Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grandma's story

For G--I'll be scanning the original and mailing it to you.

The following is a short biography that my Grandma wrote for me a few years ago. In essence, this is a transcript.

Katherine Salene Miller

I was born April 23, 1923 in the farm home of my parents, Israel A and Olive May Miller, five miles north west of Englewood.

I cannot think my life was much different than any farm child of that era. My father died when I was 3 years and 3 or 5 days old, depending on what records you go back to. mother always said he died April 26, 1926, so that is what I remember. I had one brother, Clyde Allen, who was born near Lyons on October 18, 1904. My father and mother are both buried at Lyons, Ks.

I do not remember anything especially different about my childhood. We lived on a farm. We had chickens, pigs and milk cows. My brother did the farming.

After the stock market crash of 1929, everyone was poor, the dust bowl years soon followed, so no one had much above their expenses. We used kerosene lamps and sometime in the 30's we had a gasoline lamp, and since my brother was able to fix things, sometime in the late 30's, he was able to fix us electric lights [grandpa inserts 6 volt battery]. Where he got a motor to fix I do not know.

Nearly all farm homes at that time had cellars. That's where we kept our canned fruit and vegetables, also the cured and canned meats.

A little about Mother working. I think that my Mother did a lot of nursing during World War I. She was called an LPN nurse, and went into many homes when people had the flu, during the war. They had just moved to Clark Co., not too many years before that. She did so some nursing that I can remember but not much.

Clyde, my brother was a good mechanic. He was always working on some machinery, but I really don't know whether he liked to or not. We always had a car of some kind during those years. Just drove only when necessary. We walked to our neighbors, and they walked to our house.

The one think of my childhood years were dust storms. This was in the 1930's. We were dry! Kansas Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas and north of us. The wind would start blowing and stir up the dust. You could not see across the road. You could clean your house, go to bed and the next morning, you had 1 to 3 inches of dust on the windowsills. The pattern on the floors were covered, so you couldn't make it out. The clean place on your pillow was where your head was. When you fixed a meal, you either covered the table with a tea towel or put your plates, cups, and glasses up side down. Everything had to be covered.

As I said during the 30's you did anything honest to make a nickle. Clyde did mechanical work. Also at one time, he worked a short time on WPA, a govt. work program and they planted trees along the highway. Also after some of the govt. programs for farmers were started he had a job helping measure the land.

We at times think we are poor, but farmers in the 30's and early 40's milked cows and had chickens. Your grocery money was from that. When we were married our grocery money was our egg and cream money. When I was little Mother would give me a penny and tell me to buy some candy. You knew which clerk gave you the most of 1 cent.

Clyde was also a pretty good artist. He made his pictures with colors (pastels) and he made several, but I don't know what Rose [his wife] did with them. He also liked to make fancy candy for Christmas, and was a pretty good cook if necessary. After I got old enough, I did the cooking if Mother wasn't able.

We also did a lot of canning, but we didn't have a pressure cooker. We canned in the old fashioned waterbath (3 hours of boiling water). When Graves' moved north of us, Edna had a pressure cooker and Mother did can corn up there.

All I remember about my childhood was it was alright. Since my Mother was a widow, she did do some work for other people. Until I was school age, people she worked for, knew I had to come along. She cleaned houses for people in town that could afford to pay someone. I usually set in the kitchen when she cleaned, or did the washing or ironing. The only ones I can think of now were the Billings and Lees. She also did washing for people at our home and Mother was a great seamstress, so she did a lot of sewing for other people. During the 1930's you either wore what you had or did without. My mother had a cousin, Florence Cole, who worked for people as a housekeeper. She sent Mother boxes of their no longer wore clothing, and that's what her clothes and mine were made from . The year I was a Senior in High School, I had my first new coat. It was a maroon wool coat. Since Mother sewed she taught me to sew when I was young, also to embroider, but since Mother was left handed, she couldn't teach me to crochet. ( I finally bought a book after I married, then I learned to crochet and knit.)

The one thing that bothered me during most of my growing up years was I had hay fever and had trouble breathing. After I married, I found out what I was allergic too. Ragweed, which grew all around our house.

We were lucky as we had a small ice box that they had got sometime, and ice was not too expensive. We mostly kept it for our cream and milk. If you ever made ice tea or a cold drink, you were really entertaining. If anyone wanted a cold drink you went out to the well and got a drink of fresh well water. I guess that's a habit I never out grew because a good drink of water is still best.

If you had unexpected company you caught a chicken, especially in the summer. You would dress the chicken, cut it up and fry it for the meal. We usually had some beef in the winter, we would butcher or get 1/2 beef from a neighbor. The Elmer Walkers were a small family, so usually we traded with them. If anyone in the neighborhood butchered, everyone helped and you usually gave them liver or a mess of meat to take home. When the Ward family lived north of us, they had goats, so once in a while, we would have some goat meat. Mother always cooked it and if you are hungry, you eat it.

Sharing was also done if you had field corn or a large garden, or mulberries and we had black currants. Everyone managed to pick wild plums and we ate a lot for fruit. Mother always managed some way to buy a bushel of peaches and some blue plums. We had a lot of fruit for dessert when I was a child. Mothers favorite dessert was her one egg chocolate cake.

As our house was heated by a wood and coal stove, we lived in the dining room in the winter, as it was the easiest to heat. We slept in cold bedrooms and used flannel sheets and wool comforters on our beds that Mother made We also slept on feather beds at our home. The only thing with feather beds was that the bed was hard to make. On bath nights you heated the kitchen, heated water on the stove, carried in the wash tub and took a bath. We took more pan baths than tub baths. My bath tub is a luxury. In the summer we sometimes used straw mattresses, but I was allergic to straw so that wasn't very good. I was allergic to feathers I later found out too.

And that's where it ends. She never wrote anything else after this.

1 comment:

agent713 said...

What a treasure! I'm starting to collect stories from my Great Aunt too. I need to write them down properly though.