By Norris Chambers

            In the olden days large families were quite common. Our family was an exception. I was the youngest of three children. My sister was 18 years older than I and my brother was 20 years older. My brother’s oldest son, Clifton , was about my age. We were together almost as much as brothers. This tale, however, is about a larger family.

            One of my good school friends was part of a family of 11 children. They lived in an old house on one of the main roads and farmed 160 acres of sandy land. The oldest boy had graduated but still lived at home and the oldest girl had married and moved away. This left only ten children at home. Six of the family was in school and three were too young to attend.

            My friend, Bert, had spent several nights visiting me. I enjoyed his visits and we always had fun when he was visiting. He kept insisting that I spend a night with him. I hesitated to agree since I knew there were so many in his family. He kept insisting and telling me that there was plenty of room and that one more wouldn’t make any difference. He finally convinced me and I agreed to spend a Wednesday night with him.

            Bert and his brothers and sisters rode the school bus, so when school was dismissed I accompanied him on the ride to his home. When the family got off the bus the kids ran into the house and I heard one of them shouting, “Ma, we got company. Bert brought a friend home to spend the night.”

            “That’s nice,” she answered. “Who is it?” Before there was an answer we walked in the door. Bert’s mother knew who I was and I had seen her several times. She gave me a friendly greeting. 

            Someone was asking if there was anything to eat. Before there was an answer a big platter of biscuits appeared on the dining table and everyone was applying butter and sugar to the inside of the fluffy delicacies. They were very delicious and in a short time the platter was empty.  A ball game started out east of the barn and we continued to have fun until time for the evening chores.

            Each family member had certain chores to perform. Bert was an official milker and was assisted by a younger brother. We had to find the five cows in the pasture and drive them to the lot where they were fed in a long rough along the side of the barn. Since I was a proficient milker I assisted and the chore was finished ahead of schedule. By the time the other family members had finished their evening chores the women folks had supper ready and we all sat down at a long table. There were long benches on each side and two chairs at each end.  The food was good. There was some sort of canned meat and two or three kinds of canned vegetables with fresh baked biscuits and two big bowls of mashed potatoes. Some of the diners drank coffee, some drank milk and some of us had water.

            After supper some of the children huddled around the table with a couple of kerosene lamps and worked on school assignments. There were two checker matches and a domino game in progress. Bert and I played some checkers and helped some of the younger kids with their home work. About eight o’clock some of the family began to drift off the bed. I had wondered what kind of sleeping arrangements were provided for such a large family.

            The house had been well designed for sleeping accommodations. The main body of the old house was a shotgun type about sixteen feet wide and thirty feet in length. The walls were constructed of 14 foot one-by-twelve boards with one-by-four slats over the cracks. The walls supported the attic and roof and there was no framing. This type of construction was common in the country. Rooms were attached to both sides of the house. Their height was eight feet on the outside and about nine on the house side. These rooms extended past the back of the house and both joined a back side room to make rooms around the sides and back of the house. A wide porch extended across the front. There were two large rooms in the main house and a door at the end opened into the back area where a stairway provided access to the attic and halls on either side that ran the entire length of the house with openings into four bedrooms on each side. There was also a bedroom in the back portion and an outside door that opened into a well beaten path to two toilets about 75 feet from the house. With that many people I suppose two were needed. There were plenty of bed rooms for a large family like Bert’s. The bedrooms were equipped with a bed, a storage chest and a large mirror. Ordinarily two children were assigned a room, usually two that were closer to the same age. As a guest I was to sleep with Bert and a younger brother. It was not uncommon for three kids to sleep in the same bed.

            The night passed quickly. We had a nice breakfast, milked the cows and got ready to meet the school bus. I considered it a nice visit. I had fun and learned a lot about how large families live, however, I knew that some of the large families did not fare as well as Bert’s. They were fortunate to have a good house and a good farm that produced enough food for the family and enough surplus to sell for such necessities as clothes, shoes, etc. But regardless of how poor a big family might be the members were all happy and proud of their brothers and sisters.

            If this tale has a moral it might be to be proud of what you are, thankful for what you have and have fun at all times.