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  • Storytime---Again

    Forgive me---this post isn't about machining. One of the OTHER things I do besides machining models and engineering work is write short stories. and for most of these stories, I reach back into my own past for inspiration. Today, its a story of old relatives---dead and gone, but still very much in my memories---Brian

    Aunt Helgas Jam Jar

    Back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, and I was about 10 years old, I had a lot of relatives. I had cousins to the nth degree, and a plethora of aunts and uncles who mostly lived close to the village I grew up in.
    We were all uniformly poor, and for that matter, probably all uniformly dirty, because at that time there was no electricity in the part of Ontario where I grew up---Which meant of course, that water had to be pumped outside at the well, carried inside, heated on the woodstove, and poured into a tub in order to have a bath. MOST of us managed to do this at least once a week---or at least managed a swim in the nearest lake, if it wasn’t froze over.
    However, even then, there were some whose idea of cleanliness was certainly a long way from Godliness----if indeed it existed at all.
    I had one aunt and uncle, and I never counted how many kids they had, because they were never all in the house at the same time. Some were older than me, and “working out” away from home. Some were close to my age, and attended the same public school. Some were little rug biters, forever crawling around on the roughsawn wood floor of uncle Ed’s house, and it seems that Aunt Helga always had at least one still on the tit!
    On Sundays, my father and mother had determined some kind of family rotation, whereby we would visit at least one of mom or dads brothers or sisters. That way we got around to all of them at least once a year.
    Aunt Helgas house always stands out in my memory as one of those places that, had it been struck by lightning, would probably have left everyone better off. They never had any screens on the windows, which were always left open from early spring to late fall. The kitchen table was never cleaned off, as there were so many kids that they eat in shifts, and consequently nothing was ever put away. I don’t remember even seeing an ice-box, but then, that could be old age playing tricks on me.
    Being a 10 year old boy meant that I was consequently always hungry. Not that I was in any way underfed----That’s just the way 10 year old boys are. Aunt Helga kept one of those half gallon sized jugs of Wagstaff Strawbury jam on the table at all times, and if “hungry” was mentioned, she would quickly tell you to “Help yourself to a nice jam sandwich.”
    Honest to God, I never ever seen a lid on that jam jar. And there was a crust of black houseflies which had become trapped in the jam all around the rim of the jar on the outside, around the top edge, and at least one inch down into the inside of the jar as well!!!
    That never seemed to stop her kids from slurping up as many sandwiches as they could get away with before Uncle Ed would roar at them to “Go easy on that bread---There’s more to be fed than just you!!!”
    I don’t think any of those kids ever died from eating off aunt Helgas table. Hell, I don’t seem to remember any of them getting sick, for that matter.---But I’ll tell you one thing for sure. On the Sundays that dad announced it was time to “Go down to Ed and Helgas for a little visit.”, I made damn sure I ate as much as I could eat at our house before we left, and generally made a sandwich and hid it away in the glove box of dads old International pick-up just in case I got a bad hungry on while we were visiting there.
    Ed and Helga have been dead for years now, and their many children have dispersed to all ends of the earth. They were sweet old people in their way, and never done anyone a stroke of harm.
    And here I am, getting on to being an old man, thinking back over all the many good years I’ve had on this earth----And when I think of Aunt Helga and Uncle Ed, the most vivid memory of the entire family is that damned jam jar!!!

    Brian Rupnow---May-2010
    Last edited by brian Rupnow; 05-23-2010, 05:33 PM.
    Brian Rupnow

  • #2
    Wow, what a story. I think that's just country people. We would go to my great grand-father's house in the country. Everything there was cooked with lard. Nothing ever seemed to be clean. No one died from it.

    We didn't eat much there, however.


    • #3
      Great story. The experts can only wonder how we live to get old. I drank water out of a garden hose or from my hand after I scooped some from a pond. Now that would never happen today.


      • #4
        Originally posted by brian Rupnow
        I never ever seen a lid on that jam jar. And there was a crust of black houseflies which had become trapped in the jam all around the rim of the jar on the outside
        Yup, I had relatives like that.

        Humans are adapted to germs and bacteria. Excessive cleanliness may actually be bad for you, and may trigger some allergies, and celiac disease.

        The comedian George Carlin used to brag about swimming in the Hudson River as a kid, back before there was such a thing as sewage treatment, and it was common to see turds floating in the river. Carlin claimed he was rarely sick, and attributed it to his immune system being toughened up by the filthy Hudson River.

        That said, I wouldn't have much appetite while sitting at the table with your Aunt's fly infested jam jar.


        • #5
          Great story Brian, My early years were in the mid west around Chicago and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins.

          Originally posted by rebel54
          Great story. The experts can only wonder how we live to get old. I drank water out of a garden hose . Now that would never happen today.
          What is the reason yer not suppose to drink from a hose. I did it earlier today while watering some dry spots the sprinkler only teases.



          • #6
            My grandparents, mothers side, ran a butcher shop which was just the front room in a row of terraced houses. Right up to my grandad dying there was no electric in the row so no ice box, cool box or any form of refrigeration.
            The meat was freshly killed, butchered and sold.

            On a Monday Grandpa would drive out to Lincolnshire in his Reliant van, the one with the girder forks sticking out the front.

            He would visit local farms and buy a beast which he killed on the spot, it would be loaded into the van and brought back.
            As you can see there wasn't a lot of room so it didn't have a passengers seat, if I went with him I'd sit on an orange box instead of a set on the way out. on the way back I had to sit on the beasts head.

            Whilst he was out there Nana would do the weeks washing in the big copper in the corner of the scullery powered by a coal fire underneath.

            Late Monday or early Tuesday he'd skin and gut the beast at a small slaughter house he rented and the joints would be run down to the shop, offal would be ground up for sausages and what was left would be mixed up with the blood and go into the same copper to make black pudding.
            Skin and bones where sold on to the local knacker yard for leather and glue.

            We used to visit every weekend and the highlight of the visit was getting a drink of water, their water tasted a lot better than ours even though it was all from lead pipes.


            Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


            • #7
              That reminds me of Chris Rock's routine about food allergies.
              FOOD ALLERGIES ??!!!
              Only in America is there such thing as FOOD ALLERGIES.
              Do you think anyone in Ethiopia has a f**#n FOOD ALLERGY??
              I agree that being overly anal about cleanliness and being a germ-o-phobe is bad for you.


              • #8
                Your story reminds me of my childhood in the Big Muddy Badlands. I remember the power being installed before I started school...we never did have indoor plumbing or telephone service. One local family was a large family like you mentioned...18 kids. Ahhhh...the good ole days, eh?
                Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada


                • #9
                  Originally posted by doctor demo

                  What is the reason yer not suppose to drink from a hose. I did it earlier today while watering some dry spots the sprinkler only teases.


                  As well as I, in fact when I am at work on certain lakes or steams I have no problem drinking the water strait from the lake or stream. My wife that will only drink water from a bottle and only eats lettuce gets sick 4x more than me.

                  I also don't take pills for anything or ever get vaccinations. Pig flu what?


                  • #10
                    Great story Brian,

                    Reminds me of my childhood. Grandma and Grampa lived on a farm in Montana up around Polson near the Flathead Lake. We would go visit about once a year, great memories.

                    We went up to the Flathead last summer for a family reunion and to scatter Dad's ashes in the lake. Missed Grandma and Grampa but had a great time anyway. It is beautiful country.



                    • #11
                      thanks brian, A wonderful story to make the daily grind more bearable. . . . . its difficult to understand the hardships of the past generations unless you actually lived them. we got it made !


                      • #12
                        Country life.

                        I grew up with four younger brothers. My Dad died when I was nine.

                        My next youngest brother and I found ourselves raising three rug-rats, while my newly single Mom went off to work 12 hours a day as a waitress.

                        We lived in rural Illinois, 50 yards from the railroad tracks in a cinder block house that had electricity, but no running water, sewer, or natural gas. Yes, friends, we had an outhouse, right in the middle of the chicken yard. Between the chicken yard and the house was our "laundry room". Which was a small two room shack, that also had electricity. One room was dedicated to an old Maytag ringer style washing machine, the other room was "supposed" to be a tool room. I quickly claimed it as my workshop, and promised a sudden and painful death to any of my brothers who ventured into it.

                        My brother and I handled all of the household chores, cleaning, changing diapers, washing clothes, tending the garden, cooking, feeding the chickens, etc.

                        Yes, we had a small garden....about half-an-acre. In it, corn, beans, potatoes, squash and various species of lettice were grown. The plowing, raking and weeding were our responsibilities, too. Fortunately, blackberrys grew abundant and wild in the nearby woods, and the two apple trees in the yard supplied fruit once in a while. Corn fields spread out as far as the eye could see, so we always had corn.

                        The central heater burned coal. Of course, we couldn't afford "store bought" coal, so we took a weekly trip out to the strip mine and dug through the tailings for useable coal. Five scrawny kids with burlap sacks, gathering coal.
                        Somehow, we managed to survive. My Mom eventually remarried, and we moved into town.

                        We must have done something right. We raised no criminals or politicians.
                        No good deed goes unpunished.


                        • #13
                          I grew up very poor. I remember living in a 1 car garage in Amarillo,Texas. 2406 South garfield St.,somehow I remember tat. We had no water or toilet. An outhouse in the back yard was it. I slept on an Army cot.

                          Then,we moved to a real dump some ways away. It was a small,very run down shack papered outside with brick print thick tarpaper. All my early houses were just bare 2x4 walls,never any insulation. An ice box was just that fgor many years.

                          Next,I recall living in a 1 room old motel while my stepfather found manual labor unloading box cars. This was just after the war when all the returning men couldn't find jobs. That motel room had an old stove in it with the oven on one side of the stovetop. I recall it was always smoky,and mom always was burning toast,a smell I hate to this day.

                          Dad decided to get back into the Coast Guard. We set out in a 1937 Ford from Texas to the Puget sound area with $36.00. I was sent into little restaurants all along the way with an empty quart jar to buy coffee. We ate sandwiches in the car. Mom was too proud to go into the restaurant to get coffee.

                          The car threw a rod,and somehow dad found a kind mechanic who helped him get the car fixed. We arrived broke,and he established credit at the local store to get food.

                          We moved to 3 different light houses,and those were the only decent houses we ever lived in. The most isolated one was Destruction Island. The war was still going on,and we were in the Japanese current. Japanese ans American things kept washing up on the beach all the time. A nice mahogany empty Japanese tap and die set box washed up one day. I knew what it was though I was only 4. This island was about 1 square mile in area or smaller,and was out in the ocean about 10 miles off the coast of Washington state. We also lived on Limekiln,and last on Point No Point.

                          After Point No Point,In about 1952,we lived in a shack right on the water in Oregon,another 2X4 walled place. When the highest tide of the year came in,the house would flood a few inches deep. We had to get everything off the floor,and sit on the beds until the water went down. Somehow I never realized we were poor,until I brought a friend home from school. When I opened that door,mom was scrubbing laundry in a pail,and steam was everywhere. I could tell from the shocked look on her face that she didn't want the boy to see how we lived. We had no yard,just docks to walk on,and cat tail reeds below in stinking black muck. My mother wanted a yard,and though I was very young,I spent the summer taking wheelbarrow loads of dirt and dumping them off the side of a dock next to the house. It took forever to make a little yard that must have been 10' square.

                          We moved to Alaska after that,and lived 2 years without electricity in another tarpaper shack while building a small house out of the woods. We had no toilet for 2 years. My job,as usual,was to empty the slop jar. I pooped out in the woods,on two logs I set up for a toilet,moving them when needed. It's too late to go on for tonight.

                          In Ketchikan,Alaska,it rained 13 feet a year. We had to clear out the jungle before we could do anything. The church helped clear off a lot. You couldn't see 10' for all the bushes. Sometimes I'd find a black bear eating blue berrys on the other side of the bush I was picking them on. That's how dense it was. We'd run in opposite directions. We cut down several 3' diameter spruce,and other trees. There were also 10' diameter Alaska cedar trees that we were always cutting down,blowing up their stumps,and burning all Summer. At 13 I was setting dynamite all Summer. I also helped a logger who lived nearby to build a stump puller. We used a flathead 4 cylinder engine out of an old Willys car. After that,I was always hauling cable to pull stumps. We'd spend all day drilling down into the heart of a stump with a T handle auger. Then we'd pack it with dynamite and blow the huge stump into maybe 4 chunks. After that,we were digging into the permafrost and chain sawing the 2' diameter roots. Finally,we'd pull out the chunks,and make a big pile to burn them. There was always the smell of burning wood in the air all Summer.

                          This story is too long to keep typing!! I did an autobiography on a website that you can access by googling George Wilson,guitar maker if you want to read more,plus photos of some of my instruments.
                          Last edited by gwilson; 05-24-2010, 11:23 AM.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by vpt
                            As well as I, in fact when I am at work on certain lakes or steams I have no problem drinking the water strait from the lake or stream. My wife that will only drink water from a bottle and only eats lettuce gets sick 4x more than me.
                            My brother and his wife were returning from a hike, and became quite thirsty. They weren't far from my parent's home, and came across a creek. My brother got down on his knees, like we always did as kids, and drank from the creek. His wife, a "city folk", was appalled by this, and refused to drink the water. She would wait until back at my parents to have a drink from the tap.

                            Of course, everyone waited until after she finished two glasses of water to tell her where the water that comes out of the tap came from.

                            When my wife was a kid, they used to tie a towel around the kitchen faucet to filter out the grit before filling up a glass. I have no problem convincing her to drink from a creek.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by John Stevenson
                              .......................................... their water tasted a lot better than ours even though it was all from lead pipes.

                              Well that explains a lot !

                              Originally posted by saltmine
                              We must have done something right. We raised no criminals or politicians.
                              You know Salt, a lot of criminals might take that as an insult!

                              I guess I was luckier then most. While I do remember living in a remodeled 1 car garage in the city and an outhouse at our second home, I also remember when about 10 years old riding around on a brand new bicycle from Sears and Roebuck that cost more then the car my dad brought it home in. And when my dad made $60.00 a week I remember them going to a jewely story to buy me a Continental 6 transistor radio on credit that was expensive enough it had to be financed. These radios had only been out about a year. Everywhere I took that radio people looked at it in amazement! My life balances with more fond memories then difficult ones. As I've told my family, there poor.....and then there is poor. Guess I'd have to say that's why I'm a believer. My life has been blessed.
                              Last edited by Your Old Dog; 05-24-2010, 07:55 AM.
                              - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                              Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

                              It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.