Well, I’ve Never Met a Native – Stories of the Coastal People of Alabama

Well, I’ve Never Met a Native ~ Stories of the Coastal People of Alabama – by Joy Callaway Buskens

Review published February 2012Lady at manual printing press - Genealogy
About the book
~ from About the Author

“One of her biggest credentials for writing her book is that she is either kin to all the native families or knows them. … The book is a record of the experiences of the people who have lived in this area.”

~ from Introduction

My husband1 … was very critical of the stories as he said they skipped around too much but I have decided to write them just like they were told to me so there are several accounts of the 1906 hurricane and there are ‘repeat’ stories in several chapters. …

Most of the stories have the names of the people I talked to. I picked the oldest natives I could think of and they gave me a wealth of information. …

I have included some family recipes as well as old sayings or poems and places of events and historical significance.

I know a lot of this information is not in correct grammatical English but I put it down the way people in the south talk and I like the mannerisms and way of talking each one had. …

I have tried to put all the names in capital letters so they will stand out when you read the page. There are over 700 names mentioned

Joy Callaway Buskens
» A map of the area starts the book right after the Table of Contents. The latter lists the various stories.» Next is a long list of Pictures Used in Well I’ve Never Met a Native such as a Grocery order from early 1900’s, Aerial view of Gulf Shores after 1947 hurricane, as well as some of the people and their families.

» An extensive list of the Names of Places and Events (not in alphabetical order).

» The book includes an Index of Names with associated page numbers. Names are in alphabetical order by surname but not in the traditional Lastname, Firstname format.

NEAGS Reviewer CommentsAs the author stated in her Introduction, the book is written just the way it was told to her and I believe in the order she obtained the information. This does make the book jump around in time & place, but that is part of the book’s charm. Even if your family is not part of the 700 names, if they lived in this area of Alabama reading Well, I’ve Never Met a Native will give you a great living picture of their life.

The entries, including some pictures, of the hurricanes of 1906 and 1947 are gripping. Remember that you will not find these together. They are scattered through the book.

Note: The author provides ‘source’ information at times but not consistently nor in a genealogical approved format.

Some Excerpts …

p. 86 “… the COBURN school was built out of Deal (fir or pine lumber) wood, called Dunnage now. It was 4 x 4 inch piece of wood that was found on the beach. It was from ships passing in the area. It separated the cargo so the water could pass between the cargo if it got rough. It was used to stack and separate the cargo …”

p. 90 “… Mrs. EMMA said the schools back then were nothing like they are now. They had water in a bucket that they first had to pump and they had a dipper they all drank from.2 …”

p. 144 has a great list of Teacher Rules such as “You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.” Or “You must wear at least two petticoats.”

p. 166 begins a list of Oyster Facts and p. 168 has facts on Crabs.

p. 187 “That was in the days of feed sack dresses.3 … We would get to pick the pieces we wanted and then [Mom] would work hard and usually make twin outfits for me and my little sister …”

p. 198 under a section called Mrs. Eva Walker Holk — One of the Earliest Settlers Mrs. Holk talks about leaving Florida area after homesteading. [The Homestead Act was in 1862; it is not clear whether this is time period or not.] The quote though is amazingly accurate for today.

You couldn’t sell anything for nothing

“They did not buy their land but homesteaded it. when they got ready to leave three years later, they almost gave the land away. That was when the Florida boom busted. ‘The bottom fell out. At first everyone wanted to buy land in Florida and not in Alabama. When the bottom fell out, you couldn’t sell anything for nothing,‘ she said.”


1 Later in the Introduction the author states her husband also got her a typewriter, camera, & tape recorder encouraging her to do something she really wanted to do.

2 If you are interested in one-room country schools, see One-Room Country School Memories on this site. I went to such a school as a child & we did indeed drink from the same dipper.

3 The author doesn’t say but my childhood feed sack dresses were from chicken feed. I did not have a little sister but my mother would often make a doll dress to match mine.

The edition at the Nichols Memorial Library is a 1986 signed original published by Quill Publications, Columbus, Georgia.

Book shelf
This book and many others like it are available for you to research onsite at the Nichols Memorial Library.