Memories of Pa Pa and Grandma Titus
One day over coffee, friends and I were discussing some of our childhood memories. The discussion brought to mind the canning bees organized by my mother and her sisters that took place at Grandma Titus’ house during the 1940s. My maternal grandparents had a small truck farm and apple orchard in Grace, Idaho. This little plot provided much of the fruit and vegetables for our families. When certain crops reached maturity, the sisters would get together to harvest and can them on the spot.
I remember one pea harvest. My mom, her five sisters and many of us cousins gathered together at Grandma’s to pick peas. I had no taste for cooked peas, canned or otherwise, but I loved to eat them raw. This more often than not got me into trouble with Grandma whenever I was assigned to picking duty, because my mouth was usually the recipient of more peas than my bucket. This day was no exception. It didn’t take Grandma long to determine that I was more liability than asset as a pea picker. I was soon canned from that job (a little play on words here, folks) and sent to help my mother shell peas. I think the thought was, I could be closer supervised at that station.
These ladies had conjured up a neat pea-shelling machine. I don’t know if one of them had thought of the idea or if someone else had told them about it; but in any case, they used the clothes-wringer of Grandma’s washing machine for this project. That was in the days before automatic washers, so for the enlightenment of the younger set that may not know what a clothes-wringer is, washing machines of that era were equipped with wringers consisting of two rollers that squeezed the water from the clothes. Women never had the luxury of the high-speed spin for that purpose.
The spacing of the rollers on the wringers was adjustable so they could be set to where the peas would not be smashed. The pea pods were inserted into the wringer, the pressure from the rollers popped them open, and as the pods were pulled through, the peas were forced out and fell into the tub below. The empty pods continued their journey through the wringer and fell to the ground on the opposite side. I was really fascinated as I watched those peas pop out of their pods without being smashed to bits. I soon learned there was a right way and a wrong way for inserting the peas. Properly inserted ( I think stem end first, my memory is a bit foggy about that) it was mission accomplished. Put the wrong end in first, the peas were converted to a watery pulp. Running peas through that wringer was much more fun than picking them from the vines. Alas…I had found my niche at the pea harvest. However, to my dismay, that job was also short lived. It soon dawned on me I could eat peas by the handful straight from the wringer; a much easier task than picking and shelling them one pod at a time in the garden.
Pa Pa Titus also had a small dairy herd consisting of about a dozen cows, so our household always had milk, cream and butter. One thing I remember about Pa Pa Titus’ dairy operation was the cream separator. He would sometimes let us kids crank. Anyone who has ever cranked a milk separator will remember those suckers cranked very stiff until they were brought up to speed. When up to speed, they gave off a high-pitched whine as the separated cream poured into the bucket. Papa’s separator reminded me of the warning sound of the village fire alarm or the air raid sirens we heard in the war movies.
Pa Pa Titus also let us kids help filter and bottle the milk. He had a small clientele of customers in the village of Grace and surrounding areas to whom he delivered milk and cream. Those were the days of raw milk. Pasteurized milk had not yet arrived on the scene, at least not in small town rural America. (Something about milk fresh from the cow really titillates the palate.) With Grandma’s help, he took care of this dairy business and his little truck farm while holding down a full time job at the local hardware store. Grandma was a tiny little Danish woman about five feet four inches tall, and weighed not much more than a hundred pounds; a stark contrast to Papa Titus’ six foot one inch stature, but she got things done.
Then there was Pa Pa’s apple orchard; a young kid’s delight. There were trees of many sizes and shapes to climb and explore. As I recall, on one of our many visits to grandma’s house, one of my cousins fell out of a tree and broke his arm. (Something that occurred quite frequently for him.) But in those days of the 1940s, a thing of that sort was considered just a part of growing up. In today’s highly regulated society, Pa Pa Titus would likely be arrested for harboring a place of child endangerment.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the raspberry and strawberry harvests. I eventually got banned from those as well, because I had a penchant for eating all the profits (those ripe red berries were sooo delicious). Actually, I think it was more of a penchant against work, and it didn’t take me long to figure out how to get out of it.
So…if you’re into things nostalgic, you might enjoy reading some of my book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. Some have said Buddy is a bit reminiscent of a twentieth century Tom Sawyer in that he quite often finds himself in hot water for which he must pay the consequences. Buddy’s trials are the trouble finds himself in; the treasures are the lessons her learns from his mischievous deeds. You can obtain a free copy of the first three complete adventures by clicking on the “free download” button at upper right of this page. A print version is also available for purchase at www.amazonccom.