Archive for Stories

Fun in CT

May 1980

When my farmer and I were in Connecticut we visited Mystic Seaport. It is a restoration of the famous whaling and ship building community as it was at the height of its prominence during the great clipper ship day of the 1850’s. Located on the Mystic River, whaling ships were built in the harbor, and businesses supplying the ships flourished in the town.

Going aboard the old fishing schooners and whaling ships revealed great wooden pens in the holds storing the catch. The sailor’s quarters were extremely primitive and absolutely no one had any privacy.

The galley (kitchen to us landlubbers) was small and had no counter space. To cook in it would be frustrating. There was a continual scarcity of fresh water. Flour, sugar, salt pork, molasses, beans, rice and vinegar were the only supplies. The guide didn’t mention if the sailors ate fish and I forgot to ask. Probably, they were too sick of the smell to eat them.

When the whaling ships left port the barrels for holding the oil from the captured whales were not assembled in order to save space. Each stove’s position in the barrel was indicated by a Roman numeral carved in the wood. They were then put together at sea, secured by iron rings and bottoms put in. After being filled with whale oil the top circular lid was adjusted and the oil safely stored for the rest of the voyage.

Sometimes the ships left port with old oil barrels filled with water, but the sailors didn’t like the taste the remains of the whale oil gave the water.

In the chandler’s shop, a general store for all shipping supplies, navigation instruments, ship’s lanterns, sextants, chronometers, compasses, and seagoing charts were on display. Here I met Charlie Zuccardy, an age compacted man dressed in sagging tan pants, blue plaid shirt, and a scruffy beige colored sweater. He was working as a guide and told us his story.

“I was born on April 23, 1885 in Italy. That is the birthday of William Shakespeare and Shirley Temple, too. I came to America at the age of seven and my father died soon after wards. We were so poor my brother and I had to help Mom keep our bodies and souls together. We kids scrounged firewood and coal from along the railroad tracks to keep our house warm.”

“We lived in New London, Connecticut,” Charlie said. “Eugene O’Neil, the playwright and I were playmates. When I was about fourteen I met and talked with Mark Twain. I married at the age of eighteen and went to work in the Palmer & Son Shipyard in Noak, Connecticut to support my family. I became a ship’s joiner and did a lot of cabinet work until I retired at the age of 71 in 1956.”

“Not working was hard on me and after seven years of retirement I came here to work seventeen years ago.” Charlie looked with pride at the ship and continued, “Then my wife died. We’d been married 62 years and I almost went out of my mind grieving. All purpose in my life was gone. I walked the streets. I couldn’t stay home. All was dark and life held nothing for me. Finally, after two years of deep despair, I sorted out my thoughts. What I found helped me back to life.

Now I want to tell as any people as I can so they can rescue themselves if they, too, are discouraged.”

As Charlie talked he had looked shriveled and an aged 94 years. Now he straightened his shoulders and with eyes glowing he came straight to the core of his truth.
“Everyone has troubles. You can’t expect to go through life without trouble. To me the troubles of life are like being out on a river rowing a boat against the tide. If you give up and quit rowing you drift out to sea. But if you gather all your strength and keep on rowing the tide will finally change and you will make it ashore. So don’t ever give up. Don’t be discouraged.”

And my farmer and I took his advice with us back to the plains of Kansas.

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Perspectives

It is important to sometimes take a step back and look at things from another perspective. Especially when reflecting on things past to keep from imagining it to be better than it really was.

May 1989

Perspectives shape our views of life

“Gee, you sure live away out in the sticks, don’t you?” said a new acquaintance as I answered the doorbell on a recent evening.

“I never think of it that way,” I replied and we went on with our business. But the more I thought about her remark the more I realized that most things in life are just a matter of perspective.

To her, I lived in the sticks. To me, I live in the best of all possible worlds. I live in a township with good roads and can be in Sedgwick, my home base, in eight minutes. I’m 10 minutes from Halstead and 12 minutes from Newton. The libraries in Sedgwick and Newton keep me supplied with books. If they don’t have a book I want, they send for it from the Central Library in Hutchinson.

The Sedgwick ambulance crew got here in 12 minutes when we needed them. The Sedgwick Fire Department made it in 13 minutes when a hay stack caught on fire.

The Wichita airport is 30 minutes away to connect me with the east coast, where two of my adult children and their families live. If I don’t want to fly, Amtrak gets me to the east coast in about 36 hours and stops in Newton.
I have all this, but also the peace and quiet of the country and good neighbors who are a blessing. I have Emma Creek to walk along. I have peaceful twilight hours. I have the birds, the soft green fields and the wide Kansas skies. I am only lonely if I let myself be.

In thinking of the overpowering importance of perspective, I remember my high school days at Abbyville as happy. Everyone in school was poor. I’m sure we would have been eligible for relief programs if there had been any to apply for. The girls had two cotton dresses for school and a better dress for Sunday. The boys wore overalls that had patches sewed on top of patches.

The high school library was inadequate, but our teachers were dedicated to helping us learn. Honora Becker, who later was a professor of English at Bethel College, introduced all of us country kids to Shakespeare with her detailed teaching of Julius Caesar.

We had just moved back to my mother’s birthplace so, as a freshman, I was the new kid in school. When, at the end of the first week I was elected president of the freshman class, I was elated. From most perspectives this was no big deal, since there were only 10 freshmen. But from my perspective, it was the equivalent of being elected governor of Kansas.

The school was so small everyone who wanted to could be on the first team. I’ll never forget the thrill of winning the Reno County championship in volleyball my senior year. Glen Moore, who still lives in Wichita, was our coach.
As we grow older, there is a temptation to talk of the good old days when everyone was honest, marriages lasted a lifetime and hard work was the key to success.

But from another perspective, how good were the good old days for pioneer families who worked from morning to night? How good were the good old days when women often died in childbirth and babies died of whooping cough, measles and diptheria? When little children were doomed to a life time in a wheelchair from the ravages of polio? When cataracts condemned a person to spend his years in darkness? How good were they for the children who lived out their short lives laboring long hours in the sweatshops? How good were they for the slaves living in fear of lynchings and beatings for no reason at all?

Perhaps the good old days were good if you were a man, white and very rich. But even they died of cholera, pneumonia and tuberculosis just like the women, children and slaves.

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Spring Time

May 14, 1987

With spring settling in and the lawn growing like mad, a garden to plant, the asparagus to pick and freeze, and the social life of a small community to keep up with, May is a month full of activity for most of us.

But I’m going to find time to go quietly outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and the balmy southern breezes. People who aren’t in awe with Kansas call those same breezes hot winds, but I prefer to give them a nice name and enjoy the fresh air they bring in as they blow by.

Here are some recipes that can be made up fairly quick and then reheated in the microwave as you linger outside past the time to start supper.

Rye Bread

1 cup rye flour

1 cup unbleached flour

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon caraway seed

6 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup raisins

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry blender. Stir in milk and raisins. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing.

You can also add a half cup of sunflower seeds to this recipe.

I made up a double recipe and had a little trouble adjusting the taste. I’m pretty sure I’ll leave out the raisins next time. It is good served with cheese and also good as toast. After eating it for three days I’m growing more fond of it. Nutritionally, this bread is a good deal.

Several of asked for the recipe for the Spanish Rice thaw was at the Sedgwick-Halstead UMW luncheon meeting. Here it is, but it is one of those recipes that can be varied for individuals taste preferences.

Spanish Rice

1 cup raw rice

1 pound hamburger

1 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons Worcestshire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

5 cups tomato sauce

1 cup cooked cracked wheat

6 cheese slices

Cook rice according to package directions. Cook peppers and onions in the hot oil until translucent. Remove from skillet. Lightly brown hamburger. Drain well. Add rest of ingredients, but just add 2 cups of the tomato sauce. Simmer for 2 hours adding the rest of sauce as needed. After 1 1/2 hours add the cooked cracked wheat.

When sauce is thick add the rice and simmer until blended. Top with cheese and serve.

Bitki

3 slices bread

1 pound hamburger

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups small cooked potatoes

1 cup commercial sour cream

Soak bread in water for five minutes. Drain and mix with hamburger, onion, salt and black pepper. Shape into patties and saute in hot butter. Remove patties to a small casserole and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

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Spice it up this Weekend

After a brief break I’m back. Here is a great article about some family friends along with some great recipes for some Indian dishes.

April 1984

In a white, two- story house high on a hill in a small Connecticut town Kaberi Chakraborty from Calcutta cooks Indian style food in her American style kitchen.

Since her home is the second floor of my kids’ New England house, the savory smells from her kitchen often floated down the indoor stairway while I was visiting there in January. Quite often, to my joy, Kaberi also floated down with a plate of choice morsels to be sampled – sometimes there was enough for a whole family of hungry food samplers.

While we visited it was easy for Kaberi and me to bridge the cultural gap with our mutual interests in both food and children – her two and my grandson whom she cares for during weekdays. Her good command of the English language also helped. Most of Kaberi’s past life spent in Calcutta was far removed from my Midwestern life experiences, but we shared together common concerns about home and family.

She and her husband, Phanindra, and daughter Sangeeta, now sixteen, came to the United States 6 years ago. They are of the higher class Brahmins (though officially abolished in India the caste system still exists) and are Hindus. Kaberi’s mother is an actress. He worked in a bank in India, but is an office manager now.

Phanindra and Kaberi’s marriage was arranged by there families. They never saw each other until their wedding day. According to Sangeeta her parents love and respect each other and the marriage is very successful. After coming to America the Chakrabortys were elated to have a son, Somudra, now five years old. He’s one of the fastest and brightest kids I’ve ever seen.

Phanindra loves to play chess with his men friends and he is in the professional class of bridge players. Like most of his American compatriots he helps with the homework. Kaberi is very influential in the daily affairs of the household, presiding over it graciously in her Indian style clothing. The rest of the family wears American clothes and Sangeeta looks identical to any other American teenager.

Here are the recipes Kaberi is sharing with us:

Samosas (Curried Pastries)

Pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup ghee (clarified butter)

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk soured with a little lemon juice

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Filling:

6 large potatoes

1 cup green peas

½ cup raisins

½ cup peanuts

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

4 teaspoons cumin powder

2 ½ teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoons ground red pepper

4 tablespoons oil

Peel potatoes and cut in small pieces. Heat oil in heavy pot, add the potatoes, peas, spices, salt and sugar. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes on low flame with the cover on. Add a little water if necessary. Add the peanuts and raisins. Stir well.

Method: Stir the flour in a bowl, rub in the ghee and add the salt. Stir in the soured milk gradually to form a hard dough which is velvety to the touch. Chill.

Break the dough in pieces. Roll out into very thin circles. Cut in half. Spoon a little filling in the center of each semi-circle. Fold in half to make a triangular cone shape, enclosing the filling. Moisten the edges of the dough with sour milk and press together to seal.

Deep-fry in hot oil for about one minute until the pastry is golden brown. Drain. Serve hot..

**Ghee is butter after it has been slowly cooked until light brown. The clear oil poured off from the milky residue and stored to be used when ghee is needed.

Makes about 25.

Puri or Luchi

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup white flour

½ cup oil

¼ cup water, approximately

Mix all but water. Add enough water to make a soft pliable dough. Knead until smooth.

Divide into 10 small balls. Roll on floured board into a 4-inch circle. Fry in hot oil. Keep warm in oven while frying others. They will puff up and float to the top while being fried.

Red Lentil Dal

1 cup red lentils

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin powder

3 cups water

1 tablespoon oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 hot yellow or green pepper

Cook first five ingredients until mushy, (approximately 45 minutes). Mix with beater. Fry onion, garlic and pepper in oil. Add to the dal and cook 5 minutes. Serve with rice.

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Couponing

March 1981 

Recently, a Wichita TV station interviewed a woman who saved $150 a month on her grocery bill by devoting only four hours a week to collecting coupons and redeeming refund forms.  During the several days she was on the program she gave listeners a crash merchandising course in how to develop the skills needed to cash in on this remarkable bonanza of $1,800 a year.  Since the time she spent couponing produced almost ten dollars an hour it is obvious couponing has housekeeping beat hollow.

After hearing this advice I know that all anyone needs to do to make money at the grocery store is a good pair of scissors, a strong clipping arm, a shoe box file for the clipped coupons, a sturdy container for the mountains of ripped- off box tops and soaked off labels, a large supply of stamps for mailing in the refund forms, and a still larger supply of patience to wait the six to eight weeks until the new coupons, the merchandise, and the money begin to roll in.

Then, I gather, if by then the housewife still believes in the tooth fairy, but hasn’t save $150 a month she can hurry faster, clip more coupons, soak off more labels, and build more shelves to hold all the items over- flowing the kitchen cupboards.

She can get down to work and concentrate on developing strategy for a triple play to catapult her into the big time.  If this triple play succeeds she should end up with 37 rolls of paper towels at a total cost to her of 19 cents.

She will remember to keep car’s gas tank full in order to quickly drive to another store within forty miles that is having a double coupon day where the rewards of this game are doubled.

She will keep so busy buying Uncle Ben’s Converted Brand Rice with a ten cents off coupon she won’t even notice that ordinary unconverted rice is a much better buy.

Now wouldn’t it be great if John Deere, International harvester, or Massey Ferguson woke up and let our farmer husbands in on this dazzling discovery sweeping the country on how to get something for a scrap of paper and ten box tops?

How would you like to clip a coupon that offers a new combine if you’ll just send in three ripped off old combine tops and an acre of land?  Perhaps, John Deere could put out a refund form good for 75 cents on the price of a new plow if the farmer sends in four rusty plow shares and a copy of Home on the Range. Or better yet, how about a coupon good for an eighty pound bag of fertilizer if the farmer just sends in a slightly worn- out farm wife and his 1980 income tax form?

Then if all this couponing actually gets the economy to zooming skyward the federal government might wake up and offer the Arabs a whole bunch of coupons, each good for either a camel or a camera when they send in a tanker of oil.

Won’t it be Utopia? The people smart enough to coupon will be living for nothing and the ones too dumb to coupon will still be keeping house and farming.

Now, where did I leave my scissors?

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Christmas Cleaning Proves a Snap

How much do you do to get ready for Christmas?

 

December 1989

 

Christmas Cleaning Proves a Snap

 

In the November 11th issue of The Kansan my attention was caught by the headline “Holiday cleaning a snap with right methods.” Now here was a story after my own heart because if there is anything I need right now, just before Christmas, it is learning how to make housecleaning a snap.

In the past the only snap in housecleaning for me has been the snap in my back when I sink to my knees to scrub the kitchen floor. But I pride myself on being open to new ideas, so before I pass judgment on this new snap method of housecleaning. I’d better give it a try.

Reading on I found the first item of instruction was what to do if the guests were on their way and you discover a chip or two in your best crystal.

“Don’t panic,” was the advice, “just use emery paper on the small chips and nicks – use the finest grade available, moisten and rub over the chip until it smooths out.” This sounds sensible so I decided to try it. But first, I had to locate my best crystal (also, my only crystal). After a search I found it hiding behind a miscellaneous assortment of plastic cups and jelly glasses on a top shelf. It passed inspection with a lovely variety of chips that qualified for the smoothing out process.

Now, where was the emery paper? I located some sandpaper, but the article warned against using that – too rough, it said. Finally I discovered a circular piece of paper that I recalled having seen used on an emery wheel a long time ago. With high hopes I set to work. A half an hour later the nicks were still there but the skin had disappeared from the tips of my fingers.

One of the next enumerated jobs called for cleaning the outside of the house with a pressure washer spray that powers off dirt and grime. I sallied forth to check the outside of the house. My spirits lifted. “This will be a snap.” I said, “as soon as I find a pressure washer.”

Years ago we had one for cleaning the milking barn and it worked great when it worked. Now that I needed it I couldn’t find it so I decided to get through the holidays with an unwashed exterior rather than spend the money I had earmarked for Christmas presents for the grandkids on a new pressure sprayer.

Anyway, with my luck if I had the exterior walls of the house immaculate the Christmas Day weather would be too snowy and cold for the guests to gather around the outside of the house and exclaim, “Isn’t this siding the cleanest in all of Harvey County? Not a speck of dust on it.”

I turned my attention back to the paper and read the paragraph about cleaning the fireplace so Santa Claus could step out of it on Christmas morning with all his fur white and shining. Now I don’t have an authentic fireplace, but I do have an open fire in a Franklin stove and I’m sure Santa would not emerge spanking clean from the chimney no matter what gigantic cleaning feat I attempted. No use to try. So it looks like Santa will just have to fly back to the North Pole and put on a fresh suit of clothes after he makes his visit here.

The next instructions for snap cleaning called for shining up the household brass (doorknobs, etc.). They were tantalizingly simple – just use a lemon rind dipped in a little salt, rinse and buff before applying a coat of wax. Feeling a bit tired from all of the decisions I had been making I decided to sit down and make a glass of lemonade out of the juice of the lemon, before the rind and I went to work. When we did, I discovered my brass door knobs were too old to take a shine so I abandoned the lemon rind to the garbage disposal.

Now the final activity before the coming of Christmas was a speedy cleaning of the crystal chandelier in the living room. The directions were to cover each light bulb with a plastic bag securing it with a rubber band before spraying the pendants with glass cleaner. The zing of the rubber band snapping on to the neck of the light bulb might qualify as the elusive snap or the snap might be the housewife’s neck as she fell off the stepladder while stretching to get each pendant covered with spray.

Suddenly, I made a snap decision. If I did all this snap cleaning I’d have to forego buying the Christmas presents, writing notes on the Christmas cards and making the peanut brittle, tea balls and peppernuts that are family traditions. I’d never have the time or strength left to put up and decorate the Christmas tree or go to the Christmas programs or read the grandchildren the story of that long ago night in Bethlehem when Christ was born.

So I’m canceling cleaning the house by the snap method for now. Maybe, next year.

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Brotherly Love

I feel so lucky to have my brother’s reaction to my birth written down to be read and laughed about years later.

October 17, 1984

The October sun filtered down on the streets of Putnam, Connecticut. In the white two story house set high above the busy street the phone rang.

“Hello,” followed by expectant silence.

“Hello. The baby was born just five minutes ago. A girl and everyone is fine. Will you tell Chris?”

“Oh that’s wonderful,” I responded. “I’m so happy and I’ll tell Chris right away. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Christopher, playing with Castle Grayscull in his bedroom, looked up when I sat down on the bed.

“Chris, Daddy just called and you have a baby sister.”

Christopher’s brown eyes looked right through me and he didn’t bother to answer. Secure in his four- year tenure as top kid in Mom and Dad’s heart his attitude reflected his thought.

“Well, what did you expect? I’ve heard too much about that baby already. Now she’s here. No big deal!” and he went back to his play. That evening when Daddy came home from the hospital Chris didn’t ask about the baby or show any interest in her at all.

The next day, dressed in brown corduroy overalls and matching striped shirt, Christopher went with his Daddy and me to the hospital in Massachusetts. Feeling very independent he scrambled in the car, climbed into his car seat, snapped his seat belt with a brisk click, and rode away, king of all he surveyed. The Interstate stretched through the wooded hills rioting with deep yellow, rusty oranges and brilliant scarlets.

After Daddy parked the car Chris hopped out and holding Daddy’s hand firmly, he trudged up the long steps heading to the tall red brick hospital. He maintained his best man of the world attitude in the elevator and down the hall to Momma’s room.

She, dark curly hair tousled, lay among the pillows in a pink satin negligee.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Honey. How’s my boy?” Momma reached out and smoothed Chris’ hair.

“Fine.”

“Climb up on the bed so I can hug you,” Momma said as she reached to help him up.

“What’s that?” Chris asked pointing toward the bedside table.

“A thermometer, dear. Daddy has gone to get the baby now so you can see her. Won’t you like that? We’ve named her Carolyn.” And Momma gave him a big hug.

“Daddy bought me a new Gobot. It turns into a submarine. Want to see it?” Chris dug down into his pants pocket to produce the treasured toy.

Just then Daddy and Carolyn came in. “Oh, look, Chris, here’s your baby sister.”

Tenderly his parents showed Carolyn to him and waited expectantly for Chris to melt at her winsome charm and become a proud and protective big brother.

Chris did not melt. He glanced casually at her and began to organize his resources for a complete exploration of the hospital room. He climbed down to the floor, smelled the roses and chrysanthemums on the window ledge, drank out of the water pitcher, turned on the call light and peeked under the curtain at the patient in the next bed.

Room investigation completed, Chris scaled the bed for a two minute cuddle with Momma, slid down to the floor and made ready to move on to bigger challenges. At this point Daddy interceded.

“Chris, would you like to hold Carolyn?”

“No, I’m going to the bathroom,” he said as he turned the knob on the door.

When he came out Daddy tried again. “Carolyn would like for her big brother to kiss her.”

“I want to go home now and watch ‘Masters of the Universe.’” He reached for his coat.

So the visit ended with a brief kiss for Momma and none for Carolyn.

 

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Making Ice Cream

Though I love ice cream all year round it is especially nice in the summertime, and so is making it yourself. This article from August 1981 explains how.

 

August 1981

These hot summer days bring back memories of the old ice cream freezer that Dad used for homemade ice cream on Sundays and birthdays.

How excited I was to help him: to jiggle the block of ice into a gunny sack, to run and get the axe he used to crack the ice, to sprinkle in the salt, and to take a turn at cranking the handle of the freezer. Even better, was getting to lick the paddle with the other kids after the ice cream was frozen. I still remember how marvelous the velvety ice cream tasted as each creamy globule melted in my mouth.

Nowadays it’s a lot easier to make ice cream, but it’s still as delicious as ever if it is made with honest- to- goodness cream, milk, and eggs. The price of the homemade treat will be a little more than the store bought variety, but the flavor is worth every penny it costs.

 

Vanilla Ice Cream

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla

3 cups thick cream

4 cups milk, approximately

1/8 teaspoon salt

Beat eggs. Add sugar. Beat thoroughly. Add rest of ingredients. Beat again. Pour into gallon freezer until freezer is a little less than ¾ full. Add more milk if needed to be ¼ full. Freeze.

 

Peach Ice Cream

3 cups fresh peaches, mashed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 cups milk

3 cups whipping cream

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon almond extract

¼ teaspoon salt

Combine peaches and lemon juice. Combine rest of ingredients. Add peaches to this milk mixture. Freeze in gallon ice cream freezer.

 

Strawberry Ice Cream

4 cups crushed berries

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

3 cups milk

3 cups whipping cream

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

Beat eggs until foamy. Add sugar. Beat until thick. Add milk, whipping cream, almond extract, and salt. Blend in strawberries. Freeze in ice cream freezer. If using frozen berries, decrease the sugar to 1 ¼ cups.

 

Chocolate Ice Cream

4 cups milk

1 cup cocoa

1 cup light corn syrup

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

4 cups whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine cocoa and small amount of milk to make a paste. Add corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool. Beat eggs until foamy; gradually beat in sugar. Add cocoa mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill. Freeze in ice cream freezer.

 

Variations:

Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream: After freezing, stir in 2 cups coarsely crumbled brownie crumb.

Rocky Road Ice Cream: After freezing, stir in 2 cups of miniature marshmallows and 1 cup chopped pecans.

Black Walnut Ice Cream: After freezing, stir in 1 cup chopped black walnuts.

Marshmallow Swirl: Blend 1 cup marshmallow crème with a small amount of water. After freezing, transfer ice cream to a plastic freezer container. Alternate layers of ice cream with marshmallow crème. Swirl each layer with spatula for marbled effect. Place in freezer to ripen.

 

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Dealing with the Heat

I am so thankful for air conditioning. My air conditioning recently broke and I had to go a few days without it. I am so grateful to sit in its cool air again. This article from August 1980 reminds me again what a pleasure it is to have.

 

August 1980

 

During wheat harvest the Andale Co-op employees endured long, hot hours working at the scales and elevators. Even with the furnace- like heat and the blowing grain dust, they were pleasant and helpful. As a woefully inadequate truck driver I appreciate their Herculean effort to get the trucks back to the wheat field on time. Thanks a million for an efficient operation carried out under adverse weather conditions.

This terrible hot spell emphasizes the dependence most of us have on air conditioning as we rush from one refrigerated spot to the next one in an effort to escape the devastating heat. I am reminded of how we coped with the sweltering summers of the thirties when there was no air conditioning, and only the very rich owned electric fans. Of course, many farm homes had no electricity to run a fan if they had the money to buy one.

The bodies of both children and adults broke out with a miserable affliction called “heat.” This caused torment in sweaty areas where there were creases or folds in the skin such as the neck or waist. The skin erupted in tiny blisters that oozed, crusted over, and became red and inflamed. There was no cure for it except a drop in the temperature to bring cooler days and nights.

Out in the small towns and on the farms whole families slept outside to escape from the oven- like bedrooms. To me, as a kid it was great fun – lying on a rickety army cot listening to the whispering cottonwood trees with Mom and Dad close by to scare away the boogey men lurking in the scary shadows under the cedars.

I remember one sultry August night when no breath of air stirred in the backyard; so Dad led us, each carrying a pillow and comforter, to the top of a sandhill in the pasture where we bedded down on the ground. The brilliant stars were a sea of delight in the dark sky, and we were so alone in the universe and yet so warmly cared for and protected. A faint wind stirred out of the south cooling us off and we slept soundly on the sear buffalo grass. The first early morning light awakened the pesky bugs and biting flies who attacked and sent us scurrying homeward.

Then there was the summer of ’36. I was working at Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia and lived in the nurse’s home – a 3-story brick structure about fifty feet from the hospital. All the windows faced east or west and the prevailing south winds could not get in to cool it off at night.

About 40 of us tried to sleep there after a hard day’s work on the hospital floor. No one owned a fan. To cope, we got ready for bed, stepped into a cold shower with our pajamas on, ran dripping to our beds and tried to get to sleep before we got hot again.

After a week of this an enterprising girl found a trap door leading to the flat sanded roof of the building. Since it was high from the ground a gentle breeze blew here nightly. At first we just spent the evenings on the roof cooling off, but the temptation to stay all night was too much. Soon student nurses and employees were sleeping nightly on every square foot of that roof. It was so refreshing to sleep well that the entire crew went to work. In the mornings, ready to endure the suffocating heat of the hospitals’ halls and rooms for another ten- hour shift and to give first- class patient care.

This practical solution to the heat was too good to last. Shortly, a patient or two on the 4th floor of the hospital noticed the nightly parade of sleepers. Soon the hospital superintendent was alerted to his employee’s rooftop rendezvous with rest. A decree was issued: “No more sleeping on the roof. It is morally corrupting for patients to see employees in night garments.”

To prevent any violations of this edict the trap door was nailed shut. What a blow to both our spirits and our health. It was practically unbearable to return to those stagnant bedrooms to sleep when blessed breezes blew a rooftop away. We should have rebelled, but in those days jobs were scarce and we were young and trained to obey the voice of authority.

I am glad that the world of today has a more realistic attitude about the relationship between modesty and comfort, even though modesty sometimes seems to be losing the battle.

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Class Reunions

Reunions are a time for reconnecting and reminiscing. This article from May 1988 has some interesting stories reflecting the difficulties of going to school during the Great Depression.

 

Reunions Gives us Pause for Reflection

 

In the months of May and June school reunions blossom everywhere as thick as dandelions in a bluegrass lawn. Everyone you meet has just got back from a reunion or is preparing to go to one.

Planning to attend a school reunion is a big part of the fun. Months ahead of time weight- loss diets are reactivated. (Who wants to look as if they had spent the years since graduation in a rate-of-gain contest?) Stylish clothes are purchased. A new car is bought or the old one polished up. As the time to leave grows near, an appointment is made for a complete rejuvenation at a beauty shop. No effort is too great to achieve the successful alumni look. Everyone tries to put his best foot forward for the big event.

What is behind this current infatuation with reunions? For one thing, reunions serve as markers or milestones in our lives. They also bring back memories of what used to be. They let us reach out again and touch once more those who were a vital part of our lives in long- gone school days.

Looking at reunions from a practical viewpoint, modern transportation has made it easier for more people to return to their old stomping grounds. The more out-of-town alumni that get back, the more fun is had in sharing memories.

The act of remembering the past together has a therapeutic effect. Memory casts a haze over the bad times of our school years.

We fondly recall the teachers who inspired us to go out and meet the world head on and forget the ones who bored us stiff with their long lectures and corny jokes.

We remember the school musicals and plays, the athletic victories, the happy times with our friends.

We forget the long hours spent trying to understand geometry, the agony of not having the right clothes to wear, the anguish of not being invited to a special party,

At reunions we greet old classmates we haven’t seen since graduation with so much warmth and affection we surprise ourselves at the depth of our feelings. We forgive old enemies and can’t even remember what caused our hostility in the first place. We feel a deep comradeship with all who shared our youth.

We cherish each moment and wish the euphoria of the day would last forever. Joy is in the air, waiting to be inhaled and savored to the last breath. The halcyon days of youth are recalled, the long ago events that, in retrospect, seem to have happened yesterday.

Reunions also give us a chance to take inventory of our own lives and secretly compare our accomplishments with those of our classmates. Reunions provide us with an opportunity to brag about our children and grandchildren. Modesty requires us to play down our own career achievements and not to ever, ever, mention the size of our bank account. But we are free to talk about the younger members of our families and list their achievements with quiet pride.

Two weeks ago I went to the reunion of the College of Emporia and Emporia State University students who had graduated before 1943. At a small luncheon on the last day, the alumni present were asked to tell what we had done in the years since we had stood in line, hearts beating fast under our long black robes, to receive our degree.

The men almost always began the summary of their lives with a remembrance of an athletic event or a dormitory prank, progressed on to tell of their careers in the business and professional world (not a failure among them) and finally mentioned their wives and children. The women told first of our children and husbands and then got around to our careers.

Since everyone there had lived through the Great Depression, the talk kept returning to the many economies we had practiced while getting our education.

“In my senior year I walked three miles every afternoon regardless of the weather,” one classmate recalled, “to do my practice teaching at Lowther Junior High School away down on 6th Street. A city bus ran right by the college to downtown, but the fare was a nickel and I didn’t have one to spare on such frivolity. In those days nickels were as scarce as a million dollar winning number in a lottery is today.”

We topped each other in telling stories of hard times and low wages. The winner was the man who told this story.

“When I graduated from high school,” he said, “the college offered me a working scholarship and the opportunity to play football. I did campus maintenance work (an euphemism for mowing lawns and shoveling snow) and got 25 cents an hour. Good wages for the times. Only the college kept 20 cents to apply on my tuition bill and paid me five cents an hour. On the football field I played my heart out for the dear old college. Then after I graduated the authorities refused to release my transcript until I paid the $200 they said I still owed them. I took a job on a railroad gang and labored through all the long hot summer to get the $200. I had the satisfaction of walking into the treasurer’s office and paying off the debt in one- dollar bills and walking out again with the transcript in my hand.”

Yes, school and class reunions are a time for renewal of old friendships, for recollections of past moments of glory and defeat, for sober reflections on the fleetingness of all things in life, and for staunch resolutions to make the most of the time left to us on this old planet, Earth. Long may they flourish.

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