The Diary of Sue Austin








COMMUNITY LIFE - Marsh Causeway

COMMUNITY LIFE - 1933 Hurricane


COMMUNITY LIFE - Socialization


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Knotts Island Diary

by Sue Fentress Austin

Families living on Knotts Island, even with all their hard work and lack of money, enjoyed a respectable lifestyle. Socialization in the ‘30s meant happenings involving the church, school, grocery stores, Mackay Island and in some instances, surrounding communities like Creeds. This conclusion is drawn from the little diary’s mention of the many, many group get-togethers. Of course, reading about these occurrences does not adequately give one the taste and feel, merely the flavor. The travel involved on muddy, yucky roads in not-so-desirable weather in horse carts and untrustworthy vehicles might make the trip a challenge in itself! Dirt roads in day after day of rainy weather can deter even a horse!! The mud puddles must have been horrendous. Reading about what our young Brumley girl thought important in her life is a mite boring to us, but remember that was how the average country girl or boy lived. That was their social life. And what’s more, until a girl married, she was expected to be safely at home at a fairly early hour. At least in the Brumley household that is the way it went! The mom and dad, or at least the mom, watched the clock from her bed it seemed, and was not beyond yelling to the girls about the late hours they were keeping with their callers. Now for a peek into Adell’s social calendar.

In February of ‘32, Adell received invitation to Valentine Party. A diary entry of September 6, 1933 says I went to Effies -Irma played “How You Only Look" on the piano. In 1934, Bill and I went to the Tackey Party. Eloise was a nurse. (Eloise was the daughter of` Walter and Dallie Jones whose house was across from the brick schoolhouse.) Then in 1935 as she was growing older there were many more social occasions. During just the month of March alone here is what the young woman of 20 wrote down. Remember too, Adell had been to college the preceding two years and was back, living at home, filling out application forms for a teaching job.

3/14 Went to Hall to carry Play Book and take part. Tonite went to practicing w/R, carried Lucy. (Lucy was probably Lucy Bonney)
3/19 Tonite Lucy sick & couldn’t take her to practicing.
3/20 I went to practicing this PM
3/22 To practice & to Clara ’s. (Clara would have been Adell’s Aunt Clara who lived close by in the woods.)
3/25 This PM I went to practicing “Two of a Kind". Louise D. was out there to help us. We arranged the stage, etc. (Louise Doxey was Colin’s sister)
3/26 Tonite Bill, R, Lucy, Elmer & I went to practicing.
3/27 Today got ltr from N & swagger suit for R in play. Felt ill all day, eye sore, went to practicing.
3/28 Cold today. Tonite Pa took R to pract. Lucy went to practicing w/us.
4/1 N-22, R-17 Rainy day. I went to practicing at hall. Clara came out there.
4/3 This pm I went to practicing. R & I went up to Paulines. This pm Rufus & Johnnie came. Tonite Ma & I went to Frances to Essie 's shower. R stopped to Mabel ’s. We had a good time. I held John. Played "Coffee Pot " & grunting.

Pauline was Pauline (White) Munden. Rufus, Minnie Brurnley’s brother; Johnnie, brother of Mirmie’s mother. Frances was sister to Bill Fentress, Mabel Capps was Ruth’s classmate/friend & the baby was John Elliott Barnes, only son of Frances and husband, Elliott. Frances and Essie were sisters. This was a baby shower and anyone who has given birth can identity with their amusing game of "grunting". Must have been a real hoot watching the ladies vie for being the best at granting!

4/8 I couldn ’t go to practicing.
4/10 I went to practicing. Pa & Jim came out there. Jim would have been Adell’s friend, Jim Miller.
4/12 Went to Hall practicing, R & I. Alice W, Pat & Inez were out there. The three ladies probably were Alice Wade, Pat Miller and Inez Waterfield.
4/15 This pm I went to Sc. house to practice.
4/17 Bill came & told me to go to practicing.
4/18 I went to practicing, stopped to Pats.
4/20 (Sat) Nita & boys & R went to Easter Egg Hunt. I went to practicing. Jim & Clara ’s. Went to play w/Bill. "Two of a Kind". I was the old maid, Helen. Had on Bill’s suit. “You look so good tonite I can ’t resist."
4/21 Easter Sunday-rainy. To church am. Preacher Harrell ate supper here. Tonite Mrs Fentress, Christine, Bill Meck & Lester came. Sang. Had a good time. Bill had on new grey suit. Mrs. F entress was Bill’s mother and Christine, his youngest sister.
5/21 Rained Tonite Effie & Irma came to get black coats. Irma remembered the 3-act play, called "Miss Blue Bonnet" which was presented at the schoolhouse. Her mother, Effie, portrayed a black person, called Negro. The black coat was being worn to compliment her black face. Mardell (Williams) Bonney along with other girls were the can—can dancers.

The Red Mens’ Lodge (also called "Hall”) had dues for their members. The men were very closed-mouthed about what went on inside. The "word" was there was a goat being left in the upstairs area, and in order to join, the new member had to ride the goat. In actuality there, of course, was no goat, just a way to keep the youngsters of the Island from snooping around their building. Also there was another type of social organization called Junior Order of American Mechanics (J.0.0.A.M.) on the Island at one time or another. Not much seems to be remembered about that one.

Sports events were extremely popular and men and women alike took an interest. A boxing contest was referred to as a prizefight. On June 13, 1935, Bill and Adell went "up" (marmer of speech as in going either "up" the road or "down" the road to a particular place) to Curtis Fentress’s to hear (on the radio) the fight between Max Baer and Jim Braddock. Then a year later, June 18th Adell writes Bill came — brought the Norwegian candy. Nita & E W went to Clara ’s to hear prizefight — Joe Lewis and Maximellon. It was postponed. (The June fight was eventually held between Joe Lewis, aged 22 and Max Schmeling, 31. Lewis was considered all but invincible. But an overconfident Louis trained lackadaisically, while Schmeling had studied Louis methodically. The result was a brutal beating and the torture only ended in the 12th round when Lewis had to be carried to his dressing room. Later Lewis said he remembered nothing after the 2nd round.)

Other social events — In January of 1935, Adell writes that Tonite Bill came & we went to Mrs. Mann’s music recital in Eddie ’s auto. Then, in July, on a Saturday, Nelson, Bill & Scott came. B & Scott took us to a tent show at Creeds. Home about 12. This little event was actually a three-some dating affair. Nelson (maybe Morris) was dating Nita, Bill was still w/Adell and Ruth was going w/Scott Etheridge. The girls were ages: N=23, A=21-1/2, R=18. On the very first day of August, Adell says Went to town w/Bill & Christine. Saw "Rhythm on the Range. "Went to Blackwater Schoolhouse to play, "Her Son’s Sweetheart. "Sat up until 1:00 listening to Nelson’s radio. (Sat) Appears that Nelson had let Nita have/borrow his battery-operated radio.

Tunis Corbell, friend of Adell’s brother, EW, wrote about the costs of dating when he was a teen.

Livius Williams and I were good buddies in the late ‘30s and we sometimes took his sister along for our weekly Sunday night on the town at Virginia Beach. We used to ration our finances at $1 for one week. We could buy 6 gallons of gas for $1 (50 cents apiece) and see a movie for 20 to 25 cents, or bowl a few games for 15 cents a string and still have money for a soft drink or a beer — even though I was only 14 or 15 years old at the time.

Interesting about the beer. Times haven’t really changed so much. Livius Williams’s mother was Addie and she was the sister of Adell’s father.

The Island men of the 1930s loved to play baseball and the game was played with a hardball, just like today. Some of the teams they played against during this time were Charity, Ford Plant, Lamberts Point and Lynnhaven. As always, a goodly amount of time was spent traveling back/forth to these places. Some of the players of that era were Colin Doxey - 2nd; Harold Capps - lst and pitched a few times; Allie Waterman -3rd and Pitcher; Russell Jones - Pitcher; Harold Jones - Shortstop; Phillip Waterman - Outfield; Elliott Williams - lst; Casey Munden – Outfield; Ralph Beasley - Catcher and Herman Guy Jones - ?. Colin Doxey told the author that one year they won 35 out of their 40 games. Men would work all day Saturday, then would go and play ball that evening. They would often play on Sunday afternoon too. Luther James Beasley was Manager of this wonderfully talented team, Luther’s brother was named Roy and their mother was Maude Beasley. And further, Maude had a very sweet sister named Ada Waterfield who was mother to the musically talented, red-head named Izola.

To make the game more enjoyable for those watching, sometimes "Pud" White’s children would make some homemade ice cream, take it out to the schoolhouse yard and sell it for 5 cents a cone. Ice shavings, flavored, would be sold for the same price. The ice was obtained from Munden’s Point; the White Ice Cream Maker held five quarts.

Politics were very important to the Brumley family. Adell was looking for a teaching position and from the following discussion, it would appear the election wasn’t going to be a “plus" for finding a job. If only our young lady would have given more depth to her remarks as to why she was worried.

(Sat) Voting Day
6/7 Jim came this am early & told us about Johnson won.
6/9 We found out Johnson was elected representative for sure.
6/14 (Sun) Pa & Bill talked about the election late. Bill was worried with me.

The magazines available for young readers had interesting titles. Obviously these particular magazines weren’t the sleazy ones of today or Ed and Minnie Brumley would not have allowed them into their house. They were definitely the strict type of parents! But it is apparent these young ladies were soaking up the "love" story stuff like crazy! Here is the big picture.

6/3 0/33 We went to Essies, Ruth & I We got some magazines - True Romance.
9/10/34 I read True Story this pm. "I can ’t Tell A Lie " and "Between Flood & Fire.”
1/28/35 Read a True Romance this pm.
2/28/35 Bill came & brought True Romance.


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