Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dad was born in 1929, the very beginning of the Depression. Some of his reminiscences follow:

Rural electrification was not completed in his area (90 miles outside of NYC) until 1939.
Prior to that point, power was generated by an engine bolted to an cement block in the cellar. The engine was started with gas (crank engine), but run on kerosene, which cost $.05 at the time.

The engine powered sixteen 32 volt batteries. They did not need to use the generator every day. The following appliances were powered by the battery array:
Food mixer
Wringer washer
Curling iron
Lights (floor, table and ceiling)
Bench grinder (out in the shop)


A woodstove in the living room
A wood cookstove in the kitchen
Hot water heat – radiators in all the bedrooms

Food and food storage

Each winter, blocks of ice were cut from one of the nearby lakes and hauled to the ice house. Blocks were stacked – with layers of sawdust between for insulation.
There was no refrigerator, but an icebox, filled periodically with a block of ice from the ice house.

Food was dehydrated (solar), canned (water bath or oven –Grandma was afraid to use a pressure canner), smoked, fermented or pickled. Eggs were stored in glassine. These eggs were only used in baking.


The wringer washer was in the cellar. Grandma used this for a family of 7. It was still in use as late as the mid 1960’s, because I remember Mom putting a pair of my brother’s rubber pants through the wringer and hearing a loud pop.

Grandma hung laundry on the outside line in the summer, in the cellar during the winter. My dad and uncle bought her an electric dryer sometime in the 70’s. As far as Dad knew, she never used it. It sat on the cement block where the generator once stood.


A hand pump brought water to the kitchen sink. The well was in the cellar.
The outhouse was in use until 1939, when indoor plumbing was installed - one bathroom for 7.

I don’t know that my dad and aunts and uncle had lots of time for amusement. One aunt bought herself a radio with money she earned. My dad and his other sister bought a bike with their pooled money.
There wasn’t a lot of free time though. The kids worked hard at farm chores. They sold sweet corn to tourists from New York City. 100 ears of corn for $1.00!!!!
When I was a girl, some of our leisure time was spent gathering food – corn, tomatoes, potatoes…Food was always best at Grandma’s – fresh and local!

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