Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Shivaree

Back years ago when folks got married it was a lot different than it is today. They didn’t have the money for a big event so they mostly went to the Justice of The Peace and said the I Do’s and a lot of em Eloped to do it.

My daddy and mama and so many others had to do that. Daddy told how he managed to go buy himself a pair of Sunday go to meetin shoes but when he got em home and opened the box there was only one shoe in the box. He tried em on before he left the store but he never did know how the other one got lost along the way. It was to late to run back to the store so he put on his old shoes and he and mama went on and go hitched.
She said she wore her best flour sack dress and daddy was dressed the finest she’d ever seen. He had on his best britches and shirt. I can just see em both in my mind. My mama had long, black hair all the way down her back and I guess daddy was almost bald headed. I never did ask but all the hair I ever knew him to have was a little around the edges and slick on top.

Like most other folks back then, they went to Georgia to get married, which was just across the line from where we live now. They only paid the Justice Of The Peace a dollar or two. If they’d got married in North Carolina they’d had to have a blood test, etc. etc.

Back when I was a young’un and even before I was born, couples came walkin by our house along with the preacher and right out at the top of the hill from our old barn they’d get hitched cause they were able to step right across the line into Georgia. That’s how close we always lived to the state line and still do for that matter.

And there was an old timey tradition that always took place that night  after the ceremony called a shivaree. All the men folk would wait till black dark and show up in their ole, pick up trucks, some ridin  the back. They’d beat on old pots and pans to get the couple to come out then they’d grab the groom against his wishes and haul him off somewhere and leave him for a while and then  go back and pick him up and take him back home to his new bride and stand outside and serenade em for a while. A very popular song back then was, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Daddy and mama never had a shivaree but they told about this one couple that had just got married and settled in for the night.
 They grabbed the groom and carried him off and set him out and all the men pitched a big drunk and had their own serenading party. The poor, ole feller never made it back home till daylight. He was dirty, scratched all over after wadin barefoot through the briar thickets and plumb tuckered to say the least and mad as an ole sittin hen and so was his new bride. They both were fit to be tied with good reason. She started cryin again after walkin the floors all night and was ready to skin a bunch of hides. He said, “they ain’t no use in worryin about it none.” They went on with their wedded bliss and had a whole house full of young’uns.

 Like my mama always said, “ya don’t know nothing till ya got young’uns hanging around your neck and clingin to your dress tail.” I guess she would’ve known since she raised six of her own and plenty more that she claimed.

Daddy also told how another ole feller came out with his shotgun one night on a bunch of men when they pulled up and jumped outta their trucks. He shot straight up in the air and they high tailed it outta there and there was no shivaree to be had. Apparently he didn’t want to take any chances on fumbling through the dark tryin to make his way home.
It was usually done in fun and most folks went along with it but then sometimes it’d backfire when a city slicker came along. When that happened it was best left alone.

I asked daddy and mama why they didn’t get serenaded or have a shivaree. They said there wasn’t any use in it. I think personally, it was cause my grandma was already living in the house with daddy when they got hitched. Knowing her, she’d brought out a shotgun or a broom handle. I can just hear her now, “I’ll be rotten take (that was her by words) if I’m gonna put up with this stuff around here.” “Ya better get ya selves back home to your women folk or I’ll lay some buck shot in ya hide.” She’d a done it too, and they knew it. Everybody knew my grandma back then and she always said it was a bunch of nonsense. I can still hear her today, “Just a bunch of men folk lookin for a chance to pull a drunk.”

Times sure have changed since back then. There’s no shivaree or serenading going on. The old ways are fallin by the wayside to never be heard of again.
It’s kinda sad in a way.  I’d like to have been a part of the serenading but the shivaree is a whole different thing if ya know what I mean.

                                                            © Susie Swanson, 2015


  1. Susie, That is funny...to just walk across the line and get married. You mom was so right about getting your "mommy" education, once you get your own kids. You have to learn then. Blessings to you, hope you are feeling much better . Also that you are enjoying some good weather. xoxo,Susie

    1. Thanks Susie. I agree. We are still having rain. Hope ur having better weather. xo

  2. Oh I love this story dear Susie. I am able to picture it all in my mind with how you have described the way it was back then. Thank you and God bless you! xoxo

  3. Susie, this was an interesting post! My husband and I were shivareed. We were married in l960, in December. There was snow on the ground and we could hear the people coming by the crunching of their shoes in the snow. Of course we were sorta expecting it so they didn''t catch us by surprise. I'm glad things had changed and they didn't carry him off!

    1. Awww, thank you Charlotte. I can just picture it all in my mind. I'm glad they didn't carry him off too.

  4. I enjoyed your story very much, Susie. It was great. Mama has told me about when she and Dad were married by the justice of peace. You've done a great job with this story.

    1. Thank you so much Brenda. Just about everyone back then got married that way

  5. The Shiveree was a great story. Mama and Daddy were married by a Justice of Peace and told me about the shiveree. You've captured this old-time-way of marriage in the mountains wonderfully. I always enjoy your poetry and stories.

  6. Susie, I've heard of these chivarees before, what a great story. I watch the Walton's sometimes, and I saw an episode where they had a chivaree for the married couple. It wasn't a welcomed surprise to them though.

    I wanted to thank you for inviting me to linkedin, but I don't have a linkedin acct. or google plus, or facebook. I'm just a bit old fashioned that way. I only have my little blog, and I am so thankful to see you pop up every now and then to say hello.

    Have a peaceful weekend, Susie.

    love, ~Sheri

  7. This is a great story, Susie. Telling the history of these old traditions helps keep them alive.