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The Ozarks Christmas Dinner 1966 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Grandma DeLong and Uncle Richard’s House

The Ozarks

Christmas Dinner

1966

GRANDMA DELONGS BUTTER MOLD

 

Grandma DeLong’s Butter Mold

Grandma Martha Lou Marcum DeLong taught me “How To Milk A Cow,”when I was five years old. No fancy milking machine. I used my thumb and finger on the cow’s udder. Most of the stream of the milk went on me and not in the bucket. I knew I would never be a dairy farmer. Grandma used the milk to churn butter. Once the butter was churned, she used this butter mold to imprint a design into the cake of butter. She used “Clabber Girl” baking powder to make her biscuits from scratch. Once you added the butter to the fresh biscuits out of the old wood cook stove, “It was good eatin’ ! Every breakfast was like a Christmas Day Breakfast !” Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]Home is where I kick my shoes off and feel, “This is where I belong.”

 

In childhood, I felt at home in the big, white clapboard house in Houston. It had an extremely narrow driveway that ended at the garage in the backyard. The property was surrounded by a cyclone fence.

 

In Missouri, home was always Grandma and Uncle Richard’s house. You turned off the state highway and rose up a wide gravel driveway to the top of the knoll. To the left was the traditional worn wood country barn with the hay loft. The driveway ended near the power pole.

 

Home To Grandma’s House

 

To the right of the power pole sat a small house with a built on porch. The yard hadTHUMBNAIL 2 THE OZARKS OLD HOUSE_PHOTO BY SAMUEL E WARREN JR three Tonka trees and a huge snowball bush. The yard tapered down into a ditch beside the highway.

 

Brief traces of white paint were visible on the porch, which sagged under the weight of age. A huge flat rock served as a step on to the porch. In autumn, ricks of wood occupied the porch. In spring and summer,

Grandma DeLong would sit on the porch and look up the road toward Abesville.  If she wasn’t peeling potatoes on the porch, then, she would be sitting outside with her fly swatter ready to swat flies.

There was always a string of hot red peppers that hung on the porch like a string of forgotten Christmas lights. Through the year, people would sit on the porch and “visit” with grandma or Uncle Richard. 

Grandma had quite a few chickens that she shut up in the hen house at night.  I would go with her to “gather up the eggs.”  She would put some of the eggs in cartons in the ice box and sell some of the eggs to people who wanted “farm fresh” eggs.

In the 1960s, grandma also raised rabbits.  Every two or three weeks, “The Old Rabbit Man” would stop by to buy some of the rabbits that she had raised.

 

The Kitchen

 

As dusk began to settle, you would stroll across the creaking wooden porch into the kitchen. To your left was a long wooden table that held two white enamel buckets of water.

 

The bucket nearest the door usually had the dipper in it, in case you wanted a drink of water.

 

There was an old battered gray dishpan that sat on the table and it’s function was that of a sink. You dipped water into the pan and washed your hands. Then, you tossed the dirty dish water out the door into the yard.

 

The white cupboard beside the door held the dishes. The huge white refrigerator sat next to the cupboard.

 

By the wood table was the wood box that held the wood for the cook stove. A white enamel dishpan hung on a nail by the cook stove. Grandma usually sat on her tall, wooden swivel stool by the cook stove. Her stool was at the end of the loud, gaudy, yellow art deco formica topped table, which was the kitchen table,

 

Living Room

 

When you got up from the table you stepped into the living room, which was also Grandma’s bedroom. Her cast iron headboard and footboard were set up against the wall.

 

In the center of the room, in the autumn and winter was the pot bellied cast iron heating stove. A doorway beside the heating stove lead into Uncle Richard’s bedroom.

 

The entire house had three rooms and in the early 1970s a laundry room was built on the back of the house. There was no indoor plumbing, The natural call of nature were answered by a trip down to the hillside.

 

Uncle Joe had built an outhouse behind the house. The house had a gable roof. Siding was a brown brick pattern of tar paper over black tar paper.

 

THUMBNAIL 1 THE OZARKS OLD HOUSE_PHOTO BY SAMUEL E WARREN JRMomma once told me the entire house once sat in the head of a holler, across the road, where Uncle Richard later built a goat house and corral for his wool goats.

In the 1940s,daddy, Uncle Richard and Uncle Hobert moved the house from the holler to the location across the road.

 

The Charley Herman and Martha Lou Marcum DeLong Family had lived on this land since the early 1930s.

 

Rock Porch

 

The back of the house faced the state highway. The two screen doors, near the center, opened out on to a strange rock porch. The concrete foundation of the porch rose up about four feet and the top of the porch was a crude rock garden floor of rocks.

The rocks were, probably, used because they had been picked up out of the yard.  There was nothing special about these rocks.  They were just big,old,sharp, flint rocks of different sizes. Grandma had about six four o’clock plants planted around the porch.

 

Old Tree

 

One of the most amazing feature of the front yard was the ancient tree that set a few yards to the left of the house. It was wide and easy to crawl up into. Cousin Donna, I and our cousins, Bert and Ronnie could easily climb into the tree and sit or play on the branches.

 

Grandma’s house was the center of family social functions. Birthdays, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations everyone made the journey to grandma’s house.

 

The house was small and the kitchen had limitations to timely food preparation. Momma was a good cook, but it took Thanksgiving and Christmas for her to reveal her cooking skills.

 

My childhood house I called the “Hen House” because of the backward slanted shed roof. It was like a badly designed house trailer. However, the house did have indoor plumbing and a working gas stove.

 

The Chores

 

Uncle Richard had his farm chores that involved checking on his 25 head of Black Angus cattle and feeding three sows. He had two Clydesdale work horses, Bob and Fred that he used to plow the corn field.

In the 1960s, Uncle Richard had between 50 and 100 head of wool goats.  In the spring, they would pin up the goats and shear off the wool to put into sacks to take to Crane to sell to a wool buyer.  It usually took two to five days to shear the goats because instead of electric clippers, the scissors were sharp metal.

I always felt sorry for the goats because they looked so funny afterwards.  They had beautiful sets of regal looking horns, but without their wool they looked like they were wearing the type of pink thermal underwear that had the trap door in the back.

 

By the 1970s, Bob and Fred were gone and Kate the old white mule and Hazel the young brown mule inherited the plowing duties.

 

The John Deere Model A tractor had a side starter that was a nuisance to try to start, so it usually sat in the field, near the road, like a forgotten road sign.

 

Whenever some wood had to be sawed there was a long rubber belt that could be put around the starter to operate a saw device, which was another use for the neglected tractor that witnessed Kate and Hazel doing the serious plowing.

 

Momma had her farm chores to do everyday, which involved checking on her 50 head of Black Angus cattle and her growing herd of hogs.

 

Holiday Menu

 

Around the holidays, once her chores were done, then, Momma would start a day before the holiday to cook dinner.

 

Mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, honey glazed ham with the Dole pineapple rings were the food items on the Thanksgiving and Christmas menus. Black eyed peas were considered “Good Luck” in Texas, so Momma always added the black-eyed peas to the Missouri menu.

 

The DeLong Family all loved the orange sweet potatoes. Momma would always load up a long wide Pyrex dish with the candied yams. The yams are one of the foods that always seemed to disappear quickly.

 

Momma like fried okra, cooked cabbage,spinach and fried green tomatoes She usually found the time to add these dishes to the table.

 

Uncle Richard and I loved pinto beans, so Momma would always cook a big pot, Uncle Richard liked the soup and I liked the beans. Momma always cooked the beans until they just melted in your mouth.

 

Grandma DeLong always used Clabber Girl baking power to make her biscuits from scratch. Momma would begin cooking dishes on our gas stove and in the gas oven at home. Then, she would take the cooked food and more food to cook on the cook stove up to grandmas.

 

Aunt Mary DeLong would usually show up early in the morning of a holiday to help with the cooking.

 

The Cook Stove

 

Grandma DeLong used a cast iron “cook stove”, which was a huge oblong piece of metal that look like an unfinished robot. It had an oblong head supported by a slender throat of metal over a flat cooking surface. In the stomach of the metal beast was a door to an oven. The whole contrapcion sit on four cast iron legs.

 

There were four circular lids that contained an indentation for a metal handle that would be inserted to raise any one of the lids. Once the lid was raised then a stick of wood about six to eight inches was inserted into the iron beast.

 

Kindling, the smaller pieces of wood, and paper were added and lit with a match or a cigarette lighter to get the fire started. One the flames were leaping up between the sticks of wood, then, you put the cover back over the opening.

 

A cast iron skillet was added to the flat surface. And,the metal coffee pot usually rested on the stove. Cooking wasn’t fast on the old “cook stove.” Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas Dinner was an all day affair.

 

Frying bacon in the cast iron skillet on the flat surface was done to come up with bacon grease. In the 1960s, before cooking oil and vegetable oil became popular farm housewives used what they had, which was bacon grease to cook with.

 

The hot grease could be poured into a container to cool and it solidified, When you needed it, you would spoon out some into a hot skillet and the grease once again became liquid and like cooking oil.

The Stories

Grandma DeLong was the family storyteller,  Whenever Cousin Donna or I got the chance to spend the day at grandma’s we took the opportunity.  She would sit at the end of the kitchen table on her swivel wooden stool and tell us stories about the early days of Stone County,  She would relate her experiences in The Great Depression.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were usually the days that she got to sit in the kitchen and have people tell her stories about their lives.  Grandma was a “good listener.”  And, Grandma DeLong was a curious person. 

She would ask a question that would sometimes catch someone totally off guard.  They would see the small woman with her silver hair in a French bun and think of her as a “sweet, little old lady.”  But. this sweet, little old lady was always curious and had a sense of humor and would ask her question.

The person being questioned might blush, but Grandma DeLong didn’t get embarrassed.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Days were usually the days that grandma didn’t have to cook. She sat at the end of the bright yellow art deco formica topped kitchen table“supervised” and “visited” with friends who stopped by and family members who sat down at the table.

One of the most comfortable features of being at Grandma’s house was how people would get them a cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen to talk,  Everyone always seemed to feel at home.  People were always at ease,

Friends, family and neighbors would sit down at the kitchen table and just casually speak about their day and the events that were going on in their lives.

The beauty of childhood is when you observe some actions, you are willing to allow your imagination to supply the rationale.I had a suspicion that the loud, gaudy, yellow kitchen table was actually a scientific, sophisticated gizmo that simply encouraged people to freely express their thoughts and views.

In 1960, Papa Warren, Mama Warren, Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey came to Missouri to visit for a couple of weeks. When daddy would sit down at the table, grandma would have all kinds of questions to ask about the family in Texas and the job.

 

1958 CHEVROLET _Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr. 0215_resized

American Classic

1958 Chevrolet

This 1958 Chevrolet circles the square, during Stone County, Missouri’s 160th Anniversary Celebration. My Uncle Audrey and Aunt Bill Warren Irwin owned a beautiful emerald green 1958 Chevrolet. Uncle Audrey was meticulous about the automobile. In 1960, Uncle Audrey, Aunt Bill, Papa Warren and Mama Warren came up to The Ozarks from Simpsonville, Texas for a couple of weeks in Uncle Audrey’s ’58 Chevy. As a child one of the factors that I always appreciated about the 1950s General Motors Corporation automobiles were how the designers used the grilles to create a facial expression for the vehicle.   Every time I see a ‘58 Chevy, I smile because it always reminds me of Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey, Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Home For The Holidays

 

Every two or three years, Aunt Reva DeLong and her husband, Uncle Dennis would arrive to celebrate Christmas.

 

Uncle Dennis served in the United States Marine Corps. They would bring their two sons, Bert and Ronnie. Bert grew up to serve in the United States Air Force. Ronnie grew up to serve in the United States Navy.

 

Of course, when family returned for the holiday, friends and neighbors would stop by to visit. While the adults would sit down to visit over a cup of coffee, we kids would go outside and go into the woods to play.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas Days we didn’t stray that far from the kitchen, so we would go out and play on the old tree.

 

Every Christmas, daddy would bring Uncle Richard a fifth of Seagram’s Seven. Uncle Richard would smile and then go hide it under his bed.

Uncle Richard knew Uncle Joe was suppose to be coming home for the holidays, then, Uncle Richard would take his fifth of Seagram’s out to the barn to hide it.

 

Sometimes Uncle Joe would get time off from the Burlington Northern railroad and come home to celebrate Christmas.

 

Momma, Opal M. DeLong Warren, would of pulled out all the stops and been in her Christmas mode. Once Momma and Aunt Mary was done with the cooking the food would be sat on the table. Everyone would get them a plate and help themselves.

 

Once the dishes were cleared away into the dish pan on the corner of the cook stove, then, the adults would sit with there coffee at the kitchen table and talk.

 

Grandma Delong “went to bed with the chickens”, which meant by 6 pm or 8 pm she would go to bed and the rest of the adults would sit in the kitchen and talk usually until midnight.

 

The family coming home for the holidays. The vast amount of food on the table. The conversations throughout the day until the evening. All of these observations on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days were what I understood to be the meaning of the family getting together for the holidays.

 

Throughout the year, Momma would remind me that, “Family is everything.” Christmas Dinner at Grandma DeLong’s always seem to bring family together from around the United States.  There was always the feeling that everyone who walked through the door looked forward to the opportunity to come back “home for the holidays.”

 

Merry Christmas !

 

Sam

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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Written by samwarren55

December 24, 2012 at 1:43 AM

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Business, Ecology, Family, Food, Money, Nature, Observances, Opinion, Stone County History, The Ozarks, Tourism

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