Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | March 5, 2015

Once Upon a Time I was a Little Boy

The Companion

My earliest memories are of life with my mother and her parents at their house in the Houston, Heights area. I have read that the years between 1 and 7 are very significant years in the development of a child and those were the years my life was greatly impacted by my grandmother, grandfather, and my Aunt Bell, a maiden aunt who also lived with this family group.

Both my grandfather and mother had to work to provide the basic needs for our little family. She was a working, single mom at a difficult time in the history of this country which meant I didn’t see very much of her during the day.

My Aunt Bell was my constant companion with whom I spent many hours growing up. While we had fun together, it was my grandmother who was the authority figure in my life and she ruled with a firm hand. I have many happy memories of that time in my life.

The Giant

One of the blessings of living life before technological developments brought improvements is you had no idea what you were missing! Air conditioning was yet future as were refrigerators. Our phone service was part of a party line which means there were three or four families that shared the same line. Our particular phone had an assigned number of rings and the other parties on the line had their own number of rings. If the phone rang our number of rings it would be for us and we would answer; if it was a different number of rings one of the other families on the party line would answer.

We had an ice box that used real ice to keep things cool. This meant we also had ice houses and ice men who delivered ice to each house on the block. A large cardboard sign had the numbers 25, 50, 75, and 100 printed on each edge. If you needed ice delivered that day you would place the sign in the front window with the required amount of ice showing on top.

Although I cannot swear to this it seems that my very earliest memories of the ice man involved a horse and wagon; later it was definitely a truck but there is a horse and wagon mixed in with those early memories. The visits of the ice man were exciting to me; he looked like a giant coming into the house with a large leather apron which extended over his shoulder and carried a pair of ice tongs with which he could steady the ice on his shoulder and place it in the ice box. When he saw the sign in the window he would stop and take the required amount of ice out of his truck and carry it into the house and place it in the ice box. It took me and several others a number of years to stop calling a refrigerator an ice box.

There was also the all important drip pan under the ice box where melted ice water would drain and required occasional emptying. My grandmother had an ice pick and would chip off ice for ice tea for the evening meal when everyone was home from work.

The Chickens

Our backyard was occupied by chickens and was pretty much off limits to me as a child. My grandmother would go out and feed the chickens every day and gather the eggs they had produced.

On special occasions we would have fried chicken and those of you raised on a farm probably know what that involved. I was both fascinated and horrified by the preparation process that my grandmother always followed when it had been decided we would have fried chicken. For some reason she did not object to my watching the process and, almost in spite of myself, I could not resist watching the gruesome spectacle.

She would select one or two chickens from the flock and take them by their heads and swing them in a circle until their bodies flew off through the air but when they hit the ground they would run around without their heads for a few seconds until they collapsed on the ground. Then my grandmother would pick them up and take them into the house to clean them and pluck off their feathers. In spite of this rather graphic depiction of life and death I still looked forward to fried chicken that night.

Coconut Cake and Spaghetti

There were two other items that left an indelible impression on me, my grandmother’s spaghetti and her coconut cake. She made her own sauce and always added small pieces of green bell peppers to the mix which gave her spaghetti a very special, and to me, a marvelous flavor. The other never to be forgotten item from her kitchen was her coconut cake. She would buy a coconut, drain out the milk for the cake mixing, and break out the coconut meat to shred for the cake. I would always beg for and get a small piece of coconut to enjoy while I watched her make that incredibly delicious cake.

Next time, children having fun


Responses

  1. Love love love this one… I am Kirsten Parks Mom, I am 81 years old, live in Calif. but was raised in Pennsylvania, the daughter of a large family of IRISH coal miners..I definitely remember the ice man… also the only time we had ice cream was at family picnics and it was homemade… my favorite was when they would put cut up fresh peaches in it… I must admit I still sometimes call the frig the “ice box”…. I also remember the “party line” telephones…. they were a real tool for gossip weren’t they (some people could not resist “listening in”, ha ) Our sleds were wooden barrels cut in half w/ ropes tied on both side… yes, we were poor but we didnt know it… can still smell the homemade bread as we walked in the kitchen after school on a snowy cold day…. Thanks for the memories

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    • Dear Virginia,

      Thank you for your quick comment, it’s obvious we share a lot of similar memories, I just turned 82 and am also of Irish descent. Needless to say we had no need of sleds in Houston as there was never enough snow to enjoy them. Fortunately we have an ice cream company in this area that comes very close to matching the flavor of homemade ice cream made in the hand cranked freezer; it is Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla and is hard to resist.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me.

      David

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  2. My Mother was very good at wringing chicken’s necks. Sometimes they would drip from clothesline. As you said good fried chicken, still one of my very favorites. I also helped my Dad skin squirrels but that is another story. All a lifetime ago.

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    • Dear Kathy,

      Being a city boy I had limited opportunities to participate in pioneer type food gathering but I had one remarkable opportunity which is still vivid in my memories. My grandmother’s brother had a small farm in Uvalde, Texas and we would go for a visit almost every summer. One summer, when I was considered old enough, I was told I could go out alone with a 20 gauge shotgun and see it I could shoot some cottontail rabbits for supper. Well my hunt was successful then when I got back, proudly carrying our supper, I was told now I could skin and clean them for the kitchen. My great uncle showed me how it was done and I was left to finish the job of providing meat for the family. That evening I was so proud as the family enjoyed the food I had provided for my great aunt to prepare for supper. That small farm was also where I got bucked off my first horse, but that too is another story, truly a lifetime ago.

      Thank you for commenting,

      David

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  3. I love this! I want to hear more of your childhood memories.

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    • Emily,
      Thank you beloved granddaughter, I’m glad you enjoyed some of my reminiscing. It has occurred to me how much is lost because the story is never told.
      Love,
      Grandpa

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  4. David,

    This reminds me of stories my mother has told of her childhood in Wisconsin and my father’s childhood in Florida and Texas. I think my mother said they would go down to the creek and there was a hole in the ground where they pulled up a bucket or something of that sort and they stored their butter and I believe milk in there. My father tells of the story of the “rolling store” that would come by his grandparents farm and sell things to them. He especially remembers the big cookies they sold. I can remember as a child, my grandparents in Houston wringing the chicken’s necks for fried chicken. A few times we would help gather eggs but were usually more afraid of getting pecked by the hen. When I was very young maybe 4 I was chasing a turkey around in it’s pen and when I turned around it was right in my face going “gobble gobble gobble”. It scared me so bad that my mother said I lost my breath. I love hearing my parents stories and miss hearing my grandparents tell all their stories of growing up. Thank you for reminding me of “treasured memories”…. can’t wait to hear about “children having fun”.

    Thanks for sharing your childhood memories…

    Sheila

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    • Sheila,
      Thank you for the stories from your mother and father; life changes so quickly that it becomes rather difficult to imagine how life was just a generation or two back. I too had an experience with a turkey gobbler as a child and will testify to how terrifying they can look when they’re as big or bigger than you are.
      Thanks again,
      David

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  5. Great storytelling! And as to an “icebox” – I too call it that!! I’m somewhat younger than you, but my grandparents in San Antonio also had a true icebox. 😉 To this day, Buck always teases me by saying that what I’m looking for can be found in the refrigerator, not the icebox!! LOL

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    • Melanie,
      Thank you for your comment, it did take me several years to get past that point but at least most of the time now I can refer to it as a refrigerator even though ice box is always lurking there just under the surface.
      Thanks again for reading and commenting!
      David

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  6. Hello David, this story is almost as if you had read my diary, if I had ever had one, and recounted parts of it as a fictional novel beginning! I remember running out to the unpaved street during the summer when the iceman came and picking up small broken off pieces of ice and crunching them before the iceman came back. In 1938 my dad’s mother and his father-in-law bought the northwest corner 2 lots at Bennington and Helmers, skipped two lots (these were low and water would stand) and then bought the next two lots. I think she thought that my dad and his brother would build houses out there later. Back then, this are was “country”!
    She built her house (with indoor plumbing), well house, chicken house and garage. A lot of the existing homes out there still had the out houses in the back of the house. I would spend a lot of time out there as I had a younger brother that my mom was taking care of. World War II erupted in Europe in 1939 and my grand parents became worried and started growing victory a garden on the vacant two lots. I got a lot of gardening experience during he war and because of the chickens, ducks, geese and yearly hog, our families always had meat, vegetables and fruit during the war. Like you, I got to watch my granny do the first act of preparing fowl for the table and was always invited to help pluck the feathers. My dad also raised chickens and pigeons at our home, which my brother and I helped take care of.
    I’ve rambled on too long! Fred Carstens

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    • Fred,
      We have a lot in common from our childhood days; of course you served as my “Best Man” at my marriage to my wife of over 62 years. Just out of curiosity do you remember the iceman on your route ever using a horse and wagon? In the dim recesses of my memory I think I see him with a horse and wagon, at least for awhile, anyway. I can remember a truck but I think that came later. I can remember a lot of what is now City of Houston as empty woods and fields around Houston when I was a child.
      Thanks for your comment and your friendship, Fred.
      David

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  7. Thank you, David, for reminding me of my sweet mother (born in Fort Worth in 1919) and her mother, who I also adored. Your story pulled me straight back in time to hearing them talk about the iceman, who did have a horse and wagon early on and then a truck, homemade ice cream, fresh milk form the cow in the yard, chickens and eggs and all that went along with them, homemade hand-cranked ice cream, and my mother’s favorite was smelling the bread baking when she arrived home from school. Times were difficult during the Depression, but they were filled with love. You are a great storyteller! I always enjoy reading your blogs.
    Donna

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    • Donna,
      Thank you for sharing some of your memories with me; it is such a rich blessing to have an abundance of joyful memories to nestle among the harsher inevitabilities of life.
      David

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  8. Sweet childhood memories. I enjoy reading about them.

    I love you
    Karen

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    • Beloved Daughter,
      It is both interesting and sad how much vanishes with the passing of each generation but this is the way of life. I have found myself wondering more about the thoughts and experiences of those who have gone before and felt a desire to record certain things for those I love.
      I love you,
      Dad

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  9. What a fun post! Our childhood memories are special and should be passed down through the ages, as our environments and technology changes so quickly around us. Thanks much for sharing 🙂

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  10. I thought you would find these fascinating……am enjoying your messages so much, thank you…

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