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Letter From Carlton A. Gilfillan, Jr.
Concerning the Bryans

August 24, 1997
3908 East Valley Court
Raleigh, NC 27606

Robert Jackson
1914 Ottersrest Lane
Cape Coral, FL 33990

Dear Bob:

I want to first of all thank you for all your efforts in your endeavor to record information about the Bryan family. It is a task that will be greatly appreciated by our children, grandchildren and all those that come after us.

I share your enthusiasm for this type of work. My Dad and I have been working on the Gilfillan genealogy since 1990. It has been very rewarding, if for nothing else than to give us time to spend together. We have traveled to many different places throughout the eastern US searching for our "roots." As a result of all the information we collected, I have started a Gilfillan Family Page website at: www.mediaconsultants.com/gilfillan.htm. This site also contains information about the Bryans and several other families closely associated with the Gilfillans.

What I remember about the Bryans:

I am the son of Carlton A. Gilfillan, Sr., and Myrtle Evelyn Gore. Myrtle Ellen Bryan (1897-1989) was my maternal grandmother, and we always called her Ma Ma. As a youth, I spent every summer from the age of 6 until the age of 16 with my grandparents on their farm on Highway #9 between Loris and Longs, SC. During those years, we had many visitors, and almost all the Bryan brothers and sisters would periodically drop by to see us. I remember those visits well. The Bryans were smart, strong, hardy people with an unusually well developed sense of humor. They were all raised by Luticius and Prudence Bryan on a small dirt road several miles west of Sweet Home Baptist Church (near Longs, SC) in a relatively large, and apparently unpainted, single story house. Ma Ma pointed it out to me on several occasions when I was a boy and young teenager. I think the house was destroyed in the late 1950’s.

The Bryans weren’t wealthy, but they were not the poorest family around either (I heard Ma Ma and Aunt Frosty talking about this one time). The late 1800’s and early 1900’s were a hard time for most folks, wherever they lived. Large families were commonplace and I think the Bryans had a total of twelve children. Ma Ma often told of traveling by horse and buggy wherever they went, and I remember she said that they once even went to the beach (somewhere near present day Cherry Grove). These were the days before the beaches were developed and there was nothing except long expanses of sand dunes and sea oats.

She once told me when she was a young girl, that there were strange animals lurking in the swamps around Buck Creek, and that they would come out at night and occasionally kill a chicken or a pig. She said that her father, Luticius, called them polecats. Now a polecat is supposed to be a skunk-like animal, but Ma Ma said Luticius Bryan killed one and brought it to their home. She said it was not a skunk, but was more like a large wildcat and had a tremendous stench about it. Many neighbors came by to marvel at it.

I remember Ma Ma telling me about the first time the Bryans ever saw a motor car. It was in the very early 1900’s and a neighbor had a friend who came visiting in one of these new contraptions that everyone had only heard about. By some means or other, some of the Bryan children were invited for a ride in this new automobile. Well, the driver got that car up to about 30 miles per hour and they were all screaming for him to stop because they couldn’t believe how fast they were going! They all had a great time.

Ma Ma had a great sense of humor and I hope I have inherited some of that from her. Maybe in those hard years when they were growing up, you needed a good sense of humor just to keep going. Maybe we would all be better off if we took a few moments to laugh at our daily troubles and stress.

Ma Ma loved a good joke, including dirty or naughty ones! This is especially odd when you consider how religious she was, but she loved to laugh, and I remember well her bent over double in laughter and her smiling round face just beaming. I am going to relate a couple of her favorite jokes that I remember her telling, but one, I warn you, may not be fit to print and pass on to our descendants. One of her favorites was about the preacher who was invited to come for Sunday dinner (by the way, Dinner was always around 12:00 PM, and Supper was around 6:00 PM—I don’t ever remember having Lunch). When the family and preacher were properly seated, and as the family was very politely passing the bowls of food around the dinner table, the little boy looked at the bowl of fried chicken and said, "Mommy, this doesn’t look like buzzard." "Why, son, what do you mean?", said the mother. "Well, you said we were going to have the old buzzard for dinner on Sunday," said the boy.

One of Ma Ma’s dirty jokes that I remember overhearing as a teenager, and one that remains one of my favorites, is about the little farm boy who got up grumpy one morning and stomped into the kitchen where his mother was preparing breakfast. His mother turned to the little boy, and said, "Remember, you’re not going to have any breakfast this morning until you go out and feed the chickens, slop the hogs, and tend to the old cow." Still grumpy and mumbling the little boy got up and stomped out of the kitchen. On the way to the farm yard, he ran into an old hen, and angrily kicked her and said, "Get out of my way you old hen!" Next he kicked at the hogs and threw the slop bucket down at them, and then, still mumbling, kicked at the old cow while he was feeding her. When he got back to the kitchen, the mother came up to the little boy and said, "I saw what you did, and because you kicked the chicken, you’re not going to get any eggs this morning. And because you kicked the hogs, you’re not going to get any bacon this morning. And I saw you kick the cow and you’re not going to get any milk this morning." Just then, the father came storming into the kitchen, just as grumpy as the little boy, and hauled off and kicked the old pussycat. "Well," said the little boy to the mother, "are you going to tell him, or should I."

I remember sometime late in the 1950’s, we had gone to Loris on a hot Saturday evening for our once-a-week shopping, and Ma Ma and I were walking one of the side streets of Loris, trying to catch up with my grandfather, when we suddenly turned a corner and found ourselves in the middle of a group of about 10-12 Black men. Now this was not a terribly bad period of time for racial tension, but it was becoming more important. Suddenly, right in the middle of the group, Ma Ma froze, and I stopped with her. Turning slowly, she eyed one of the older black men and, recognizing someone she had known in years gone by, she said, "Henry, is that you? I thought you were dead! As a matter of fact, you look like you are dead!" Everyone broke out laughing and Henry nodded "Yes’m Miss Mrytle," as she gently squeezed his arm and we walked on our way.

One of my favorite true stories of Ma Ma, occurred in the early years of advertising and marketing when some of the larger companies realized that a good way to sell its product was to give out free samples via the US Mail. Well, one day Ma Ma got a free sample of a new chocolate candy laxative called Ex-Lax. Looking at it closely, she nibbled off one corner, and thought that it tasted just like Hershey’s chocolate bars. So, she ate the whole thing! Well, nothing happened for a few hours, but later that day, everyone heard a loud shriek, and Ma Ma went tearing off to the bathroom, leaving a brown trail behind her! They never let her live that one down, and she always got a laugh out of it.

When my family moved to Raleigh in the late 1940’s, we lived for a while in the garage apartment behind Uncle Roland Bryan and Aunt Lutie’s house. Uncle Roland had a great sense of humor and was always a joy. We boys admired and looked up to him. He worked for years for the JM Thompson Construction Company of Raleigh, and many years after his death I made several videos for the Thompsons. They still remembered him, and most surprising, his picture was openly displayed with honor among all the founding fathers of the company.

Aunt Frosty and Uncle Oscar were always some of my favorite people. Aunt Frosty always reminded me of a little school girl, excited, eager, telling little stories and gossiping. Uncle Oscar was the mild-mannered opposite. He was always calm, deep-voiced, and had a ton of great stories to tell us boys. Whenever Aunt Frosty seemed to be getting out of hand, he would always say in this slow, good-natured, deep voice, "Now, Frosty..." and she would lower her voice and try to be quieter.

In the late 1960’s, Uncle Ivey Bryan came to live with Ma Ma at her home after my grandfather Gore had passed away. I visited many times and got to know Uncle Ivey very well. He loved to read and was fascinated with stories of early man and early civilizations. I was an anthropology major at UNC Chapel Hill and was doing field work in a black community near Ma Ma’s home. Uncle Ivey and I spent many great hours together solving the world’s problems and discussing the true evolution of man and civilization. Uncle Ivey always dressed immaculately, even just sitting around the house. He was a real southern gentleman and for years had lived on Sullivan’s Island and worked in Charleston. Some years after his death, with a stroke of good luck, I rescued many of his favorite books from being thrown away and have them in my possession now. I occasionally remove one or another from the shelves and fondly remember those days we spent together.

Many of the other Bryans I remember from the Bryan Family Reunions. Uncle Benny Bryan had 10 sons and one daughter, and my Dad would always go up to him at the reunions and ask, "Uncle Benny, now how many children do you have at this reunion?" Uncle Benny would reply, "I have 10 sons and each one of them has a sister!" Someone would always say, "You mean you have TWENTY children?" And Uncle Benny would just laugh. What great times those were. We took them for granted, not knowing how fortunate we really were to be part of such a wonderful family.

Here are some of the old recipes for country cooking that mother remembers from Ma Ma. Note, that almost none of these recipes would be approved today, since they are not healthy enough. But mother reminded me that in those days, you had to make do with what you had. You couldn’t run to the grocery store whenever you were out of some little something or other. I can personally tell you that these recipes make for some good eating.

Old Southern Greasy Rice

(My brother Wade and I loved this dish and Ma Ma prepared it often.)

Boil a pork backbone or hen or chicken and save the broth. Spoon off some of the excess grease and add about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Use this mixture instead of plain water to boil and prepare your white rice. Cook as normal until done. What a taste treat with fresh butter beans or field peas!

Southern Biscuits

There was no secret recipe or cooking instructions, but Ma Ma believed that you had to use real lard, buttermilk, and self-rising flour. I still remember the taste of good, hot biscuits early in the morning just as the sun was rising!

Southern Fried Okra and Yellow Squash

Make a mixture of salt, pepper, and self-rising flour and place in a paper or plastic bag. Place fresh cut okra (sliced into 1/4" to 1/2" pieces) or squash (cut into 1/4" slices) in the bag and shake vigorously. Remove okra or squash from bag and place in hot oil (mother likes Wesson Canola Oil) set on medium to medium/high. Fry for about 5-6 minutes or until they are crispy but not black. Be careful not to stir the okra too much as it will become slimy. Remove the okra or squash and let drain in a plate on several layers of paper towels. Much better than the heavily breaded types found in some restaurants!

Southern Style Butter Beans

Prepare fresh butter beans and add 1 pat of real butter or 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings (always keep bacon drippings around the kitchen—store in refrigerator to keep fresh). Add a little pepper to taste and a little salt. Add as much sugar as you do salt. Sugar is an important spice and enhances the flavor of most foods. Place in pressure cooker and cook on medium for 6-7 minutes, then turn off and let sit for 6-7 minutes. Remove lid and enjoy!

Southern Field Peas

Prepare fresh field peas and add 2 pats of real butter or 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings. Add pepper, salt, and sugar as above for butter beans. Place in pressure cooker and cook for 10-12 minutes and let sit for another 10-12 minutes. Open and enjoy. Field peas are always better if you use more butter or bacon drippings and cook longer than for butter beans.

Tender Beef Roast

(One of my favorites, and one which mother and Ma Ma prepared often.)

Select a chuck roast or other roast with a little fat (fat makes it moist and tender). Cover the top of the roast with sliced onions. Place in a covered container (like a Pyrex dish). Add 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and cook for an additional 2 hours. For an extra treat, add sliced carrots and potatoes in the last 30 minutes. This method can improve even an inexpensive cut of meat.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Special Barbecue Dipping Sauce

(This is one of our favorite recipes and is easy to prepare. It was given to us by a friend
who supposedly had to trick an old man into giving up this secret family recipe.)

Prepare the Special Barbecue Dipping Sauce by melting 1 stick of butter in a medium sauce pan. Add 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of Grandma’s Molasses, and 1 cup of Heinz ketchup. Sprinkle with garlic powder to cover the top of the mixture. Now, sprinkle with onion powder to cover the top of that. Next, sprinkle with black pepper to cover the top of that layer. Sprinkle to taste with red crushed pepper (usually enough to cover 1/2 the top of the mixture). Simmer over low at least 1 hour or until desired consistency is reached. Grill the fresh pork tenderloin on low to medium heat on an outdoor grill. Cook 45-60 minutes turning 1/4 turn every 10-15 minutes. Cut into slices 1/4" thick. Serve with a small, individual dish of the Special Barbecue Dipping Sauce. I’ll bet this will become one of your favorites! Refrigerate the leftover sauce and warm the next time you serve it. This stuff is great and gets better with time!

I hope you can use some of this. Good luck with your book, and please let me know when it is completed. Let me know if there is anything else I can do. I have enclosed this letter as a Windows Write Document in case you are using a word processing program to write your book.

Sincerely,

Carlton A. Gilfillan, Jr.