Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mother's story: Hominy, WWII, home remedies

I notice in this portion of the story, my mom meanders somewhat, going back and forth in time. She wrote this all in longhand, so when she thought of something she had left out earlier, there was no choice but to add it when she thought of it. Otherwise she would have had to start all over!
People in the thirties were still making home-made hominy. We would get 12 big ears of yellow corn and take it to a good neighbor and trade it to him for white ears of corn. We'd shell it by hand and start it cooking early in the morning with two tablespoons of lye in the water. After boiling it for an hour or so, we'd carry the iron pot outside near our well of water and drain off the lye water, which has loosened the hull of the corn and the little black center of the kernel. You had to wash the corn several times to get all the hulls, skins and centers off... also to be sure there was no lye left in it. It usually turned out snowy white. Then you'd cook it all day long. By evening, it would be tender enough and we'd have our first feed. It was so good, seasoned with ham or bacon grease, or even with good old cow butter. It tasted even better if you could set it out and let it freeze solid; that made it more tender. When a warm-weather thaw would come, the hominy was canned, since there were no refrigerators or freezers. I believe the last hominy I made was in 1953, and the last lye soap I made was in 1964.

In 1937 we lost our second child, a ten-pound baby dead at birth. We had moved from north Missouri to Iowa because my husband, by this time, was working on a farm for $15 a month in Missouri and was offered $30 a month in Iowa, plus a house to live in. We made the move in February, 1935. When our baby arrived dead, it was taken back to Missouri and buried close to where we had been raised. In June, 1938, my daddy died with cancer at only 49 years old. We lived on in Iowa until 1952.

My parents with me, their "little bundle of joy".
However, in 1944 we finally got our little bundle of joy. Our little girl was born and times were getting better financially.

Uncle Paul
In 1941, World War II had started. My brother had to go, and eventually our older daughter's boy friend went into the Army. Prices of everything soared. Many things were rationed, and you had to have rations stamps to get sugar, coffee, gasoline, tires and shoes. I have some of the ration books from fifty years ago. We were using them, and were glad to.
After my daddy died in 1938, my mother was alone, and worried a lot about my brother who was in Germany serving our country. He was there on D-Day, and for four or five weeks no one heard from him; so we had many anxious moments, as did many other people.
In 1932, men's overalls were 59 cents per pair, but no one could afford a pair very often; so you saw many people with overalls patched form top to bottom. People even patched socks and long stockings when the heels or toes wore out. Most everyone only had one or two of everything. Long underwear was changed on Thursday, and again on Sunday. My mother did her big washing on Monday, and on Friday she'd just wash the "wearing" clothes, so we would have a clean change of clothes for church on Sunday.
My daddy trapped for wild animals and skinned them and stretched the hides on boards, and sold the hides about once a week to a man who came around buying them. The hides most often trapped in north Missouri were skunks, raccoons, civet cats, mink, muskrats, opossums, and weasels; if you were lucky, you might get a fox. I can remember all those boards with hides stretched on them hanging from rafters in the hen house, where they'd be cold, and cure and dry until the man came for them. We butchered the rabbits and squirrels and ate them. A squirrel made a luscious pot of dumplings, and my mom could fry those young rabbits so they'd melt in your mouth. If she got an old rabbit, she'd split it open and roast it for three or four hours covered with home-made sage dressing. That was also good eating. The skunks Dad caught were valuable in other ways: They had lots of pure white fat under their hide. My mom would render (cook) the fat out; she used the skunk grease to grease our throats and chests when we had chest colds or sore throats. Oh yes, it smelled just like the skunk; but it was a sure cure. Turpentine mixed with lard was also used to rub on our throats and chests for colds. Our cough medicine was vinegar with salt, sugar and honey mixed together; and if a baby got the croup, sweetened onion tea was the treatment. That smelled good too!


madcobug said...

Another interesting entry. Cute picture of you with your parents. Now those home remedies I have to admit I have never heard of. Skunk rub Whew! Helen

Debbie said...

I love the picture of you with your Mom & Dad. I'm sure you was their bundle of joy after them losing 2 children.

I remember Mom using turpentine when we had a cold and also remember her making lye soap. I sure didn't realize lye was used in cooking. Dad told us my Grandma would make possum stew and he didn't like it because it was so greasy but he ate it anyway.

I also didn't realize they knew what cancer was that many years ago. This makes me wonder how long cancer has been in the history of our families.

Paula said...

I remember my Mama making hominy but I don't remember eating it and I don't like it now.

Lori said...

Hominy is the only vegetable I still don't like. We used to play down under the cliffs where we found signs that Indians had used the area for hunting parties, and we'd always look for "hominy holes", which is what we'd call the little smooth holes in the rocks where the Indians would grind their corn. I had forgotten about onion tea but I remember Mom making it for me once when I was very sick and had laryngitis very bad. It tasted surprisingly good too.

Sonya said...

They look so happy!

I told my Mom and Hubby G to read these entries when they had some spare time!