Ever since I began seeing Lynn Steverson following his retirement from the United States Army I wanted to write his story, but never made the appointment. Seeing him in the rodeo parade riding his horse or seeing him at public gatherings all decked out in his dress uniform wearing all his “ribbons” was always impressive. His sister, my friend Madaline McFatter, told stories about growing up in a large family on a farm and I always enjoyed hearing them. I also grew up in a large family on a farm, but my stories never rivaled Madalene’s.
When Lynn’s youngest brother Ike and wife Beverly gave me a copy of Lynn’s memories, I was delighted.
Lynn was the “first born” child of Mila and Esther(Smith) Steverson and he was born on April 8, 1931, one month and 3 days before I was. He wrote about many of the struggles of growing up on a 40 acre farm and the arrival of his 9 siblings. They survived because of his father’s and mother’s hard work on the farm, supplemented by outside jobs once the crops were “laid by.” They raised almost all of their food with his mother canning enough vegetables during the summer to last all year. Early winter brought hog-killing when “We would salt and cure enough pork to last almost a year,” Lynn said. “We had a goat herd and Daddy would dress a goat about once a month so that we could have fresh meat. We also stored sweet potatoes for winter and always grew sugar cane for syrup.”
He said that his Daddy’s pay when he worked away from home was seven to 10 dollars a week, so not many things were bought at the store. Kerosene was a priority because kerosene lamps provided light in the home. A 25 pound bag of flour once a week and sometimes rice, lima beans, sugar and salt comprised the list. The 25 pounds of flour provided flour for biscuits and gravy. Sometimes, he said, the flour would run out and they would eat cornbread three meals a day. Syrup didn’t sop so well with cornbread.
They had plenty of corn meal because they grew the corn to make meal and had it ground at Hoover Mill. Steverson said that by the time he was eight years old he had been loading the corn on the ground slide hitching up to the mule and taking the corn to the mill. The miller would toll the corn for the grinding charge. Lynn thought the charge was one/eighth of the meal. Sometimes Lynn would play around the mill on the creek and take the finished meal home that day and sometimes he’d have to leave it there and get it another day.
Milk cows provided milk for the family, but Lynn confessed that he avoided milking and his twin sisters Pauline and Catherine handled the milking chores, mostly.
In 1939 when he was about 8, his Dad had been able to order from the Sears Roebuck Catalogue a battery radio and a windmill charger with a small propeller similar to the one a small plane has. He could not confirm what year they got rural electricity, but he thinks it was 1942. Steverson knows that the first thing they heard on their new electric powered radio was that Germany had invaded Poland. They now had the miracle of radio. They had been able to listen to one at a neighbor’s house before. A Mr. Tindell down the road had a radio and invited them to come and listen to it. Lynn wondered how those voices got into that Box.
In 1941, Mr Mila Steverson went to Columbas to work at a higher salary than he could do in Holmes County, $15.00 a week. Since he could stay with relatives, he didn’t have to pay much for room and board, but he wasn’t home to help with the cotton harvest. Lynn was nine and the oldest. He recalls that his grandfather oversaw the picking, but everybody pitched in, even sister Corene who was 4. That was the year child no.7, Madaline, was born. I often heard her tell about her cotton picking. As a teenager, she and brother and law, the husband of one of the twin sisters could pick a bale in three days.
With WWII getting underway, the family financial circumstances improved as higher paying jobs were available. For example working at the Wainwright Shipyard in Panama City gave employment to many in this area. In addition, anyone who had a pickup truck, rigged it up to haul workers to the shipyard daily. Mr Mila Steverson was no exception. He started out walking from his home in the Little Rock Community to highway 79 to catch a ride and walking back home in the evening and then later he drove a truck and hauled workers for his uncle, Mr. Mack Steverson. (Next Week I’ll share some more of Lynn Steverson’s memories and his Military Career.)