Pioneer Potluck: Getting ready for Christmas

  • Wednesday, November 29, 2017 10:35am
  • LifeFood

On the farm 14 miles east of Fort Collins, Colorado


We woke up on the Monday after Thanksgiving with the slight noise coming out of the basement — Mom was washing clothes already. She had extra laundry because she needed to wash the Irish linen tablecloth and napkins we used for Thanksgiving dinner and most of the fancy clothes that we wore for the occasion.

The Irish tablecloth and napkins would get washed first in the old ringer washer and then she would be coming in to our bedrooms and take the sheets off the bed, so we had better get up! Besides, we had to get ready for school. She wanted to get started early as they would have to be hung on the line and freeze dry.

Her hands would be cold and red when she came in from the clothes line, not really complaining but not happy either. If it was cold and windy she would be happy about that — the clothes would dry in the breeze — but if it was just cold, no wind, we had to take them off the line “stiff as a board” then into the kitchen and laying them carefully on the big oval kitchen table. We scattering them around on chairs so they could completely dry. She watched the things to be ironed and carefully folded them damp so she would not have to dampen them with her Coke-a-Cola sprinkling bottle.

I do believe the tablecloth and napkins were the reason she bought the Mangle Iron. It ironed the tablecloth in a few minutes and you could lay two napkins on the roller and iron two at a time. Besides, Ginger and I were still wearing circular skirts. Later on she would have the luxury of take some things to the “cleaners” to get washed and ironed. Although Mom was very frugal, she always checked with Dad, who was the “penny-watcher,” before she did so. They never discussed business, money or health matters in front of us. Mom was very careful what we heard. Besides, she would add, it was none of our business!

Usually on Friday she would go off to town to get groceries at Steel’s Market. Her list was long because she was getting ready to make cookies and pies for Christmas. Once or twice a week she would get out all the baking things and bake up a storm, putting them in the freezer and saving out a plate full for us when we came home from school and for Dad and his midnight snack at 9 o’clock.

Here is a bit of history from Wayne Scott, my cousin married to Barbara Faye Brown Scott. He keeps me in line on several things, besides he thinks I am older than he!

Steele’s Grocery and Meat Market

The meat part (I understand was owned different then the store) was owned by Ned Mitchell and Guy Deddrick worked for him. Agnes was one of the donut ladies and I can’t remember the other. Phil Spicer did a lot of the checking, Ray Stevens stocked the cans, Forrest Minor and Al Steele did the produce. After the Korean war George Steele came home and opened Steele’s Market in Eaton. George was a pretty nice guy, I think he was a U.S. Marine.

Do you remember the flour sacks just inside the front door? The bags had designs and the women used them to make dresses and such. Guy’s son Jack worked there in the 50s. Jack Mitchell opened the grocery at Shields and Mountain Avenue, then he had a store at East Mulberry and Smith. When Meryl Steele died in the 60s his son Burt and his daughter and her husband ran the store. Returned pop bottles were lined up in the alley and they just took your word on how many.

Probably like us you all went down and parked on Saturday evenings and watched the people walk by at the Rexal Drug Store at Mountain and College. On the College side there were all the ranchers’ brands painted on the side.

Thanks Wayne!

I have had several comments on the story about the clothes line. Nice to hear and read the stories about how some daughters send this article to their mothers. It is fun to reminisce and maybe pass on a little bit of everyday living in the 30-40-50s. Our society is changing so fast, this part of our American history will be gone forever.

Country Clotheslines

From Sharri Mares:

I do miss that fresh smell of sheets from a clothesline !

We are probably the last generation that will remember what a clothesline was.

The Basic Rules for Clotheslines:

(If you don’t even know what clotheslines are, better skip this.)

1. You had to hang the socks by the toes … NOT the top.

2. You hang pants by the BOTTOM/cuffs … NOT the waistbands.

3. You had to WASH the clothesline(s) before hanging any clothes — walk the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.

4. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang “whites” with “whites,” and hang them first.

5. You NEVER hung a shirt by the shoulders — always by the tail! What would the neighbors think?

6. Wash day on a Monday! NEVER hang clothes on the weekend, or on Sunday, for Heaven’s sake.

7. Hang the sheets and towels on the OUTSIDE lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts and busybodies, y’know!).

8. It didn’t matter if it was sub-zero weather … clothes would “freeze-dry.”

9. ALWAYS gather the clothes pegs when taking down dry clothes! Pegs left on the lines were “tacky”!

10. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pegs, but shared one of the clothes pegs with the next washed item.

11. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.

12. IRONED? Well, that’s a whole OTHER subject!

Thank you Sharri!

If you have a story to tell just stop me in the store, I do not mind, I have met a lot of nice people who have stopped to talk and tell me their history. Or call or e-mail me. I love to hear your “history.” Thanks everyone and Happy Cookie Making!

P.S.: my niece in La Salle, Colorado, Amy Oster, is already making cooky dough to freeze for her mountains of cookies she bakes for Christmas — just like “Grandma McClure,” she will add with a smile.

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. Grannie Annie can be reached at, or look for her on Facebook at Grannie Annies COOK BOOKS, where you can find details and ordering information for her cook books.

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