Pioneer Potluck: About the Greatest Generation

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

1930s AND EARLY 40s

I was born in 1937. Families did not have much money or much to eat. But they were hardy and knew how to make ends meet by planting there own gardens, having chickens for eggs and a cow for milk. Mothers baked their own bread, churned the butter, and if they had some sugar, baked a cake or cookies.

This continued to structure our daily lives for years after the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s — when the impact of World War II arrived.

How many remember ration books and stamps and tokens? Gas was rationed, sugar, shoes and stoves were also rationed. Meat required a token. We saved fat from bacon in a tin coffee can, and saved foil by washing and straightening it out and reusing it. If you bought a loaf of bread with “your last nickel” you saved the wrapper for the next loaf of bread you would bake.

Neighbors gave mom their coupons and tokens that they did not use and especially sugar coupons because they knew she would share her wonderful jellies and jams.

The outhouse had the Montgomery Ward or Sears and Roebuck catalog for wiping paper. BUT first you read the page!!

You could not buy new tires as they went to the war effort, so patching flat tires became an art.

I never heard any griping or grumbling, because we all supported the “war effort.” I NEVER heard hatred and terrible words about our presidents at the time. Roosevelt was a hero in our house. So were Truman and Eisenhower. We learned respect toward our leaders and said prayers every night for their continued guidance!! (Oh so sad, how that has changed.) No riots, no personal attacks with terrible language from the younger generation. They were too busy helping make ends meet for their families. Dad never tolerated bad words, hateful words or grumbling because we did not have new shoes, a candy bar or a bottle of soda pop. AND we never got gum to chew!!

If you happened to smoke you rolled your own. Prince Albert in a can was tobacco of choice for my grandpa. He just stuffed it in his old pipe and lit it with a kitchen match on the back side of the leg of his bib overalls. I was always in awe at how he could light that match on his coveralls.

On Sunday, to go to church, he had a newer pair of bib overalls and one white shirt, all starched and ironed by grandma. She heated the iron on the stove and clamped the handle on the top of the iron and left the other one on the stove to heat up. Grandpa and everyone else had one pair of “church-going” shoes.” They were polished every Saturday night. They shined like a mirror.

Grandma had a beautiful starched dress made out of flour or feed sacks that she sewed for herself. She would wash her clothes in a tub on a wash board and heated all the water on the stove. She made starch water to starch her dresses, usually two house dresses, her aprons and her Sunday dress. Grandpas white shirt was starched first. By the time I remember her, she had two boys at home, as Mom and Dad were married in 1936 and Aunt Ruth married Uncle Norman shortly after WWII ended. The two boys, Uncle Les and Uncle Marvin, wore starched shirts made by Grandma from feed or flour sacks, and one pair of Sunday pants and one pair of Sunday shoes.

Later when they were high school age, the war was over and they got a real store-bought shirt and pants and new shoes that were in style. AND new socks without a hole that had been darned by Grandma! They loved to show off the new clothes that they had. I was still young enough to not grasp the whole excitement. Grandma did show me how to darn socks. When I married I darned wool socks because they were so expensive. YOU CANNOT pay me to do that again!!

During World War II, gold stars were placed on the front window or on the window of the front door of neighbors who were grieving because their son died in the war.

My generation saw our military “boys” come home and build or buy themselves a little house on the GI Bill. They also were able to go to college on the GI Bill, instituted, I believe, by Roosevelt.

I am of the generation that spent my childhood without television. We imagined what we heard on the radio and we still brag about “well, when I was growing up we did not have television or cell phones.” We were sent outside to play, with instructions to come in at noon for dinner, and you better come home for supper because Dad would be home and you would get a whoppin’.

Because of the lack of TV, cell phones and computers, we did not have much understanding of what was out in the real world.

In the 1940s, if you were so fortunate enough to have a dime to go to the movies, you saw newsreels of the war in between breaks in the movie — when the man up in the movie booth had to change the real and put on the second half. It was called intermission and nice music would play. It was time to go get a nickel candy or a drink out of the water fountain.

Most of the movies I saw were with my Dad, my little brother Butch (John Jr) and my sister Ginger. Dad loved westerns — especially westerns with Jane Russell in them. He was more delighted than we were at times with all the action of the movie.

He would put us in the old Chevy four-door, roll the window down, put his arm out and tap on the roof to the song he was singing to us. I am sure by now you all have heard me say my Dad had a monotone voice, booming and loud. As far we were concerned that was how that particular song was to be sung: “Big Rock Candy Mountain and Strawberry Roan.” He ended his songfest with hymns: “The old rugged Cross,” and, close to Christmas, all the Christmas songs. That is how I learned the words to many of the hymns and, of course, the “Rock Candy Mountain” and “Strawberry Roan.”

When Mom shooed us outdoors on the farm, we played with each other. When little sister and brother were old enough to go outside, we were in charge of swinging them or watching them so they did not get hurt. I was 10 years old when little brother was born, and the next year when he learned to walk and run, it was my job outdoors to take care of him. He was never in one spot for very long. We traveled many miles in the yard and surrounding corrals and granaries, silos and chicken house. He climbed on tractors, got in the pickup and then on to the barn and the workshop.

I did swing Elaine on the rope swing that Dad made for us in an old Elm tree in the front yard. We had to watch Elaine real close as the she would go to sleep and fall out of the swing. She was never without her binkie, so I was in charge of not losing it. If she lost it she cried until we found it. Mom washed on Monday and EVERYTHING GOT WASHED! Including Elaine’s (and Jim’s) binkie. We never had to look too far for Elaine, as she was under the clothesline hanging onto her binkie with one hand and sucking her thumb until the binkie got dry! Jim would just pull on his until it came off the line, clothespins flying. He took off for the next adventure.

When I was a freshman in high school (I believe), we had our first phone installed on the wall in the dining room. It was black. It had a big rotary dial. It rang when someone wanted to talk to the neighbor. It rang when someone called us. The system was one ring for so-and-so, two rings for so-and-so, and three rings meant someone wanted to talk to the McClures. Our phone number was 0213-J3 and grandma and grandpa’s was 0213-R2. If Dad was asked for the phone number he would say, 0213- Jingle 3 and if you wanted to talk to Grandpa he would say 0213-Ring 2. If you wanted to talk to someone you picked up the phone, and if someone was on the line you hung up — (or listened in on the conversation)!

We had calculators, not computers, that were only for adding and were hand cranked. Typewriters were used by pounding fingers on the round buttons. When it got to the end of the paper edge you threw the carriage back to the starting point and started typing again. I learned on these! AND then if the ribbon was frayed and needed changing it was a job that required patience, and the result was purple fingers before you could start typing again.

The internet, computers were words that did not exist!

This subject matter will continue to the next week. If you have any contributions and interesting stories, please email me at grannieanninalaska@gmail.com.

1935 SURPRISE APPLE CAKE

$18 a week could feed 10 people in 1935. Capes were in fashion. We wrote with fountain pens filled with ink.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons of melted butter or oleo

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

3 eggs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Grated rind of one lemon

2 cups of applesauce

Mix graham cracker crumbs, butter and cinnamon. Spread about three quarters of the crumbs in a thick layer on the bottom of the buttered spring mold or a deep 10-inch cake pan.

Separate eggs and beat yolks well. Add condensed milk, lemon juice, rind and applesauce.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold into the milk mixture. Pour the whole thing into the cake mold or pan and cover with the remaining cracker crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Yes, I do know there is no flour in the cake. I have never made it and am not brave enough to try it. If you do so, let me know!!

HONEY NUT CAKE

This recipe was created during the war years, when sugar was scarce and people did not have a lot of money to spend on sweets. Plan on being patient wit this recipe!

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place flour in bowl and add baking powder and salt and sift three times. In another bowl: Cream butter until light and gradually add sugar. Cream well. Add honey one third at a time, beating after each addition. Add about one quarter of the flour mixture and beat until well blended and smooth

Beat eggs until thick and add the cake mixture.

Stir in nuts.

Finally ADD the remaining flour again in thirds alternating with the milk. Beat well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Pour in a well-buttered 9-inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

1930 BUTTER PIE

In 1930 Woolworths was still a five-and-dime store. Washing machines and gas stoves were coming into fashion.

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 heaping tablespoon of butter

1 heaping tablespoon of flour

1 cup milk

Unbaked pastry for 9-inch pie

Cream the first four ingredients until light. Add the milk and mix well. Pour into deep pie tin lined with unbaked pastry. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until tested done.

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