Category Archives: Grandmothers

2015 Day 28: Second Story Living

I really loved visiting my grandparents! They led a really different kind of daily life. First of all, they lived up north in Illinois. My cousins teased me about my accent which was fine. I teased them about their accent. Most of my aunts and uncles lived fairly close to each other. That meant that when we came to town we got to see tons of people. My grandparents lived in town. They had no car. They walked to where they needed to go. Or they rode the bus. Or they rode the train to other towns-like Chicago.  What fascinated me the most is that they lived over a storefront. There was a business downstairs and they lived above it. They had nothing to do with the business. They just rented the apartment over it. Living over a storefront was a pretty common practice in their area.

My grandparents’ apartment was pretty big for just the two of them. The front room was a big room and served several purposes. There was a living room part with a sofa and chairs. There was a dining table that would expand a lot. When everyone was there, we hovered around 20 people. The expandable table was for the adults. Children were seated at various card tables around the room. This front room also contained Grandma’s quilting frame. I can never remember going to her house that the quilting frame was down. She was always, and I mean ALWAYS, working on a quilt for someone.  The quilt was hand stitched. Every single stitch-I am not kidding-was hand stitched. I still have the quilt she made for me when I was 6. It was for my bed. I STILL have that quilt on my bed. I still use it. It is almost 60 years old! My Grandma would sit by the frame  for several hours a day, making tiny even stitches on each section.  They were all a work of art.

So my grandparents lived upstairs. And my Grandma quilted. So why was I so wild about this whole thing? I need to mention that the business downstairs was a bakery. Ahhhh. Every morning about 3:30, the fragrant smell of bread and yeast would float right up to the apartment. I could not sleep once I got that first whiff. About 6 am, my Grandpa would go down the back stairs and knock on the back door and the baker would give him fresh hot doughnuts.  Well, what could be better than fresh doughnuts in the morning-every morning? As a child, I couldn’t think of a single thing that was better! So now you know the “rest” of my post about second story living!

 

 

2015 Day 23: The Paper Drive

I have been a recycler all my life.  My Mom and my Nannie were recyclers, too.  They taught me everything they knew and that was what got me started.  Then I taught science for a long time and I always taught about recycling.  I used cloth grocery  bags before most people even realized there was such a thing.

My Mom and my Nannie saved aluminum foil. I know that sounds crazy but it is true.  Whenever they used a piece of aluminum foil to cover something, they would carefully wash and dry it.  Then they would let it air dry.  Finally they would carefully fold it up and put it away for another day of use, covering something else.  They lived through the Depression and WW2.  They knew what it was like to do without something.  So they reused everything they could-including foil. They didn’t call it recycling.  They said they were frugal.  You are probably thinking “yuck” regarding reusing foil.  Well, I am in my late 60’s and it never damaged me, I never got sick from food covered with the reused foil.  So—–it must have been ok.

Glass jars were reused, too.  You could can vegetables in them or store leftover foods in them in the refrigerator.  We never threw away glass jars. NEVER.  BTW, we did not have plastic storage containers at my house-either. The sodas we drank came in glass bottles.  We had to return them to the store to get our deposit back.  There was NO aluminum cans when I was growing up.  Listen carefully again.  We had NO aluminum cans.  We had NO plastic bottles.  Milk was delivered to your house in a glass bottle.  Ah-the good old days.

And newspapers? Well, they were saved, too.  Every year our elementary school had a big paper drive.  Yep! You heard me right.  A paper drive.  The front of the school had a covered walkway and there would be a sign with each teacher’s name on it.  For one week, we would collect every newspaper that we could find.  We would tie them in bundles and put them in the stack for our class.  By Thursday, the stacks of newspaper would be taller than our heads. The entire walkway would be covered with stacks of newspaper.  On Friday afternoon, a  truck would come and collect the stacks.  The school would get a check that they could use for programs in the school.  And the winning class? Well they got a prize, too! The paper drive was the B.I.G. fundraiser for the school.  As soon as it was over, people started collecting their papers for the next year.  They stacked them in their garages and on their porches.  It was a BIG deal.

So that is what started me in recycling.  Thanks Mom and Nannie for making me more careful with this earth that God has given us!

 

2015 Day 4: The Hat Era

This morning as I was walking to church from my car, I noticed a couple walking ahead of me. The gentleman was holding an umbrella over his wife and she was really dressed up. I was in flats and a raincoat. I felt rather dumpy behind her. She had on a black suit, black heels and the most gorgeous black hat. As I watched them go in the front door of the church, I had a flashback to a different time. I call it the Hat Era. And I have several of my Nannie’s hats to share with you today.

When I was a child, I always wore a hat to church in the spring and summer. Everybody did. I wore white short gloves, too. Everyone did. Most hats would go with a variety of dresses. Children’s hats were primarily of three styles. The first style was for babies and toddlers. They were the lacey cap that tied under the chin. The second hat was what we called the sailor hat with the wide brim and with a ribbon tie under the chin. Sometimes all you had was a stretchy strap that was itchy and pinched. When you reached 11 or 12, you could graduate to the hat that I call the I Love Lucy Hat. Hats 020

The next hat is the grown-up version of “Lucy”.  I love the fake stones on the side of the hat. It was more an everyday kind of hat. You might wear it grocery shopping!

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Next you see a small pillbox with—-glory be—A veil! You have to love veils. This one only comes to the end of my nose. It also has a perky red bow in the back. Can you see this with a navy polka-dot dress and navy blue and white spectator pumps? Classy.

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The next hat is spectacular! It has large fabric fins in two colors that shoot up from the hat. The veil is MUCH longer. It comes down to my chin. You have to use a hat pin to keep this one in place. For the uninformed, hat pins were just really long straight pins that went through the hat into your hair and back out in the hat. It kept hats in place.

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This last hat is my FAVORITE. I love the rust colored velvet fabric. I adore the three feathers that extend from the front of the hat. You feel like a sophisticated grown-up person in this hat!

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When we had Hat Days at my school, I always wore these hats. Sometimes I took two of them and would switch out at lunch. The children loved them and probably thought that I was crazy for wearing them in public. For me, they reminded me of my Nannie. When I wore them, I was always a little closer to her.

2015 Day 3 Jest a little pinch!

The 1950’s was a time when industry was going strong in Marietta. Lots of new “chain” stores were trying to make their mark on the town. When a new store opened, there would always be a give-away of some sort. And my Nannie loved to be one of the first day shoppers because she was lucky. I mean real L.U.C.K.Y. She won a lot of stuff. I have a picture of her standing beside a refrigerator that she won! My Dad was impressed. Well, so was I. She could sign her name and drop it in the box and 7 times out of 10 she would win something. But I am not going to write about all the things she won. I am just going to tell you about the “pinching” Nannie.

My Nannie always smelled good. She did not load up on perfume the way some folks do today. She taught me the acceptable rules for using perfume. You put a tiny dab behind each ear and a smaller dab on each wrist. That was all. She smelled like White Shoulders. Always. I loved to be curled up against her and read. Sometimes I just moved my head closer to hers so I could get that whiff of White Shoulders. The strange thing is that when my Mom wore White Shoulders, the smell was a tiny bit different. Not quite as sweet-perhaps. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Nannie said that my Mom maybe used a dab too much. I loved to watch them “do” the perfume ritual and I couldn’t see a single thing different. What was that extra tiny sweetness?

As I began to approach the preteen years, I finally discovered the extra odor that my Nannie had. You may be shocked to learn she dipped. Yep she dipped. For all you uninformed folks everywhere—that means she dipped sweet snuff! Snuff dipping was a common practice for women that had been raised in the country. All her sisters dipped, too. Cigarette smoking was more a man thing. Snuff dipping was private and gave you the same jolt as cigarette smoking. I never saw her with a spit jar. I never saw her spit at all. Ever. I only saw her maybe twice putting that pinch in her cheek. And it was jest a pinch.

Did the fact that my Nannie dipped change my feelings for her? Nope. Did she ever talk to me about tobacco? Nope. Ladies didn’t do that. Was she the sweetest Nannie in the world? Yep! And you know why!!!

Day 2 2015: Oh those “Unmentionables”!

I grew up in the 1950’s when most of you were not even a glimmer in your grandmother’s eye!  Probably you have no idea of what an unmentionable even is-right?  This morning I was talking to a lady who was about my age and her physical therapist.  You see, I volunteer at one of our local hospitals in out-patient PT.  And somehow we became sidetracked to this topic.  After much laughter together, I thought this would be an informative topic for tonight!

In the 50’s, life was simpler in many ways.  And what was not out front in the public was simply not shown nor discussed in mixed company.  Hence the name “unmentionable” was coined.  It covered a variety of clothing that was never seen by the public.  You know-brassieres, step-ins, girdles, crinolines, garters, stockings.  I clearly remember going to the local Sears and Roebuck store in my town to purchase brassieres .  You had to know what you planned to purchase because they were not on display.  They were in drawers and those drawers were closed!  A saleslady would have to pull them out for you to see and to select.  And please believe me when I say that there was not a choice of colors.  They were white.  Just white. No patterns.  No colors. No prints.  No push-up. And they were cotton. Just cotton.  As a teenager, I was so excited when bras began to be made in beige!

Step-ins were another name for panties.  Once again they were cotton and white.  They came to your waist.  No thongs, hip huggers, bikinis, no lace, no flowers……….just white cotton.  Step-ins for older ladies were bloomer-like and you could go to the bathroom by simply pulling the open leg aside.  My Nannie told me it was a convenience to wear them if all you had was an outhouse!

Slips were another unmentionable.  First of all, you would NOT leave the house without a slip.  Every dress or skirt and blouse covered a slip.  There was no option. It was required.  Ladies and young ladies wore slips.  Not half slips-full slips.  White slips. Period. End of discussion.

The slips that I hated the most were required wearing for little girls.  They were called crinolines and were created by the devil himself.  They were made of scratchy netting and made your skirt stay away from your body and look fluffy.  They were starched (ouch!) and ironed and worn with all your dresses.  You see, little girls wore dresses with a waistband and skirts were fluffy.  And you couldn’t run or jump rope very well with these itchy inventions. And try sitting in a desk in a hot classroom. You could not wiggle. You were a girl and that was unladylike!

Next, we have to mention the biggest and most carefully guarded secret to a trim waist-the girdle.  If you think that Spanx is powerful, then you have never worn a girdle.  They kept you slim, got rid of any bulges, created a waist if you wore a longline girdle, and made your “sitter” go to sleep. And we wore them all day.  Under a dress.  To school.  Some girdles went from your bra area all the way down to your mid-thigh.  And we wore them all summer.  Just image how hot they were!

Last, we must give some time to the garter belt and hosiery. Listen everyone-THERE WAS NO PANTYHOSE! None.  Girls wore socks until they were in high school and they didn’t shave their legs.  When they reached the age when it was permissible by their mother, they might began to wear a garter belt (unless they were already wearing a girdle).  It is quite popular now-if you believe the companies that make undies. But then, it was uncomfortable and ugly.  If you didn’t pull up your hosiery high enough, you had wrinkles.  If you pulled them too high, they tore.  Sometimes the garter became unhooked and your hose fell down! Awkward!!! When you became really older, you wore your hosiery  rolled up at your knee with a garter. Thank goodness by then you wore your dresses long to cover this gorgeous part of your clothing!

So the next time you purchase underwear, be thankful that yours comes in colors and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s to every lump and bump on your body!

Day 17: Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is October 19, 2014.  It is also my Mother’s birthday. My Mom was adopted. She never talked with me about it. In fact, my grandmother-Nannie-was the one who eventually told me.  My Mom never wondered about her birth mother.  Her adoption sounds like something from a news story – “Infant girl left in basket at doorstep of local family”.   Because, you see-that is what happened. She deeply loved her parents and her kin folks. I never knew my Grandpa. He died before I was born.  His name was Roy and he was an electrician.

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This is a picture of my Mom as a teenager. She is seated with my Nannie, three of my aunts and cousin J. Don’t you love how they do their hair?

My Mom grew up in a tough time. She had a paper route to earn some extra cash. She won a bike the first summer for adding the most new customers.   She loved dogs-cockers were her favorite. They were always named Lady. When she entered high school, she started working at a photographic studio in town. Eventually she started doing touchups for the studio. She was very talented with photography.  She had great baby pictures of me!

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Then she met a boy from Kansas who was attending Georgia Military Academy. He was all alone  His father had died when he 18 months old  His mother remarried and moved to Illinois with her new husband and children. Fortunately his father had set aside money for him to attend GMC when he became a 9th grader. I have no idea how they actually met. I have often wondered but that opportunity for questions is forever gone.

When Dad was drafted, they got married.  My mother continued to live at home with her mother until Dad came back.  I was born in Milledgeville, Georgia and 9 years later my redheaded sister made her appearance in our family.

I would love to say that we lived happily ever after. But we did not. My parents divorced when I was in my twenties. But I can say with absolute certainty that my parents loved both of us enormously and were proud of our accomplishments. They were always there when we needed them.

scan0498Mom was a great baby holder! A was just a little chunk of cuteness in this picture.

I love you and miss you, Mom!

Day 11: Life Interrupted Part 2

On Saturday, I was working at a breast cancer 5k run and slipped and fell. One minute I was standing erect and the next I was on the floor. It had been raining and the floor was wet. Oops!  I guess I should have gone to the porta potty and perhaps my wrist would be fine. Or then again, I could have fallen out of the porta potty with my undies around my ankles, be covered in ick, and still have a broken  wrist!  Since I am a dab behind, I thought I would use this post to make fun of my injury!

Top Things You Can’t Do with a Broken Right Wrist

* Tie your sneakers ( duh you say)

*Floss your teeth. I am a flosser and was really bummed when I could not figure out an alternate way to floss.

*Fasten your bra. If I were smaller, I would not wear one. But a DD girl needs support. I guess I could try a sports bra. But I would have to be able to step into it and pull it up. Well, that ain’t happening folks. There is way too much stuff to pull it over with only one hand.

*Line your eyes. I wear minimal makeup. Eyeliner is one of the things I do wear. I would suggest you practice lining your eyes with the “wrong” hand just to give it a try.  And then figure out what you might do. Asking my hubby was out. He had already committed to bra fastening.

*Wipe. You know what I mean. Awkward. I would suggest investing in some baby wipes. And go ahead and train your other half to replace the roll of toilet tissue on the roller do-dad. I have found it is a lot easier to get the tissue when it is on the roller. Honey– are you hearing me? It’s true!

*Pull up your panties/ pants. I would suggest you go with running tights/ yoga pants-commando style ( that means no panties), As my daughter has reminded me, most of them are made for use without panties. Yay! You need to wear something you can tug up with one hand. My friend K who had hip surgery suggested getting some of those old lady mumu dress things. The good thing about that is they require no bra and no panties. Pretty  cool. Or you could look for what my Nannie called ” step-ins” . They were a bloomer style panty with a really wide leg. You could just pull the leg open and squat. You never had to pull them down. They were great when you had to go to the outhouse to “go”.

*And I could name a bunch more but I will close with—shampoo,dry,fix your hair.  My hair is not long enough for a ponytail. It is chin length and has some curl. So it mostly sticks out and is flat on the side. I am toying with getting it cut short-wash and wear. That’s it. Feel free to weigh in on cut versus looking like a bed head all the time.

Now tonight when you pray, thank God for making such a marvelous body for you!

Day 5: Still crazy after all these years!

I was born in a very interesting small town in Georgia.  I knew from a very early age that the mere mention of the name brought laughter to all ages.  The town was not “funny” at all. In fact, it was a former capital of Georgia.  It was a typical southern town.  It had a main boulevard which was gorgeous. Streets surrounding the main drag were lovely with divided lanes and enormous trees.  All kinds of houses lined the streets.  There were one and two story homes with wide porches and rockers.  Children could walk to school if you lived in town.  Many of the people who lived in town worked for the largest employer or for companies that provided services to this employer.  There was a state college for women (yes-just women) and it was a well-respected college. In the “old” days, it was GSCW or Georgia State College for Women. In addition, Georgia Military College was there. So you are now saying-What is the big deal about the name?

Well, it was Milledgeville, Georgia.  And the state insane asylum was located there. Yikes! As an elementary student in Marietta, I H.A.T.E.D to tell people where I was born.  If I said Milledgeville, people-especially other children, would make some remark about how crazy I was.  In fact, another word for insane asylum was the word Milledgeville.  Period.  So early on, I searched for a way to avoid mentioning my birthplace so I would not have to deal with the insults.  Then I found the perfect answer. I would tell people that I was born in Baldwin County. This statement was absolutely true. But since most children and even some adults suffered from a basic knowledge of Georgia geography,  I was safe! No more jokes! No more laughs!

The fact that people laughed about Milledgeville made me sad. Not angry. Just sad.  It was a lovely town filled with gracious people. I had a number of relatives who lived there.  They had beautiful Southern names like Mary Claire and Rosa and Ruth Ann.  My Aunt Rosa was the queen of watermelon pickles.  Every summertime meal had a dish of her special  pickles.  My parents finally limited the number of times I could ask for another one.  Hydrangea and gardenia bushes surrounded their homes,  There was a jug of sweet tea in the frig always.  I loved to visit and listen to their conversations about various relatives and neighbors. I volunteered to dry dishes because it put me in the kitchen where the women talked about everything. They solved every problem in the world. I was always quiet so they would forget I was there. I would even dry dishes twice just to be a part of the sisterhood. It was amazing!

Since many of my relatives worked at Central State Hospital (the official name),I also got to visit there.  In those days, the hospital had dorms and single nurses could live there. My Nannie had a fabulous room. Large, airy, windows looking out at ancient magnolias. Ahh,  it was restful.  Everyone in the three story dorm knew everyone else. They had their own community.  I also visited some of the wards.  That was interesting when the big metal door thunked shut.  I think children are more understanding of some things-like women with mental problems.  The ones that my Nannie worked with were sweet as pie. They were great gardeners and had a huge flower and vegetable garden.  They loved to take my hand and show me every flower they had grown.  I learned so much from them. I was never afraid.

When we would go down to pick Nannie up for a visit, she would have a shoebox with sandwiches for lunch in the car.  I learned to have an appreciation for pineapple sandwiches. Yum! And her homemade pimento sandwiches were fabulous. Sometimes we would eat first on benches under the trees on the state grounds.  It was so peaceful. Sometimes, she would ride the bus to Atlanta and we would go pick her up at the bus station in Atlanta.  As I grew older, my parents would let me ride the Greyhound bus down to see her.  It was an exciting  trip for me. All alone. Traveling halfway down the state. WOW! I thought I was so grown-up!

Milledgeville still has the state hospital.  The college is still there but with a new name.  Many streets are still divided by trees.  Antebellum homes are restored and in use.  A visitor can still see the former state capital which by the way has underground tunnels for safety sake.  And at Bible study a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was born in Milledgeville and one of the ladies said-“I visited the women’s section of the state hospital when I was in college”.

So I guess I am still crazy after all these years!

Day 3: The Dollar Girl

I spent most of my childhood in a neighborhood community north of Atlanta, Georgia. Life was pretty simple in the 1950’s and 60’s for most folks. Our community was pretty big to us with 25,565 people. One of the nicest things about “downtown” was the way it was constructed. First of all, in the dead center of downtown was a really nice park. It had trees and a nice fountain and benches along the pathways. It also had a wonderful playground. The “playset” that is popular now had not been invented at that time. So we had swing sets. The large metal posts supported the most fantastic swings known to man. Chains held large wooden seats and allowed the swing sitter to be able to really go high. It was glorious! The park was surrounded by locally owned stores, a bank, a hardware store and two movie theaters. Everything you could want you could purchase right across from the park. All of my shoes were purchased at the shoe store which had a fascinating thing that you would stand in to check your size. Actually, it was probably a dangerous kind of x-ray but hey! we survived and wore the correct size shoe. The drugstore had a luncheon bar that served the best grilled cheese sandwiches anywhere. There was a “dime store” where you could purchase “Evening in Paris” cologne. There was a hat store because women wore “real” hats in those days. But the single most important store to me was the book store.

I loved to go in the bookstore. It had Blue Horse binders in the fall for school and the best selection of books anywhere. Actually it was the only selection of books except for the public library. I LOVED to read. I can’t remember learning to read. I just remember loving the written word and reading everything I could find. There were no paperback books to my knowledge. But there were loads of books in the book store. Because my Nannie knew my love of reading, she would mail me a dollar once a month. Glory be! A dollar was exactly the cost for a hardback book. I purchased some Bobbsey Twin books and loved them. But then I discovered T.H.E perfect book series for me…… Nancy Drew. Oh My! When I received that dollar from Nannie, I would beg my mother to go to town so I could get another Nancy Drew book. They were hardbacks. I would read them over and over again. I felt like Nancy, Bess and George were my best friends. I only read them in order. So when they were out of the “next” book in the series, I would check back in so that I could get the next adventure as soon as possible! When I finished the Nancy Drew series, I began the Cherry Ames series. For years I wanted to be a nurse thanks to Cherry. Then came the Sue Barton books and last of all, the Vicki Barr books. Oh the places I visited with those wonderful characters..for only one dollar!

Day 1: My Love Affair with Okra

Hey ya’ll!  I am from the South (duh)!  I live in the part of the South where the word Sou-th is actually two complete and separate syllables.  It gently “rolls” off your tongue like honey from a jar.  And in the Sou-th where I live, okra is a B.I.G. deal!  First of all, who would expect that such a gangly plant could produce such gorgeous flowers? And who would have expected that such luscious food could grow on the prickly stem? God made a masterpiece when he made okra. It is manna from Heaven!

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First of all, I have to say that two people in my life started my love affair with okra. The first was my Nannie. I was lucky enough to have a Nannie that was pure country. When she visited-which was always during the vegetable canning season-she first introduced me to okra. Boiled okra. I know that some of you are saying “yuck yuck”. Well, let me tell you that once she sat me down with the small, tender okra pods that were gently boiled and paired it with fresh butterpeas, creamed fresh corn and a BIG slice of mater (tomato for you Yankees), I was hooked!

The other person who helped to intensify my addiction was the lady across the street from us. She was a sweetie. Her husband worked nights so she always cooked a big lunch and they ate mid-afternoon. Well as I was playing jacks (a summer favorite) on my screened front porch or reading, the most delicious odor would float right out her kitchen window and straight to my nose. I could not figure out what she was cooking. So one day I decided to stop by and see if her daughter was at home. I knew she wasn’t there! And Mrs. H invited me into her kitchen. When you went visiting at dinner time, you always talked in the kitchen while you sat on the kitchen stool and sipped sweet tea with lemon. Right before me was a big, black cast iron skillet filled with this wonderful little brown tidbits. It was fried okra. She was a QUEEN of fried okra. That seasoned skillet made every morsel crispy and flavorful. Then she offered me some on one of her Blue Willow plates and I was totally hooked. I swooned with each bite. Oh my! Then she began to call across the street when she had okra for lunch. From her front porch she would call–“Honey come on over, I have a little plate for you” And I would run and ask my momma and then head across for the best okra in the world. Thank you Mrs. H and Nannie for introducing me to okra!

fried okra

I have to confess that I am an okra purist.  The season is short and I must enjoy every okra opportunity.  Now the purist rules.  Okra is fresh from the garden. It is never frozen.  Okra is coated with buttermilk and real corn meal-not that mix stuff with flour in it.  The last rule is it is F.R.I.E.D. in a black cast iron skillet in oil. Period.

And yes, honey, we are having fried okra again tonight!