Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1951 April, May

I made green and black cafe curtains for the two dining room windows. I bought my own sewing machine. 
Brand new sewing machine

A salesman from Singer  visited the farm demonstrating Singer sewing machines.  This was a portable, but a very heavy full sized head set in oak wood. We bought one. It was a model which had been on the market for years. I’m thinking it was within months that Singer came out with a better, lighter model, perhaps even zig-zag. I did  want a heavy duty machine. Gran had a nice portable, small Singer. I often felt jilted, an new old model. Really it was the market not the salesman. Timing was off kilter. Many years later I replaced it. Joan used this one a lot and then I gave it to my daughter-in-law, Charlene. There was a built-in bench in this kitchen similar to a window seat but it was not under the kitchen window. I papered the wall behind it in a kid’s motif projecting plans for this to be a toy box. 
Elayne writes from Mt. Carmel, Dubuque, IA: 'Looking at your reproduction of your kiddies' corner, almost sets me a mental picture of you in your Home-Ec real laboratory. Will there be childlike competition for you at work on the other side of the room?'
One of our first purchases was a washing machine. We bought an EASY machine with that centrifugal wringing basket. Problem is the water under this black IL prairie land had high iron content unlike the rolling hills in the Tullybrackey neighborhood. Spinning to wring the water out of fabric left a brown, iron residue. Dog gone. Gran gave me many compliments on how white my wash was. This positive message encouraged me to see that my wash was white. I would carry my lined bushel basket filled with wet clothes and hang everything from clotheslines run across the backyard.  I never shared that Bruce called his mother and father 'Ma' and 'Pa' as did his brothers and sisters.
Bruce constructed a pulley clothesline

Eventually, my young husband worked out a pulley system for me with lines also running across my yard. I would stand at an open window in the back sunroom with the door closed if it were cold, attach laundry with clothespins to the line, and shoot them out with the pulley lines to the far end of the yard. I no longer needed to carry a bushel basket of wet clothes down the stairs, through the yard. Later in the year the clothing froze about as soon as I hung them. There was always a basket of ironing waiting to be done each week. Perma-press, dacron/cotton, uh-uh, not yet.

Always mending to be done

Mending socks was a constant. Gran shared 1 or 2 darning eggs with me. Bruce said a good plan for expenses was to replace a few items each month never having a big strain on the budget. Darned socks which would eventually be throw a-ways definitely what he referred to.  We had eggs and milk   so most other items we could purchase once a month. We ate lots of canned products. The market flow of goods we have today didn’t exist. Stewarts had a small freezer chest left in our basement which we could access. Bruce loved my sour cream cake with 1/2 inch vanilla butter frosting. Probably baked one every other week. His favorite. 

Dairy farmers receive a large milk cheque once a month. Many purchases in town and locally are billed and then paid after the cheque arrives on the 18th of the month. I saw big money in, followed by big money out, repeat month after month. Machinery is expensive, feed and seed are expensive, large vet bills, insemination. They all thought I could take care of the books. I don’t think this was delegated until after school dismissed. When I did get the job I hated it. I was not a bookkeeper. 
My days were extremely busy doing the housewife stuff, leaving each day for school, planning lessons and school purchases along with the extra-curricular obligations at the high school. I remember I often had a headache teasing while driving to Darien. I’d swallow an aspirin and be OK by the time I entered my classroom. I had 2 full months remaining in the school year. Soon I found out I was experiencing bad, bad morning sickness. I had to teach through the worst part of it. Weather was often nice, but typically  midwest springtime. The sun may not shine at all for days and days. Not much comfort here. I went to visit Dr. Forrest in Woodstock, a very dignified, mannered, Catholic doctor. Bruce thinks cousin Donna, a double cousin about our age, referred him. He confirmed my pregnancy and a delivery around Christmas time.
Takes skill to make good hay

Which comes first, grain, hay? A good year there will be several cuttings of alfalfa. Spring is incredibly busy. Due to weather one can often see someone out in the fields,  tractor headlights bouncing along through the night, catching up on schedule. Time of the year for bringing in the hay, plowing, cultivating, dragging the fields to get the corn in by very early May. In the Midwest one works around the weather which is constantly providing  added anxiety.
How do I paint this ground black?

There are stretches of days at a time when fields cannot be worked in. To reach full maturity there’s that saying about corn, 'Knee high by the 4th of July'. If not growing well by then chances are the cobs won’t harden off by the first freeze. One is always hoping the weather will cooperate. Hebron's rich, black Prairie land, which this is, grows the best corn.

Bruce has made a friend in Art Galt who has a farm a few miles down Greenwood Road. He, too, is an airplane buff and has his own field, the Galt Airport. They enjoy one another's company and talking aeronautics. They begin trading off work as partners, not needing to do the heavy work alone and sharing machinery.
Most weekends, particularly Sunday afternoons the Stewart bunch would gather at Gran and Gramps to share conversation, fun, food. Often there's a birthday to celebrate. They even have double cousins. Or something would be going on at my parents’ home. Family is all about us and we are reveling in  it.  At the 'house on the hill' the men often gather in a corner. All they seem to talk about are animals and crops. About 4:30 partying for them ceases as the men return to afternoon cattle chores.
RW preferred to drive the Chevy Truck

Granpa had an old Chevy pickup truck which he drove back and forth, out onto the farm fields, into town. There were those times after morning chores, especially rainy days, father and son would want to do research on something or other. Bruce and dad would come into my pink kitchen, ask if I were interested in going along with. If not Gran would go, always ready on the spot, ‘grab her hat’ and off they’d go. She loved the short trips and times together. Those times Bruce would do the driving. Other times we might all go in the Kaiser which was Gran's car. Except these times Bruce drove. 
Jim says he remembers going with me to Darien to work on the stage for the graduation ceremony. Things were indeed winding down at the high school. I let Mr. Cox know I would not be returning in the Fall. He simply would not accept my decision. He wanted my return. Even late in the summer he continued to coax me to no avail. I could not possibly have continued with the work load at home. I would never dream of working while caring for my expected baby. Out of the question. But he kept trying. He better believe me and not wait too long. Yes, sir, you will need a replacement in September.

Punchy, dangerous to chase cars. Listen to me.
One day a delivery man was in our farmyard.  He had a dog sitting in the front seat with him, whom Bruce was petting and talking with. The man asked if we'd like to have the dog. They came to the house and spoke with me. I think I fell in love with this black and white, collie/shepherd mix. We accepted the dog. His name was 'Punchy'. He was trained not to chase cars. Even so he'd sneak out front and in the dust behind a car traveling down the gravelly Stewart Rd. sometimes give chase. There wasn't a lot of traffic so a car coming by was almost an event.  

1 comment:

  1. At the time, I didn't care that there were new generations of sewing machines! I liked that old Singer!


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