When we lived in Canton, seventy-five years ago, there was one phone and that was at Upton’s Service Station and Grocery. My father had the only radio at the time and when the boxing match was on, several men came to listen to the radio. My father owned a 1937 Chevrolet, a very modern, new car. Mr. Sank Hopson owned a little bigger and finer car. There were several other cars in Canton but certainly not everyone had a car. That was considered a great luxury. We had an ice box and Daddy had to go to Golden Pond or to Cadiz to get ice about every other day and when he made a trip to Cadiz, several people would be waiting by the side of the road in Canton, under the “shade trees”, to hitch a ride into town and back. Buses were unheard of.
We had electricity but no electric stove, refrigerator or electric iron. I don’t think anyone else had those luxuries. We had a well in the backyard in a little pump house but it was a hand pump. I remember that it was the coldest water I ever drank and a few neighbors came to get drinking water from the pump.
At the Canton School, we had a well with a pump just outside the school and one young boy was always selected by the teacher to leave class a few minutes early to fill the water buckets on a long shelf. I resented, quietly, that it was always a boy until the day Jack Hanberry was chosen and came upon a rabid dog that bit him. From then on, I was quite satisfied at the gap between boys and girls. Our brave teacher, Miss Fannye, made a wild dash to the service station nearby to get men with guns to track and kill the mad dog. Meanwhile, we sat inside the schoolroom with doors and windows locked tight until the dog was killed. Teachers in those days had many concerns besides teaching. They had to be nurses, disciplinarians and psychologists as well. Miss Fannye was great at breaking up fights between big boys. And some of the students were really big boys of 16 or 17 and got into an occasional fistfight. Once, I remember that one boy had a knife and when he drew the knife, Miss Fannye knocked him down and took his knife. Those were exciting days.
Miss Fannye taught grades 5 through 8, all in the same big room. I learned my lessons plus some of what the upper grades were learning so I was never bored in class. Miss Fannye thought that it would be enriching for her four grades to go to Evansville to the zoo. She hired a farmer who had a big truck with high boards on all sides to drive us. She finally let all grades go and a couple of parents to supervise while she rode in front with the driver who had no idea of how to get to Evansville. I only remember one such trip and that it was a really hot day. We each took a sack lunch and she bought us cold drinks at the zoo. Miss Fannye had a lot of grit and she could make school a fun place. Now, in hindsight, I marvel at how dangerous that trip was.
Our Christmas play was the highlight of the year. We had a big stage and dressing rooms on each side. The most memorable play was the Christmas pageant and I played Mary and Winthrop Hopson played Joseph and we waited patiently in a dressing room. I carried a baby doll as the Christ Child. Everything was going well, everyone knew their parts, when Miss Fannye called in a loud whisper for Mary and Joseph to enter. About that time, Winthrop laughed at me for carrying a baby doll and I hit him over the head with the doll and he hollered and I kept hitting him. Miss Fannye finally dragged us on stage, both of us mad, our costumes all awry and I think I was crying mad. The audience was hysterical and I was most embarrassed. It was indeed a memorable Christmas program.
Canton was not Utopia, as it sometimes seems in hindsight. There was much poverty and some child abuse, some children wore ragged clothing, there were no government programs to help the poor but as a child, I only knew the happy days during my years spent in Canton.
Please feel free to call me with questions or comments at 270-522-3632.