Aunt Mable Mullins

Interviewed by: Rachel Horn
Date of Interview: October 24, 2010

Rachel Horn reports:

"I interviewed my Great-Great Aunt Mable Mullins. She is 96 years old, lives by herself, isn’t married, and doesn’t have any kids. She has so much love to give and even if she isn’t someone‘s aunt, they call her Aunt Mable as well. Aunt Mable is a wonderful lady to interview because she has lived through many different important historic things and loves to tell stories. "

Interviewer: Where and when were you born?

Mullins: Whitewood, Virginia April, 21 1914.

Interviewer: What was your childhood like?

Mullins: Well, I guess it was just a regular ol’ childhood. When we got big enough we had to set out onions and plant corn, of course when we was little kids we didn’t have to do that but as soon as you got big enough you had to hep in the garden and hep plant onions and potatas and milk the cow and gather eggs and churn. Did ya ever see anybody churn? [Interviewer: “I’ve heard of it but I’ve never seen anybody do it.”]  Yea you churn it up and down and made butter.

Interviewer: How do you make butter?

Mullins: Well, when you churn that cream that you churn turns into butter and you take a spoon and you dip it off and put it in a bowl and then you warsh and work all that water out and work it real good and firm and you got a pounda butter.

Interviewer: How did you wash your clothes?

Mullins: We had a warshboard. We went to the river and we had a big ol’ warshtub that you boiled water in and you heated the water in that warshtub and you took it out and putcha clothes in and warshed ‘em and then your white clothes you boiled ‘em, you put ‘em in that tub a water and boiled ‘em. I think we put a lil’ lye in with ‘em. Then ya took them out and warshed again. We had a little blue one.

Interviewer: Where did you grow up?

Mullins: Well I grew up mostly at um you know where that ol’ log cabin church building is down there? [Interviewer: “Hale Creek?”] Yea, my dad worked for a lumber company and he built railroad for ‘em. When they moved the woods camps they were two rooms and they would set them off to where they were moving  and they be able to lean-to in-between em’ and make three. There was so many of us though they had to build us a house; ‘bout a five or six room house. Our house was right in the center of that ol’ big bottom down there, the first one I remember livin’ in. And we lived there ‘til dad bough that place up there.

Interviewer: How many siblings did you have?

Mullins: I had fourteen, seven brothers and seven sisters. How would you a liked to fought with all that many?

Interviewer: Were you the oldest, youngest or in-between?

Mullins:  I was the eleventh, there were four younger and ten older than me.

Interviewer: Did you have chores you had to do every day?

Mullins: Yea, we had to feed the hogs, feed the chickens, gather the eggs; we had to carry in water and we had to carry wood and coal in to cook with and keep the fire. We had to chop wood and we mostly used wood but sometimes we had coal. We had to carry water in to do over night, ya didn’t’ have runnin’ water. We had a well.

Interviewer: Did you raise a garden?

Mullins: Yea.

Interviewer: Did you believe in planting by the signs?

Mullins:  Yea, my dad did. He planted everything by the signs. Every spring he planted his vegetables and on Good Friday he planted a little of everything. If it come a big frost or somethin’ we tried to cover it to save it, sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t.

Interviewer: Did you get food anywhere else other than what you raised in the garden?

Mullins: Yeah we bought ours at the Common Surry. That’s what the old store was called then.

Interviewer: Where was that?

Mullins:It was at the Woods Camp but there was one in Whitewood too.

Interviewer: What was the Woods Camp?

Mullins:  Well that’s where they was cuttin’ timber. And dad built the road and when they cut it they pulled the timber out of the mountain and load it up on the trains and sent it to Whitewood and the lumber was sawed up there.

Interviewer: Did you ever kill a hog?

Mullins:  Yea, dad killed his hogs every Thanksgiving. We’d put ‘em in the smoke house and salted ‘em down with that coarse salt. Dad said if ya waited ‘til it got too cold that meat wouldn’t take that salt. So he killed his at Thanksgiving and then by the time he salted them down when it turned cold that meat was salty.

Interviewer: Where did you get your clothes?

Mullins: Well we bought material and hired somebody to make ‘em. Mommy made ‘em until she got sick. Everybody had a sewing machine.

Interviewer: Who did you hire to sew?

Mullins:  Well, Ms. Jenny Ward after mommy died she made most of my clothes and Tildy made some of ‘em. But we hardly ever bought anything made other than shoes and stockings. Ya made your bloomers and everything. Nobody wore pants then, ya wore dresses and when I was a little girl ya wore bloomers that come down to ya knees. Mommy made our dresses. Yea and women back before us wore corsets to keep theirself neat. Now I never wore them, I just let it all hang out.

Interviewer: Did you make feather beds?

Mullins: Well we had geese and we picked the geese. When ya pick the geese ya warsh the feathers and ya put ‘em up in a sack and let ‘em dry and then ya put ‘em in yer feather bed. Mommy had a feather bed in every bed in our house.

Interviewer: How many geese did you have, how many feathers did it take?

Mullins:  I guess we had about twenty-five or thirty and they’s picked  once a year. And them ol’ ganders would bitecha. You’d catch ‘em and put ‘em under yer arm and pull them feathers off.

Interviewer: Did you have a bed frame?

Mullins:  Yea dad bought matresses. Now people out in the country when I’s little they’d fill their beds up with straw and things like that and that was the matress. It made a good bed I guess, I never did sleep in one but I guess it did, and then they put a feather bed on it ya know. When it was real cold we crawled under that feather bed and slept under it, they was real warm.

Interviewer: Did you make soap?

Mullins: Yea.

Interviewer: How did you make it?

Mullins:  I made soap one time, they use lye and when they killed a hog they get that ol’ fat off the gut and they render it out and you mix lye and different stuff together and then you put it on and boiled it and when it boiled down ya let it cool then cut it in big blocks.

Interviewer: Where did you get your income?

Mullins: I guess at the price they made dad made pretty good salary ‘cus he built tram roads he was a boss. I guess he had more money than most people, but he had such a big family. But ya know one thing about it every time one grew up and got a job they heped dad. We raised a garden; first thing dad did was clear up a place to make a garden and mommy was a really good cook and I guess a good manager too.

Interviewer: Where did you go to school?

Mullins: Well the only school I ever went to was Spruce Pine. Do you know where the ol’ Spruce Pine school used to be? [Interviewer: “No”] Well it was a pretty good school. I went to Beth Ward. She taught and Roy’s kids went to Spruce Pine. Ya know when anything’s tore down vegetation takes over you can’t see where it was now but it was up on that.

Interviewer: Was it up Spruce Pine Holler?

Mullins: No it’s just before where you get to where New Cole’s store was, where the Cole women lived there, right at the mouth of Spruce Pine. You come down the road a little bit and up on that hill there a big flat place, it’s all growed up now, and there was a big great schoolhouse up there. That’s where we went to school with Waitie.

Interviewer: Was it a one room school?

Mullins: It was a one room school and the teacher had from the primer to the seventh grade, one teacher. When I was in second grade when we lined up across that stage we come down the side and each person just got to read one paragraph; now if you didn’t have a good memory you wouldn’t have learned nothin’. But I couldn’t see and about everything I learned I memorized.

Interviewer: Did you have to walk to school?

Mullins:  Mhmm, I walked from Hale Creek to Spruce Pine and sometimes snow would be over our shoes but we always wore shoes we never wore slippers. We wore Broband Shoes and them black Broband Socks. If it was real cold the teacher would pull the seats up around the stove that ol’ pot belly stove. But you’d near freeze to death but we got used to it ya know it didn’t hurt us. We had our own water day cus we had carry water to school. All the school I went to we had to carry our own water. Every day the teacher choosed who would go get the water. Ya had to have your name on your drinking glass and they had one dipper.

Interviewer: What jobs did you have?

Mullins: Well the first job I ever had I cleaned house for people. I worked down here at Long Branch one time, I cooked. I cooked so much at home I’s a pretty good cook. I could cook then cus I could cook everything. But then the first Mercy job I got was in 1942 over here at the old hospital that they tore down at Clinch Valley at Richlands. They built the hospital there in 1932 and I got a job there in 1942. I worked there ‘til I had a vacation and I went to Bristol and they was building a shell plant and I put in an application and they never did call me. I went to visit Aunt Ellen and Rosalie wanted me to go back down there and sign up again. I told her I filled out an application there a year ago and never was called. She said you may not need to fill out want and she went and looked and came back and they hired me just like that. That was in 1942. Well after the war in 1945 daddy got sick and I was still working at the Shell Plant then but although the war was winding down and I came home to take care of daddy. Where I  made overproduction on the assembly line I drew a check for several months.

Interviewer: What did you do at the Shell Plant?

Mullins: At the Shell Plant, well when ya go there they let ya do everything. The first thing I did there I put the completed shells on this thing that went around that painted ‘em and ya had to put ‘em on and take ‘em off and that thing went puh puh puh and sometimes you’d let it get by you couldn’t get ‘em all off then somebody’d have to clean that paint off. That was a hard job ‘cus you stood there eight hours. But I got production, but then they put me to measuring patter, and I didn’t like that ‘cus I couldn’t see very well. But I measured patter for a long time. Then I worked where you put that main shell right down into that powder. Then I was allergic to tetanus and they took me offa that and I put primer in the shell. Ya put that little ol’ primer in that’s what makes the shell boil, but every once in a while we’d put ‘em off and they’d black yer face. It sounded like a shot gun. Then handling them ol’ shells, I was kindly afraid of them ‘cus they’d just pick them ol’ boxes up and throw ‘em. But after I got off that ol’ paint machine I was throwin’ ‘em too. Ya get used to it. Then I got fired.

Interviewer: Why?

Mullins: Well Roy came home and stayed two weeks after boot training he was home with his duffle bag, destination unknowin’ and he stayed a week, and I didn’t ask Roy when he first got back but I knew he was going over seas, I just knew he was goin’. And I asked off to go see Roy one night, I got the night off but he didn’t wanna let me but I told him if he didn’t let me off I’d quit. He was leaving the next day he had to go to Claypool and I went with him and I told him I wasn’t gonna say anything to him ‘cus if I did I knew I’d cry. Well we got up there to where the bus was and I didn’t even look at Roy and he just patted my hand and I liked to have died. I started crying and I couldn’t stop, I cried all the way to Bristol and I cried all the way to the house I could not stop. I got sick at my stomach I vomited. Well I had to call them and tell them I was sick and couldn’t come into work the next day. Well they didn’t believe me. So I went to work the next even and Mr. Nickels had me to come into see him. I wish you coulda heard how he talked to me about staying outta work when the boys are over there dyin’ and well boy he made me mad. I told him if I hadn’t a had the day off I woulda gone to see my brother hell or high water I told him. I said here you are sittin’ behind a desk you’re nothing but a great dag’on SOB. He raised up to slap me, well I didn’t know there was a guard standing there but he said, “Don’t you touch her.” I said, “Why don’t you let that SOB hit me ‘cus let me tell you one thing where I’m from we hit back. Lord they’s so mad, and of course I’s fired. He said “You’ll not get another job for thirty days.” I said, “I don’t care you SOB!” Well I come outta there I was so mad I was spittin’ fire. Well here I go to the unemployment office. I went in there and the man, I forget his name, he said, “What has Mr. Nickels done to you?” I laughed and I said “Well I’m gonna tell you everything that happened but you won’t believe me.” He said, “Well sit down there and lets see.” Well he sat down there and rared back and honey he was cracked up dyin’ laughin’ I know he was. Honey I told him everything I said I told him everything Mr. Nickels said and honey when I got through he pushed that chair back and he laughed and he laughed. Well I got up and I said “I told ya you wouldn’t believe me,” and he said, “Sit down there!” He said, “I do believe ya ‘cus nobody’d make up a tale like that.” Anyway Mr. Nickels told him about me callin’ him an SOB and he said, “Well, she’s already told me that.” He said, “She told me what she said and what you said too.” Well, he said, “Mr. Nickels if you don’t start being nicer to your employees Imma  get everybody who comes through here a release, if you wanna put Ms. Mullins back to work she can come back out there but if not I’m gonna give her a release.” Well he told him to send me back out there that he would see me and I could go back to work. Well I went back out there and I was there for two days and he was always in conference. The third day I went and they told me he was in conference I told that girl I said, “You’re lyin’ through your teeth you know it he’s not anymore in conference than I am and I’m going back to the employee office I’m not foolin’ with that SOB.” I called him that again. I went out there that day and he didn’t call him or anything and he gave me a release and got me a job. In the mean time I had gone to Church Hill that place where they made the parts for the bomb that ended WWII. It was awful to kill that many innocent people but look at how many would have got killed if the war had gone on. I got a job after the war at ol’ Keen Mt. Hospital and I worked out there about a year. It was either ’48 or ’49 it was after dad died. When I went to Fort Chevy in Bristol I didn’t stay out there long they didn’t pay much hardly. So I decided I was gonna go back and cook again for restaurants and all. I wasn’t doin’ nothing and they called me again from Fort Chevy to come back and I went back one day and stayed fourteen years. When I went to Patrick County after that I woulda been fifty-one year old in Bristol. Ya know when ya get that old ya have to go find a job, but there was a nurse who worked at the Patrick County Hospistal who was friends with a nurse at Fort Chevy and she called over there wantin’ to know if anybody over there wanted to come and work. I went over there for an interview and they hired me.

Interviewer: What was your favorite job?

Mullins: Prolly takin’ care of those babies.

Interviewer: Why?

Mullins: Well I just liked the babies.

Interviewer: Why didn’t you ever get married and have children?

Mullins: Well, I tell ya my mommy died when I was so little and I was afraid I’d have babies and die and leave ‘em too.

Interviewer: How old where you when she died?

Mullins:  Eleven. I didn’t ever wanna die and leave my kids. That was a foolish idea wasn’t it. I coulda saw my fourth generation. If I’d married young like Ella did.

Interviewer: What was it like here during WWII?

Mullins: Well durin’ WWII that’s when women went to work more. Because up until then they hardly ever worked they stayed home but see the men was all gone. Everything was rashened. Everywhere I worked I had to give my coffee stamp to where I was eatin’. ‘Cus over here at Clinch Valley I had to give my stamp to them. Ya couldn’t buy nothin’ there wasn’t nothin’. If you were a coal miner you could get deferred if you were a coal miner but most of ‘em went anyway.

Interviewer: How was this area affected during the Great Depression?

Mullins: Well I guess we faired pretty good ‘cus we had a farm where we raised stuff and we had food and ya didn’t have no money but dad was workin’ over in West Virginia then. Some people didn’t have that. Some people had those Soup Houses set up all over the United States.

Interviewer: What were some advantages and disadvantages of living here?

Mullins:  The biggest advantage was we had land where we could plant stuff and our own food. Neighbors watched out for each other. We had plenty to eat but if ya lived in places like in New York where they didn’t have nothin’ to plant or do anything they were bad off, people killed theirself, an awful lot of people commited suicide mostly people who had money and lost it. It was bad. I tell ya if ya live through a time like that you become a horder, you don’t ever throw nothin’ away. I don’t throw nothin’ out.

Interviewer: When did you first get electricity?

Mullins: Well we didn’t get that until after WWII. WWII really changed everything.

Interviewer: Did you like it?

Mullins: Honey it was like dark and daylight. You could heat your iron we had them ol’ stove iron ya had to heat on the stove. You’d like to near burn up. Another thing I cooked super in our hot kitchen on a coal stove but we took our coffee on the porch to drink it. We were sweatin’.

Interviewer: When did you first get running water and telephones?

Mullins: Well now we never did get running water at home but we had a well. When I was little we had a telephone, later years we didn’t ‘cus when I was a little girl there was telephone all over ‘cus people had the citizen line and we could talk to everybody but it was just one line. Whenever we bought a new record we played it over the telephone to each other. That’s how we entertained each other. Then after the war we got a radio and of course we got record players and typing machines and electric iron that was the greatest thing. We had cars but I remember the first car I ever saw.

Interviewer: When was that?

Mullins:  I guess I was about five or six year old. It was Ramon Elles they drove it down the river and everybody went down to the river to see his car it was red and white. The first car I ever rode it was an Edison.

Interviewer: How did our family get here?

Mullins: Well daddy was from Wise County and mommy was from Scott County. I really don’t know where they originally come from, I think from Ireland. But, I read a book one time where some Mullins’ was run out of France for horse stealin’ but I don’t know how true that is that’s just what I’ve read. They did have a Mullins’ reunion one time and they invited me and Ted but I didn’t know they invited Ted so neither of us went.

Interviewer: Do we have any heirlooms?

Mullins: We was too wasteful honey we never kept nothin’.

Interviewer: Have you enjoyed living in the Appalachia area your entire life?

Mullins: Well ya know when I was little I was real happy, it was real pretty over here then. I still like over here , I still do, ‘cus it’s where I grew up.