By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
In a quiet country setting, not very far from bustling Alabama Interstate 65, nestled in a crook in the road near Tally Ho Street in Cullman is a living recreation of rural American farm life in the 1930s.
Peinhardt Farm Living History Museum has been carefully captured and preserved for future generations so that this way of life will be understood and appreciated by those who have never known the taste of milk fresh from the source, or sweet, creamy butter, churned by hand, nor smelled newly mown hay, discovered the little miracles provided by industrious hens each morning, or observed how useful objects can be crafted from hot, molten metal.
Perhaps retired teacher and “School Days” museum volunteer, Glenda Harbison, says it best when she vividly describes her experience there:
“After retiring I decided to spend several days of October in a different kind of classroom — Peinhardt Farms,” said Harbison. “As usually happens when I think I’ll ‘help’ someone, I received much more than I gave.
“Some days, the blue sky and drifting fall leaves were so beautiful, it seemed I should have paid admission to be there,” she laughed. “Peinhardt Farm (except for the passing vehicles on nearby I-65), feels like it is far away, in both time and space,” she mused.
For Harbison, the Peinhardt experience started each day the moment she got out of her car. “A deep breath brought a whiff of the smoke from the wood fire in the cook stove,” she describes. “A short walk to the museum brought me into warm fellowship with other volunteers — most of whom I had not known previously, but who I now recognize as some of the finest people in the land. They treat each other (and greenhorn volunteers, like me) with patience and respect; students receive the same kindly attention.”
According to Harbison, the Peinhardt family has been hosting students for many years, but each child is still greeted with a smile, and treated as though he is the first school child to ever visit the farm. Volunteer orientation includes a handout which reminds volunteers that “The children and teachers are our guests. Be hospitable.”
“It’s a good reminder, but hospitality goes without saying with Peinhardt volunteers,” said Harbison.
Harbison is amazed by the massive amount of work, planning and careful coordination required for each school group visit. “Through the Peinhardt family’s generosity, area children are able to experience the activities, smell the smells, touch the items, and even taste the apple butter that might have been part of a child’s October day during the heyday of the farm,” she explained.
“My favorite part was at the end of the day when workers from each station began returning animals to the barn,” she said thoughtfully. “From my hillside vantage point, I had a perfect view of the field and horse stations as they began to shut down for the day. When the mules were driven in, when the horses were led to their evening’s rest, and when the covered wagon headed up the hill at the end of the day, I felt like I was an extra for the filming of a western, or maybe I had somehow taken a ride on a time machine.”
Harbison refers to country music personality, Minnie Pearl, when she says, “I’m just so proud to be here!”
Connie Hudson has been a Peinhardt Farm School Day’s Volunteer since 2007. Like Harbison, she also finds it a very rewarding way to give back to her community.
She loves hearing the exclamations of wonder coming from wide-eyed school children as they witness something as simple as an old-fashioned wringer washing machine. “It is quite a shift from the electronic gadgets that they are accustomed to these days,” chuckled Hudson. “It also seems to amaze the children when they finally grasp just how many hours it took for people to prepare and preserve food for the winter.”
“At first it’s hard for them to comprehend that people lived like this, in a time when they couldn’t just run out to the store and buy what they needed,” she pointed out. “This really brings it to life for adults who were raised in the city, as well as for children.”
Another thing that visitors to Peinhardt Farm always enjoy are hot biscuits straight from a working wood stove located in one of the farm buildings. “They get to eat a hot, freshly buttered biscuit topped with homemade apple butter,” she smiled. “They love that.”
Hudson feels privileged to be a part of this living history lesson. “I think that the people of this area are blessed to have a family like the Peinhardts who work all year so that children can see what life was like on a farm,” she said. “I often point out to the children that these fields must be plowed, grain planted, and crops tended — this didn’t just pop up overnight for the month of October. The people who prepare for this are very hardworking and dedicated to this place.”
Many of the museum’s log buildings were donated by area residents, while others, like the barn, are original to the property.
Dr. Bill Peinhardt has lots of memories centered around that barn when he was a young man.
"I remember the barn dances,” he said. “I was too young to do anything but slide across the wooden floor made slick with some substance, maybe soap, with neighbors Tim and Jack Richter. Also, reshingling the roof, originally built in 1933. It was roofed with wood shingles. Asphalt shingles were placed on top of the wood shingles in 1953. Today you can still see the wooden shingles from inside the barn."
“This barn was built before Carl built the house and he hosted barn dances in the 1930s to raise money to build the main house," said granddaughter, Rachel Peinhardt Dawsey. "Carl was a skilled banjo and harmonica player and loved music. His daughter, Carolyn, still plays the piano, accompanying churches. Her daughter, Pat, plays the accordion, as well as, looks after the farm animals and makes sure everything runs smoothly. Without her, this family venture probably wouldn’t be possible. Son, Eddie, is a beloved vocalist- still singing in the Revelations quartet and for funerals. The Peinhardt family often gathered in the living room playing and singing, including every Christmas gathering with carols sung together."
Maybe it is because of such fond memories that the family continues to share the farm, making memories for others now.
Tours start soon for School Days, and don’t forget to mark your calendar for the general public on October 26!
Peinhardt Living History Farm
Carolyn Peinhardt Johnson
PO Box 781 Cullman, AL 35056
email@example.com or call 256-734-0850
Peinhardt Farm Day
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct 26
From Highway 278, turn onto Talley Ho St. SW, and be directed for parking.