Maude Dreisbach (Alabama WPA writer)
During the 1930s, Great Depression era, many writers were employed to interview people and write stories about life in the United States. The program was named the U.S. Work Projects Administration, Federal Writers’ Project and it gave employment to historians, teachers, writers, librarians, and other white-collar workers. This is an unedited story from WPA writer Maude Dreisbach
A wedding crowns the climax of rural feasting and revelry.
The courtship may have been in progress for months, even years, during which understanding looks and stolen moments for low-spoken words comprised the only courtship of the couple.
The boy or man had shown his preference for the girl’s company by spending every Sunday at her home. While she helped prepare the noonday meal, her “beau” sat on the front porch or in the front bedroom, which also served as living room, with her father, listened to the old man’s reminiscences, or wandered over the farm, complimenting the crops. The same program was continued after they had eaten, the boy often leaving after dark without getting a word alone with his “girl.” Oftentimes it is the “Ol’ man” who approaches the subject of the marriage, it being understood between all concerned that such would be the culmination of the courtship.
Everyone invited to the wedding
All the friends and acquaintances of the boy and girl and their parents are invited to the marriage, not wishing to hurt anyone’s feelings. They come distances of from 10 to 30 miles in wagons drawn by mules or oxen, the father and mother sharing the wagon seat and the rest of the family sitting in chairs placed in the back of the wagons. Homewoven blankets and bedspreads, quilts, handmade washtubs and cooking utensils, saddle blankets and farming tools are brought along to present to the bride and groom. The crowd is arrayed in gala attire, their very best, reserved for marriages and funerals and other such important occasions.
The home of the bride has a general cleaning; everything is put in immaculate condition. Enough food has been prepared to feed the guests and family for several days.
Wear the best her father can afford
On the day appointed for the marriage, the prospective groom mingles with the crowd in the home of the bride. He wears, nowdays, a new “sto’ -bought” suit of some cheap material, and is all “slicked up.” The bride wears the best her father can afford, and as fashionable as she has known how to select; whatever else may have been done without, she is sure to have on “something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue” to bring her luck.
Sometime during the day, at an hour when the children are quiet and the men have come back to the house from their rovings through the fields, the boy and girl take their places in front of the minister, where all can see; the marriage ceremony is read that makes them man and wife. Feasting and dancing begins and lasts until far into the night. What they call “the infair” is held the next day at the home of the groom’s parents, where they go through with another morning until midnight feasting, dancing, drinking and making merry.
Gifts for the couple
The young people usually begin housekeeping on land owned by one of the parents, not far from their homes, in some old vacant log or frame house, or in a cheap structure built of boards by the bridegroom and his family and friends.
Log cabin in Tuscumbia that once served as a stage coach stop, by photographer Carolyn Highsmith (Library of Congress)
In communities where crops have been good, a couple may start housekeeping with furniture bought cheaply at a country store. More often the men in the settlement include in their building the simple furniture. The bedstead is made of two forked sticks as posts, fastened in large auger-holes in the wall by rails. The springs are of ropes forming a latticework between. All tubs, pails and churns are of red cedar selected from the forest nearby. Gourds serve as dippers, also far lard and other fats.
The father of the bridegroom usually gives a gun and ammunition, horse and saddle, two hogs and a load of corn, with what seed for crops that he has to spare.
The mother of the bride gives a mattress made of hay stuffed into a tick of homemade cloth, a big mattress made of feathers from the geese at home, quilts, homewoven blankets, counterpanes, sheets, pillow cases, towels end table cloths, and a cow and all the chickens she can spare. The neighbors contribute useful things for housekeeping according to their resources.
- Mrs. J. E. Rucks, 1413 Southland Place, Birmingham. (Mrs. Rucks is Seventy-four years old; was reared in the hills of Talladega County
- Dr. Henry Mixon, Staunton, Alabama. (Native of the mountain section of Perry County)