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National Ice Cream Day – Today

I grew up in a family that loved ice cream. There was always ice cream in our freezer and at our grandparents. Sometimes it was even homemade.

A favorite way to celebrate a weekend during the summer was my dad making ice cream. Mother made the custard, and then we did the rest. They invited neighbors and friends to enjoy the ice cream with us. Any leftovers went into the freezer.

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After the custard was poured into the metal container, Daddy carefully layered ice and salt around it. And then the work started! My brother Critt, Daddy, and I took turns turning the crank until it wouldn’t turn any more. Of course, it was ready for eating right then, but there was always a wait period to let it set. We didn’t care if it was a little runny, but management had different ideas.

In Shelbyville, Kentucky, where my grandmother Lulu lived, there was a family-owned ice cream parlor. At Mirror Lake Farm, there was never any grocery-bought ice cream, only from the small parlor. My dad’s favorite was banana, mine chocolate, Critt’s strawberry, and Mother’s butter pecan. What was at Lulu’s house was never enough. During our vacation visits, there was always at least one stop to get cones filled with our favorite flavors.

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Granddaddy, my mother’s father, ate a large bowl of ice cream every night before he went to bed. He was not picky as to the flavor and would even mix flavors sometimes. This 5′ 10″ man had a phenomenal appetite, but stayed skinny his whole life. Even if ice cream was served for dessert at supper, he still was ready for his bedtime snack.

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Biltmore ice cream was a favorite to all of us. Often Sunday afternoon sojourns were made to the Biltmore Dairy Bar in Asheville. Absolutely decadent treats, like banana splits and ice cream sundaes, were enjoyed. And it is no wonder that all was delicious: the ice cream was 15-18% butterfat! There was always a line to even get in that building. Daddy, whose aversion to lines since his time in the Army, never seemed to fuss about this line.

 

Biltmore Farms was organized in 1897, and delivery trucks took milk, cream, butter,and ice cream to their Asheville neighbors. Comparing the two photos below shows how these trucks evolved. Thank you, George Vanderbilt, for bringing those Jersey cows to North Carolina!

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I continue to be startled by my ignorance. It was only in watching the news this morning that I found out it was National Ice Cream Day! Who knew?

Obviously, President Ronald Reagan was a fan of ice cream, too. I found this Presidential Proclamation issued by him in 1984. The celebrations were originated by Joint resolution 298, which was aptly sponsored by Senator Walter Dee Huddleston of Kentucky on May 17, 1984. The President wanted to promote our dairy farmers (my grandmother Lulu was one), and of course, ice cream is certainly the best product made out of milk.

National Ice Cream Month and National Ice Cream Day, 1984

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Ice cream is a nutritious and wholesome food, enjoyed by over ninety percent of the people in the United States. It enjoys a reputation as the perfect dessert and snack food. Over eight hundred and eighty-seven million gallons of ice cream were consumed in the United States in 1983.

The ice cream industry generates approximately $3.5 billion in annual sales and provides jobs for thousands of citizens. Indeed, nearly ten percent of all the milk produced by the United States dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, thereby contributing substantially to the economic well-being of the Nation’s dairy industry.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 298, has designated July 1984 as “National Ice Cream Month,” and July 15, 1984, as “National Ice Cream Day,” and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of these events.

NOW, THEREFORE, 1, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim July 1984 as National Ice Cream Month and July 15, 1984, as National Ice Cream Day, and I call upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of July, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and ninth.

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Fact checkers say that over 90% Americans eat ice cream, and our country eats more ice cream than any other country in the world. If you read the above proclamation, you will notice the words that we should “observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

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So here it is the third Sunday in July, 2018, and it is National Ice Cream Day. Google is helping us with places to go for free ice cream, frozen treats, and deals. Since Brusters is our favorite ice cream place here in Spartanburg, I do believe we will find ourselves in line there this afternoon to help observe this day.

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“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate,” said Thornton Wilder.

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Or you could wait for another treat to enjoy tomorrow on Fresh Spinach Day!

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Family Circle

 

I grew up in a family that ate our meals together at the kitchen table or the dining room table. We had assigned seats at each place that I never figured out. The kitchen table was round, and the dining room table was a rectangle. Mother fixed and served our childhood plates.

One of my earliest memories of a catastrophic supper was at our small duplex on East Main Street in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

As an opinionated preschooler, I had decided that I didn’t like the taste or texture of raisins. My two-year-old brother Critt was given the last of the corn flakes; he sat in his high chair munching away. The next thing I knew was that a bowl of Raisin Bran was in front of me. I questioned this decision and made quite a protest. Then I had the audacity to demand a switch with my brother. Neither of my parents listed to me, so I made a decision to take the situation into my own hands. Without thinking about possible end results, I stood up, grabbed the high chair’s tray, and pulled.

The results were not what I expected.

With a noisy crash, the high chair fell forward. Then with an earsplitting scream, my brother announced that his forehead hit the table. Bedlam reigned, as my parents jumped into protective mode. Blood, a high-speed rush to the ER, and stitches were the end result.

No, I never learned to either like or eat raisins, but my selfish, childish actions have caused me embarrassment. A smidgen of this escapade still rattles around the corners of my memories.

My dad was a stickler for manners on all occasions, even at the table. “Please” and ‘Thank you” were phrases that were expected.  If we wanted the ketchup bottle, we had to use the required “please.” If “thank you” was not our next response, the ketchup would be taken away. We learned in a hurry to not forget the phrases.

I clearly remember a few weeks at the supper table that provided distinctive entertainment.

My brother was around three, and I was six. Picking up his milk glass for a drink became a challenge for some reason. He took several sips and then spilled the rest of the glass on the table, the floor, and himself. (Interesting that this accident never happened at any other meal.) Through surreptitious glances in his direction, I remember watching to see when the trouble was going to happen, and then suddenly he just stopped spilling the glass of milk..

Critt was always a jokester and a tease. He particularly relished my gullibility, as he shared tall tales with me. To this day, I don’t know whether the spills were purposeful and he finally grew tired of the game or what. I was sorry the anticipated spills stopped, but am sure my parents were thankful.

Our family meals were not always around a table. Franklin Curtus Justus, known as F.C.,  my grandmother’s brother, enjoyed camping in Pisgah Forest. He and his wife Ina lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina, so the commute was an easy one. They often invited other family members to join them for breakfast on Saturdays.

My dad was convinced that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so he was eager to accept these invitations to a cooked meal on a creek bank. I can see his smile of anticipation, as we walked toward their camp site.

There is a lush area of cove forests and streams known as the Pink Beds, and this was the chosen place. The area is named for the profusion of pink wildflowers, including mountain laurel and rhododendron, which appears in the spring.

It was the smells that led us to breakfast from the car. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee burst through the air. Shortly behind were the scents of bacon frying in an iron skillet over a cooking fire. Hollers of welcome soon joined the mealtime odors.

Before long, blue tin plates, almost overflowing with eggs, grits, and bacon, were in each hand. Hot coffee or milk was poured into matching mugs. A hodgepodge of forks and spoons were available, and my grandparents (Alex and Edythe Cox), parents Sam and Evelyn Collins, various great aunts and uncles found canvas camp stools, metal lawn chairs, or stumps to sit on. There were always several station wagons, and the tail gates were let down for more seating.

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No one sat far away from the group, because everyone wanted to be part of the conversations. As the plates were cleaned, the chats increased.

Family memories were shared about my great grandparents and the rock house that Pop (Franklin Curtis Justus, 1871-1958) built. He was a contractor for the Saluda Grade that ran through the Saluda Mountain, and he owned acres of land in Hendersonville County until the Crash and Great Depression. A tall, strong man who took what was available in the job market, even if it was bagging groceries, to keep his family together. Hearing his adult children talk about him, their admiration was evident.

Granny (Minnie Fortune Justus, 1875-1970) graduated from Asheville Female College with a degree in Mistress of Arts and Sciences. To make ends meet for their large family of ten children, she took in boarders and used her gift of hospitality to make all welcome. From using clean, ironed cloth napkins at each meal to seeing that fresh room linens were always available, she taught her daughters why sharing the best was important. Even into her late 80’s, all received a warm welcome to her home.

I learned some of my family history at these breakfast picnics. This generation learned how to ride horses, before they drove cars. They plowed, planted, and weeded gardens before they ate the fruit of their labors and sold the access. Fishing, hunting, and raising beef cows, hogs, and chickens added to the vegetables they grew. Being only familiar with grocery shopping, their lives sounded like fascinating tall tales to me, similar to one of my favorite books, Little House on the Prairie.

Mostly I caught and grabbed hold to the love and respect that was an essential portion that tied them together. Though they lacked much in worldly possessions, they relished the retelling of stories about their kinfolk and lineage.

On my dad’s side of the family, we also often shared meals outdoors, rather than indoors.

For years, we spent his week of summer vacation at Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Though born in Louisville, Daddy, his two brothers, and sister learned to walk, climb trees, and milk cows on this dairy farm.

My grandmother Lulu and her brother and sister enjoyed getting together. When we visited, we spent one day in Lexington with her brother Owen Hitt. They lived outside the city, and his wife Carrie Lee would prepare a picnic lunch to be eaten on a picnic table under the trees in their back yard. There was fried chicken, an array of vegetables from her garden, hot biscuits with homemade butter, and cobbler for dessert. Sweet ice cold tea was the beverage. It was a feast! Our hostess was full of laughter and energetic. Our next treat was to go to the fence to talk and pat the horses in the field, and the adults joined us.

On another day, we went to Louisville to be with Aunt Kitty. Here we were back to the dining room with the lace tablecloth, silver, and lovely china. Our hostess was conscious of good eating habits, so baked chicken or ham, a couple of vegetables, yeast rolls, and usually a slice of pie were served. Water in goblets and coffee were served. This was where I first saw individual salt and pepper shakers and bread and butter plates and knives at each place, The table cloth and napkins were hand embroidered by her mother-in-law. I felt like a princess here and learned that table conversation can be quiet. Trying hard to be compliant and well-behaved in such surroundings was a challenge worth meeting. Going through the many book shelves in her home were the entertainment as the adults visited.

Lulu prepared a family picnic the day before we left for home. Contributions from everyone led to two eight-foot tables sagging under the weight of all the food offerings. Lulu’s garden served up lima beans, corn, tomatoes, green beans, and beets. Her blackberry cobbler and chocolate pie had to be tasted by all. Cousins came to play, and the yard was our playground. There was no jungle gym, but a tire swing hung from the apple tree. We hung on the rail fence to watch the cows meander back and forth from the barn. A game of softball catch was fun, and we tried our hands of little skill at horse shoes.

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Ladder back chairs and stools were brought out from the kitchen. The cast iron outdoor glider, swing, and chairs were arranged in a circle, so the adults could hear each other. We children were allowed to roam free after the blessing. Laughter and loud talking were in equal measure, as plates were refilled from the lavish tables.

They shared both familiar and new stories. Our ancestor Jesse James, the bank robber, was vilified and defended. Since we had all visited Boonesborough, Lulu would disclose her knowledge about Daniel Boone and his clearing a path through the Cumberland Gap. Then we begged for the story of Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia and his adventures in finding new land in Virginia with his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. Sitting on the grass, making daisy-chain necklaces, these adventures became real.

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Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (George Caleb Bingham, oil on canvas, 1851–52)

It is no wonder that I used to pack my little brown suitcase and want to go to “Tucky. Since it was my doll’s luggage, there was little room for anything. But I wasn’t planning on an extended stay; I was yearning for my family and their stories.

American writer, Michele Huey, said “Roots are, I’m learning, as important as wings.”

Our stories are important; let’s share them with family and friends.

 

 

 

Our Spring Gardens

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PLANT THREE ROWS OF PEAS:
Peace of mind
Peace of heart
Peace of soul

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PLANT FOUR ROWS OF SQUASH:
Squash gossip
Squash indifference
Squash grumbling
Squash selfishness

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PLANT FOUR ROWS OF LETTUCE:
Lettuce be faithful
Lettuce be kind
Lettuce be patient
Lettuce really love one another

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NO GARDEN IS WITHOUT TURNIPS:
Turnip for meetings
Turnip for service
Turnip to help one another

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TO CONCLUDE OUR GARDEN WE MUST HAVE THYME:
Thyme for each other
Thyme for family
Thyme for friends

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Water freely with patience and cultivate with love. There is much fruit in your garden because you reap what you sow. ~Unknown

Whether it is a flower garden or a vegetable garden, they both require hard work to flourish. My grandmother Lulu always had a vegetable garden on Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Her family and friends ate from its bounty all year long. A ginormous freezer chest in her basement was full at the end of the summer and ready to fill up again in the spring. Besides freezing the vegetables, the sleeping porch was full of Mason jars, always within hands-reach. Even into her 80’s, she worked a smaller plot.

The phrase “garden to table” was not used when Lulu was living, but that was the way she lived. It was her lifestyle.

In the late 1920’s, when she was twenty-eight and the mother of two boys and a daughter, Lulu and my grandfather moved to the farm on Mt. Eden Road. While the two-story farm house was built, they lived in the garage. This wooden building was basically one room. She washed dishes and clothes in a tin tub and cooked on a wood stove. There was a porcelain tub for bathing, and water came from the well. Every day, she fed the workers who built her home. She kept a coffee pot full and made biscuits each day to fill them up.

With all this going on every day, she was active in their church and home schooled her children. Lucile Hitt Collins was a generous, Southern lady, who had the gift of hospitality.

I believe Lulu knew what the above poem is talking about. Her own garden of daily living was an unselfish one, and she gave of her time to make the lives of others better. All through her life, I saw her taking joy from the flowers and vegetables in her garden. Every year, toward the end of February or the first of March, she would call my mom to tell her that the daffodils were finally blooming. Winters in that part of Kentucky sometimes isolated her from her friends and the town, so a sign of spring was time to celebrate. Those daffodils spoke joy and warmth to her.

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So what shall I plant in my daily garden? What about you?

As Roy. T. Bennett said, ““Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.”

 

Stringing a Package

Christmas memories seemed to be flooding my heart and mind today.

One of them is about the packages Lulu/Daddy’s mother used to send us from Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Lulu was quite the cook, and she sent two of her backed goods to Daddy.

She made salt rising bread. She wrapped it in cheesecloth or a worn dish towel. Then she placed it in a box, wrapped it in brown paper, and tied it with string. She usually used old shoe boxes for the mailing. Buttered, toasted in the oven, and smeared with Mother’s homemade preserves, it was delicious.

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This looks like the small loaves she used to send.
Slicing thin slices, it would usually last two meals for the four of us.
Enjoyed by Appalachia families, this dense, white bread uses a starter with no yeast. The distinctive smell (a little stinky) is not a pleasant one, but the taste is golden. Some say the smell is “cheesy.” Tracing its history, this recipe appears to be totally American, becoming popular during the nineteenth century.

The origins of the name are also unclear. One explanation is that pioneer women who crossed the country kept their starter dough warm in the salt barrel, kept atop the wagon wheel. By day the sun would warm the salt, which would warm the starter. The bread could be made in the evening.

Of course, when we visited the farm, there was always a loaf or two in her bread box

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https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/salt-rising-bread-recipe can give you the recipe.

Another of Lulu’s specialties that Daddy received before Christmas was fruit cake. Loaded with dried fruit and soaked in Bourbon, it was also fragrant. I can’t tell you much about the taste, because fruit cake is not my favorite. The many raisins turned, and still turn, me away from this holiday favorite.

But these baked gifts were a taste of home, and there was plenty of excitement when they arrived.

Just as Lulu’s packages arrived in brown paper, Daddy also would string his packages for mailing. String, scissors, tape, and brown paper were required.

He would clear the kitchen table, pack the boxes, and start wrapping. The process was much like wrapping a package for mailing today, except for the string. To begin with, string was tied, knotted, and clipped short horizontally around the box, and then vertically. Critt and I held our small fingers on the loops for Daddy to knot them. He always tied the package with two more strings to be sure it wouldn’t open in transit. Then assorted labels were added to help the mailman: Fragile Handle with Care, Do Not Bend, Do Not Crush, Handle with Care, This Side Up. Since these labels were red, they were like decorations on that brown paper.

Soon there was a stack of brown paper packages on the kitchen table. As with everything he did, Daddy was meticulous. The string had to be straight and was usually adjusted several times. Celebrating a completed job that showed how much he cared for his mother, a cup of coffee was always next.

Oh, how I wish I could help him with wrapping some presents today. So thankful for the memories and the way I was taught by example to do even the little things to the best of my ability.  Looking back, I realize he tied up those packages with love, not string. Thank you, Daddy!

Merry Christmas…

 

Bury the Past? Oh, No!

My grandmother, Lulu, loved history, and she shared its stories often. As a card-carrying member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Colonial Dames, and the Magna Charta Dames, she was proud of her heritage. As a former teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Kentucky, she never lost her love for learning. As a former home school teacher of her three sons and daughter, she put their education on a firm footing in their early years on Mirror Lake Farm, outside of Shelbyville, Kentucky.

When she wasn’t reading, she was writing. Her book shelves were full of history’s stories, both fact and fiction. She regularly visited the Shelbyville Library, attended her monthly book club meetings, worked as a reporter for the local paper, researched family history in neighboring counties, and wrote multitudinous letters to family and friends inquiring about their histories.

Carrying pads and pencils, she spent hours in the NSDAR Library while visiting with her oldest son in Washington, DC. She was an extraordinary researcher and never gave up on finding the truth, even if it meant chasing rabbits. She said she smiled when she walked into this library.

Born on May 17, 1896, in Woodford County, Kentucky, she never lived in any other state. Her imaginative travels to other places in the past would have made for good reading. She described them as if she had been there.

Whether it was the Hitt family traveling by raft down the Kentucky River to escape the Indians or Jesse James on a lathered horse, running from the law, the escapades were never dull.

And, yes, he is a relative I will tell you about another day.

 

As a retired teacher myself, I find it fascinating that my grandmother taught in a one-room school. For three years, she lived one month with a family and then another throughout the school year. This was part of her pay, free room and board, and the town shared the expense. Lulu took her packed pail to school, just like her students. Wood for the stove was donated, but it was her job to lay the fire for the day during the winter. She had various numbers of students throughout the year, since school attendance was governed by the crop season. Grades 1-8 worked at the same time in the same small room; it must have been bedlam at times with all the recitations.

This teacher and lover of books became the wife of a future farmer when she married Wallace C. Collins. Moving from Louisville to Shelbyville, she cooked over an open fire while their farmhouse was being built. The family lived in the garage until then.

As the Collins family increased, so did the work for Lulu. She made her own butter and bread and canned and froze vegetables from her garden. Rising at 4:00 each morning, she fixed breakfast for the family and any workers that were there. My dad often spoke of the biscuits, gravy, potatoes, bacon, sausage, and eggs that were a staple.

On Wallace and Lucile’s 25th wedding anniversary in 1943, Wallace died. At age 47, Lulu took over running their tobacco and dairy farm on Mt. Eden Road. During this time, the tobacco make the farm payments to the bank, and the cows paid the other bills. Both were necessary to make ends meet, and Lulu never faltered.

When we visited every summer, it was a unique experience from our city life. We always went in June, and I slept in my aunt’s bedroom. Roosters woke us up, and the mooing of cows headed to their pasture from the barn was the breakfast music. Several times a day neighboring peacocks visited and added their raucous noises to all within hearing distance.

It was like time stopped for me there. The agenda was loose, and the days were lazy. We went to the Shelbyville County fair, visited relatives, and checked out the horse farms. I read to my heart’s content and listened to the tales of yesterday. The cadence of the voices was mesmerizing, as both nostalgia and excitement peppered the stories.

Oh, how I wish I could remember more. Bury the past? Oh, no!