Annie Milson’s Adventure
By Dorothy Williams, age 8, 1938
This lively adventure tale was written by a “white little girl” in rural Georgia during the Depression. Among other things, the story reflects the unquestioned racial assumptions of many white children of the era.
The Large Room
Once upon a time there was a little girl whose name was Annie Milson. This little girl lived in Althea, Georgia. Now one day Annie was walking towards town down a road which led by the cruel people’s house. A woman was leaning out of a window and when Annie went past the window, the woman reached out and picked her (Annie, I mean, of course!) up! She took her into a large room where there was nothing in the world but some old chests and a few shelves on which were some bottles. Over to one of the chests she went and took out an old torn-up dress and put it on top of the chest. Then she took a bottle from one of the shelves and started towards Annie! Now of course you have decided that the woman was crazy, but she wasn’t. The woman (whose name was Mrs. Higgens) said to Annie, “Come here, you brat.” Annie obeyed. She was too frightened to do otherwise. Mrs. Higgens undressed her and poured something that stung from the bottle onto her head. She then dressed her in that awful dress and led her to the door!
Work or Be Whipped
Poor Annie! She had been snatched into a strange house by a strange woman. Mrs. Higgens opened the door and led her through it. There in the other room (which was also very large) were many sinks, towels and safes. On each sink were many dishes, some soap and a rag. Mrs. Higgens rang a bell and a lot of little girls (who like Annie had been grabbed from the street) came running in and looked at Annie with pitying eyes. One of the girls came over to Annie and told her this: “Mrs. Higgens gives us a certain length of time to wash, dry and put away all these dishes, and if we aren’t through when she comes in, we are whipped with that buggy whip you see over there on the wall. Come with me.” Annie felt better, for this girl was friendly. She went with the girl (Alice by name) and soon found herself busy washing dishes at a sink. Annie was putting away her last dish when Mrs. Higgens appeared. One girl was not through and began to hurry and broke one of them. Annie pitied her. She whispered to the girl in the next sink, “Does Mrs. Higgens run it by herself?” The girl told her, “Yes, she runs it by herself. She wouldn’t have anybody else. The Meany.”
Night came at last and Annie was glad to go to a little cabin where she was to stay. There she found Alice who said, “I am going to be your roommate. Tonight I will tell you some of the things we do here.” Annie listened to her tell of the many things they did in that terrible place. After awhile they began to get sleepy and went to bed. The next morning they had an egg for breakfast. “You see, Mrs. Higgens does try to keep us fit for the work by an egg for breakfast,” said Alice. Then they went out to play for they did not only have to work there. They played most of the morning and about 10 o’clock they washed their dishes. Nobody was slow today. This went on for two whole weeks. Then something happened. I will save it for another chapter though.
Another Horrible Place
Early one morning Annie was standing at the door of her cabin. A big truck drove up to the front gate. Soon Mrs. Higgens came out to them and told them to get in the truck. Soon they were riding along well known roads to the country. Finally they came to Baileyville and soon the man in the truck drove up a driveway and stopped. A woman came out of the house and looked at them and asked something about how much Annie and Alice would cost. She took them out and into the house. She told poor Annie and Alice that they were to be her maids. And so they were for a month. Always doing hard work and meekly obeying her orders, poor souls.
A Blessed Man
One afternoon Annie was in the kitchen making some delicious sandwiches when suddenly Alice exclaimed, “Annie, here he comes.” For the mistress of the house was to have company that afternoon and he was now riding up. Their mistress ran to meet him and they came back to the house. As soon as the young gentleman saw them he exclaimed, “Why, Mary,” and began muttering something about she shouldn’t have white little girls for maids and that he was going to do something about it. He asked, “Who are you little girls and where did you come from?” “I am Annie Milson and this is my friend Alice Palmer and we come from Althea,” said Annie in an excited tone of voice before Alice had time to say a word.
The good man asked them many questions. He gave them good clothes and each a horse to go home on. They gave him many thanks and started on their way. Soon they arrived home and Annie, with a thankful heart, ran straight into her Mother’s arms for the first time since that awful day when she was going to town. Mrs. Milson planned a big dinner for the celebration of her daughter’s return. They would have many friends and relatives to their dinner and in the afternoon would do and play many things. Roast apples, nuts, marsh mallows and pop popcorn, ask riddles and play cards. Finally the day came. Annie was up at an early hour. Their many guests arrived. In the afternoon, when the guests were leaving, they carried Annie and Alice in turn up on their shoulders and threw flowers at them and shouted, “Three cheers for two adventurous girls!” And that night Annie said to her Mother, “I shall never go past that house anymore, and if I do, I will walk on the other side of the street.” And with that she fell asleep.