Friday, January 1, 2010

How Now, Brown Cow

It has been a long time since my last post. I have been working on two books. Just self-published one called "Fun and Games." Still writing and trying to finish a book of information about the towns in the Finger Lakes area of New York State.

Shopping over the holidays has really jolted me into an awareness of how much food costs now. Imagine paying $1.50 for a small can of soup. Bread, eggs and milk are so much more expensive. When I was young, we drank raw milk straight from the cow. Sometimes we even helped to "extract" it. Mother made our own whipped topping - from scratch. After the milk sat awhile, we skimmed the thick cream from the top and it whipped up better than any store-bought cream. On occasion, I was allowed to help my grandmother churn the butter. Work is exercise you don't like to do. Exercise is work you like to do. The only thing that distinguishes work from pleasure is which activity you prefer.

Do you remember when oleo was white? There was a small bubble of coloring in the package and we had to keep squeezing it and working it with our hands until it was all colored yellow.

Some years ago a neighbor came to borrow some newspapers from my niece. He wanted them to dry off the udders of his cows after milking, as paper towels wouldn't do. I saw a bumper sticker recently which read, "Drink milk - the udder uncola." I have read that the average life span of a cow is twenty-five years. Also - the number of inches in the girth of a cow is the number of pounds of its weight. Cows swing like weather vanes to face the wind. Otherwise, the wind roughs up their fur and they don't like it. They will face any which way on windless days.

Holy Cow. I think I have said enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Early Sears Roebuck

When asked what style of furniture they have, some people reply, "Early Childhood" or "Early Sears Roebuck." Skimming through an old Sears catalog today really brought back memories. Some of the items were before my time but I've included them, anyway. There were stereoscopes and stereopticons, magic lanterns and graphophones, seroco magazine cameras, incandescent gas lights, oilcloth rugs (good old oilcloth!), Burdick sewing machines, iron beds, Crokinole boards and planchette boards, beaded bags and bisque dolls.

Police could get double-lock handcuffs and nippers from Sears. The mailman could get a rural mail delivery wagon. Sears even sold church bells. Other items sold were Pontiac milk wagons and Sears livery buggies. Kenwood steel windmills were also available.

Men could order linen collars and cuffs, vest chains, Dr. Rose's hair and whisker dye, union suits and vegetable ivory dice made from pure ivory nut. They could also purchase a new white duck emigrant wagon cover.

For Milady, Sears offered high-button shoes, wire bustles, the Princess bust developer, Sears bust cream and even food. For the family, there was Sears Roebuck family soap, Sears Roebuck coffee, sanitary tooth soap, toothache wax, ear cleaner and Dr. Rose's obesity powders. (I wonder if they really worked.)

If you were doing some Christmas shopping from Sears "dream book," there were white cedar dash churns, barrel churns and square box churns - and a goat harness of red leather - fire department style. How about that! Isn't it just what you have always wanted?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thinking Back........

Grandma's large button jar always had a match for whatever might be needed in the way of buttons. Her ball of string grew a little bit each day. Every Piece of string was saved and then tied to the end of the ball. It was diminished quite a lot during the kite-flying season.

On wash day, the "whites" were put in a large copper wash boiler and the dirt was "boiled" out. Then they were smoothed out on the green grass in the back yard to dry and to renew their whiteness. First, of course, they went through the hand wringer - that machine which loved to eat buttons!

Carpets were hung over the clothesline and someone had to beat them with a wire carpet-beater. That was almost as bad as when we children had to climb into the silo with handkerchief masks covering our nose and mouth and tromp down the ensilage as it came in from the top. Playing in the haymow was fun, but not as much fun as wading around barefoot in the grain bins during the heat of the summer. Those were the days when cows were milked by hand.

Saturday night baths were taken in a round galvanized tub in the kitchen. The next morning, we went to church carrying our two nickels for collection - tied in the corner of a hankie. Everyone wore hats and gloves to church. The hat pins of those days were really dangerous weapons, if the need should arise. The coin purses were called finger purses. Grandma always had beautiful hats and lovely white hair. Someone once asked her how she kept it looking so nice and she replied, "I sleep on my stomach!"

My sisters and I each had a ruffled organdy dress with a tiny black velvet Bow on each ruffle. My youngest sister had a pair of pantaloons to wear with her dress. We wore shimmy shirts and babies wore belly binders. I remember when my two cousins, Rene and Elaine, got very daring and started wearing pajamas instead of nightgowns. (Even today, I would be daring if I wore some of the shortie nighties and shortie PJs seen in shop windows.) When it was time for me to get a new dress, it simply had to have puffed sleeves!

Men wore suspenders which were also called gallusses or braces. They wore caps, porkpie hats and bowlers. Pocket watches were sometimes called turnips and most of them had watch fobs dangling from them. Some were very fancy beaded fobs and some were tiny monkeys which had been carved out of peach pits. some people say that suspenders are the world's oldest form of "Social Security."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Days of Yesteryear

Do you remember when doctors made house calls. Now those were the days. Free yardsticks and pencils were given away at the County Fair. Boys wore knickers to school and girls had to wear those horrid blue gymsuits with the bloomer-type bottoms. Wind-up victrolas played the songs of Nora Bayes, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor and Lauritz Melchior. Even today I still play "Apple Blossom Time," "Harvest Moon," "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," "Peggy O'Neil," "Missouri Waltz," "Look For the Silver Lining," "Somewhere a Voice Is Calling," "Silver Threads Among the Gold" and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."

Zane Gray was on the best-seller list. People were doing bird imitations to music. Whistling was in style. (I used to whistle all the time, but my pucker must be worn out! ) Once a week, as a child, I was allowed to buy the one thing I wanted most at the ice cream store. It was a lemon phosphate.

Strawberry and ice cream socials were held at various homes. Corn-husking bees with music and dancing were popular. Whoever found a red ear of corn earned the right to a kiss from anyone in the room! Newlyweds were always prepared (almost) for the expected horning or chivaree.

Sunday night song services were held at church. Everyone called out their favorite hymns and we sang one after another: "Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad," "Ivory Palaces," "From Sinking Sands He Lifted Me," "The Old Rugged Cross," "Blessed Assurance," "Yes, We Shall Gather At The River" and "I Love To Tell The Story."

The radio drummed into our ears such things as: "Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins," "Tony Wons Scrapbook," "Jack Armstrong - The All American Boy," "Fibber McGee and Molly," "Easy Aces," Orphan Annie saying "Fill your mug with Ovaltine," "Amos and Andy with (Buzz Me, Miss Blue and What a revoltin' development this is"), "I'm Buster Brown, I live in a shoe and here's my dog Tige, He lives in there, too" and my favorite commercial jingle for one of my favorite foods, "Tasty Yeast is tempting to the appetite, creamy wholesome food - try a luscious bite."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life On the Homefront During World War Two

Perhaps some of you may remember or be interested in what was happening on the home-front during World War II. First of all, we had rationing - and how! Just a few gallons of gas a week. Even shoes and typewriters were rationed. Meat, butter and sugar were rationed. We didn't even get enough sugar to make any jam or jelly - and in strawberry season! What was a girl to do? When we went in any stores, there was a sign which said, "Take a number and wait your turn." Other signs around town and in the newspaper were asking us "Is this trip really necessary?"

There were so many men called to war that it became necessary for women to take their places in factories. "Rosie, the Riveter" was a popular topic in movies and in stories. Other women were called upon to knit cast socks for sailors in a large navel hospital. The socks had a large hole near the heel for a foot cast to go through. We were instructed to make them black or gray, but we soon learned that the men preferred them in wild colors. I made my share of them.

Our mothers were "Gray Ladies," volunteers with the Red Cross, who went to the hospital and wrote letters for the wounded men, read to them, talked to them or just nearby and held their hand. We gathered old sheets and pillow cases which we cut and rolled into bandages. Many of us women got together and packed Bundles for Britain. They consisted of warm clothes for people who had been bombed out of their homes. We sent a good many packages, hoping they would go to the people who needed them.

We had to save bacon grease in empty coffee cans and take them to a certain store where it was later made into explosives. We got paid a few cents for each pound. Peach pits were also needed to be put inside gas masks. We gathered as many milkweed pods as possible to be used in Mae Wests (life vests). To prevent any gossiping which might find its way into the wrong hands, we often saw the warning "A slip of the lip may sink a ship." Life really was a bit more complicated than you might think. Everyone watched the papers every day for names of the unfortunate soldiers who gave their life for our country.

We had a lot of scary air raid warnings. When the fire siren blew, everyone on the streets hurried to a shelter, usually a school. All vehicles were supposed to get off the streets. People at home had to put dark shades on all of their windows so no light would show through. Volunteer air raid wardens went around to make sure people did what they were supposed to do. My husband was an air raid warden. He tried to enlist for military, but his eyesight wasn't satisfactory. Air raid stations were all around the country with platforms about twenty or more feet in the air. The men who manned them had to know at sight whether it was one of our planes or an enemy plane. When the siren blew again, it signaled the end of the air raid alert and everything could get back to normal. Even false alarms were necessary. Some people built shelters in their basements and furnished them with pillows, water, canned food, medical supplies, flashlights and battery-powered radios.

Houses with large gold stars in the front window signified that a member of the family had been killed in battle. There was one in our window - as the husband of Betty, my youngest sister, had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge on the border of France and Germany. My other sister, Mary, was in the WAAC. She had her basic training in the south and was then stationed in a office in the Pentagon. Later she was transferred to Washington state and eventually married a soldier in the Chapel at West Point. My oldest brother, Robert, served in the finance department in Panama, Spain, England and Australia. Frank, my younger brother, repaired airplanes that had been shot down. He made some beautiful men's rings and ash trays out of the discarded propeller centers.

On VE Day and VJ Day everyone gathered in the middle of town and made a lot of noise. I can still picture my mother standing there pounding on a pie tin.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Box Socials

My daughter and I were talking about Church fundraisers this morning. As I recall, our most popular money-raising event in the Thirties was the Box Social. Women and girls who attended packed a box lunch for two people, put their name inside their box and then wrapped it in crepe paper and fancy ribbons and bows. Then, at the event, they were auctioned off.
The fellows tried to find out ahead of time who had packed each box. When one of them had successfully outbid the the other men and received a box, he opened it to see whose name was inside. Then he sat with her and shared the lunch. It was a great way to get acquainted!
After the "vittles" had been consumed, entertainment was provided. Sometimes it was dancing or group singing or it might be a variety show. Whatever it was, a good time was had by everyone present. I surely do miss those fun times of olden years.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Good Old Days

One of the best things I remember about my childhood was licking the paddle when our folks made homemade ice cream. They even let us crank the handle awhile, but of course we soon tired of that.

In the late Twenties, my brother, Bob, was one of the boys who took turns pumping the organ at church. (Our father was a minister.) When the boys started daydreaming and stopped pumping, the music would suddenly cease.We sat in the choir loft with a heavy curtain half-way up in the front of us and passed notes back and forth.

I remember the old swimming hole and what fun we had there. Only a few of the kids had bathing suits and the rest of us wore our clothes in the water. We especially like to play with a large inner tube from a tractor tire. I also had a nice set of water wings.

We built tree-houses and had contests to see which one of us would stay in his or her house the longest. Cupboards were roughly made of boxes and nailed in the tree-house. These held snacks and books. A few years ago, I read of a child's tree-house being assessed in California and his parents had to pay taxes on it. We don't see them much anymore.

"The good old days were days I could master.
The pace was slower, and I was faster."