Grandma’s Kitchen

Scrapple-001This may be the longest story Grace wrote. It’s a good one!

Grandma Fanny loved to cook. She never actually said those words, but given how much time she invested in baking and cooking, she had to love it. Some of Grandma’s stories took place in the farm kitchen, and involved cooking for the large number of hired hands that came through during harvest time. She talked about fixing lunch and taking a wagon load of food to the fields for the men. Then it was right back to the kitchen to start cooking the afternoon snack, which sounded more like a major lunch to me. Those men were working hard, so they earned their pies and scrapple sandwiches.

In Jamestown, when I lived with Grandma, she baked continuously. Often for us (the best caramel rolls ever), but more often to sell at Wolf’s Grocery, the little store a half block away. The grocery was small by today’s standards, maybe 2,000 square feet, barely a house size. Mr. Wolf and his family lived upstairs.

Grandma baked rolls, bread, pies, and kuchen. She had great recipes, and insisted on using the best ingredients. One day a friend of hers asked why her caramel rolls were so good. Grandma explained the recipe, and that she used butter. The friend said, “Well, I just use shortening because it’s cheaper.” Grandma was incensed that her friend wouldn’t consider using butter, even though that was the distinguishing ingredient. I’ve taken that lesson to heart, cutting cooking corners only when flavor, texture, and presentation are not compromised. I always use butter, never margarine. I blame Grandma for that.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

Dear ones,

I’ve been thinking about what Mama’s kitchen was like. In comparison to what we have now, she sure didn’t have much. With so little work space and no running water, electricity or gas it’s amazing how much she did.

The kitchen was a fairly large room and the first room you came into from outside. There was a front door that opened into the entryway at the bottom of the stairs and into the living room but we never used that door so the kitchen was always a busy place. The coal-wood range was the most important thing in the room. On it all the meals were cooked, wash water heated, bath water heated, meat and vegetables processed + canned. Clothes dryed by it in winter, the baby bathed close by to be nice + warm. All the bread, and rolls + cakes were baked in it and sometimes we warmed our feet in the oven. Even baby lambs or other little animals would be brought in when they were freezing outside to be warmed and nursed back to health by the warmth of that stove. Continue reading

Winter Nights with Cora

Grace and her doll

Grace & Doll (Click to enlarge)

Several of Grace’s stories have focused on the fun she had with friends. If you read between the lines and pay attention to some of the short sentences you’ll notice that they didn’t have much on the farm in the thirties. The picture to the right is of Grace with her doll at the home place. There isn’t much (any?) paint on the wall. The concrete step looks a little rough around the edges. Look closely at the ground. Do you see any grass? How about Grace’s hand-made dress?

This summer we took a road trip with the grand children. Their car had more toys and clothes than Grace had in the entire house. (That may be hyperbole, but not far from the truth.) In 2015 kids have electronic tablets, endless clothes, and multiple dolls with nicer clothes than Grace had on the farm.

Grace ends this story with an anecdote that I could repeat almost word for word, just with a different childhood friend.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

Dear Kids,

Many times during my grade school years Cora White would come and stay overnight at our house or I would stay with her.

Their farm was less than a mile south from the schoolhouse so they always walked to school. Their house was one story and sprawling from being built on too. Cora had her own room as her older sister Florence was gone to high school and the boys shared a room. Continue reading

Snow on the Prairie

If you grow up in North Dakota, blizzards figure greatly in your story. That applies to Grace and to me. Grace’s story covers two ways to look at a storm. The first is school children enjoying the aftermath of a blizzard. The second exposes the hazards of monster storms on the prairie.

Two blizzards come to mind as I read Grace’s letter. The first was in March of 1966. There was a lull in the storm on the second day. I used that calm to the greatest benefit, trekking to my girlfriend’s house. The storm returned and I couldn’t get back to my house for two nights.

Downtown St. Cloud MN, January 1975

Downtown St. Cloud MN, January 1975

In January of 1975 Judy and I planned to meet college friends in northern Minnesota for a weekend of cross-country skiing. There were reports of possible storms, but who lets a little snow get in the way of skiing? Snow is good, right? The storm stranded us in the last hotel room in St. Cloud. Not really a guest room, it was a meeting room with two roll away beds for us and our friends. We stayed in the hotel for two nights. The good news was that we had food and drink for the weekend, and The Godfather Part II was playing in the theater next door.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

I remember one year we had so much snow that the snow banks in the trees around the schoolhouse were about six feet deep. It was packed in really hard from a blizzard. Continue reading

Dreams of a New House

Ted Luehr's Truck and haystack

Trucking hay from the north forty.

Last month Lucy’s letter described the new house she and Ken moved into soon after they got married. Grace describes the dream of a new house unfulfilled. Somehow serendipity plays a role in everyone’s life. My grandfather Ted came to North Dakota and saw it in glorious bloom in 1918. He and his new bride, my grandmother Fanny, came to Kidder County along with hundreds and thousands of eager dry land farmers, ready to transform the prairie into rolling fields of green.

Fate intervened after not too many years. The rains failed. The stock market crashed. The promises of 1918 didn’t happen. For example, Aunt Esther told me that the telephone came to the farm in the twenties. With the depression, copper wire became more valuable than phone conversations. The phone didn’t come back for decades.

When things stated to improve, flush with cash, Grandpa Ted decided to expand to more land north of the home place, planning to build a house. The dust bowl, the depression, and eventually illness and death intervened. The site of the new house became a hay field.

There’s one quaint similarity between my wife Judy and my grandmother Fanny. Both count subconsciously and involuntarily. Every time Judy and I walk through the park, I hear exactly how many people were enjoying the park. Fanny knew exactly how many cattle were in the pasture.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

I remember Mama telling me about her dream of sometime having a new house. They bought land about 6 or 8 miles to the north east of our farm with the hope of building there someday. Papa planted trees for shelter and as a border for the yard. He had cottonwoods and some fruit trees and some smaller shrub type things. The depression came along though so not much else was ever done. Continue reading

Two Room Schoolhouse

Grace is in the back row, third from the left.

Grace is in the back row, third from the left.

The changes over the last one hundred years amaze me. Then this letter shows up and twists my understanding even further up the amazement scale. A general observation that things change is pretty banal. Once I hear about a specific change  in detail, in a way that I can relate to, it gets personal. In this letter Grace tells us about the one room school-house on the prairie. They were all over North Dakota in the nineteen thirties. Did I say one room?

Then there was the school-house Grace went to. Two rooms. Maybe you can detect a little pride in her description of the school building and grounds. That school yard had everything a school girl would want, including the flowers that Grace described in another letter.

She didn’t describe the interior of the classroom. That’s something I’d love to hear more about. Last summer during the local Irish Fest at the History Center Judy and I attended a talk about bodhráns. The talk was in the one room school-house on the center grounds. Wooden desks nailed to the floor. A world/USA map hanging from the wall. A chalk board on the front wall, next to the American flag. A pot-bellied stove and a table in the front for the teacher and you’ve got it covered.

Compare that to school rooms today, with smart boards and iPads everywhere. The kids have a cafeteria, gymnasium, library and much more. And we still think it’s not enough!

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace  writes:

Our schoolhouse was probably one of the biggest in N. Dak. The pioneers from two townships had gone together and built one with two rooms instead of the conventional one room you see all over the midwest. Continue reading

Flower Gardening

Eric, Grace and Linn by the flower garden at the Pink House by the river.

Eric, Grace and Linn by the flower garden at the Pink House by the river.

Gardening has been a favorite pastime for me since we’ve lived in this house. I don’t mean vegetable gardening, those I can get from the farmer’s market or from the store. I mean flowers. Stepping onto the back deck on a warm early summer morning to see flowers reaching for the sun … that’s a good morning. In some of Grace’s and Louie’s letters you’ve seen the Pink House’s yard several times. It’s in this picture, too.

My last summer in that house was in 1958, I was only eight, but the memory of flowers all over the yard sticks with me. All summer long it was a riot of color, with so many flowers. My favorite were the “Tiger Lilies” that seemed to volunteer everywhere in the yard. OK, so maybe they didn’t volunteer, but to an eight year old kid, they just seemed to show up. I loved them, especially the little seed bulbs that grew at the base of each leaf.

My little back yard continues to be that bright spot Grace writes about. Most of the flowers are perennial, so they almost do “volunteer.” For all their beauty, they don’t match the memories of the house along the river.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

July 29, 1991

Dear ones,

My love of flowers began when I was just a little girl. They were such a bright spot in an otherwise rather dreary and desolate country. Mama always had some flowers planted even though it was extra work to carry water for them. She had window boxes on the south windows with portulaca in them. They did so well in that sandy soil and hot summer sun. Bachelor Buttons, Zinnias + Cosmos were all fairly easy to grow so usually there was some of those in the garden or by the house.

Continue reading

Bowermans and a new coat

Conrad Poirier [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Model T

Fanny (Grace’s mother) could make something from nothing. That may be hyperbole, but this story from Grace certainly makes it sound like absolute truth. If creativity wasn’t the main skill, perhaps good old-fashioned horse trading showed off her skills. Grace learned sewing from Esther (her older sister) and Fanny. That gave her an appreciation for well made good-looking clothes. Several of Grace’s stories show her satisfaction with their ability to create beauty from whatever came through the farm-yard.

I do my best to reuse, re-purpose, and make from scratch, but there’s only so much you can do with an old iPhone.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

Bowerman’s lived one mile east of us on the farm just to the north of Kunkel Lake. When I started in first grade Galen and Bruce were in the seventh and eighth grade. They drove an old Model T Ford the 3 1/2 miles to school and would pick up Melvin and I. One day when it was real cold they had an old imitation fur coat covering the radiator to keep it from freezing.

Continue reading

Another Tornado

Grace on the farm

Grace on the farm

When a storm rolls through the North Dakota prairie, a couple of things happen. Buildings are destroyed. Memories are made. Although I’ve never seen a building flattened, storms certainly hold a special place in my memory.

There wasn’t much that scared my Grandma. The storm Grace describes must have come very close for her to hightail it to the house. Neither Grace nor I were ever afraid of storms. Perhaps I learned from those old farm gals?

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

My dear ones,

When I was about three or four years old there was a tornado that nearly blew us away. Continue reading

Second Year at Steele High School

In this letter Grace shares something I had never heard before, and never did hear in person from her. She talks about a young man that she knew well, but never “went out” with. Is that a common thing? What comes to mind is a certain young lady who was very special to me in high school, we were together many times, double dated and such. We enjoyed many of the same activities in school, signed the yearbook with some special sentiments, but we never hit it off. Now, how many years later, we are still friends. Somehow that closeness never developed into a deep romance. Maybe that’s good?

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace Writes:

Steele high school

Steele high school

I think I enjoyed that second year at Steele a lot more than I did the first. I was so bashful + scared to talk to anybody that a lot of kids thought I was stuck up. Guess its hard for all kids to start in a new school, it sure was for me. We always had a homecoming dance + ball game in the fall with a queen + all that goes with it. That year someone nominated me + another gal to run for queen. She got elected but it was quite an honor anyway.

Continue reading

High School Skit and Proms

Joyce & Guy - Prom 1967

Joyce & Guy – Prom 1967

Lately the letters from Grace and Lucy have been about the various dances they went to in high school. I don’t remember my mother ever talking about going to dances, she never taught me how to dance, but I never missed a dance. In the early days it was John, Mark and me going to the dances just to watch the bands and talk about their guitars and drum kits. Later on I became interested in taking girls to the dances.

The first dances I remember going to with a date were the ones at the Masonic Lodge. They were pretty formal affairs, with dance cards and such. The school put on a number of dances, too, like homecoming. Generally it was pretty important to never go to the dance alone.

Continue reading