At age 85 as the youngest of eight, I can look back and see many changes in the family structure, some good and some not so good. No, we didn’t have the technology that we have today but we managed to keep in touch. We either wrote letters or for those who had a car, we visited family members – or they visited us.
A ‘visit’ might be a day or several days. It didn’t matter; we enjoyed those days together. We didn’t have motels for them to use. We simply switched around some of the family members in different bedrooms. The smaller kids were put on a ‘pallet’ on the hardwood floor. This was usually a quilt, only occasionally there might be a mattress available and this made the move more comfortable for the kids.
Of course Mama would give that extra touch by baking a ‘stack’ cake or a few pies for everyone to enjoy. A ‘stack’ cake referred to those cakes with several ‘layers’, with special ‘icings’ on each layer, with the frosting applied on the outside of the cake.This tasty bit could be chocolate (a favorite) or whatever was available that the family would enjoy. My favorite was something Mama put together using canned pears (from our trees) in the recipe. Sadly, I never learned what this was or how to make it. Since we had a variety of fruit trees and berries, the pies were easy.
In the winter, Mama relied on the jars of canned vegetables to fill out the menu. During the summer, we got these from the one or two gardens that we always had. After my three brothers grew up, they did all the necessary work. My Dad was off on his ‘pickup’ truck, He often bought calves or other cattle to resell and make a profit. His truck had wooden ‘bodies’ to keep the calves or whatever safe in the back of the truck. The smaller towns later began having a weekly sale at the ‘cattle yards’ and this drew many others, either to sell or buy.
During the cold days of winter, Dad would ‘butcher’ animals so we had a supply of beef and pork available. This was ‘salted’ to preserve it and keep it safe to eat. This meat was stored in 5-gallon ‘lardcans’ and stored in the ‘smokehouse. This was the place where the meat was ‘smoked’, if desired, by a constant, managed fire. Then came the ‘deep freezes’ where the farmers could rent a space to store the meat they needed for their families. This often meant a weekly trip to town for Dad to get the pieces of meat Mama wanted to use. He didn’t mind; he loved being on the road again.
By this time we had an ‘icebox’ where we could put 100 pounds of ice, which also kept the bottom area cool enough to store the foods we used for a day or so. The ice was delivered by the ‘iceman’, who drove a truck full of ice. His equipment always included an ‘ice pick’, which he used to break the ice into the desired size and the ‘tongs’, which he used to carry the ice into the house. Now that I think of it, those icemen would not need a gym, since they carried these heavy pieces of ice into the homes of their customers.
Then came the ice trays, which we could fill with our deep well water, then the water froze, and we had ‘ice cubes’ for our usual sweet tea. Wonderful !!! Later came the freezers we have today, making it possible to freeze our vegetables and that meant no more canning in jars. I remember the special room with narrow shelves, with a small wooden piece across the front (either a half inch or an inch wide) to protect the jars on the shelf.
Yes, time truly changes everything. No more groups sitting in a room while shelling peas or butter beans, which made this a social time. Today we seem too busy for these simple pleasures.
85-year-old Lura Zerick is the mother of 5 adults, grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of 7. She was born and raised in the Florida Panhandle. After living in Miami, Atlanta, Tampa and other cities, she now lives on six acres of woods in S.E. Alabama, near Geneva.