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Stirring up memories


"Ole Dad"
December 5, 2006

In the good-old days of the 1930s the "Front Porch Pickers" kept toes tapping all around Decatur County.

I first heard about them from Virginia Wilson Smith, who after reading about chicken pilau in Stirring up Memories, shared some of her own memories about growing up in the Pine Hill Community west of Bainbridge.

"We had no electricity or radios," Virginia recalled. "The Post-Searchlight once a week was all the news we had."

Virginia still reads this newspaper in her home near Valley, Ala.

She recalled the musical group playing for all sorts of get-togethers. Charley King and J.T. Jackson played guitars, and Tooge Lynn picked the banjo. The star of the show was "Ole Dad," who fiddled and then would break into a buck dance and the soft shoe.

In that piece in December 2003, I asked if anyone remembered "Ole Dad" or knew his full name, but I got no takers.

Last month, I asked again when we ran the list of names from the index of our forthcoming collection of these columns. Not long after, I received an e-mail from Elaine Trammell. We've found "Ole Dad"!

I looked at the e-mail address and figured that Elaine didn't live around here. When I got in touch I asked how she happened to being reading my column 'way off in St. Louis.

"Why I've read The Post-Searchlight all of my life!" She told me.

Many will recall Elaine as Elaine Toole, who grew up here in Bainbridge and is a Bearcat of the Class of 1962.

Wow! Virginia read about pilau up in northern Alabama, and Elaine saw my question in Missouri. We do get around!

Here's what Elaine recalled. "Ole Dad" or "Old Dad" was Benjamin F. McClendon. She never knew him—he was her grandfather—but she knows quite a bit about him. He had two daughters and a son. Nell Irene Tabb and Katholene Rowe both grew up and lived in Colquitt. The son, B.Q., lived in Anniston, Ala.

Nell shared some stories with Elaine. Benjamin was born in 1872 in Quitman County, Ga. He moved to Decatur County in the 1930s. He played the fiddle for dances. Nell remembered occasionally going with him. She learned to buck dance right along with him.

Later, Benjamin lived in Bainbridge and worked for Emory Rich, then moved to Colquitt where he worked for W.H. Grimes. He died in 1960 at the Bethany Home for Men and is buried in Early County.

Elaine has more than just her Aunt Nell's memories. She received Benjamin's diary when Nell died. She told me that it is difficult to read, but still it is filled with stories of those Decatur County days. He wrote in it every day, ending with his nightly prayer. Then he signed his name—either "Dad," or "Old Dad."

All of our stories are treasures. It's been a pleasure collecting them. Now we are going to share them again when The Post-Searchlight publishes a collection of these columns, Stirring up memories all the times. It will be out soon. We will keep you posted on how you can get one.

Meanwhile, look in the box to find more names from the index. I hope one or more will stir up some memories for you. Maybe one you'd like to share.

Meanwhile, here's the recipe that Virginia Wilson Smith shared in 2003. It's the perfect season for sweet potatoes.

Praline Sweet Potatoes
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup sweet milk
½ cup butter

Mix all ingredients together and put into a buttered 2-quart casserole.

For the topping, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup butter, 1 cup chopped nuts and sprinkle over the potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Probably, this recipe would work out fine in a slow cooker. I'm going to give it a try. Here's another sweet potato recipe that I know will—I've done it. It was a big hit at our Thanksgiving dinner.

Easy Candied Sweet Potatoes
6 to 8 medium sweet potatoes (or substitute canned)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup melted butter
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
¼ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spices
1 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bake the sweet potatoes until they are soft. (I used the microwave.) Peel and slice, and then put in the slow cooker. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour them over the sweet potatoes. Cook covered on high for about four hours. I prepared them the day before and refrigerated them. I set them out a couple of hours before starting the slow cooker. This is the really easy way.

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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network