Itís Broiler Breeding And Raspberry Pickiní Time!
I may come back to talk about my High School experience later. Right now, I am going to talk a little about the summer vacations. They should have been a lot of fun, but I had to spend my vacation time working at home. My dad had planted the entire hill above the house in raspberries. They were in rows with wire stretched between posts. The wire was directly above the plants. First they had to be trimmed and the tops raked out, and then they were cultivated with a horse and plow. After that we made sure there were no weeds left between plants. That required using a hoe and a doing lot of sweating from morning until evening.
Mother always had a good dinner waiting, and the best thing about the day was the dinner break.
As I mention some things about motherís cooking, I might as well tell you, the reader, about some of the things my mother made at butchering time. Mother was a resourceful housewife; she did a lot of canning and other ways of preserving the meat and fruit. I should have mentioned that we literally buried apples, In the fall my dad would dig a hole and put a generous supply of straw in it, then the apples and then more straw. Finally he would cover it with ground, and the apples would keep until spring and early summer. From them mother would make apple pies, apple dumplings, and apple sauce. From the berries that she canned, mother did much the same. I could eat an apple cobbler or pie right now, just thinking about it.
As for the meat, we had several ways to preserve it. Hams, shoulders and bacon were smoked in the smokehouse. There was the hog bladder that was cleaned and filled with sausage and then smoked. Most people in our family called the prepared hog bladder, "the punch" It was kept until summer time and was sliced in half-inch slices and fried. Then there was the tenderloin and bacon that mother put in a gallon crock; a layer of each was put in until the crock was nearly full. It was baked in the oven and then covered it with hot lard. I should also mention another delicacy which was sausage, sometimes mixed with beef that was also put in gallon crocks and baked in the oven and covered with lard. Any of these were worth throwing down your gloves and heading for the house.
The picking of the raspberries we planted came about usually in the hottest part of the summer. The most were picked on the Fourth of July. Of course there were several pickings, usually every two or three days. On those days my dad would be very busy delivering the crates of berries already picked. In the early years, a crate consisted of thirty-two quart boxes, separated by slats. Later on, the standard crate consisted of twenty-four quart boxes. At that time many women canned a crate or even two at a time. They used them in pies and pot pies. My mother canned quite a few because she did a lot of baking.
At one time my dad had as high as twelve people picking berries. Mrs. Ben Butler was champion, usually picking more than one hundred quarts. As soon as dad had a load of filled crates, he would head for Altoona where he sold them. I might explain, there was a person working in the Altoona Post Office that took orders, and for his help he would receive a crate of berries. My dad would return home and what was picked; he would deliver the next day. Growing raspberries was a time consuming and hard summer work, but it was the only cash crop that we had. Of course we still had hogs and cows and chickens to supply much of our needs.
Several years later, in 1939 and 1940, when I was working at the railroad shops in Altoona, I raised baby chicks into "broilers", and sold them to restaurants. At one time we had brooders going with one hundred chicks in each of three buildings. The chicks I raised were white leghorns. One time the kerosene stove that we had for heat blew up, and all the chicks were smoked black. We fed them until they were about three pounds before we marketed them. This was the case of all the broilers we raised. There was little profit in them after buying feed and providing heat in the buildings.
Growing berries and growing broilers were not the only things to take up the summer. I spent a lot of time down with my uncle Brady and aunt Laura. Brady had a small farm; he grew potatoes and a lot of corn. I remember a field of five acres of corn about six or seven inches high that he wanted to cultivate. Now I had dreams of becoming a cowboy, but soon lost the desire. You see, he had a one-horse cultivator and decided to cultivate the corn. The only trouble was that he needed someone to ride the horse to keep him in a straight line and not tramp the small corn stalks. I was elected and as I looked over that vast field I began to have doubts. Brady said, "Lets try a row or two." Little did I know he probably meant the last two rows on the other side of the field. Well, when I got off that bony horse, I felt about two foot tall. I was sweated and sore, but thatís life. That must have been a common experience for kids who lived in farming communities. Dollie has spoken several times that she had the same experience when she was growing up.
There were some fun times that I should talk about. One of them was haymaking. There were three of us boys who played together, Harry Yingling, Toby Dodson and myself, so Brady had a lot of free help in making hay. He would cut the grass with a mower and after it dried, he would rake it up. It would be in what he called "windrows". He would pitch the hay up onto the wagon, and we three boys would tramp it down. Sometimes one of us would help Brady pitch the hay up, while the other two would tramp it down. Then came the ride down to the barn. We would pass under an oats apple tree and they would usually be ripe, so we would gather some to eat. Then he would back the wagon up on to the barn floor. He would unhitch the horses and hitch them to the hay fork. The hayfork was an upside down U shaped tool that you would push down into the hay as far as it would go, and then a hook on either side would dig into the hay. The horses would pull this contraption up to the barn roof and it would follow the track across the haymow. When the operator wanted, he would pull an attached rope, and it would dump. When that was tramped down we would go for another load, this would be done until the whole crop was transferred from the field to the barn. Then we would start all over again for another load.
Most of my summers were spent helping in the berry patch, but there was a lot of spare time too. This was spent with the Hazenstab boys and and in the earlier days with Harry Yingling and Toby Dodson. The summer days with my friends went by too quickly. We would go swimming (?), in what we called the "six foot hole". Notice I put a question mark after the word "swimming". What we did mostly was splash, but we got cooled down.
I lived a lot of time with Brady and Laura in the summer after they were married in 1927. It always was hard to leave them and go back up home for the weekend.
Brady and Laura meant a lot to me even after I had grown up and was married. Brady bought me my first truck. I had been working in Altoona for F & F Cleaners. I purchased a large car. I, and the Hazenstab boys (Tom and Pat), and the two Maher boys (one of whoís name was Francis), filled the car up with gas and went to Johnstown. While going up a one way street, the wrong way, we run out of gas. We walked several blocks and got a can of gas, filled the carís tank up, and came back home. I took the car back the next Monday and they gave me a Chevrolet coupe with a rumble seat.
After I found out that I could not succeed at trying to get customers for the cleaners I decided that I wanted to go to West Virginia and Maryland to bring up apples for resale. Several trips were made to Maryland and West Virginia for apples and then selling them "over the mountain", meaning anywhere from Johnstown to Indiana, Pa. The hours were long and the profits small, but we made some money. That is when Brady traded my car on a pickup truck. It was a 1935 Dodge. Brady did not want any payback for it. Later in life he helped me buy large trucks, and for them I would always pay him what he loaned me, interest free. The Dodge pickup served me very well. I huckstered apples and vegetables in season. I had several people working with me, but usually my helper was Pat Hazenstab. We hauled apples over the mountain as far as Indiana, PA. We were on the road just about every day in the summer.
One summer I worked by driving Jim Stifflerís truck for huckstering, and after expenses we split the profits. Jim had a unique way of selling. He had Fifth Avenue, Altoona as his route. We would begin up at twenty-fifth street and work down the avenue. He would walk ahead of the truck and loudly proclaim "Sweet Corn, Crab Apples, Tomatoes, Sweet Cider..." and any other products he had to sell. Women would come out of the houses and I would wait on them. If there were several women purchasing at a time, he would come back and help wait on them. His philosophy was simple to grasp. If corn was selling faster than the tomatoes, he would raise the price of the corn, and visa versa. The summer I spent with him was truly an education in the art of selling produce. That was a period in life when most people did a lot of canning. Now there are no street peddlers selling produce. People get their produce at the shopping malls or at roadside markets. There are not too many families who preserve produce or fruit by canning in glass jars.