Parents of the Greatest Generation

Parents of the Greatest Generation

My grandfather Daniel, born in 1852, was drafted into the Confederate Army at age 12. He survived and returned home one year later. He sired seven children including my father who was born in 1887. All of this took place on a poor farm of red dirt in the Carolina hills.

This Daniel clan came to America from England and settled in Virginia, with a splinter group migrating to the northern part of South Carolina. They were not, as often represented, a part of the huge Scot-Irish people who migrated to the U.S. southeast in the early eighteen hundreds.

My mother’s parents, with an all English ancestry (surname of Ladshaw), grew up in the Niagara section of Canada. Mom’s father and uncle were civil engineers who migrated south to South Carolina to work on a large bridge project. They established an office around 1890 in Spartanberg and my mother was born two years later in 1892.

Probably with little or no formal education, Dad was adventurist, smart and eternally optimistic. In 1905 at the age of 18, he took a competitive civil service test to become a rural mail carrier, and with the best score, he got the job. At first he covered the route on horseback, then with horse and buggy, and finally with a T-Model Ford which he bought in 1914.

Mom was really a city girl with a high school education. How she met this country bumpkin was never revealed. When I was old enough to hear gossip, I learned that Dad was a true Romeo with a girl in every stable. (Note: I did not say “port”.)

Mom and Dad were married in 1910 and began their family with the birth of my eldest sister in 1911. Thirteen years later I was number eight, with all of us being born in a small farm house with Aunt Annie, a mid-wife assisting in all births. I was a problem and finally a doctor had to come and assist. I learned later that I was a so-called “Blue Baby”. Normally one becomes alive, as I did, with a very good spanking. It’s a wonder that I wasn’t named “Quits”.

Dad was a true farmer with his mail carrying job a sideline one. With a car he would be home by noon, giving him ample time to farm. He lost his poor farm to foreclosure around 1930, but then became a tenant farmer by leasing rich, soily land in several places. All of us children worked on the farm. As I have reported in other “write-ups” Dad was a “mover”, fishing and hunting if not working, or stuffing the whole family n his B-Model and traveling to distant places. I know he never had more than thirty dollars to his name.

Mom was quiet and reserved with only a smile at Dad’s bad jokes. She held the family together and was stern when needed. I remember some red welts on my fanny. She studied with each of us to assure our homework was done.

When the family was intact our farm had two mules, two cows, which the girls milked, three hogs for winter killing, egg laying hens, baby chicks for frying, bee hives, etc.

We were a true southern Baptist family adhering to all those strict rules. Of course we were very biased. One time a strange family moved into town. The gossip was that they were Catholic and were different. One of the boys entered my class. He wasn’t pink or blue but was white. After prohibition ended, one of our good church members opened a liquor store. He and his family were immediately ex-communicated. How dare a good southern Baptist man sell liquor!!

The twenties and thirties were just wonderful years. My oldest brother had asthma but grew out of it. Otherwise, all of us were hale and hearty. Of course, we had the childhood diseases. I remember the whooping cough line up with a tablespoon of castor oil for each. Oh! What awful stuff!!

We always had a house full of boy and girl friends. We played games, pitched horse shoes, and played on a tennis court that Ray and I built. Plus we had many board games for the inside. Three sisters and Ray and I played on high school sport teams. After supper the family would sit around an opened fireplace and eat parched peanuts and listen to “Amos and Andy”, Lum and Abner and Lowell Thomas with the news.

Even though the thirties were hard economical times it just didn’t phase me. I saw the W.P.A. and C.C.C. at work. I saw management people come from the city and work on the farm just to get food. Dad was generous with gifts of farm produce to friends and neighbors.

Around eight years of age I would sometimes work in a field along the road I would infrequently see a car go by with a well-dressed man with a tie, coat and hat. I would say to myself, “I want to be like him someday.” It was many years later when I learned what these gentlemen were probably selling. I saw the movie “Paper Moon” with Ryan and Tatum O’Neal. He was selling bibles. I have heard that, in the deep depression, bibles were the best sellers. The poor people were hoping that the Lord could help.

My folks lived through the war years with all children gone. My oldest brother and four girls married in the late thirties. Ray and I waited until the war ended. We children certainly were not big child producers, with only 12.

I know Mom and Dad always burst with pride knowing that in some way all eight children had advanced education and top positions in the world.

Dad died in a hospital at age 87. Mom was 94 when she passed away in a nursing home.

David T. Daniels
Southbury, CT © 2013

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