Fruit pies were a favorite with Mama. We supplied the blackberries by the gallon. One season Hugh Louis, Bobbie and I picked 88 gallons in a field up the railroad tracks. We sold some for 50 cents a gallon and those berries were worth every penny as we returned after an entire morning of thrashing through briars, wet grass and snakes to get them. Bobbie usually had about as many twigs, leaves and green berries as black ones.
Mama would cook them up by the washtub full for canning and making jam that would last us all winter. Her blackberry jam cake ensured that Santa came by every Christmas eve for his slice and a glass of milk. The cherry tree in the backyard yielded tart ones that were too good to not eat and the birds thought so too. But in spite of that, we usually had many quarts preserved for homemade cherry pie throughout the year.
The June apple tree was loaded every year and they were best when eaten just before they
ripened but again, we competed with the birds for our share. Some birds became casualties of
our B-B gun artillery. Fried apples and apple roll were great treats, remembered even today.
We lived across the street from the popcorn factory. Farmers brought their truckloads of popcorn on the cob and we managed to rub blisters on our hands getting some of those cobs shucked. Then, you blew the white fluff out before popping a few pans of it to pour in a huge pile on the newspaper spread out on the living room linoleum floor. That was a Sunday afternoon ritual.
The Big Store supplied the rest of our diet. It was located on First Street several doors west of the Baptist Church and sold groceries as well as home building materials. At the counter the baloney was sliced and wrapped in white paper. Round steak that had to be beaten with a tenderizing hammer, and other grocery items were bought over the counter without cash. We just said, “Charge it” and Garland Culver put it on the account. Who needed checks or check cards?
A typical meal was fried baloney, hominy, white beans, sliced bread and milk. Desert was
frequently buttered bread with sugar sprinkled on it. The younger kids sat on the backless bench and the others were in chairs. We always said grace and from there on it was pandemonium. A lot of times the milk was spilt but nobody cried over it.
We never missed a meal and I marvel now at how our parents managed with the size of our
family. We never ate at restaurants and actually, I don’t remember ever being in one in New Haven.