Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Funny: Straw Hats

A straw boater such as might have been worn on the streets of Omaha.
Attribution: Elf [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

It seems that fashion was important municipal business in 1913. I ran across this article on the Chronicling America website. It is from page 12 of the 13 Sept 1913 edition of the Omaha Daily Bee. Aren’t you glad that city government took such an interest in personal style?

Days of the Straw Hat Are Numbered by Mayor’s Order

Because of the long, hot, dry season, Mayor James C. Dahlman will permit straw hats on the streets to September 15, but thereafter the mayor positively declares he will put a gatling gun in the hands of a policeman and destroy all straw lids. The mayor issued the following proclamation today:

Now that the long hot, dry summer of 1913 is a thing of the past, I feel justified in fixing a definite date for sending straw hats to the cellar. I therefore name September 15 as the last day that straw hats will be allowed to appear on our streets. A gatling gun will be placed at Nineteenth and Farnam streets in the hands of the best gunner on the police force, with instructions to pick them off wherever discovered. So. Mr. Strawhat, you have fair warning.

I certainly hope that this was a joke! You can read the article in its original newspaper form here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 21: Bees, Dogs, Chickens

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

It’s hard to believe, but we have come to the final installment of Elsie Crocker’s manuscript. This post transcribes the last two pages.

We moved closer to Boise. Here Dad got us settled before, going to Portland Oregon, to work in the shipyards. A war was going on, World War One. The pay was pretty good.

This place was a lot smaller than Shaws place. Dad got a lot of bees, about twenty or thirty swarms of bees. Dad got these bees ready before he left. He even put starters in the hives for the bees to build on. The starters. were a wooden slat with some honey comb across the top. The bees would fill in the rest and fill it with honey, some of the swarms did so well he put double decker tops on the hives. We had a clover lawn and ran bare footed most of the time, so you can imagine how many stings we got.

Walter Underwood, Sr. in his beekeeping gear several years later, in Oregon.

We had a lot of honey, we ate honey on everything. Sometimes the swams would split, if they had two queens. It was too crowed for two queens. The bees before leacing would swam on the out side of the hive. It would look real black with them, when they were ready to leave they would swarm in the air, making a round cylinder circle. Bill and I would try to stop them by throughing up rocks or dirt in the air. We didn’t want to loss these bees. Mother saw us one day She yelled at us to quit doing that as they may light on us. Where ever the queen stopped the rest stopped also.

Once in a while Bill would find a swarm in one of our trees. We would let our dad or neighbor. where they were. They would get an empty hive and try to shake some of the bees into the hive, hopeing to get the queen. The rest of the bees will follow the queen. They would leave the hive there until the next morning. Nine out of ten the swarm was in the hive, then they took the hive and put it with the others.

Dad wore a fine net screentype hat around his head. A cloth was fastened to the bottom of the screen and fell around his shoulders. He also wore long gloves. Some time he would get stung anyway. Did he look awful! He would swell up real bad. He never went to the doctors, but I’m sure he should have. Now days we get shots. Some people even die with bee stings.

At this place Mother had to sell the bees, hives and all. She just couldn’t take care of them.

We had some good neighbors close to us, I had a real good friend ashort way up the road. She had a married sister, with a very small baby.

My friend’s name was Roxy, her brother’s name was Hazel, a funny name for a boy, my mother always thought.

Roxy and I was together a lot. She started me to crochet. We were sitting under a shade tree, one day, she tried to teach me. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. But the next day I was out there by my self and made a lot of this lace “mile a minute” it was called. I could not make it that fast, but I had got the idea how it was done. I went into the house to show my mom what I had accomplished. Mother asked “Was Roxy here I never saw her?” No I did it by myself. I said. I just couldn’t make my fingers going and hold the thread in the other hand, after I had it figured out, it was easy.

Roxy had a big black and brown dog which thought could sing. We would find a nice shady place and Roxy would bring some dried peaches, her dog and a mouth organ. She would play the mouth organ and the dog would sing. We didn’t know then it hurt the dogs ears. He was howling not singing, he wasn’t held there or tyed, he could leave any time, but he didn’t. He looked very professional and cute. He would sit on his hind legs, with his front legs up, just like he was posing. I’m glad we didn’t have him sing the whole time we were there.

Roxy only took a few peaches a day, we would eat them. They were so good. Well, one morning Rozy’s mother called my mom and asked “How was Elsie feeling? Mother said “Just fine, why”? Roxy’s mother told her Roxy and I had eatened a half flour sack of dried peaches. Roxy was real sick. The peaches had swollen up in Roxys stomach. Roxy got well in a couple of days but that was the end of our afternoon dog shows.

Here is where we had a lot of watermelons too. Some one was stealing them so my brother Walter and the neighbor boy Hazel decided to caught them or to scare them away so they made some buck shots. Then that night we went out and layed doun in the water melon patch or near by. We waited and waited for a long time We got cold and damp. We finally gave up. Dis appointed no one showed up. Dad said he was glad That buck shot might of hurt someone.

We had chickens on this ranch, one afternoo it rained (as we would say) cats and dogs. The chickens were getting wased away. Mother yelled go fast and get the chicken coope door open or we will lose a lot of the small chickens, Mother and I was gathering them up in our aprons as fast as we could. It was really coming doun, I was running back and forth, trying to keep Mother from getting so wet. Well I stepped on a big clencher nail, which a nail with three sides for a point. It is so hard to get out once it gets in. Poor Mom had to get this out of my foot without hurting me to much.

And that is the abrupt end to Elsie’s manuscript, or at least my copy of it. When she first completed it, my dad, who was a printer at the time, made and bound several copies and distributed them to relatives. The copy from which I have been transcribing is not one of those bound copies. At one time it was stapled, but the staple has long since disappeared. Some day I would like to compare it to one of the bound copies to make sure that the pages are still in the correct order and that none are missing.

As you can see, this manuscript ends before the Underwood family leaves Idaho. Although I do not have the rest of the story in Elsie’s own words, I will soon post an entry telling the rest of the story as I know it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 20: Sisters and snacks

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

In this second-to-the-last installment of Elsie Crocker’s manuscript, she relates a couple stories of two of her younger sisters: my grandma, Aileen, and the youngest girl, Inez. I particularly like to read of my grandma as a child. It is amusing to think of her as a pesky younger sister.

She also tells about some more of the foods of her childhood. I am not surprised that Elsie wrote so many times about different recipes, as Elsie herself—and, indeed, all four of the Underwood sisters—became an excellent cook herself.

Mother would cook for the thrashers when they came to our house. The thrashers would go from one farm to the other until all the thrashing in the community was finished. The men went from one farm to the other to help thrash. The wives would go with them to help the one that was having the thrashers that day. They would help with the cooking. The thrashers were fed well. We liked to watch them thrash. But wern’t aloud to get very close. As the shaff would get in our eyes, or get in the way of the machinery. It was exciting to see all the wheat filling the sacks. They called the stems of the wheat straw, used for bedding doun the horses and to keep other animals clean. When they finished there was a huge pile.

A threshing machine, perhaps similar to the one used by Elsie's "thrashers." 
By ThomasWeise (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

One day I remember clearly, we had the thrashers that day the straw was piled. As I usually collected the eggs, Mom told me to see how many eggs were at the top of this huge pile of straw. She knew there was some as she had heard the hen cackle, the hen cackles to tell the world she has laid an egg. I started to go, and there was Aileen crying and tugging at my skirt. I had to take her but it was going to be rough. That straw was stickery and light. I’d go about one step and fall back two. Carrying a small child on one hip and a basket for eggs in the other, was tough going. We found the egg, but I was tired, I wondered if it was worth it, going by myself wouldnit have been so bad but the extra weight made me sink deeper in the straw. My legs were scratched, I wasn’t very happy. I asked my mother why Aileen had to follow me everywhere I went. Mom told me I should be glad I had a sister who wanted to follow me. I am sure my mother was right. I never got upset after that, Aileen followed me every where any time

Mother made the best cottage cheese. She would put any sour milk she had, in a pan on the back of the stove top, where it cooked very slowly, until it separated. Rinsed it and washed it real good. She put the cheese part in a bag and let it drip dry. She the mixed the cheese with a lot of thick fresh cream, salt and pepper. Um’um good.

Dad would help us make pop corn balls which he never ate any (no sugar). Our snack food those days were pop corn and apples. No fast foods’.

We were always happy to get home to all the good smells especiallywhen Mom cooked the left over mashed potatoes and left over boiled cabbage, she fried it in bacon grease. This one of the dishes Bill and I would hurry to get to the table for. The smell was so good while we were doing our chores. We always when we were young had dinner at noon, and dinner or spper as we called a night meal.

We had a big irregation ditch next to our house, to one side. The ditch had a lot of rushing water going thru a culvert, the culvert ran under the road.

One night the neighbors were having a kids party. Dad was in Portland working for the war. Mother told us older kids, we could go to the party. She would go and visit a new neighbor and take Inez. Inez was not much over a year old. Mother was quite ready when we left the house, for some reason I had to go back to the house. I didn’t see Inez and asked Mother where she was. She asked Isn’t she there? I told her I couldn’t see her any where. We hyrriedly looked every where. Then I happened to remember her loving that little baby at Roxy’s house. She just wouldn’t go there surely, well, we started up to Roxys house. As we got started over the culvert. I heard a faint “Elsie”. I looked doun into this water and at the entrance of the calvert, her arms out stretched side ways was the only thing saving her from washing doun stream. I jumped into the ditch and grabbed her her out. I don’t know how I had the strength and couage to jump in that fast water. Mother was happy to see she was alive. We were both thankful we were there to save her, what if I hadn’t have gone back for something that night? I am sure the Man Upstairs was there with us that night.

Mom didn’t go to the neighbors that night, the neighbors came to our house. They worked hard and took turns pumping the water out of her. Mother watched over her to see if she was still breathing normal. Mother said to forget it but think of it as a lesson.

I enjoyed reading about fried mashed potatoes, as that is also a favorite of mine. I have never added cabbage to them, though. Perhaps I will try that one of these days.

I love that Elsie was so specific as to the time of the story of Inez’ near drowning. The details she offers would place the incident in probably the spring or summer of 1918.

Elsie told me another story of saving a little girl from drowning. This would have been several years later, when the Underwoods had moved to Portland and Elsie was working for Safeway. I believe that would have been in the late 1940s, 1950s or early 1960s. It was at a company picnic at a park. I’m sure that Elsie told me which park it was, but I didn’t write it down. (Genealogists often lament their slack note-taking in their early days, but I must excuse myself. Rather, I am glad that as a high school student I had the foresight to take notes at all!) There was a pond or a river there, and a little girl fell in. Elsie saw her go down once, twice, and then a third time. She remembered the old saying that a drowning person only goes down three times, and in she jumped.

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

Monday, June 3, 2013

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 17: Food and Animals

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

In this installment, Elsie tells about a couple of foods that her family used to make, a misadventure with her father’s dinner, and a few animal interactions.

Sometime when it snowed, we would make ice cream. We started with a ten pound tin can with a clencher lid. We’d put some cream and a little milk, sugar, vanilla and eggs. We’d find a big drift of snow, we put doun in the snow. We took turns twisting and turning this ice cream. Of course we open the can up once in a while to see how it was coming a long. Icicies were used to freeze the cream instead of the snow, of course the icicles had to be gathered and copped up.

Mother made the best beef steak pudding, as she called it, it consisted of beef, a little flour, a little water, pepper and salt with a suet crust. She cooked it on the back of the stove allday long, on a wood stove. It was cooked in a heavy fire proof bowl, covered withe a cloth. Tied with a string. Then the pudding was put in a pan of water. This was a wonderful dinner with good mashed potatoes.

Mother cooked her plum pudding this way also.

One day Dad asked us to go over to the other ranch, across the flied, from us. This farm also belonged to the Dorrs and the Shaws. The tenants had moved and on one was living there. He had seen some scallions (little onions) over there going to waste. So one day Bill and I decided to go over and get some for him. We cleaned them and put them on the table ready for his dinner. That night Dad was happy to see that we had gotten his scallions. He took one bite. (What ever is this, where did you get this?” We told him it was what he wanted. Bill and I never had tasted or smelled garlic before. We thought it didn’t smell like onions. Bill and I got a kick out of this, he wanted us to get them and then they didn’t turn out right.

When the thrashers, came they would lift up the bundles of wheat. The binder had already been there and put the wheat in sort of standing up piles. The thrashers were pick up the piles and feed them into the machine to knock the wheat out of the stacks. Under some of these piles were a few baby mice, all pink and white. We children liked to watch the thrashers but also these litt mice. Bill and Walter being older than I, would encourage me to carry one of these cute little mice into the house and scare my mother. Of course the boys came with me but I carried this little cute mouse, by the tail into the house. I can still see Mother yelling “Get that out of here. One day she even got and stood on top of the table. Holding up her skirts yelled, Don’t let him loose in here

This was funny until one day, there wasn’t any mice. We found a water dog a little one, I was supposed to carry this in to the house. I took hold of his tail as I had did the little mice. He had a different He just curled up and bit me on the hand. That was the last I ever did that. The boys could carry their own animals after that.

I was surprised Mother didn’t like mice, as she had a little poem. I think she made up. The poem went like thi
     I’m only a wee little mouse ma’m
     I live in the crack of your house ma’m
     With a small piece of cheese
     And a very few peas
     Only having a little feast ma’m
     Oh, no need to open the door
     I can slip right thru this crack ma’m
I always enjoyed this little poem. She said there wasn’t anymore to it.

Every spring the sheepherders would bring their flocks of sheep, by our house, on thier way to the foot hills, to feed during the summer months. We lived on a small hill, we could see them coming in the valley below. The sheep would stir up a cloud of dust. Bill and I would run and get on the gate posts, the posts were flat on top, so we could sit on them. We waited for the band of sheep to come by. Then we would ask the sheep herders, if they had left any little lambs along the way that couldn’t make it. They would tell yes and where they had left them, not to far from where we lived. Bill and I would run all the way and fetch this cute new born baby lamb home with us. Sometimes there was only one and another time there would be a pair of twins. No matter we shared our little lambs. We knew how to feed them out of a bottle. Later they could eat grass and wheat like the big ones. We gave them a lot of love and attention.

Out of curiosity about that little verse about the mouse, I did a quick search on the internet. Without looking very hard, I found what is probably the original of that poem. It is entitled “The Mouse” and was written by Laura Elizabeth Richards:

I’m only a poor little mouse, ma’am!
I live in the wall of your house, ma’am!
With a fragment of cheese and a very few peas
I was having a little carouse, ma’am!

No mischief at all I intend, ma’am!
I hope you will act as my friend, ma’am!
If my life you should take, many hearts it would break,
And the trouble would be without end, ma’am!

My wife lives in there, in the crack, ma’am!
She’s waiting for me to come back, ma’am!
She hoped I might find a bit of a rind,
For the children their dinner do lack, ma’am!

’Tis hard living there in the wall, ma’am!
For plaster and mortar will pall, ma’am,
On the minds of the young, and when specially hung—
Ay, upon their poor father they’ll fall. ma’am!

I never was given to strife, ma’am!
(Don't look at that terrible knife, ma’am!)
The noise overhead that disturbs you in bed,
’Tis the rats, I will venture my life, ma’am!

In your eyes I see mercy, I’m sure, ma’am!
Oh, there’s no need to open the door, ma’am!
I’ll slip through the crack, and I’ll never come back,
Oh! I’ll never come back any more, ma’am!
(I found the full poem in Tirra Lirra RhymesOld and New on the Internet Archive and on Free Fiction Books. It also appears, missing the fifth verse, in The Unitarian Register, Volume 91, on Google Books.)

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

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 19: Miscellaneous

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, this installment begins on a new page and with a title of a sort. Strangely, the title has nothing to do with what follows, and I wonder if it was meant more as a note to herself to later write a Christmas book. (If she ever did, I have never seen it.) This week I am transcribing just a single page of the manuscript, because it is largely a series of miscellanies tied together by a stream of consciousness, and the following page arrives so abruptly that I can’t help but wonder if somewhere along the way I lost a page of the manuscript.

My Christmas book is separate form this one

The Christmas’s on the big farm I remember best

I was the right age to remember Christmas and dear old Santa.

It was such good fun no the farm with my brothers and sisters. Dad was right for wanting and having six children We were close in ages, two to five years apart. We looked after one another, of course we had a few small spats once in a while but what family didn’t. The boys would tease me a lot but Mother said I could take care of myself pretty well. Let anone else pick on us, and they were right there helping us. I think if possible everyone should have a sister and brother. When yoy have others in the family you learn to share That’s very important.

We went with out a lot, not having it we never missed it. We wore each others clothes sometimes especially if someone out grew their clothes., and a another could wear them.

We never went hungry. We never were abused by anyone. We grew most our food such as vegetables, and fruit. Our cow for milk and cream, chickens for eggs and meat. We had our own meat, pigs, calves, and beef. All we needed were the staples for our cooking.

An example of the produce they grew themselves: Aileen and Inez UNDERWOOD sitting atop a pile of pumpkins
Growing up with animals of all kinds around us, we learned a lot. We learned how to feed them, how much water they needed and how to bed them doun at night. Keeping the doors and gates closed, to keep our animals home. Learning to listen for the rooster to call us in the morning. His “Cocok-a-doodle, our alarm clock. How to chop the wood, and how to fill the wood box, kindling and how much to keep the stoves going.

We understood baby calves and baby chicks. How to care for them. How they got usued to seeing us and eager for their food.

I never did it all by myself but I helped when I could and I watched and learned how. Some animals were easy to love and some didnit want your love.

We also got acquainted with different insects, butterflies, dragon flies, snakes, mice, grasshoppers, birds and frogs.

We had a bird called a “meadow lark” which would sing, while we would be planting our garden. He would sing “hurry up get your beets in”. We had another one the whipper will, it sounded “like whip poor Will” My brother’s name was William, we called him Will part of the time. I didn’t like this one much, as I loved my brother very much.

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