(Note: I received this from a former area resident, Gayle Kirksey Jetton of Paragould. She shared her childhood memories from 1947 when she was living on a rented 40 acre farm with her family on Happy Corner Road near Leachville. I am glad to share Revis' Ramblings' space with Ms. Jetton. Her memory is of a different time, a special box of candy, a special person, and special memories.)
Aunt Cora's Candy
By Gayle J. Kirskey Jetton
Inside an old country store in Oktibbeha County, Miss., a plump, fierce little woman wrapped brown paper around a box she had filled with candy, gum and Curtiss suckers. She tied the box with twine then set it aside on the counter. It was autumn of 1947, cool enough that the chocolate candy inside the box wouldn't melt on its long journey.
From this little store with its blackened ceiling, fragrant wood stove and crude wooden shelves, the box of candy departed the red hills of Oktibbeha County inside a US Mail truck. Nestled amongst the sweet candies, was history!
Over 200 miles away on a rented forty acre flat land cotton farm in Leachville, Ark., my sister Pat and I waited impatiently for the mail man to deliver the "Box." Several days earlier my Aunt Cora had written to Mama saying she was sending us a box. We knew what that marvelous box contained because our Mama's sister sent one every autumn.
During that era, farm children seldom had candy, sodas or ice cream. We lived and flourished on pure wholesome fresh-cooked food from the garden or fruit jar. There was no television, no electricity and no telephones! There were no mega marts or massive grocery stores. We traded in Leachville and at the little Happy Corner Grocery store located down the dirt road about a mile west of us. Daddy bought our shoes at Taylor's General Store in Leachville.
We had a tall round coal heater that provided heat in the winter. There was very little wood for burning in Leachville. Daddy drove to Paragould to buy green marked coal for winter fuel. I well remember the big chunks of black coal smeared with green. That is the only kind of coal my dad would buy.
So, when autumn frosted the cotton bolls Pat and I knew that soon the box would come. We waited with great anticipation and eagerness. Waiting was miserable for two little country girls. Time dragged as we played and waited for the mailman. We watched the road for signs of dust, the sure evidence that a vehicle was coming. Often we watched as the mailman sped toward the mailbox in his old jeep leaving nothing behind but letters. Disappointment welled into tears as we stared after him in disbelief. Surely he forgot to hang the box on our mailbox! Our anger welled toward the innocent mailman.
In 1947 I was six years old and my sister Pat was almost five. As we wailed out our disappointment Mama comforted us by saying the box would probably come the next day. Reluctantly and sullenly we resumed our play waiting for tomorrow.
We played away the hours in a wagon of cotton. When the sun warmed the sand we built frog houses, elaborately creating little frog house villages. We stirred p gourmet mud pies and let them dry in the sweet autumn sun. We drew squares on the hard packed dirt yard and played hop-scotch. In the barn shed we played 'store' with Daddy's tools. We pulled dry grass, pushing it into fence wire we'd bent into a little cave. We meddled inside Daddy's sweep potato house, looking at the mountain of sweet potatoes, smelling their flowery odors. We played paper dolls and colored with crayons, all the while asking Mama if she thought the box would come tomorrow.
When our big sisters came in from the cotton patch for dinner we pestered them, loving them, adoring them, for they surely did hang the moon! We alls at together around the oil cloth covered table as we ate. We watched Daddy as his big hands took up his cornbread or as he drank his ice tea. We saw our big sisters dressed in jeans and denim shirts. We saw their bonnets waiting. We saw their young beauty even though they were grubby from work.
Then came tomorrow!
Right after breakfast Pat and I were in the front yard waiting for the mailman. We wouldn't stray far from the mailbox. The sun etched higher in the clear blue sky as we waited. Finally, far in the distance a dust plume puffed along the road as we stood watching it move toward us.
We yelled to Mama that the mailman was coming! She came to stand just inside the door, watching. My heart beat furiously. The mailman was driving so fast. Would he stop? Surely he was not going to stop! Butterflies fluttered inside my stomach! He was not going to stop!
Suddenly, the jeep was sliding to a halt beside the mailbox as dust roiled into the air. I watched as his arm swept to the side lifting something. My heart thudded in my ears. Pat stood motionless, watching. The mail man's arm moved to the mailbox but I could not see beyond the side of the jeep. Turning, he waved to us and sped away. Through the dust I stared at the mailbox. Hanging on the lid latch was a small box wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine!
Pat and I shouted that it had come as we dashed across the dirt road to the mailbox. Four little hands grasped the box, lifting it away from the latch. Four little hands clutched it as we ran to the porch where Mama waited with a pair of scissors.
The scissor snipped the twine. We tore away the crinkling paper uncovering a white box. The lid lifted, scents of candy and gun wafted to us, beautifully surreal. Nestled inside the box were little chocolate candies wrapped in cellophane, BB Bats, Kits, Saf-T-Pops, Butterfingers, Sugar Daddies, gym, a myriad of Mississippi goodies! Dreamily, we gazed at the mystical box of candy, smelling its sweetness, knowing it had come from that loved place in Mississippi!
Yet, there was much more than candy inside the box. There was the image of Aunt Cora standing behind the counter in the old store gathering and packing the box with magic. I could see grandpa sitting before the wood stove spitting snuff into the hot ash pan. I could see grandma, an invalid, sitting in her rocker, the corners of her mouth stained with snuff. I could see the old gray house standing regally behind the store at the end of the little lane.
Inside the box of candy was the old house attic that hid a million secrets and offered a million playthings for Pat and me. Blended with the candy odors were the ethereal sights and sounds of my mother's beloved homeland.
When Pat and I grew older the boxes ceased to come but the memories of those days lived on in brilliant color. For long years afterward Aunt Cora kept open the little store. It was a place where we girls met, where our memories blossomed and came alive.
Thirty-five years ago this flat-land farm girl moved to the clay hills of Paragould. With me I brought the splendid days of Leachville and Mississippi and my sweet childhood memories. With those memories came the everlasting image of a box of candy hanging on a mailbox!