Laundry was a big chore with eight people in the Martin family. The wringer washer and the washtubs for rinse water moved to the middle of the farmhouse kitchen on wash day. Baskets of wet, heavy clothing, as well as sheets, and towels were lugged out to the clothesline, hung up with the wooden clothespins, and later brought back inside.
On freezing days, it was difficult to gather the stiff, contorted clothing, shaped by the Kansas wind. We thawed them inside, but of course, they were still damp. Actually, the dampness made them just right for ironing.
Since wash day was such a process, Mom opted for a simple meal. Often it was a pot of navy bean soup. She soaked the beans overnight, rinsed them, then let them simmer all day long. For supper, freshly baked cornbread slathered with butter accompanied the hearty bean soup.
This all came to my mind today as I made a huge pot of bean soup using the ham bone left from New Year’s Day dinner. I use a package of 15 kinds of beans. Here’s my 15 bean soup recipe. I’m sure Mom would have loved it.
Virginia Allain’s 15-bean soup
After Mom’s book came out, a feature in USA Today commented on her memories of feedsack dresses. I’d seen the reporter’s query in HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and put her in touch with Mom. After a phone interview, this was the article published in October 2009.
An article in USA Today by Laura Vandercamp, Grandma’s Greener Than You Are.
It resonated with people, resulting in blog posts like this one by Lisa in Oklahoma.
Here’s the section about Gail (2nd paragraph in the article shown in the clipping above).
Then I read 85-year-old Gail Lee Martin’s recent memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood. During the Great Depression, she reports, companies began selling feed and flour in colorful sacks, knowing full well that cash strapped customers would turn the material into children’s clothes. In her Kansas town “we traded sacks with our neighbors and relatives until we had the required yardage” for dresses, she writes.
Hers was far from the only family reusing what was possible — not because recycling was hip but because the family lacked the means to do anything else. Nonetheless, the result was the same: a lower impact lifestyle than most of us buying organic pajamas can fathom.
Read more about feedsack dresses.
Tagging along with Dad to the Junkyard
I don’t know why this memory worked its way to the surface this week. Dad didn’t have much time to spend with his children. He worked long hours and often had a long drive to get to that work.
He did his own auto repairs, back in those days before so much became electronic or computerized. When the car broke down, he figured out the problem, bought a used part and put it in himself.
The used parts came from junkyards, so first he had to find a wrecked or defunct vehicle with the right parts in it. Then he removed the part and paid a fee to the junkyard owner. It was labor intensive but probably saved him a lot of money over the years.
A few times, I remember going with him to the junkyards. To a small kid, they were spooky places full of rusting and destroyed autos with the weeds growing up around them.
(previously published on Bubblews October 30, 2014)