“This is Peggy Barbour Straughen and I am on my way back to Ohio from a family reunion and I thought I would report some of my childhood memories of my grandparents. As I am speaking of this, I am now 60 years old. Let’s see…”
My grandmother grew up in south-central Pennsylvania, living for a time in Shippensburg but growing up mostly in Chambersburg. In 1997 she recorded a tape recounting memories from her childhood and transcribed it. These are some of Peggy’s memories in her own words.
Part III: The Farm, the House, and the Hogs
Let’s see….. a little bit about Grandma and Grandpa Coleman’s farm and then their house in Newburg. I was only about 5 or 6 when they left the farm and moved into Newburg. I don’t have a lot of memories of that. But when they moved into Newburg, they had this two story house (not as big today as I thought it was then) and part of the time, they made it a duplex, I believe, and somebody else lived on the other side. I’m not positive, but I think that is true.
They had a summer kitchen in back of the house and then behind that there was a Wash House. One year – I was probably in Junior High- I remember my parents getting a telephone call in the early morning hours, and the summer kitchen had burned; there had been a fire. Everybody was OK, but there was considerable damage. The summer kitchen was totally wiped out. There was a lot of damage to the back end of the house and I just remember how upset everybody was about that. They never did rebuild the summer kitchen; they were just left with one regular kitchen after that.
Of course they had an outhouse, because they did not have indoor plumbing at the time. I remember the path to the outhouse (halfway between the house and the barn through the garden) was lined with sweet pea flowers. I have always loved sweet peas and I don’t think it is because they lined the path to the outhouse! I had never seen sweet peas anywhere else and I thought (and still do think) sweet peas are a beautiful flower. There was a small barn at the back end of the lot in Newburg. It was not a farm they lived on but a house in town, but I don’t remember too much about what my Grandpa kept in this barn except for a few chickens and hogs.
I took the very last snapshot that was ever taken of him when I was 13. We had been down to visit them the Sunday before and I had taken a picture of Grandpa standing at the barn door and he died that week. He had been a diabetic and had heart problems, and I think he died of a heart attack at the time. Grandma Coleman died either near the time I graduated from High School or shortly afterwards. She spent – I don’t know whether it was months or a couple years in a nursing home. I remember going with my Mother to see her. My Mother was very faithful in visiting her, even though G’ma did not always know her.
I forgot one very important [memory]- Butchering Day.
My Mother [Pauline Coleman] had a sister, Mary [Coleman] and Brian Mohn and […] they had a really hard time financially. So when my Uncle Brian went bankrupt and lost the farm, Harry Mohn, who was their oldest child, went to live with my Grandma and Grandpa Coleman on the farm. So he grew up as my G’pa’s right hand man on that farm. When my grandparents left the farm and moved into Newburg, I don’t know whether Harry bought it or if they gave him the farm and the house. Harry and Martha moved into the house that was on the farm and did farming. They raised hogs, dairy cattle, and chickens, But one of the things, probably beginning when I was in Junior High or late elementary maybe, primarily my Mother and I would go down to help the whole family on the farm for butchering day.
This was a day in the late fall when they would butcher all the hogs for the year. I had a wonderful time. I would watch the men, not actually killing the hogs, but scraping the skin with the skin scrapers, and they would give us the tails so we could chase each other with them. There were always kettles of ‘stuff’ cooking – kettles of puddin’ and kettles of ponhaus and there was sausage to be stuffed. I found it fascinating to see the intestines, which had been cleaned and scraped meticulously on a board, filled with sausage. Of course, this was primarily the farmer’s food for the winter, but everybody who helped would get some. My Mother never brought anything home except sausage. She did not like chitlin’s or cracklin’s. Every once in a while she would bring home some ponhaus, but nobody else would eat any…..that was a cornmeal mush that you molded and then after it was molded and chilled, you sliced it and fried it in a skillet and served it with maple syrup or apple butter on it. My Mother was not a farm girl at heart and she did not care for all that kind of stuff….
They would make potato chips in this huge, big kettle of lard cooking and the women would slice these potatoes wafer thin and then boil them in this lard. I guess that’s how I grew up liking country chips. I loved butchering day because they made me feel I was really making a …. it was not only fun, but they made me feel important that I was helping. I was making a contribution. I was always outside helping the men; I was never inside with the women who spent all day cooking and preparing the food to serve this bunch of people who were helping them butcher. It was an all day process. Later after I became old enough to drive, I would go down myself, because by that time, my Mother had lost interest in doing that and I would have to leave [Chambersburg] at 4 AM, because butchering day started before dawn and I didn’t want to miss any of it.