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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Spit and Whittle Club

"When you reach my age, your mind tends to ramble a bit once in a while."
Some of the store loafers were real whittlers.  The lazier ones would just whittle on a stick and make shavings on the dark oiled wood floor, but some of them would make things.  Once in a while someone would patiently whittle a wooden chain if he could find a stick big enough.  I tried whittling a chain once but I never could get beyond the second link before I broke it.
                One old fellow who was a regular started whittling a chain out of a piece of wood about three feet long one fall.  He was pretty good, but he did not work very hard at it or very fast because talking interfered and he was a pretty good talker on almost any subject.  He worked all winter on that chain and only got about five links done before he broke one and tossed the whole thing into the stove sometime around New Year’s Eve.
When Grandpa Stanley retired, his store building was sold and moved across the road to be attached to Tom Humbert's store.  Today it is abandoned.

                Another old fellow would split off a stick of pine about as wide as your little finger and sit there whittling grains of corn.  He was pretty good at it and talking did not slow him down to speak of.  Around where he sat, by the end of the evening, it would look like someone had scattered shelled white corn in a chicken yard even though they were a little hard to see among all the shavings.  I think the purpose of most whittling was just to make shavings.
                Mostly those store loafers were hill farmers who did not have much to do in winter after dark.  Grandpa’s store was a good place to while away some time and talk.  There was not much else to do since most of them had all the kids they wanted and possum hunting was not very good late fall.  Very few people had radios and, of course, no one had even heard of television.  The nearest moving picture show was in Greenfield.  It only showed silent films and nobody went very often back then in Hard Times when most of the time a man did not have two dimes to rub together in the pocket of his bib overalls.
                One attraction of Grandpa’s store on long dark winter evenings was that, in the 1930s, he had the only electricity in North Morgan township.  The nearest electric line was at Tarrytown around ten miles away where our dirt road intersected the paved highway between Greenfield and Springfield.  Everyone except Grandpa and Grandma used coal oil lamps and lanterns or maybe a Coleman gasoline mantle lantern.  Everyone except the Bona Church, that is.  The church had a carbide light system.  There was a carbide gas generator out back and the gas was piped to light fixtures in the church.  It gave a nice soft yellow light, too.  It was plenty for reading the songbook at Sunday night “singing.”
                It was in the late ‘20s or early ‘30s that Grandpa got tired of fiddling with coal oil or gasoline lights in the store and house.  He installed a 32 volt Delco system.  He built a corrugated iron shed back of the feed storage shed behind the store and installed a big bank of batteries and a generator operated by a little gasoline engine about like a lawn mower engine.  Every couple of days when the batteries got low, he would fire up the little putt-putt engine and charge them back up.  I guess folks thought Charley Stanley was well off and kind of uppity—neither of which was true.
                Of course I don’t remember all this stuff about Grandpa’s store and the loafers just from when I was five years old, but from all the time I was growing up back there.  Just thought I would tell you about it while it came to mind.  When you reach my age [69 at the time of writing] your mind tends to ramble a bit once in a while.