Life around the Dwight Mill Village - Part 7- Final

By Danny By Danny "The Vagabond" Crownover

Ed (W.A.) Lewis of the Etowah Historical Society brought a booklet to the Vagabond about someone from the Dwight Cotton Mill Village. It is called “A USA Mill Town Saga of the 1900’s,” written by Eugene Livingston.
    He wrote what he remembered about the times, hardships, laughter and love shared between two families, Jim and Ester Livingston and Roy and Betty Emery, as they lived in the early 1900’s.
    Mr. Livingston’s recollection of the times and events that happened in the mill villages of Alabama City and Lupton City, Tenn., as well as the other places mentioned, will captivate your imagination, make you laugh and make you cry.
    It will also take you back in history to the good times and the hard times, and perhaps stir the memories you may have of your own families of years gone by. The continuation of his story:
    “Now we have electric lights and a car. We are getting up in the world! All we needed now was a radio.
    “We can go to Aunt Betty’s or Grandma’s any time we want to. One day, Cleve came to our house and wanted Jim to go to the post office in Gadsden.
    “He told him that the post office had a package for him, that it was a part for his radio.
    “He said, ‘We will come back and install it in the radio and see if it will work.’
    “Cleve had a new Chevrolet in his garage, but he did not want to get it wet and muddy, so they rode the streetcar.
    “In about an hour, they came back with the package, which was about the size of a shoebox.
    “It was stamped all over with the word ‘Fragile.’ They carried it into Cleve’s house, put it in the middle of the bed and started opening the box.
    “It had a lot of paper padding, but they finally got down to the part. It looked like a little electric light bulb, but Cleve said it was a vacuum tube. That was the heart of a radio and without it, the radio would not work.
    “It was called a ‘peanut tube.’ It was about the size of a man’s thumb.
    “Cleve carefully picked it up and carried it over to the radio and inserted it in the socket already installed in the radio. He sat down and turned it on and began to turn the dial back and forth.
    “All we heard was a very high squeal and what sounded like meat frying. Cleve said that was called static. After about half an hour, Cleve gave up and turned it off.
    “He said that not many stations broadcast in daytime. He told us to come back after dark and he would try again. So Jim and I went back home.
    “After supper that night, after it began to get dark, we went back to Cleve’s house.
    “He had just sat down to turn on the radio when we got there. Just as soon as he turned it on, we heard very loud music.
    “Every time he turned the dial just a little, another station would come on. He could get stations all over the country on the little one-tube radio. We stayed about an hour listening to music and people talking. Then we went back home.
    “Maggie and I went to school that winter. We did not get to go anywhere in the car.
    “Thermostats and antifreeze had not been invented at this time. In the winter, people jacked their cars up to get the weight of the car off the tires and drained the engine.
    “Then the next spring, they would heat the water and oil on the stove and put it back in the engine. Then they would crank on the engine and it would get started.
    “It was hard to start anyway because the gasoline was only seventy-three octane, and that is not much more than kerosene.
    “Cleve told me that Kress Five and Ten Cent Store in Gadsden was selling radios and parts.
    “So on Saturday, I walked to Gadsden to see about building a radio.
    “When I arrived at Kress’s, there was a big crowd around the radio section. After the crowd had thinned out a little, I talked to the salesman.
    “He said he would sell me a radio. They cost from fifty dollars up. He had one radio on display but it was not working.
    “He said the broadcasting stations did not come on until nighttime. I knew this.
    “I told him I was thinking of building my own set.
    “He said, ‘Well, in that case, I have the very thing you need.’ Reaching under the counter, he pulled out a large sheet of paper and said, ‘Now this is a little jewel of a radio. If I were going to build a radio, this is the one I would build. This is a ‘superhetrodyne set’ and is one of the best.’
    “I agreed with him that the superhetrodyne set was the way to go. I didn’t know what a superhetrodyne set was, but he did not know that.
    “I had been around Cleve a lot and had learned a little about radios.
    “Come to think of it, after all these years, I still don’t know what a superhetrodyne set is.
    “He told me that everything I needed to know about wiring and parts to buy was on this sheet and the price was twenty-five cents.
    “I bought the drawings and told him I would come back later and buy some parts.
    “I think I must have walked 50 miles that summer over the hot, dusty roads of Alabama City and looked under every wash pot for burned nails and other scrap metal.
    “Summer was about over and I had only made about ten dollars selling scrap iron. Now that I had all the parts assembled, I became very interested in it and went and bought all the batteries and a headset.
    “I connected the batteries up and we had our radio in operation. It was a very good radio, much more powerful than Cleve’s little one-tube set.
    “We sure had a good time with the radio that winter. Every night we would play it about two hours.
    “Every night we would have a lot of people come in to listen to it.
    “There were only three radios in all of Alabama City at that time. Cleve had one, Dr. Burns had one and we had one.
    “Within the next few years, many of my relatives died. Jim died in 1974 and Mama in 1975. My wife, Rath, passed away in 1976.
    “In the seventies or eighties, I don’t recall which, Dwight Cotton Mill ceased operation and was torn down and the debris was carted away. Alabama City was removed from all records. It is now Gadsden.
    “All the original Livingstons, Emerys, Mooneys Wootens and Thompsons have passed on to eternity. A few of the Livingston and Emery children are still living. There are many grandchildren and great grandchildren now.
    “In a few years, the children will pass on also. As the Bible states, we came from dust and to dust we will return. The spirit returns to God who gave it.
    “There will be no remembrance of the former things, they will have passed away. Nothing will be left, only the grave, silence and eternity.”
    “I think I forgot to tell about the sewage disposal. When the man got a full load of sewage from emptying the outhouse cans, he would drive to Black Creek where the company had built a bridge-like structure out half way over Black Creek.
     “The driver would back the wagon up to this structure, then pull a rope that opened a door in the bottom of the tank.
    “The stuff inside would drop down into Black Creek and, eventually, would end up in the Coosa River a few miles away.
    “This went on until about 1918. I don’t know how they disposed of sewage after that time. After a big rain and Black Creek went down finally, raw sewage would be all along the creek bank for miles.
    “Another interesting thing comes to mind. It was routine that the mill’s whistle would blow on Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. They began doing this in remembrance of the mill owner’s son.
    “One Wednesday around 3:00 p.m., the son fell from the top of the mill. I don’t recall what age he was, but you could hear the whistle blow for miles around, when the wind was just right. We were reminded of this tragedy every Wednesday.
    “This is another thing that came to mind.
    “I recall this happening around 1921. I was about ten years old. One night the police came knocking on our door at one o’clock in the morning. Jim knew the policeman. The policeman had a man with him who was looking for Lewis Livingston, my grandpa. He said he was Grandpa’s long lost brother. He was the twelve-year-old brother who rode away on a white horse and no one had heard from him for over fifty years. He said when he left home he went to South Alabama and became very wealthy raising hogs. His two sons were with him. They were driving a new car. The sons were locomotive engineers. They both drove trains back and forth in several states along the Gulf of Mexico.
    “Jim went with them to Grandpa’s house on Sand Mountain. They woke up Grandpa’s family and had a great reunion. They had not seen or heard of each other in about fifty years. They sat up the remainder of the night talking. Around daylight, they said they had to go, so they left. They dropped Jim off at the house and went back to South Alabama. We never heard from them again.
    “The Livingstons were like that. They never seemed to care for each other. I never saw Jim pick up one of his children. We lived within two miles of all his brothers and sisters for many, many years and he never went to see any of them. Uncle Claude, Fred and Ben Obar came to see us very often.
    “Grandpa Livingston came to our house three times that I remember. Neither Grandma Livingston, Aunt Edna, Beulah nor Aunt Maude ever came to our house that I can remember.
    “One time when we moved back from Tennessee, we arrived one week before our furniture so we stayed with Uncle Claude and Aunt Beulah until our furniture came.
    I found out last year that one of the grandsons of Grandpa’s brothers was the Speaker of the House in Washington, DC. Grandpa’s twin sister, Mattie McKibbens, lived across the street from us. He never went to see her either.”
    Next week: A new adventure.

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