The Chicken and the Turtle

by Jule Spohn

I grew up in an apartment building on South Orange Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets back in the 1940's. The first Black family that moved into our neighborhood back then was Roosevelt and his wife Lottie and their four children - Geneva, Mary, Junior, and Goo Goo. Every summer they would go down South for vacation and would always bring something back for the other families who lived in the building.

One summer they brought back a crate of live chickens and gave one to each of the kids to bring home to our parents. I can still remember being so happy with the black chicken that Lottie gave me. I ran home with it under my arms, rang the door bell, ran up the stairs, and just as my mother opened the door the chicken flew out of my arms toward my mother. She screamed, shut the door, and told me to take the chicken back to Lottie.

What Lottie did with the chickens was amazing - especially to all of the five or six year old city kids who had never seen live chickens before. In the back yard, she wrung the heads off of the chicken, where upon they chickens ran around for a few moments with no heads on, and blood squirting up from their neck, where their heads once were, and then fell over. Lottie then plucked the feathers and sent the cleaned chickens back with the kids to their parents.

Another year Roosevelt brought back a huge turtle. Must have been three or four feet in diameter. The biggest turtle I have ever seen. Over the weekend several of the kids father's helped Roosevelt kill the turtle. I can still picture in my mind how they tried to get the poor turtle to stick his head out from under it's shell, etc. When all was said and done, Roosevelt and the fathers, enjoyed home made "Turtle Soup."

We didn't have much money back in those days, but I sure have one heck of a lot of memories that money can't buy.


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