I was proud to have this piece published in the March-2004 edition of Rosine Magazine http://www.rosinemagazine.com. It was a magazine about Rosine, Kentucky, Bill Monroe and Bluegrass Music. I thank them so much for noticing me. I'm sorry it's no longer a part of the WWW.
Remember saving the recipes on those little slips of paper that were stuffed down in the flour bags? Remember actually buying and using bags of flour? Do you even remember what flour is? Our flour came in fabric bags that Mama used to make quilts. Do you remember learning to make quilts from your mama? I sure do. I would sit at the quilting frame and quilt as far as I could reach.
I learned to sew by making my four patch quilts. If I could gather enough material of the right colors, my imagination flew. I dreamed of railroad tracks, and log cabin quilt blocks. Mama worked with a needle and thread. After a lot of encouraging, Daddy finally made her a large quilting frame and put hooks on the ceiling of our living room to hang it from. I remember how proud she was of it. She could finally quilt her work the easy way. She and I would pull our chairs up side by side, and work on them in the evening. I mostly stuck the needle in my fingers, but I learned.
She finally got an old pedal Singer sewing machine. She sewed on that for several years, and was glad to have it. One day, I came home from school, and there sat Mama at the machine with a big grin on her face. Daddy had attached a small motor on the pedal wheel. It worked the same way as a foot controlled machine does today. He had transformed the machine into an electric sewing machine.
Mama was very good at encouraging Daddy to do something she wanted done. They needed a new bathroom so Daddy drove the pick-up down to the local lumber yard, bought the supplies and began the job. Mama and he worked together, and Mama was constantly thinking ahead. Since he already had the hammer and nails out, couldn't he expand the living room just a bit? They were in their late sixties by then. He didn't pay someone else to build it; he built it, with week-end help from his three sons. I wish I had her skill.
Everyone loved books, even the youngest. Long winter days were meant for reading. We were all taught to read before we were old enough to go to school. It was expected, it was natural. We would all get comfortable, and read. Daddy would read Louis L'amour so we kids learned to love his books.
Radio was live then, and much more fun to listen to. When it was time for Mystery Theater, the Lone Ranger, or Roy Rogers to come on the radio, Daddy would turn it on, and we would gather around close so not to miss a word. We would root for our heroes, and hiss the diabolical bad guys. We learned to love Red Skelton, Gildersleeve, and Fibber McGee and Molly. Sunday was the time for radio music. My goodness, the songs and music of that time were wonderful! Plain, everyday people singing their hearts out. Songs of love, lost love and Heaven.
A cast-iron, wood burning heating stove sat in the living room. The boys would cut and carry in the wood, filling the wood box. Mama would put a pot of beans or soup on top of the wood burner in the morning, and it sat there and simmered all day. By supper time, the aromas of good food were making our mouths water. If you haven't experienced food cooked slowly, you have missed out on something good.
This, along with the aromas and the goodness of yeast bread, was food fit for the Kings. Did you learn to make yeast bread? It is so good. I did a lot of that too. I kneaded and punched and kneaded some more. I learned to make loaf, buns, biscuits, and cinnamon rolls. The aroma enveloped the whole house, so sweet, you didn't need room fragrance sprays. I learned to put mashed potatoes in the mix, to make potato bread. You can add raisins and, presto! You have raisin bread. Sour dough biscuits? You must get a starter mix from a friend. Make a batch for yourself by leaving it sitting on the stove until it bubbles with sourness, and pass on a starter batch to another friend. Some people still make their bread from the starter batch they received as a young bride. This may sound strange and awful to you, but it is good bread.
We didn't have a cow, so we bought our milk from a dairyman down the road. We got it in gallon jars. It was so good. When the cream had all risen to the top of the jar, there were two or three inches sitting on top of the milk. Mama would skim off most of the cream, then one of the kids would churn it to make butter. Oh, ambrosia! If we were lucky, we would all get a cup of ice cold buttermilk. Real buttermilk, not the boxed kind. I loved it.
If we had only a pint or so of cream, I would put in a quart jar and shake it while reading or just sitting and talking. If there was more cream, it would go into the churn. Sometimes, I would put it under the shade tree and enjoy the cooler air while I worked.
The real butter, spread over real yeast bread, maybe a spoonful of real homemade jelly, I could make a meal. Even today, I could.
Mama made a very large garden, consisting of rows of corn, okra, tomatoes. Everything that would grow was planted. Including those very large earth worms the fishermen loved. I had the idea to gather up the worms and put them into a cardboard box filled with dirt. I nailed "fishing worms for sale" signs up and down the river road; I remember one week-end I sold twelve dollars worth. I was rich!
Mama would preserve everything she could and stored it in the cellar. Shelves lined all four walls, filled with quart jars of colorful vegetables. I helped clean and peel everything that went into them. She also made jars and jars of jellies and jams. I learned to melt the paraffin and pour it on top of the jelly. I wasn't always so thankful of the things she was teaching me. I would moan and groan, cry and beg to be let off. I was not always the perfect child I have to admit.
I wish I could thank her for all she did for us. The only way I could think of is by remembering, and doing the same for my family. Every time I peel a potato, even today, I think of Mama telling me to peel very thinly, "just take the peel, do not waste the potato." Then, she would save the best peelings with good 'eyes' for planting.
Mama would listen to soap operas on the radio. Does anyone remember Stella Dallas? Daddy would laugh and tease about the soaps. When she was mad, her eyebrow would jump. My older brother liked to tease her about it.
"Watch out, Mama's eyebrow is jumping!"
We all knew we'd better disappear for awhile. We used Oxydol Laundry soap, White Rain shampoo, Ivory bath soap, it was 99/100's % pure. Still is, I believe. I also remember watching her make lye soap. I remember her catching rain water in a can to wash her hair in, because it made it soft and shiny--it squeaked.
People used to have Barn Dances. If you aren't old enough to remember those, ask an older relative or friend about them. I remember going with my parents and brothers to different barns, where there was real, live music. Laughter would ring out, joy, only those that know what hard work and hard times really are, would appreciate these breaks from the work week. Gas rations, sugar rations, all were forgotten in those few hours
The depression was a terrible time, but it did bring out the good in friends and neighbors. Large wash tubs were filled with ice, and held bottles of beer and soda pop. Everyone was welcome. I learned to dance the two-step, although I wasn't yet six years old. I learned to love the country music I heard. It entered my soul and grew there. Folk songs and Hymns were sung. The well known, in the country crowd, Maddox Brothers and Rose band, would play at these dances, when they were beginning their careers. The Carter Family was becoming well known by way of the radio, and loved.
When the children couldn't keep their eyes open any longer, they would climb to the top of the bailed hay stack and sleep. One by one the mothers or fathers would go to their cars to fetch a quilt to cover them. All of this helped shape our lives. My brothers all play guitars and sing. We all love God, our homes and families. I guess you would call us plain country people. I wouldn't have had it any other way