Ah, the trips through those times of innocence in our youth. . . You and I were fortunate to have grown up in a small Midwestern town during the time we did. We could roam the streets at any time of day or night without worry of harm, unlike the kids in the “city.” The sounds of our youth: playing cards clipped to the fork of our bicycle imitating the sound of a motorcycle as we rode, the rattle of the freshly kicked can on Carey St., the crackle of leaves burning in the fall, Grandpa calling from the swing to me as I walked toward him, and the laughter, oh the laughter, no sweeter sound does a human emit . . . We soaked up life like sponge. The innocence of our youth never again to be lived by us but to be recalled fondly in our memories. — Sent by John Jones, my nephew.
During the hot August days of seventy years ago, Wanda Frazier and I might have been splashing in Mother’s laundry tubs that we’d filled with water early in the morning for the sun to warm. If an afternoon shower came, we’d run out in our bathing suits.
One Sunday afternoon after the biggest downpour that anyone in Knightstown remembered, the streets were so flooded that Uncle Nolan Kelly paddled down Carey St. in his homemade kayak while Wanda and I frolicked in knee-deep water in the street, shrieking with pleasure. Mother watched from our porch while Wanda’s mother watched from Gertrude Scovell’s porch across the street. Then Mother noticed that we had black splotches on our skin. “Get out of the water!” she yelled. “The sewer’s backed up.” She dragged me to the shower and scrubbed me with a brush and Fels Naptha soap.
Another thing that we would have been doing this time of year was to wash dozens of Mother’s Ball Mason canning jars in washtubs of sun warmed water. We were paid a few cents for each jar which we promptly blew on Cream Soda or other pop at Conway’s neighborhood grocery store behind their home at the corner of Lincoln and Jefferson.
Mother and Daddy grew a big garden in a lot on the north side of the greenhouse that stood at the top of a hill on N. McCullum St. on the north edge of town. They were both wonderful gardeners and grew food not only for delectable summer eating, but to provide canned food throughout the winter.
Canning was necessary. We didn’t even have a refrigerator until I was around twelve years old, and our modern chest freezer didn’t exist. Instead, we had an ice box. Mother fastened a sign to a porch pillar that indicated whether she wanted a block of ice weighing 50 or 75 pounds. The Ice Man came in the unlocked house if we were gone and deposited it in the ice compartment. During cold weather, she also stored perishables in an orange crate that she nailed to the outside of a sliding kitchen window.
Her canner that sat on top of the stove was made of tin with two shelves and doors with a place in the bottom for water to provide steam. I wish I had it now as it’s probably an antique. She worked for weeks, putting up many quarts of green beans, corn, tomatoes, pickles, vegetable soup, corn relish, pickle lily, grape juice and jelly from the grapes on our grape vine, and catsup.
Memory is often rose tinted. However I believe that none of today’s “boughten” canned goods could compare with Mother’s jars of homegrown, fresh-picked vegetables and fruits that had no additives, too much salt or preservatives. In my mind’s ear I still hear Mother singing popular songs to herself as she worked and the hiss of steam and canner’s whistle when it needed water. firstname.lastname@example.org