By Dorothy Graham Gast
Saturday was curb market day. Long before daylight cars and trucks loaded with produce would travel down gravel roads to the highways and into Tuscaloosa. Behind the big gray two story courthouse there was an open plaza where tables could be rented and farm goods sold. Chickens fresh killed and packed in ice sat by trays of green onions, yellow squash, field peas, butter beans, and okra. Tomatoes and roasting ears were displayed beside Gladiolas or wild flowers.
Each month had its own ripening time and there was always something tempting. Even in winter there would be canned green beans, homemade muscadine jelly, or jars of honey with the comb intact, homemade Caramel cakes, or fried crescents filled with cooked dried apples.
In the shade of huge oak trees on the Allen and Jemison side of the courthouse along the street bordering the courthouse, itinerant preachers exhorted the crowds that flocked to the market. Their companions often strummed guitars or banjoes to the haunting invitation songs designed to rescue local sinners who wondered by. Customers would pause in their selection of watermelons or canteloupes from nearby beds of pickups to join in the singing.
Prisoners in the county jail that backed up to the market plaza looked down on the crowd below hoping for a familiar face that might be persuaded to buy cigarettes or carry news to family members. Hats hid faces that did not want to be hailed from the second story cells.
On hot summer days sellers might cross the street to Fred Robertson’s Service Station and Wrecker service to cool off in the air conditioning. There at the long dining bar they drank tall glasses of sweet tea and sprinkled hot sauce on hamburgers grilled in front of customers.
Revived, weary farmers returned to their market after a busy morning that had started at 3 am.
On an especially good day after the regular customers had made their purchases and were home cooking fresh vegetables for Sunday dinners, a seller might choose a bought lunch as a special treat. Grandma might leave her table under the watchful eye of a neighbor and walk up to Woolworth’s where the unchanging menu featured staples like meat loaf, creamed potatoes, and green beans with fluffy yeast rolls. Perhaps a club sandwich with ham and cheese, lettuce and tomato would be a new choice. A steaming slice of buttermilk chess pie completed the meal.
By 3 pm farmers were packing up for the return home. Even prosperous famers knew that nothing was to be wasted, not even time. When they got home there would be cows to milk, hogs to feed, and chickens to feed and divest of their eggs for that day. All the animals had to be seen to before the family could have hot supper and weekly all over baths to prepare for Sunday School and worship