Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thank Goodness For Mr. Coffee

As I poured my third cup of coffee this morning, I remembered an earlier time when coffee was a bit more difficult and a challenge to make.  I have always used some type of drip coffee maker, a plastic device with a clock and timer built in.  Yet, I think back to the days of the electric percolator and marvel at the process of an earlier time.   The pot consisted of steel and chrome with a plastic resin base with a heater installed.  I remember Dad and his work to create that perfect cup of coffee.  Making coffee each day, it is no wonder the man had the patience of Job.  There were precise steps for making coffee.  The steps had a reason and they had to be followed precisely.

To make that perfect cup, be sure to disconnect the electric cord from the pot.  Getting water in the wiring could short circuit and ruin the pot.  That would mean no coffee for a few days until the broken pot could be replaced.

Next fill the pot with cold water up to the line that was clearly marked with water stains from the many hundreds for previously made pots of coffee.  It had to be cold water.  Luke warm or hot water and you might ruin the heating element.

Pour three heaping scoops of coffee from the Folgers three pound can into the coffee filter.  More than three scoops made the coffee too strong, and less than three heaping scoops and you may as well be drinking dirty water—too weak.

Place the filter in the pot.  This required a certain bit of dexterity and coordination.  The filter was held together by a metal shaft running up through the middle of it.  On the top rested a tin lid to aid the percolation process.  Putting the filter in the pot meant holding this contraption together with your fingers while guiding the metal shaft down to the bottom of the percolator where it would sit snugly in a recessed circle.  All the while, water would do its natural best to float and disassemble the entire filter assembly.

At last, put the lid on the pot and plug the cord first into the pot and then into the electrical outlet. 
While the percolator brewed the perfect cup of coffee, Dad would sit and smoke two, maybe three, cigarettes.  It is no wonder Dad smoked two packs a day.   After the cigarettes, walk outside and get the morning paper.  By then the wonderful smell of nirvana permeated the kitchen.  The coffee was ready.

When that first pot of coffee was drained, a fresh pot was brewed (repeat steps one through six).  Coffee was always present in the house.  Up until ten o’clock at night the coffee pot remained hot, although not always fresh.  At ten o’clock, with the beginning of the news, the pot was unplugged, drained and rinsed.  The filter was rinsed and placed upside down in the dish strainer so that it would dry and ready for service in the morning.

I think back on this and appreciate Dad a little bit more.  I can appreciate the pleasure he must have experienced with the purchase of his first Mr. Coffee.  Even today, I appreciate the wonders of modern technology and my Mr. Coffee.  Every night at ten o’clock I make my coffee.  I still use three heaping scoops of coffee.  Now, I use Starbucks medium blend instead of folgers.  But I set the alarm on the coffee pot and go watch the news.  I wake up the next morning to the smell of a glorious cup of coffee waiting for me.  No patience required, just make the coffee, set the alarm and sleep through the night.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A New Use For The Blog

The Sherburne County Historical Society, where I am Executive Director, has just gone live with a crowd sourcing fundraising appeal.  This is for a great project to exhibit quilts in Sherburne County and highlight the unique artistry of  the people making the quilts.

Please share this appeal with all of your friends and anyone you think might be interested.

Thank you in advance.

Hey, we all need some advertising in our lives.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

More Memories of Grandma

It has been a couple of months, for that I am sorry.  But here is another bit of memory of Grandma Ruth Brubaker.  My sister Micki shared this with me:

Grandma was generous.  Uncle Bud told me that when he was a boy, a teenager, he had two pairs of pants, one with holes that were for everyday and one without holes for church.  One day he was looking for his good pants.  Grandma told him she had given them away to some poor kid who didn’t have any pants without holes.  Uncle Bud, exasperated, said “Ma, now I don’t have any pants without holes.”   Apparently, she didn’t think of her and Uncle Bud as poor.   

 I am back to writing if anyone wants to share stories about the Brubakers.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grandma's New York Trip

Reading Ruth Harmon Brubaker’s travel journal about her trip to New York gives some insight into her personality.  The excitement she put on the page as she travels by train from Idaho to New York reveals new aspects of her personality.  She has been described as patient and loving, the journal shows an adventurous side of her life, an excitement to experience more of life.
“We are in Erie, New York & it’s an immense industrial city—Bethlehem steel plants on one side of the landscape—great cement plants, etc., etc.—we’ve come thru miles of it,” she wrote.  “We’ve followed along the shore all morning.  Boats, lovely one by the 1000s just below us.  Yesterday I saw a real old Missouri steamer—3 decker but no way to take a picture of it.” 

Grandma shows an interest in other travelers.  She visits with everyone, she trades magazines with nuns going to Chicago.  She engages a college student on her way home from North Eastern University to Niagara Falls. In addition to her new student friend she strikes up new conversations with interesting observations with others seated around her.
“A man looks like a second Wallace Berry sits in from of me and is going to his brother’s golden wedding,” she wrote.  “He’s a grand person and had 11 sons and nephews in the war—all came back safe but one nephew.  Every few minutes he says ‘I wish Mama was along but she ain’t so well—but she made me come anyhow.’  Well its noon and the little girl got off & her folks just met her, they came to our window to tell us (me and the man) goodbye.  Swell, common friendly people.” 

The pages of Grandma’s travel journal reveal a very intelligent woman, very observant and excited with every new adventure that comes her way.  I don’t think anything really surprises her.  Grandma marvels at the immensity of life.  Early in her journey she notes the speed of the train.  “We are sure traveling fast—will cross the whole state of Nebr. in the nite.”   She is amazed, and marvels at the wonders she encounters in her travels.  But I don’t think she is surprised.

Reading her journal shows an interesting side of her personality.  Grandma is well educated, well read, and very intelligent.  She is patient and loving.  She is truly a fascinating woman with an array of gifts and talents.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Grandma Was A Catholic

As I investigate Ruth Harman, questions that continue to arise include: what she thought and how she felt. An important question: how did she develop such a strong Catholic faith?  Raised a Methodist; her father a minister, yet the entire family remembers her as deeply faithful to the Catholic Church.  It must have been difficult to move away from the faith of her family and accept Catholicism.  An important question if we want to fully appreciate Grandma and her life: How did she reach such faith in the Catholic Church? 

It should also be noted that her faith didn’t go unrewarded and her faith inspired others.  Mary Jane Hislop (Mom) attributes one specific miracle to Grandma’s faith:  When just a few months old Micki, my older sister, suffered from a blockage.  Her stomach became blocked or her intestine was twisted, or something.  The doctors wanted to operate.  Micki hadn’t been baptized yet.  Doctors gave her low odds of survival. Grandma insisted that a Catholic priest come into the hospital and baptize Micki before the surgery.  Sometime between the priest coming in and the scheduled surgery the blockage healed itself.  Mom knew divine intervention healed her baby through Grandma’s intervention. 

Grandma’s strong Catholic faith included the education of her children.  When the family could afford the tuition, each of Grandma’s children went to private Catholic schools.  The apocryphal story concerns Uncle Pat, who was expelled from the Catholic School by the nuns because he kept spitting on the floor.  This same son later studied for the priesthood. 

At her funeral, Dad proudly noted, three priests participated in Grandma's funeral mass.

Obviously, Grandma Ruth Harman Brubaker was very Catholic.  She came from a Methodist family and married into a Catholic family.  How did she arrive at her faith?  Why did she hold such a strong faith?  These are interesting questions with no easy answers.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Life IN Boise

Ruth Brubaker (Grandma) was the amazing glue that kept the family together.  Throughout the family history, she is the one constant force, apparent in either the background or leading the charge to live life as a Brubaker.  A well-educated woman, she graduated from the Nebraska State Normal School and began teaching at age 16.  She married Grandpa and raised her large family during the terrible economic times of the 1920s and 1930s. 

An example of  Grandma Brubaker and her inner strength comes from a collection of memories and oral histories, they all tell the story about Grandma and her extended family when they moved to Boise, Idaho in 1937.  In an oral history from Charles Brubaker, Jr, he explained: “We didn’t see dad (Grandpa Brubaker) much because he was on the railroad.  He worked sixteen hours a day, when he worked.  When we moved to Idaho, he was supposed to trade seniority with a guy in Idaho but the guy backed out.   Dad was stuck in Cheyenne while we were in Idaho.”
Grandma’s extended family seems huge, and that caused some problems.  In the Boise home the landlord allowed only three children in the house.  “When the landlady came to collect the rent, us kids would have to hide,” dad said. “My uncle was living with us; his wife and three kids; my mom and us eight kids and my brother-in-law.  It was wall to wall people.”

Feeding this huge group was another challenge to Grandma and the rest of the family.  “My uncle and brother-in-law Bill went out to pick fruit,” Dad remembered.  “When they got done the farmer couldn’t pay them (in cash) so he paid them in plums.  We had a whole garage full of plums.  We all ate those plums.  I hate them to this day.”
Life in the Boise house lasted only about one year.  In 1938 the family moved to Midway, and later that same year moved into the city of Nampa.  Grandma’s resilience and strength continued to shine through.  But those are more stories to tell at a later time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Means Swimming

In a long, hot summer thoughts inevitably turn to beaches, swim suits, and swimming.  It is an ubiquitous idea (how’s that for a 21 million dollar word).  Today, most people think public swimming pool.  Yet, in the not too distant past, people might look forward to the local swimming pool, the neighborhood fire hydrant, or the local lake.  The Brubaker’s of Idaho looked forward to “water day.”

As my cousin Barbra Ellen tells the story, “We all spent a lot of time at her (Grandma Brubaker’s) house playing and especially water day.  Homeowners got to use irrigation water one day a week and it was flood irrigation.  She would take the water blocks out of the main ditch and the entire yard front & back were flooded.   The ditch was actually in the front of the houses & underground.  We played in the water all day.” 
This picture does not depict the Brubaker’s of Idaho, and yes, I have used this picture before.  These are my sisters, Micki and Trula, at around 1959.  In all likelihood they are in Idaho, but this is definitely not "water day."  Yet, swimming in the summertime was a universal idea.