Thursday, July 17, 2008

Article #14 Spring Cleaning and Other Duties

(Photo of me with all my living grandparents in 1962, this history is about my paternal grandma standing on my left.)

Every spring, my grandmother would do a major spring cleaning. I do mean major, because her home was heated with coal. After a year of cooking and heating, her walls were dingy. She couldn’t wait to wash down those walls, repaint them, take down the dirty curtains and put up fresh starched ones. Of course the windows needed washing, the floors scrubbing, and the stovepipe taken down, cleaned and shined. It was very labor intensive. I’m sure Grandpa winced at the thought of all that work when the temperatures started to warm but he knew keeping Grandma happy was very important. She was the heart of the home. Without her, nothing happened: no laundry, no ironing, no cooking, no canning, no sewing or mending, no disciplining of the children (as Grandpa was gone all day working on the railroad.) 

How did she do it all? She worked non-stop 24/7. Just getting the fruit bottled during the summer and fall was exhausting work in a hot kitchen. There was always more fruit maturing. Much of it she got free from her own trees, neighbor’s trees or wild fruit trees. Her most memorable recipe was Pottawatame plum and chokecherry jelly. It was exceptional. Her canned fruit was a work of art with its carefully peeled pears artfully placed in the bottle with a slice of orange in the bottom. Her pantry had to be filled during the warm days to prepare for the long winter when fresh fruit was unavailable. 

I loved eating her bottled peaches, cherries and pears. She also made fresh homemade bread and delicious fluffy rolls that were legendary. Visiting her, one was sure to put on some pounds as she delighted in seeing you finish off her rolls with melted butter and great homemade jam. In those days, everything was made at home. Grandma even made her own house dresses and aprons on her treadle sewing machine, an amazing machine that didn’t need electricity. You used your feet to push the treadle up and down to move the machine needle up and down to make stitches.

She made all my baby clothes, cute little slips, and dresses with special hand embroidery. I was her first grandchild when she was only forty-four. She had me call her “Auntie” rather than Grandma, so that she wouldn’t feel old. That’s how I got an extra aunt who was really my grandmother.


  1. I LOVE that you know all this stuff about your family, and that you share it so willingly... and so beautifully!

    It makes me just a tad envious! My grandma on my dad's side died when I was a baby. My grandma on my mom's side didn't do any of those homespun things. She was always a "Princess".

    Maybe I need to dig deeper. I'd probably find something worth jotting down a line or two, eh? Then I could spin a few tales about my family. I know you'd like that.

    I've always had a soft spot for storytelling and storytellers.

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  3. Ok..try again...You and Caryn are a pair..a pair of wonderful writers. I could almost taste the rolls and butter. My grandmothers didn't can at all. My maternal grandmother was a chemistry teacher and my paternal was what we would call a stay-at-home Mom. But my grandmother loved to sew and I wish I had some of the outfits today...

  4. I enjoyed reading that, Lin. My grandmother lived across the street from us but she wasn't a do-it-yourselfer. Funny, when I was small I remember being excited to eat at Grandma's because she had store-bought bread and ours was usually homemade. I loved to go help her get set up for their weekly Bridge Club because she always had chocolate coated nuts.

    My grandmother died in 1980; and she wasn't as old as my mother is now.

  5. You certainly had an amazing grandma, Lin. You sure do have so many truly beautiful memories to cherish. I'm glad you've recorded them for posterity.

  6. My mom made homemade bread, cinnamon rolls with raisins and even butter when I was young. We had a wheat grinder that she would use to make the flour. She made great apple and apricot butter too. The only thing I remember her canning was stinky green beans...those really smell.