Alice Wordell Beattie
The Family Farm
I grew up on Stone Church Road in the Clark Taber House. [It was one of the] last family farms in Adamsville. In the fifties, and even the sixties, there were cows, chickens, no horses. We had a pig. We had a couple of lambs. There was no industry to it. It fed the family.
My father worked a regular nine-to-five job. He’d get up at five o’clock in the morning, go out and feed the cows and milk them, let them out in the pasture, and then when he came home from work, my mother would feed him and he’d go out again, milk the cows, and then work in the vegetable garden until dark. By the time he was done with all of that it was dark and he went to bed, poor thing. He was exhausted.
We watched TV once it got dark but in the summertime, mysteriously, the TV always broke and it needed a tube of some kind, and the tube didn’t appear until fall. I don’t know how that happened, but it happened quite a bit. I remember it was almost every summer!
My father had a huge vegetable garden. My mother and my great-aunt canned. We had a big freezer, and the freezer usually had a cow in it or a pig. The vegetables were all canned down in the basement. We had strawberries. My father actually grew strawberries and paid off his bill with Hap Simmons by having Hap sell his strawberries.
My mother used to bake cookies on Saturdays. We had one friend whose mother worked, and she used to come and sit in my mother’s kitchen and wait for the cookies to be done. I used to just sit and wish for Oreo cookies and Chips Ahoy because that’s what all the other kids were eating. I didn’t know what a good time I had with all the fresh baked cookies and everything.
We always had cows, and in my refrigerator were always pans to skim the cream. So my mother made pudding from scratch, and we had whip cream on it. She made ice cream but not with an ice cream maker. She used to put it in ice trays in the freezer and take it out and then whip it by hand, because she didn’t have an ice cream maker. We were poor monetarily, but I think we were really rich as far as experience and family life went. Dinner was kind of plain. I always say Swamp Yankees don’t have much taste buds. It’s all plain food. I don’t think I had a pizza until I was a teenager. I guess when you had six kids you didn’t go out to dinner.
We used to go haying. We used to do all the stuff. In June our fingers were pink from picking strawberries. It wasn’t slave labor. I think we got five cents a box that he would give us so we could go down to the store and buy penny candy. Then we’d sit on the back side of the chicken monument—there’s a little cutout there. I don’t know if it was meant to be, but for us kids it was a seat, and you could sit there and watch the baseball game and eat your candy.
The Kids Ran the Village
The kids ran the village, we thought. We were everywhere. Not just my family, but there were oh, maybe ten or twelve families with lots of kids. You could go down to Adamsville baseball field any day that we weren’t all in school, and there were enough kids to play baseball. We also spent a lot of time in the old stone barn on Stone Church Road in the summer. When the cows didn’t go in the barn, it was all for the kids.
It was dilapidated. The floors were tilted, but the cows still went in there in the winter. When we were kids there was a huge wooden barrel, like a big rain barrel, and we’d put it at one end of the barn, and line three kids up inside, and roll the barrel down the floor. That was our Lincoln Park ride. There were no parents dragging you everywhere to go here and go there. You made your own fun.
Also in the barn there was a rope hanging from the middle and two haylofts on either side. We could play Tarzan from one side to the other with the rope. And there weren’t just two or three kids, there were like ten of us in there playing, while the farmer’s out doing his fields. There was an old corn crib there, with the thing that took the corn off the husks. We could play with that. We had corn that we would find and put through there. We had a blast.
A Time Warp
It was kind of like growing up in a time warp. It was more like growing up in the thirties and forties than what you looked around and saw on TV. What the rest of the world was doing, wasn’t really what was going on in Adamsville. It was a little bit of a left-behind place, and I think Little Compton was kind of that way too, not in a bad way, in a very good way.
Based on an oral history interview with Alice Wordell Beattie. First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society.