VAUGHN: Humble beginnings taught importance of hard work

Ralph Vaughn, The Murfreesboro Post, February 3, 2013

Many of us Baby Boomers believe that our parents and others from that age group were truly the Greatest Generation.

They endured the Great Depression and fought a war on foreign soil to help preserve and protect the freedoms that we hold dear in America.

While preparing this article, I began to reminisce about my parents. My father, J.D. Vaughn, was born in a log cabin in DeKalb County, Tenn. My mother, the former Betty Cantrell, was reared in a similar, modest environment in the same county.

Mother is a great storyteller, and it’s from her that I developed a love for family and local history. While I have heard her many stories hundreds of times, I still enjoy them.

Her mother and father were married in 1918 and began housekeeping with only a few hand-me-downs. They had $10 dollars between them and were able to rent a house for $2 per month with my grandfather farming as a sharecropper.

My dad was the second child in a family of eight children. They also were sharecropping farmers. In 1940, there were very few job opportunities in DeKalb County, so my dad joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, where he earned $30 a month with $25 of that paycheck given to his parents.

After a year, he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army, which had a guaranteed income. Then on Dec. 7, 1941, life in America was turned upside down when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

My dad was trained and sent to the South Pacific where he remained for five long years on the front lines with no furlough or rest and relaxation.

Mother’s story includes the untimely death of her father when she was almost 10 years old, her mother getting typhoid fever and nearly dying, and the uncertainty of growing up while eking out a living by sweat of the brow.

In 1946, my dad returned home from World War II. My parents met and got married.

Dad had purchased a used automobile with his mustering-out pay, but he knew that a car would have little value if he was going to support a wife and possible children. He then sold the car and used the money to purchase a team of mules.

The only vocation he knew, besides the military, was farming. He and my grandfather purchased a farm together in Warren County, Tenn., near the Centertown community.

I made my entry into the world in 1947, and soon afterward, the farm was sold and we moved to DeKalb County where I was reared.

I know that everything is relative, but it is a little difficult for me to believe those were the “good ole days” when I consider that my dad earned $2 a day as a farm laborer. He and an uncle dug graves by hand for a funeral home in Smithville for $10 a grave, with each earning $5.

Later, my dad became acquainted with a large landowner Herbert Vickers, who offered us a sharecropping opportunity. Vickers would provide the land, the seed and the fertilizer if we provided the sweat equity. That relationship lasted for 20 years, which also included my dad purchasing a farm of his own in 1957.

I remember my mother being worried almost sick with the idea of Dad purchasing a 60-acre farm for $5,000. She was taught during the Great Depression that a person should avoid debt and not be beholden to anyone.

In my opinion, my parents and those from that era were the Greatest Generation.

But who knows, maybe my grandchildren will look back someday and think that today’s generation should be considered one of the greatest because of the technological advancements. After all, everyone has a subjective opinion.

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