Whittling down memory lane
By Patty Singleton-Seay
It’s no secret that an enjoyable hobby can extend your life and reduce stress, but if you need living proof of the benefits a hobby can provide, just talk to CEC members Rex and Pearline Aycock.
Rex has been whittling small windmills, rocking chairs, wagons and more from rough cut lumber since he was a young teen. Most of his meticulous work is actually done with a pocket knife. At 14, he carved a tiny guitar from a piece of wood and when he met his future wife Pearline, he gave it to her as a loving gesture when they began dating.
Through the years, Rex has created all sorts of wonderful things for his family. He made a fully functional replica of an early American wagon for his first-born daughter, and in the late 1980s, he began working on a multi-structure farm which is a miniature version of his childhood home. It includes a double-pen log house with a perfectly scaled fireplace, a staircase leading to upstairs bedrooms and windows covered by wooden shutters. The farm has an outhouse, a barn with a hay loft and corn crib, a smokehouse and a hen house with nesting boxes. All of the pieces are hand-crafted from Florida cedar which Rex cut and saved during the 53 years he and Pearline lived in the Sunshine state.
The farm is so authentic that it’s easy to see just how important attention to detail is for Rex. “I started making the house first in my spare time,” he says. “After I retired as a heavy equipment mechanic in 1991, I was able to spend more time on it. I wanted to recreate my old home place and every piece had to be square. After spending thousands of hours on it, I finally had everything about like it was all those years ago.”
Rex’s old home place is a perfect illustration of the ‘good old days’ I heard so much about growing up. It’s difficult to imagine those arduous ways as normal daily life, but the more I think about it, the more I can appreciate the lessons this way of life provided.
It’s interesting to talk to people like Rex and Pearline who not only lived through a vastly different period in our nation’s history, but who are taking steps to preserve their memories for future generations. The old Aycock home place reflects a way of life that existed for centuries.
During my conversation with the Aycocks, Rex showed me the miniature battlin board he made and discussed how people got dirt out of their clothes back then. “We used a battlin board to get clothes out of a wash pot of boiling water, put them on a wood block and then beat the dirt out of the clothes,” he says. “Once the dirt was gone, we rinsed the clothes out and hung them on the clothes line.” I must admit that when I got home that afternoon, I had a whole new appreciation for my washer and dryer.
Rex and Pearline are making the most of their retirement years and I admire the life they have created together. Rex turned 84 in May. He and Pearline remain active by working in their garden, going to church, keeping up their home, visiting friends and family, and pursuing their hobbies. Rex has a twinkle in his eye when he talks about whittling wood and restoring damaged guitars. Pearline enjoys crocheting and they both love going to the Golden Corral restaurant every Friday.
I thought a family member might inherit the old Aycock home place someday, but Rex says it’s headed to a museum when he gets ready to part with it. “I want everyone who is interested to have an opportunity to see it, so I’m going to put it somewhere that it won’t just collect dust,” he says. There is no doubt in my mind that his family will be very proud that something so masterfully created by their loved one will be shared with the public for many generations to come.