Monday, December 8, 2008

Fulton Recollections 2: Johnny "Dad" Fulton 1897 - 1991

Johnny “Dad” Fulton 1897 - 1991

I think, at times, it is nice to remember and to be reminded of the multi-talents our Dad, Grandfather, Great Grandfather had. He could harness a horse or team of horses and plow a corn field or drive a loaded wagon. He was a farmer and he knew how to slice a seed potato for planting. He could harvest corn stalks and store them in standing bundles in the field until they were needed to feed his farm animals in winter. He could butcher a farm animal to feed the family, but he did not care for this job. He was a story teller, and he could reduce a listener to tears with his singing voice, happy or sympathetic tears that is. In his professional life he was at times a Deputy Sheriff and a Judge [Magistrate]. He could marry a young couple, and he could sentence a law-breaker to a jail term. He was a County Jailer and a County Sheriff. These were elective offices and each position had a different set of rules and laws which he had to know and adhere to. Earlier in life he was a coal miner, President of his Union Local, and Boss of the tipple where the mined coal was processed, weighed, and loaded mechanically in railroad cars for shipment to market. He was fortunate enough to be married to a lady who could give him advice, get him back on track if he wandered a bit, and who, with Dad, provided love and moral and spiritual guidance for their family of ten children.
The Spelling Bee
When Dad was in grade school your progress was not measured by a k-12 ladder system. Rather there was a series of McGuffey readers and you advanced to the next higher McGuffey reader at the discretion of the teacher when he/she felt you had mastered the reader you were assigned to. Such promotions were a matter of pride to the student, and they could occur at any time in the school year. But the students of that time also spent time and effort becoming proficient in spelling. They had a spelling book they studied which we now refer to as 'The Blue Backed Spelling Book', and it may have been so referred to then. I don’t know. Anyhow, Dad was a very good speller, and he persuaded Pa [his dad] to visit the school during a Friday afternoon 'spell down' session. Dad's first word to spell was 'pic-nic' and he rattled it right off except he spelled it 'pick-nick' and the teacher asked him to take his seat. He was through spelling for that day. On the way home Pa's only remark to dad was 'well you are a damn good speller.' Dad remembered that incident all his life but he could laugh about it. However, I think he would have been much happier if he could have performed better while Pa was there.
The Home Burns
In 1933 I was a third grader at Hemphill. Walter was in the seventh.One morning we were called to the hall and a teacher told us that our house had burned and we needed to go "home".
The school was about two miles from our house but we managed to run most of the way. We found the house burned to the ground, and about all that was left standing were a couple of those old iron bedsteads. No one was there.Very soon though someone passed and told us Mom and the kids were at Judge Noah Bentley’s home, and we headed for there. We found Mom on the porch. She was crying, but caring for the twins, Ralph and Creed. Both of the twin’s heads were bandaged. Some of the other kids and Mom had minor burns, but nothing serious. Mom, on her own, had gotten the kids out of the house. Rosa [Rosie] had taken refuge under a bed and had to be coaxed out. Mom had to make a couple trips in and out of the burning house before every one was out [Mildred, Rosa, Ralph, and Creed]. I don't think Dr. D.V. Bentley, who came to the house and treated the twins, realized the seriousness of their burns. They were never hospitalized and Creed died at home in August 1933 Ralph still carries scars from those burns.Those were Depression Days and the coal miners got to work maybe one day a week, maybe two days, but often they worked none at all. Dad happened to be working that day and when he was told of the fire he asked if everyone was all right. He was told that everyone was apparently O.K. so he chose to finish his shift before going home. In that time your pay stopped when you stopped working. Regardless.

Long Johns
James and Cora Mullins were our neighbors at Hemphill. I called Cora 'Aunt Cora' in recognition of our long family association. Your grandfather, James, and my Uncle Willard worked for the Elkhorn Coal Company as did most everyone else in the community. They had the same job. They drove electric powered tram vehicles which delivered the miners to their work stations and then they picked up the cars the miners had filled with coal -- a dangerous job.
Right after our house fire mom and dad began trying to rebuild and as I said this was the middle of the depression and we had no insurance, bank accounts, savings and etc. Our neighbors helped as they could but for the most part they were in the same financial condition we were.
Cora Wright & James Mullins (James was Ida & Ada’s half brother)
I stayed with 'Aunt' Cora and James much of the time, but it was my first night there I really remember. One of our neighbors or relatives had given me a new suit of underwear [long johns] and these were to serve as my pajamas. So that night Aunt Cora sent me to a private room to change into my underwear there being no bathroom as such. When I finished I reported back to the living room and Aunt Cora said I had done a great job except the underwear was on backwards. So she took me back to the changing room and supervised the changeover.
If anyone there thought that was funny, they spared my feelings.

I think it was 1935 when we moved from Hemphill to Upper Goose Creek. I've said before I think Dad just liked to move. Anyhow R.B. Meade lived on one side and Henry Bentley lived on the other. Sol Johnson had a grocery store next to Henry Bentley. The day we moved was a busy, busy day for Mom and Dad. Dad had a truck and driver and they moved and positioned our furniture. Mom packed, then unpacked, and watched over the children. Late that evening the kitchen stove had been set up and pipes placed to vent the smoke. We did not have much in the kitchen, but Mom did have a 24 pound bag of corn meal so she did manage to make a pan of corn bread. She then told me to go to R.B. Meade’s house and borrow a half gallon of milk. I remember very well that nice lady coming to the door and saying I was more than welcome to the milk and they had plenty in the spring house so we need not pay her back. So everybody had milk and bread for our supper. This past Sunday I baked a little pan of corn bread from a mix but with skim milk. It wasn't the same, although it was still pretty good.I wonder how many 24 pound bags of corn meal Kroger's would sell today???
After we moved from Upper Goose Creek James Mullins and family moved into the house we had vacated. I would call that quite a coincidence.
Later Henry Bentley developed some kind of deep-seated boil or carbuncle. Dr. D.V. Bentley came to the house and decided --we found out later -- that Henry's infection needed to be lanced. Well, we could hear Henry yelling for what seemed a long time and so loud. I guess D.V. didn't believe in, or didn't know about, local anesthetic. A spring house is a shelter built over a spring. Spring water, at least before strip mining, was usually several degrees cooler than ambient temperature and drinkable. But in those pre-electricity days the spring house served as a pretty efficient refrigerator where lidded glass containers of milk and other perishables could be stored for a time partially submerged in the cool water and further protected the spring house.
Dad Johnny

Running for Office
In 1937 Dad decided to run for political office------Magistrate. He had strong opposition from an incumbent from Jenkins. The Jenkins-Mcroberts area had a higher population than Fleming-Haymond-Hemphill. In effect it was Consol versus Elkhorn.

Well Dad lost that election by a small margin, but he was to have much success in political elections in later years, and he would have majorities in both Jenkins and Mcroberts.
You probably remember these stories.
On one of Dad's trips to Arkansas he was staying at a hotel and he developed this terrible thirst and it wasn't for water. He finally went to the lobby and found that either the town was dry or the stores were closed. He then went out on the street, made some inquiries, and located a gentleman who sold him a half pint of reputedly ''good stuff”.
Dad took his half pint, went back to his room and prepared to enjoy. Then he got to thinking, I don't know this guy, this bottle could be ''bad stuff'', even poison. Still, he was awful thirsty, and it was a long night. What to do?? He finally resolved the dilemma by drinking the booze and then hurrying back to the lobby and taking a seat there. If anything bad happened he would at least be close to help. True.
More later. Johnny

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