Even though Peggy Allen was young, tiny, and bow-legged from rickets, she was still expected to do her share of field work. After all, as the twelfth of thirteen children born to a poor, black sharecropping family in southern Alabama, the few pennies Peggy earned from picking pecans, hoeing corn, picking cotton and harvesting strawberries were as welcome to her family as the larger contributions from her siblings.
About the only work that Peggy didn’t help with was the family’s surest and steadiest form of income: moonshine. One of the most talented and capable moonshiners in the county, Peggy’s father, Charlie Allen, worked tirelessly making and distributing his moonshine, all the while hiding his stills and evading the local sheriff, who liked a nip of moonshine himself now and again, but surely did want to see Charlie Allen put away. Even being put on trial for making moonshine didn’t stop him; Charlie “did any and everything” to ensure his family’s survival.
And survival was anything but easy in rural Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s. Jim Crow was very much a fact of life, and Peggy vividly remembers the segregated movies, schools, and stores where the local black families were encouraged to open ruinous credit lines, but weren’t welcome to linger. In The Pecan Orchard: Journey of a Sharecropper’s Daughter, Peggy Allen shares the memories and stories of her youth – the hard work, colorful characters, and strict but loving parents who successfully raised thirteen children despite poverty and discrimination.