Ancestors, Legends & Time

Grandma was happy with just the essentials: food, shelter, family and religion

Jeanne Newby

We all have special memories of our childhood. Some we might have shared with others and some we keep close to our heart, never telling a soul. But we need to keep track of those memories and share so they can carry on into the next generation. A special lady has shared her memories of her grandparents and has given permission for me to share them with you. Picture in your mind the house, the love and the memories as this lady takes you back in time to her grandma’s house.

As long as I can remember my grandma lived in a house that was nearly falling apart. It was unpainted and the walls were nothing more than cardboard. I remember sometimes watching grandma hang the daily newspaper up on the walls to block the wind. They did not have a living room. They had cane back chairs, two beds in one room and an old treadle sewing machine (which grandma used until the day she died.)  In another room, they had two more beds, a dresser and a large chest. The kitchen was really the heart of the home.

The front yard did not have any grass, and it seems that was the way they wanted it. I remember watching grandma sweep the yard with a broom she had made out of twigs. She worked hard throughout her life helping my grandfather farm the land. They had chickens and always one cow and one pig. There was an old mule that used to plow the fields. They didn’t have much when it came to material things. There wasn’t any plumbing in the house. The well where grandma got her water each day was about 12 feet from the kitchen door. She would lower the bucket down into the well to get the water she needed. She cooked on an old wood stove up until 1966. After Grandpa died, my parents insisted that grandma have gas put into her home, and the old wood stove was removed. But she put her foot down about adding plumbing to the house. I have wonderful memories of a plain, simple life at grandma’s house.

I remember playing house out under the tall pine trees. We would gather old canning lids from the burn pile to use for our dishes. We ran with the chickens. We picked blackberries on the side of the old dirt road. We ate watermelon under the shade of the pecan trees. How excited we would be if grandma cut open the watermelon and it was yellow on the inside!

We used an outhouse during the day and “johnny” pots under the bed at night. I remember grandma washing my hair in a large tub outside under the pecan tree. The smell of Ivory soap reminds me of Grandma.

I remember my sister standing with me by the old wood stove waiting for the cornbread to finish baking so we could “sap the pan” when the cornbread was turned out of the hot skillet. A custom of my grandma was to keep the plates upside down when the table was set. Never would you dare to turn a plate upright until the blessing had been said. Oh, but the wait was worth it, for grandma was the best cook. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, corn, lots of lip smacking food came from that old wood cook stove.

Grandma’s house may not have been beautiful but it was clean. She scrubbed the kitchen floor every day. She made her beds every morning and washed her dishes after each meal. She was never ashamed to have company come to visit. She shared what she had and made everyone feel welcome.

Every evening, as the day was coming to an end, we would sit on the porch in those cane back chairs and just talk and play. Grandma never missed a night that she did not pull her Bible out and read from the pages.

In the winter time, I can remember how we would stand in front of the fireplace in our flannel pajamas until the heat was soaked into the flannel, and then we would run and jump into bed and pull the covers up as fast as we could to hold in the heat. Sometimes, grandma would iron a sheet and put it in the bed to keep us warm. I remember the coarse feeling of the sheets as they were flour sacks that had been pieced together. But they were clean and fresh and it was wonderful to be all cuddled up in Grandma’s bed.

After Grandpa died, Grandma still plowed the fields and tilled her garden. She canned and stored her food. She scrimped and saved and lived on her very meager income, never asking for help. She was self-sufficient, and that made her happy. I never heard my grandma complain. She was content and thankful for what she had, and she never forgot to thank the Lord for all she had been blessed with. She was happy… happy with what she had. She never once looked at what someone else had and wished it was hers. She had food, shelter, family and religion, she didn’t need anything else. My grandma… she taught me the good things in life just by being herself. I love and miss her!

Thank you so much Betty for sharing these wonderful memories.

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.