Opinion Columns & Blogs

Boiled peanuts: Life with Daddy and Hoss in 1955


Saturday morning. 7 o’clock. September 1955. Daddy, David and I are in the pickup headed to what we call “Daddy’s Farm.” Actually, the farm is jointly owned by my Grandfather Gray and Daddy. We have already had a hot breakfast, thanks to Mother. At our house, we have three hot meals a day — bless her heart.

It is already hot and Daddy, as is his nature, has his left arm hanging out the open window. His arm is very tanned, especially when compared to his right arm. No car air-conditioning for us in 1955, and this is how you try to stay cool. David is 8 years old, I am 13, and Daddy is 38. Thirty-eight seems very old to me. I am sleepy, but talkative. David is sleepy and quiet. Daddy is all business, because we are on an important mission — getting the peanuts washed, boiled, sacked and ready for sale.

Daddy’s farm seems to me to be “out in the country.” In fact, it is a couple of miles from our house on Swift Street. We arrive in a cloud of dust and are greeted by Daddy’s tenant, George Johnson, better known as “Hoss” or “Big Hoss.” Today, I would call him Mr. Big Hoss. He’s a very big man and is reputed to be the strongest man in our area. “They” say he can pick up the end of an automobile by himself. What size car and what end, I do not know. One hand is missing, having been shot off in a hunting accident. He doesn’t have a tooth in his head, but can bite an apple in two. I like him very much, but am somewhat afraid of him, even though he is always nice to me.

Hoss has the dug peanuts ready to be picked off the vines, and David and I start this task. It’s not hard work, although you have to be careful to remove the stems and the leaves from the picked-off nuts. In a short period of time, we have a large quantity of peanuts ready for washing. Hoss, with a water hose, helps us with the washing. By now, Daddy has gone, returning to town to work. We carefully clean the peanuts and put the cleaned nuts in a large black wash-pot, along with an ample amount of water and salt. Hoss then starts a fire under the pot, and soon the peanuts are boiling. We help keep the fire going — this is the fun part — and stir the peanuts with a stick. Periodically, the three of us sample the nuts.

About 12:45 p.m., Daddy arrives in the pickup, and the three of us with two or three large buckets of peanuts return home where Mother and my brother and sister, who are twins, Charles and Lynda, await our return. After another hot meal, Mother, Daddy, David and I, bag the nuts — 124 large brown paper sacks full. We keep four and put 120 sacks in the pickup to be taken to town for selling. Daddy supplies us with “change” (coins and dollar bills) so that we will be “ready for business” when commerce commences. By now, it is 3 p.m. in downtown Perry, and the streets are full of people. Everything looks encouraging and we’re anxious to start our selling venture.

Our 120 sacks of boiled peanuts are tightly packed into cardboard boxes. It takes several large boxes because the large sacks are full. Daddy believes in our giving full measure for the 10 cents — yes, 10 cents — that the customer is going to pay for these “Georgia ground peas.”

We take our supply of peanuts to Gray-Walker Supply (later to be known as Walker-Thompson Supply) which is located in the middle of Carroll Street, and store the peanuts under the watchful eyes of Ed Thompson and Glea Gray. We are going to work out of the “feed store” until we sell all of the peanuts. David and I receive some good-natured ribbing from these two: “You boys probably won’t be able to sell all these peanuts; where have you been all day, your customers have all gone home,” etc. Then, both of them become our first customers and we grossed 20 cents. In a smaller cardboard box, I place 20 bags and David gets 10 bags and we’re out the front door — a little apprehensive but ready to go to work.

Next week: Selling Peanuts on The Streets of Perry.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.