It was about five minutes until midnight on New Year’s Eve. I checked the time on both my watch and my cell phone. I went to my front door to welcome in the New Year of 2019.
It was so quiet outside, you could probably have heard a pin drop. No traffic was on the streets. No house lights, except ours, were on. No sounds of any kind were heard at midnight to welcome in the New Year. The night was just so still and quiet at midnight, it was eerie! Not even a dog was barking.
My wife was still in the house. When I told her how quiet it was outside, she said, “Well, did you make any noise?” I told her I was afraid that someone would call the police and have me charged with disturbing the peace. I did think about shouting Happy New Year and honking the car horn.
Norris City has changed since growing up in this same neighborhood. Nearly everyone would be outside at midnight to welcome in the New Year. All of the church bells in Norris City would ring. People would shoot shotguns and set off fire crackers. Car horns would be honked and large pans would be beat on to make noise. Cow bells or hand bells were rung. Anything was used to make noise.
We used the same things to make noise at the New Year as newlyweds used when they were given a Chirivari (pronounced shiv–uh–ree). When a couple got married, they would expect to have a group of family, friends and neighbors visit them just after they had gone to bed and turned out the lights. Every visitor would be outside their house making loud noises to wake them up. The visitors would then be invited in by the newlyweds for a party. The newlyweds were expected to have on hand the food and such for the party. They just didn’t know when it was going to happen. Sometimes a newlywed man would have to do something in fun. One time a man had to push his wife in a wheelbarrow down Main Street in Norris City.
The version of a charivari practiced in this area was practiced in the Appalachian Mountains. It is no longer practiced around here or in the Appalachian Mountain area.
When the noises were made at midnight to welcome the New Year, and when a charivari took place, usually the animals in the neighborhood would join in. Dogs would bark, the cows would moo and the roosters would crow.
Yes, a good number of people in our neighborhood had dairy cows and chickens back then. We sold milk, butter, and eggs, and I delivered these items to people. I could stand in our yard and see and count seven barns, including ours. Others were blocked from my view by houses. Also, buildings to house chickens, including ours, could be seen. Some people had horses. Dr. Bill Harrell, on the south side of East Main, had his pasture (now a housing subdivision), where he kept his horse to pull his buggy. One of our neighbors, Hal Bryant, had a team of horses. We usually kept our team of horses at our dairy farm south of Norris City. Sometimes we could even hear the guineas of Norris Bruce, between here and Ebenezer, going potrack, potrack.
We had barn cats to keep down the mice population and dogs that roamed free on our properties. One neighbor had a beagle dog that would go around the neighborhood and beg for food and we would all feed her. The neighbor had to pen up this beagle before rabbit season, because she would get so fat that she couldn’t go rabbit hunting with him.
Now, cows and chickens and most other animals are not allowed in Norris City town limits. The stockyards where the new Masonic Lodge is located and the two hatcheries we had back then are now illegal. The produce and feed stores that brought chickens back then would not be legal today either.
Today, residents are told what animals they can own, how many they can own, and where these animals can be housed.
When Dairy Day started, a dairy calf would be awarded in a drawing on Saturday night. I guess that would also be illegal today.
People back then took care of and protected each other’s animals, and the neighborhood was like a family and helped each other.
Another change today from when I was growing up is that you never hear of an Irish Wake today. When a person died, their body would be brought back to their home and the casket would be put in the living room of the home for the visitation. Food was brought in. The family and some friends would stay up all night and visit with each other and stay with the deceased person. The body was never left alone until after the burial. The last Irish Wake I attended was, I believe, the one for my uncle, my dad’s older brother. My grandmother Oliver was Irish on her dad’s side, and she died before I was born, but I was told she always followed Irish traditions. Her mother was of Scotch ancestry.
This practice for mourners to keep watch or vigil over their dead until they were buried used to be the custom in most Celtic countries in Europe, and was known as a “wake.” This practice is still common in Ireland and northwestern Scotland, but is now almost unknown in their big cities. The Irish Wake is perhaps one of the best known funeral traditions associated with Ireland. The Wake is considered to be a glorious send-off for the departed loved ones and an important part of the grieving process preceding a funeral. A Wake is a scene of both sadness and joy, as the end of that life is marked, but the life itself is remembered and treasured.
Times have changed, and I personally don’t think it is for the better. I miss the old days when we didn’t have all of the hatred that we have today.
If anyone would like to share with the readers of these articles how it was growing up for them, please contact me at Edward Oliver, P O Box 456, Norris City, IL 62869 or email me at email@example.com.