Campmeeting in the 50’s – 60’s – 70’s
We moved to the campgrounds with mules/horses and a wagon. The beds at home were taken down and moved to the tents (cabins). This meant you did not go home to sleep (no beds).
In the late 40’s and early 50’s, we all had wood stoves. It was necessary to cut wood for the stove early so that it would be dry. A certain amount of pine splinters (lighters) was always required to help start the fire. Someone always had to get up early to start a fire in the stove. All kitchen and cooking utensils had to packed and moved from home too. We had homemade biscuits almost every morning. This is being written in 2015, but I can still remember the aroma of the bacon, etc. cooking even now. Meals were prepared from scratch on those trusty wooden stoves. Items that were cooked included butterbeans, green beans, peas, tomatoes, okra, chicken, potatoes, roast, pecan pie, banana pudding, potato salad, enough said, getting hungry?
We had no running water or bathroom facilities. All water had to be carried from the spring down the hill — a long walk for people over by the store. We had outdoor toilets (outhouses) on the grounds. The teenagers had to keep these areas clean and in good order. You had to plan and be conscious of your needs, because it was quite a walk to these facilities.
Most families only had one car (no truck). The great ladies of the day were stay-at-home moms. Dad went to work in the cars and moms were on the grounds to stay. That meant the kids were there for the ten days.
The camp store was a very important part of this occasion. In those days, the store was bid out. Highest bidder got the privilege to operate the store trying to make a profit. The store stocked a few groceries, soda pops, ice cream products, candy, snacks, and ice. You paid the campground fund x$’s for the right to operate the store (generally less than $50.00).
There were no electric refrigerators at that time at Campmeeting. The store operator hauled in 300 lb. blocks of ice from Pelahatchie or Morton and sold the ice to the tentholders. A truck went around to the cabins to deliver ice. Most tents had an ice box that would hold 25-50 lbs. of ice. Ice that was not sold immediately was stored in the sawdust in back of the store.
I can remember working to save $10.00 to spend at the store. We worked for $3.00 to $4.00 a day. To have $1.00 a day for Campmeeting was great. There was a lot of 1¢ candy and bubble gum. Cokes were 5¢, ice cream was 15¢, and nutty buddies were special and cost 10¢. A number of us learned to save in order that we could have ice cream and cake after the night service – 15¢!!! Most everyone visited the store after the night service. A lot of good conversation time occurred over a pop or ice cream. Remember the air was not; no AC!
At some point, the youth started to manage the store. Cabins had refrigerators and ice was no longer needed. The items stocked at the store were reduced a lot – drinks, ice cream, and snacks only.
Some of the tents/cabins had chicken coops out in the back. Chickens were put in these coops and later processed for food as needed. Roosters were included and quiet often gave a wake-up call in the morning.
The grounds had no running water. All water had to be carried from the spring under the hill, bucket by bucket. This was a real chore for the cabins that were the greatest distance away.
There were no restrooms, only outhouses. It was the job of the youth to help clean and check the tissue supply.
A cabin was provided for the visiting workers, preachers, and song leaders. No air, restroom, or water there either. This cabin was located next to the store in the northwest corner.
Sawdust for the tabernacle and cabins was hauled in on pick-up trucks. It was hauled from the closest sawmill possible. That occurred from 3 miles away to Florence, Mississippi. A number of times, the older boys would take the truck on this mission and possibly take a girlfriend to help.
The campground committee was then composed of only tentholders. In the business meetings there was only one vote per tent. That changed in the late 60’s to early 70’s. One non-tentholder was added to the committee for a one-year term. All church members and tentholders were invited to the annual meeting thereafter.
Services were much the same then as they are now. We had the services at 9:00 am (group prayer meeting; mostly ladies and kids), 11:00 am worship services, 3:00 pm worship, group prayer meeting late afternoon, and 7:30 pm worship service. Tentholders meeting was held on Tuesday night and generally youth on Thursday nights. The visiting evangelist preached the sermon. Men’s prayer meeting was held by a log out in the woods. The tabernacle has not changed. Fans have been added. A lot of cabins were added in the early 60’s.
One of the main games for young boys was fox and dog — really a game of chase. The home boys would explain the game to the visitors and send them to the woods to be chased. A lot of time, the home boys never went chasing. We also played games like horse shoes, marble, and dodge ball.
Parents and friends often furnished watermelons or ice cream for the youth. The youth enjoyed the time because it was a break from some of the summer work. We also got to see our girlfriends more – what a treat! A couple of the men would take us boys swimming.
The grounds were at one time hoed off; all grass was removed. Sawdust was hauled in pickup trucks. A lot of tentholders would haul one load for their tent and one for the tabernacle. I remember hauling sawdust from below Florence to Campmeeting. The roads behind the cabins were not very solid. A big rain meant trouble with parking.