The Front Porch
There is so much to be said about how important porches were to families. There are still families in Scott County that still use their porches just like their ancestors did generations ago. This is my small way of keeping this tradition alive. I think the world would be a better place for everyone if every home had a large front porch and the family used it like they did years gone by.
Dan Gibson, author & webmaster
P.S. The painting is one I did of the old Willoughby home from the one surviving photograph my family has. This was my mother's childhood home in the Black Creek Community of Scott County. The home was destroyed by fire in the 1950's.
In the past most homes in Scott County, Tennessee had front and back porches. These two area's of the house were just as much part of the home as were the kitchen and the other rooms. They had their use and served the home well. Usually the bigger the homes were the larger the porches were.
My mother, Etta (Willoughby) Gibson grew up in the Black Creek area of Scott County. I remember her telling stories about her childhood home and many were centered around the porches. The Willoughby porch extended across the front of the house with steps leading to the ground from each end of the house. The porch was high off the ground with six posts holding the roof up and had a rail which ran the length of the porch. The floor of the porch was made from roughly, hewn planks. Grandma Willoughby would keep her porch just as clean as the other rooms of the house. They would carry water from the creek and a bucket of sand from the creek bank. Mom said at least once a week they would scrub the porch with sand and a little water with the stiff scrubbing broom. They would rinse the porch off with buckets of water from the creek and sweep the water off with the broom. The sun would bleach dry the porch off leaving the planks lighter looking and of course cleaner. Country people took pride in keeping their front porch good and clean.
Most front porches including the Willoughby home had a porch swing and chairs. The porch swing was made from smaller wooden planks and attached to the porch rafters usually with chains or a large rope. Many hours were spent just swinging on the front porch! The porch would have at least one rocking chair and maybe two plus a few straight back cane chairs for family and company to sit. The Willoughby home had two front doors leading unto the porch. One was the living room door and the other door led into the dining room which led into the kitchen which had a door that lead to the back porch. My mother's childhood years were in the late 1920's and 30's. What is strange or not so strange is the house I grew up in the West Robbins community in the 50's and 60's had the same layout as the Willoughby home with two doors in the front of the house. The only difference at my childhood home were the porch steps were at the front of the porch and in the center.
Getting back to some of my mother's memories are some of the functions of the porches. The front porch was where Grandma Willoughby would bring her wooden churn. The churn was filled with the heavy cream she had skimmed from the collected milk of the family cows. She would sit on one of the straight back chairs and began the process of 'churning butter'. This was time consuming and hard work. The front porch with the shade of the huge maple trees was the perfect place for this chore. In the summer many chores were done on the front porch. Breaking green beans from the garden for canning or for making a mess of green beans for supper was done on the porch. Back then many families canned hundreds of jars of vegetables raised from their own gardens. Peeling potatoes for supper was usually done on the front porch. People would use the porches for many things in the summer to escape the heat of the house. Some of us that are older sure can remember the days before central air! Most homes including Grandma Willoughby's home did not even have electricity. The wood cook stove in the kitchen sure could heat a home up in the summer time. Mother said they would cook three meals a day on that old stove in the winter and summer. We that grew up without central air had ways to escape the heat. Mom and Dad said this about air-condition, "What you never had you never missed." This is so true.
Wood for the stoves were stored on the front and back porches. The back porch was used for many different things also. There was always a water bucket with a dipper sitting on the rail of the back porch. This would be where everyone would quench their thirst in the summer time. A wash pan and a big bar of soap was on the rail also. A hand towel was close by hanging on a nail from the porch post. The dishpans were hanging on nails driven into the back of the house. Anything that could be stored by hanging on a nail was stored on the back porch. Mom always told about her father having a shaving mirror hanging on a nail on the back porch. The wash pan along with his shaving mug and brush he would stand there and shave using his straight razor. He had a razor strap to sharpen his razor on. Everyone also knew to wash their hands good on the back porch before they came in for each meal. The back porch like the front porch had many uses and they varied from the summer months to the winter months. People would hang and dry their onions from the garden on the porch. The back porch was where women would hang flowers and herbs to dry. Some tools were stored on the porch. The large iron kettle Grandma Willougby used to wash the clothes in under a fire in the backyard was always turned over and leaned up against the house on the back porch until she would need to use it again. Homemade pies in the summer were placed on the rail of the back porch to cool.
The porches serve their homes. The front porch was always a place to sit in the warm months whenever neighbors would drop by to visit for a spell. Sunday dinners with family and relatives would always end up out on the front porch. The older people enjoying conversation and the cool breeze after a long hot day. Children playing together in the front yard and running to the back porch to get a cool drink of water. In the evening as the sun was going down the uncles would bring out their guitars, banjos and fiddles. My family took pride in their music and singing voices. Some of my fondest memories as a child were on evening like this. Me, my siblings and cousins laying on the grass looking up at a million stars in the sky listening to the music and familiar voices sitting on the front porch singing, "I' ll Fly Away O Glory, I' ll Fly Away, In The Morning"!
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