Saturday, January 20, 2018

This Old House

   I loved to go into my grandmother’s old-fashioned kitchen, although it apparently was more modern than I thought.  My grandparents’ house was probably built around 1915 or so on a corner lot in Brigham City, Utah. The current address is 205 N. 2nd East.  It was built by my great-grandparents, George Richard and Euphemia Jane Carter Freeman. When my grandparents, Ernest and Ruby Kotter Freeman got married in 1919, they moved into the house and eventually bought it.

                                           House after remodeling and addition put on back.
         Addition is where the three windows are which used to be the back porch.

   When I remember the house, there was a living room the width of the house at the front.  Two doors led to the interior of the house from that room.  The door to the north went into the master bedroom and the door to the South led to the kitchen.  The kitchen was sort of two rooms with a wide archway in the middle.  The cooking area of the kitchen was close to the living room and contained the counters, cupboards, sink , counter top stove and wall oven.  The other side of the archway had a window seat under the windows, and a dining area.  At the end of the table, furthest from the living room, was a little alcove which was a couple of feet above the floor.  The refrigerator fit into that alcove.
   The master bedroom had three doors, one that led to the living room, one that led to the hall and one that led to another bedroom.  The hall in the middle of the house had some built in drawers and cupboards, a desk area with books in a cupboard above the desk and a chest of drawers that my grandma called a chiffarobe.  The hall had many doors, although it was quite a small room. One door led to the master bedroom, one to the other bedroom, one to the bathroom and one to the kitchen.
   From the dining area of the kitchen, two or three steps led down to a small entryway.  There, the door to the south led outside and the door to the north led to the basement.  (The refrigerator alcove was actually above the basement stairway.)
   The basement stairs went down the West end of the basement into an open room.  There was a chest freezer near the bottom of the stairs and a washing machine.  I remember before the modern washer, Grandma had a machine she called a ‘double Dexter’ with two tubs and a wringer in the middle.  Grandma never did have a dryer.  In good weather she hung her clothes on lines in the back yard to dry.  In bad weather, there were lines in the furnace room that she used.

   On the North side of that room was a door to a small bedroom.  Another door led from the East side of the room into a good-sized furnace room.  We children loved that room because Grandpa had his workbench on one end of it.  There we were allowed to use his tools and scrap wood to build boats to float in the creek up at the cabin near Mantua.  To the east of that room was a delicious smelling room Grandma called ‘the fruit room’ where she kept her food storage.  The home dried fruit made the good smell.  To the north of the furnace room was the coal room, which was mostly a storage room when I remember it.

   One day I asked my mother about her memories of that same kitchen.  She was born in 1923 and believes the kitchen was remodeled into a modern kitchen about 1936. These are her memories of it before it was changed.
   “The kitchen only extended to the archway when I was a child.  There was a door there to what was the back porch that was included in the kitchen when we remodeled.  (The boys used to sleep on the back porch.) The electric stove replaced the coal stove in about the same place.  We burned coal, but used a little kindling to start the fire each day.  It would burn either wood or coal, but we used coal because it lasted longer.  We’d get 5 tons at the beginning of every winter.  There was no furnace in the house.  We also had a coal burning stove in the living room.  The furnace was put in about the same time we remodeled the back of the house and added the boys room in the basement and the laundry area.
    In that smaller kitchen, the kitchen table was at the end of the stove and extended down to the hall, which was the bathroom then.  The rest of the kitchen was the same.  The ice box was on the back porch.  The stove was actually in the corner where the wall oven is now.
    The counters were the same as always, but the sink was single rather than double like it is now.  The kitchen table was very small. There was just enough room for the parents to sit at either end, then two kids on one side and one on the other side.  (Many years later, when refinishing that table, we found  out that it was really an old slant top desk that had been modified to sit level.)

   The fruit room in the basement was put in after we remodeled.  Dean and Kay dug out the dirt under part of the living room for what was Mother’s fruit room.  They hauled that dirt out bucket by bucket through the coal room.
   Before we got a refrigerator we had an ice box out on the back porch.  I think it was pretty well insulated because we only went to get ice about once a week.  We kids would go get the ice and put it in a gunny sack in our wagon so it wouldn’t melt too much before we got home with it.  The ice place was about four blocks from our house.  I can’t remember just where it was, but it was probably about a block west of Main Street and I think about a half a block north of Forrest Street.”

   My mother’s grandparents had a house just a few blocks away at 36 N. 2nd East.  Her Grandfather Kotter died before she was born, so she didn’t remember him, but she had many fond memories of visiting her grandmother, Minnie Erickson Kotter.  (Wilhelmina Albertina Erickson Kotter)  Minnie lived in a much older house, probably built before 1895.


She described Minnie’s kitchen.

   “It was on the north side of the house and the window wasn’t really big, so it was kind of dark and seemed narrow.  It had a door to the summer kitchen, a door to the boys’ bedroom, a door to the dining room and a  door to the dark, cold room cellar.  The sink was sort of built in and the cupboard was free standing.  There were no counters, so the kitchen table was the only place for food preparation.
   Cooking was done on a large wood or coal stove.  There were lots of children in that family.  She had 9 children to raise as well as two of the eight stepchildren.  She made a lot of bread, usually eight loaves at the time.  She would get up very early to bake so bread would be ready for breakfast.  She did that maybe three times a week.  Those loaves didn’t last long.  When we grandchildren stopped there after school sometimes, she gave us bread and milk or skorpor.”
   “Food was different then.  Flour and sugar and cheese came from the store.  We made our own butter.  Actually, Grandma Kotter made and sold butter.  Most things were home canned, although I remember in later years that every Fall we’d get a case each of peas, beans and corn to supplement what we grew in the garden.  However, Grandma Kotter did have a barn and two cows that she milked morning and night.  That is after the boys, Homer, Elmer and Wendell left home.  She had a big pie safe down in her cellar where she kept her milk and eggs.  It seemed like a deep cellar and was always cold down there.  We were always instructed to be sure to keep the cellar door shut 
   We only had one cow.  We always had a bathroom in our house, but Grandma Kotter’s  bathroom was built when I was seven or eight years old.
   We didn’t need to store meat very long.  Valbergs (grocery store) was close enough we went there often to get meat.  It did keep several days in the ice box.  I don’t remember if Grandma Kotter had an ice box or not.  I do remember going to the store for her a lot as well as for Mother.  We just ran up a bill at Valbergs and it was always around $20-25 a month for everything we bought there, like toilet paper, meat and things we didn’t have at home.  We had a cow and chickens and grew a bunch of stuff in the garden, so we didn’t need a whole lot of stuff from the store.  We bought cheese there, and in later years, pectin.  Earlier than that, instead of pectin, we just boiled the fruit down for jams and jellies.  We had a sugar bin and a flour bin.  The flour bin held a 50 lb. bag of flour and the sugar bin held a 100 lb. bag of sugar.  They were built into the cupboards.
   We probably ate meat almost every day, but small portions.  We probably ate more meat than a lot of people.  I remember fussing one day about nothing to make gravy out of for mashed potatoes and Aunt Gertrude informed me that that is what creamed vegetables were for, to use as gravy over potatoes. (I remember Grandma making creamed asparagus and eating it on her mashed potatoes.)
   In later years we had a meat locker in town when those came into existence, but not for long, because then we got a freezer.
   We didn’t use pasta and rice was only for making rice pudding which we had at least once every week or two. We also had bread pudding with raisins to use up the stale pieces of bread
    When I was small, I didn’t like to eat.  I was on many diets due to my allergies.  I guess my favorite food though was Yorkshire pudding that we had every Sunday.  One diet it seems like for three weeks I had nothing but orange juice and toothpicks.  The toothpicks were just something to entertain me after I drank my orange juice and everybody else was still eating.  I also had a ‘nothing but milk diet’ and a ‘no wheat flour diet’ and various others."

   Kitchens have clearly changed a lot since the old days with indoor plumbing, built in cupboards and fancy appliances, but kitchens still seem to be the center of the home.

No comments: