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What is American History? To many kids today it is boring information about subjects dealing
with war, government, and the suffering of our country, but as I attend my daily life I never stop
to think of the kind of role my family played in our countries history. As I interviewed my
grandfather, a part of our families history that was once hidden is now revealed. This interview
left me in amazement, helping me realize what an affect he had on our counties history and made
me appreciate it much more.
My mothers father, Shelby Walker Jr., was born at home in Depoy, Kentucky on
November 27, 1926. He was born the youngest son of Shelby and Pate Walker. He has three
brothers (Robert, Cloyd, and Clifford) and a sister (Ruthell). Pa grew up in a house with no
electricity, no water, and no phone. He had to share a room with three brothers as his sister
received a room to herself.
Unlike today, the kids did what they had to do to help their parents. By tending the
livestock, picking and plowing the gardens they did all the could to help out each other and put
food on the table. Back then, they received their water from a spring that was on the farm. This
spring had many uses. The milk they got from the cow was placed in a bucket and hung from a
board over the spring just low enough to put the bucket in the water to keep it cold so that it
wouldn t spoil. They also hung their homemade butter from the board in cheesecloth so the cool
air down in the spring would keep the butter fresh. In the summer they raised everything they
needed except, the only thing Pa said that they didn t have was sugar and coffee, which was cause
of the Great Depression. The wheat they raised would be taken to the local mill in Greenville to
be made into flour. The mill owner would weigh the wheat and estimate how much flour they
should get. Pa said the owner would take out a scoop of flour from each grinding for his pay.
Pa s father had the only grist mill around at the time, so many people would bring the corn over to
him to be grounded into cornmeal. They lived off the land with wild game and fishing,
occasionally they even killed hogs for pork meat. The food was cooked on a wood burning stove
and their light source was a kerosene lamps.
Each year, the children received only one pair of shoes. So in the fall his mother would
take him, his brothers, and sister to Gus Abrams Shoe Store, the only shoe store in Greenville,
where they bought their shoes. He also recalls Sundays as being special days. The young boys in
the community would get together to play horseshoes, washers, and especially marbles. They
even sometimes went exploring through the woods. He even today enjoys playing washers, going
fishing and camping.
Pa s education was very short. He attended Vernal Grove School, a one room school that
went from first to eight grade. Once Pa finished his eight grade year, which was around fourteen
years old, kids could then quit and go to work. As Pa reached the age of eighteen, he got his
drivers license. He said Him and his friend walked to Greenville one day and Pa told his friend,
lets go get our license. So they did. Back then, all you had to have was a license plate number,
so all the did was got a number off a car parked on the side of the street, took the written test,
passed, and received their license. They then walked back home because neither of them had a
car…mostly everybody back them drove road wagons pulled by teams of horsed on dirt roads.
He laughs about it today!
At age eighteen Pa went and served as Occupational troops in World War II. The war
was just over when he went to (European Threatre) Belgium, Germany, and France. He says that
he didn t see an fighting in the war, which was fine with him. He spent most of his time in
Belgium, where he got to see a lot of really neat places, especially from the ship he traveled on.
On December 22, 1946, Pa and Ma ( Lee Walker) got married in Greenville at Preacher
fox s home, he recalls this to be the happiest day of his life. Then within the following years,
farming then went bad, so Pa had to get a new job. he got a job with a road construction crew.
During twelve years at this job, they had five children. Then on January 2, 1958, Pa got a job
with Peabody coal Company, where he worked at River Queen on Highway 181. That s when he
bought the house with twenty-two acres at Cherry Hill, where he lives today.
Another happy memory that he recalls is his favorite vacation. It was when him and his
wife took a trip to Florida with his five children ages four through eleven. Since Ma was born in
Florida, that was the first time she had been back since she was eleven. He remembers the trip
back the most, they decide to go back through the Smoky Mountains. With there windows down
they decide to stop and see if they can see any bears. Just as Ma was passing out boxes of
Cracker Jacks to keep the kids still, a bear puts his paws up on the side of the car and tries to get
the Cracker Jacks. Pa said Ma squalled out and started hitting the bear with her purse, he thought
that was so funny!
My grandfather is an old timey type of person. He hasn t a lot of thought on technology.
He says that people are all the time asking him if he has a computer, he says no and they just
laugh at him. He say I m seventy four years old, what would I do with a computer. I m
perfectly content with my life as it is. As we spoke on the subject of technology, he said that he
felt strongly about credit cards.
Pa feels that people are not better off today. Even though there are a lot of positive
changes the future has brought us, it also brought us a time of hate, dishonesty, and pain. Back
then people were helping neighbors with their crops, looking out for one another and just being
trusting people, but today you hear about shootings in schools, robberies, and gang fights. This
is just the beginning, he explained just think what it will be like in the future if it continues? All
of my life I have made it on what I had, and if I didn t have it that day, week, or month I made
due with what I had. Today s world worries me with my grandchildren and great grandchildren
because so many of life s lessons are being lost. People over indulge their grandchildren. It is a
world of self-gratification.
As I asked Pa how he would like to be remembered as, he didn t know quite how to tell
me. I think he is a modest man. I want Pa to be remembered as a loving husband, a great father,
and a wonderful grandfather. A man who would do or give up everything he had to just to
support his family.
As I look back and compare the hard times and struggles that my grandfather went
through, I can only be thankful for what I have today; the discovery of medicine, education,
technology, clean water, heat in the winter, and air in the summer. Even though we have less
worries today, that doesn t make life any better. Money, fancy cars, jewelry, and nice clothes are
all just necessities of life. Things that tend to be over looked ,such as having a loving family, food
in your stomach, and a shelter over your head, are the things that matter the most. I agree with
my grandfather when he says Life is what you make of it!