Grandmother’s House – revisited

[Editor’s note – The following story by Valerie Ogren was awarded a purple ribbon and Best Overall exhibit in the genealogy class at the Greene County Fair. Valerie shares it here with GreeneCountyNewsOnline readers.]

(This is from an April 2015 Tree Tracings column. Some of you may have seen it before, but not all of our members have computers or access to the local newspapers.)

At our November meeting, Elaine Deluhery gave what turned out to be an interesting program – to me anyway. It was an idea she found online and I thought “Oh, what the heck, it will do in a pinch and fill 30 minutes”.

She handed us a sheet of graph paper and asked us to draw the floor plan of our grandparents’ house – or another relative. I was amazed at all the memories that came flooding back. Being a farm kid, it was always a treat to be able to walk from school to Grandma and Grandpa Radebaugh’s home in Rippey with some of my classmates who were town kids.

Not only did I get the floor plan reasonably correct, I could even place furniture and appliances because the arrangement never changed. [Our furniture has sat in the same place for 24 years. Now I know where I inherited that trait.]

It seemed like one memory triggered another, and another, and another. Things like: the pantry always smelling like grape juice because there was a stone jar full of it on the cabinet that I was not allowed to drink. Sugar was Grandma’s answer for everything. If I turned my nose up at sliced tomatoes, sprinkle a little sugar on them. Don’t like scrambled eggs? Put some sugary grape jelly on them. [I knew about green eggs and ham long before Dr. Seuss came along.] Grandpa smoked a pipe, but it was forbidden in the house.

However, Grandma did love the little cloth bag with a drawstring that the tobacco came in because it was just the right size for her flower seeds. Their yard was surrounded with flowers (mostly annuals), so she would harvest the seeds every fall and then start plotting out the arrangement of her flower gardens for the following year.

Overnights were generally spent on the davenport/fold-out bed with Grandma. It had a feather tick mattress that once a year got aired out in the sun. It was nice to snuggle down in-except for the time Grandma told me she sure hoped a snake didn’t get in there while it was outside all day.

Trips uptown with Grandpa always involved a treat of some kind – maybe yeasto, popcorn, or an outdoor movie by Thornburg’s cafe. All my memories might end up in a book. With any luck, I’ll have it done in a year or two.

Continuation – Started 3-4-2019 – Memories seem to go on and on.

There was a “parlor” inside the front door with a sofa and a large library desk. There may have been a chair or other piece of furniture. Off the parlor was a guest bedroom. I don’t recall any guests ever sleeping there. Grandpa may have when I stayed overnight because I always slept with Grandma either in her bed or the fold out daveno which was in the dining room. Both the parlor and guest room had beautiful wood pocket doors which were kept closed when the rooms were not in use.

The parlor got very little use and they seldom sat on the front porch. Most people came to the back porch door off the kitchen.

I was allowed to choose a book from the bookcase in the guest bedroom. My favorites were the Bobbsey Twins, Little Women and a hardbound book with the story of Hiawatha – the poem “By the shores of Gitche Goome”, etc. In my childhood I could recite it from memory.

In addition to the daveno, the dining room also contained a large round table with four chairs around and one or two side chairs and a large wooden rocker elsewhere in the room. There was a large buffet with drawers in the center and a door on each end. Inside one of the doors was a collection of beautiful cups and saucers. The cups matched the saucers, but none of the sets matched. I always thought “poor grandma can’t afford dishes that match”. When I grew up I realized that those beautiful dishes were probably hand painted and might have come from Germany inherited from one of her ancestors.

At least one of the drawers was laden with quilt blocks she had made of appliqued butterflies. I don’t recall ever seeing a butterfly quilt put together.

When Grandma began getting a little forgetful, she was always losing her purse. I would help her find it which wasn’t very difficult. She always hid it in the same place – a buffet drawer. The dining room was one of Grandma’s favorite places to sit because it had large windows – one on the west and one on the south – that overlooked some of her flower beds in the side yard.
Their bedroom always had a wonderful aroma of talcum powder which sat on the dresser. In later years when I started using Avon products, they came out with a rerun of the Cotillion fragrance. I recognized it immediately although I hadn’t really known what it was when I was a little girl.

In one corner of the bedroom was a doorway which led to the attic. I’m sure like most attics it was full of trash and treasures. The only thing that stands out in my mind was a huge box with a lid – bigger than a trunk. Inside were lots of blankets and quilts which smelled of moth balls. The large box was made of wood with a design painted on the sides and top. One of my favorite TV shows now is Antiques Road Show. Sometimes I see a Pennsylvania “Dutch” painted trunk and wonder if that might have been what I saw in the attic since Grandpa Radebaugh’s also came from Germany and lived for some time in Pennsylvania before migrating on to Ohio, Illinois and Iowa.

The large country kitchen had a big rectangular shaped table, a large hutch for dishes and a gas cook stove. One door from the kitchen led to the pantry which also contained a sink (there was none in the kitchen) while another door off the kitchen led to the bathroom. It had a big claw-foot tub, sink and stool. I doubt their farmhouse south of town had indoor plumbing.

The back porch off the kitchen got a lot of use. There were several chairs. Grandpa always sat out there to smoke his pipe and maybe visit with his next door neighbor, Tom Chambers. Grandma and I would sit quietly and sometimes watch the Jenny wrens building a nest in the birdhouse. I watched them carry sticks and work to turn them around and try to fit them through the tiny hole.

One time I went out to the hedge and found some dry sticks, broke them in little pieces and put a pile on the porch to try and help them out. Grandma explained to me that the wrens preferred to get their own nest building material and didn’t like those sticks since they now had a human scent of my hands.

In addition to the many flowers in the flower bed, they had a garden, a pear tree, Concord grape vines and a good sized patch of black raspberry bushes. The grapes were the source of the juice in the pantry which I wasn’t allowed to drink. I realize now it had probably fermented to wine – Grandma’s own private supply of hooch.

She made the best black raspberry pies and that fact soon spread up and down the M&STL railroad tracks to all the hobos. The depot was only a short distance away and one would often knock on the door to ask for food. They were never allowed in the house but were never refused food – generally pie – to eat on the back porch.

The house had a nice dry basement. At the bottom of the stairs was a good sized room which contained the furnace. As I recall it was a coal furnace which had been converted to gas. Just around the corner the other way from the steps was a small room with shelves from floor to ceiling full of canned fruit, vegetables and beef. That canned beef, complete with the white fat which hardened at the top of the jar made the best beef and noodles – homemade noodles of course.

In another room beyond the furnace room sat Grandma’s weaving loom. She made a lot of rag rugs and had a special way of threading the loom so that the warp was never on top. That allowed the rugs to last much longer since the rags were much stronger than the warp. Unfortunately, the loom sat in the empty house too many years before being rescued by a family member. By that time the warp had been chewed to shreds by mice so the secret to her special way of threading was forever lost. When weather was not nice for playing outdoors, I enjoyed sitting on the bench by Grandma and helped passed the shuttle back and forth. I always imagined I was a great help to her. But truth be known she probably could have done it much faster without my “help”.

Well, my memories haven’t reached “book” proportions yet. But you never know when another happy memory will trigger a few more lines.

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