Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Family Reunions

While some would consider family reunions to be little more than a quaint tradition carried on by the “less sophisticated”, Southern culture takes a very different view. Family reunions are an opportunity for one generation to pass along the family heritage to the next generation. They strengthen man’s oldest form of social structure and the foundation of any civilized society.

This past weekend, our family held our 59th annual family reunion. I seem to recall missing one of those reunions about thirty years ago, but I can’t be sure. Missing a family reunion without a very good reason is something that is just not done in our family. It should be that way in every family.

The reunion is held on the first Saturday in June, so planning and scheduling is never a problem. The location is the family farm of my grandparents in a house built in the early 1920’s – long before there was electricity available in that area. At exactly 12:00 noon, the dinner bell is rung by one of the small children (usually with help from the parents). That is the same bell that was used to call the farm hands in from the fields for their noon meal many years ago.

I hope you enjoy these photos from our reunion. Even more, I hope they will serve to encourage you to hold your own family reunion.


  1. Wyandotte

    Nice photos! Looks like a great day. You are fortunate to be part of a tribe that can do these things decade after decade.

    About that peanut boil, now. Can you give any info on how this is done, how the peanuts are prepared & eaten? Is this just done on special occasions or do you Southerners eat this all the time?

    I am more than a thousand miles from you yet I’ve learned from my vegetarian cookbook about Hopping John. Nothing finer than blackeyed peas, and I’m not just saying that, I mean it. I’ve tried about 30 kinds of legumes and blackeyed peas have to be the tastiest.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I’ll have to get the details from my cousin, who boiled them. Boiled peanuts are often sold from road-side stands, so in that regard, I guess it’s an all-the-time thing, but it’s more commonly done at large gatherings. One of my very early memories was going to some sort of gathering at the farm of a fellow that my father grew up with. I was too young to remember any details, but I do remember that they were boiling peanuts there.

      A peanut boil is as much a social event as it is a food source. It’s a bit like having a fish fry (which our extended family has done several times as a “Winter reunion”) in that it is easy to prepare on a large scale and it just seems to draw folks around. Think of how folks are drawn to gather around a fire, and that’s pretty much what it’s like. The peanuts are boiling, and when you want some, you scoop them out with a strainer and put them in a cup to eat out of.

      As I said, I’ll have to get back with more info about how it’s prepared, but how they are eaten is easy. The shell is very soft at that point and easy to open. Techniques vary, but the most common is probably to just remove half of the shell and then eat the nuts out of the remaining half. It’s not very refined, but you sort of slurp them out. There is a fair amount of salty water that comes with it and contributes to the taste.

  2. Wyandotte

    It occurred to me that possibly you would have to start out with (relatively) freshly harvested peanuts? As yet unroasted?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Yes, that is definitely correct. You start out with a big sack of raw fresh peanuts. What I haven’t found out yet is how long they are in there, how much salt (and maybe other spices) are added, etc. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get that information and post it.

  3. Cowboy

    Who’s son are you because I am kin to the Mcgehees of Newberry

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I’m one of Billy’s boys – We’re about two hours drive away from Newberry. We own property in the area and get up there pretty regularly (I’m heading up that way tomorrow), but live in DeLand.

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