From the book about The Tennessee West Highland Rim
Adventures on Morrowbone Creek
Submitted by Arnold W. Simpkins of Ashland City, Tennessee
My first memories that I can recall were in 1928 when I was about four years old. We lived in a nice frame house on Marrowbone Road up the creek. I remember opening the kitchen door and the kitchen was on fire. I got scared, ran, and hid in the outhouse. The family could not find me they were concerned that I was still in the house. They finally found me in the outhouse. There was a log barn on the property with two rooms and a breezeway. We lived there for a while. Then we moved to a place we called “out on the hill” about four miles from the previous home.
In 1930, we went to visit Great-grandma Harper for a family get-together in Franklin. My dad had a T Model Ford. It was in the wintertime and it started snowing before we got home. We had a long hill to go up on the way to our house. We had two sacks in the car to throw under the wheels to get traction going up the hill. My brother William (ten) and myself (six) had to get out and help push the car up the hill, but we finally made it home.
At four years old, I fell off the front porch and hit my head, but it was okay in a few days. Mother said when I was three years old I did not like other babies. She had to watch them pretty close to make sure I didn’t hurt them. At six years of age, I would get mad at my older brother and chase him around the house and throw rocks at him. He was big and fast enough to stay out of my way, so he never got hurt.
Later while my older brother was still ten years old, he stuck a firecracker in an old gas tank that was detached from a car and it blew back up in his face. Mother packed his face with raw eggs and baking soda mixed with water. Thank God, he made it out without any scars.
Like I said, we called our home “out on the hill.” It was a two-room place with a double fireplace in the center and a single chimney. I remember my dad would stack wood in the fireplace and throw a quart of kerosene on it to get it started. My father didn’t like whipping kids for punishment so we didn’t get many spankings. Dad and Mom at that time had a boarder named John who had one leg. I remember he used to hold me on his lap and bounce me around. I guess he took a liking to me. I thought a lot of him. One Christmas my older brother got a 16-gauge shotgun when he was about 12 years old. There was a hole in the floor where a cat could go in and out. One night the cat came in the house acting funny like something was wrong with it. Dad took the shotgun like a club and cracked the stock on the cat when it became aggressive. My brother kept that shotgun for years until somebody broke in the house and stole it. It hurt him for quite a while because he considered the shotgun a keepsake.
In 1930, my dad hewed crossties at 75 cents per piece for the railroad. He toted them out on his shoulder out of the woods, so he must have been a really stout man. He did some farming and worked black walnuts to feed his family. He loved cars. In 1930, he bought a T Model Ford for $7.50. I remember the taillights would not work. When we drove at night, we caught lightning bugs and put them in a jar and hung it on the back of the Ford for taillights. Those were the good old days.
About 1932 my dad had 1928 Chevrolet Coup. It was, bad about breaking rear axles. Dad went to Nashville every Saturday if he could. One Saturday I wanted to go with him, but my dad and brother did not want me to go with them. I got angry at my brother when they started to go to Nashville. When they started to move, the axle broke so nobody went to town that day. I laughed at my brother and I don’t think he liked it much.
I went to a two-room school with a coal burning potbelly stove on Little Marrowbone Road. We had two dogs named Spot and Nig. We lived on a hill with a creek about ¼ mile away. My older brother and friends could go swimming nude cause there was no cars and people near in those days. There was a graveyard above the creek when I was about the age of seven where I went swimming late in the afternoon. I would return home at dusk and I ran around the graveyard because I was afraid to go through it.
During the 1930s Dad and Mom left the doors unlocked because people didn’t steal from you back then. I remember dad having a battery radio and we would listen to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights. Our neighbors would come and join us as we listened. We stayed up to midnight and had a good time. Some people would sit around and tell scary stories which we enjoyed hearing.
In 1933 my Dad had 1931 Ford Roadster. My brother, Uncle Pete, and I would fold down the front windshield at night and get a five-cell flashlight and a 16-gauge shotgun to kill rabbits for food. We sometimes went seining for fish and frogs. At age of eight years I toted the seine while my brother and uncle would run the fish into the net. A one and a half pound bass jumped into the seine and it was a big thrill for me.
At Christmastime we got a couple of apples, oranges, some raisins and one toy each and were happy to get that much. Money was scarce back then. The government didn’t help people. You were on your own. We were thankful to God that we had good parents.
In 1934 I was eight years old and William was 12 years old and Gerald was a baby. My mother made sure we went to church on Sunday. We went to what was called a Union Church. It was the only one that was close. The Baptist, Church of Christ, and Methodist worshiped there on alternating Sundays. I remember my two uncles, Pete and Spurgeon, along with my dad and several people in the community would raise money for the Church once a year. They would barbeque two large hogs overnight for a fundraising event. The Union Church, in existence for over a hundred years, eventually was renamed Simpkins Chapel after my grandfather, Frank Simpkins, who lived to be 99 years old. He was a teacher and a preacher.
In 1939 at the age of 14 years old I had a girlfriend that wanted to tote my books when we got on the bus. It was a way of winning me over. Sometimes we walked to church and sometimes we went to a movie. In those days people that deceased stayed in the house until burial. My friends, girlfriend, and I sat up all night with the family of Mrs. Ed when she passed away.
Before I went to U.S. Army in 1943 we had kerosene lamps, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no running water in the house. We had a well on the back porch to get our water. When I got back home in 1946 we had electricity, running water, and a bath in the house. My older brother and I had been sending mother an allotment every month. She put part of it up for us.
While I was in the army, I was in England, France, Germany, and Belgium. My brother and I got together twice while we were in England. That was after he got wounded twice fighting in France. That was good for both of us. Most of my life my brother and I were very close. My mother would refer to my brothers and me as “my three sons.”
Before I came home in 1946 my girlfriend got married to someone else. In 1946 I met my future wife Nellie. She was 19 years old and I was 22 years old. We got married in 1946 and had five kids Barbara, Linda, Gary, Steve, and Jeff. We had a rough time financially for a few years but things got a better as time progressed.
Nellie and I have attended Oakland Free Will Baptist for 64 years. Our current church is over 138 years old. We still visit Simpkins Chapel every now and then. Thank God for a good long life. Since I am a World War II veteran, my time is probably short. Saturday March 22nd I turned 90 years old. My kids planned a celebration for that day.
I am the only survivor of my childhood family at age 90. My wife is 87 and we have married 67 years. I am still doing okay according to my doctor. My granddad lived 99 years, so maybe I have some of his genes.