Whenever I think back on our kitchen, the most vivid memory is the smell of fresh baked bread and . Mom baked bread every other day. As kids, we seemed to know when it was about time to take the bread out of the oven, and we boys would gather in the kitchen to get a warm slice smothered in butter, each trying to get the first crust-end slice. The real butter - there was no margarine in those days - melted as it hit the thick slice of warm bread. It was the greatest taste in the world, and still is.
On Sunday, our big special meal was always at noon. It could be a chicken dinner or a meat ravioli dinner, my favorite. My mother always browned butter to pour over the ravioli or sphagetti to slightly sweeten the tart sauce. She also put a raisin or two in each ravioli she made.
During the tough financial times, Mom made a lot of different kinds of soup, and often a big hearty bowl of soup with buttered bread was our supper. It still sounds good to me, and for years I have made large kettles of soup which we freeze in containers, and a bowl of soup is still my every-day lunch with crackers and a slice of cheese.
There was always a cake or pie available to eat, along with a filled cookie jar. My favorite was the sugar cookie, and I still buy the modern version today at the Shop & Save supermarket. Homemade jellies and jams went along great with peanut butter for many snacks and lunches for hungry boys.
The milk that was delivered early every day to our kitchen window sill was not homogenized and the cream rose about an inch or two on the top. Mom would take this off before we used the milk and hand beat it with sugar to make whipped cream for puddings and jello On cold winter days, we could judge how cold it was outside by the amount the cardboard stopper had been raised up by the expanding cream.
Monday was wash day, and in our early days, Mom made do with a large tub and a washboard, in our cellar in the beginning. Later on she had a Maytag washer with a hand wringer. When in the later 1930s, she moved up to an electric washer and wringer, she felt she was in luxury. Automatic washers and dryers were still a quarter of a century away.
She carried the clothes up the stairs to hang them on a line outside when the weather was favorable. Otherwise, she would hang them on lines stretched across the basement. Tuesday was ironing day, and early on she used two old-fashioned solid flat-irons which she heated on the stove. The handle clipped on their sides, and she would use one while the other heated.
The basement had a finished concrete floor, well lighted, and a ceiling with head clearance for a tall person. There were numerous homemade cupboads for can goods and other foods, and a small table and chairs on one side. Along one wall, there was a workbench and tools.
There was an old fashioned cast iron sink and a unclosed shower in the corner. On hot, humid August days, we boys would often go into the cellar for games and activities, sometimes taking blankets to rest on the cool floor.
Dad had built a wooden-seated swing which hung from the ceiling. We used to take turns swinging on it, working it back and forth until we could touch the wooden ceiling joists with our toes. It was also a favorite resting spot to sit and relax, slowly swinging back and forth, while talking to Dad while he smoked his pipe, using Five Brothers pipe tobacco.
The large coal furnace and coal bin took up one corner of the basement. In the late summer, Dad would order the delivery of about 6 to 8 tons of a mixed load of small pieces and large chunks of coal, which would be dumped along the road near our sidewalk.
We would build temporary board retainers held in place with wooden pegs to keep the dumped coal from rolling down the hill. We also had a small chute which fit into a window well, and we dumped a small wheelbarrow load at a time into that.
After 15 or 20 loads of slack and small pieces of coal had been wheeled and dumped, , we would have a small pile in the cellar under the chute. Then we hauled the larger lumps, up to 1 foot square, and dumped them onto the basement pile which cushioned them when then dropped into the cellar. We used these lumps to build a retaining wall about 4 or 5 feet high for the rest of the coal.
Later on we built a block retaining wall to hold the coal. Even though we wet the coal pile before hauling it, we still had a fine layer of coal dust over much of the cellar area around the coal. After the hauling was done, there was still an hour or so of work hosing down and cleaning up the dust.
Our house had a large front porch the full length of the house, with a wonderful view looking over the river and the bridge over the river . There was a large swing hung from the ceiling and our favorite pastime there as kids was lying on the swing with our feet on the chains, rocking it sideways as high as we could go. This swing and the wooden rocker and another chair are now on our enclosed porch in South Bend.