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Posts Tagged ‘Family History’

I have no idea why I choose to write about her house on this particular day. It’s just another very pleasant memory of my life at a very young age. Aunt Ollie Robinson was really a Great Aunt, a sister of my Grandmother (My Dad’s Mother). I never knew her husband John who I think died before I was born. Their two children were grown and gone also before I knew about the place, but I do remember them from later periods. However, there were two other sisters of Aunt Ollie who lived with her until their deaths. Aunt Emma and Aunt Delphine were residents of the home, but were somehow very quiet and rarely seen. Later, after the farm was sold and Aunt Ollie purchased a home in town, my Grandmother Louisa would also live with her sisters until her death.

It was always a special treat to get to spend a few days at the farm, and as I remember, those times would usually include my sister Jean, and would have largely been prior to my starting to school at the age of 6. After that, there would have been day visits for the next few years but I believe she had moved to town around the time I was 12. I’m sure the farm, home, and large lawn and gardens would have deteriorated today, if they even exist.

Rural electrification would not come to most Iowa farms until after WWII in the latter half of the 1940’s, but there, in the early Thirties and presumably several years earlier, was a fully electrified farm (with lights, radio, and other pumps and available appliances of the era) that greatly added to the other well painted, well maintained and manicured features of the farm and home. Fortunately for this farm, a power line which linked small towns passed by the farm and was available for connection. It was not uncommon to view numerous farm homes and barns that had never seen a brush full of paint in those days. The first thing seen as you turned in the long driveway, past the spacious front lawn would be the beautiful red barn with its neatly painted white weather strips carefully covering the seam between boards and the ever present rotating rooster weather vane atop the cupola.

A black wrought iron fence surrounded the spacious lawn of at least an acre or more. The lawn was conveniently reached throughout with stone paths and walkways, through the many Birch, and spreading Elm and Maple trees to the various colorful flower gardens, the fish pond and the gigantic century plant located nearby. These features influenced my own feeble attempts at lawn keeping in later years on a postage stamp size lawn, but would never in a million years measure up. While the cropland was obviously rented out to others who farmed and made use of the barns and other buildings, Aunt Ollie kept a full fledged vegetable garden for cooking and canning to provide for the household. She was indeed busy with outdoor duties as well as caring for the large two story home and her live in sisters.

The house certainly was not a mansion by any means but there were many features which impressed my young eyes. For some reason, the varnished woodwork was magnificent compared to the generally painted woodwork that I was used to. There were two stairways, a wider, open stairway with a landing, leading from the front living room, and an enclosed rear stairway leading from the kitchen. With electricity, there was running water and complete bathrooms just like in town. She was also an accomplished artist and her paintings adorned the walls of all the rooms and stairway. Just off the kitchen was the pantry and the place where the homemade bread and brown sugar, and graham crackers were kept. These seemed to be the afternoon treats which I remember. The other feature which impressed me most was the nearby cave which most farms had and served as both a cool place to store home canned goods and as a storm shelter. I never had to use it as a storm shelter but was often sent to retrieve a jar of something or other for the next meal. For some reason I think I remember a dumb waiter installed from the kitchen to the second floor, but Jean, my sister will have to confirm that. It may well have been somewhere else that I remember that.

The most outstanding event held at the home was the outdoor wedding of Aunt Ollie’s daughter, Ruth, who lived in Chicago. I believe I was four years old and had been selected as the ring bearer. I do well remember being absolutely terrified of the role. Embarrassed and scared, I guess everything went well. I believe I was reassured that the ring I carried was sewed to the pillow and couldn’t be lost, but indeed was not the real ring anyway and that it would be carried by the groom or whomever.

I’ll close this with a short story of one of those early Thirties summer when Jean and I spent a few days at Aunt Ollie’s and then were to spend a few days at Aunt Florence’s which was on another farm two or three miles away. Aunt Florence, my Dad’s sister, was a great aunt, (not a Great Aunt) and a wonderful cook, but I believe with no good reason, we were a little frightened of Uncle Oscar. Also, this was one of those farms that had never seen a can of paint, had no electricity, nor even a battery radio that I remember, if there were such a thing, and of course no indoor plumbing. Well water would be drawn for drinking and cooking, and the outhouse with the Sears catalog was forty or fifty yards away. Bedtime came early, up a narrow scary stairway to the attic where we slept and the days in the dirty grassless yard stepping carefully to avoid the chicken droppings just didn’t seem to be quite as much fun as the first few days at Aunt Ollie’s.

Even though the huge cast iron wood and coal burning cooking range in the kitchen spewed out magnificently cooked food and wonderful dark red chocolate cake (because of Aunt Florence’s quite red hair), we decided (although Jean was the oldest, so it had to be her fault) to leave Aunt Florence’s and return to Aunt Ollie’s. Run away, I think they sometimes call it. I remember Jean taking my hand (and I never let go) and heading down the gravel road toward Aunt Ollie’s house. I believe we had gone perhaps a half mile where we would have had to turn on to a dirt road for a mile or two and then turned on to another for another mile or so. Whether she really knew how to get there, I’ll leave to her. Anyway, about a half mile from our starting point, Uncle Oscar pulled up in his car, (I’m thinking Model A Ford) and took us back. I will also leave to Jean, how we explained our action and whether or not we completed our stay at Aunt Florence’s or whether they delivered us back to our parents or whatever

1/25/2017………9 years after original writing of my recollection at around age 77/78  to my present age 86,soon to be 87.

I’m now re-reading my own recollection of “Aunt Ollie’s Farm” nine years after it was written.  I have to say, that I would not change a thing already written.  It still brings pleasure to recall those childhood days I would label as wonderful memories.

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