Days Gone By - stories from the past

Have you ever heard of the dumb supper? It use to be quite popular in Pike County, Alabama


(Transcribed and unedited story from a WPA (Works Projects Administration author from Pike County, Alabama)

Written by Lois Lynn


The Dumb Supper was one of the popular past times of earlier days and one still enjoyed in certain rural sections of the state.

Where three or four girls are having a spend the night part, the supper is prepared by them with the expectation of their future mates coming and eating the supper. If he fails to come to the supper that is a sure sign she will be a “maid”.

Group of girls Cooking Coffee County, Alabama 1939 Marion Post Wolcott (Library of Congress)

Never opened her mouth

The art of preparing the supper is for each girl to participate in everything that is done and not to utter a word. In fact, if one even opens her mouth the spell is broken and the expectant guest is kept away.

When the supper is placed on the table, each girl hides behind the door; then the visitors arrive and when the supper is finished the girls come out of hiding, each taking her own beau by the arm, and as is the custom he proposes before the entire crowd.

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  1. Never heard of it, but Box Suppers were common place. Single ladies packed a supper in a box and they were auctioned off. She dined with the purchaser of her box.

    1. The box suppers were held once a year at our school

  2. I had a red and white table

  3. I never hear of this. Heard of box suppers. Interesting.

  4. Any male that has been favored to dine about anywhere down in LA (Lower Alabama)
    will tell you if they get fed like that, they won’t care what the girl looks like! But in Coffee County, he wouldn’t lose a thing—they’re all living dolls!

  5. I have heard of this. My grandmother, RT Stokes Woodfin was born in 1890. She talked about girls getting together and having a “dumb supper.” She said they also had “backwards suppers” where they had breakfast for supper and wore their clothes backwards. This also included participants walking backwards all the way to the hosts home and eating with the non-dominant hand. She always loved reminiscing over the days of her youth.

  6. Carrie Sue said that this was how she met you at Pemco.

  7. Never heard of this one.

  8. I’ve never read of the dumb supper except as a sometime observed ritual during the time of a death in the family. This mostly involves people sitting at a table during mealtime and not speaking. This practice was not isolated to a specific race, religion nor location and was certainly was not isolated to just Pike County, Alabama nor Alabama for that matter. This ritual was perhaps more common place up north.

  9. My parents grew up in Pike County, AL. Mother would have been there during this time frame & so would several of her sisters. I’ve never heard of that phrase.

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