“Well, we used to go to the neighbors and play cards, various different kind of games, and we popped corn. No pizzas, but we popped corn and made popcorn balls. And we made those with sorghum molasses. We didn’t waste any sugar. And we made our own sorghum molasses. I never cared all that much for it as molasses but some of the rest of the family used to like that sticky, runny stuff on their bread. Not me, it was too sticky. But I loved it on popcorn balls or something like that.
“Then we used to make apple butter and we’d have apple peelings when a whole neighborhood group would go together and peel those bushels and bushels of apples and cut them up. Then the day you made it? That was an all-day job. You stirred and you stirred and you stirred. You kept building the fire. The same way with the molasses. I dare say, you have no idea how we did that.
“As I said, we visited and we did things together neighbors did, even to the men, and then when they threshed that wheat? Somebody came in with a threshing machine. He made a business of traveling around to all the farms. And they threshed the wheat. And if you were the lucky family that got those men when it was mealtime, why then you prepared a meal for a whole group of men.
“That was quite a day. And the neighbor women would go together and they’d cook up a awful mess of stuff. Those men would eat like hungry men do eat, you know. And we kids always had to wait until the threshers were through eating and sometimes the stuff they fixed for the threshers – there wouldn’t be any left that we were looking forward to. But we liked to watch them do it.
“And let’s see: they used to take the wheat, now this you’ll find hard to believe too – I find it hard myself now that I look back – take the wheat to a flour mill and have that wheat ground into flour. And that is the flour we used. And in our kitchen, we had a flour barrel, can you imagine, I remember just exactly where it sat. It had a wood lid over the top of it.
“And we kept the flour in that barrel and when my mother baked bread she got the flour out of that barrel and she had a big board she kneaded the dough on, on the kitchen table. And I remember, my mother set a sponge which nobody does now if they bake, but she did. Did you ever see bread sponge? I don’t imagine you have.
“She had a jar she had it in. It had yeast in it. It was a foamy looking mess of stuff. But you had to keep it warm because cold will kill yeast no matter whether you make a sponge or just bake as people do now. Well, whether anybody else was warm or not, that sponge had to be. Because if it wasn’t you didn’t have any bread. She would wrap an old blanket all around that at bedtime and that sat right by the only warmth in the house. All wrapped up in a blanket. I will say the bread was really better in the summer than it was in the winter because our house was cold. If I had to live in a house like that, I don’t think I’d lived as long as I have. It was cold.
“I remember the kitchen, of course, was colder than the living room. The kitchen was long. And the stove was in one end and you had to have those old coal ranges hot in order to cook on them or use the oven. But it didn’t penetrate to the table on the other end of the kitchen. Used to wear our coats when we ate breakfast and sit there and shiver, I remember. On cold days, that is. I remember on more times than one, grabbing something that I wanted to eat and taking it in to the living room where it was a little warmer.”
1997 interview with Sarah Grueser
Oral History from the Countdown To Millennium Project, a partnership between Ohio University, Rural Action, the School Districts of Trimble, Federal Hocking, Meigs Local, and Vinton County and the communities, of Glouster, Amesville, Kilvert, McArthur, Trimble and Pomeroy.
online at http://home.frognet.net/~cntdown/OralHistoryPages/ChristinaGrueser.htm