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2004-08-07 - 9:14 p.m.

Thanks for the Memories

Earlier today Ed sent me a Juke box site – songs and artists from the 50’s and 60’s, many reminiscent of earlier times though. Right now, I have Harbor Lights featuring The Platters playing in the background, reminding me of my childhood.

My father would occasionally bring home some Dungeness crab still wriggling from the crab pot…or trout, steelhead and salmon from a nearby river. My Dad always said, "When times are bad, you fish because you have to; when times are good, you fish because you WANT to.” This was in the middle of the Great Depression…and there was a lot of “had to” going around.

We were lucky as we lived on a farm with cows, chickens, rabbits, pigs, and always a garden growing something. Weekends were lively times at our house, as I recall. People, who lived in town, many out of work and not faring as well during those hard times, could always be expected on Friday nights. The rugs would be rolled up and the wood floor waxed, in preparation for what would surely end up a jam session with probably schottisches, polkas, and square dancing.

I loved this, first because I was a major part of the floor waxing and second, I loved the music. The floor would be cleaned and the wax applied, and I would be placed on an old army blanket for the polishing. My brother and sister, wearing Dad’s old wool socks pulled up to their knees for easy slipping and sliding, took turns pulling me up and down the length of our long living room. I squealed with delight and laughed uproariously as I enjoyed the wild ride – up and down, back and forth.

All the while, wonderful smells of baking breads, cakes and pies wafting throughout the house from the over-heated kitchen in preparation for the expected guests. A big pork roast would be lifted from a crock where it had been stored in its rendered fat, awaiting just such an occasion in the cold room beneath the house. Soon the beef, hams and/or chickens would be roasted, and always my dad’s famous chili could be found simmering on the back of the old black wood cook stove; the wood box seemingly always needing refilling. (I don’t have his recipe, but I remember it included a block of something reddish that he bought at the meat market and plenty of red chili “tapinis.” My sister reminds me that he didn’t add the beans until just before serving so that he could “individualize” the heat of the chili depending on the taste buds.) A pot of clam chowder or bouillabaisse could be made in a jiffy if more food was needed for unexpected, but always welcome, guests.

Once the food was prepared, Mom, Aunt Ora, and Aunt Grace, (not really my aunts, but life-long friends of my Mom) could be found gathered on kitchen chairs in front of the old Monarch range, having a cup of freshly perked coffee and smoking a cigarette while warming their feet at the warming oven. (Note: The Attorney General had not yet issued the warning about hazards of smoking. It was a fairly universal pleasure of the day, although most women did not EVER smoke on the street or even out in public.) The cooks took a well-deserved rest once the house was clean, the floors polished, and the food simmering on the back of the stove. The best was yet to come!

By early evening the rest of the guests would arrive, bearing gifts of whatever they could, usually things that we couldn’t grow, raise or make on the farm, sometimes even a toy or clothes for me. We had an upright piano. They would haul in their musical instruments – the banjos, accordions, drums, guitars, fiddles, base viols, and an occasional horn or two, but mostly strings and percussion. No amplification was necessary for these musicians. This was my favorite part. Let the fun begin!

I loved the honky tonk and ragtime music of the era: 12th Street Rag, Ace in the Hole, Coney Island, I’ll Be Down to Get You in a Taxi, Honey…and Harbor Lights…and oh, so many more. Teedy (my real aunt) played the accordion and the piano, my uncle played every other stringed instrument known to man, and, in addition, there were pick-up players of whatever instrument they happened to play.

Although the music from this Juke Box site is mostly from 50’s and 60’s, I found several old favorites…Who’s Sorry Now – Connie Francis, Till the End of Time with Ed Townsend, Etta James singing At Last, Little Richard and Good Golly, Miss Molly, Mr. Sandman featuring the Chordettes, Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino….oh, so many memories that evoke images behind my eyes. Thank you Patchy’s Lost in the 50’s Oldies Jukebox…and Ed for sending it to me. Thanks for the memories.

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