Aunt Arie Carpenter
Photographer unknown, "Aunt Arie Carpenter," digital photograph, 1943, Pauline Addison's Collection, Toccoa, GA.
WRITTEN BY: AUTUMN DEAN
Aunt Arie Carpenter is notably one of the most interesting women in my family as well as North Georgia history. During the 1970's, when the first Foxfire book was written about her, she was still living in a cabin with no running water and a wood burning stove. She still followed the traditional southern ways of making a living, story telling, and spiritual beliefs.
During the time period this photograph was taken, it was not uncommon for those living in the mountainous areas of the Appalachians to go without indoor plumbing or the luxuries of an electric stove. During her interview, which makes up the Foxfire book written about her, Aunt Arie makes a comment on well water use opposed to plumbing saying that "[i]f I had plenty a'money, I'd put me a short sink right here so I wouldn't have t'trot out th'door ever' time t'pour th'water out. That's hard on y'." Early in the book, we get a bit of a biography on her as well as her daily living. In one part it speaks of the kitchen and her iron wood burning stove:
Mystified at first by the wooden meal bin and wood cookstove and lack of a sink, (the students) were soon drawing water from the well outside...[a]t one point everyone stopped as Aunt Arie dumped some kindling into the wood stove's firebox, splashed a cup of kerosene on top, struck a match and dropped it in...adding wood occasionally, and orchestrating the movement of pots and pans from one eye to another..."
Today, we quite often take for granted our modern day conveniences and forget that until the earlier parts of the 1930's and 1940's, most U.S citizens only had wood burning stoves. As can be seen from the excerpt, using such stoves was not very easy and could be dangerous considering the extremely dangerous chemicals involved as well as the carbon dioxide and other gases that built up in the small quarters of the older homes. However, speaking with those who grew up eating food cooked on such stoves with well water, there is no better meal available than one cooked in such conditions.
In Celeste Ray's book "Highland Heritage," the emphasis of southerners who come from Scottish heritage is shown. Aunt Arie is from an old Scots-Irish family and many of the traditions and culture of Scottish southerners can be seen in her life as well as those in her surrounding area of Northeast Georgia and North Carolina. In chapter 7, we see the traditions of Scottish southerners and there work and play ethic. "Game events are done for the day, supper has been cleared away, the fiddles and pipes are brought out, and it is time for the fireside ceilidhs that animate the mountain..." After harvest times and after a year of hard work in fields, southerners in Aunt Arie's region as well as up and down the Appalachian Mountains would celebrate by joining together with neighbors and loved ones, dancing, singing, eating and enjoying the satisfaction of such hard work.
Due to the difficulty of farm living, especially during and after the Great Depression, farmers migrated to rural towns during the early 20th century. Leo V. Mayer writes that "labor shortages associated with the war effort encouraged farm mechanization, freeing many farm workers for off-farm jobs." Because of this change, farm life has almost disappeared and the hardworking but fulfilling lifestyles of those like Aunt Arie have all but disappeared in today's society.
Primary Source: Linda Page and Eliot Wigginton, Aunt Arie: A Foxfire Portrait, E.P Dutton, Inc: New York, Introduction xix-xxi, 25.
Celeste Ray, Highland Heritage, University of North Carolina Press: North Carolina, 181.
Leo V. Mayer, "Agricultural Change and Rural America," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 529 (September 1993), 81.
For more information, visit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxfire_books