July 16, 2009

Your Assignment, Should You Choose to Accept - 7/16/09

It's that time once again where we all spill our guts thanks to Mama Kat and her Writer's Workshop!

This week's prompts:

1.) Ask A Dad! Write a letter asking your husband for advice regarding any issue you might have and record his answer.
(inspired by Three Bay B Chicks)

2.) Describe a situation that forced you to confront a neighbor.
(inspired by Jori-O)

3.)Tell us about Grandpa.
(inspired by Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary)

4.) Which appliance in your home would you most miss living without if you had to live without.
(inspired by Amy at Escape Into My Thoughts)

5.) What are three things we would love to kno
w about you!
(inspired by Live. Laugh. Pull Your Hair Out)

I'm going to do #3. Here's why I'm avoiding #1. The Mister already tells me how to take care of too many things already, that bossy big meanie!

3. Tell us about Grandpa.

First of all, let me remind you that I'm OLD - I think most of you who read my blog are in your 20s and 30s. The events I describe occurred in the mid
to late 60s. In the 20th century. Surely, you've heard of it? heheheh

My younger brother and I got to spend summers with my grandparents when we were in elementary school. Our parents both worked, and free was still cheaper than a babysitter. Our grandparents lived 20 minutes away from us (it seemed to be much further, but Mapquest doesn't lie). We would get dropped off there every
Sunday evening, and picked up every Friday when my mom was done working.

Now that I typed that last sentence, I wonder why we didn't get picked up every day. Huh. Unfortunately, I can't ask my parents that question - my father died in 1983, and my mother is in a nursing home in AZ, struggling with Alzheimer's.

My grandparents lived in a homesteading community that had been set up by the federal government to provide housing for unemployed coalminers during the Great Depression. My grandfather was one of those miners. Click here to read about the actual community they lived in. It's pretty interesting stuff.

My grandparents were both retired by the time our summer visits started. They had no car. They lived in the country. My brother and I had to learn to make our own fun.

There was an unused chicken coop in the yard (well, unused by chickens, anyway). My grandfather kept onions and potatoes and other gardening stuff in there. But there was still enough room for us to make it our playhouse, al
beit an aromatic one.

We had one apple tree we were allowed to climb. I spent lots of time in the crook of that tree.

We ran through the large yard, and climbed in
the culverts. We'd venture across the road to a creek, or follow the railroad tracks to a country store. We occasionally played with other kids, but that was a special treat, more than the rule.

There was a strict division of labor between my grandparents. My grandfather did everything, my grandmother did a lot less! The story I was told was that my grandmother broke her arm about the time my grandfather retired, so he started doing stuff around the house that she couldn't do with a cast on. (He continued even after the cast came off [she didn't seem to mind a bit!], he took care of her until she died.)

He was the one who got up and made coffee and cooked most weekday meals. He did dishes. He worked in the large garden, he mowed the grass. He vacuumed. He wrote out all the bills. He paid us a quarter each to dust furniture, but only on Fridays. Don't laugh. That's when penny candy WAS a penny - you could get a lunch bag filled with candy for a quarter.

My Grandma slept until about 11 each morning, ate 2 sandwiches for lunch, and then settled down to watch her "stories". Sometimes she napped in her rocking chair. My Grandpap would read the obituaries to her every day from the
paper. It seems that that was one of the highlights of their day. He also napped a bit after lunch.

Grandma also belonged to the Norvelt Mother's Club and the Women's Club, so she often attended those events during the day. The only chores she did were laundry-related: Washing on Monday (and she hung clothes outside if it was nice), and ironing on Tuesday. When the garden crops were harvested, they both worked on canning them. Even my brother and I were put to work snapping beans or husking corn.

Because my grandparents had it so hard when they were younger, they were very frugal - nothing was wasted. In retirement, they had much more money than they ever earned when working, thanks to Social Security and my grandfather's Black Lung pension. But they still conserved everywhere they could.

They had rainbarrels at the ends of the downspouts (we got in trouble for filling squirtguns we sneaked in). Flushing the toilet was only done when necessary ("when it's yellow, let it mellow; when it's brown, flush it down" was the
battle cry); even plastic bags were rinsed out and hung to dry, before being reused.

Grandpap had a compost pile. They went "green" before green was popular.

The lights weren't turned on in the house until you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. The TV was only turned on when there was something they wanted to watch. Other than that, the house was pretty quiet.

Grandpap cut our bangs, and his hands shook - it was scary funny. I have a scar or two from scissors nicks to remind me.

Even though it had been years since my grandfather worked in a coal mine, he still got washed up in the basement, like he did when he worked. I used to sit on a chair and watch him shave (using his shaving cup and brush) while he peered into a mirror that needed resilvering. And he'd go back upstairs, smelling like Old Spice. I can't help but think of him when I smell that scent.

Here we all are, at my grandparents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. Don't they look happy?Left to right (seated):Aunt Peggy, Uncle Don, Grandpap, Grandma, cousin Denise.
Standing: Me, my dad, my brother Greg, my mom, and far right, the little guy, my cousin Alan.
I think I was 13 in this pic, so it was after we finished our extended summer visits.


  1. He sounds like a great grandpa. I'll have to go read the story about the house. Very interesting stuff! Don't you miss those simple times?

  2. What great memories you have! He sounds like he was an amazing man.

  3. what a wonderful story. and you are a fantastic story teller.

  4. Wow, you and I have even more in common. I have relatives who still live in Norvelt--my 92 year old aunt and her daughter (she's my age). I don't know where =I= have been all these years, but it was only last year that I learned of the origins of Norvelt.

  5. It is nice to see some old folks blogging these days ... hee hee ... just kidding.

    This was totally fascinating. Lots of interesting details and a different way of life from today. Amazing all the "dangerous" stuff you got to do! And Grandma sounds like she got a sweet sweet deal!!! I guess your Grandpa was pretty enlightened for the times ... lost of men from that time period probably wouldn't have done that.

    And I love that you didn't get picked up all week! I wish I could pull that off with my kid!

    And I so related to the frugalness. My grandmother was the same way. Every plastic bag was rinsed out, dried and reused. Tinfoil was saved and reused. String, rubber bands ... everything was used again and again until it couldn't be used anymore.

    I just adored this post.

  6. Ms. Moore,
    My grandparents lived in D Section in Norvelt.

    There were some very interesting names in Norvelt. Sarah Malnofsky was my grandma's best friend. One of the neighbors was Dot Caldwell (I thought of her when I'd see Bea Arthur, they looked similar to me). There was a guy named Dewey Honse. And the only African American family (who moved there in the 60s, I think) was named White.

    The goofy stuff I remember!

  7. Jenners,
    I still outrank you in age by a few years, so no more old person cracks from you, Missy! lol

    I think it might serve some of us well to re-adopt some of the frugal, simple behaviors - instead of buying bigger and better all the time.

    I still wash my windows with vinegar and water, just like Grandma did.

  8. Your grandpa sounds like he was a wonderful man. Thanks for sharing that nice story.

  9. You have your grandmother's face.

  10. June,

    Guess where I was last Wednesday? Yep, in the homesteading community of your youth (and mine actually). That'd be EleNOR RoseVELT...NORVELT. I just learned that is where the name came from. We were visiting my aunt and cousin who still live there. Their name is Mientus and they live in section C which my aunt says was the last to be built.

    You didn't mention grapes. My aunt and uncle had a grape vine (seems most homes had them) and we loved picking the grapes. We weren't always good at knowing when they were ripe so there was a lot of puckered mouths. There's no grapevine now but the old chicken coop remains. Actually, my cousin restored it to look like a cute little 'cottage'. A chicken cottage...I like that!

    Sorry that you are missing the Norvelt 75th Anniversary celebration this weekend. Several folks co-authored a book about the homestead and they are unveiling it during the celebration.


  11. I loved this post. Bit and pieces of it reminded me of my grandma, and great grandma as well. *And* my husband's grandma ;-) It was lovely to read -your grandparents sound like such interesting people - I feel a book of sorts in this post, don't you? :-)
    BTW,thanks for visiting my blog. So glad you did and I was able to "find" & follow you!


Thanks for stopping by. I love your comments...I get all warm inside just reading them!