Friday, September 19, 2008

The Old Scrap Iron Heap

A few years ago I was walking around an old farmstead with the elderly owner. Although the farm had ceased being an active farm more than 50 years earlier, many of the old buildings were still standing. As we walked over the place the elderly lady would point out items from her past that I would normally overlook. And each old building or ruin would be a catalyst for a vivid story from the past, as if it happened only yesterday. At one point we came upon an old pile of rusty scraps of iron next to where the chicken coup once stood – old hoe blades, farm machinery gears and plows were piled high. I asked her about this collection of rusting farm artifacts from days gone by and she replied, “Oh my, that’s PaPa’s scrap iron heap.” As we sifted through the contents of the rusty heap she told me the story of Itawamba County scrap drives during World War II.

Recently I was thumbing through a 1942 volume of newspapers looking for an obituary for a researcher and came across several advertisements for a Scrap Drive. These advertisements brought back memories of that day on the farm. From reading the advertisements, the 1942 Local Salvage Committee for Itawamba County were S.H. Alexander (chairman), A.T. Cleveland, G.C. Pratt, Sam Cooper and A.D. Graham. During August of 1942 a big junk rally was held for Fulton with the theme “Let’s Jolt Them With Junk from Itawamba County.”

Small towns all across America had such scrap drives. From farm families to citizens of towns, these drives generated a strong sense of community and a proud patriotic feel that everyone was doing their share with the war effort. During that August 1942 drive in Fulton, farm families from all over the hills and valleys of Itawamba County brought their scrap iron and steel, old rubber, rags, manila rope, burlap bags and waste cooking fats to the collection point. It was a time when Itawamba County was just coming out from under the Great Depression and most folks didn’t have much at all – yet they were proud, thrifty and determined. That hot August day in 1942 was a special day in Fulton. It was a special day when neighbor visited with neighbor, and all citizens had a strong sense of duty, feeling they were doing their part in serving their country during rough times.

Now when I look at the photograph I took of that little scrap iron heap, there is more meaning to the picture – it’s not merely a pile of refuse, but represents the patriotism shown by the determined citizens of Itawamba County more than 66 years ago.

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