Kenneth Jenkins was born just below Winfield. His grandfather and grandmother raised him until he was 13 years old. He talks about his life growing up in Carroll County.
MEG GRIFFIN: I’m Meg Griffin. And joining me today is Kenneth Jenkins. It is, first, Friday, January 30.
Thank you, Mr. Jenkins, for being with us today and sharing your memories. Where and when were you born?
KENNETH JENKINS: I was born down below Winfield, between Winfield and Eldersburg, 8/7/27. That’s about the 7th of August. I’m just a youngster.
It was out in the country, in the boonies, so to speak. We didn’t have any uh– any conveniences. Uh, it was– my grandfather and grandmother raised me until I was 13. We didn’t have any conveniences, uh, no– no running water, no electric, no, uh, no nothing.
MEG GRIFFIN: Wow.
KENNETH JENKINS: And uh, but it wasn’t bad. Lot of other families in the same, uh, same boat.
MEG GRIFFIN: Was it like a farm setting or–
KENNETH JENKINS: Basically it was a, uh– my grandfather had 40 acres. But he was a carpenter. So he didn’t farm it.
At one time, it had been formed, because there was a tobacco house with tobacco still hanging in it, uh, on the property. And they had a wood shed, a corn crib, a cow– cow barn, I guess you’d call it, and an outhouse.
Uh, like I say, no conveniences whatsoever, not even a pump. The water came from a spring.
MEG GRIFFIN: So did you have to carry it?
KENNETH JENKINS: I had various duties. I had– the water, the spring, was down over the hill, probably 30 yards, 40 yards. And that was the spring house also where they had boarded off water about 10 inches deep. And that was your refrigerator. You could set milk and butter and set anything in there you wanted, that you’d normally put in a refrigerator today.
So I had to carry water. That was one of my duties.
MEG GRIFFIN: On days like today, did it freeze over? What would you do when it was very cold?
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, you had to break the ice. But that’s the only water we had.
MEG GRIFFIN: Did it ever freeze?
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah, it froze over. But we could always get into it. Uh, didn’t freeze much in the– in the spring house. When the water’s running, it doesn’t freeze as quick. But it did freeze.
Uh, so I had to carry water. I had to, uh, carry wood in, uh, had to take the cow. We had one cow. I had to take the cow up to the meadow every day. Buttercup, I remember it very well, it was her name.
So I’d take her up to the meadow, which was maybe a quarter mile, and go up and get her in the evening. And, uh, she used to help me along, nuzzled me. She kind of liked me.
MEG GRIFFIN: Did you have to milk her, too?
KENNETH JENKINS: Nah, I didn’t milk her. I left that up to Grandma. And, uh–
MEG GRIFFIN: So did you go to school?
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah, I went to Winfield School for seven years, elementary school.
MEG GRIFFIN: Did they have high school back then?
KENNETH JENKINS: No. Then later on, I moved up with my mother in Westminster. And I went to Westminster High. But I was a ninth grade dropout.
MEG GRIFFIN: Oh, were you?
KENNETH JENKINS: Because it was time. I was rearing to get into the war like most people– most guys– were at that time. They were standing in line to get in. So, uh–
INTERVIEWER 2: What war was that now?
KENNETH JENKINS: World War II.
MEG GRIFFIN: So you left for a while then, to be in the war?
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, there’s a little more to it. I, uh, was only 16 when I dropped out. And I wanted to go into the Navy. So I tried to alter my birth certificate. But the ink we eradicated that day wasn’t very good.
So I ruined my birth certificate. And then I found out you could go in the Merchant Marine at 16, legally. In the meantime, though, I was in what was known as state guard. You could go into state guard at 16.
And I don’t know when they discontinued state guard. But it was– existed at that time. I would assume that the state guard was for the state like the National Guard is today for the whole country.
So I was in the state guard for a while and had an army uniform and had meetings at the armory, the armory that exists today. And, uh–
INTERVIEWER: So were you living at home and doing that?
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah. In the meantime, wondering how I could in the Navy at 16.
Anyway, I found out that the Merchant Marine was taking you at 16. But you had to go to maritime school, which was in New London, Connecticut– Connecticut. No, that was not New London, Connecticut. It was Sheepshead Bay, New York. New London, Connecticut was the submarine school that I almost got later.
Anyhow, Sheepshead Bay had– it was like a Navy boot camp. But it was for the Merchant Marine, what they called the Maritime Service.
INTERVIEWER: So you went on a–
KENNETH JENKINS: So I went that. And then I spent two years in the Merchant Marine, uh, last two years of the war. And then I got in the Navy.
MEG GRIFFIN: How long were you in the Navy?
KENNETH JENKINS: 22 years.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow.
KENNETH JENKINS: So I was away–
INTERVIEWER: You found your calling.
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah, finally made it. Uh, I came home on leaves at different– during the 24 years I was gone, I got home every now and then on leave or whatever.
INTERVIEWER: But you didn’ t live in Carroll County during that stretch of time?
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, when I came home I was in Carroll County, yes, uh-huh. Because that was my home.
INTERVIEWER: So how long was it– when you came home, how long were you home usually at a time?
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, it depended. Uh, you could get 30 day leaves. But usually I didn’t, uh, take 30 days, because I got bored.
INTERVIEWER: So you really got to see the county change. You being able to be gone and then come back and be gone and come back, you really see the growth.
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, the, uh– the big change that I’d seen was, as you say, growth. I can remember when I was, uh, you know, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old, 13 years old, there was nothing in Carroll County but towns and farmland, Manchester, Hampstead, Westminster, Taylorsville, Mount Airy, so forth. And everything else was farmland. And that’s amazing to me today, because if you look at it today, what have you got?
And, uh, well, you had farmland. You had some general stores, a couple general stores, and maybe a wormseed oil distillery and cannery and stuff like that. But other then that type function, it was, uh– it was all farmland.
MEG GRIFFIN: Very rural.
KENNETH JENKINS: It was nice.
MEG GRIFFIN: Yeah, so seeing it–
KENNETH JENKINS: And, uh, the roads, I travel the roads today. You can see the parts of the roads that existed when I was a kid. If you go to Manchester, you can go off the main road– from Westminster to Manchester, you can go off the main road. And the side roads was the old road. And–
MEG GRIFFIN: So they haven’t changed much.
KENNETH JENKINS: Same way going to New Windsor, say. You got the old New Windsor road, and you got the new one. Well, the old one was what we used when I was a young ‘un. And Taneytown, same way, the old Taneytown road. So it was none of the big highways. They were–
INTERVIEWER: Do you find yourself using those roads now more often?
KENNETH JENKINS: They bring back some memories when I drive by ’em. And I go on ’em sometimes. Yeah.
And, uh, one other thing, when I was roaming around my grandfather and grandmother’s, I, uh– most of the 40 acres was woods. I had found some, uh, Indian arrowheads, probably three or four. Uh, and I’m sure other people found a few of them. They’re around.
INTERVIEWER: So what was their history, your grandparents? Were they original to that farm?
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah, they were original– I think they were original to it, yeah. And, uh, I used to roam around the woods. And I– I really enjoyed it. I had a ball. Uh, found a couple caves. You know, on 40 acres of woods, you can find a lot of stuff.
And they had a creek running down. I think the name of it was Piney Creek. And it was down in a valley. It used to had two names they called it, Gobbler’s Hollow and Skunk Hollow.
So, uh, and you– you couldn’t drive out if it was muddy or snowing, because it was a steep hill. We were right in a valley. You had to park cars way up at the top, yeah.
Then there’s the general store I used to go to, uh, I want to call it Dorsey’s Crossroads. An old timer, it’ll probably– it’ll ring a bell with ’em. It was about a mile. I used to walk down there. And for a nickel I could get a big soda. And another nickel, I could get a big bag of candy, you know.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have siblings or were there friends around? Or did you kind of wander on your own?
KENNETH JENKINS: I had some– I was mostly a loner, because we were so spread out.
MEG GRIFFIN: Yeah.
KENNETH JENKINS: Uh, yeah, it–
INTERVIEWER: Sounds like a great place to grow up.
KENNETH JENKINS: It was.
INTERVIEWER: So did you have any kind of traditions that you remember as a child?
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, traditions, uh, I don’t know this would come under the term tradition. Uh, when I was 8 or 9 years old, 10 years old or something, I killed a rabbit. Went hunting, and I got a rabbit.
And for some reason, from that day on, I love animals. I hate to see any of them killed. I hate– I’m not a fanatic now like this, uh, what do they call it, PETA or whatever.
MEG GRIFFIN: Yeah, yeah.
KENNETH JENKINS: But I just love animals. And I don’t know whether that killing that rabbit started it or not.
INTERVIEWER: Did you eat the rabbit that you killed?
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: So that was kind of traumatic then for you.
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: So that was the last one you ever did, huh?
KENNETH JENKINS: I haven’t killed nothing, no animal, since. And I hate to see– I hate to see some– a deer or anything along the road.
KENNETH JENKINS: I guess I’m a wimp. I don’t know.
INTERVIEWER: No, you emphasized. So when you went out to get the rabbit, was it just kind of a fluke? Or you said, I’m going to go out, and I’m going to kill a rabbit.
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, my uncles, uh, they all went hunting all the time. Everybody around there went hunting. So I figured, they can do it. I can do it. So I got a 16-gauge shotgun, went out–
INTERVIEWER: And then you were by yourself.
KENNETH JENKINS: By myself, yeah. And I got a rabbit. And then– it was sad.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Isn’t that something, that it stuck with you? How about the holidays? How were they celebrated in your family?
KENNETH JENKINS: When I was younger or older?
INTERVIEWER: When you were younger. I’m sure they didn’t put all the decorations up at Halloween like they do nowadays.
KENNETH JENKINS: No, it was usually just a dinner or something, uh, at my grandfather’s, nothing– nothing much for celebrating.
INTERVIEWER: Just pretty low-key.
KENNETH JENKINS: Low-key is right.
MEG GRIFFIN: Yeah. And now does your family hold reunions? Do you see all the–
KENNETH JENKINS: No, no reunions. There’s not much of that side of the family left.
INTERVIEWER 2: Maybe we should, because there isn’t that many left.
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah, well another interesting thing is, uh, most of my grandfather and uncle and aunt are down at Messiah Lutheran Church there. It’s near– near Barrett, down on 97. Uh, it was probably my great grandfather that bought a plot there. And I had the– the, uh, actual sales slip. They bought eight plots for $2.50.
INTERVIEWER: Geez. Oh, that’s something worth keeping.
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, two of them– uh, six of them are full. And two of them filtered down to me. So I’m going to use one. And I don’t know what’ll happen to the other.
But I had $2.50 for eight– it was all in one area, but eight, for eight. It was eight plots. So I thought that was, uh, rather cheap.
And the fact, it filtered probably from my great grandfather down to me, two of them. That was interesting, too.
MEG GRIFFIN: Yeah, yeah. Now how about that property that you grew up on? Is that still– still in the family?
KENNETH JENKINS: No. No, that was sold. But I don’t– I never got down to the house. But there’s been houses built up around there. But they probably ruined it by now.
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah, because there was, you know, nothing around.
MEG GRIFFIN: Um, oh, I know. What were your neighbors like when you were growing up? They say, in the old days, neighbors were much more involved.
KENNETH JENKINS: They were good. They were good neighbors. I didn’t have any– we didn’t have any too close. I guess our closest neighbor was, uh probably quarter mile. Uh, overall, we had good neighbors. Uh, I don’t think any of us ever locked the houses in those days. Don’t want to try that today.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, yeah.
KENNETH JENKINS: But I don’t know of anybody that locked their homes when I was a kid.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, that’s the way it was when I grew up.
KENNETH JENKINS: Uh, I had to, uh, walk quite a ways to get on the bus when I was going to Winfield, uh, up to another neighbor’s. That was probably a half a mile or more. And I walked through snow and everything to catch the bus. And, uh–
INTERVIEWER: That’s changed nowadays.
KENNETH JENKINS: Yeah.
MEG GRIFFIN: I just see people in cars at the end of driveways with kids, you know, a long driveway. So how– would you, in general, say that progress has helped the county or are you kind of the easy going type?
KENNETH JENKINS: Well, it’s– it’s helped the county. It’s, uh, uh, industry. And, uh, it’s given people the conveniences, uh, that we didn’t have, you know, running water and electric and–
MEG GRIFFIN: Yeah.
KENNETH JENKINS: All that good stuff, but, uh–
MEG GRIFFIN: So I guess-
KENNETH JENKINS: As far as– as far as life, I– I didn’t know of anything better. I really enjoyed myself when I was a kid, on the 40 acres, roaming.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, compared to now with kids, with what kids have to deal with today.
KENNETH JENKINS: Oh, and something else, I never heard of– never heard drugs. I never heard of cocaine, never heard of marijuana, never heard of anything.
INTERVIEWER: Even in the service?
KENNETH JENKINS: No, no, no, I’m talking about–
INTERVIEWER: As a kid.
KENNETH JENKINS: As a kid. Oh, in service I heard, not too much though.
Uh, alcohol was there. And cigarettes was there when I was, you know, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, and even older. Uh, but never heard of– never heard a drug mentioned. I don’t know if they were around or not. But I doubt it. And that’s one sorry thing about today’s society.
INTERVIEWER: I think we can– OK.
INTERVIEWER 2: Excellent.
MEG GRIFFIN: Cool, thanks again, Mr. Jenkins, for sharing your memories with us.