Pioneer Potluck: About memories and smells

  • Tuesday, May 30, 2017 4:50pm
  • LifeFood

Memorial Day 2017

Last week I wrote about Grandpa and Grandma Cogswell, my Mom’s parents who lived in a basement house for as long as I could remember until they retired and moved to Pierce, Colorado “in a real house” close to their children, Aunt Ruth, Uncle Les and Uncle Marvin.

Grandpa loved sardines in a can. I still see him rolling the big long “key” attached to the lip of the sardine can so he could open the tin. Now we just have a “tab” we can pull. I learned to love them after a fashion along with oysters.

Their income was selling eggs in the fall months. The smell from chicken houses has it own flavor of smell. And picking and packing cherries into flats for sale at a canning company. He had to deliver them every day. Also apples in the fall were put in bushel baskets and sold. Lots of “hands-on labor.” Great smells came from those fruits.

I never heard them complain. They were smiling, very simple people who, while my uncles Les and Marvin were in high school, kept all the Cracker Jack prizes lined up on a shelf and I got to play with them if I was careful. They were little tin objects.

Grandpa kept rubber bands and string in big balls. Grandma kept bread wrappers and used them as we use waxed paper today. The were washed and dried and folded neatly and put in a drawer. She had stacks of them. She made her own bread. They must have bought sandwich bread once in a while as Grandma stored the bread in a bread wrapper she got from the neat stack in the drawer. She also had a bread keeper that sat on the cupboard to keep the bread nice and fresh.

Mom would take them milk and cream and come home with eggs and apples and cherries and most of the time a loaf of bread and some of Grandma’s famous cookies.

The smells that came up from the basement house when I opened the door to go down the cement steps was heaven. Yes, I know — I just thought Grandma’s cookies were special because the tasted and smelled a little like kerosene! The other smells were sardines, horseradish and sometimes Vic’s Vapor Rub. At thanksgiving and Christmas was so great and always a hint of kerosene in the air. Great memories!

My friend Pat Corbella in Louisiana wrote to me after reading last week’s story telling about the smells in her family. Here is what she wrote:

“My Grandpa Granger, Mom’s father, was the only man in my life in the first two years of my life because Daddy was in the Army in Europe. He was in the battle for a month, but they lived in snow four months.

“Grandpa Granger thought anything could be cured by horse liniment or kerosene. He was mostly right. My Daddy told the story of a lower backache he had and made the mistake of telling Grandpa about it. Grandpa applied the horse liniment to his back and it ran down the crack of his butt. He said that was the last time he let Grandpa ‘treat’ him.

“Vick’s Salve has another stinky cure all.

“Your comment about cleaning the iron stove — ‘do you know how that smells when it’s hot?’ — is hilarious. My Aunt had a kerosene stove. Her stove and grandpa’s horse liniment and kerosene bring back many memories of my childhood.”

Thank you Pat, your comments make me smile.

Bob read this and added that Absorbene Liniment is what he remembers. I also remember this smell in high school gym. Then they came out with Absorbene Jr. Smelled the same to me! He also says no one knows what a mustard plaster is anymore and that it was applied to your chest for a cold. He sure remembers that smell.

Well, we could go on and on about smells … like from the barn, the cow corrals, the silos full of fermenting chopped corn. Fresh new mowed hay. The chicken house. The cold storage shed that Grandpa kept coal, and smoked hams and bacon.

Today I smell the sweet smell of rain and budding trees of spring in Alaska and Thank God I have lived this long to have experienced such smells. Many have not.

I have had many relatives in the Armed services through out WWII and Korea and Vietnam. Bob was stationed in

Okinawa on a missile sight during the Vietnam war. I salute and say a prayer of thanks for all the sacrifices they made to make our Great Land Free. Lets hope that we can continue to live in the land of the Free because of the Brave. God Bless America!

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipesfrom family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes andfood came from her mother, a self -taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring asmile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at

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