Sunday, November 14, 2010

The History Of Pocomoke By Murray James (21)

156 History of Pocomcike City, CHAPTER XXIV. S

( ) C I A L A S P E C T ( C O NT I N U E D . )

Again, the dance was a favorite source of social enter- tainment in the early history of New Town. There were three classes of characters, which I shall describe, partici- pating in this amusement. First, the first citizens ot the town engaged in it. Sometimes it was the result of a wedding, a cotton picking, quilting, or it may have been a special dancing part v.

 I am not now describing the balls held at hotels where a gentleman and lady could enter by paying the entrance fee, but social dances held at private houses for amusement. The host and hostess would pro- vide such - things as wines, liquors, candies, cake and tropical fruit to make the entertainment as enjoyable as possible. The invited guests would assemble after candle light.

They were composed chiefly of single persons, but sometimes there would be a small sprinkling of married ones also. An expert fiddler would be engaged. All things being ready and the parties on the floor, the fiddler having his fiddle well tuned, would draw his bow at full length, when a feeling of exhilaration would go through the room like electricity. The parties now engaged in a four or eight-handed reel. Oh! what a tine time there was.

Formerly New Town. 157

The cotillions, waltzing, capering, parties passing each other on the floor, crossing and around the room, cutting the pigeon wing, etc. After that reel was over the hat would be passed around to take a collection for the fiddler, for that was the way he was paid for his services. Then another party would be made up and after the dance the hat was passed around again, and so the night was spent till or near the break of day.

When they would get weary and laint they would keep their spirits up by pouring spirits down. At such places of hilarity many a young lady's heart and hand has been wooed in marriage. Secondly. The lower class of society in the country, both of men and women, would attend the holidays in New Town. On those occasions they assembled at the hotels and engaged in the dance, and some of the same order of men in New Town would participate with them.

It would be a novel sight at the present day to see such a gathering ol men and women at a hotel engaged in a regular hoe down, such as was practiced then. Thirdly. This class would be the colored people. They would assemble in town from all the surrounding country. They would construct booths on the hill or public square, in which they would have for sale cakes, candies, cider, beer and tropical fruits. They would have all sorts of jollity, boxing, wrestling, pitching quoits, dancing after the riddle and pattywhack.

This word pattywhack of itself is unmeaning, hence I shall be under the necessity of explaining the process of the dance in this way.

The 158 History of Pocomoke City,

company would be in the open air on the hill. The leader in this amusement would pat with his hands and stamp with his foot while the rest would dance. The leader would use some outlandish expression in song, such as the following : "Juber up and Juber down, Juber all around de town. 7 ' And when they would reach the climax, he would sing- out with an extended voice ■ " Jump over double trouble Juber." Then such antics and gymnastics as the dancers would perform with their hands and feet, keeping time with the leader, as would be truly diverting to the reader could he behold such a performance now.

Another song which they would sing in their dances was : "Possum up de gum bush, Raccoon in de holler. Saddle on de gray marc, Martingil and collar." I have endeavored to spell their words as they would pronounce them, Late in the afternoon, they would be seen with their little bundle of cakes, getting ready to start for home. Thus the day closed with them.

The social aspect of New Town, now Pocomoke City, has undergone a change for the better. Whereas in the description already given of social life, in the early history of New Town, as contributing to the pleasures and passions of the animal, now it is seen in the improvement of the intellectual and religious part of man.

Formerly New Town. 159

  Sociability seems to have .left the lower walks of our fallen nature and is aspiring to a higher sphere of our manhood, as may be seen in the following instances, namely : in the formation of literary and beneficial societies, in the mingling together in the pursuit of knowledge.

Indeed, the free public school system, in the Pocomoke City High School, has contri- buted largely to, and has acted a very important part in the social status of Pocomoke City. Here mind is pre- eminent, and the scholars who possess superior intellect are honored for their talent, and their society is appreciated whether they be rich or poor.

Again, the various picnics and festivals gotten up for the promotion of education, churches, sabbath schools missionary and other benevolent societies, in which all have an interest, and all mingle. Although the different churches may in one sense be considered distinct commu- nities, yet when contemplated in their great work of doing good they are one grand whole, emulating each other in elevating society and promoting the social and religious bearing of Pocomoke City.

Again the improvement of the musical talent, by the young folks, has contributed largely to social life in Pocomoke City. Whereas instead •of listening to the old timey songs, in the days of yore, by uncultivated voices, now it is simply fascinating to listen to the select pieces of music as sung either in the choir, .at concerts, or in social gatherings by those who have cultivated voices, and who are well educated in the science of music.

160 History of Pocomofa City,

The query may be agitated, what has produced such a change in the social condition? Answer. It may be the increase of the population, a higher grade of schooling and the influence of the churches.

Formerly New Town. 161 CHAPTER XXV. MORAL ASPECT. 

The moral aspect of New Town in its early history. Although there were some good and holy people in New Town, whose lives stood out as burning and shining lights, and although the gospel was making successful attacks on the fortifications of sin and wickedness, and winning" many jewels from the rank and file of sinners, and presenting them as trophies to the Saviour of men ; yet the morals of the people, as a whole were compara- tively at a low ebb.

In order to see more clearly the debased state of morals, I will give you some few specifi- cations for illustration, for instance : the habit of drunken- ness, though it was always condemned by the good and true, yet it was winked at, and the votaries of the practice moved along in society as though nothing very serious had hapened. Again, the habit of swearing was very common. When men would meet in New Town, on Saturdays, on business or for social interview, for that was the public day, he that could swear the keenest, sharpest oaths, attracted the greatest attention, especially from the boys.

162 History of JPocomoke City,

If there was a fray on hand, lie that could use the most awful asseverations and foul-mouth imprecations as though he were commissioned from the bottomless pit, serpent like to infect his poison, was the greatest man of the crowd. Again, gambling was much in vogue, gambling socially and for money, and many were the times that men would lengthen out the midnight taper till the dawn of coming day, using all their ingenuity to get each others money.

Again conjuration, fortune-telling, witchcraft and super- stition were all 'believed to be as true as preaching, by the lowest class of society. But while conjuration and witchcraft have long since disappeared from society, fortune-telling and superstition have lingered longer, and there may be some of the old folks now living, particularly among the fair sex, who have had their fortunes told by the cutting of cards or the grounds of a coffee cup, in order to learn who their future husbands would be. Perhaps there may be some of those already spoken of who have showed the new moon a piece of silver in order to have good luck that moon, or who believed in sowing certain seeds on certain states of the moon as sure, only then of vegetating, or who have their pork butchered on the increase of the moon in order for it to swell, believing if the moon is on the decrease the pork would shrink. But these practices, to some extent, have gone into the shades and the people have already learned that the only road to success in any enterprise is application ; that the diligent hand maketh rich, while laziness and idleness paves the way to poverty and ruin.

Next; Formerly New Town. 163 CHAPTER XXV!. TEMPERANCE CAUSE.

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