Days Gone By - stories from the past

She spent her entire childhood eating rotten potatoes

Rotten Potatoes


Johnny Ponder

My Momma said that she spent her entire childhood eating rotten potatoes. I’m not kidding.

In East Texas everybody was poor and when the depression hit she said nobody knew it because they didn’t have anything before the depression, during or after it. Her Daddy worked very hard every day and they were able to keep food on the table by having a huge garden in addition to his regular wages.

East Texas has very sandy well drained soils which makes it perfect for growing potatoes so they always had a big potato patch. Each year they would gather the spuds and store them in their root cellar.

Root cellar

Root cellars

Momma said they would put down a layer of pine straw or sawdust, then a layer of potatoes, sprinkle a little lime on them, another layer of straw or sawdust, then potatoes and so on until all the taters are stored for the winter.Root cellar with potatoes

Through the winter as they were cooking meals, her Momma would send her to the root cellar to get potatoes to cook. She would say, “Don’t get the good ones, just get the ones with bad or rotten places on them”.

By the time they wanted to cook potatoes again there would be more with bad places. That’s why she said she spent her childhood eating rotten potatoes.

Momma said she never did get to eat a good potato.


See books by Donna R Causey

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1)


Discordance:: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)A novel inspired by the experiences of the Cottingham family who immigrated from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Alabama

About Johnny Ponder

Johnny Ponder lives in Munford, AL. He is a retired forester after about 40 years. Needless to say, he has a keen interest in the outdoors along with old places and lifestyles. He was raised here in Talladega County and writes very short stories about life in Talladega County back in the 50s and 60s.

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!


  1. Earline Smith Crews

    I lived on a farm and we ate fresh foods that we grew. I had cousins who’s family owned a Jitney Jungle. They had to eat all the rotton food as the bins of veggies were sorted to keep the good things for the public. They were so glad to come to our house to eat as they got to eat good stuff. think about that. I was always jelous of them and they were of me. Go figure.

  2. Teresa Baughn

    I’m 52 yrs old my grandpa.told my stories. like that his dad died. when he was 12. he went to work at 12 yrs old in the coal. mine’s. for 3cents a day to help his mom feed his 3 brothers hard times we can’t even think. of …BB

  3. We never had a root cellar, but my daddy stored ou home grow potatoes(sweet and Idaho) in a loft above the barn. We had to climb a ladder to get the potatoes. Holding a bucket and climbing up or coming was hard. Potatoes were precious and delicious. We had them some way daily.

  4. I’m an old-timer now myself but as far back as I can recall, I remember hearing old-timers then echo the same sentiments as in the third sentence of this article: “….everybody was poor and when the depression hit she said nobody knew it because they didn’t have anything before the depression, during or after it.” My grandfathers said it often. Reckon why that was? I never thought about till after I grew up. I did a fair amount of research and I’ll tell you why. It was the same reason the South has always, till of late, been economically depressed. The War for Southern Independence and Reconstruction.

  5. Rwandall West

    We just don’t realize how blessed we are I can remember eating a jar of mustard because that’s all there was to eat in the house

  6. Greg Creech

    Why are my comments only visible to those who open the article up? And, why is my profile picture the only one that has been removed from my post?

    1. Alabama Pioneers

      Not sure, we are able to see you posts and profile image, might be some temporary technical issue.

  7. Why are my comments only visible to those who open the article up? And, why is my profile picture the only one that has been removed from my post?

  8. Mildred Plant Masten

    that’s awful about the rotten potatoes

  9. Jennifer L Reid

    My grandparents had a potato shelf in their basement, now 40 years later we still see lime spots lol

  10. Kitty Adler Stokes

    Yes. I would love it if there were such things as time machines so i could go back to the bad real food and families being families. Having fathers and mothers. Homes peace. Etc versus the world I live in today.

  11. Margaret Marie Harris

    Really makes me appreciate our lives when we were growing up. I don’t ever remember going hungry.

  12. Kathy Calvert

    My cousin said our family in Alabama made potato “hills”. Straw. Potatoes. Straw. Potatoes. Straw.

  13. Patricia Slaton Veeder

    Using the bad ones meant nothing went to waste.

  14. Alex R. Moore

    As a sharecropper’s daughter during the depression, Mom ate homemade sogrum syrup and biscuits for supper for days on end, and lined her men’s suitcoat with newspaper to stay warm in the winters. Today’s definition of poverty doesn’t even come close.

  15. Joyce Carter

    Mother said they eat mashed pea s with sogrum syrup for breakfast and corn bread and sogrum syrup also lived in Georgia in a cotton mill village

  16. John Scott Di Carlo

    My father, his older brother and little sister would go down to the railroad tracks and wait for the coal train. They would gather rocks and throw them at the hobos. In return the hobos threw coal. That is how they heated their two bedroom shack.

    1. Joyce Carter

      John Scott Di Carlo I remember mother telling about that

    2. John Scott Di Carlo

      Yep – tough times, strong family.

    3. Lori Adams

      John Scott Di Carlo Git-r-done!

  17. Penny Segrest

    Kind of makes today’s complaints pale by comparison!!! Some of my dads incredible stories really made me grateful.

  18. Johnna Rhodes

    My mother was born in 1932 in the East Texas Pineywoods. Her parents were sharecroppers (cotton) but had a big garden every year. Granny sold eggs and butter for money to buy shoes and other necessities. Mama said they never really felt the effects of the Great Depression because they had no money anyway, but there was always homegrown food on the table. She said they kept about 3 other neighbor families fed as well. My daddy said they ate peas, biscuits, and grease gravy three meals a day for a long time because it was all they had.

  19. Johnny Dykes

    My father went to a CCC camp from south Alabama to Pennsylvania. After that he joined the Air Corps about two years before Pearl Harbor. His first post was at Montgomery.

  20. Laurie Sellers

    When I was a teenager my dad had a garden. He grew potatoes. We always ate the bad ones first. We just cut off the bad parts and ate the rest. Those potatoes he grew in the garden were the best I ever ate bad spots or not!

  21. Connie Mae

    My grandmother said she knew when the depression was over when a rabbit ran across the road and no one was chasing after it

  22. Barbara Thomas

    same thru out rural America

  23. Michael Boynton

    My family is from East Texas. None of them ever said they are rotten potatoes

  24. Roger Gardner

    My grandfather told me many years ago that they didn’t know any different when the depression came because they were already poor and still poor afterwards.

Leave a Reply to Dale Casey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.