106-year-old Eubanks describes how families lived during the early part of the 20th century

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

PERCY CREEK &045; At 106, Mary Eubanks vividly recalls the constant work that defined life for sharecropping families at the turn of the 20th century.

&uot;Before school, we used to pick boll weevils until Momma struck the iron three times.

Then we put the buckets down and walked to school.

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The children don’t have nothing to do now,&uot; she said.

Eubanks was born March 27, 1897 &045; one of six children Tom and Millie Brown raised on a Wilkinson County plantation known then as the Whitaker Place.

The Browns were among 50 black families who lived on the plantation.

Resting in her favorite rocking chair, Eubanks recalled how those families worked together during hard times.

&uot;Back then, you had a neighbor living close &045;you bought a wagon together.

If one farmer got ahead with his crops, he would go help the one who was behind.

That generation is about dead and gone now,&uot; she said.

Vegetable gardens were a necessity in those days, and families also sold peas, beans and peppers they raised in fields.

Eubanks said church activities provided the only entertainment.

&uot;We would invite people to the church on Saturday night sometimes.

We had a good piano player, and we would sing gospel songs.

There wasn’t no dancing.

Things have changed since then,&uot; she said.

Eubanks attended Alcorn State College and in the 1920s began a 32-year teaching career at several small community schools throughout Wilkinson and Amite Counties.

&uot;I never had a cross word with a student or a parent.

I never had to go to the superintendent.

And there was so much in books then that’s not there now,&uot; she said.

Eubanks, whose grandmother was sold into slavery in Virginia and later freed in New Orleans before settling in Mississippi, is proud of her role as an educator and values the civil rights that African-Americans have won in her lifetime.

&uot;I remember we used to listen to the radio and hear who won the elections, but we couldn’t vote,&uot; she recalled.

A mother of three with five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Eubanks has lived with her daughter, Sophronia Jackson in the Percy Creek community since 1988.

Eubanks, who eats a wide variety of foods and insists on a cup of coffee each morning, still attends Sunday school and church services near her home.