a truck, a big bunch of us, down in that area, and go over to Kennett, Missouri.  Live in an old shack that didn’t have any floor in it.  I was scared of snakes, but my dad said there’s no snakes over here, don’t worry, don’t worry.

So you and your whole family would go?

Yeah. Yeah.  That would be four or five families.  They closed school down for two weeks; it was a country school.  I had to walk three miles there and three miles back.  There’d just be a gang of us kids, you know, along the road.  And they’d close the school down two weeks so we could go pick cotton to get money to afford to buy school materials and clothes and stuff like that.  We depended on it.  And then my dad always raised about five acres right close to the house, our house, so that us kids could just go out there, you know, and pick cotton and he wouldn’t have to be standing over us and watching.  And in the wintertime we’d always save those boles that didn’t open, we’d save those and have three or four sacks of them. And at night why we’d sit around and talk and laugh and eat popcorn and now and then pick open those boles of cotton. And then we’d have some money for Christmas. 

Oh, I see.

Yeah, and that was our Christmas money.  And Daddy would go out and get a tree that reached from the floor to the ceiling.  And it would be, oh five or six families or so, and fill that tree so full of toys and everything.  And the toys were, if I got a little ring and a little bracelet, oh, was I thrilled to death.

You thought you were rich.

Yeah, and it cost about 10 cents.


But then, I got a little ceramic doll and its little arms, you know, had elastic on it.  Oh, I admired that!  I didn’t want to go to school, I wanted to stay home and play with my doll.

Did you give your doll a name?

No, I didn’t name it.  But my cousin, she didn’t get a doll, so she stayed home from school one day and came over to my house and I had it hid under the bed.

Uh oh…

She pulled it out and played with it and broke that thing, you know.

Oh, I bet you were so upset!

Oh, I was, I just thought oh, my world’s comin’ to an end. [laughter]


Buy anyway, things cleared up and we all started a-goin’ back to school. And in the wintertime, oh, something that would thrill me to death would be, I had a rabbit trap, my dad set rabbit traps, and if I’d get out of bed just before daylight going down through the snow and I’d see that door fell down I’d know there was a rabbit in there.  Oh, I’d start running, you know, and my dad would go in there and he’d get it and he’d kill it, take it home, skin it, my mother would already have a skillet going and she’d fry that rabbit and she’d have a little one egg cake a-goin’ in the oven many and many and many a time.  And we had a good lunch at school and some of the kids that didn’t have anything like that, they’d sit around, you know, and they’d look so sad and we’d give them some of our’s, you know, and then…

What did the school look like?

Well, the school it was a big building, one room; had all twelve grades.  And you could learn a lot if you’d listen.  But back then they had primer class instead of first grade class, so therefore, mom had me to wait until I was past six so my sister could walk with me at five.  They’d let them go if they was five.  And she’d let my sister go with me and you could see therefore you see that made me one year behind.

Oh, I see.

 And then, I would see, you know, up in the board they’d be up there you know, workin’ different problems or different things like geography and tellin’ what’s over in some other countries. And when I got up there a bit I already knew a lot of it.

[laughter] Because you were paying attention.

Yeah, yeah, and so we, I went there until I was in the fourth grade.  Then they made this big Couch, Missouri, Couch school house and took in a lot of area schools.  We finally got to ride a bus over there, and oh, was I tickled.  The kids that came from out in the country walked to school and back and everything they were a lot smarter and knew and would learn and catch on a lot faster than those kids that came from out of town. You know, some of them little small towns.  Not big towns, little towns.

Why do you think that was?

Well, I think the kids that was in town was what I call nowadays spoiled.  The parents, you know, if they could buy them something, buy them a new dress, buy them this, or buy them a bunch of oranges to bring to school or do this or do that they wasn’t so much interested in anything that was in the book.

Uh, uh, I see.

I would get so aggravated, like when I was in the seventh or eighth grade there was three kids that came from town and the teacher would give us like a hundred word question.  And you know what they’d end up with?  Thirty, thirty-five, or forty.

Uh oh.

Ok, I’d end up with about like 95 or 97 and was I [garbled]


I could’ve pulled their little hair out.  Yeah.

So it sounds like you enjoyed going to school.

Oh, I loved it and up there we could play basketball, and volleyball and all of that.  And play inside of a building.  Yeah, why I loved it, I loved it.  I’d rather do a, played up there than to eat.  Yeah, Time to eat, you know.  The teachers said well you could go in the gymnasium if you want to and play, oh boy, was that fun.  Basketball, baseball, I was pretty good at baseball.  The boys liked for me to play on their team.

Now did you, did you pick at recess and things, did you pick sides and were you always one chosen first or were you on a team?

Well, this wasn’t a team that went to different schools and played.  It was just a team that was there at school.  And the boys picked me.

I see. And what about your sisters?  Were they also sports minded?

Pretty good, but not as much as I was.  They was more interested in playing with this little girl and that little girl, you know.

Would you say you were kind of a tomboy?


Yeah. [laughter]

I had to be.  Down in that area where we lived it was just full of boys.  And we, my dad and mom, had six girls and I had to be mean and tough and know how to run and to go tell if I seen something shouldn’t be happenin’.  Boy I did that.  We had [garbled]

Is there any other thing you’d like to tell me?  You mentioned your grandfather before we started talking?  Did you have a story about him?

I loved my grandfather and he had a store.  And a small wagon like he called a hack and he’d go over and through those hills and hollers and we was right at the edge of Mark Twain Forest and we’d go down through those woods and far away cross rivers, not rivers, big creeks, and swim the horse.  But we’d start out with crackers, and peanut butter and apple butter and a few things like that the women didn’t have over in them countries we’d have to go about like twenty miles and circle all around and everything.  We’d leave with the crackers and stuff and come back with an old hen, or a bunch of eggs, or no tellin’ what and maybe on the way my grandfather had seen a squirrel or a possum or a groundhog or anything that he’d get out and kill and we’d bring it home and he’d cook it and eat it. 

Well, sounds like a really resourceful man.

Oh, and what I liked with him was we’d butcher hogs, four or five people at the same place, and I got to scrape hogs, you know, they’d dash 'em in a big kettle of hot water.  And then you’d want to get them hair off as fast as you can or it’ll stick in there, you know, and they’d give me a skillet and a knife and boy I’d just scrape, you know, and they had a melt in the hog and it was about two foot long and it looked, looked kind of like a tongue, but it wasn’t a tongue, and I think you call it a spleen  I’m not for sure, but he called it a melt, and he had a fireplace and he’d take that in there, and dig a hole in them hot ashes, put that melt in there and you know I wouldn’t get two feet from him 'til that got done because I wanted some of that.  And it had ashes on it and everything.  But my grandfather liked it, and I liked it 'cause my grandfather did.  And the old scary thing is they told us to keep us away from the pond was old nigger John lived in it, and he’d get us and so that kept us; it was just like having a babysitter. And my dad, my grandpa, he fell and broke his hip and 20 miles from town and nobody hardly ever used a doctor.  I never went to the doctor but once 'til I was 20 years old.  And that was when I had scarlet fever.

Oh, my goodness.

My mother raised 9 kids on Vicks salve, aspirins…

Oh, I see.  Marie, we’re out of time right now.

Oh, I’m sorry.

But this has been just so interesting to learn about your childhood. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Well I am so glad to and I would’ve liked for a lot of people, and especially my children, to see what all I have seen and what all I have done

And it sounds like a lot, so thank you for sharing with me

You’re very much welcome.

[Transcript of interview with Justine Marie Jones, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]