My Parents' Life As I Remember It

They were both brought up in Kansas. My mother was 33 when they were married December 21, 1920. She was probably considered to be an “old maid”. Mom was the eldest of eight children, and was brought up in a fairly well-to-do farm family.

She went to college – or “normal school” as she called it and received her diploma to teach. She got a job teaching at a country school near her home. She paid her brother $1.00 a month to hitch her horse in the morning to transport her to her one room school house in all kinds of weather. (She told of her father hitching a large log to a horse so there would be a path through the snow so they could walk to school when they were children). She was paid $30.00 a month to teach and felt very lucky to have such a good job. All eight classes were held in this one room. She was a successful teacher and did some traveling in the summer. I have a picture of her at Salt Lake City swimming in the Great Salt Lake in a very fashionable swim suit of the day!

As we were growing up (4 of us) it was the Depression years. Mom could stretch a dollar better than anyone! She learned to sew making most of our clothes. Being a teacher she always checked our homework. She bought a second-hand piano so we could all take lessons at $0.35 a half hour. My father had a violin. His family was very musical and played the accordion, pump organ and violin.

Mom was an active PTA member, community affairs and faithful church goer. Her family was very strict and she was never permitted to play cards or dance. Because of this she wanted us to learn and enjoy these activities saying she missed out on so much fun in her youth.

She did a lot of cooking and baking. She always canned 50 quarts of tomato juice a year plus many vegetables from the family garden. She made sauerkraut and let it ferment on our back porch – Oh! The smell! But it tasted good in the winter. She went cherry-picking one year and fell out of the tree. She broke her glasses but just laughed and said those were the most expensive cherries we will ever eat. Thank goodness she didn’t hurt herself. We always had several fruit trees and a few chickens on our half acre and of course the old fashioned “Rain Barrel”.

Spring house cleaning was a major operation. Everything, and I do mean everything, was taken out of the house. The lace curtains were washed – starched and put on wooden stretchers. All the walls were cleaned with a pink soft rubber-like material. Mattresses and rugs were all beaten with the regular rug beater. The only time Mom ever hired someone to help was at that time. I think she paid the helper 2 or 3 dollars for a day and this usually went on for 2 or 3 days.

Mom liked to travel since Dad worked on the R.R. They could get free passes. We would go to Kansas once a year but we did venture out to Seattle and once to California. We had never seen a mountain or the Ocean. We experienced so many wonderful places and did things like pick oranges from a tree. Thanks to her zest for life we were exposed to so many things that in our Mid-Western upbringing would have never happened.

I’m thankful for my “All American” way of life – the family values – the love – the discipline even the Depression that brought things into my life that I still welcome and live by!

I inherited my mother’s physical likeness and personality. Many times as I took a quick glance in the mirror, I would think – that’s not me – that’s my mother. I thank the Lord for transferring her genes to me and hope I’m as good a person and mother that she was.

Elsie Johnson
Southbury, CT © 2013

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