Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kitchen stories: Chickens

When I was young, about six, I spent a week with my grandmother Emily and her second husband Virgil Rollins at their lake cottage. She met Virgil at the General Electric plant in Ft Wayne. He was a truck driver, she worked in the factory, and they dated for a long time. Finally, in 1952, she agreed to marry him and he moved in with her. I believe he owned the cottage at Snow Lake. Virgil never had children of his own and loved being part of this growing family. Each of the girls, my aunts Mary Alice and Marcella and my mom had two children and the boys, Uncles Tom and Joe produced an additional 11 grand children between them.

It was always fun to be go to the lake, Virgil loved all the grand kids and was a kind patient man. He supplied the love that Emily couldn't but she loved him more than she loved anyone else. Adversity was to visit Emily once more; in the late 50s Virgil was diagnosed with throat Cancer. She would take care of him for less than a year before he passed away. After he died she sold the lake house because she'd spent her happiest days there and it was torture without him by her side.

On the way to the lake we stopped at a farm and bought three chickens and the next morning Virgil took them down to the lake and axed their heads off. They ran around headless flapping their wings and when they'd stopped their running he took them into grandma to clean. As I think about it now I'm horrified at the thought of that sight but then it didn't bother me in the least.

Sitting on a chair in the corner of the kitchen I watched Emily pull most of the feathers then she proceeded to clean out the "inards" and remove the final small feathers. She taped a few of the big feathers together on a piece of folded newspaper, attached a string, and tied that around my head telling me it was my war bonnet. That might have been the only time she did anything fun with me so I cherish that memory. The big reward was the perfectly fried chicken for dinner that night.

Emily cooked many meals at the lake and one of my favorites was a fish caught in the lake; Sun Perch. Grandpa Virgil and my uncles would fish all Saturday and bring home buckets of them. She'd always clean them herself but not remove the bones. There would be big heaping platters of the fried fish along with corn on the cob and always bread with butter just in case you swallowed a bone. From an early age us kids knew how to remove the spine and all the little bones from our fish. The bread was always there but I never remember anyone choking.

When Virgil took us kids fishing it was only about twenty feet from shore. I realized later we really weren't fishing. He'd bait a line for us and put it in the water until we got board and wanted to go swimming. I'm sure that's why he kept close to shore, he knew it wouldn't take long for us to lose interest. The only time Virgil raised his voice was when my cousin let all the minnows used as bait go.

In the boat or on the dock we had to wear a life vest whether we could swim or not. I know I didn't swim but could paddle around with the life vest on all day. Best memory was of the mud and if you have not stepped into a lake and felt the soft squishy mud between your toes you've never lived.

Interested in starting at the beginning of these stories? Read Kitchen stories: an ear full

Friday, March 27, 2009

I thought I was just lazy.

Last year I broke my wrist and stopped painting for a while. Now, for some reason I can't start again. It's been troubling me and I keep making excuses for not getting back to the studio. It seems I'll do almost anything to keep from picking up the chalk. It's not because of my wrist, I've worn out that excuse, although "downward facing dog" kicks my butt from time to time.

Writing has become more of a challenge but I'm running out of Kitchen Stories and I've been spending way too much time at the Family History center at the local Mormon church. Not that they aren't all darling people there. I've never met a Mormon I didn't like except when they start to talk religion. Oh wait, I did work with a horrible woman but she was a convert and not born to the LDS church. Horrible. So horrible I won't even talk about her here for fear the page explodes. If I believed in anything I'd believe she was the devil; but I don't. I could start a rant on people who are converts to anything but I'll leave that for a completely different post. Converts who share; suffering bores. That includes people who've quite smoking, lost weight, found Jesus, Jehovah, Muhammad or blogging. Keep it to yourself.

So, who am I? A quote from Mary Todd Lincoln might be my mantra, My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry 'til a more convenient season.

After reading Wiki's definition of procrastination I feel like pulling down the shades, curling up and closing my eyes for a while. Are you afflicted with this illness?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kitchen stories: The Great Depression

My mother Lorna was the first of five children in her family. Three girls then two boys. Before the boys were born her Emily and Thomas had a grocery store in Southern Indiana, Jeffersonville. I don't think it was very large and they lived above the store. I do know they had a wood stove for heat and cooking and Emily said she could cook anything on that stove. You didn't dare let the coals die during the winter or you'd freeze to death and even the children, at an early age, learned to keep the fire going. There was always a pot of coffee at the back of the stove for anyone coming by.

In the late twenties they moved to Greenville, Michigan and Thomas went to work for the Gibson Refrigerator Company and, as a family history states, had something to do with the design of the gas refrigerator. I've done a small bit of investigation but found nothing to substantiate this claim.

What I do remember is momma telling of the Christmas they were in Michigan and how much money they had. Everyone had lots of gifts to open and each package her mother opened had luxuries like electric toasters and waffle irons with an added bonus; there were $100 bills slipped inside. It wasn't long after that the Great Depression hit and they ended up back in Indiana on a farm outside of Ft Wayne, in Monroeville. Thomas told the children he wanted them to know the joys of growing up on a farm as he and Emily did but my Aunt Marci confided it was was cheaper to live there and grow some of your own food. From time to time different relatives would move in with them and on Sunday Emily always cooked enough for a visitor or two.

Once Emily, knowing they were having a difficult time, told a city relative to come by and she'd give her a chicken. Grandma asked the husband if he knew how to kill it and he assured her he did. The woman took the chicken then invited them to dinner that Sunday. When they walked it the house it stunk to "high heavens." She didn't gut the chicken and cooked it with the "innards." The chicken was inedible. Emily had her come back to the farm where she gave them both a lesson on butchering a chicken.

The Depression was pretty hard on most city people but on the farm they raised chickens and and had a little truck farm; they even had a calf, they called him Popeye. When Popeye got bigger the three girls loved riding him but one day he was gone and they suspected he was served the next Sunday. When a baby chick would die, which would happen often, they would bury it in a matchbox in the yard complete with good Catholic burial to send it off to the great beyond. She said for a while you couldn't walk through the yard without stepping on a chicky grave.

The youngest, Uncle Joe was six-weeks-old when his father died but somehow Emily Pricella, now called "Pruce", carried on. She tried starting a beauty shop in her house for a while but ended up working at the Perfection Bakery in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. One of the benefits of working there was once a month she could buy a big box of "day old" bread and pastries for a quarter. She'd drag a huge box home on the street car just for the sheer joy it brought her kids. She'd also share with family members that always seemed to show up on that day. She'd also never let the kids eat the Ginger Snaps because she said the swept the floor and put it in the cookies.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kitchen stories: we all have skeletons

Thomas and Emily stayed in Kentucky until right after my mother Lorna was born. They headed by to Jeffersonville where is family lived. Not much is known about the Colvins. Thomas had a few brothers and sisters and it seems most of the family was on the wrong side of the law. Wilder Colvin was married to a woman named Johanna Dabney from Ohio or Pennsylvania. When Johanna married Wilder her family disowned her. She had a few children and later the family relented and asked to meet her in Ohio. She had no money for a winter coat so she went without, caught pneumonia and died. I don't think the Dabneys had anything else to do with the Colvins after that.

Grandma Emily would tell of her father-in-law, Wilder and his business of counterfeit dollars. Once, when Federal agents were searching the house, Emily stood on a rug holding my mother in her arms. Under the floor boards were the counterfeit dollars. She said she was shaking the whole time. It wasn't long after that exciting episode they left the Colvin house to start out on their own.

Thomas' young brother Dewey. When he was young he and a friend got themselves in a bit of trouble for stealing something minor. For this they were sent to reform school which turned out to be the best education a young lad inclined to larceny could have gotten. When released he fancied himself an outlaw and robbed gas stations, liquor store and the like; did a little time, too. Story has it he got ambitious, robbed a bank, and was shot in the process. At that time you died from getting shot in the process. Now this story was never told but my mother learned about it and was sworn to secrecy for the shame of it. She kept that secret for a very long time.

In the 1980 when genealogy became popular my aunt and her sister-in-law went to Jeffersonville to research some family history. My mom was horrified and told me the story and was afraid the two researchers would find out the truth. When she spoke with her sister she asked tentatively about Uncle Dewey. Yes, they did find some newspaper reports but had known the story for years as their mother told them the same thing and swore them to secrecy, too. Seems Emily told quite a few this "secret."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kitchen stories: a word from Marci

Taking a little break here. This is from a letter from my Aunt Marci, my mom's youngest sister. She sent this letter after my mom passed away and I'm glad she shared this with me.

This is not a story about Lorna, but, as you will see, there wouldn't have been a story without her.

When she was eighteen Lorna worked at the General Electric. As do all eighteen-year-olds, she spent all of her money on clothes. One payday she came home with a pair of I. Miller shoes. Now I'm not talking just any shoes … I am talking a pair of navy platform sandals. At that time, I. Miller was the Mount Everest of Shoedom. And, the most expensive shoes that Wolf and Dessauer sold. (Wolf and Dessauer was the place to go for swanky clothes in Ft Wayne.)

The next payday she added a silky two-piece navy and white print dress and a navy straw fisherman's cloche. Now if you've not heard of that hat, it's nothing more than a version of a real deep sea fisherman's hat. The difference is Gene Tierney wore one in some movie and instantly every adult female in America was sporting one.

Now comes the good part. I had this adventurist spirited friend, Clare. Together we cooked p this plan to borrow our big sister's clothes and go do something … adventurist!

Lorna actually let me borrow the whole rig. I don't know how I talked her into it, probably agreed to wash her underwear for a year. Trust me, your mother was no push-over.

Comes the night. I don't remember what Clare wore, but picture this--a fifteen-year-old that looked thirteen, with a twelve-year-old body. I am arrayed in a dress that probably wasn't much more than a size too big, a hat half as big as I am, and those magnificent platform shoes.

No one was home when I left or I probably wouldn't have gotten out of the house (what do I mean probably). We meet at the street car line and downtown we go.

We go into the Berghoff Garden Grill, slither into a booth and order a "Tom Collins." To her everlasting credit, the waitress does not laugh.

A few minutes later, we have our two glasses in front of us, and we are prepared to be initiated into adulthood (six years earlier than the law allows).

I take a taste, Clare takes a taste.

"What does this taste like Clare?"


"Lemonade with Gin?"

"I don't know what Gin tastes like."

"I don't either, but I think we'd know if there was something besides lemonade."


"What should we do?"

"Drink it, pay the bill, and go home."

That's exactly what we did. We never told anyone, even till now, what we did. I carefully put Lorna's outfit back in the closet and that was probably the saddest ending to a great adventure.

The waitress at the Bergoff is still in the kitchen, laughing her fool head off.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For the Irish in all of us

Happy St Patrick's Day

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kitchen stories: Mom's birth

For Grandma Emily Pricella to get off the farm all she had to do was marry a man ten years older than herself. Her future husband, Thomas Perry Colvin, came into her life when she was almost fifteen. He'd worked on their farm as hired help and wanted to marry her. Now her father James didn't want to lose her, she could work in the fields and could even drive a buckboard so I'm sure that's why she wasn't married until she turned sixteen. She was sixteen on January 1, 1922 and one month later married. I believe they ran away since they were married across the Ohio river in La Grange, Kentucky

Le Grange, in Oldham county Kentucky, is an odd little town. The train tracks go right down the center of the small street. Literally, everything stops while the train moves through. It was on the trip to locate our family cemetery in New Albany that my sister, aunt and I wandered over the river into Kentucky to find the birthplace of our mother. She was the only sibling of five to be born in Kentucky and it was a small town with an odd name; Pewee Valley. Mom was always teased with the name of her birthplace but I found later the town is named for a local bird, the Pewee, and had nothing to do with the size of the the quite small city.

Since she wasn't born in a hospital and we had no clue to where they lived, so we drove on through this very small town and ended up in Le Grange. The older section of town had some antique shops as well as some touristy places so we parked and started poking around. Standing in a gift shop I felt the rumble before I heard it and thought we were having an earthquake. Nothing major mind you, I'm quite the expert on the ground moving but I did look up, check to see what was shaking and when I then heard the rumble, glanced outside. I was quite amazed to see a towering locomotive with dozens of cars lumbering up the street just inches from our rental car. We stepped outside to see this sight as did a few other strangers in town; the locals just go about their business.

It's hard to imagine my grandmother at sixteen, newly married and pregnant with her first child. Yes, I've done the math and there was no "happiness ahead." She did come early and grandma tells this story.

It was mid-December and though cold, no snow. They had no car but did have a buckboard and Emily, no stranger to driving one, used it to go to town. God only knows where her husband was but on the 14th, as she was coming back from town, the horse spooked and threw her down on her knees. All alone she got the horse and wagon under control and drove home. It was still a few weeks until her due date but the next day she went into labor. The mid-wife was called and momma, Lorna Georgiana Colvin was born later than night.

I never asked grandma if she were frightened because I don't think she ever was. If she was she never showed that side of herself. Anyone knowing her knew she was a tough old bird and this could be the result of a lifetime of pain and disappointment. She was 25, had five children, one only six-weeks-old, and in the midst of the depression her husband died.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kitchen stories: Capt Clinton Truesdell

Not all stories heard were funny; some just odd. This was a story not heard as a child so at least sometimes the family was descrete. I was reminded of this part of the family history when my sister and I were investigating the family cemetery in New Albany a few years ago.

Our maternal Grandmother, Emily's family farm was in the southern part of Indiana, New Albany just across the Ohio river from Louisville, Kentucky, and was given to them by her Grandfather, Clinton DeWitt Truesdell, born 1827 in Galla, Ohio. He was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi. Grandma always said St. Louis but some other data says St. Paul; either way he moved commerce on the mighty river.

James Morgan Truesdell, born 1864 in Lawrence, Ohio, was her father. As a young boy he took to the Mississippi as a cabin boy aboard the riverboat, Marrietta out of St Paul. The captain of this boat was Clinton DeWitt Truesdell, his father. I'm not sure how old he was, but James fell in love with a woman and had a child. When he informed his father he was told they couldn't marry. Seems Capt Clinton had an extra marital relationship and this woman was his half-sister. James left the woman and the son and later met and married Susan Cora Very from New Albany, Indiana. These were Grandma Emily's parents.

Clinton gave them the land for their farm and it was there grandmother, Emily Pricilla, January 1, 1906, the seventh of fifteen children was born. Captain Clinton left the river and lived with them on the farm and eventually died there.

Emily's maternal grandparents, Martin and Mary Jane Very, also had a farm in New Albany and it's on that land we found Slate Run, the family cemetery. Grandma spoke fondly of that farm and of the Very grandparents. Martin Very was a kind man. He built a Methodist Church and would let poor families bury they relatives in the cemetery resulting in a number of headstones with no family ties.

Grandma spoke little of her childhood. With all those kids the farming family was extremely poor and her father, by many accounts, was quite lazy. Grandma Susie, on the other hand, was energetic and when she'd say, "I'm gonna take papa his lunch out in the barn," the older kids knew there'd be a new sibling soon.

She did tell of the Spring House, a little house built over the stream used to keep the milk cool and though the children were not allowed in, in the heat of the summer, they'd often sneak down and have a taste of the cool milk. She said knowing it was forbidden made it all that much sweeter.

When she did talk of her time in New Albany it was to relate how very poor they were. All the children needed to work to help support the huge family. I did get the impression she didn't have a happy childhood. She lived through the Influenza 1918 outbreak but lost a good friend. Lifes day-to-day struggle touched her personally when she was nine and came down with the chicken pox. After contracting them her two-year-old brother Cecil Albert died. She always said it was because of her. Sad to think she carried that burden her whole life.

Everyone worked on the farm, even the younger children and when Emily was ten she worked all summer on a neighbor's farm to have money for a warm winter coat. When time came to be paid her mother took the money and she was given a hand-me-down. You can see why she left the farm as soon as she could. The only way for a young, uneducated woman to get away was to marry and when Thomas Perry Colvin, ten years her senior, came by she was more than happy to become his wife. They married in La Grange, Kentucky February 4, 1922; Emily turned 16 the month before. My mother was born in December of that year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cell Phone Numbers Go Public; not

I posted something that was in error regarding registering your cell phones so telemarketers could not obtain your number. There is an e-mail circulating as well as some media reports; all in error.

The most important is the following:

Contrary to the e-mail, cell phone numbers are NOT being released to telemarketers, and you will NOT soon be getting telemarketing calls on your cell phone.

There is NO deadline by which you must register your cell phone number on the Registry.

There is only ONE DNC Registry. There is no separate registry for cell phones.

The DNC Registry accepts registrations from both cell phones and land lines. You must call from the phone number that you want to register.

So, no need to rush and register but definitely register. Life is just a little nicer without those pesky calls. If you've registered for more than 31 days and are still getting calls, file a complaint.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

One here; one waiting

Our "pink" baby came on Monday and she is a darling little doll. Mommy and Daddy could not be prouder. Pix to follow.

I've not seen her in person but I live across the street and have viewed the stream of family and friends arriving to give witness to this blessed event. Not a voyeur, just watching from my sick-bed. By Monday I'll be good to make a visit. I hope the new smell isn't gone by then.

Baby "blue"? He is somewhat on schedule for April and it would be kind for him to come then but who really knows with these small packages.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

It's raining lemons

As an update to the previous post. Life really threw me a few the past week. On Tuesday my darling and I stopped by the local Popeye's restaurant for a quick lunch. It turned into four days in bed for me. Lucky husband didn't eat the same thing because he had to nurse me back to health. He did a fine job though cooking not his forte I couldn't eat anything anyway.

And, because my glass is half full, I lost four pounds.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I do have lemons

Wish I'd said that:

When life hands you lemons, ask for tequila and salt and call me over.