Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s
On a farm in Northern Colorado
Easter dinner was always planned at least two weeks ahead of time on the farm where we grew up. Mom planned the menu, drove into town in her old pea green Dodge and shopped at Steal’s Market. She drove the 14 miles back home, put paper sacks loaded with groceries away, and began baking cookies, pies, bread and rolls. She would put the baked goods in the freezer and begin thinking about the china, the silverware and serving dishes that she would need for Easter dinner. Dinner was served at 1 o’clock and the leftovers were served for supper at 6.
On Good Friday — usually a half a day of school, or spring vacation — was the day we colored Easter eggs.
Mom would have me wash and hand dry all the china and silverware and tack on the dining room table beside the heavily starched linen tablecloth, which she had washed on Monday in the old wringer washing machine, starched in a tub of starch water, and hung on the line to dry.
Our Easter dresses and Dad’s white shirt were also washed and heavily starched. The tablecloth and other starched clothes were brought in from the line, sprinkled with water, rolled up and put in a basket to be ironed on Tuesday. Mom taught me how to iron, and in later years, when I had a family of my own, I took in ironing, and babysat two small children. I loved to iron standing in front of the old black and white TV, watching Bette Davis movies. I still like to iron. (I also loved making my two girls Easter dresses, applying the lessons I had learned in Home Ec and on Mom’s old Singer sewing machine.
On Saturday, the day before Easter at the farm, the whole house was cleaned from top to bottom and “tarnished.” (My little sister, Elaine, called polishing the furniture tarnishing). We were assigned different jobs. After our job was finished, Mom would inspect and redo most of it. The piano and the dining room table and chairs, and a buffet that held all the silverware and china were in the dining room. I was responsible for polishing all of the dining room furniture. I can still smell lemon-scented Johnson’s furniture polish. Mom went over my polishing job because I used an excessive amount of polish.
Saturday night was bath night. Mom curled my white, straight-as-a-string hair with bobby pins, and later those little pink rollers. Ginger had thick auburn curly hair. Then we polished our shoes, with the help from Dad. Then planned exactly what we were going to wear for Easter church services.
I can remember how excited I was to crawl into nice clean-smelling sheets and blankets so I could go to sleep real fast, because the Easter bunny was going to leave us beautiful Easter baskets on Sunday morning. Somehow the Easter bunny hid all of those colored eggs around the house for us to find.
Then it was time to get dressed and go to church. After a quick breakfast — usually bacon and eggs, fried potatoes and toast, milk and juice — we were allowed to get dressed in our “Easter Sunday Go To Meeting Clothes” (Dad’s words). Mom took the bobby pins or the pink rollers out of my hair and combed and brushed it. She put barrettes or ribbons in our hair and for a few years we wore Easter hats, which I adored. I felt so grown up! My brother wore a suit and starched white shirt and tie just like Dad. He also had a felt hat he wore (just like dad). We were lined up at the kitchen door, inspected one more time by our Mother, and sent off to church with Dad.
Mom went to church with us, all dressed up, with a hat, several times on Easter and Christmas, but after my little brother Jim and sister Elaine were born, she stopped going. Her excuse was she had too much to do to get Easter dinner on the table after church. She really did!! She had to put the huge ham in the oven, bake the sweet potatoes so they could receive brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and marshmallows at the last minute for Easter dinner.
We always had company for Easter dinner, usually Grandma and Grandpa and uncles, Mom and Dad and later years cousin from Greeley who were Dad’s nephew and wife. After dinner and dessert, the kids could eat the candy from our Easter baskets, which got shared with Dad. It was a great holiday, treated like the great day of the Resurrection. So many happy Easter memories. And how did you celebrate your Easter Sunday, growing up?
LEMON BREAD (A 1930s recipe)
This is so easy and so good, better the next day!
6 tablespoons butter melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 rind of a lemon grated or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds or pecans
Mix in order given. Bake in two loaf pans for 1 hour at 305 degrees.
Let stand 15 minutes and turn out on rack and while still warm spoon over juice from one lemon combined with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
GRANDMA JULIA’S SOUR CREAM CHEESECAKE
From page 221 of my “Cookin’ on the Homestead,” in a section called Susan’s Recipe Box. ( I do not know who Julia is).
Graham cracker crumbs, about 24 cracker squares.
1/3 cup melted butter (I added 1 tablespoon sugar)
Press firmly in a springform cake pan.
Bake in 325 degrees preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile beat the following in mixer bowl:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons vanilla
Juice of 1 lemon
Beat cheese until soft and no lumps.
Add the sugar and eggs. Beat well. Add sour cream, flour and vanilla and lemon juice. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan and Bake 325 degrees (yes) for 1 hour. Turn off oven and do not open door and leave in oven for 1 more hour.
Chill and serve. Sever with favorite topping. We like Strawberries.
QUICK STRAWBERRY POUND CAKE
This is from my cookbook “Cookin’ at the Homestead,” page 159
1 cup fresh strawberries, crushed
1 package strawberry Jell-O, dry
1 box white cake mix
2 cups oil
Combine the ingredients in a large mixer bowl and beat for 3 minutes. Pour into well-greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees (yes) for 45 to 55 minutes. Cook on rack for 20 minutes and invert and place on cake plate. Drizzle with glaze. Decorate if you want with sliced strawberries.
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup mashed strawberries
Pour over slightly warm cake. Let set to cool.
This cake freezes easily.
• By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg, Pioneer Potluck