yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Decatur County Printers, 1983). Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.


Lillye Younger

At one time it was a widespread of the rural American scene. Despite the fact that the tradition has faded away in some places, not so in Decatur County. The tradition remains proudly alive here.

The month of May has been designed as Homecoming and Decoration month." The aged old custom dates buck far as 1910.

Each Sunday in May is set aside as an annual decoration day at various churches and cemeteries in the county. Oft times it spills over into the month of June.

Graves of loved ones are cleaned off the week before and early on Sunday morning when nature is dressed in it's best "bib and tucker" colorful plastic flowers, as well as fresh ones, are whisked into the cemetery by the loved ones and placed on the graves.

Should there be forgotten graves, extra flowers are placed thereon until the cemetery is punctuated in colorful shades of spring, resembling an old fashioned flower garden.

In the 1920s these flowers were made from crepe paper. They were attached to wire and created beautiful roses of varied hues. Then they necklaced the graves from head to foot. In May fresh flowers were plucked and placed in blue water filled fruit jars at the head of the grave.

Today the plastic floral sprays and wreaths have taken their place. The entire cemeteries are adorned with these weatherproof arrangements. Fresh flowers are also intermingled with the arrangements.

The day percolates with activity. Mom has to prepare a big basket lunch for her family and those who drive from miles away to the annual homecoming. Included in the basket is fried chicken, baked ham, potato salad, green beans, cole slaw, sandwiches and numerous varieties of cakes and pies, plus gallons of iced drinks. There is always plenty of food left over.

Prior to the dinner, which is not spread on the ground now as in the yesteryears, but on wire tables, elbow height, church services are held at the churches. Some decorations are held in the cemeteries where there is no church and the services are held in the cemeteries.

After the bountiful meal, all good singers, plus famous quartets assemble for an afternoon singing.

Among Decatur County churches where the decorations still prevails are Cross Roads, Camp Ground, Pleasant Hill, Sardis Ridge, Bible Hill, Judson, Bear Creek, Mt. Tabor, Oak Grove, Old Center, Keeton Springs, Cedar Hill, Jeanette and cemeteries which include Dukes, Mt. Zion, Lafferty, Bawcum Wylie and Decaturville Cemetery. There are perhaps others not listed.

Fashion also plays a major role in the aged old celebration. Each one dons a new outfit and the colors resemble a rainbow in the sky after a summer shower when the sun shines out.

The sad part of the celebration is when relatives who traveled from other states have to make their adieu. Tear stained eyes gazed seriously into those of distant relatives with an unanswered question, "Will we all be able to attend next year or will someone answer the call of our Maker? Thus another year fades into memories awaiting the next decoration day and homecoming.

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