The Door to Ohio
© 2009
By Norma Boyce Richardson
Part one of two parts

     We cooked with a wood burning stove, and it was great in the winter, but dear me in the summer months the heat took your breath away, and it was used full time with 10 people in the house. Mother made bread daily, and it was always so wonderful to come home from school to the smell of fresh bread baking and seeing all the pans of bread sitting around the wood burner rising.

     We had a schedule for each day unlike how we do things today. Monday was wash day, and we knew it was going to be corn bread and beans for supper. Our job was to empty the washer and rinse tubs after school on Mondays, plus the many other chores. I forget what the other dayís food menus were, but I am sure it was a ritual as I remember making cream tomatoes, fried potatoes, and chocolate pudding quite often. Also in the fall when the turnips were ready, we had fried potatoes with fried turnips in them.

      At the end of the garden season when most of the crops were gone and the beans were a little fuller then usual, we would use all the leftover green beans to make pickled beans. We also had corn left, so we would cut the corn off the cob and after fixing the mixture and cooking the beans and corn, we would allow it to cool and start packing it into one of our big crocks. Again, on would go a clean cloth and a plate with a huge rock on the top and then we would carry the crock to Aunt Marthaís basement. Oh, how we loved those beans. On the night we had beans for supper, my twin and I would take a large dish and walk to Aunt Martha's to get some beans and on the way back home we would use our fingers to eat them. Mother would put some bacon grease in a skillet, then add the beans to heat. What a delight. I don't know if I would like them today.

     Saturday was the real house cleaning day! It was also the day to prepare for the Sunday meal, which was always chicken, that was killed and cleaned on Saturday. I hated holding the chicken while mother laid its head over a wood stump, and came down with the axe to chop the head off saying hold that chicken tight and donít let it go!

     With a large family like ours it was not just one chicken, but several. I remember dipping the chicken in scalding hot water, so it would pluck easily, then light a paper on fire, and hold it under the chicken to singe off all the little hairs. I didn't think I could eat that chicken for dinner after that whole process of plucking, cleaning out all the non eatable parts, and cutting it up! I felt I became a pro at it, and could become a surgeon. Mother made the best fried chicken, so by Sunday dinner I easily had forgotten the day before, and I was happy to eat chicken for Sunday dinner. Saturdays were a very busy day cleaning house, polishing shoes, preparing food, and baking pies and cakes for Sunday. Then of course if you needed gas you had better get it, or other food supplies as no stores were open on Sunday. Saturdays were the real bath day with the big wash tub, not your usual little pan of water you used to bathe with. It was unheard of to wash your hair every day like we do now. Nope, just once a week on Saturday nights, putting it up in pin curls you had to wear overnight, so it would dry, and would look pretty on Sunday.

     We walked to church on Sunday morning rain or shine unless we were lucky enough to get a ride. We had one car in our family and it was used very sparingly. Sometimes we did go visit someone, but Sunday was a day of rest and my father never did any farming on that day, except feed the animals and milks the cows.

      In the winter when the girls would want to do something fun, we usually made homemade ice-cream. We always had milk, sugar, cream and eggs for the ingredients and we could take ice from the water tank where we stored the cow's water. We always had to make a hole each day in the ice for the cows to drink from the water trough. We would put the ice chunks in a burlap sack and pound them with the side of an axe until the ice was fine enough to be used in the ice cream freezer. This would not sound very sanitary today, but we were very careful not to let any of the ice, or water get into the ice cream can. We all stayed healthy and it was good ice-cream.

     We always had plenty to eat on the farm, we had meats of all kinds, and in the summer we canned jars of vegetables and fruits and made jellyís and jams from blackberries, raspberries, and even those old sour gooseberries that we spent many hours picking. I can still see mother with one of Dadís big shirts buttoned tightly around her neck and long sleeves buttoned up to keep from getting all scratched up. I bundled up and was still scratched and usually ended up with chigger bites anyway. It would be so hot, but the jelly and jam sure was worth it during the long winter months.

     Butchering time in the fall meant we could make mincemeat. We had a huge long board with a grinder in the center with a crank to grind meat and other ingredients. We put each end of the board on a chair and sit a pan on the floor under the grinder, and we would grind up the meat, apples, raisins, and spices and whatever else we used, as I have forgotten just what all we used to make mince meat, but it was wonderful. Then we would can it to make pies for Thanksgiving dinner, a real tradition. I still like mincemeat if itís home made.

     We did a lot of drying of fruits for the winter; we took them upstairs and laid them on a clean cloth on a table where the sun came in bright, and if I recall right mother used sulfur. I am foggy on the procedure. In fact, I canít remember how they tasted now, but I did chew on the apples when they had dried. I remember them being a chewy texture.

Ada_Lenora_Martha_Eddy      Also, we made sauerkraut and packed it in huge crocks and storied it again in Aunt Marthaís basement. We lived in the country near Aunt Martha and Uncle Roy and they were the first in our community to have a huge basement and indoor plumbing. We children were just as excited for them as they were, and could not wait to go visit so we could try the new plumbing out. I think they were a little frightened to use it for a while. That was a thrill of a life time to sit on the new plumbing. Our indoor plumbing did not come so quickly, so it was rather old hat by that time, as we visited Auntie more often to use the plumbing.

      We had a one large Bartlett Pear tree in the pasture and it produced the best pears. In the fall mother would have us pick the pears a little early before they were fully ripe and we would wrap them in newspaper and place them in a basket. We stored the pears in the old smokehouse to ripen and there the pears kept very well. On a cold winter night we would go to the smokehouse for the pears, pop a huge tub of popcorn and that would be our evening snack while we sat around the big round oak table looking at the catalogs with each of us telling which dress we were going to buy knowing that it was not going to happen, but it was a wishful dream. Those catalogs served many purposes in our home as we did not have inside plumbing until 1948.

     In the fall we always butchered a hog and a cow and still had to deal with those chickens! I think you can see I was not fond of chickens, as when I went to gather eggs they would always peck at me. We would fry pork chops and pack then in a big crock with a layer of chops and a layer of lard till the crock was full, no doubt we had a clean cloth and a rock on top of that too!! J. I have forgotten exactly where we kept that crock and exactly how long it kept, but it must have been a way to preserve the meat. Most of our many crocks were stored at Aunt Marthaís house, as she had a basement and it was cool. We had a short walk to go get it, but we were use to walking as if we wanted to go anywhere we had to walk, not uncommon to walk 3 miles one way to buy a pop, but only when our cousins came from the Big City of Columbus, Ohio to visit in the summer. Shoes were not a thing for us in the summer, and we loved walking the tar roads and bursting tar bubbles with our toes on the way. Feet were black as coal at night and we had to use gasoline to remove the tar. The house was so hot as it had no insulation, that it was impossible to go to bed early. We would sit out in the yard till around midnight, listening to all the stories our parents told about West Virginia. Dad would take some dried grass and put it in an empty tin can and light it so it would smoke and keep the mosquitoes away. What a wonderful heritage to hear stories from our parents. I only wish I had paid more attention and cared about genealogy as I do today.

Norma_GreatAuntFanny_Mom      Our city cousins came once a year and were not use to our lifestyle, but loved momís bread, while we children wanted to eat their bread that was store bought. They did like playing in the barn swinging from the hay ropes. We were always happy to see them come as they brought us a huge stack of comic books which was something we did not have the luxury of having. Mother would catch us reading the comic books and she would say if you kids donít stop and get busy, those comic books are going to get burned. Work was never ending as I recall.

     Mother made the best buck wheat pancakes. She always had a batch fermenting in the kitchen. I have never had a pancake like my mother made. I have tried buck wheat pancakes today, but nothing compares. I think she may have used yeast, and know she made them the night before and it was a smell that still lingers in my mind. We may have been poor, but we sure did eat well, and I still enjoy eating!!

     Jobs in West Virginia were not very promising during the depression era. Dad was out of work and having many children to support he was quite distressed and felt living in Ohio would be better. After grandmother died it was a good time to come to Ohio. He finally did get a job working for the WPA (a work program created by President F. D. Roosevelt), while in West Virginia, but it still was not enough to support his family. Father was a hard working Irishman. Mother was Scotch Irish, and a powerful pillar of a woman. She was sitting at her pedal sewing machine daily keeping us girls dressed very well for a poor family. She did without and I remember her wearing bib aprons to preserve her dresses which at times were thread bare but those nice old fashioned aprons covered a lot and were used for most anything from gathering eggs to wiping noses or tears. I wonder how we stayed so healthy back when? Mother could whip up one of those aprons on the machine in no time, and no doubt were made from a colorful feed sack the grain for cows came in.

     We bought our cow feed at the elevator and they had colored and printed fed sacks. We would ride with Dad to see what kind of sacks they had as we knew one of us would get a new dress. It was not uncommon to only have white sacks so we would take that, then buy some dye and have a plain colored dress. I have forgotten how many feed sacks it took to make a dress.

     My sister remembers Dad coming home crying one day. Mother took him into a little room that had a curtain for the door. Perhaps it was the log cabin I was born in, or so I thought till sis told me that Orma and I were born in the Wilson house. She overheard dad tell mother that he had lost his job and wondered what on earth he was going to do to support his family. Mother was a calm easy going person, and she assured him all would be well. I remember asking mother once how we lived during the depression and her answer to me was we ate a lot of beans! I still love soup beans and cornbread. Mother also picked a lot of greens.

     There was nothing as exciting as threshing days on the farm. Only a few could own a threshing machine, so when each farmerĎs wheat was ready to harvest all the men in the neighborhood helped and the women planned a huge meal. Men would come in to dinner and we had a stand with buckets of water and wash pans for them to wash up. You have never seen as much food as all the ladies fixed. We children had to eat last and hoped it was not all gone and as the men ate we would stand around the table and keep the flies away. Farms seem to draw lots of flies. Then we got to eat when they finished and they rested a bit. Oh the dishes. One sister remembers how we had no scratchers to scrub the pans, so we used an old round clothespin to scrape the dirty pans and it worked just fine. I have learned if we use our imagination we donít need all the new gadgets we have today. I have many but still stick to some of my old fashion tools. Later when we were finished doing our job at the house and the men had finished threshing the wheat and had a huge stack of wheat that was the most beautiful yellow color, we would go out to jump in it to play and see if we could climb to the top.

     We used the straw for bedding down the cows at night in the winter. We made a game out of that also by pretending we were giving them nice clean sheets for their beds. After school was over in the fall we would come home and get off the bus and get our work cloths on and ride a wagon back to the field to shuck the corn & stack the fodder. I still like the look of seeing those corn shucks in the Amish fields. It would be getting dark by that time and it was time to come fix supper and other chores. We certainly had no time to play. I would never want to give memories of my youth.

     My father passed away in 1962 at age 62, and mother had to give up the farm. The farm was a real haven for all the grandchildren they had accumulated. Oh how the grandchildren enjoyed going there on Sundays with all cousins coming to play. They played house in the corncrib. They had their own little house set up there, using old jar lids for dishes and seeds for food. Never a Sunday, but what all 8 of us children would be at our parents home with all our children. Life changed after daddy died and mother had to move to a small place, but that is life. We are so blessed to have such a huge family and still be in touch with those that are living. Mother and daddy must have done something right!


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