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FROM DAYS PAST...A 1920s Turkey Day in Oktibbeha County

November 19, 2010

For the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum

One way of making extra spending money for the holidays in the 1920s was by raising turkeys.
Old records revealed that Oktibbeha County was quickly beginning to be recognized as a turkey center in 1926 by the trade in the largely populated centers. Turkey shipments had grown during the past few years with a new record being made each year. During this time, turkey sales doubled every year.
In 1926, there were two shipments of turkeys by train. One shipment would be made just before Thanksgiving and another just before Christmas. Turkeys were a much-sought-after fowl. Over $21,000 was netted which together with money spent for feed, labor and incidentals of the shipments brought the total up to near $22,000.
The Thanksgiving shipment of turkeys was 46,711 pounds. Most of these were sold to H. E. Noel Produce Co. of Corinth, others were shipped to New Orleans, and one small shipment went to Birmingham, Ala. The H. E. Noel Product Company of Corinth has a very interesting history.
Herman Ercel Noel founded the Produce Company in Corinth. He was in the chicken business and was called “Chicken Noel.” His son, Stanley, was called “Little Chick.” Stanley wrote a gossip column called “Chicken’s Chatter” in the Corinth High School’s newspaper. He was always supplied with plenty of soft drinks so he was very popular.
His dad started the chicken business in Cadiz, Ky., later moving to Clarksville, Tenn. and later to Corinth, which was a railroad center. He would find out poultry market conditions in Chicago or New York and ship carloads of live birds to wherever he would get the best price. He had to have someone on the train to feed them. When refrigeration came along, it put him out of the chicken business.
The Christmas shipment totaled 25,320 pounds and was sold to L. Rauch Produce Co. of Memphis, Tenn. They resold them with one car going to Philadelphia and the other to Altoona, Pa.
A majority of the turkey raisers of Oktibbeha County were African American farmers’ wives who raised the turkeys and marketed them for extra spending money for the holidays. The industry grew fast and doubled every year.
The turkey enterprise has now ceased and the wagons and trains are history. The railroad tracks in parts remain throughout our county reminding us of the trains that used to be. This picture shows but a part of the past. Some of our depots still remain on Jackson Street and Fellowship Street. The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum is located in the 1874 M&O Depot that was formerly on Hogan Street.
The original waiting rooms, the old ticket offices, original windows with the old wavy glass of the old depot still remain. The museum (depot) is the only remaining evidence in Starkville of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad (M&O) branch line to Artesia, a rail route that made local progress for almost a century. The museum building was formerly the old M&O passenger and freight depot.
According to the M&O, rails and ties of the 11.25-mile line were removed at the request of MSU and Starkville. The tracks occupied ground badly needed by the university, which had expanded on both sides of the railroad. The U. S. Interstate Commerce authorized abandonment. Starkville needed it for Urban Development
While not architecturally outstanding, the GM&O depot building is of a style typical of the late 1800s and is the only frame depot in Oktibbeha County and the two adjacent counties of Clay and Lowndes.
It is located less than 50 feet from the old rail line. Other parts of the rail line were used to widen and extend Russell and Gillespie Streets to intersect Highway 12.
As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I would like to share a short history of “The Apron” written by someone anonymous. During this era, women were portrayed as homemakers and good mothers and you rarely saw them without their aprons especially on Thanksgiving Day.

The Apron

Aprons have been cooks’ companions for hundreds of years.
Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to make aprons to cover themselves. We traditionally think of aprons being used for cooking, and while that is true, they have served as a cover-up for other tasks that tend to be messy.
The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.
REMEMBER: Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the windowsill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the windowsill to thaw.
People would go crazy today trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. I don’t think I ever caught anything from an apron but Love!!
May your Thanksgiving Day be joyful as you GIVE THANKS

Dero Jones remembers...

I remember my wife, Magnolia, raising turkeys as a hobby and for extra spending money in the 1950s. Friends and others would come by to purchase a turkey or we might deliver it to someone who had no transportation.
Our community used to enjoy turkey shoots during the holiday season. I remember the turkey farm on the Old West Point Road near the Clay County line, which was a booming business for many years.
Our home was always a gathering place with good food grown on the family farm. My wife was one of the best cooks ever!! Our 13 children, grandchildren, great-grans, and more, so many we did not bother to count, came home for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
My wife, Magnolia, is now deceased, but I went to the store and purchased a turkey, which we will cook, and all the family once again will gather at our family home in the Bell School House community to enjoy and give thanks as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

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