AUTHOR SUNDAY – They could watch the chickens under the house

I have heard my grandfather(Big Daddy) Sidney Bearden b.1918 say they were so poor growing up” that they had cracks in the floors and could watch the chickens under the house.

Bearden old home place in Montevallo Alabama in 1935image

Also”when the depression hit we didn’t even know about it we just kept on”….they survived on what they grew and from the game taken around there house just like the Bearden pioneers had done for hundreds of years.


Vinegar of the Four Thieves: Recipes & Curious Tips from the Past

This book is a compilation of some of the funny and helpful tips from our past history. Some recipes and tips date back to 1770s. One or two sound a little dangerous and I would never try them myself, but I’ve included then in this book for their humorous and historical value. A few are useful, especially for our ‘green’ society today



  1. That whole “When the Depression Hit” line must have been their way of coping. My grandmother said the same thing.

  2. We didn’t grow up in the depression, but we could see the chickens,hogs and dogs under the house. Even rugs on the floors didn’t keep out the winter winds; fireplaces only warmed one side at a time.

    1. You knew when the wind was blowing hard the rugs would raise up on the floor.

  3. My Daddy told me the same. Except it wasn’t chickens, it was hogs in the winter time seeking warmth. The problem was hogs constantly broke wind and the smell coming through the cracks in the floors was horrible. Therefore they kept a pot of water in the fireplace and a shared duty each night was to pour hot water through the cracks in the floor to keep hogs away from under the house.

    1. My Mom told me the same story. Except, the hot water deal.

    2. The house I grew up in had 2 front doors and 2 back doors each in line with the other. This would enable the breeze if there was one to flow through. Each bed was situated next to the door so as to feel the air moving. Later graduated to window fans. I can remember the wood stove in kitchen. Subfloor was cresoted but very nice tongue and grooved oak held with square headed nails.

  4. My gran-parents said the same. The house we grew up in wasn’t much better.

  5. Me too. I don’t know that “poor” had that much to do with it. Houses back then did not have a “good” floor on top of the sub-floor. The sub-floor was it. And if you lived in the country, as I did (Walker County) in the 1940s, you had yard birds that wondered underneath the house — and could be seen thru the floor cracks. Later on, Linoleum began to be used in the kitchens.

  6. We could do this in the sixties in my Grandads house.

  7. Never foget where you came from and the future will look brighter.

  8. I rmember those days well in Clay, County, Alabama in the 30s and 40s.

  9. My dad said the same. Tallapoosa County, AL…Daviston..Germany’s Ferry..

  10. I remember living in a couple houses like that and they were cold!

  11. lol, my mom tells about lifting up a floor board and getting eggs from the hens, also, when they got linoleum, the wind would blow it up and the kids made a game of jumping on it to hold it down.

  12. My Grandmother’s house was that way, in some places.

  13. When I was born my mom and dad lived in a house just like this. My cousins all lived in a home of this architectural. They were sometimes called “shot gun” homes. They were built to allow the air to circulate. No air conditoning. No in door toilets. A chamber pot was kept under the bed for midnight visits. Can still remember sleeping on top of covers and sheets and the occasional “high pitched buzz” of a friendly mosquito buzzing your ear.

  14. Been there ..seen that…

  15. This reminds me so much of a song by Alabama songsters the Maharrey family……..song called cracks in the floor…….true stories, Iwill always remember the things taught us by the survivors of the worst times…….learned many a lesson

  16. Many of us grew up in simular circumstances, but I didn’t know we were poor. Everyone else lived the same way. I was never hungry and Momma made beautiful clothes. And we were not cold, in the summertime we went outside under the shade trees.

  17. Know what it’a like. But we thought it was just normal.

  18. To survive humans need: shelter from the elements food/water for nourishment and clothing for the body- protection & warmth.

    Our forefather’s, my family included in these stories, were and are survivors who gave their children and family “the lift” by pushing them forward through their labor and love for country.

  19. I lived in houses like this in the 50s in Shelby County.

  20. A couple of old houses we lived in, in south Georgia were like that……

  21. I remember to well when we lived in a 4 room house. Mom an dad slept in the kitchen, boys in living room. Girls had their room an 1 for storage. There were 13 of us, Mom an Dad

  22. As a long time flooring contractor, there is a reason for cracks in the floor,,,you cannot nail down boards close together as the swell and contract. If laid tightly, when they swell due to humidity, it will damage the boards and they will cup. I have been involved in law suits over this where builders failed to run the AC and this very thing happened. If you do a house in the woods with no AC, you have to leave cracks the size of a dime. Pure physics.

    1. I’m pretty sure that the old farm homes built back then were built from fresh cut lumber that was nailed as tight as they could, and as they dried, they also shrunk.

  23. Is Big Daddy Sidney Bearden related to the folks who own the big dairy on the hill in Pelham?

    1. Big Daddy was from the Bearden’s from around Montevallo( Pearidge)

    2. I was lucky enough to have one of the grandsons of the Pelham Bearden Dairy owners in my Cub Scout den… He was a great boy – and his family was so nice to have for neighbors…

  24. Are ya’ll black? I didn’t realize white people were poor.

  25. Only one room of my Granny’s house had a wood floor when she was growing up. The rest were dirt.

  26. I read in a book that a Southern woman heard a noise under the house and she got her gun and shot through one of those large cracks. She hit a Yankee Soldier!!

  27. Wow this looks like a house we lived in in Bald Knob Arkansas when I was 2. Even down to the front porch.

  28. I remember my dad telling me this story years ago, when I was a kid. I had forgotten about it till reading the article. My grandparents lived near the end of south shades crest road. He said when he was a little boy, they would go and visit some of their relatives you could see chickens under their house .

  29. My late GrandMother, also in Shelby County during the Depression, often said (paraphrased) they were already so poor they didn’t even know the difference.

  30. Eduardo that must be why the floor was so bumpy. Letta didn’t want us to see the rat kingdom

    1. Maybe the bumps we felt were actually ghost mice


  32. Tough times breed tough people.

  33. This house looks bigger and better than the one I lived in as a child. This house looks as though it had two front doors, which many old houses did, but not ours. We didn’t even have a porch swing! I also loved to lie on the floor, look through the cracks and knot holes to watch the chickens underneath. My dad was also born in 1918, so I’m old, too. Some of my favorite childhood memories were living in Brownville, Alabama.

  34. Johnny Dasinger, did they not have hog pen?

    1. Back then alot of livestock were free range.in other words they roamed freely but knew where to be fed.

    2. Interesting. In the 1940’s, ours were in a stinky smelling pen.

  35. Same at my grandparents house in cullman,al . My grandpa worked as a share cropper.

  36. In our old farmhouse in Moore there were knot holes in the flooring and when we had pet raccoons they would put their hands through the knot holes wanting candy from us.

  37. Daddy said they could see the ground through the cracks (they were too poor to even own chickens) and the stars through the roof

  38. My Mom and Dad said the same thing. Also, were so poor, they never realized there was a depression till they heard it on the radio.

  39. My dad talked about a house he lived I

    1. In that had a dirt floor. My grandmother would sweep and mop the dirt.

  40. Looks like my granddaddys house and all I have are good memories from those days things were not as complicated then ,!

  41. My maternal great great grandmother was a Bearden…still have Bearden unions in Plantersville

    1. My grandfather was from Montevallo area

  42. I’ve heard so many similar stories (especially from my family). Hope we never experience anything like it.

  43. Wonder if they are related to the Beardens in Pelham, AL?

  44. I remember those days and I can say that we were happy to have a roof over our heads , we did not know we were poor.I thank god for our raising

  45. We were poor but we didn’t worry about what the Jones had they didn’t have anything either

  46. Sometimes I wish we could go back to these times to make the younger generation learn how to cope with tough times. We lived in Sunny South during the late 40’s and remember that track down to the out house. Sears and Roebuck catalog got used a hold lot…

  47. My uncle had chickens running through the house. I KID YOU NOT.

  48. My dad said same thing about the chickens

  49. There is a civil war story in my family, that when the yankees were stealing meat from under the house, boiling water was poured on them ,through the cracks in the floor. Thanks to the cracks the meat was saved.

  50. My aunt lived in one of those with 12 children.

  51. We didn’t have in-door plumbing. We had a knot-hole off to the side.

  52. You could lie in bed at night and see the stars at my grandmother’s and it never leaked!

  53. I believed that my daddy told me some stories

  54. The house I was born in and lived in with my parents in Shelby, Shelby County, Alabama had this “feature” also. And we also had yard chickens that went under the house. There were several holes bored in the floor, which were for the purpose of water draining out of the ice box as the ice in it melted. As a young (and mischievous) boy I found that I could bait a small fish hook with a grain of yellow corn by pushing the point into the white softer side of the grain; drop the baited hook in one of the holes; and catch a chicken when it tried to eat the corn. That amusement ended quickly as the chicken made such a fuss that it alarmed my Mama and warranted an ole fashion “whupp’n” of me by her.

  55. Looks like the home I was born in,it was called the Granham place a few miles from Americas Ga. I called this a home and it was Mama could make any simple shack a home

    1. It builds character I believe……………

  56. Hell I knew we was poor , the rich kids always reminded us ! Assholes !

  57. Yep, my grandparents ‘ house had cracks in the floor and you could see underneath the house. We used the outhouse during the day and a slop jar under the bed at night. All the children slept together under the heaviest quilts I have ever tried to lift.

  58. Those was hard times but every family member had a special bond with each other. That was true love.

  59. My dad told me they did too.
    He grew up in sharpsburg NC.

  60. We watched the chickens and dogs through the floor of our home for years. You could lay in bed and see through the wall to the outside to. Feather bed and lots of quilts in the winter.

  61. My Martin relatives were from Montevalla. Not too much left there these days.

  62. I remember visiting Aunt’s and Uncles that lived in the country who had cracks in their floors. No running water, inside plumbing or lights. Those were the days when life was more simple and the people told the government what to do, not like today when the government is telling the people what to do and the people believe that is the way it’s suppose to be. Our Country was founded on “WE THE PEOPLE.” I wonder how many even know where this quote comes from or have even ever heard of it. Look it up!!!!!!!!!!

  63. Same here! Sometimes it was bobbed tail. Cats fighting.!

  64. I have seen the same before we put down vinyl flooring in my grandparents old home that we lived in.

  65. The creeks near the grandparents house were frozen the night I spent there with a friend. We could see the chickens between the floorboards. We had so many quilts piled on us that we couldn’t turn over. I remember it as a good weekend.

  66. I remember it like was yesterday…

  67. My great aunt said the same thing about the cracks in the floor. And everyone was in the same boat with the depression. They were used to making do with what they had. Plus there were about 14 children in my great aunt’s family.

  68. We grew our own and ate what was provided on land, water and in the trees. Turtle soup and fried squirrel was normal and we ate it. That is until we were old enough to know what it was! But I loved our vegetable garden and all the fruits we had growing wild and domesticated. Nuts were plentiful too. So even though we were ‘poor’, we weren’t really b/c we had enough to survive. Thank goodness.

  69. and ate a raw sweet potato for snack, carried lunch in a mason jar

  70. I wish I could go back in time

  71. My grands didn’t have a floor but dirt and cooked in fireplace back then…ate whatever they could get and grow with 9 kids to feed. And not even a milk cow. Sharecropping and my daddy was 2nd kid.

  72. Heck it snowed on my bed one night, a light blowing snow came thru the cracks in the walls & that was in the mid 60’s. When you say poor most people have no idea. We raised all our own food, cotton, etc. not much of a house, insulation? not a bit, a outdoor toilet my burned down while sneaking a smoke….& yet we ate better than most people. You can’t miss something you’ve never had. We never had indoor plumbing until we moved into the projects in Huntsville. Of course we moved back out into the county shortly afterwards this time with plumbing. No TV until I was 14. Shoes in the summer? forget that!

  73. I could tell a lot of stories about living in a house like that ,and I’m not even that old !!! Lol

  74. My mother talked about cracks in the floor and snowing through the holes in the roof. I was too young to remember it. We were so privileged.

  75. My Martin relatives came from Montevallo.

  76. This Bearden may be kin to my husband.

  77. I heard my grandmother tell a similar story. Nope – no clue about a depression – they’d always been in one. She was born in 1898.

  78. Heard my dad say that also

  79. Nancy Lloyd I’ve heard you talk about this with you and daddy first getting married.

  80. Remember mom and dad telling me those stories.

  81. I like reading about the past. The good old days were hard at times but they were good also. I think we enjoyed what we had and family a whole lot more than we do now. God was good to us then,he is good to us now, and he will be good in our future also.

  82. Carol Peter Larrimore – yes a little, their house was 2 story. No big rock in front lol.

    1. She had a wisteria vine growing up one of the posts?

    2. It was beside a larger hour perpendicular to it, I vaguely remember

    3. Carol Peter Larrimore are u thinking of Uncle Yates house ?(smaller one beside 2 story one with mounting rock)

    4. Yes, thank you, I never knew I was remembering incorrectly.

  83. My mother did the same thing only this was in the 1960 on creek indian rez Atmore al.

  84. I have seen trhat also an I am a generation further up the scale. My grandmother Bragwell’s feather matteress was great in winner time if it did not roll u off the bedf.

  85. My husband, born in 1941, talks about watching chickens through the cracks in the floor and dogs running into the house because of a lack of a screen door. We didn’t have a tv til I was about 8-10 years old.

  86. I once said that to some of my friends in the Ala Air National Guard and none could believe it. Newspaper lined walls to keep the wind out also.

  87. My daddy said his version of this..”he could lay in bed at night and see the stars in the sky or roll over and spot the chickens under the house!’

  88. My parents talked of these things too.

  89. My daddy said the same thing about seeing chickens through the floor. He was born in 1931 and lived in Talladega

  90. I remember times were so hard when it was just me and my Mother we had no money to pay for the gas heater to burn all night so Mother piled all our clothes on top of our quilts to keep us warm and we wore our longjohnss and socks and boggans on our heads and we cocooned ourselves deep undercovers — also I collected old newspapers that people put out by their trashcans and Mother and I rolled them up like slats and pushed them into the cracks in the walls to keep the cold air out!!

  91. Larry Carpenter, me too. Got
    Electricity in 1953. I don’t miss those days at all, ‘Cept for braggin

  92. Our Mother was born during the Great Depression. She said, years ago, that our Granddaddy would stand in line for powered eggs, cheese, and whatever they were handing out. However, we did not know we were poor growing up. We just knew that we had food and shelter and Love…

  93. Anyone that has experienced that kind of life has a deep rooted soul! We appreciate where we are because we will never forget where we were. I remember my momma saying they used the bumblebee cotton that was left after the picking or scattered along side of the dirt roads to pack in the cracks of the walls and floors. Frozen knuckles from trying to wash clothes on a rub board in frigid weather as water that was heated in the wash pot didn’t stay warm long.

  94. When my dad asked my grandfather (in rural Louisiana) about the Great Depression, he said, “We didn’t know about the Great Depression. We were always depressed.”

  95. Without our “, roots”, there would be no “us”.

  96. My Daddy’s folks were SO POOR there were no chickens under their house!

    1. Y’all had a house? Wow!! Uppidy !!

  97. I am 75, I lived in a house like this until I was 12.

  98. chickens were hard to come by

  99. Lindsey Roberts…this is where you’re from, isn’t it?

  100. I remember my Mother saying that when they were kids, they would mix up sugar and milk and put it by the bed in the winter and in the morning they would have “ice cream”. And I can remember (same house) seeing the curtains move when the wind was blowing outside.

  101. They didn’t have to worry about termites or roaches because they had chickens under the house.

  102. Looks like some of the houses the Evans family lived in while growing up in Vincent.

  103. That wasn’t poor. In those days many were fortunate to have a roof over their heads.

  104. LaQuetta White Brenda Donaldson Sammy told me about putting cup of water beside the bed and having ice in the morning.

    1. Ice would be on our bedroom window too, the one facing the North. These were the coldest windows in the world!!

    2. I guess global warming is here. We haven’t had a really cold winter in about 15 years or more!

    3. Not since we got the new windows!!!

    4. Least they had floors! My great grandmother had old house with dirt floors that she swept clean. They lived on old farm at foot of Lookout Mtn where a Civil War skirmish took place. Grandfather found cannon balls and bullets when he plowed .

    5. Brenda Donaldson In Sept. ’81 Fran, Danny, and I moved from Chatt. back to the old home-place for a while. That winter was extreamly cold. The only room that was heated was the living room. One night we heard something in the bedroom explode. We had just bought several 2 liter Cokes and one had exploded as it froze. I think we opened the caps on the others as they were ready to explode too.

    6. Bill Vann, I can believe that! I think in ’81/’82 was the worse winter in a while.

  105. I remember my Mama saying that the house she and Daddy lived in when first married had newspaper stuffed in the cracks in the walls to keep the winter wind out and one time it came a big snow and when they woke up snow was covering their bed quilts. The wind had blown the newspaper out of the cracks and the snow blew in.

    1. My mother said the same thing about growing up in a house with big cracks in the walls and snow on the bed. It did kind of insulate though.

  106. They’re rich they have a swing on the porch

  107. My dad said the same thing

  108. Somebody told us Wall Street fell. We were so poor, we couldn’t tell.
    That comes from the song “Song of the south” by Alabama

  109. I have been to a mans house several times in the 1970’s in Choctaw County Alabama that you could watch their chickens under the house from inside. The funny thing was though him and his wife were worth millions of dollars! They owned over 18,000 acres with oil wells on it. they just didn’t care to spend it on luxury items, they were happy as they were. They did get a new pickup every year though. He would fill the bed up with corn and get a couple of guys in the back and slowly ride thru the woods while they shoveled out the corn for the deer and wild hogs.

  110. And you didn’t sit in floor when mama was washing your only pair of clothes, that red rooster under that floor will eat anything that resembles a grub…

  111. My Grandmother said the boards in their floor weren’t even nailed down, and wild boars would get underneath the house and fight, pushing the boards up. She would poor boiling water between the cracks to run them out.

    1. My mother did the same thing, poured the boiling water through the cracks in the floor on the stray dog that would come and fight our dog.

  112. We must be related….I was told that same story too! Lol

  113. My daddy said the house he grew up in had cracks in the walls big enough to sling a car through. But I loved that old house. It was hot as the hinges of Hades in summer and so cold in winter I could barely turn over in bed from the weight of the many quilts. Yet no matter the season, it was comforting to me.

  114. They didn’t have a yard with grass either. Kept it swept.

  115. This was the same mansion I grew up in. We talked to dogs and chickens threw the cracks in the floors. This was back in the early 40s and 50s.

  116. Every poor person had a similar home.

  117. My grandparents in Mackenzie and My Mother…..this was pat for the course!

  118. Yep, like that for us till 1973.

  119. Y’all had a wood floor! My momma (born in 1921) grew up in a house with a dirt floor in Irvington, Alabama.

  120. My mom said that they culd throw cats through the holes in the walls of the house!

  121. My Mama is 94 and still tells us stories about growing up, and hard times in Winston Co. AL
    One of the best: Her brother was very sick, and they were out of food, to give him nourishment. The neighbors chicken ran in the house. Her mama quickly, closed the door, killed the chicken, and stuffed the feathers between the cracks of the floor to hide them. She cooked the chicken, fed her son, and he got well!
    But every time, the neighbors daughter came over to play with my mama, she said she felt so guilty. She knew they stole their chicken, and the evidence of the feathers, were right under their feet!
    You can read my mama’s stories at readtheleaf.com Mama Rosell
    They are archived back to June of 2015 when they began or on Facebook at, Her name is Rosell but we call her Mama.

    1. I’m Rosell’s oldest son and I am 78. I remember how poor we were, but we. Didn’t know it then because everyone around us was poor too.

  122. Love these stories of bygone days. As a people, we are so much better off than we we a few years back, but we need to be happy and appreciate what we have now. ❤ SHARE LOVE,NOT HATE!

  123. everyone was so poor during the depression no one even knew there was a depression….Me and my husband remember snow falling thru the ceiling when we were children ……1939 and 1940’s only in the 50’s did we see change…and I mean change in the pocket.

  124. I have some pictures like this of my grand parents sitting on front porch. I have had newspaper put between blankets because there was not enough blankets to go around and a slop jar under the bed because it was too cold to go to the outhouse.

  125. Me too. Same community til I was 10. Some wonderful memories of those years. Makes me miss my brother Larry more than usual

  126. Forget about cracks in the walls! My grandmother’s bedroom window, NORTH side, was NEVER closed! It didn’t even have a screen. She felt smothered in a closed room. It might as well been a sleeping bag outdoors. It was amazing how loud whippoorwills, tree frogs, and owls were when you were beside a big open window… or, thunderstorms… or, strong winds through the big cedar trees lining the driveway.

  127. Sadly, that’s the way my mother lived…

  128. My Grandfather said in the winter the hogs would get under the house and they would squeal and of course stink. His mother would heat a kettle of water to pour through the floor boards to shoo them away.

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