For Liberty County’s bicentennial, former Bradwell Institute teacher Nan Flowers and a group of her students did a project comprised of interviews with people in Liberty County.
They specifically were interested in the Great Depression. They put the collection together and printed it in a small volume called “Sand and Pine.” They wanted this publication to serve as a source of information and enjoyment. The students thought it would give readers a chance to reminisce while adding to the growing store of printed matter on life in Liberty’s old days.
I was granted permission to share these interviews with Coastal Courier readers from time to time. The following information was taken from Edith Mallard’s interview with Estelle Caswell:
Mrs. Caswell reflects on five aspects of life in Liberty County two generations ago. They are dating, education, entertainment, the Great Depression and clothes.
“I moved to Liberty County in the spring of 1932 as the young bride of Paul Caswell. Before this, I lived with my parents in Ludowici, which is about 14 miles from Hinesville.
“At this time, there were no paved streets in Hinesville. Instead, the streets were just deep in sand — some so deep you could hardly drive down them. We went to Savannah on the average of twice a month. We went by car on dirt roads. The only exception was on the other side of the Ogeechee River, where there was a road we considered paved. It was made of crushed oyster shells.
“I started dating when I was 17. On most of our dates we just sat on the front porch. Occasionally, however, we would ride up to the drugstore and get a Coke. Later on, I would go on double-dates to the picture show in Jesup. We would catch the train at 8:30 and be home by 11 p.m. One summer, I came over to Hinesville to visit my grandmother. I went for a walk downtown with my girlfriends when this young man stuck his head out of a doorway and said, ‘Hello.’ I asked my friends who he was. They told me that was Paul Caswell. That’s where it started. That night, he had some sort of get-together and we met. That was the beginning of a long and wonderful life with a magnificent person in Liberty County.
“There wasn’t much entertainment in those days. There was a lot of visiting between friends and relatives, and we looked forward to attending church on Sundays. Of course, on Wednesday night we also had prayer meeting. Since we lived this close to the coast, many people went saltwater fishing for entertainment. In Savannah, there were musicals, concerts and picture shows. In Hinesville, there were basketball games. We didn’t have football in Hinesville at the time.
“We also had parties, such as watermelon cuttings and peanut boilings. There would be friends from school who would invite us to come see them when the peanuts were ready. So when the time came, we would all get together and go help them pick and clean the peanuts. While the peanuts were cooking, we would cut the watermelons. We always went in groups and never without a chaperone. Those were the good old days, and we certainly had a lot of fun — good, clean fun.
“Then, after I married, we had a Home Demonstration Club. Once a month, we would meet and talk about cooking, sewing, taking care of children and other home activities. These meetings were very educational to a young bride.
“Usually, I wore cotton dresses and only wore pants when I went on a picnic, hunting or other sports activities. The pants I wore were knickerbockers. These pants came to your knees and had a band around them that buttoned on the side. They didn’t make long pants for women back then. They made shorts, but if women wore shorts, it was in and around the home. It was many years before women wore long pants in public.
“I went to college for two years and three summers. During this time, many people didn’t have enough money to send their children to college so the state helped out by letting the students do things around the school. You would wait on a table for a week and you had 12 girls sitting at your table. You had to set the table and get anyone at your table refills. At the end of the meal, you cleaned off the table. Everyone did this except for seniors. Most people usually attended college for two straight years and then went back every summer until they had enough credits to get a degree. This was called a Georgia Normal Diploma. The cost of college was around $300 for a nine-month term. This included your tuition, meals, room and laundry.
“The Depression came on so slowly that we really didn’t worry about it. Everybody was in the same boat. The Depression taught us not to be wasteful and to make the most of what we had. We learned to use everything we could. There wasn’t much we could afford to buy, but there was very little we needed to buy. Depression teaches people things. They teach you to be more original and to use what you have. Hard times teach you to see things that you wouldn’t bother with in other times.
“Everyone was concerned about everyone else. People were so thoughtful in those days. I guess that is why those things are sent upon us. We forget others until something like that happens. There’s a lot in the world the good Lord left us. You go about finding those things when you have to!”
And that is where the interview ended. I personally knew Mrs. Estelle Elizabeth Hendry Caswell and Judge Paul Caswell. They were very prominent people in Liberty County and still are missed today. Mrs. Caswell died Jan. 11, 1990, and Judge Caswell died April 28, 1998. Both are buried in the Hinesville City Cemetery.