Early School Years - Moving to New York State
I learned how to knit when I was in first grade; the Second World War was on and there was a need for knitted squares of all different colors, to be made into blankets for the soldiers. I knitted quite a few squares, although I dropped a stitch, occasionally. From that time on, I wanted to knit and then to crochet all the time.
I didn't have many toys, Mom had a hard time (financially), raising two small girls all by herself, and paying for a baby sitter. So, one day, when we were walking down the tracks, out of the yard a ways (although we weren't suppose to be) we saw a lot of dolls on a blanket, in someone's yard - kids had been playing with them and gone into the house. The temptation was too much, we brought a lot of them home with us.
Of course, it wasn't long before our little secret was discovered and we were told to return them. We were so scared to be seen by the real owners. Some of the children were playing in the back yard, so we got as far as the blackberry bushes and threw them in there. Every day, when we walked down the tracks (to the baby sitters), we looked into the bushes and saw they were still there...Summer went, Fall came and went, Winter came and went, and by Spring we saw the dolls were in pretty rough shape. It seemed like our sin was ever before us, as each season came and went...maybe we learned more from what happened, this way.
When I was in 2nd grade, we had to learn how to dance. Our teacher was a little old maid, Miss Cook, who definitely didn't know how. I hated it because I didn't have any shoe laces and my shoes always kept falling off - it was very embarrassing. Nobody wanted to be my male dance partner.
My girl friend (Marjorie Whitman) had a problem of another kind - every day we were checked to see if we had a clean hanky with us; this day she didn't have one, she took off one sock and crinkled it up in her hand to look like a hanky. Growing pains... She was my girlfriend, even after we moved back from New York. She always did funny things (even when she was grown up), like cutting up a can of dog food, in slices, like hash - and frying it for company. She married a strange man, who looked like a white sheet of paper, and had the blackest hair.
The war was over, and Horace was getting out of the Army. He wasn't home long before we had trouble with this man: he was very abusive to us girls (physically, verbally, and sexually)...we were too scared to tell Mom. He had studied agriculture, many years before and now wanted to move back to New York, where his parents had a farm. Farm life was appealing to my sister and me, so we tried to give him a chance.
When I was in 2nd grade we moved to New York, to Cazenovia (Randallsville) and lived with the Graves grandparents. Grandpa milked about 10 cows and sold the milk. They lived on this farm since they received it as a wedding gift from Grandma's parents (Smith). Grandma (Mary Smith) had been a school teacher. They had four sons; Eugene, Allen, Horace, and Nathan: the youngest one, had drowned in a creek they swam in, down the street from the farm. He was in high school and was a promising artist; had many unfinished paintings around the house. They left his bedroom exactly the way it was when he had died.
The Graves side of the family was said to have Indian blood in it - Poccahontis (of John Smith fame). Grandfather (Charles Graves) had a very arched nose, said to have been formed by his mother bending it that way. She did the same to all the boys in the family. I was told it was the style in those days (perhaps among the Indian relatives).
Mary Smith Graves was a school-marm when they married; she had beautiful handwriting. She was an excellent cook; had made up her own, handwritten cookbook, which everybody wanted when she passed away.
They had a large buck deer head mounted and it hung in the kitchen, over the kitchen table. There was a hand pump for water in the kitchen, a wood cook stove, two rockers, each in front of the two windows (on either side of the East door - which opened out onto the porch and the vegetable garden beyond. (My Mom is the first one who had planted a garden there, in many years.) Near the Grandmother's rocker, there was a large grapefruit tree that she had planted many years before; it had blossoms on it sometimes and very small grapefruit.
On the West wall was a door leading down to the cellar; which was dark and only the Grandmother went down there. She did some canning - strawberries, and one of the very best things was beef that she did in the wood cook stove oven; it took many hours canning that way and the meat was so wonderfully tender.
They had a black, spaniel dog many years before (we saw pictures of him). The dog was named "Zipper" (because the Grandfather had brought him home as a small pup, a surprise and he was hidden inside his jacket; his fur got caught in the jacket's zipper).
Just off the kitchen (on the South side) was a door that led into a large woodshed (used for chopping and storing wood in the winter). The kitchen stove used wood, the living room stove used coal.
Beyond (and South of) the woodshed was the two-holed outhouse; these additions were all attached. You could go beneath part of the outhouse (from the outside); there was a large, cast iron caldron stored there - it had been used to make soap outside, in bygone days. We always pretended it was used by a witch.)
From the door, going North from the kitchen, it went into the front room and another door North of that, it was the front door and never used; there was a large front porch. In days past, it must have been a grand house; the white paint was now all but worn off. There had been beautiful flower beds across the front of the house - now they were all overgrown and unkept. Two or three very tall pine trees were in the front yard.
Back in the front room was a coal stove, which heated (supposedly), that half of the house. There was the Grandfather's chair facing the coal stove. On the South wall of that room was a daybed, on which Grandfather took a short rest in the daytime, with his barn clothes on (it was covered with a blanket). On the West wall was a large, pipe organ. It was played a lot before Nathan died - I think he had played it, too. No one was allowed to play it now (although we did, sometimes, when the adults were not in the house). There was a door leading to the hall and the upstairs.
There was a large Bible sitting on a table near the organ. We were told it was very old and not to touch it. I remember the cover of the Bible was raised and deeply indented in design - I have since seen pictures of the rare Goutinberg Bibles and it had looked like them.
There was a table in the middle of the floor, next to the Grandfather's chair. It was piled high with magazines and books. Along the North wall was the front door and a window on each side of the door. Beneath the windows were tables and bookcases, piled high with magazines, puzzles, books.
On the East wall was a door leading to the grandparents' bedroom. The Grandmother still had her wedding dress; it was made of many colors of fine silk, in vertical stripes. She wore it again, for their 50th Wedding Anniversary picture that they had taken.
Above the coal stove was a grate in the ceiling - it was used to heat the bedrooms upstairs.
This was one half of the house: like a duplex today. The other half of the house was the same - the two halves being joined by the West wall. Both shared the same hallway and upstairs.
There was a closet at the top of the stairs. It contained many goodies that we were not suppose to see; many porcelain dolls and very old-fashioned clothes. We often wondered who the dolls belonged to; whether they were the Grandmother's when she was growing up, or if she was hoping to have a daughter some day.
The hall stairs had gone South - now they turned West.
There were 2 bedrooms along the West side. All had beds made up of rope springs and feather-filled mattresses. Some had washstands with large bowls and pitchers on them.
As the hallway turned North, there on the corner of the building was a large bedroom. It had a four poster bed and a spinning wheel stored in there.
There was a door across the hallway, as you headed East; it opened into a large room that had a big bed in the middle of it (this is where my sister Irene and I slept). This was where the grate was in the floor for heat - but was always so cold you could see your breath in the winter).
Off the big bedroom, facing East, were two small bedrooms. The one on the left was kept like a museum; it contained all of Nathan's artist tools. We were not allowed in there, although the door was always kept open. The bedroom on the right eventually became my room.
There was a door facing South - which went into a large attic. There were many storage chests in there. Some contained butternuts that the Grandparents collected every Fall. They were put there to dry out and later used in baking. The Grandmother made a delicious cake with the nuts in it and then she made a seven minute, cooked frosting that she also put the nuts on top of. The frosting would get a soft "crust" on it and it was really good. (It was a very spooky looking attic and I never went inside. It was kept locked.)
On that same South wall was a closet that we used - there were old games and puzzles and books on the top shelf.
We lived on the side with the grandparents for awhile and then we separated and lived on the other side.
There was a cow barn just West of the house. The Grandfather milked between 4-7 cows a day. When there was a calf born, it was a big occasion. We sold the bull calves and kept some of the heifers. One that we kept was named Star - she was mostly black with a distinct white star on her forehead.
Kittens were born up in the hayloft, in the Spring; we thought this a great treat. The Grandfather always told us when there were new kittens and we went looking for them. We spent many long hours up in the hayloft - that is where the pole beans were stored to dry out; once they dried, we had to pop them open and gather the beans for cooking; it was hard on little fingers and we did them until we bled. It was a good rainy-day chore.
The Grandfather would go hunting in the Fall, usually getting a deer and fishing in the Spring (we would have pan-fried trout, rolled in cornmeal, quite often for breakfast). I always asked for the tails, as they were so nice and crispy. The Grandmother would make oatmeal and also corn meal mush - most of the time there was plenty left over and she would save it in a loaf pan. The next morning she would slice it up, fry it and we put real maple syrup on it; that way it tasted much better than when it was fresh. In the Winter we would gather some snow in a large bowl; the Grandmother boiled some maple syrup and when it was just right, she would pour it over the snow. It made an excellent maple syrup candy. She also made a cottage cheese out of some of the extra milk, she had her own recipe and I never could duplicate it, years later when I tried.
There was a small, sparkling clear creek that ran through the pasture behind the cow barn. Down the hill it ran beneath a small bridge and onto the other side of the road. There was a spring house built over the creek. In the summer I would walk with the grandfather down the unpaved road, to the spring house. He would push a cart before him with the milk from the cows in large metal milk cans. He lowered the cans of milk into the creek beneath the spring house. Each morning he would take the cans out to the road, where they would be picked up and brought to town in a truck owned by the people who bought his milk.
Summer was always the time to pick wild strawberries, to be canned for winter eating. We would pack a lunch and go out to the meadow where they grew in abundance. Wild strawberries are very small - but, nevertheless we picked many quarts. There was always the reward of a huge strawberry shortcake that night for supper, with lots of whipped cream. (Not just for dessert, but for the whole supper...)
We had one family close by for neighbors; the Lyon family. There were 2 daughters whom we played with occasionally - Doreen and Nancy. Sometimes we played house. Upstairs, in their big house, were many empty bedrooms - each one of us girls had a different room that we transformed into "our house", with unused things that were being stored upstairs. We would visit each other dressed up in old clothes, hats and shoes. Quite often we were allowed to make real tea for our tea parties.
One time we went into the Lyons' barn, into the place where they stored grain. There were nests made by mice along the sides of the storage area. The baby mice were very cute when they were first born, they didn't have any hair on them...none at all.
Sometimes we played up in their haymow (hay loft and haymow mean the same thing), it was much larger than the Grandfather's. They had hollyhocks growing on the incline that led up to the haymow. We took some of the flowers and by turning one upright and another upside-down, and sticking a toothpick between them - we made them into a "Belle of the Ball" doll.
One sunny day their Dad, Gene, was cutting hay in the field - he had a modern tractor and a hay mower. They had a "Lassie-type" dog; he ran out to greet Gene and the hay mower cut the dogs front paws right off, completely. They kept us out of the way, so we didn't see too much; then they brought the dog to the vet. The vet sewed the dogs paws back on, bandaged them up and their Mom, Deliah (who had been a nurse), took good care of the dog - eventually he was able to run through the fields again.
Across the main road from the front of the Slade farm, was another, smaller barn; it was for the two, large, black work horses. Their hay for the Winter was kept in the hay mow above them. Their pasture was behind their barn. Once, the Grandfather put me up on the back of one of the work horses, as he was being led back to the barn from working all day. He seemed so big and so sweaty and slippery that I was afraid of him and didn't get on another horse for about 30 years.
I had heard the farm was given to Charles and Mary Graves for a wedding gift, from her parents, the Smith's. They lived many miles down the road, on the way to Cazenovia. The Lyon's family had relatives down that road, also. There were two boys in the family, my sister and I were interested in them (as interested as you can be at ages 7 and 10). It was a family tradition to buy up all the farms you could around your farm, and give one to each of your children when they married.
I remember the Great-grandfather and Great-grandmother Smith. He was quite active; had a stroke when he was over 100 years old and it slowed him down a bit. I believe he lived to be 104. The Great-grandmother Smith stayed on the farm (she lived to be about 103); their son and daughter-in-law, Merritt & Daisy Smith had lived with them at the farm. The Great-grandmother had a milk pitcher collection...mostly small ones. People gave them to her from all over the world. She had a number on the bottom of each one and a book that listed the number and who and where it came from. She had many hundreds of pitchers (milk).
I remember the large Thanksgiving and Christmas meals we had there; the turkey and the stuffing that tasted like "pigeons smelled": it was made with oysters in it (called oyster dressing).
Right next door there was a new and small house. Uncle Merritt and Aunt Daisy's daughter and family lived there, they had two small boys. She was a very large woman; Marge Daley. She was a County Nurse; I think she was the one who talked Mom into taking care of a foster child. We had this boy just for a short time and it was so hard parting with him, that Mom never did it again.
Uncle Merritt told us a story each time we visited. The story was usually wrapped around this tiny, porcelain doll that he would hold in his hand. He always started the story with: "When I was a little girl." We stopped to think and then we couldn't help but laugh. I find that I do the same thing with my grandchildren now --- "When I was a little boy."
Behind the house, to the South, there was a gully; the creek ran through it. There was a rough road, little more than a path, made from the wagon wheels of the hay wagon and manure spreader. There was a small bridge over the creek. There were small fish, mostly minnows in the water. We used to lay on our stomachs, throw a line with a Christmas ball hook on it (we had no fishing hooks), into the water and try to "snag" a fish. We never caught anything worthy of being eaten, but it whiled-away many hot summer days.
We lived on the farms in New York during the war. We were luckier than some who lived in the cities - we had meat, milk, dairy products (they never did raise any chickens, I don't know why). We also had a vegetable garden. Mom baked bread, cakes and cookies - she also learned how to can the vegetables she grew.
We had a dog named Buster; he was a big, lanky, black Lab. Horace was about as good training dogs as he was children. He got the dog so scared that he wouldn't dare go "pee" in or near the house, always ran way out in the field to go. We didn't go away very often, but one time we did for the day...when we came home the poor dog (who was left tied close to the house), was hopping up and down; he was so relieved when he was untied - ran straight for the field...
There was a man who came by in a small truck; he sold commodities like salt, pepper, spices, sugar - except that there wasn't much during the war to sell. Most physically fit men were in the war (Henry had fulfilled his time in the service), so all industry was cut back; some women went to work for the first time, just to keep the country going industry-wise. I remember we couldn't get any pepper and also no bubble gum (that had been a big treat for us farm-kids). When the war was over, the biggest thrill was being able to chew gum again, and black pepper - well, we just poured it on everything!
There was a tiny church in Randallsville and we got to go to it a few times; we really liked the songs. There was also a Grange Hall and we went there a couple of times for a pot luck supper and dance. That was about all the activity there was in Randallsville.
We had a lot of oatmeal and cornmeal mush that made me throw up. My sister Irene, had it more rough than I did; we went to school on a bus every day and she always got sick. The regular routine was: we would get to a place where the bus had to turn off the main road to pick up some other farm kids, and the driver would let Irene off on the corner, she would throw up while he was picking up the kids, then he would stop and pick her up again. This happened every single day, for years.
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Pen Name: Aimee Love