Monday, November 26, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 10: Refrigeration to Pronunciation (And My Grandma in Between)

To read this project from the beginning, click here

This entry, by serendipitous coincidence, arrives with perfect timing. Last Thursday, as you probably know, we Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day. This excerpt from Elsie’s manuscript includes a brief description of the birth of my grandmother, Aileen Underwood, who happened to be born on Thanksgiving Day in 1914. I wish that Elsie had written more in her manuscript about the event. She once described it to me in fuller detail, but I seem to have misplaced the notes I took on that visit. However, I do retain a vague impression of the Underwood family carrying on their Thanksgiving dinner the best they could, with Aunt Sadie acting as hostess, while Flora labored in her bedroom. Naturally, Flora would not have been left alone, but I can’t recall the details.

Perhaps Grandma’s birth—and mine as well—were symbolic of what would become important to us. I can imagine Grandma Aileen as a baby in her mother’s womb, realizing that the family was gathering and thinking to herself, “I want to be there, too!” Grandma was the one who first introduced me to my family tree. I remember visiting her and being fascinated with a piece of paper she had spread out on the dining room table. It was the first time I had ever seen one of those classic family tree diagrams, the kind with a picture of an actual tree, and names written on the branches. She explained to me how each branch was a part of the family, and the twigs growing off the branches were the children of the person listed on the branch, while the branches themselves were the children of the people listed on the trunk. I have been fascinated ever since.

Like Grandma, my birth interrupted a family gathering, though in a less dramatic fashion. My parents were able to go to a hospital rather than being in the next room. But I can imagine myself, in the same way as Grandma, sensing a gathering of the family and thinking, “I want to be there, too!” It is almost as though Grandma and I were destined from our births to be the genealogists for our branch of the family.

Incidentally, Elsie misspelled Grandma’s married name, forgetting an s. It should be “Brosius.”

We had two horses, Dick was a prett rome color with a perfect white star on his forhead. He had a lot of spirit. The other horse’s name was Nig, a coal black, but much slower nature than Dick. He was a good work horse.

One day my mom wanted someone to get the mail, our mail box was on apost, about a half mile doun the road. No one was around to ask to get the mail. So I said I would go and get it. She really didn’t want me to go alone on a horse, I had never been on one alone but I wasn’t afraid. I went and got Dick and put his halter on. He was in his stall in the barn. I climbed up the side of his stall. I climbed on his back, bare back and off I went. Everything was fine until I couldn’t reach the mail boxes. I slid off the horses back, got the mail. To get back on the horse again was another story. I was short, I was hardly up to the horse stomack, about six years old. How was I to get back on this horse. I didn’t have a saddle or a blanket, just the reins. Not a thing to pull up with.

All of a sudden I thought of our fence just across the road, it was the corner of our farm land. I pull the horse as as possible to the fence. The fence had barbed wire on the top of a heavy mesh like fence. I had to be careful no to get hurt on the stickery fence, so I stepped really careful on the fence top and pulled myself up on the horse. Horses are slippery without a saddle. I was so calm and not afraid. We arrived home safe and sound. Mother had been watching from her kitchen window. She said I thought you’d have to walk home. It’s a wonder he would stand still for you. I really think the horse knew we had to get home safely.

Mom was always looking for letters from her family, she never wrote home very much but always looked for news from home.

Aileen was born here on November 26th. It was Thanksgiving Day. She was named after Aunt Sadie’s daughter and my dad’s mother Maryann. Her name was Aileen Maryann Underwood. Her married name was Aileen Mary Ann Broius.

We finally got our root cellar which we needed badly. To keep the milk and cream, eggs, fruit and vegetables cool.

The root cellar was dug deep in the ground with a peaked roof. The walls were cement also the steps going doun in it. Also the floor, it was easy to keep clean. It was cool in the summer and hot in the winter, atleast warm enough to keep things from freezing.

Before we had this root cellar, we had no refrigeration Our milk was put into milk pans. The pans were round, about fourteen inches around and about four inches high. They were stacked one atop of the other, with two narrow slats of wood between each pan. We usually had two stacks with four pans high. The fresh milk was always put on the bottom to keep it rotated for freshness. The cream would form on the top, it would take about two days to collect. The cream was so thick you scrape it off with a large spoon. It was so thick. And oh so good.

One evening Mother and Dad went to see “Alexander the Great” Alexander the Great was to be in Meridan, just six miles away. Dad really wanted to so he persuaded Mom to go with him. They left early to be sure they would get there in time for the start.

The boys had the milking to do, I knew the milk had to be taken care of right away, went to the place she kept the milk. I pour the fresh milk into clean pans. I knew I had to put the old new milk on the bottom, there fore I had to lift off the old milk and put this new milk on the bottom. The pans of milk were layered withthese thin slates between layers. I was young and short, to short to reach the pans well. Especially on my tiptoes. This pan was a lot heavier than I wxpected, it slipped and spilt all over me and the floor. My brothers thought it funny, they did help me get cleaned up. I was so afraid to face my mother when she came home. I was afraid she’d scold me, but she didn’t. She knew I just wanted to help. She did tell me I was too young and to small to try doing these things that were to big for me. I didn’t like scoldings but my brothers told me “A scolding don’t last and a whipping didn’t last and they don’t dare to kill to kill me.”

When Aileen was born, my teacher and a man friend came over to see Mom and her baby. The man had whiskers, he asked me if the baby looked like him. I said No! He asked me Why? I couldn’t say whiskers. A “W” was real hard for me. I couldn’t say “biskers” so while he was in talking to Mom I practiced saying whiskers unti they came out of Mom’s room. Then I yelled, She doesn’t have any whiskers.” My teacher was so surprised “Just why couldn’t she teach me that. I never said biskers again.

Vinegar was another word I couldn’t pronounce. I called it “bingar” or bing bing. I had a friend who helped me on the word vinegar. We practiced one whole lunch time. But it was worth it.

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here


  1. Hi,

    Nice blog. I just sent in my second Daily Genealogy Prompt. It should be in tomorrow or maybe a week from then. Not sure how these things work. You are lucky to have a manuscript and smart to put it online. I'm finally doing the same thing with some old letters I have had for about 25 years that date back to the gold rush and before. I'm a good researcher but a work in process when it comes to blogging and writing.



    1. I don't know how they do it, but somehow they manage to get those Daily Genealogy Prompts on Geneabloggers the same day they are posted. Believe me, I appreciate my good fortune in having an Aunt Elsie write a manuscript! You're pretty lucky, too, to have those old letters. I only wish I could see what my ancestors wrote to one another. Good luck with your blog; I think we are all works in progress!