This little phrase pops up often in the old Caddo newspapers, especially in the locals or obituaries. One of the things I’ve noted often is that there weren’t any addresses given in announcements of meetings, weddings, or other events. It was just assumed that you knew the location of all the churches and businesses and most people. Even if a location was given, it was the “Cossart building” or the “Freeny home”, not a number or street.
Sometimes people weren’t even given complete names in the old papers. Residents referred to as Granny Jones or Mrs. Smith must have been familiar enough so that readers knew which granny or Mrs. Smith they were referring to by the context of the item. A couple of years ago I tried to determine the first name of a “Mrs. Smith” mentioned in a court hearing and was dismayed to find there were fifteen in Caddo at the time. I finally gave up.
Accounts of weddings and new businesses most often used the term “well known to everyone…” and obituaries used the phrase “loved and respected by all who knew them”. In a small town that is usually true, even if it isn’t. An elderly woman recently told me that the first lesson she learned upon moving to Caddo from the city was, “If you don’t like someone you’d better keep your mouth shut about it. Anyone you complain to is probably their cousin, uncle, or best friend!” So true…
I suppose it was, and still is, a blessing and a curse to live in a community so small that everyone knows most everything about you. My mother used to say that she knew all she needed to know about her neighbors by looking at their laundry hung on the clothesline. And then there were party lines and gossip, church prayer requests and newspaper reports. Not good to try to keep secrets in a small town!
Having lived twenty years in a city of over 450,000 and twenty+ years in a community that hovers around 1,000 I have to say I prefer the latter. In the city it is easier to be misled by people. It is easier to know someone only by their work, church, or business persona and be clueless about their real values or motivations or intentions. Secrets are easier to keep in a city where people have limited encounters with each other and I have to admit to being fooled by quite a few people. Of course deep, dark secrets can be kept by people anywhere, and one of the worst betrayals of my life came from a person here. But for the most part I feel more comfortable in a community where everyone knows me and my parents and my siblings and nearly everything I’ve done since I was a kid playing on the corner.
The things people know about me include the “good, bad, and ugly”. I’ve made some mistakes in life and I’m not always the best person I can be. I am often cranky and unreasonable and stubborn and opinionated. I think the best thing about living in a small community is knowing that people accept me despite my shortcomings. Either that or they are just keeping their mouths shut! lol