Helen Fairchild Celebrates 100th Birthday

This interview was conducted at the home of Mrs. Helen Fairchild across from Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.  She is in good health but has to use a walker to get around.

Question: What was life like growing up in the early part of the 20th century?

Miss Helen: My father was born in 1861 while the war was going on, and he and my mother got married in 1899.  But they didn’t have me until 1915.  There were only two phones out in the country.  So when my mother was expecting me, my father went to get the doctor, who came to our house with his horse and buggy on a Sunday.  He stayed with mama and never left until I was born on Tuesday.  We didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.  We went to the bathroom in the outhouse and never used toilet paper.  We always used the Sears Roebuck catalog.  We used lime to reduce the odor.  We took a bath in a tin tub, size 3.  In the winter, we bathed indoors, but during the summer, we bathed on the long back porch.  It wasn’t a terrible life.  Everyone else was like we were.  To keep cool, we used a hand fan.  When you went to church, everyone was fanning themselves, and it was the same at funerals.  The funeral homes gave out fans to everyone.  When we had free time, we’d often sit on the front porch and enjoy a breeze.  Houses were always built with a view of how to get the best breeze across the porch, and windows were built to maximize circulation.  When I was small, we didn’t have screens on the windows, but we did use mosquito bars, which were nets over our beds.  Later we got screens.  We treasured trips to the grocery store and the grist mill once a month.  I’d always get some sticks of candy.  We children learned to entertain ourselves.  We made up games or played baseball, although we never had a bat.  The girls made mudcakes and decorated them.  I learned to drive a Model T car.

Question: If your parents were here, what would they think about things that are going on today?

Miss Helen: They would be shocked! My daddy would say, “I want to go back!” My father taught us to be honest, have faith, and trust in the Lord.  If not, you don’t have anything.  Honesty was always the main thing with my father. But remember this: Whatever is wrong today, we still live in the best place.

Question: At your age, you’ve lost many friends and loved ones.  How do you handle that?

Miss Helen: The hardest thing is losing a child. I lost my parents, husband, sister, and my son.  You don’t get over it.  You just learn to live with it.  A lot of people are overcome with grief.  What I’ve found is to keep busy.  Whether you have a job or not, keep busy.  I loved my church work.

Question: What is your advice on raising children?

Miss Helen: Most parents work today.  Remember this: Children need security.  They need a place to  feel safe.  When my grandchildren got off the bus, they came here.  I was always here for my children and grandchildren.  Have them in church and Sunday school, love them, and make them feel secure.

Question: What is your secret to long life?

Miss Helen: Vegetables and fruits are good for the brain.  We had peaches, apples, figs, pears, and vegetables like beans, peas, squash, cucumbers.  Name it and we had it.  My dad was a cattleman.  The formula is, just keep living!

Miss Helen lovingly showed photos of her husband George and told about his blacksmithing.  She showed old photographs of the Fairchild family and talked about George’s brother, the late Dr. Jesse Fairchild, who wrote the History of Greenwell Springs to 1950.  “I wanted him to write more and tell everyone what life was like here!” she said.

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