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Friday, February 27, 2009

Cameras Over the Years






I love taking pictures; my dad did too. The first camera I remember dad owning was a huge Kodak camera. When taking a picture outside, you held it down on your belly to line it up with the people you were taking a picture of. When it was dark or in the house, it had flashbulbs that looked like golf balls. They, for the most part, were made by Sylvania. They had a blue dot on the top. If the blue dot was not blue, it would not flash. When it flashed, the bulb would partially disintegrate and produce a melted piece of plastic. I can remember my dad always licked the bulb before he put it in the big reflector that held the flashbulbs. The reflector was about five inches across. The moisture from his tongue made sure that there was a good connection between the batteries and the metal screw in the bottom of the flash bulb.
In the early sixties, a new kind of camera was invented that was very easy to use, affordable, and produced pretty good pictures. That was called the Kodak Instamatic. It was a revolution in cameras. Everybody could afford a camera then. More exciting than anything was it’s size. It was small and could fit in a shirt pocket or a ladies purse. My ninety four year old mother in law still has one held together by a rubber band.
Then came the Polaroid Camera. Instant pictures. They were ok, but the pictures eventually faded, the color wasn’t always true, but a person had a finished picture immediately.
For years we have had at our convenience the disposable cameras. I loved them because if you forget to take your camera to a family reunion, or some big gathering, you can stop at the Dollar store or Wal-Mart and buy a camera for five dollars and you are all set. That is the kind of camera I used for years and was perfectly satisfied with them.
Well two years ago, my daughter Melanie, and her husband gave me a digital camera for Christmas. I can remember I kind of looked at this huge box and had no idea what was inside. I have always been scared to death of anything electronic. Melanie was worried that I wouldn’t like it. The box also held a picture screen that she had put a chip in that played pictures and music that she had loaded for me. I knew how to work a disposable camera. What was I going to do with a digital? I thanked her appropriately and took this gadget home. My youngest son, Mike, was excited to hook it up and got the picture screen going. I was thrilled, but had no clue how it worked.
A few days later, my husband and I got out the CD that explained how everything worked and how to take different kinds of pictures. Low and behold the pictures that I took ended up on my computer. Then they ended up as a slide show that I got to watch as I walked by the computer. I was amazed. As time went by, I discovered that my friends envied me because they could look at the pictures I took immediately at the party I was at or some other function. Soon my friends were buying the digital cameras also. Now we exchange chips and share our pictures with each other. I no longer have to pay for pictures that are no good and can keep, enlarge, make videos, scrapbooks and also put some pictures on my blog. I love my digital camera.
Those of you who read my blogs know that I like to put pictures with them. You have no idea the misery I go to to get the 2x2 pictures that have been taken seventy years ago to enlarge and crop so that they show up on the computer without being completely distorted. Thank you for being forgiving.
How I wish my dad would have had a camera like mine. He would have loved it.
I really really love western movies. They often show photographers get under this black drape and take a person’s picture. Once in a great while, it makes me feel old. That’s what it was like the first time I can remember getting my picture taken at a studio. Oh, the pain!

Remember When.....




Remember when you were working and got up every morning at six without an alarm clock?
Now you get up at four or nine or whenever with no alarm clock in the house.
Remember when you took at least one shower a day
Now you really don’t care if you take one or two a week, who’s going to smell you?
Remember when you were a size six with no diet or exercise?
Now we are a comfortable size and who cares what size you are as long as you feel good.
Remember when you didn’t wear glasses?
Now you have to have cataract surgery to get your license.
Remember when you wore cute little baby doll pajamas.
Now flannel is in, bright red slipper socks so you don’t fall, and the finishing touch is a maroon hooded sweatshirt ‘cause you’re chilly.
Remember when you bounced out of bed, had a quick shower, a really quick cup of coffee and hit the road.
Now you get out of bed slowly, slightly bent, make the coffee, drink it all morning, ‘cause you have so much medicine to take it takes a full pot. No road to hit, just the couch.
Remember when you didn’t cough and sneeze in the morning?
Now we cough, blow our noses and barely talk in the morning.
Remember when you didn’t go to the doctor but every five years?
Now you have to have scheduled appointments or you don’t get your medicine scripts renewed.
Remember when you could go out all night, get home at five, take a shower and go to work?
Now if we go out and get home at one o’clock in the morning, it is a two day rehab.
Remember when you were really young, you talked to your girlfriends every night to gossip?
Now we talk to each other just to see if we’re alive.
Remember when you went to movies with your boyfriend?
Now we watch movies on television and fall asleep during the commercials.
Remember when we asked our parents for an allowance raise?
Now we watch the news and wonder if our social security checks will be any good.
Remember when we were kids and swore that we would be better parents than they were?
Now we have kids that are rebels and won’t speak to us.
Remember when we went to the five and dime store?
Now we go to the ten and twenty store.
Remember when we cussed “little ol’ ladies” for going to slow?
Now we are the “little ol’ ladies.”
Remember when we went to bed, we didn’t lock the doors?
Now we have dead bolts and triple locks on the doors.
Remember when our mothers taught us to be ladies?
Now we wear jeans, cross our legs like a man and also talk like one.
Remember when we had kids at home and made them do their chores?
Now we have husbands that have “honey do” lists that we make them do. Same difference the chores never got done and neither do the “honey do” lists.
Remember when a medicine chest held perfume and shaving cream and possibly a lonely bottle of aspirin?
Now there are three cupboards with ear drops, eye drops, a variety of creams, vitamins, fish oils, arthritis this and that and oh, the medicine for what ails you.
Remember when you could remember?
Now it is a rule in our house that whoever gets to the computer first x’s out the day on the calendar or we don’t remember what day it is.
Remembering is an art, that more people should do on a regular basis because not only does it keep your mind sharp, but it makes us laugh at ourselves
Some people say “An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but I say laughter is the best medicine. It may not keep the doctor away, but I can at least laugh when I get the bill, because Medicare paid it!!

Old Tricks For New Days

Last year we had a terrible ice storm. The electricity was out for almost five days. As you can imagine, things were a little tricky. I was not married to my husband yet, but I happened to be at his house when the “lights went out.” His ninety three year old mother and his brother live about a block down the hill from us. It was up to me to cook and care for them while my husband, Fran, did other necessary things, like going to town countless number of times. The reason he had to do this was because even though he said he was prepared for “something like this” he was not. He had no candles, no oil lamps, no oil for the lamps, only two flashlights. He said he had a five million watt flashlight that had been charged. It lasted fifteen minutes. He also needed to purchase all kinds of batteries. The thing was though, every one else in Stockton was out to purchase the same thing. I sent him for drinking water. We are on a well, no power (at the time the park had no generator). The grocery store only had little bottles of water. It was pretty much a mess.
Fran’s mother is a diabetic. She had to have three meals a day. Nothing to cook on. Fran brought in his propane cooker. I had big canners, so I made chicken and noodles, a pork roast one day and boiled potatoes on it. We had lots to eat, but what about coffee? Fran is like a crazy man without his coffee and so is his brother, as well as his mother. I got out an egg and mixed coffee grounds in it. I started a pan of water on to boil. When it was bubbling, I spooned the gooey mess into the boiling water. Presto! Instant egg coffee which my mother made all the time. When you mix an egg with coffee, it clarifies the coffee and makes it taste like gourmet. It is fantastic. I was kind of proud when Fran’s mother had never heard of doing that before. I thought to myself, “Thanks, Mom, you got me through this like you always do.” I think I just gained two or three points with my soon to be mother-in-law.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life With A Five Year Old Sister




I have taken care of three five year olds and it is not easy. I cannot imagine what it was like to live with me when I was five and my sister was a senior in high school.
I did not try to make her life miserable, but I seemed to manage doing just that on a regular basis.
I can remember just three separate events at that age that made my sister, Rosie, livid.
The first one was actually a name of a boy; Donnie Dyslan.
My sister had a crush on him. She would flirt and talk to him on the school bus. I had no idea what flirting was at my age. All I knew was that she paid absolutely no attention to me. I may have acted up a bit, according to Rosie, a lot. I can remember her complaining about me to my mom. Mom just smiled and told her I was just a little girl and pay no attention to me. Well, that was just what I didn’t want. My behavior got worse a little bit at a time. I can remember the kids on the bus telling Rosie that they felt sorry for her having a “kid” tag after her all the time.
The second event happened when she was dating her first husband, Kenny Byerly. He came out to the farm to pick her up. Kenny had acne. I had the measles. You can probably imagine what came out of my mouth. Remember, I was only five years old. I said, “Wow, you’ve got the measles too!” Oh I heard about that for years.
The third event was also on the bus. We rode the bus for about an hour to school. That’s a long time for a little girl who is full of cocoa or Postum and breakfast. You guessed it, I had to go to the bathroom in the worst way. I told Rosie that I had to “go”. She told me to hold it, I told her I couldn’t, back and forth. Finally she had to tell the bus driver, Charlie, that he had to pull into a farm house so that I could go to the bathroom. That was almost sixty years ago. The wrath of Rosie, and one of my most embarrassing moments; especially the walk back to the bus with all the kids jeering at me.
Rosie loved me when I grew up, but when I was five, she cheerfully could have traded me in for a new one.
When she was in nursing training in Sioux City she invited me to spend the week-end with her in her dorm. That was so exciting. They had something for breakfast that I had never had before. Chocolate milk that they had gotten at the grocery store, then they heated it up and called it Hot Chocolate. Mother always made cocoa for us out of cocoa. Rosie’s hot chocolate was delicious. She made me feel very special that week-end. She and I had both matured and were on our way to being good friends.

The Johnson Girls







Before and during the time I was growing up, there was an era that modeling by women and girls, sitting on a car was common. To think of it, the photographers now still like to take pictures of women dressed in long gowns or something quite revealing sitting or standing by a car. Cars were great back drops for pretty girls and still are.
The picture of the old car is of my mother, modeling for my father on a car, that my dad bought for ten dollars. It was a piece of junk that dad and mother restored. Dad had to put tires on it. He bought four of them for ten dollars. He then had twenty dollars invested in the car.
Mom and Dad painted it silver. It was a beauty, but Mother thought it needed a little something special. She took a tiny brush and painted a turquoise stripe all around the body of the car. She told me that story many times and I could always see the sparkle in her eyes, telling how beautiful the old car turned out to be.
Mother never had a driver’s license. When she was young it was not a requirement. One day she was driving this piece of beauty home and somehow lost control of it and landed in the ditch. The damage was not repairable. I guess the wrath of my father was not repairable either. He never allowed her to drive a vehicle again. I think that his decision was his worst mistake of their marriage. She talked and talked about it, even after his death. She even thought seriously about buying a car after he died; I think just to show him. She didn’t buy a car, but she could have. I would like to think that she forgave him, but could never forget how much he hurt her feelings.
The picture of me is on an old 1939 something or other, probably a Chevy. Once again, I was modeling for my father. By the looks of the car, Dad had polished it and made it look great. His greatest wish was for a Chrysler or a Cadillac. When I was a teenager, he bought a 1949 Chrysler. He was absolutely ecstatic. He let my sister, Rosie, drive it, but not my mom or me.
At my father’s funeral, the hearse was a Cadillac. He would have been pleased.

Double Trouble










Lu Anne Elaine! and Bonnie Jean! were names my cousin, Bonnie and I heard pretty much consistently when we were little. I think the ire of Mother and Aunt Nellie was pretty much Bonnie’s fault. I never ever remember being naughty, except for a time or two.
For instance the other day, Bonnie said, “Lu do you remember when we ate the tops off the orange frosted cookies that your mother had plated for the grocery store?”
I couldn’t have done that!! I honestly don’t remember. I can’t imagine how angry Mother was, but I am sure she used our whole names that day including our last name.
Bonnie was the exact opposite of me. She had beautiful brown hair and brown eyes, just like her dad. I had mousy colored brown hair and blue eyes. Bonnie got to wear pants and I did not. Bonnie got to live in the city, I lived on the farm. But most of all, she had toys.
When Bonnie’s family came to visit us, I was glad to have someone to play with. We would swing, and go exploring. I loved to explore. I don’t think I ever got into any trouble doing that. I am sure when Bonnie reads this, she will probably say, ‘Oh yeah we did” I don’t remember.
Bonnie had one brother, Jim. I had a little brother and an older sister. My sister was almost twelve years older than me, so by the time I was six she was gone. I am rambling, it is three o’clock in the morning, couldn’t sleep and got to thinking about Bonnie and the good times we had and the grief that we caused our folks. It was worth it Bonnie, that’s what memories are made of.
When you look at these two old ladies is it not impossible to even believe that we were naughty. I think we look like angels unaware!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Do You Love Me?

Today I was rereading my blogs and the comments and my heart warmed that people enjoy my stories. However, I found out something about myself while I was reading them. You have to understand that I have MS and that causes my brain to misfire sometimes. So I have read and re-read these blogs before I publish them. But today, I realized that in some of my stories I have portrayed my mother as a stern woman that pretty much stuck to business. That was true, but she was not always that way. Today I am going to tell you a story that is pretty much a three part series of stories in one publication.
I have written about my mother baking on a large scale. I have also written about my mother spacing her children so that she always had a baby at home when one went to school. This story has to do with these two things.
My mother was very busy in the kitchen. I am sure she was trying to do sixteen things at a time and unlike me she always got all sixteen things finished. In the midst of her ovens going full blast, her laundry, her cooking etc. along came me complaining that I had nothing to do and no one to play with. I also complained that I was too little to do “work” like her. I can remember she just looked at me, not an exasperated look, but a look like, “I need to do something about this.” She smiled at me and said, “Well let’s make mud pies.” I thought she had lost her mind. She just never played with me because she was too busy. But there was a problem. It had not rained in ever so long so there was no mud. I think Mother read my mind. Out she came with a small pan of water and a tiny tiny little muffin tin. She showed me how to mix the water and dirt to just the right consistency so that it would mold in my little hands. Then came the fun part she and I searched for little rocks or pebbles to make “chocolate chips” that went in my “muffins”. When the muffins were all made and put in the tiny tins, then she showed me how to put them on a flat piece of ground that was directly in the sun. In a few hours I had the most beautiful little mud muffins in the world. That day is the only day she did that and that will stick in my mind forever.
The Garden Helper
My mother always had a huge garden. She canned and froze everything she could get her hands on. These memories I remember vividly. There was one day when I was just a little girl that she took me to the garden with her. She was planting pepper plants. She talked to me while she was working. She explained the difference between vegetable plants and weeds. Sometimes she would plant and sometimes she would pull weeds and throw them in the row for the sun to dry. The day she was planting pepper plants I was “helping” which she was not aware of. She had planted twenty six pepper plants. I was “weeding” and pulled all twenty six plants out of the ground and threw them in the row for the sun to dry out and destroy. They looked exactly like weeds to me. When Mother realized what I had done. She laughed and told me what a good helper I was. Then she picked up the discarded pepper plants and replanted them while she was explaining to me, “yes, they do look like weeds, but they will grow up to have good food on them that we will like to eat.” She did not get angry at me.
Do You Love Me?
My mother was brought up in a very stern, unsmiling household. There was a feeling of aloofness, yet they were a very close family. My mother’s brothers for the most part especially the youngest one were full of fun, but my grandparents worked too hard to hug and kiss and say I love you. Maybe they just didn’t feel like it.
I knew my mother loved me more than life itself. She always hugged me hello and kissed me goodbye. She and dad would say a prayer to God when we would leave their house asking Him to care for us on the way home. She provided for me when I was down and out many times when I needed not only money, but moral support, and one time even a place to stay. She never told me she loved me.
When I was about thirty five or so I decided I was going to ask her why. She was absolutely shocked. She said, “Well, Honey, you know that I love you.” I said, “of course I know it, but you never say it.” I smile when I think of that day, it took a lot of courage to ask her about it. She kind of tilted her head and said, “ My parents never told me either, it was just understood.” We hugged and hugged, but she still could not change. I tell my kids I love them six times a day. I am so afraid that if I forget, it might be the last day.

Fall Housecleaning at Grandma's

I could always tell when it was really fall. The canning and “putting up” was done and mom would say, “Well, we need to go to Grandma’s house today and do her fall housecleaning.” Fall housecleaning at Grandma’s was an early morning to late afternoon job. It was mostly done on Saturday’s so I got to help.
The first thing Mom would do was to pack our lunch. She didn’t want Grandma to be cooking in the kitchen and get in our way. Grandma was a dear person, but walked with a bad limp and was very slow. It did not make any difference, however, Grandma always got in the way. That was her right. It was her house, and anyway, she wanted to oversee what my mother and father were doing.
The first thing that would happen was for the furniture to be moved and the area carpets would be taken outside. The carpets were thrown over the clothesline and beaten with a carpet beater. The beaters were interesting little things. They looked like a snowshoe with curly wires through the middle. Dad would be beating those so furiously that the dust made me sneeze.
Mom would be in the house taking down the curtains. The curtains were pure cotton lace. What a job. They had to be hand washed in a copper boiler with medium hot water. Mother took a stomper and gently agitated them with that. The curtains would be wrung out and draped over the clothesline until they were damp, not dry.
While Mom was outside, Dad would be setting up the curtain stretcher. He was the one that would be in the way because he did not wait until Mom had the walls wiped down and the floor scrubbed. The curtain stretcher took up the whole living room. I can remember Mom fussing at him while she was trying to wash the windows.
The stretcher was a series of thin boards on a stand that had hundreds of tiny nails that were so sharp that they looked like pins.
When the curtains were just the right amount of dampness, the first panel would be put on the stretcher. It took at least two and sometimes four people to do this. The reason being is, that the hem of the curtain top and bottom could not be “dried” uneven. The curtain would completely dry on the stretcher. Since the curtain was one hundred percent cotton, it would dry wavy if the pins weren’t placed about a half inch apart. This was a very time consuming process, so the weather outside had to be sunshiny and breezy to hurry up the drying of the curtains.
While the curtains were stretching and drying, Mother would be cleaning cupboards in the kitchen and talking to my Grandmother who was keeping a keen eye on my mother to make sure she didn’t throw anything away. Grandmother was a saver to say the least.
Dad would help Mom hang up the fresh curtains and the living room would look and smell so nice.
I can remember when Mother bought my Grandmother new curtains that were lace, but were not pure cotton. My Grandmother was amazed that such a thing existed. We still went to Grandma’s every fall to do fall housecleaning, but the curtain stretcher was out in the shed never to be used again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Memories Are Made of This.....




Not everyone is as lucky as I to have the memories that I do. I was reminded of that today as I read an email. I think that this story will awaken some memories for that old friend.
My family is extremely small. My father had one brother, Uncle Roy. His wife’s name was Nellie. As the kids say nowadays they used to “hang out” together.
We used to go to Sioux City and visit them. That was such a fun time for me. They had toys!!! I have mentioned before that we didn’t have many toys. I had two dolls and a stuffed animal called, “sleepy.”
When we went to Sioux City to see Uncle Roy and Aunt Nellie, we got to play with their kids’ toys. I will never forget as long as I live the toy Bonnie Jean had. It was a little washing machine that actually agitated. I could put water in it and it would wash doll clothes. I was and still am amazed. She and I would sit in the living room and “wash” doll clothes all the time our folks were visiting. Bonnie and I are only about six months apart, and for the most part, I don’t remember fighting and arguing. I think I actually got along with her.
What I don’t remember was what Keith, my brother, and Bonnie’s brother, Jim would do. I probably ignored them, or they were too little to do much.
Uncle Roy was a mechanic. I think he really enjoyed his job. My father wasn’t nearly as talented at “fixing” as Uncle Roy was. He would attempt to fix motors, but for the most part, he would have to have help on the tractors from the neighbors. My dad was a genius at inventing things. That’s another story.
I have so many stories about Uncle Roy that they need their own blog space. He always made me feel like I was special. He called Dad “kid” and pounded him on the back. He was always glad to see all of us. He had his own unique laugh when he was tickled about something.
I lived far away when I was grown and didn’t get to see Uncle Roy as often as I should have, but I do have lots of memories of him and will give him the space he deserves and warrants on Lu’s Place.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Did It My Way

When I was in sixth grade I took a home-ec class. Each nine week segment was something different. One was cooking, one was etiquette, one was awfully close to Sex Education, but not quite, and the other was sewing.
The first sewing project I had was an apron. I may have mentioned that in those days, almost all ladies made their own aprons.
I have also mentioned that I never was and am still not like my mother. Any thing she did, she had to do as close to perfect as she could manage. What I did was to get it done.
Well at home we had a Singer treadle machine. A treadle machine is run with your feet. Your right hand would have to be synchronized with your feet because the right hand would run the wheel backwards while your feet pumped like mad to keep it running. Your right hand had to jump right in and keep your left hand company to hang on to the cloth so the seam would be straight. Mine were never straight and my mother would make me rip them out and start over again. Any one that knows me, knows that my patience runs pretty thin when it comes to things like that. My mother knew that I was going to be taking sewing in school so she had to teach me some about sewing before I made a fool of myself. She had me sew two pieces of cloth together over and over until I had it mastered. The treadle machine had a long skinny bobbin that had to be filled to make the stitches hook on to the stitches on the top of the seam. It was put in a thing called a shuttle. She made me fill the bobbin over and over until I got that right.
Sewing class started at school and much to my surprise, they had electric sewing machines. They looked and worked nothing like the old treadle machine Mother had taught me on. I had to start from scratch.
Of course, I went home and told my mother about the school’s sewing machines. My mother had a habit, if she was upset, worried, had a headache, you had to choose one. If you were lucky you got it right. She rubbed her forehead until it got all red. She did that when she heard about the sewing machine. I don’t know how they did it, but they got Mom an electric sewing machine. I got a “C” on my apron. It didn’t make any difference whether I had an electric sewing machine or not, like the song says, “I Did It My Way.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Monday Was Wash Day

One of my fondest memories was “Wash Day.” The kitchen smelled so good with the smell of lye soap that my mother had made and Linit Starch.
Linit Starch came in a box. My mother measured out the right amount of granules and put them in a porcelain bowl. She had boiling water on hand in a tea kettle that she poured in the bowl. Then it was my turn. I got to do the stirring. When all of the granules were dissolved then mom would put collars and sleeves of my dad’s white shirts in this starch that “we” had made. My dad did not like his collars so stiff that they cut his neck like a lot of older men wore, so the mixture was weaker for him. She dipped the sleeves into the mixture and wrung them out tight.
Mother hung all of her clothes outside to dry on the clothes line. When the clothes were dry then she would bring them in the house and the next fun thing that I got to help with was called “sprinkling.”. She was so good at it. She would spread out the clothes that needed ironing on the table, one on top of another. She would have a bowl of warm water on the table, then she would dip her right hand in the water and shake it all over the garment. She was so fast that it was fun to watch. After the sprinkling of one garment was done, she would roll the garment up into a small roll. Then that piece of clothing would be put in her laundry basket. Over and over she would go. Most of the time she would have a complete laundry basket full of little rolls of clothes. When it was full she put a clean dishcloth over the moistened clothes and set them aside for “Tuesday Ironing Day.” When I was old enough I was allowed to iron the pillowcases and my dad’s handkerchiefs. My mother stood over me to make sure that I learned to do my “work” correctly. She would lower the ironing board to my level so I could reach the cases and “hankies” easily. She even ironed the sheets because she wanted them to look nice and also because they were 100% cotton or muslin and would get very wrinkled.
On “Wash Day” Mother had lots of work to do because my Uncle Leslie lived with us. He ran a mill that ground feed. He wore cotton uniform pants that had to be put on pants stretchers. After the pants were washed then they had to be stretched because he like creases in his pants that were better than if mom ironed them in and also because they kept the wrinkles that the agitator left in them. These stretchers were metal and could be shortened or lengthened to the inseam size that was needed. These loaded stretchers then would be taken outside to be dried. When they were hung on the line they looked like headless little men all hanging in a row.
I thought Mother was a miracle worker. When it came time to hang the clothes outside, she would put six or seven clothespins in her mouth at a time. This saved her time because she had six of us to do laundry for. Any little trick she could come up with was a time saver. Her clothespins were not the kind that we have now. They were wooden and big around with a slit that divided the pin where the clothes would be fastened onto the line. I used to watch my sister, Rosie, help mom and she just didn’t do it nearly as fast as my mom.
If Rosie was home helping mom hang up the wet clothes, mom and I would be stomping the diapers and the more fragile clothes. She thought the stomper could be controlled easier than the agitator on her old kerosene run washer. When I think about helping mom stomping some of those clothes I am sure she would have rather grabbed that thing out of my hands because she could have done it four times faster. If she would have done that I wouldn’t have all these fun memories.
You have to remember that Mother had to haul water for laundry and heat it on the stove and dump it into the washer. She always started with the white clothes because they needed hot water, then towels, then colored clothes and then overalls.. Most generally they were all washed in the same water. When all the laundry was done she always scrubbed the floor. Besides the laundry which took most of the day, she had all of us to cook for and a baby to take care of. I never once heard her complain. She used to tell me stories about how much better she had it than her mom did. I can’t imagine how much worse my Grandmother had it than my mom. She worked so hard.
In the winter time, wash day was a nightmare. Dad strung long pieces of “clothesline” back and forth in the dining room high above the dining room table. Mom would hang all of her laundry on those “lines”. The only heat in that room was a space heater, so the clothes dried slowly. There was no breeze to blow out a lot of the wrinkles, so that meant more difficult ironing.
When I wash my clothes in my automatic washer, then throw them in my automatic dryer, use fabric softner purchased laundry detergent, and only iron one piece of clothing a month, I sometimes wonder, How Did She Do It?

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Dad Didn't Swear....But Once

During the Depression my folks moved many times. At one point they found themselves living in a coal shed. It was tiny and dirty. My father and mother worked and worked to clean it up to make it livable. He took kerosene and washed the walls of the old shed to get the coal dust off the walls. When Mom told me this story, I thought, “Fire” immediately, but be that as it may.
Mom and Dad finally had it cleaned as well as they could and moved their meager belongings into it.
The shed was only big enough for a bed and a little table. The conditions in which they lived is beyond my imagination. I think they loved each other so much that nothing could have dissuaded them from forging ahead and believing in God that He would take care of them.
My grandparents helped too by sending them beef that they had butchered by train. I can’t understand how that beef was safe to eat, but it was. Mother said that the package of beef they received was a Godsend.
They had just moved into the shed (which was free rent, by the way) and had gone to sleep. Mom said all of a sudden Dad yelled out, “You S.O.B. you bit me!!. He jumped out of bed and of course, so did my mom. He told her that a bedbug had bitten him. In the middle of the night, they tore their bed apart, moved it outside, and once again, the kerosene was used to wash the bed.
The mattress had to be bleached and air dried in the sun. Mom said that Dad would not go back to bed until he had inspected every inch of that bed.
Over the years, my mom and dad moved frequently to get just a few more cents a day.
The farm house was old and drafty, but clean. The first house in town, was spotless and on it went. Their final home was a mobile home in South Sioux City, Nebraska. It was a beautiful home, with custom made drapes, carpeting, etc. What a change a few years makes and a lot of love and trust in each other. I never heard my father swear, Mom said he did…once.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Dream Come True




When mom was young she wanted to be a nurse. Her parents wouldn’t let her because it was not proper. It is hard for me to understand. My grandmother was a midwife, but she was not attending to naked men. So mother was a teacher for a short time and then she married at eighteen.
Mother was a stay at home mom until she was forty five years old. She worked at a grocery store in the butcher shop. She hated that job because she was always cold. When we moved to the second house in town, she applied for a psychiatric aide and got the job. It entailed caring for mentally ill people in the Cherokee Mental Health Institute.
She seemed to enjoy her job. We had my grandmother and grandfather living with us. It gave her a break away from seeing to their needs constantly. She often said that if it wasn’t for her job, they would have had to go to the nursing home. She had her cousin, Margaret, care for them while she was at work.
Mom and Dad moved to South Sioux City, Nebraska after Mom’s parents died. Dad started working at a newspaper there. Mother decided this was her chance to do something for herself. She enrolled in a Technical School and studied Practical Nursing. She was fifty five years old when she finished school. She was so happy. At that time my sister was a Registered Nurse.
Mother needed a job. There were jobs aplenty for licensed practical nurses.. She went to work for a small hospital in Sioux City, then she changed jobs and worked in a nursing home. She enjoyed that job, however, she was so hands on that she caught everything that the residents caught. She would cradle their heads when she gave them their medicine and it seemed that she was sick all the time.
One day my sister called me and asked me to come home. My mother was sick and needed me to care for her. When I arrived at my mother’s home, she was already in the hospital. She was so sick she was in intensive care. Her kidneys had quit working and her vital signs were failing. The doctors did not know what was wrong. I prayed at my mother’s bedside and within a few hours, her vital signs started to improve. After a spinal tap and many tests the diagnosis was Gilliam’s Beret Syndrome. My mother’s recovery was slow. She was in the hospital for several days. I went home with her until I felt she was able to care for herself. The side effects of this disease stayed with her the rest of her life.
My mother and I were visiting when she came home and I told her I did not want her to work anymore. She laughed, because I was so stern, but she did not return to work.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Mother's Cookbook







My mother’s cookbook is a legacy. She would laugh if she heard me say that. She used it all the time except at Christmas and then she used a Betty Crocker Cookbook for cookies.
The cookbook is different than I have ever seen. It has lined paper in it to write the recipes, then in addition, it has envelopes to put in recipes from the paper and other recipes that she had clipped out of the newspaper and from friends and relatives.
I never tire of looking through her cookbook. When I miss her I go through it and read what she has written down. Once again, I remember that farm kitchen and the little black radio. While she was working, she would listen to cooking shows and philosophers. She would stop what she was doing, take a little note pad and write the recipes and the quotes down. After she had done that, then she read and reread the recipes. More often than not, she would throw them away. She saved some however, like chili, which my father would never have eaten. I wonder if she would have liked a bowl of chili.
I was going through the cookbook today and a sense of pride went through me like a bullet. She had saved my recipe for homemade noodles and my bread recipe. That means a lot from a woman that baked bread professionally. I also found some recipes that she had saved from my sister-in-law, Linda. We had gone to their house in Illinois to visit before mom had surgery a long time ago. Linda served us a breakfast casserole that mother loved. That recipe is tucked away in her cookbook. I have made that casserole and it is excellent. I wish Linda was here, I would have her make it for me. Linda is an excellent cook; I have several of her recipes. We don’t get to visit very often, but I think of her often when I make something that was her recipe.
My cookbook is different. It was published in 1960 by Catholic church members. The recipes for the most part are very good (that’s where I got my noodle recipe) however, I am not like my mother in hardly any aspect. Her cookbook is spotless. It doesn’t look like she even used it. Mine, is spotted, stained, stiff with flour, greasy, and has remnants of most of my recipes on it.
I decided one day to buy a cookbook holder so that my cookbook wouldn’t get so dirty. That was in 1970. I used it once. It was a nuisance, so Melanie, you get the clean and the dirty someday. They both will serve you well.

The Banister Barn







The homestead where I grew up was seven miles south of Cherokee, Iowa. Our farm was on the west side of the highway. It was not seen from the highway except for the top of the big barn. It was a landmark for people, they called it the Banister Barn.
The barn was an interesting place for a little girl. A lot happened there. The milking for one thing; Dad usually milked seven cows. I don’t know why that magic number. It probably had something to do with the amount of milk they produced. I remember he had a Jersey cow that produced a lot of milk and had a lot of cream in her milk. Mom and dad sold some milk and kept some for our family.
The barn had a cement floor that had stanchions for the cows. The cows seemed to know exactly which one to head into. When they got themselves settled into their stanchion, then dad would put “kickers” on their back legs so they would not kick him while he milked them. Behind their back legs was a trough that allowed the cows to have their natural body functions without contaminating the milk. The next part of the milking process was the cleaning of the milk bag. He had a tool that was round and rough with a handle that he ran up and down on the cows milk bag. That was to brush off any mud the cow might have on her bag. Then he would take hot water and wash the bag so that there would be no dirt in our milk. The hot water had to be hauled from the kitchen to the barn in five gallon stainless steel pails.
The milking for a long time was done by hand. Dad would sit on a little stool that he had made. It was only two pieces of wood. The top piece was about sixteen inches long. It was nailed onto a piece of wood that was nailed vertically onto the top one. It looked like a funny “T”. You had to be able to balance on it to milk the cows. Dad could do it perfect. He sat on the stool and leaned his head hard against the cows belly and then just milked the cow while she grazed on the hay he had put in her stanchion.
The family cats would come running to the barn when it was milking time. Dad would always oblige them with a few squirts of fresh milk.
Of course, I always wanted to “help” milk. It took quite a while to just master the art of balancing on the stool. The milking part was almost beyond me because my little hands were not strong enough to coax the milk from the cows teats.
Other things happened in that barn. Hay bales were put way up high in the hay mow. I heard the other day from my cousin that it is possible somebody got pushed out of the haymow when they were little. That has not been confirmed yet.
The one thing I remember happening in the barn, was repairs. Oh what an interesting place the “shop” part of the barn was. All kinds of tools. Dad had what he called the “machine shed” where the majority of the repairs of tractors etc. were made, but the barn had tools for woodworking, harnesses, wagon tongues, all kinds of really big tools. I especially remember a drill press that was huge. Of course, I was only three or four feet tall, so it probably wasn’t that big. I used to love to watch my dad fix things in the barn.
The farm belonged to my grandmother. She never told my grandfather how to run the farm, what to plant, what to raise, etc. However, one day my grandfather came into the house and he announced he was going to tear down the barn and build a new one. The existing barn was about seventy years old at that time. My grandmother said, “No you will not do that.” That’s all she said. My grandfather was so angry he stomped out the door. The barn remained standing. It is in the background in the picture of me when I was about ten months old. My sister, Rosie, is holding me in the left picture and standing beside us is my grandmother, Lulu Banister, the owner of the barn.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Baling, Combing and Sileage Making

When we lived on the farm “putting up” was a common term. My mother used it when she canned vegetables, and my father used it when he baled hay, made hay stacks, made shocks of oat straw, and made huge silage storage hills.
Our farm was relatively small. It was one hundred sixty acres. Forty acres of it was timber, but the majority of it was pasture and crop land. My father raised alfalfa, oats, corn, and soy beans. He depended on these crops to sell and to feed his cattle.
In the fall he would tell my mom that it was time to harvest one of these crops. There were many different phases to “putting up”. The ground had to be cultivated, fertilized with manure, then planted, then cultivated again. When the hay was dry, he put on his mower on the tractor. It was a cycle mower. Two different blades that moved at different times to cut all the stalks of either alfalfa or oats. After the hay was mowed, it had to be win rowed. This process turned the hay over so the sun could dry the bottom of the win rows. If it didn’t rain, it would be ready to either bale or shock depending on the crop. Oats needed to be shocked. This process was back breaking. I even helped my dad when he did this. Several bunches of stalks were stood on end and then tied together. They looked like little Indian teepees. The farmers did this to shed the water. The shocks were fed to cattle at the point they needed fattening for market.
Combining oats was a neighborhood project. The neighbor men and my father would take turns helping each other. The big combine would be pulled behind the tractor. It would extract the tiny oats from the straw and fed it into a wagon pulled by another tractor.
When the combining was done, then the straw needed to be baled. A big enormous machine came to bale the straw. It always seemed to break down. It would feed the straw up a big conveyor, then compress it and take twine rope and tie the bales together. Neighbor men would throw the bales which weighed about eighty pounds onto hay wagons. These hay wagons would then come back to the barn and feed the bales onto an elevator which was powered from a gasoline engine. A man put the bales onto the elevator and a man way up high grabbed the bales and stacked them in the hay mow. The barn had a big hole in the floor which my dad used to throw bales to the first floor of the barn. He used the straw for the milk cows.
If the corn crop was not good or if he needed feed for his cattle, my dad would cut the corn when it was green and chop it up into silage. Wagon loads of silage were dumped in one place and packed with the heavy tractor. Over and over he went until he was satisfied that the silage was packed really tight. When that was done then he would cover it with enormous tarps to keep the rain and snow from ruining it. In the winter he would feed this good silage to the cattle for as long as he could. This mound of feed was called a silage silo.
My dad fed the pigs what he called “slop”. It was sour milk, leftovers from the house and anything else he could think of to feed them. My mother fed them vegetable left overs from her “putting Up”. We always had fat pigs.
One thing I hated about the Harvest time, was the etiquette my mother had about feeding the neighbor men. Kids ate last! “ What?” I thought. I never have to eat last any other time. She always made mountains of mashed potatoes, fried chicken for an army, two or three vegetables, and so many desserts it made my head swim. Often, there was little food left after they had eaten. I found out though after I had my little fit, that my mother had put food away for me and her that we ate after they went back to the fields. It was on one of those days, that my mother was so busy, she forgot to give my brother his bottle. She said he didn't cry for it so she didn't think of it. When she realized he didn't cry she did not give him a bottle again.
She explained to me, that it was important that the men have all they needed to eat because they worked so hard.
She must have really believed that, because every morning and every afternoon she would take thermos’s of coffee, ice tea, sandwiches and cookies to the field via my little wagon to hold all the food.
One of the most interesting things I got to watch was the men washing up before meals. Mother had a wash stand on the porch, with a porcelain basin, lava soap, towels and a pitcher of water that had been warmed by the sun. The men took turns washing up to their rolled up shirt sleeves before mother called them to come in to eat.
As years went by and I become older, most wives worked in town, the farm work was hired out and the men went into town to eat. Where are the memories for the children when that happens?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Iowa Winter




Oh, it was so cold that morning. I was just a little girl about five or six. My family lived in a farm house which was very old, and had had very little attention to the calking and insulation. The only heat in the house was a space heater in the dining room and the cob burner in the kitchen.
I could hear my mother calling me to get up because breakfast was ready. Getting out of bed was almost impossible. I slept under three quilts which my grandmother had made out of winter coats. They were not a bit pretty They were so heavy a little girl like me could hardly move. They kept me very warm. I can remember sticking my toes out from under the covers and quickly putting them right back under. I looked at the quilts, they were black and brown with little other color, but this morning there was something new. A skiff of snow had settled on top of my quilts. There was a window right by my bed. I turned to look outside and couldn’t see the trees that surrounded our house. It was snowing and the wind was blowing and howling around the house. I smiled to myself, I wonder if there will be school today. Our driveway was a quarter of a mile long. It was a long ways for me to walk. Sometimes on a very cold day, my daddy would take me to the highway to meet the bus. I hoped today that would not be the case. Staying home and playing in the snow would be much better. After much persuasion I got up and hurried to the kitchen where my mother was fixing breakfast. It was cold everywhere. I was told to stand next to the space heater to get warm. It was fueled by coal and it didn’t smell nice, but the heat was wonderful. I kept turning round and round like meat on a spit to get my whole body warm.
My dad announced to us that he would not take me to the bus that morning the weather was too bad. In those days parents made the decision whether to send their children to school, my wish had been granted.
I remember my mother telling me a story that morning about her first teaching job. She was only sixteen years old and taught in a country school. She stayed at the school where she taught because it was several miles from my grandparent’s home. That day the weather was beautiful, but cold. She made a fire to get the school warmer for the children. School started like it did on any normal day. In the afternoon, the skies started to get cloudy and dark. Parents started to arrive at the school to pick up their children before the storm hit. Soon the school was empty and my mother was scared, there was very little wood or food in the school for her to use. Blizzards in those days sometimes would last for days on end.
Soon there was a banging on the door. It was her oldest brother, Verne. He had come with the buggy and a team of horses to take her home. He had canvas to cover the window like openings of the buggy. He had heated bricks and hot baked potatoes and plenty of heavy quilts to keep them warm for the long trip home. My mother said she finished the term of teaching at that little school, but decided she would rather go to college and not teach any more. Sometimes I think that her fear that day had a lot to do with it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fran the Man with a Plan









Fran is my husband of less than a year. He has reintroduced me to myself. He is quiet spoken, he loves to play cards, and he loves Classic Country music. Fran sings karaoke, makes his own disks and helps friends find music that they are searching for.
Fran has six grown children who live in Texas. He has three girls and three boys and has nine grandchildren.
Fran is not perfect. If he was perfect I could not live with him because believe it or not, I am far from perfect. At times I can be selfish, outspoken and right most of the time.
Fran enjoys three meals a day, I want one. Fran told me he could cook when I met him. He cooks only pasta. I remind him of what he said about a year and a half ago many times especially when I am in the process of making him a four course meal. Melanie, my daughter, says food is Fran’s love language.
Fran knows we have a dishwasher, puts his dishes in the sink. He also knows we have a trash container under the sink, puts his trash on the counter. I had a habit of not closing cupboard doors and he would remind me of that a lot when I first moved in with him. I don’t know what happened, but now I close the doors and he leaves them open.
Fran loves “the good old days.” On Super Bowl Sunday he was completely outfitted with his 3-D glasses as you can see. Fran lets me take goofy pictures of him whenever I want to. I love that about him.
Fran’s home is his castle and that is the way it should be. He drops his ashes everywhere he goes. I remind him constantly, it does no good.
Fran loves apple pie and would eat it seven days a week.
Fran bragged about catching two hundred pounds of catfish two years ago. I don’t like fishing. He said that if he caught them, I could cook them. We agreed on that.
Last year was not a good year for fishing I guess. I cooked one meal of catfish.
Fran could be described as compulsive obsessive. He loves variety, but if he starts a project he will not rest until it is complete. He built a porch onto our house and about worked himself to death in order to get it done before our wedding. When we got software to download karaoke cd’s he worked non stop for months until he had over three hundred cd’s all downloaded, with play lists in his huge notebook. Then came the label making he was obsessed about that until I thought I would scream. I gave up. He did not. He/we figured it out about midnight one night.
On Christmas I got him a computer game that had several games on it. He would get up in the morning, pour his coffee and go right to the computer.
He bought an old camper and restored it. He again, worked non stop until it was completely remodeled.
I guess when I think of it, that is the way he courted me. Non stop until he got me. I am thankful for Fran’s compulsive obsessive quirks and I love his little quirks; keeps him interesting.

Associated Press Comes to Flandreau




When I was a young mother I was pretty relaxed. We had no set schedule. We enjoyed life and did pretty much what the day brought to us. I did not insist that the kids got dressed as soon as they got up. The had breakfast in their pj’s and sometimes watched cartoons afterwards or even went outside to play. It all depended on my mood that day, or what kind of household chores I had to do.
One day Melanie and Joey were outside playing in the east yard. Joey still had his pajama top on. I had checked on them and could see they were having a good time, so I went about my chores. I thought I will get Joey dressed in a little bit after I finished whatever it was I was doing.
In a little bit there was a knock on the door. It was a reporter that was with the Associated Press. He wanted to know if it was alright if he took my kids picture. They were playing with a pump and pretending to get water out of it. Joey was on his rocking horse being a pretend cowboy and Melanie had a little bucket with “pretend” water for his horse. It was a cute little sight, so I said, “Sure, I don’t care.”
A few weeks later, I started getting phone calls and letters from all over the country, wanting to know if the picture they had seen in their newspapers were my children. That picture had gone all over the country. My two and four year old were famous.!
No, I didn’t change my ways of having them get dressed early in the morning, however, I did think about it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Woke Up Screaming

When I was little my mother was a stay at home mom, but that did not mean that she did not do her part to supplement the farm’s income. I have told you in other stories that she baked for the grocery store in town and of course, to private individuals. She also sold cream to people that wanted it. She sold that for a dollar a pint. She made a lot of money for that in those days. Mother also had laying hens and sold them as well. Laying hens were hens that were good for soup etc. when they got too old to lay eggs and hatch them out.
Mom’s big money making time was in the late spring. She would raise tiny chicks. The chicks would come to our house in great big boxes. These little guys needed a lot of attention especially somewhere warm to grow. If mother didn’t put heat lamps on them, they would huddle together and smother each other. They needed special watering bottles, vitamins, feeders etc.
Mother decided that she was going to go into the chicken business full speed ahead. She ordered four hundred chickens the spring that I remember in particular. If you have never raised chickens you have no clue what that entails as far as hard work. My own grandmother did not attend my mom and dad’s wedding because her hens were hatching their eggs and had to be there to save the chicks. That was in August and to this day I don’t understand why grandma decided to let eggs hatch out that time of year, but be that as it may, she didn’t go to the wedding.
Well the chickens arrived, they grew and by the end of June or at least by the fourth of July, they weighed three and a half pounds which my mother said was the perfect size for fresh fryers. I still have the scale on which she weighed each and every one to make sure they were big enough to butcher.
My dad had a stump some distance from the chicken house on which stood proudly two nails that held the neck of the chicken that was doomed for the frying pan. After he had chopped their heads off, he threw them out on the ground away from the chicken house to bleed out. They flopped and flopped all over the place. When the chickens were dead then it was up to mom to “dress” them. She first “scalded” them. Extremely hot water was put in buckets, she doused them up and down until the feathers easily came out with a test pull. Then she got down to business and plucked all the feathers off the chicken. The chicken then went into the sink into cold water. When the chicken was completely cool, then it was time to “dress” the chicken. She had extremely sharp knives to do this with. She was an artist in “dressing” chickens. To this day I cannot master this art, but I have one or two a year that I cut up, not four hundred.
Many people that ordered chickens did not want them cut up, but wanted them whole for baking.
Mother used freezer paper and freezer tape to wrap them up with. Each chicken had a person’s name on them. Then they were flash frozen in mother’s huge chest freezer. On Friday or Saturday nights we would deliver these chickens to Mother’s customers. This entire process made Mother exactly one dollar per chicken.
Mother had sold chickens to people before, but not on such a big scale. It seemed to me all I saw was blood and “guts” which is what dad called the entrails of the chickens.
One night I woke up screaming. Both Mom and Dad came running to my room. They, of course, wanted to know what the problem was. I told them that I had dreamed that I was a chicken and that they had chopped my head off. Mom cuddled me and told me it was going to be ok. She never dressed chickens for other people again. She told my dad that it was just too much for a little girl to have to deal with.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Little Dance

On Sunday mornings there was a ritual of my father’s that I loved to watch. He shaved. However, he did not take two or three minutes to shave, it took at least a half an hour.
We had no bathroom, so it was a little more complicated then than it is now for a man to shave.
We had a tiny little tin medicine cabinet that hung under the shelf that had the little black radio on it. In that little cabinet was a straight edge razor that folded up, and a china cup with a round bar of soap especially for shaving. Inside the cup along with the shaving soap was a brush with long bristles and a china handle.
While mother would heat water to almost boiling, dad would get out all of his equipment. The first thing he would do was to get out his strap that he hooked on the wall by the medicine cabinet. Then he unfolded his razor and started to methodically lay the razor up and down on the strap. This was to sharpen his razor. He called it “stropping.”
By the time he was done sharpening his razor, mom had the water hot and poured it into a porcelain bowl. Dad would take a wash cloth and put it in this extremely hot water and do a little dance with it because it burned him. As soon as he was able he put the cloth on his face. He moaned and groaned until it cooled.
When this part of the ritual was done, he dipped the shaving brush into the hot water. Then he put the brush into the mug back and forth until he had enough soapy foam to apply to his face. He put the soapy stuff all over his face and would watch himself so he didn’t miss a spot that needed whiskers shaved off.
Now the fun part started that I loved to watch. He would take his straight edge razor and poise it over his face until he was satisfied he had the exact right angle to shave, but not cut himself. He would hold the skin with his left hand over his head and shave with his right hand. He contorted his lips, chin, and jaw just right for the most part. Occasionally dad would cut himself. On those occasions he would use a styptic pencil. He put the end of it on the part that was bleeding and yell like mad. I always wondered why he did that if it hurt so bad. Any way then he would put a tiny little piece of tissue paper on the cut. He looked funny when he had two or three places on his face with little pieces of paper glued on.
After he was finished shaving, mother had heated more water. He would then wash any remaining soap off, look in the mirror and would assess the situation. When he was satisfied that every whisker he could see was shaved off, then the bad part came. He would put some cheap shaving lotion in his two hands, rub them together and actually slap them on his face. He would howl and make another new dance step. I loved it. I will never forget this routine. When dad was finished shaving, then my mother would "test" the job by giving him a kiss to see if it was smooth enough.
My mother used to say that five moves were as good as a fire. I have listened to her tell over and over again that during the depression they had moved twenty six times for a quarter a day more salary etc. and that every time they moved something was broken or even one time a rocker fell off the old Model T truck that they had used to move with. I had made the appropriate responses to her like, “that must have been terrible” or “I’m sorry.” It was not until I had moved several times that I started missing things or recovered broken things from moving that I knew how mother felt. Among one of the things that got lost and broken was dad’s beloved shaving mug and razor. The razor was chipped and rusty, but I always had it on display. It is gone now, but I at least I have such fond memories of the “Little Dance”.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Friday Afternoons

Friday afternoons were joyous occasions for all the kids. They made all kinds of noise laughing and singing songs on the bus ride home. I was pretty quiet on Fridays. Fridays loomed ahead for me like a black cloud all week. My mother baked rolls, cakes, cookies, pies and an assortment of things that she sold to the grocery store in town.
Before my mother started selling baked goods, my mother gave me an allowance of ten cents a week. That was for doing my chores all week without complaining and helping her do things that she asked me to do other than my regular chores. When she started baking, my allowance increased to thirty five cents a week. The extra twenty five cents was for doing all the baking pans that she had dirtied that day.
When she told me about the increase I readily agreed. I was excited about the extra money, and I also loved the things that she baked for us every week.
Then reality hit the very first Friday afternoon when I came home there were stacks of dirty pans and dishes waiting for me. I was shocked and I told her so. She told me that she had done a lot of dishes during the day and what was waiting for me was just a fraction of what had been used that day.
I think I was ten years old when I started doing dishes for my big increase in allowance. I found out that she was really particular in cleanliness. The caramel from the rolls stuck like glue, the angel food cake pans were really hard to wash. I can remember complaining a lot. She sat me down and had a really serious talk about finances. She said that it was my responsibility to help the family any way I could. She and my daddy were doing there part, so I had to share in the work load. My sister was gone and married by then so there was no one else to share those dirty dishes with.
I made the best of a bad situation. When I was asked what I was going to do when I got home I just said I thought I would help my mom in the kitchen. The kids kind of groaned, but they bought it.
My mom gave me a little change purse of hers. It was black silk with a gold clasp. I didn’t have a dresser of my own, so she said I could keep it in one of her dresser drawers. My dad said that it was up to me how I spent the money, however, since I had such a big allowance, they would not be giving me any money for movies or popcorn when we went to town. He also said that if I saved some of my money, when Christmas time came he would match whatever I had saved. In this day and age that would be a privately run 401K.
Time went on, the summer was hot, no air conditioning. We had one small fan my mother had in the kitchen. She had two stoves running spring, summer, fall and winter. Finally Christmas time came. I had saved over six dollars. When I think of it now, I am sure it hurt their budget to hand over six dollars to me, but Dad did it with a smile and told me how proud he was of me. I spent every last cent on Christmas presents for my family. I was so proud.
I remember I bought my dad a bright red tie with a yellow horn in the middle of it. He wore it to church and got a lot of ribbing about it, but he just smiled and said, “my daughter bought it for me for Christmas.” I also bought my mother a new housedress. It cost almost three dollars. It was so pretty it was pink with little white flowers on it. She wore it out. She either loved it or had little else to wear. I don’t remember what else I bought, but that was my best Christmas ever. It was so worth doing a few dishes so that I could make my family happy on Christmas. When my father died, my mother got into one of his dresser drawers and handed the bright red tie to me and said, “do you remember this?” The tears streamed down my cheeks. He had thought enough of that tie to save it for over twenty years.

Monday, February 9, 2009

She says I Say Hmmm


It is not unusual for my daughter Melanie and I to talk about once a week for a couple of hours to catch up with each other. E-mails just don't quite cut it. Melanie has quite a lot on her plate with six children and homeschooling. So she has a lot to tell me about. Last week she told me she was going to ask for an extension on her deadline for a booklet that she is writing. She told me last night that even though I had disapproved of her getting an extension it worked out for the best. Well, I was shocked! How could she think that I had disapproved? She says I have a habit of saying, "Hmm" when I disapprove of something she says. She told me a lot about myself when she said that interesting little observation of hers. I caught myself on several occasions last night saying, "Hmm" to her. We laughed and laughed. She says that when I disagree with her decisions she is almost always right? I again said, "Hmm". We don't agree on politics, we don't agree on quite a few things, but you know what, that is what makes our relationship so much fun and soooo interesting. I love her to pieces and of that point we do not disagree.

My Mother's Kitchen

My mother’s kingdom was her kitchen when we lived on the farm. She could perform miracles in that room. It was twenty six feet long, and had no cupboards, only shelves. She also had what they called a kitchen cupboard which was a unit. Built into this unit was a flour mill which took up a fair amount of space. It had drawers, a counter, and a cupboard for dishes. Next to the cupboard I just described was our ice box. It attempted to keep our food cool. Mother would put ice in it on the top and it would melt into a pan underneath it. I don’t know where they got the ice, but someone must have delivered it. I can remember dad bringing ice into the house. It was covered with a piece of burlap. I suppose that helped to keep it from melting.
On the other side of the kitchen she had a cook stove that she threw cobs into. She could bake angel food cakes in a stove that she regulated by adding a few or a lot of corn cobs to. Beside that stove was a cob bin. Dad would fill that for her from ears of corn that he had shelled for the cattle. I can remember one time for a few days dad put a day old calf in that cob bin to keep him warm. His mom had died and he had to be hand fed. That was interesting to a little girl like me. Probably not mom. Next to that stove we had a smaller stove that was run by kerosene. Next to that was our kitchen sink with a pump attached to it for our dishes. We did not have running water for a long time.
At the end of the kitchen she had her washing machine and the milk separator. The milk separator separated the cream from the milk. She did that twice a day.
She made cottage cheese by letting it clabber on the cook stove, she churned her own butter, and we always had cream in our mashed potatoes. She frosted many cakes with whipped cream. I wonder why we were all chubby.
So that was our kitchen, the kitchen table and chairs was on the end by the windows. I asked my dad one time why he fell in love with my mom. He said that she always sat against the west window when they ate supper. The sun would shine on her hair and make a halo of gold and red. He said he knew that he had to have her for his own.
The kitchen was a happy place and I will remember always how good it smelled when Mother performed her miracles.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My First Vacation

I had never ridden in a car for five hours. I had never been on vacation before. I had never seen a lake before. It was so big I couldn’t tell where it ended. I doubted if it did.
We were in southern Minnesota at Lou and Ozro Baldwin’s house. It wasn’t a house it was a resort, my mom called it because it had lots of cabins that went with the house. I had never heard of such a thing.
Lou and Ozro had been friends of my mom and dad’s during the depression. I didn’t know what a depression was either, but I heard the grown ups talk about it a lot when I was little. The Baldwin’s had moved from Iowa to Minnesota and bought this resort and rented out the cabins to people like us who were on vacation. I was so excited, but much to my disappointment, we didn’t get to stay in a cabin, we stayed in their house, which was much nicer than ours, but it was still just a house.
In their house they had a little office where they rented fishing boats to people, took money for the cabins, sold fishing licenses, and had a little gift shop.
The first night we were there Mrs. Baldwin fried fish for our supper. It was delicious. Crispy and golden brown, but there was also something else on the platter that I just loved. My family kept looking at me and smiling as I attacked these little things that looked like golden crunchy cakes of some kind. I found out later that they were fish eggs. I didn’t care they were wonderful.
I got my first ride in a boat the next day. My father wasn’t a fisherman, but wanted to go for a boat ride. The whole family went. It was a little scary, but it was so beautiful out on that never ending body of water.
I can remember that the day that we left, I wanted to spend the fifty cents that I had in my little red change purse. I had saved it from my allowance. Mrs. Baldwin had a pair of swan salt and pepper shakers on her shelf for sale for fifty cents. I asked her if I needed two more cents for tax and she said that Minnesota didn’t charge tax. I to this day do not know if that was true, but I was able to take those beautiful little swans home. They were white with gold speckles on the wings and little pink rosebuds on the tips of the wings.
As I grew older and moved, the swans were moved with me. They sat on my knick knack shelf until I was well into my fifties and then they just disappeared. I have no idea what happened to them, at one point, one of them was cracked, but I still dusted them and protected them. I loved my little white swans.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Moving to Town

When I was eleven years old, the financial situation was not good for our family. There was a possibility that we were going to lose our farm. My mother always said my father was not a good gambler which you needed to be to be a good farmer. He would raise pigs then the market went down for pigs and up for cattle and so on.
The decision was made to sell the farm. The farm belonged to my grandmother. My parents rented it from her on a share crop deal. Drought, too much rain, and poor market choices were making it impossible to pay the rent. My grandmother decided to sell the farm which had been an inheritance from her father, and we moved to town.
The house that my parents chose cost two thousand dollars.
When I look back on my minds eye, it was not a nice house, but my brother and I loved it. My mother papered it and painted it inside and even bought some new furniture. We had never had any new furniture ever. Keith and I thought it was a palace. We had never lived in town before and there were an abundance of things we were introduced to that were never imagined.
The first change was that my mother went to work in a grocery store. She had always been home when we got home from school. I can only remember having a babysitter one time the first eleven years of my life. One reason was because my sister was eleven years older than I was, so she would stay home with us, but even that was seldom.
The secondary change because my mother worked until six o’clock was that it was my duty to peel potatoes and start them to cook at five thirty so that they would be done in time for supper. Well, there was a problem with that. I was and always have been a dreamer. If I did put the potatoes on to cook, I started reading or playing piano and the potatoes burned. If I didn’t remember to do the potatoes, supper was late and I was in big trouble. It seemed that I was always in trouble. I secretly was angry at my mother for working, I didn’t want to grow up instantly.
Another change was milk that was purchased at the store. It tasted terrible. We had fresh milk at the farm and it had cream in it. The new milk tasted like it had been cooked. Later on I learned that yes, it had been cooked.
We had a lot of friends when we moved to town. That was another problem. My mother worried all the time about who and what we were doing.
I can remember that my mother earned twenty five dollars a week. She worked in the butcher shop in the grocery store. She was always cold and not very happy.
My father worked for the Daily Times Newspaper in Cherokee as a linotype operator. I don’t know how much he made, but it wasn’t much. Keith and I knew better than to ask for money. The allowance had stopped when we moved to town. It was just expected to do your part because you were part of the family.
One day I decided to go to J.C. Penny Store just to look. I had never been shopping by myself before. As you can expect I found a dress I knew that I would die if I didn’t have it. I will never forget it. It was a variegated rose and pink chiffon with a pink under slip. It had three quarter length sleeves and a scoop neck. It was twelve dollars.
With all the nerve I had, I visited my mom at work which was not heard of. I told her about the dress. She listened and replied with the old stand by, “We’ll see.” Not another word was mentioned about the dress. The following Friday was her payday. She came home and handed me thirteen dollars and told me to go to Pennies and get the dress. I cried I was so happy. The reason I wanted the dress was that I was going to be the pianist at the school cantata that was going to be the next week-end. I will never forget that dress.
Keith and I didn’t always get along at that little house, in fact we had some horrible fights. Sometimes we would talk about the farm, but all in all we decided that living in town was good.

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Mom and Me

I was about thirteen years old and a bit stupid as most thirteen year olds are. I thought that if my mom could do something effortlessly so could I.
I belonged to 4-H and the county fair was coming up. The Director of my club wanted us all to enter something for the fair. I volunteered to make an angel food cake. My mother made countless angel foods and they were easy beans.
I told my mother what I had volunteered and man she went bonkers! “what, she said, you have no idea what you are doing!"
Well she made me do that cake twice before she was satisfied that the cake was satisfactory for the fair. This is how it went:
She stood behind me, never touching a utensil, but I am sure she wanted to grab them out of my hands and do it herself a million times.
Unlike today with a box mix that looks and tastes very good, in those days an angel food took either one dozen or thirteen egg whites. Each egg had to be separated one by one. If even one little speck of yolk got into the white, it contaminated the whites so that they would not whip up into a frothy mess. This in my estimation was ridiculous. After all the whites were separated they were put in a glass bowl and whipped stiff until a rubber spatula made a path through them. They could not be dry, but stiff enough to hold a peak.
Then the next thing the cake flour, yes, not all purpose, but cake flour had to be sifted several times until it was light and fluffy.
Then some sugar was added. Just a little bit at a time. I was a dumper, that was not how it happened in my mother’s kitchen.
After all the ingredients were put together to my mother’s satisfaction, I had to check the angel food cake pan. Even though it had been washed after the last cake had been made, it had to be washed again. If an angel food cake pan has the least bit of grease on it, the cake won’t raise.
After the pan had been rewashed, the batter was put in the pan one glob at a time. The batter then had to be spread out with a silver knife to make sure that there were no air bubbles in the batter. Believe you me, I thought this will never happen again. I could actually feel my mother breathing down my neck during this whole process.
The day came to take the cake to the fair. The judging proceeded and I was confident I would get a purple ribbon. I got a blue ribbon. Mom was kind, but reminded me that I had picked something way too difficult for a beginner. We brought the cake home and had it for a snack that afternoon. I didn’t think a blue ribbon was bad, but as my mom cut the cake she said, “oh my goodness” There was a hole in the cake that the judges had missed, that was as big as an egg.
You see the whole thing is, my mom was a professional baker. She baked for the local grocery store and for individuals. She had a reputation to maintain, I had yet to establish one. I lucked out. I never made another “from scratch” angel food cake again.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Brand New Sunshine Dress

When I was five years old my grandma made me the most beautiful new dress for my birthday. It was bright yellow with what I called sunshines trimmed with red all over it. My mother told me I could not wear the dress until we went to my grandma’s house the following week.
I kept looking at my new dress that was hanging in the closet and wishing that I could just try it on. I just knew it wouldn’t hurt anything if I just tried it on for a little while.
So , of course, I did just that. Oh I can remember how pretty I looked.
My sister was eleven years older than I and we shared a room. On her dresser was an array of multi-colored bottles of fingernail polish. I had been told many times that I was not to touch that either. Life seemed to me too full of rules.
My new dress and it’s pretty sunshines and one bottle of fingernail polish looked so pretty together. I thought, “what could it hurt if I just put a little bit of polish on my nails?” That would be perfect. As I opened the bottle of polish it tipped upside down and ran all the way down the front of my new dress. I was terrified of what my mother and sister would do and say and I was so sad that I would not be able to wear my dress for my birthday.
I sneaked down the stairs and ran outside. I thought I had made a clean get away when I heard my mom yell at me not to run away. I can remember her words perfectly. She said, “You will have to come back, young lady, and you will get a spanking for disobeying me.” I had never had a spanking but I imagined that it was not a good thing.
I stayed out in the yard for a long time, but finally came back to the house. The “talking to” that I got was much worse than the little spanking that came afterwards. That has been sixty years ago and the memory is vivid to this day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Little Black Radio

There it was, the little black radio, high above my head on a little wooden shelf, right above where my mom worked in the kitchen. The radio was black with cursive letters in cream that said “Admiral.”
I never touched that radio even when I was grown. That radio was my mom’s. I have seen radios like that one at flea markets. In fact, just the other day I saw one. It was for sale for twenty five dollars. I have no idea how much my parents paid for that radio, but it certainly wasn’t that much.
My mother listened to “soap operas” on the radio while she worked. I did too. One that I remember was “Ma Perkins” That program lasted for fifteen minutes. The program was probably only about seven minutes long. She advertised Oxydol detergent.
Besides “soap operas” the radio had fun programs on it. One was Fiber McGee and Molly. Fibber was a great one for stuffing things in his closet until it would hardly close. Every time the program came on Molly would have him get in the closet for something, and the sound effects people would make it sound like everything under the sun was falling out of it. I have two Fibber McGee closets at my house. I stuff them as full as I can. I never have enough closet space. There was another was one I really liked. It was just for kids. It was called “Sky King” He had an airplane and always caught the bad guys. There’s only one more I can remember, and that was about the Canadian Mounties. It too, was like the Sky King show.
I would sit in the kitchen and listen to my stories just like my mom did. It was fun.
Mom and dad would listen to the radio in the evening. We had no television, so radio was our entertainment. My father also read to my mother while she was mending, or other quiet work in the evening. I never liked the books he read because they were geared towards grownups.
I can remember my dad reading to my mother when I was a teenager. My love for reading came from both parents. Mother loved to read too, she just didn’t have much time for it when I was little. One afternoon the radio had some rock and roll music come on
and I started dancing around and my mother grabbed my hand and started jitterbugging with me. I was shocked. I will never forget that day. She said, “Well you know I used to be a teenager, too.”
It is so difficult for children no matter how old they are to imagine their parents being young. The little black radio reminded me that mine once were.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Telephone

When I was little we had a telephone. That is not a big deal now, but it was back then. Our phone was big almost two feet long and hung on the wall It had a crank on it. You had to turn this crank real fast and that got you the operator. You told the operator either the number or the person you wanted to call and she would “put you through”. There was a catch to the phone use. We were on a sixteen party line. That was a lot of people all using the same line. It was very difficult to get through. We have road rage now, we had phone rage back then. Often people would get into arguments and tell each other off because they were on the phone too long.
The telephone was my mother’s entertainment. It was called “rubbering”. Not eavesdropping. Eavesdropping was against the rules, but listening in to other people’s conversations was alright. My mother didn’t drive, she worked really hard day and night, but occasionally she would listen to her neighbors talk on the phone. She then had interesting things to tell my dad when he came in from the fields.
I still remember our telephone number back then. It was 1647WJ. How’s that for a phone number? It was my job to remember it for some reason and I have to this day.
I now have two telephones, a home phone and a cell phone. I have difficulty programming them and remembering to take the cell phone with me. People get upset with me because I don’t answer the phone, but you see I don’t need my phone for entertainment, I have a computer.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Our "New Linoleum"

When I was little I had no clue that we were poor. We had clothes to wear and lots of good things to eat. What more could you want. Well at five or six you just don’t know much, believe it or not. My parents could not afford a five dollar piece of linoleum. Linoleum in those days had a thin pattern on top of black sticky stuff that made the backing. The thin pattern wore off within a year or two and needed to be replaced or all that showed was the black back.
Our kitchen linoleum had a strip right down the middle that was all black, with the pretty pattern still showing on the sides where the traffic was less.
Since we couldn’t afford new linoleum, my mother and dad moved all the furniture out of the kitchen, and mother painted the floor by hand with a brush. Our kitchen was twenty six feet long. I can remember she painted it gray. After the floor had dried, She took pieces of sponge that she had cut into pretty shapes, hearts, diamonds, squares, rectangles, stars etc and dipped them into brightly colored containers that had just a little bit of paint in each one; red, green, black, blue and yellow. She carefully, like an artist placed each sponge onto the freshly painted floor with color after color until the whole floor looked so pretty. I have fond memories of how pretty our new floor looked after mother was done with it. She was proud of it too.
Since the kitchen turned out so pretty she wanted the dining room to look nice too. They did pay the five dollars for the new linoleum in there because that was where our guests always sat and visited. The five dollars would only pay for a 9x12 piece of linoleum. So she took dark brown paint and painted all around the edges so that it looked like hardwood trim. The new linoleum was burgundy with gray feather plumes. Real fancy. She was so proud when she finished. So was I until she told me that it would be my job to dust mop the new floors when they were dirty. I evaded the issue, until the inevitable happened and this is a famous quote from my mother, “Lu Anne you can dust mop now if you want to.” Being a little smarty one day I said, “No, I don’t want to.” And of course, she said “do it anyway.” And on it goes, mom’s against little girls or so it seemed.