Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My summer of 1958, part 3

What does an 18 year old do all day while living on a farm with her grandparents who aren’t thrilled to have her “help?” See Part 1 and Part 2 for the story about why I was there and what the farm was like.

The diary I kept that summer reveals a lot of cooking and cleaning, certainly more than I do now. Also some gardening—surprise—didn’t remember that at all!  Although I thought they were rather set in their ways and not too friendly then, 60 years later rereading the diary, I’m amazed and admiring at their flexibility and good humor at my housekeeping abilities.

June 1: “The food situation was bad.  Bacon and cold baloney are the only meats in the house. For some reason there are about 2 doz. lemons.  I fixed an orange and banana fruit dish and mixed some peas and potatoes for something hot—and also a meat sandwich.” Note:  when I was a child I thought eating baloney sandwiches at grandma's house was a wonderful treat since my mother never made them.

June 2: “We had scrambled eggs for breakfast, chicken a la king, biscuits, pineapple-cottage cheese salad and tapioca for dinner (noon) and “left-over loaf” and a mixture of green vegetables and fruit salad and tapioca-applesauce.”

June 3: “I mixed up some apricot-buttermilk  bread and put that in the oven at 7:30 a.m. I fixed grandpa and me soft boiled eggs and we all had mixed fruit.  They seem to enjoy fresh fruit in most any type of combination. . . For dinner I fixed hot dogs with bacon, corn and fruit with the fresh bread. . . I bought $10.84 worth of groceries—12 boxes of Jello and 2 puddings to make sure we wouldn’t run out for awhile.  For supper I fixed liver, boiled potatoes, orange-carrot-banana Jello salad and bread.” (My parents showed up around 8 p.m., I made coffee and Dad and I talked in the kitchen) “ and he sure liked that bread I made.”

June 4: I fixed pancakes for breakfast; they might have tasted better if the skillet were  not so rusty. I fixed minute steaks, beans, orange Jello salad and bread pudding for dinner (noon). . . for supper we had soup.

June 5: “The oatmeal I made for breakfast tasted like paste. . . macaroni and cheese for dinner—not much better than the oatmeal. . . soup for supper.

June 7: “I dusted some before breakfast—we had cereal, eggs and juice. . .[ate lunch in Dixon]  For supper I fixed liver, mashed potatoes, tossed salad, relish plate, and strawberry shortcake.  I used the good dishes and really had fun, but what a clean-up job..  After dishes were over I tried to make a strawberry cream pie, but it didn’t work!”

June 9: A reversal of meals--onion soup and baloney sandwiches for dinner and meat loaf, cabbage slaw and melon for supper.

June 10: Oatmeal for breakfast; hamburgers, corn creole and pear salad for dinner; fruit plate for supper with custard.

June 11: Ham, asparagus, cabbage salad and custard.  Soup, sandwiches and Jello for supper.

June 12:  Grandpa's birthday.  I baked a date cake for him, "a major project." Lima bean casserole. Took some cake to the neighbors in the evening.

June 13: Made out a menu and schedule for next week. Chicken pot pie for dinner; meat plate, potatoes & peas and tomatoes and banana bread for supper.

June 16: Hamburgers, mashed potatoes & gravy, tossed salad and blackberry pie for dinner.

June 20: Baked a coffee cake which didn't turn out, so I put it in Jello. Creamed ham and rice for dinner; hotdogs, corn and Jello for supper.  Decided to quit, but had a long talk with Grandma and we worked things out.

June 24: Baked a raisin pie; baked chicken for supper and salmon for dinner (noon) trying to use up food due to refrigerator repair.

June 26: I baked all morning (complained to diary they weren't appreciative). Home made rolls, strawberry parfait, deviled eggs, asparagus and tuna cakes.  Baked pinwheel cookies, ate 10, and sent the rest to my boyfriend in Minnesota. Supper was creamed dried beef and peas on hot rolls.

June 27: Baked rolls for breakfast and made cocoa. Macaroni and cheese for dinner, corn bread and creamed chicken for supper. 

June 30: Cleaned out the kitchen cupboards; washed plastic bags. Pork chops, baked potatoes, corn and apricot tarts for dinner

July 2: Hamburgers, tossed salad, fruit for dinner and potato salad, tomato slices, beets and rhubarb parfait for supper.

July 3: Cess pool backed up into the basement. Liver, asparagus, corn and fruit for dinner.

July 4: Baked a cherry pie, meat loaf, baked beans, fresh rolls.  Salad and soup for supper.

July 11: Fried chicken, lima beans, dressing, cranberry sauce, and crumb cake. Made Henny Penny muffins (uses left over chicken in batter) for supper, then baked a peach-butterscotch pie for the neighbors' anniversary.

I didn’t note in my diary if these menus were my choice or theirs, but reading them over in the following weeks I see a lot of hot dogs, liver and asparagus—which it seems I would go out and cut stalks along the lane. And they were a generation that loved Jello—one of the first convenience foods of the 20th century. Rereading the meals, it seems like a lot of food and they were probably not used to that.

The cleaning I mention makes me wonder how they felt about that—true, they couldn’t do a lot, and dust would blow in from the fields, but if someone came in my house and immediately started dusting everything would I be pleased or insulted?

June 3: “I took down the curtains in my room, washed them and the windows, dusted the halls and stairsteps and ran the sweeper.  Every time I pumped a pail of water I felt guilty—but it does my muscles good even if the water supply is low.” There wasn’t a washing machine so I assume I hand washed the curtains.  I always wrote about washing dishes right after a meal and what time I finished, because I think Mother warned me not to leave any dirty dishes around (not sure it was bugs, mice, or Grandma’s preference).

June 4: “I cleaned out the bread cupboard before breakfast and then had my coffee while I listened to the radio.  **This “revolution” in France seems a long way off from the tranquility of the farm.” . . . in the shed “I found the clippers and decided to try my hand at sharpening them on the old wheel.  I’m not much of a bush clipper, but I attacked the job with unusual pep and concern.  Well, at least we can see the bird bath now from the dining room. . . After dishes I ran the dust mop around and swept a few rugs with the broom.” It seems Grandma wouldn’t let me run the vacuum cleaner which was the whole house kind with tubes built into the walls. I mentioned it several times in the diary, with no explanation why.

June 5:  “I spent most of the morning sewing up the hem in Grandma’s navy blue slip and mending a pillow.   . . In the afternoon we all went to Ashton to look at some cattle Dale wanted to buy, and they finally decided on 89 head. . . After cleaning up the supper dishes I cut a fresh bouquet.”

June 6: I put on an old shirt “and a pair of peddle pushers and went out to the garden for lovely 2 hours of sweat and dirt.  I took my good old time about spading the garden—mixed it with a little tool shed browsing and knife sharpening. . . When I finished my “garden” looked like a fresh grave, but I was happy.”

June 9: “After supper I planted tomatoes and wrote letters."

June 10: "started in on the filthy stove.  The mouse dirt was really thick and there were old nests behind the stove.  I put clean paper in the drawers and put the pans and stuff in them."

June 11: Scrubbed the bathroom floors. Dusted 4 rooms, mopped the kitchen floor and washed the two porch doors. Scraped the paint off the dog door stop.

June 17: Cleaned the silverware and dusted my room and the two west bedrooms. I wrote that I was an intrusion on their privacy and they never said thank you.

June 19: Walked to town after supper, but the lane was like quicksand so it took longer.  On the way back I spoke Spanish and sang hymns. (This sounds sort of pious, but I think it was boredom.) I had also walked in on the 18th after supper to the Ives Drug store, and because it was getting dark by 9 I cut through a freshly cultivated bean field and snagged my dress on barbed wire, was wearing sandals, so was a mess when I got back, but "saved 10 minutes."

June 20: Cleaned dining and living rooms, swept the pantry, clipped the grass on the west fence--was still pumping water.

June 27: Cleaned the dining room and 2 living rooms and mopped the porch; caught a ride with a neighbor to Ashton to shop for groceries. 

**I have no recollection of a revolution in France in the summer of 1958, so I had to look that one up.  And sure enough, there was one due to the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) which led to collapse of the Fourth Republic and its replacement by the Fifth Republic led by Charles de Gaulle who returned to power after a twelve-year absence (Wikipedia). So there I was sipping coffee and clipping bushes in Illinois and not paying attention while deGaulle was forming a new cabinet in France.  Without TV and the Internet we just had no idea. . . 

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