Lacoochee – Whistle



The Whistle


My name is Betty Jean Pennington Weeks and I was born in one of Cummer’s houses on December 3, 1933. I moved away from my beloved home town when I was 20 years old to join my husband, Buddy Weeks, serving in the U. S. Army and assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. But then, that’s another story for another time.

It was not until I became a mature adult, and had moved away from Lacoochee that I realized what an important part the Cummer whistle played in our daily lives. I found this to be especially true during the years of World War II

During these war years, alarm clocks could not be found in the stores. It was just one of the many things that were not available during this time. So, the whistle became the “alarm clock” so to speak, for the residents of Lacoochee.

Each morning promptly at 6:00 a.m., the whistle would blow — thereby the wake up call to get the workers out of bed and give them two hours to have their breakfast and get everyone fed and be on the job at the mill by 8:00 a.m.

At 7:45 a.m. each morning (Monday through Friday) the whistle would blow once again. This was the “call whistle,” the signal to let everyone know they had 15 minutes to get to work.

Again at 12:00 noon, the whistle would blow. This meant to stop working as it was time for lunch. Back then, we called it going home to eat dinner. The night meal was called supper.

At 12:45, the “call whistle” would blow — reminding the workers they had 15 minutes to return to work.

This was the daily routine for whistle and residents but on Friday, the schedule was somewhat different. Each Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m., the regular whistle would blow followed by the blowing of the “wildcat whistle.” This meant payday and all the mill workers ran to the pay office to avoid waiting in line to receive their pay envelopes. Cummer always paid in cash.

This same whistle would alert all the Lacoochee residents in case of a fire. The regular whistle would blow a certain number of times accompanied by the wildcat whistle. The blowing of the regular whistle would indicate the location of the fire — the white quarters, black quarters, short quarters, the mill, or whatever location was involved.

During the war, the whistle would alert Lacoochee residents of a “blackout.” When it blew, all residents were to turn off all the lights in their homes and the whole town “went black.” During this time, the town constable would ride around checking to see that everyone was in compliance. When this exercise ended, the whistle blew the “all clear” signal and the lights were turned on once again.

Until I began writing this, I did not realize how faithfully the whistle served everyone who lived in Lacoochee. I don’t know how we would have ever gotten along without it. The old whistle is gone . . . . but not forgotten.

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