Grandma at the Curb Market [vintage pictures]

Grandma at the Curb Market


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.

Women often accompanied their husbands to the curb market

Women often accompanied their husbands to the curb market

Each month brought something different

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.

Hats hid faces

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.


curb market

Sometimes bought lunches

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.chickens for market

Returned home by 3 pm

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 the next morning.

 Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) = A novel of Colonial America


About Dorothy Graham Gast

Dorothy Gast lives in Romulus, Alabama on the Graham family farm. She taught in Tuscaloosa County Schools for nearly 30 years.
She has a ”Mine, yours, and Ours” family. She has volunteered in numerous organizations after her husband’s eight year struggle with Alzheimers’ ended.
She helped organize a volunteer fire department after she was 60 and served as board secretary and nationally certified firefighter after extensive training.
Her attempts to get the community reading failed, but she contributed books to the new Sipsey Valley high school from the library in her home friends helped her establish.

She is known locally by the silhouettes she cuts free hand of children. She began to write nostalgia stories after a grandson asked her to write down the stories often told at family events.

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