I have been reading the diaries of two sisters who were born in Michigan, during the 1880’s. These two young women were filled with spunk and high jink. Their work, school and social calendars are exhausting to just read about.
There are so many similarities between their childhood experiences and my memories of growing up on a farm in pre-television Minnesota. Work came first. Chores had to be done. Cows don’t milk themselves, chickens don’t pick eggs, pigs never clean their own pens and rocks cannot migrate themselves out of a field.
School began bright and early by today’s standards. By the time we were off to school, the morning chores had already been completed, breakfast made, eaten and cleaned up after. Heck, the day was practically half over by the time classes began. No one would have ever thought to start school times later to accommodate a student’s personal sleep requirements. Such an idea would have been considered utter nonsense resulting in sloth, general laziness, eventually abject poverty and probably beer. “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person happy, healthy, wealthy and wise,” that was our motto.
Then, there was attending a one-room school house. Except for pictures of presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the school house walls were lined with large black chalk boards. Memory work was required, lessons were recited in front of the entire student body, older boys teased younger students unmercifully, everybody had a pocket knife and playground gopher holes were routinely flooded. The bathrooms were outside and well ventilated….especially in the winter.
Our lunches were packed at home and were filled with processed meat, red meat, white meat, Miracle Whip and meat, cheese, butter, jelly, peanut butter, white bread and as many homemade baked sugary treats as a brown paper sack or small lunchbox could hold. Only the rich kids got potato chips. They were a luxury item. Fruit was included when in season, which meant apples. In those days apples were regarded as a danger to both man and beast. An apple, good aim and a strong pitching arm could be used as a defensive or offensive weapon. When carved into chunks with your pocket knife, an apple was great bait to lure unsuspecting gophers out of their holes. Many an apple ended up on the teacher’s desk.
Sunday school was more important than regular school and rightly so. School lessons were only meant to last a lifetime, Sunday school lessons were to last for an eternity.
In addition to chores and school experiences being similar, so, too, was the entertainment. No televisions, computers or access to any social media. Your entire social circle consisted of relatives, neighbors, school and Sunday school classmates. And, if you wanted to take a trip without ever leaving the farm, and your family was no longer growing hemp to support the war effort, you read a book and used your imagination.
This was a time when relationships were personal and more important than hypnotically staring at electronic gadgets. Communications were face to face or handwritten. What you said or did mattered. There was no refuge behind a detached tweet or email for the communication coward. If your words hurt someone, you saw the hurt, and it affected you. Unless of course you suffered from total lack of empathy or were actually soulless and very quick at ducking.
In many ways those were indeed the good old days. For there was a different type of self. It was a time of selflessness, self-control, self-responsibility, self-discipline, self-determination, self-motivation and self-reflection. Selfishness and self-esteem had not yet run amok.
It was quaint time where going to pick pie-plant (rhubarb) was cause for organizing a social outing that the local paper reported, “as a doing enjoyed by all!”
This recipe for Easy Rhubarb Pudding Cake comes from the kitchen of my mother-in-law Lois Turgeon. It is simple to make and so very, very good. Enjoy!
Rhubarb Pudding Cake
1 (2 layer) yellow cake mix
4 cups of chopped rhubarb
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 pint unwhipped heavy cream
Mix cake as directed on the package. Pour into a lightly greased 9 X 13 cake pan. Spread evenly. Mix rhubarb with sugar and spoon over the cake batter. Pour unwhipped cream over the unbaked cake batter and rhubarb.
Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Other rhubarb recipes on this blog:
Recipe: Good Neighbors, Great Rhubarb Cheesecake
Recipe: Grandmother Esther’s Rhubarb Torte and Poison Ivy Cure
Recipe: Two for a Penny Candy and a Dime a Dozen Rhubarb
Recipe: Playhouse in the Lilacs and Pies: Mud and Rhubarb
Recipe: Country School, Hot Potato Fridays and Rhubarb Bread
Recipe: Cure for Spring Fever: Songbirds, Sunshine and Rhubarb Crunch
Recipe: Slow Down and Break for Rhubarb
Children’s Rhubarb Story: Thor’s Stories: The Midnight Dinosaur Rhubarb Rampage.