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Goodbye Delta, Hello Big City

October 28, 2008

In 1955, my life, along with the lives of my grandparents, parents, and two siblings would change forever. It was the year they "sold the family farm." In July of that year, we left the only home I could remember and moved to the big city, at least it was a big city to a nine-year old child born on a farm in the Mississippi Delta. We had always lived with my grandparents, or my grandparents lived with my parents. Which of these two situations was actually true was not really important to me as a child, and since my father was an only child, it seemed logical to me at the time that the two families would live together.

As I look back on my parents' and my grandparents' living arrangement, my parents must have moved into my grandparents' house in the Mississippi Delta the year that I was born. They had married in Mississippi but had lived out-of-state during the first few months of their marriage. Although I was too young to remember specific details about any division of household duties, it is likely that my mother was not the "mistress of her own domain" or the "only cook in the kitchen" until I was in sixth grade, when my grandparents moved into a different house. For the first time since late in the year they were married, my parents were alone with only their children in their own home for the very first time.

The move from the farm to the "big city" was precipitated by my grandfather's age and health, along with the simple fact that farming was not making the kind of living that it once had. My grandfather raised cotton in the Mississippi Delta, beginning after his move from Attala County in the depression years and continuing until the move from there to the city in the 1950'. Cotton was still "King," and the entire Delta economy still revolved around planting, "hoeing" or " chopping" and the fall "picking." We could see the cotton gin in the distance from our yard.

My grandfather also raised soybeans that he sold to the local farmers' coop and corn and sugar cane. The corn was taken to the gristmill for milling into cornmeal, and the sugar cane was used for making syrup. We also had a number of animals that were raised for milk and butter and for meat. We had our own smokehouse. And the large vegetable garden and small fruit orchard cared for by my mother and grandmother produced enough fresh vegetables, fruits, and potatoes for our family all year. My mother became a "canning" expert. This farm had enabled my grandparents to make it through the depression years.

The fact that my father did not become a farmer, but opted for a job in a small town nearby, allowed our family to live modestly, but comfortably, in the post World War II years. Their lifestyle was dramatically improved from the depression years my grandparents saw as a young married couple with a child to raise along with the life my parents experienced as children growing up during that time in Mississippi. My father's job "in town" enabled our family to have some of the comfort items that my parents' families did not have during the depression years, including a newly remodeled house with electricity and running water, along with a new car, and later one of the first television sets in town. It was his decision to take a better-paying job in the "big city" that precipitated my extended family's move from the Delta in 1955.

Farm life for my grandparents, as well as for my parents, quickly became a thing of the past. They left behind memories of some difficult years, but they took with them many pleasant memories of family and longtime business and personal friendships. An era had come to an end, and all our lives, particularly the lives of my grandparents, would never be the same .

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Janice Tracy is a native Mississippian who writes about genealogy and family history.  She writes two blogs, Mississippi Memories and Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.