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Christmas

There are a lot of Christmas memories. I don’t remember a lot from English Orchards. I must have been too young. The tree on the farm was always big, real and fresh. When we still believed in Santa, the tree never went up until after we went to bed Christmas Eve. They left the lights on the tree burning so when we got up Christmas morning (early) it was absolutely magical! We came quietly down the stairs and there it was. The huge tree was decorated with all our decorations and lights and tinsel sparkled on every limb. Under the tree there were piles of wrapped gifts. We weren’t allowed to open them until everyone was up and ready. Coffee had to be made first! We were allowed to go through our stockings we had hung and even eat candy before breakfast! Usually we had one of those huge round candy canes, ribbon candy, walnuts and other nuts, an orange and other small treats. Today there is no concept of what a treat a fresh orange was – and we even had some bananas around in a fruit bowl. They were high dollar then.

We finally got to the presents. There were small gifts like books or toy farm tractors and other toy machinery for the boys, clothes for school which we liked because we needed them by that time and one big gift. Mine was usually a doll. One Christmas I got a kitchen cabinet that was homemade and I loved for years. One year Bobby got a .22 rifle. Seems there was an incident with a chicken and he lost it for a while. (Good shot, though.) One of Bruce’s was a train set. I think it was added to over the years and he might still have it. I think we were poor, but our folks worked hard to do things like the “magic” behind the scenes so that we didn’t know we were poor. This topic is too much for one entry, so I will do more in another later.

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Fruits

Mom had a garden at English Orchards. There were grapevines along one side with the best Concord grapes. That’s one of the things I miss living in Texas. Mom did a lot of canning. The basement shelves would be filled by fall with jars of vegetables, pickles and jams. I always wanted the dill. Bruce wanted the sweet – and we all wanted the bread & butter. Mom had to learn all of this after she married dad. Grandma Thayer taught her everything. When mom was very small, her mother, Mable Redd Smith, died. Her father, Emerson Emmett Smith married Emma (don’t know her maiden name). She was an “old maid” and kept house for him and mom. The other children were older and one-by-one started their own lives. It wasn’t “proper” for Emma to live in a home with a single man – so they got married. I guess they were poor. I was told he was a carpenter and did like to drink some. Emma made him bring his pay home and gave him an allowance.  Emma was always so afraid of waste that she wouldn’t let mom do anything in the kitchen, so mom never learned to cook or can or much else from Emma.

Lucky for her, grandma Thayer was a wonderful cook and taught mom everything.  Grandpa was always teasing mom about her being left-handed.  He said she could take butter in a churn and turn it back into milk.

To Grandmother’s House We Go

It was always a treat to go to Grandma and Grandpa Thayer’s (Edith Rose Kelble & Frank Eugene). Grandpa’s lap was always ready and Grandma’s cookie jar was always full. Only it wasn’t a cookie jar – it was a blue enamel roaster. There were sugar, molasses, oatmeal and, sometimes, mincemeat cookies. We never knew what kind until we opened the lid. She made homemade doughnuts, too. I remember one year that we made taffy there and we had to go outside to pull it in the cold.
We usually had Thanksgiving dinner there. Turkey and all the trimmings. The gravy was always wonderful. Grandma had a way with it. We always had homemade pie for dessert – mincemeat, pumpkin and/or apple. The dining room table had a number of leaves and could be opened to accommodate all of us.

More Plumbing

At English Orchards, no inside plumbing meant having to take baths in a galvanized wash tub. Mom would set it up in the kitchen and heat water on the stove and then we would take turns using it. At some point, Dad managed to build a shower in the basement. This was fine in the summer, but in the winter with no heat, it was brutal. The house was heated by a stove in the living room. I know it burned wood, but I’m not sure about coal. Even with the door to the stairway open, the upstairs two rooms didn’t get heated very well. We’d grab our clothes and head to the living room in the morning so we could get dressed by the hot stove. One day, according to mom, Bob Jr. was getting dressed, bent over and one of his butt cheeks connected with the stove. She said he really was burned and couldn’t sit comfortably for a while.
On Cable Road, we had a furnace that burned wood and coal. Later it was changed to gas, so it didn’t have to be “fed” all the time. It was still cold upstairs in the winter, but a big improvement. It was in half the basement. The other half had a shower and shelves for canned goods. We’d leave the door open between them to try to get a little heat if we wanted to shower, but didn’t do a lot of good. Also left it open in the coldest weather so the jars of food wouldn’t freeze and explode.

The Joys of Plumbing

English Orchards. My first home. Dad worked in the orchards for Mr. English. I remember the outhouse.: a 3-holer. One of them was a smaller hole so kids wouldn’t fall in! Using it in the winter was not fun. At night we used a slop jar that had to be emptied daily. During the day we had to go out. Seats were cold! In the summer, I had to deal with a rooster. He would chase me all the way from the house to the outhouse. I’d slam the door shut and when I was finished I’d call for mom. She’d come out with a broom to shoo him away so I could get back to the house. He was really mean. Only place I liked him was when he was served on a plate! The first inside toilet we had was when we moved to Cable road. I was 7 ½ years-old and fascinated with the flushing and not having to go outside. Good thing we had a good spring and all that water! We had a tub in the bathroom and a shower in the basement.
Grandma & Grandpa Thayer had an outhouse, too. Every spring it had to be whitewashed. Grandma said it was so we could see black widow spiders against the white so we wouldn’t sit on one. I got to “paint” when I was still pretty young – young enough that I thought it was fun. The house never did get an inside bathroom. There was a toilet and tub and sink in the storeroom, but after grandpa died, grandma didn’t want to spend the money to have them installed.

Very beginning!

All three of us – Bruce, Bob, Jr., and I were born in our
grandparents, Edith & Frank Thayer’s guestroom on Cable road, Berlin Heights,
Ohio with Dr. Robert Gregg and his nurse/wife Irma Gregg assisting. I was told
that after I was born and grandpa came home from work, he was told, “Well,
we’ve got another boy.”  He had wanted a
girl, but went in to see me, came back out and said, “We’ll love him anyway.”
When they told him it was a joke and that I really was a girl, he had to go
back in for another look. At least I didn’t have a big head like Bruce did, so
my delivery was easier, although I did weigh 9 lb. 6 oz.!

When dad finally took mom and I home, it was to English Orchards
on Angling Road. The list mom made of my first visitors brings back a lot of
memories. So many of them are gone now. One of them was a Mrs. Hill. I think
she was the mother of Bonita Hill whom I was named after. She had been a good
friend of my parents and died very young.

I was baptized May 9, 1948. God parents were Nadine (mother’s
sister) and Wesley Mowrer. They gave me a gold ring. Mom’s other sister, Helen Spies,
gave me a gold locket with photos of my parents inside. I still have both
tucked away for some reason. The white, lace-trimmed christening dress also
came from Aunt Nadine.

Be Still

I have started this blog simply to note things I remember
growing up. They will not be in chronological order – but as they come to me.

 

“Be still.” I remember my dad, Robert Joseph Thayer, Sr. say
that many times, but one stands out. When I was small, we lived at English
Orchards.  Down the road were “Aunt Lou”
and “Uncle” Bud Hayes. Dad and I walked down there for some reason and while he
and Uncle Bud talked, I went to pet their German Shepherd. She had always been
good around us kids. That day was different. I reached down to pet her where
she lay on the grass and she lunged upwards, sunk her teeth into my lower lip
and pulled. There was speculation later that because she had a sore hip or because
she knew they were going away without her – for whatever reason – it was over
in a flash.

Dad had me hold a towel to my face (Aunt Lou brought it out)
and we walked home. He called to mom, she grabbed more towels off the
clothesline to soak up more blood and dad drove us to Dr. Gregg’s house. He had
a porcelain-top table in the kitchen and that’s where they laid me.

I can still see in my mind that curved needle coming
downwards to my face. I wanted out of there right then! Dad just put his hand
on my shoulder and said, “Be still.” And I was.

Somehow that country Dr. knew where to put those stitches,
even with all the swelling, so that there was only one scar on the outside.