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A Look Back: How our predecessors spoke

Here are some additional words or expressions that were used here in Hartselle in the closing decade of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th.  One item dates from the 1930s.  

It might be the case the reader will find he or she still employs them in everyday speech now. 

Let other people’s business alone—This was the advice of the famous London preacher of the mid-1800s who said the best people were, “the people who mind their own business and let other people’s business alone. 

Let well enough alone—The conservativelyoriented person is against changing something that is already good enough. Trying to improve it might only make it worse. 

Likeness—A picture of something or someone, either drawn or made with an Eastman Kodak. 

Loggerhead turtle—Loggerhead turtles are the most abundant marine species in U.S. waters.  Though their numbers are declining, they are the largest of all hard-shelled turtles. 

LogrollingOriginally this meant, literally, that farmers would help each other in rolling logs prior to their being sawed into pieces of lumber to build dwellings and barns. If one man rolled a long log, he would be rolling it in a circle otherwise. Here is a newspaper item from 1916: “A.J. Crider had an old-fashioned working last week, a logrolling and barn-raising. He was well-furnished with help, there being 38 men present. The women cooked and carried the dinner two miles and served it in the open.” In politics, logrolling means reciprocal help for passing legislation, as in a Hartselle representative helping one from Anniston and vice versa. 

NeighborlinessClosely related to this is helping those in need, answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Somewhat more recently – September 1933 – it was reported in the newspaper that Carl Ruehl was driving on the Bee Line Highway and noticed a car stopped on the side of the road with a flat tire. The ladies who were stranded asked for assistance, and Carl got down on the edge of the pavement, placing a jack under the disabled car. He had not gotten the car jacked up before another car came rushing by and ran over Carl’s leg, crushing his pelvis bone and internally injuring him as well. This car did not stop.   

In those days there was no ER. Carl was carried to his place of employment, and a physician was summoned. This physician directed his companions – there were no paramedics – to take him to the Hillman Clinic in Birmingham.  Although critically hurt, Carl survived when he ultimately got the professional care he needed. 

Paul Jones—This was a brand of whiskey first made by Mr. Jones during the year the Civil War ended, 1865. In 1866 he removed to Louisville and acquired Four Roses, among other labels. In 1889, Jones purchased J. G. Mattingly & Bro. distillery in the same city. In 1902, Paul Jones and associated brands were purchased by a Wall Street syndicate. 

Pop-skull—Inferior or cheap whiskey. 

Rigged up—To make something quickly out of whatever you can find, as in, “They rigged up a shelter using a sheet and some branches.” 

Rode the Billy—This was a part of the initiation ceremony for a man desiring membership in the Odd Fellows fraternal group – I.O.O.F., International Order of Odd Fellows: “He would have to ride a billy goat, Off he would fall but get on again, And more he would ride until men already Members would agree that the candidate was worthy of being part of ODD Fellows.” Hartselle has had several fraternal groups over the years, including the Masons, the Knights of Pythias and the Knights of Honor. It has not had Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellows once had an orphanage located at Cullman. 

Shingle—To hang out one’s shingle is to establish a professional practice, especially in law or medicine; to open an office, as in, “Three new lawyers recently admitted to the bar have hung out their shingles in Hartselle.” 

Shoestring District—An election district gerrymandered into a long, narrow strip, usually to benefit a particular party or party faction.  In Alabama in recent years, districts have been gerrymandered to make it more likely African-Americans would be elected.