Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Old Memories"

© By Abraham Lincoln

Digging through tubs filled with letters, junk and other memorabilia, I came across a series of letters that older people wrote to me. Many of them were in response to my talk at the Methodist Church in Gordon, Ohio and reading my Brookville Star stories.

Most of the letters are from 2006 and earlier but they are about what they remember about their early life. I had asked people to recall how their lives have changed over the years and especially what they remembered. A lot of people remember outdoor toilets and old Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery Ward and old newspaper used for toilet paper.

Almost everyone remembered making lye soap and shaving the cakes to make suds in the old Maytag wringer washing machine. Our old washing machine dripped black oil on the kitchen linoleum until mom remembered to put a piece of newspaper on the floor to catch the drips.

I had remembered churning cream to make butter. Lots of people do not know that milk, straight out of the cow, comes in two distinct parts. One is cream and the other part is what we used to call skim milk. Back then you could shake the milk and that would mix the cream into the skim milk and make what we called “whole milk.” Whole milk is best on cereal but skim milk can be used on hot cereal since it is mixed-in with the cereal.

These days milk is homogenized (mixed by machine and will not separate back into cream and skim milk) and it is also pasteurized (heated to kill all bacteria in the milk). So it really does not taste like it came straight out of the cow.

Cream pitchers always sat on the table filled with cream. They were about the same size as a sugar bowl and often came with a new set of dishes. A lot of people had a mix-match set of dishes and neither the sugar bowl nor the cream picture were part of the same set. I think they were all used until somebody broke them on purpose accidentally. That was about the only way you could get anything new in dishware.

Mother always saved and used jelly glasses for drinking—for milk or water or iced tea. Only a few people, purportedly to be “rich,” had drinking glasses that matched their dishes. A few people had bowls that matched the plates and saucers but we had some of these and lots of those but nothing really matched. Iced tea was only iced if you could afford a 25 pound block of ice from the ice man.

In those days the people didn’t seem to worry about matching dinner plates or fancy lead glasses. They had survived The Depression before there were Food Stamps and Relief Agencies—the Red Cross was one that helped but we never heard of anyone being in the hole so deep they called the Red Cross.

Neighbors helped neighbors and people traded things. A pair of shoes might be handed down from the oldest boy to his sister who liked wearing her brother’s clodhoppers. I used to get the used shoes of a boy about my age who lived on a farm. Sometimes my dad had to put new heels or soles on them but it was a lot cheaper than trying to buy a new pair.

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