Sunday, September 12, 2010

305 Spruce Street

The greeting was nearly always the same, "Hi, Hon!" as any of the grandchildren walked through the door.  We never knocked-we just walked right in.  Through the glass-slatted door that opened in the kitchen and just to the right into the living room where we would all stop and turn to our right long enough to hug our Grandma who sat in her blue recliner.  Sometimes a short line would form and Grandma seemed to be a bottleneck but we'd all take turns hugging her.  She always smiled at us---never a scowl or frown.  Then, as our Paw-paw who sat across the way started teasing us, we would make our way to the other side of the living room.  He would call us each by nickname---never by our given name.  The grandkids would allow the adults to sit in the swan-necked chair or on the stiff red couch.  The kids all sat on the floor Indian style, spread haphazardly around the room.  There we would spend a few minutes answering questions about how we were or what we'd recently learned in school.  After the first few cursory minutes the kids would each begin the inquiry.  Was there anything to eat?  Most often it was cookies-Fudge Stripes, Oreos or chocolate chip...always in the cookie jar in the kitchen.  Paw-paws after-dinner mints, peppermints or lemon drops could be found in the glass candy dish that sat on the stereo in the living room.  On hot summer days there were ice pops, ice cream sandwiches or ice milk.  And on the really good visits there were fresh pecan pies, pound cakes or chocolate cake.  We drank Coca-Cola from glass bottles, fresh homemade lemonade or iced tea. 

It was a good thing that we had plenty of cool drinks and treats around.  Our Paw-paw didn't want an air conditioner installed in his house.  He insisted he couldn't breathe in air conditioned air.  As a result their windows were always full of box fans.  Somedays it was so hot in that little brick house that we would end up moving outside to sit in the shade on the carport in metal lawn chairs.  The kids would fight or take turns (depending on our mood and whether or not there were nearby adults) swinging just behind the house in the swing made from an old ferris wheel seat.  The swing was metal mesh and heavy.  Most often it was cool to the touch since it was situated in the shade of an old gum tree.  It was mounted on large metal pipes that were fitted together and put into the ground in cement, Paw-paw would paint them silver every once in a while to keep them shiney.  The swing was painted whatever color Paw-paw had painted the ceiling of the carport.  We'd beg the adults to push us and the lucky times they did we rode high.  We would all stretch our legs out far and try to touch one of the low-hanging leaves on the gum tree.  When that old swing would start creaking and groaning from use our Grandma would take a swipe of Crisco and put it on the hinges to stop the squeaking.  Our grandparents carport was more than just a place to park the car.  There were chairs sitting out there and visiting was something done on a regular basis.  That was when people still visited each other.  It was nothing to be sitting on the carport having a talk and have a great aunt or uncle pull up for a visit.  Pretty soon the carport would be spilling over with visitors and the adults would be hollaring at the kids to shut the kitchen door because they were letting flies in.

I recall a few times the car being backed out from the carport and setting up the handmade wooden quilting frame for the ladies to work on quilts together.  Aunts and great-Aunts would gather in wooden folding chairs and sit there for hours.  They patiently stitched and talked and us younger girls would sit down long enough to pull through a few perfunctory stitches before running off to play in the yard.  I don't know how many quilts were made on that old quilting frame.  The frame, along with a wonderful old rocking chair and several other neat things at Grandma's house were handmade by my great-grandfather.  It seems that back then there were alot more "things" around a person's house that could tell a story.  Not like today's world where things are purchased on the fly and have no personal connection.  I recall several quilts that those ladies made that were special and very unique.  Crazy quilts and log-cabin quilts made from the old scraps of clothes that were threadbare or ready to retire.  Patches from my Paw-paws Coca-Cola work shirts were sewn into those quilts along with bits and pieces of clothes from other family members.  We could look at those quilts and feel as though we had part ownership in them.  Each of those quilts told a story and they seemed warmer as a result.

My grandparents yard was a good size but I always thought it was huge.  But I suppose that's what a child's eye can see.  The vast expanse of sloping green grass was broken a little over halfway across the back yard by the imposing pecan tree.  The tree was big and had low-growing limbs that we all itched to climb on but we weren't allowed to climb that tree.  Half the yard was fenced in-this was to keep neighborhood kids out or to try and keep grandkids in-maybe a bit of both.  Two mature cherry trees in the far corner of the yard produced unbelievable amounts of cherries and Grandma would bake pies and make cherry preserves.  Grandma's kitchen was always hot and steamy when she canned.  For a number of years there were two plum trees she also made preserves from but I recall hearing adults complain about them.  Apparently the wasps and yellow jackets would hover over the over-ripened fruit that had fallen on the ground.  Eventually those trees were cut down.

During the day if we were outside with her, our Grandma would tell us the names of the birds as they flew through or landed in the yard.  When we were young and didn't know any better she would tell us we could catch a bird if we could put salt on their tail.  There is absolutely no telling how much salt we ended up dumping in that back yard in our bid to catch a bird.  On summer evenings we would wait for the lightening bugs to appear and then we would run around catching them-it was like winning the lottery.  We would fill up a mason jar with those things and watch in amazement as they lit up time and again.

The far left corner of the back yard held a homemade brick pit for cooking barbecue but I don't recall ever seeing it used.  I did hear stories about how my Grandfather's clothes once caught on fire but I'm not sure if the barbeque caused the accident.  Another highlight of the yard was the clothesline and the poles that presented climbing challenges.  I can only speculate the number of times we hung from the ends of those giant "T" poles.   We would take turns shimmying up and down them every chance we got.  Grandma used her clothesline whenever she could because running the clothes dryer was expensive.  It would also heat the kitchen up something aweful.  Add to that the gas stove in the kitchen and you could imagine the heat inside.  Grandma cooked on it every day.  Her kitchen was always full of the smells of a good Southern cook.  Pawpaw would cook breakfast on the weekends-which was always a scream because he would lace up in one of Grandma's old cooking aprons.  He was tall but had a slight belly that the apron would stretch over.  During one such breakfast I remember Grandma loaded up her piece of toast with a huge dollup of her homemade cherry preserves.  I commented that she put too much on her toast and that our mom didn't allow us to eat that much.  Her response was that she liked to taste it on her toast and she didn't skimp on jelly.  Grandma kept a lazy Susan on one end of the table and on it were stored all sorts of condiments along with jelly and jam. 

I remember the day my Grandparents bought a new dining room table to put in their kitchen.  Grandma promptly covered the table with a plastic table cloth to protect it.  I also remember them sitting down to breakfast together and watching as Grandma set out Corelle cups with saucers for them to have their coffee.  I thought it seemed awefully formal to put out a dish to catch runoff coffee when you already had a perfectly handy plastic table cloth to do the job for you.  But I suppose that was something else they had-a set of niceties instilled into them by another era.  Grandma would always pour Paw-paw his coffee and refill it for him while we were sitting at the table.  As a side note, dishes were also washed, dried and put away after every meal and definitely before everyone went to bed (boy would she freak at my house!).

It's strange how some things stick with us.  The little things that we recall.  Like the Reader's Digests magazines sitting on a skinny iron table in the only bathroom they had.  Grandma kept a notepad and a Websters Dictionary in there too.  She would write down any new words she might come across in her reading and look them up-so she could commit them to memory.  That old dictionary had quite a few miles on it.  There was an old metal bell mounted on a plaque that was placed high on the wall outside the bathroom.  It had some poem written on the plaque about using the bathroom.  Ringing the bell was supposedly a nice way to remind the person in the bathroom that there were others that needed to use it.  Ringing it constantly (which is what we kids did) was just plain annoying.  We never had a bell at my house-we just yelled through the bathroom door at whoever was on the other side to hurry up.

When we were allowed to spend the night I always slept in the front guest room.  Grandma had a single bed in her sewing room on the back side of the house but it was usually covered in sewing implements.  So I slept in the front room where there was a double bed situated right beside a window.  At night Grandma would take one of the box fans from the living room and place it in the window beside the bed.  The window sills were wide enough to hold a box fan and the windows themselves were the old crank-out variety.  There were feather pillows on that bed and I always had a devil of a time getting them to fluff up enough.  Occasionally the sharp end of a feather would poke through the pillow casing and I'd pull it out.  I thought that was pretty neat.  We didn't have feather pillows at our house.  That same bedroom had an old picture of Canadian Geese flying low over a marsh on a bright blue day.  It was hung on one wall of that room and I would spend hours gazing at it.  I loved the large fluffy clouds in that picture and I can still remember in my minds eye how it looks to this day. 

On Sundays we sometimes got to visit with our cousins at our Grandparent's house.  We would play hide and seek or tag.  We'd have secret meetings on the steps that led to the basement or we'd get permission to play ball on the basketball court or the tennis court.  We also went to the park just across the way that was in walking distance.  Hours spent on monkey bars or the merry-go-round would wear us out and we'd come home exhausted.

Their home was on Spruce Street.  It was situated just up from a creek that ran through town.  When a sudden summer storm would hit, the creek just below the house would rise quickly and sometimes spill over it's banks.  Heck, it would even cover the road.  After the storm passed Grandma would lead us down to the creek through the rising steam on the street and let us witness how high the water had risen.  She was always cautious...I don't recall there being a time when she didn't warn us all of the dangers of storm runoff.  She would latch on to our hands like vice grips and threaten us if we stepped too close to the rushing water of the creek.  There were times when we all felt like her worry over us was a bit extreme-making us get home by dark and be in bed shortly thereafter when there were still plenty of other neighborhood kids out playing.  Or pulling us into the house when strange cars passed by a little too slowly.  But now I think I understand some of her worry.  It's difficult enough to raise your own children and not over protect them but to have someone else's children in your care makes it even more precarious.  I'm glad she was the way she was.  I'm glad they gave us what freedom they could.   I'm glad for every memory I have of their home and I could probably write many pages still.  But what I've written were some of the highlights from a childhood and grandparents that made a lasting impression.  I miss you guys!

~Love, Gail


  1. I think your memories are right on the mark. Don't forget how Papa wanted his fried chicken cold and we were only allowed 1 bottle of coca cola a day. Papa didn't want potatoes very often and it was after I got older that Grandma told me how when Papa was younger that was all they had to eat some days and he just didn't want them if he had a choice.

    I remember learning how to play go fish with Grandma and then she taught me Solitaire. Then I developed a love of reading and Grandma would share her books with me. Aunt Roberta always boxed up her books and would mail them to Grandma to read. Even now if I am looking through used books I check to see if I can find Grandmas name in the front of the book, she always wrote her name in it to know that she4 had already read it.

    The back bedroom had been the boys bedroom and had a double bed in it before it became the sewing room. That's were I used to sleep the most. After it became a sewing room I was moved to the front blue bedroom and I can remember getting in bed before it was completely dark. Sometimes I would sit up and watch the other kids still playing in the street.

    I recall playing behind the fog truck and getting excited about the ice cream truck. Walking to Hunts Supermarket when it was on Center Street for an ice cream. Riding my bike up and down the road and how Papa was always so neat the way he mowed the yard.

    I remember how Papa always had his bath before supper and used Ivory soap and would call Grandma to shave the back of his neck. Grandma preferred showers and she would use Dial soap. They kept a toothbrush for me and then I would get to use the REAL Listerine. The toilet paper was always Scott's, no soft stuff there. But that is what I use now because of the value.

    We had the best grandparents around. She taught me how to make buttermilk biscuits and rice krispie chicken. When I helped her make salmon patties, she wanted the skin removed and the bones left in. I wanted the skin and bones gone, so she let me remove both. I learned how to make homemade pimento cheese from her. I used to ride to Conrad and Hinkle with Papa to get liver pudding with onions in it. Grandma made gizzard stew and fried tripe for Papa and I thought it was so nasty, I would not eat it. He used to eat pickled pigs feet too--yuck. But he did put a touch of garlic salt on his sausage when he fried it. I really liked that and still do that on occasion now.

  2. There were several things you listed that I never knew the garlic on the sausage. The tripe and liver pudding comments too (though I'm not so sure but I'd rather be left in the dark!). I remember the fried chicken thing now...I'd forgotten it. As for the biscuits...I think we all watched her make biscuits at least a hundred times and how deftly her hands moved when she did it. I think she could have made biscuits in her sleep if she would have tried! Her pimento cheese was the best!

    The sump pump (is that what it was called?) in the basement always freaked me out. I was convinced it was a hole into another dimension or something! lol...

    Do you remember how everytime we tried to scurry down the hall we got the "don't run past the bookcase" remark? And when we did go too fast by it the glass doors on it would rattle!

    I also remember that Grandma would fill one sink with rinse water whenever she did the dishes and she would let us dip them in and then sit them in the dish drain.

    I sat on her front porch steps for hours waiting on the boys to come down to the basketball court...Dewayne Grimmett and Jeff Barnhill. Oh...and before I forget!...the honeysuckle that grew around the base of the basketball goals! We'd spend forever down there pulling honeysuckle off the vines.

    Wow...that's just the beginning...I can think of about a million other things...

  3. OMG!!!! This is so awesome!!! Ya'll pretty much nailed it all. I don't have much of anything to add. I loved me some Gizzard stew and some Tripe, but hated the chicken livers.

    The only things I could add were the days getting to play on Papaw's 1960's hand pull crank riding mower that was solid as a sherman tank and how he hand painted it every year so it wouldn't rust. Always White on top and Red on the bottom... Man I hate we don't still have that one. I really wish we'd kept it.

    I also remember the time (hope ya'll don't wanna forget this one, but if so, sorry) how every now and then he'd "take a nip" of his whisky and how happy he'd be when he did. I alsway had to drive him around because he was "too lit" (his words) to drive. ha ha ha.

    Also remember how Grandma would gripe at him because he was "too cheap" to go get her an air conditioner! Finally in the late 80's I think it was, when he had central air put in and how he wouldn't sit in the air condition because the cold would "git up in his bones" and how he'd sit outside all day on the carport in the scalding heat. LOL.

    Did ya'll know they bought that house brand new in the early 1960's (may have been 1960) for $3000? shocking... I'm going to go down there soon and get some high def pics of the neighborhood and the house for you.

    Thanks Gail and Lisa... Susan and I have been laughing and crying over this awesome blog!!!

  4. Papa was forced to get the AC after Grandma had respiratory problems and was in Forsyth for months. Jay, have you seen the house recently? Whoever is living there now has made some big changes. Happy for them, sad for us. Also Jay, it was Wild Irish Rose for nipping and I remember him passing out on our yard on Manhatten Drive. I was scared for him.

    I also remember eating brains and eggs with them. I didn't want to try it but I did and I liked it.

    When I was real little Grandma babysat me while Mom worked. When lunchtime came around she would tell me to go to the magic door and call Papa home. So I would go to the side door and yell real loud for Papa to come home and eat. Within minutes he would show up. It took me years to realize that he was on a delivery schedule and that's why he always came home to eat.

    Did Grandma teach you about the rain fairy's? When it would rain hard she would send me to the front door to look out on the road to see if the rain fairy's had started dancing. I knew it was just the rain splashing, but I still believed.

    Jay, I still have my Coca Cola shirt that Grandma made for me. I have been meaning to get it out and take Abby's pic with it. I hope she hasn't outgrown it yet. FYI Gail, the dictionary in the bathroom was used as a game. You would randomly open it up, point at a word with your eyes closed and then look. You would then write it on the notepad that was with the dictionary and try to see how many words you could find using those letters. I would sit for hours doing that. (Didn't take a whole lot to occupy me.)

    Papa used to tell me that I lived "out in the boondocks". I think he would be surprised to see how close the city limits are to us now.

    Remember the yellow light bulb in the front light? It was used because it didn't draw bugs as much. Trick or treating at Grandma's wasn't really for the treat, it was to see her. Jewel and Mrs. Messick gave out better treats, but I know that it was hard for Grandma to come up with enough treats to satisfy all the goblins that showed up on her doorstep.

    Enough for now, Chad is calling me to bed. I Love my family and I miss having Grandparents and big family reunions.

    PS...Don't forget the Brunswick Stew. I have the recipe written out in Grandma's handwritting.

  5. Okay, much of what you wrote I didn't know about. (I never knew Pawpaw was Irish :p ) I can see where you as a small child were nearly as gullible as I was. (You gotta love jerkin' kids chains when they're little like that! lol) I can see that by the time Dale and I came along, you and Jay had pretty much wore her slap out. Factor in my propensity for consuming poisoness liquids and she had to be pretty dang gun-shy of me. At least until I was old enough to understand that certain things were off limits. I do remember the Brunswick Stew and I think it would be mighty nice of you if you go to great lengths to have it photocopied (and enlarged), mounted and framed and given to each of the grandchildren as a special gift. What do you think Jay? You could make it the "Meachum Coat of Arms" and have a artist rendition of a steaming bowl of the stew superimposed on a checkered tablecloth background. Course you'd also need to have moms yeast rolls drawn in as well because to me they're sort of synonymous.

    I sat down yesterday and typed out a really long comment about Christmas at their house and then somehow deleted it. :( I'll have to see what I can do to rewrite it at some point today. I've been working on my next post (a new story about a squirrel-(oh yeah...I can feel your heated anticipation).

  6. lets don't forget how she would let the "cat walk on the ham" with black pepper

  7. I have no idea what that means Lisa.

  8. at holidays Papa would want a fresh ham and he loved black pepper. So Grandma would put a bunch of black pepper in a dish, wet her first two fingers, dip them in the pepper and dot it all over the ham then bake it. You didn't pay much attention to the cooking lessons did you? Well except for biscuits. I have her pimento cheese recipe too...but it's in my head. :)

  9. I was never a big fan of ham. Besides, I wasn't AT HER HOUSE when she cooked it. Good grief. I paid plenty of attention during biscuits, cube steak and gravy and fried pork chops.

    And I happen to know her pimento cheese recipe's in my head. The sad thing is...I'm the only one in my family willing to eat pimento cheese.

  10. scalded you know the recipe? I have forgotten it.