Welcome to my World: In our own words

Submitted photo Oct. 1998 Back, l to r Millie, Lester, David, Paul; Middle Mary Alice, Gladys, Verna Seated Jannetta, Dorothy, Anita, Carole

Here are some of the memories, from the newsletter, of the ten siblings “in our own words.”

In Our Own Words:

Anita: “Mom had to have her teeth pulled. Guess how they came? In the mail. We were all in the old kitchen when Pop brought them in. She was so happy. She never went back for adjustments. She adjusted them herself with a file.”

“Sometimes someone would try to steal ducks. Pop would get the shot gun and shoot out the window to scare them off.”

“Mom’s favorite saying was: I can speak Latin very fast. In pine tar is. In oak name is. In mud ell is. In clay none is. Also, holding your tongue say: Molasses (sounds like my ass is) on the table.”

“Mom had a cure for everything. If you had dirt in your eye and couldn’t get it out, she placed a fennel seed in the eye. She did it to me and it didn’t hurt.”

“I once stepped on a board with a rusty nail. Mom pulled the nail out of my foot. Grandma Christman was there that day. She sent someone out in the field to get fresh cow poop. Another went for rags. They placed the poop around my foot and then wrapped it. I cried, but it worked! The next morning the hole was cleaned out. Usually Mom used a piece of bacon, but Grandma said my wound needed cow poop.”

Jannetta: “We had a roller piano in the back part of the living room. This is where the girls (except Carole, who refused) were taught piano lessons from Irene Oswald. Mom played piano often and we’d stand around and sing the old songs. She played the organ later when they retired and moved to Kutztown. Whatever Mom tackled, she could do well.”

“Pop cut heels of shoes off and we’d have to wear them like that. This was mostly the first five kids.”

“Mom made feather pillows. Anita and I picked the feathers from the breast of ducks and geese. Our pillows were the width of the bed. Mostly Mom made comforts. Sheep wool was placed in the middle and then knotted. Pop shaved the sheep and then took the wool to be cleaned. Mom made some quilts. We had quilting parties at the house. We kids used to crawl and play under quilts while the ladies sewed. Mom was a terrific hostess. She probably had less time than most women, but always served pie or cake and coffee. She tatted. She taught that with cord and string. I’m the only girl that still tats. Mom embroidered too. She made us clothes by altering other clothes when we were little.”

“Whenever we drove by Brooklyn (small village next to Kutztown) Mom asked, ‘Do you know why they only fry bacon on one side in Brooklyn?’ Naturally, one of us asked why. Her reply, ‘Because the houses are only on one side of the road.’“

Mary Alice: “Mom told us one time Pop took us all along to the store. When she was alone in the kitchen, she saw a man looking in the window. She was scared but tried not to let on. She pretended she was having a conversation, so it would seem someone else was home with her. It must have worked. No one came or tried to break in.”

Gladys: “Mom told us if we’d pick a pound of those wine colored dots in the center of the Queen Ann’s lace, we could sell it for $1.00. I don’t know how often we’d start with a paper bag. We’d never get many. I think it was impossible to pick a pound. I believe she just wanted us to keep busy.”

“I loved Mom’s miniature fish pond at the outside spigot near the front fence. It was the neatest place. There was a tin cup there for hobos. After Mom gave them a meal, they’d sit on the porch with a cup of water. Sometimes Pop left them sleep in the barn if they’d give him their matches.”

David: “One time I was helping fix the corn crib. I was told to hold the board in place on the inside of the crib. He then went on the outside to hammer nails in place. I happened to have my fingers in the way and a nail cut my finger. I kept my mouth shut, even though I was in pain. He would have yelled, “Why was your finger there in the first place?”

Paul: “After chores were done on a Saturday, we had to clean up the grounds so it would look decent for Sunday.”

Babies and Illness

Jannetta: “Mom always helped in the field. She said she felt better working outside when pregnant. She sat babies in a cardboard box, at the end of a row of potatoes or whatever crop, so she could keep an eye on them. (Carole’s comment: When Mom wasn’t looking, the older siblings threw ground and worms into my box. Because of this I still have a fetish for worms. I like to make them feel guilty for abusing me.) When husking corn, children were placed on a blanket in the corner of the high wagon. One particular day, Pop was irritated about her constant nausea and sick children, so she refused to help in the field. Mom said, “That was the biggest and fastest husked field Pop ever did by himself!”

Anita: Lester had whooping cough at four weeks of age, then Mom had it. Mom hadn’t slept for a week---just snatches. One day she became delirious from no sleep. Pop found her wrapping baby Lester in newspaper on the table because she thought he was dead. Jannetta had it too. Pop rushed her to an open window upstairs and partly hung her outside to catch her breath.”

“When the Lindberg baby was kidnapped Mary Alice was the baby. One time Mom went upstairs to check on her and came running downstairs screaming, “Mary Alice was kidnapped!” Pop went along upstairs with her. They found Mary Alice under the crib---she somehow slid between the rails of the metal crib.”

“I was in the kitchen ironing when Gladys and Carole were born. Dr. Smith brought all of Mom’s babies in his black satchel.”

“Dorothy was very sick with the measles; others also had it. When we were almost over them, Dr. Smith told Mom we deserved some ice cream. Mom always thought it was the ice cream that made Dorothy worse. The ambulance was called and Dorothy was taken to the hospital where she was in a coma for a week. Lester was even called home from the service and the first person Dorothy talked to after coming out of her coma. Paul was in the navy, stationed in Cuba. He sent her a beautiful wrist watch.”

Gladys: “There used to be many beds in one room. When we were all sick at one time with measles we all stayed in one room. We were quarantined by the doctor to stay upstairs. We’d make tents with the sheets.”

Field and Garden Work

Jannetta: “Everytime Anita and I had to pick raspberries or work in the garden, Mom made us were a big blue sunbonnet. She didn’t want us to look like city girls. We hated them. Whenever Mom wasn’t in view, the bonnets were taken off.”

“When we’d visit Mom’s sisters, Aunt Annie and Aunt Minerva, we’d get a tour of the flower beds. The sisters exchanged seeds. Mom took us girls through her flower beds and taught us the names.”

“We had a big garden with paths, bordered by mainly petunias. Mom’s other favorites were gladiolas. Roses were on the fence. We had a big asparagus patch. When the lettuce was in, we had lettuce. When the peas were ready, we ate peas and so on. Mom had artichokes planted around the outhouse. Were they ever good!”

Anita: “I loved hunting arrowheads with Pop on a Sunday afternoon. Also walking barefoot when he was plowing with the horses. Fresh plowed ground felt good! We never worked in the field on a Sunday, only necessary work, like milking cows or feeding animals was allowed.”

Paul: “The land on the left, facing the house, was once an old apple orchard. The apples no longer produced good apples. Pop dug up the orchard tree stumps one by one with the horses. A chain or rope was attached to the horse and tree stump.”

Lester: My youth was filled with dreams of flying. It started in school when I was 16 to 18 years old. I tried to read about flying and visit any airport by “thumbing” on weekends. During those times, Pop and I had frequent conflicts. One of which was my ability to use a team of horses with one of those foot-steered cultivators. Cultivators worked fine for me until an airplane was heard. Immediately, I picked it up and followed it from horizon to horizon---not watching the rows of crop. As you know, at times, if your driving a car when your attention is drawn to the right you steer to the right. Not only did I steer the cultivator to the right, I reined the horses to the right also. After I crossed 1, 2 or 3 rows and cultivated out the crop being cultivated Pop would find me. He’d give me a swift kick in the rear and say ‘Du warst phum dum si widen in de luft!’ (You were so dumb again looking in the sky.)

Foods and Stuff

Anita: “I loved to sneak a peek in the smoke house where Pop hung the hams and bacon. It really smelled good. One year Pop treated them with something different. They all turned bad. We ended up burying them in the field. We canned lots of vegetables, made grape juice and jellies. We also canned sausage and tenderloins. We had lots of big dinners. Mom always coaxed people to eat with us. She’d send us kids down to the cellar for food. We dried all our corn and beans.”

“Each spring we went into the woods at Uncle Tom to hunt a special tea. We all had to drink it even though it tasted bad. This tea would clean out our bodies in case we had pinworms or as a good blood cleanser.”

“Before anyone of the girls or boys married, Mom had the minister over. She’d make a jello dessert by hardening 3 layers each and make whipped cream (real cream) for on the top. We loved it. One pastor insisted on having dessert before we ate. We kids didn’t mind that.”

Jannetta: “On trips to Topton, Pop would stop at a garage and buy us popsicles. We’d eat them real fast to see if we got a free stick.”

“I don’t remember feeling poor. We always had lots of good food. Mom never made sandwiches while I was home. We had breakfast, dinner, and supper. We only had sandwiches for school, which consisted of apple butter, jelly, or a cold fried egg. We had cake or cookies on occasion.”

“During the winter, we’d make ice cream turned by hand. Ice was buried under the hay in the barn until it was needed. Sometimes Pop used the tractor to turn the 5-gallon ice cream freezer. Mom would mix corn starch, pudding and real cream. It was delicious!”

“We’d love to open certain boxes to find dishes. There was a dish in Oxydol detergent too. We received green or pink carnival dishes and silverware for perfect attendance in Sunday School. These were saved and packed in a box on the attic for when we’d get married---our hope chest. For Christmas, we’d receive a box of candy and an orange in Sunday School.”

“Saturday was baking day. It was also the day for soup---tomato (lumpy) or potato soup.”

Mary Alice: “I remember going to the basement and getting quarts of canned peaches. I don’t recall helping “put up” the harvest. Dorothy and I picked a lot of potatoes on the farm. We also worked at Kutz’s farm for 50 cents a day. We had a big dinner at noon.”

Dorothy: “I churned butter that was made into a nice block one pound mold with a design. Mom sold some of it.”

Barn and Outbuildings

Gladys: “The potato cellar was in the center of the barn’s first floor. I hated that room. It has a musky odor. We drilled holes in the back of the outhouse “to see.” Pop never used the bathroom in the house during the day. There were always catalogs and phone books there for tissues.”

Paul: “In the horse power (lean to ) shed, where implements were stored, was a 16-18 foot long wheel. Before Pop had the farm, it was used to thresh. Horses traveled in a circle and pulled the wheel.”

Dorothy: “The wash house was not attached to the house. We attached a hose through the kitchen window and ran it to the wash house.”

Animals

Jannetta: “One day a horse fell down a hay hole in the barn when it was still hitched to another horse. Pop used all his strength and a plank to get that horse up. Another fun time (when Pop wasn’t around) was when a cow, in the meadow, became entangled in a chain and was choking. Mom couldn’t get the chain loose and finally used pliers. In all the excitement the cow “pooped” straight across---not down---against the wall!”

Gladys: “The chicken house was always full of cob webs. I was scared of clucks because if they were sitting on eggs, they’d go after you.”

“I used to set muskrat traps along the creek. I’d get up early, before school, to check them. I think we got 50 cents for them.”

Paul: “During winter months, the boys often caught 10-20 rabbits in the meadow.”

About School

Anita: “As a teen I remember movie star pictures on all walls. I used flour paste. Flour paste reminds me of when Paul and I had some at school. It got sour. When I opened it, it exploded. Donald Lutz, the school clown, looked at me and I laughed. I had to stand on the window sill so people that passed by would know I was bad. How many cars were on the road then? We had lots of fun at recess playing baseball, jumping rope, playing jacks. I still have my blue ribbon that I won broad jumping at the Lyons school. Guess where I got my first special valentine (which I still have) and my first kiss? From a boy named Ernest Angstadt who grabbed me behind the schoolhouse and kissed me on the cheek. On Ash Wednesday, we’d hurry to get to school or the last one had to empty the ashes from the coal stove.”

Carole: “If you’ve noticed I didn’t have anything much to say. The siblings insist, because I was the baby in the family, I didn’t do anything. How would they know? They all left home to marry or join the service. They left me alone to do all the household chores and the barn work to boot! But I forgive them.”

Carole Christman Koch grew up in Berks County and has been published in numerous publications. She has a passion for writing and has many stories from growing up on a farm to raising children to humorous stories about her and her husband to everyday stories to season stories and more.