Friday, January 18, 2013

Hanging Out The Warsh

We are having some lovely January weather in Iowa this week.  Today the sun is shining and the temp is reaching 50 degrees.  Makes my heart yearn for Spring.  What to do, but hang out a load of warsh (that's how we northern Iowans pronounce it) and watch it flap in the breeze.  Probably won't get totally dry, but then I can drape it over a dryer rack in the spare bedroom and smell the freshness.

Of course, when I was a kid, hanging out clothes was a chore.  Now it's a delight.  I never use my dryer in spring, summer or fall unless an item needs delinting.  If that isn't a real word, you know what I mean.  I'll pop it in the dryer for a few minutes and then hang it outside.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't give up my dryer, but nothing beats sliding a shirt over your head that has been dried on the line.


The ultimate treat is crawling into a bed that has been freshly made up with crisp sheets off the line.  I dry my bedding on the line all year round.  Even in the dead of winter, a sunny day with a bit of a breeze will dry a line of sheets.  You have to do it quickly though, because they'll start to stiffen before you can get them thrown over the line. Sometimes, the corners of the fitted sheets don't get completely dry, but I just toss them over a kitchen chair and they're ready for folding in no time at all.

Mom had definite rules to hanging out clothes.  No such thing as pinning items up willy-nilly.  First of all (and most important), you needed a damp rag to wipe down the line before you started.  If there were dirty marks on the clothes when they came off the line, you were first in line to rewash them ...

All unmentionables were hung on the back line so they couldn't be seen from the street.  Lord knows we didn't want the neighbors to see our underwear (holey or not).  All blouses and tee shirts were hung from the bottom so the wrinkly pin marks would be hidden when tucked in pants or skirts.  If the item wasn't going to be tucked in, you had to iron out those pin marks ... crisp and neat.

The towels were hung from the biggest down to the smallest.  They had to be lined up exactly.  If you got to the bottom of the basket and found a size that didn't line up right, you had to repin the entire row.  I learned to do it right the first time and tried to sort the basket as I loaded it.

You hung all the white clothes on the section of the line that got the most sun and the colors were hung on the lines in the shade, if possible.  We always removed the colored clothes as soon as they were dry so they didn't fade.  The whites were left out in the sun all day to get as much sun bleaching as possible.

When you finished taking down all the clothes for the day, you made sure there were no pins left on the line.  Mom considered that "tacky".  Besides, the pins picked up dirt and dust; and how could you wipe down the line the next time if it was full of pins?   Rules, rules and more rules.

Now you've got a load of clean, fresh laundry that needs to be ironed.  Where did I put the sprinkler bottle?  You know ... the old 7-up bottle with the cork stopper and sprinkler on top.

Excuse me.  I've got to go smell my laundry ............

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The New Year Starts With a Bang!

This poor old blog has been sorely ignored.  The holidays tend to put me in a blue funk. I seem to hibernate and withdraw into my world of books, needlework and genealogy (and taxes).  Then along comes the mid-winter blues and things tend to go downhill from there. Sunshine is needed to fuel my brain and it's been missing lately.

Yesterday, I received the most wonderful e-mail.  My blog had been chosen for the Liebster Blog Award:

I was totally amazed.  Kathy from has nominated my blog for this wonderful award.  Since I'm such a beginner at the entire process it was a bit mind numbing.  With my German heritage, the fact that Liebster, which means darling, was an added joy.

The rules of the award are as follows:

1. Thank the one who nominated you by linking back.
2.  Nominate five (5) blogs with less than 200 followers.
3.  Let the nominees know by leaving a comment at their site.
4.  Add the award image to your site.

Of course, I must start my list with Susan from  I attended a genealogy program at the Omaha Public Library and Susan was the speaker.  She and I share a common Pecht ancestor originating out of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania.  We haven't made the connection as yet, but we are ever hopeful. Her topic that day was "blogging" and the rest is history.

Connecting my two passions of knitting and genealogy, I found The Knitting Genealogist:  Her blog always catches my interest.

The blog with the niftiest address is  Margel has a lovely blog and she sprinkles lots of old photographs in with her genealogy stories.

A site that catches my heart and touches my soul is Provenance.  Judy at shares her search for her family during the Holocaust.

And then there is Gordon at  Gordon lives in the north of Scotland.  He has a biting wit and is a very gifted author.  He also knits the most amazing ganseys.

Now that I've received a swift kick in the pants, maybe I can get back on the blogging wagon.  I have a couple of ideas floating around.  Just need to gather some photographs and sort things out.

Thanks for the wonderful award and for starting my year on such a high note.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Grandpa Was A ..........Bootlegger?

One of my favorite songs that gets my toes tapping is "Grandpa Was a Carpenter" recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  It's one of those songs I pop into the car stereo when I'm on the road.  People passing by tend to look at me in a strange way.  Here's an old lady singing her heart out and tapping her fingers on the steering wheel.  They don't stay in the passing lane very long, but goose their vehicle quickly down the road.

In my family, Grandpa was a BOOTLEGGER.  Somehow it doesn't have the same ring to it ...  I've always known that Grandpa Bill Noss tended to enjoy his liquor and dabbled in bootlegging, but had only heard bits and pieces of the story.  Last month I made a trip to northern Iowa to spend a couple days with my mother.  At 94 years of age, she has good days and bad days; but most days she doesn't like to talk about her father.  It wasn't easy growing up in a large family of eleven kids with a father who enjoyed his liquor.

                                              William Noss  (1890-1979)  ca.1915

One Sunday morning, Mom and I sat around in our jammies, drinking coffee and chatting.  She started reminiscing and I dashed for my laptop to take notes .. hoping she wouldn't lose the mood by the time I was through booting up.  These are Mom's memories:

                                                          Julia Noss Kornegor Witter

It was 1929 ... the beginning of the Great Depression.  Grandma Angela Noss died in December of that year.  At the time of her death, she owned the farm where her youngest son farmed. The farm had to be sold as part of the estate.  Bill did not have the money to purchase the farm so he and his family moved down the road to a vacant farm house (one mile west of the home place).  They occupied that house for one year.  Then the family moved to the Ballhagen farm south of Rockford on the Shell Rock River and Bill started farming again.

These were hard times for farmers and everyone moved from farm to farm trying to make a living and provide for their family.  Most men did not own the farm they lived on, but only rented from the owners.  When they couldn't come up with the rent money, it was time to move down the road to the next vacant farm.

During this time, Bill started bootlegging.  The large family needed to eat and this was the only way he knew how to make money.  Grandpa had very little education.  He was a good farmer, but a farmer needs land.  Bill turned to what he knew best ... booze.  Bootleggers were making good money as those were prohibition years in Iowa (1920-1933).
Of course, he spent most of the money on himself as he drank most of the profits.  Mom and all her siblings had to help wash the empty bottles and crocks.  Grandpa fixed up the basement so men could stop by and drink beer.  Some days there were several cars parked in the farm yard.

Mom remembers one day when her folks and all the kids left the farm for the day.  She couldn't remember why or where they were going, but it must have been a special occasion since they didn't go many places all together as a family.  She remembers that her oldest brother, Toby, stayed  home; but that he later left the farm for a few hours.  As he was walking down the road on his way back home, he noticed the farmyard was full of police cars.  The police were breaking all the jars and crocks that Bill used in the brewing process.  Toby just kept walking past the farm quickly so the cops wouldn't notice him.  Then he crawled down in the ditch so he could spy on them, but they couldn't see him.  He watched one of the policemen use his pistol as target practice on the liquor jars.  Later this would prove to be very helpful as they were informed by the lawyer this was illegal.  Officers were not allowed to use their pistols to randomly shoot in this manner.

Grandpa Bill was arrested for bootlegging and went to trial.  During the trial, Toby was called to testify.  He showed the judge a piece of crockery that had lead residue on the side.  This proved that the officers had used their pistols improperly.  End of trail.  Billy went home.

Of course, this did not deter him from bootlegging. The family moved into the town of Rockford.  Bill had a thriving business as the men no longer had to drive out to the farm to buy their beer.  He knew how to make good beer and there were men with money waiting to buy his product.

Later he was again nabbed for bootlegging and this time he was convicted.  He worked off his sentence by helping with farming at the Floyd County Home in Charles City.  He stayed there until his  sentence was complete. My mother still remembers how embarrassing it was as everyone in town knew her dad was in the hoosegow for bootlegging.  Thankfully, prohibition was winding down and his special services were no longer needed.

I need to find someone who can pick a banjo ... hum along with me:

Grandpa was a bootlegger - he brewed beer for all his friends - drank up all his profits - now he's in jail again ......twang.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who Remembers the Lard Pail?

I've been very lax in blogging the past few months.  The weather has been oppressive and my ambition has stalled along with the weather.   Mother Nature has given Iowans a summer to remember.  We've had no rain since mid-June.  The farmers are losing their hard-earned crops and the local trees and lawns are suffering.  I can't wait for September.

How did we survive in those days before air conditioning?  Did I mention I hate hot weather?  Even as a kid, I could never tolerate the heat and humidity.  Probably all caused by my fair complexion ... complete with sunburn and freckles.  Add it all together and I became a whiny little kid in the intense summer  heat.  Especially if Mom decided to pull me away from my chosen book of the day and push me outside.

What does all this have to do with a lard pail you ask?

Lard pails came in several different sizes.  The ones we used were a little bigger than a Crisco can.  They had a nifty handle and families used them for multiple chores until they were either dented beyond recognition, rusted or totally worn out.  Grandma used one to feed the chickens and we used them to gather veggies from the garden.  Mom remembers using one to take her lunch to school.  Very nifty little things were lard pails.  My friend, Sue, reminded me that every kitchen had one setting on the stove to collect bacon grease.

I hated them ...

If  Mom said, "Evelyn, grab a lard pail...."  It always involved work and I was a typical kid.  Working was not at the top of my list.  Heck, it wasn't even in the middle of my list.

The one job at the very top of  the list (that involved a lard pail) was picking gooseberries.  Now, if you are not familiar with gooseberries, let me tell you.  They are not very big ... about the size of a pea.  Do you know how many  berries you have to pick to fill a lard bucket?   Too damn many, I can tell you.


They also grow on a bush with little picky things that cut your hands to pieces ... unless you wear gloves.  And then, because you are going to the woods, you have to wear long pants and SHOES.  Egad, I would have to shove my feet into shoes?  I've been going barefoot all summer.  My feet are tough and spread out in all their glory.  They do not fit into shoes until Labor Day!!  You want me to go pick berries??

No getting out of it.  My sister and I set out down the gravel road and across the bridge.  Then we turn left and into the woods along the river where the wild gooseberries grow.  Eileen doesn't want to be there any more than I do, and she will contribute to my misery by rustling the bushes and mentioning bears and assorted wild animals that are certainly lurking to take my life.

So, here I am with the darn lard pail hanging from my belt, banging against my body, while I pick berries with both hands and try to keep the bugs from flying in my hot, red little face .... all the while worrying that something or somebody was creeping up behind me.  Did I mention that I was a whiny kid that didn't like heat ... or bugs and big sisters who scared the bejezuz out of you?

Mom had sent us off on our journey with her final cheerful words ... "Don't come back until your buckets are full."  We knew that to do so would incur our having to make a second trip. Not gonna happen.  We would come dragging back up the gravel road .. sweaty, bug bitten and scratched within an inch of our lives.  But those lard buckets would be full.

Then Mom would make gooseberry jam ......  I don't even like gooseberry jam.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Batter Up!!

I had an entire blog post ready to go, checked the preview,  hit the wrong button and lost the entire thing.  Rut Roh.  Now I have to remember what I wrote and I can't even remember what I had for breakfast.  Where the heck is that little popup when you need it?  You know the one that says, "Are you sure you want to delete this, Stupid?"

I've been a bit busy with assorted springtime activities; one, of which, is my grandson's baseball games.  He plays on a team of eleven-year-old boys.  They have spiffy uniforms, caps, shoes, etc.  He'll play over 50 games between April and June, not to mention practice at least twice a week.  No longer can kids just walk down the street and grab a game at the neighborhood park.  Boys this age come in all sizes.  Some are short, quick and very agile; others are tall, lanky and a bit awkward.  It's heart-warming to watch the smallest kid on the team get the biggest hit.

Playing ball was a bit different in a small town in the 50's. We would gather at the empty lot next to the Catholic church or on the street in front of someone's house.  The size of our field depended on the vicinity of the nearest windows.  Our bases were marked with assorted rocks or pieces of clothing.  Nothing worse than the wrath of your mother if your discarded jacket had been used for second base.  Everyone would bring whatever equipment they could find or borrow.  Assorted bats and gloves were used by one and all.  Many kids didn't have a glove so they borrowed the glove of the batter until they needed it again.  Hopefully someone would bring a ball that was somewhat round and not coming apart at the seams.  Most of the time we used a softball because they were not so apt to break a window.

On days that we happened to gather at the church lot, Father LaValette would sometimes join us dressed in his black cassock standing behind home plate as umpire.  There was never any arguments or whining about being called out on strikes when Father played with us.

Most small towns had a men's team that would play neighboring towns for bragging rights.  Some churches and clubs would also have ball teams.  If there was a ballgame scheduled, they would set up an easel sign in the middle of main street that said "BALLGAME TONIGHT".  The whole town would show up.

 We also had a pretty good women's team and I can remember my mother pitched for a couple of years.  One day there was a knock on the back door and when I looked out I saw one of the big kids from the neighborhood standing there with his bat and glove.  I thought he had come to ask if I would come out and play ball.  Me??  I was so excited.  Upon opening the door, he said, "Can your mom come out and pitch for us?"  I was devastated.  They didn't want me to play, they wanted my mother!!  Did I mentioned she was left handed ... and good?

I played ball all through my grade school years and even on the high school summer team.  Of course, we played fast pitch as there was no such thing as slow pitch in those days.  We had no fancy uniforms, but we had hours of fun.  I remember playing center field at one game with only a small wire fence separating me from a flock of sheep ... Baaaa.

Years later in the late 60's while working in southern Minnesota, I played on a company team.  By that time, fast pitch ball was slowly being phased out and more teams were playing slow pitch.  But there were a few teams and I seem to remember a keg of beer was involved after the games ... loser buying.

My daughter continued the family tradition and began playing on a team when she was about 10 years old. She kept at it through high school and was lucky enough to be part of a Iowa state tournament team.  Her team was beaten in the early rounds, but the tournament atmosphere was a very special experience.

Now she and I sit on the sidelines and watch our son and grandson play the game.  I must admit it is much easier to be out on the field playing the game than it is to sit on the sidelines and agonizingly watch the strikeouts, missed throws and errors.

But there's nothing like the crack of the bat and watching the ball soar over center field....

Oh the fun of sitting in the sunshine with a hot dog, bag of popcorn and something cold to drink, all the while swatting at the bugs.  Then there are the evenings with a cold, wet wind blowing in from right field and you are swaddled in a blanket, coat and hat.  But you wouldn't miss it for the world.

Now if I can remember to hit the right button, we can all say "Batter Up."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Remembering Eileen

Today is the second anniversary of Eileen's death and I still think of her every day.  Her death was the impetus behind this blog.

I have been blessed with many dear friends and have a sister-like relationship with a handful of them. They have helped so much in the past two years as I've trudged ahead.  We share our deep secrets, fears and desires; but nothing will ever fill the deep void in my life that Eileen's death left behind.  I did love her so.

"Perhaps that was the worst of all. Not having someone to remember things with."
     -  "Winter Solstice" by Rosamunde Pilcher

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Where Did I Put My Keys?

I love old keys.  They hold such mysteries.  What did they open?  Did they hide a precious secret behind a tiny door in a cabinet or open the door to an old mysterious house?

My mother loves old keys also and she gave me her collection. I've added a few.  They are fascinating and I find something new every time I look through them.

I don't remember that we ever locked our house when I was a kid.  Nobody locked their house in the 50's in Rockford, Iowa.  If there did happen to be a key to the door, it would have been just a skeleton key. Everybody probably had the same type and you could have picked one up at the local hardware store and opened every house in town.

We would leave the house with all the windows open to allow the breeze to blow through the house.  Not a thing to keep anybody out except a piece of screen.  Now we shut everything up and pull the shades.

The most important key in my life during my childhood was the roller skate key that hung around my neck on a dirty white shoelace throughout the summer.

It used to hang on a nail by the back door so I could grab it and go ... on the run.  My friends were waiting and there was no time to waste.

I don't even remember there being a key for the old Chevy.  You needed a key to lock it, but if you were just turning it on and off, there was no need for a key.  If you did drive a car that needed a key, you never took it out of the ignition.  Everybody left their keys in the car.  That way you always knew where they were!  You could walk down main street and almost every parked car had their keys hanging in the ignition.

Now we are a country of keys.  We need them for everything.  We lock up our house, our garage, the cars and boats.  You even need a key to get your mail out of the mailbox.  We carry around an assortment of keys that would make a school janitor proud.  Times were much simpler in the 50's when a key was just an added bit of fluff .... not really necessary, but it looked efficient.

Our world will never return to those simpler times when a small, freckled Iowa girl could grab her skate key on the way out the door, letting it bang behind her, with never a care in the world.  I'm so grateful to have lived in those times.  Keys?? Who needed keys?  Our door was always open ....

The doors were open all over town and people were sitting on their porch and grabbing a cool breeze.  Now we are locked behind doors with the a/c blasting and the shades drawn.  Maybe it would be nice to return to those times, but would I want to give up the comforts of modern times?  Maybe if I once again had a skate key around my neck and scabs on my knees.  At this stage in my life, my memories will serve me well as I sit in the comfort of air conditioning on a hot, muggy evening.