Recently while sitting at our dining area table, my wife and I were reminiscing about our years of growing up. As you get older, you tend to reflect back a lot to days gone by. I call them: Do you remember moments. We are both in our 70s and have a lot of years we can reflect on.
To set the stage a bit, my parents were married during the early days of WW 2, I appeared shortly there after. By 1946 they had separated. Fortunately for me, they were both from the same town on the Jersey side of Philadelphia. Ferry boats were still in use back then, transporting folks over the Delaware River. I would get to see my father every week as well as my fraternal grandparents. There were not a lot of large gatherings at their dinner table. The table was in the kitchen up against a wall and made of metal. Two meals each week never varied. Friday nights was always Oyster Stew or fish, (Yuk.) Saturday meals were always Hot Dogs and Baked Beans, (Toot-Toot.)
My parents were young when married. When the war started, my father was already in the Army. He spent time in the Philippines, and I’m thinking once he came home, the glowing flame of a youthful romance was no longer there. Neither parent ever spoke of negatives about the other. I was fortunate that I was equally shared and held accountable for my actions by both, neither parent would ever put down the other.
My mother and I would share a second-floor apartment in the home of my maternal Great-grandparents. My father would move back into the same bedroom he was raised in with his parents. We were separated by railroad tracks and less than a mile. I would spend a lot of time at both homes. Also, one block away was my maternal grandparents and an aunt. I was loved, spoiled, and watched over by caring relatives.
My wife grew up less than an hour away in Wilmington, Delaware, 36 miles as the crow flies. She was #4 of 5 children whose parents stayed together forever. She had three older brothers and a younger sister. Most of her family’s relatives were in NE Pennsylvania; the family would spend a lot of time visiting that neck of the woods. In her life also, the Dining Room Table would be the gathering place in Wilmington as well as Freeland, PA. Neighbors would constantly drop in at the Wilmington location. My wife remembers one family in particular that timed their visit at dinner time, quite frequently in fact. Not wanting to be rude, they were always invited to stay, and they did. Yes sir E. Bob, “back in the day,” I like to say.
There were not a whole lot of electronic diversions back in the late 40s, early 50s. TV was just getting going and we didn’t have one. I do remember going next door to see Howdy Doody at 5:00 pm. That show came on the air in 1947 and ran until 1960. The folks who allowed me to watch the show would ultimately be the parents of my step-father when my mother remarried. On occasion, I would carry my dinner over with me and watch the show at the dining room table. Looking back, this was a strange place to have a TV by today’s standards. I might add that this home was a strict Methodist facility. Once my mother married their son, Methodist standards took hold. No card playing or sports or rowdiness on Sundays, ever.
Here’s a look back at Granny W’s old-time dining table . This was the table at my maternal grandmother’s home. This home was a Lutheran home. That dining room table would host holiday meals for many years as well as other celebratory events. I can remember having to sit around and listen to whatever it was old people talked about back then. I vividly recall the Truman – Dewey presidential race being discussed. That was November 3,1948, and I was not yet six years of age. Truman won in an upset, by the way. All the newspapers reported Dewey the winner. Yep folks there was even fake news at the time. Many a card game, money on the table, cigar smoke in the air was the norm during a lot of get gatherings.
That Granny “W” could cook, and the aroma of the evening meal would hit you in the face the minute you walked into the house. She had a big part in raising me. Her dining room table was quite large. It had substantial sculpted legs with Gargoyles or something similer on them. Over the table was a chandelier encircled with gold-threaded fringe. Our children still remember being scolded for flicking that fringe. So I’m thinking, does that mean children were always on the fringe while the adults conversed?
The atmosphere at this table was much more jovial than the Methodist table. Many Aunts and Uncles would be in attendance. My grandmother would always have some Mogen David wine in the cupboard. For the men, it was Schmidt’s of Philadelphia beer. What a contrast between the two tables. I’m thinking about the difference between Lutherans and Methodists. I’m sure that’s politically incorrect in this day and age. I’ll call this the happy table and the other the stuffy table.
I would spend many hours at this table listening, trying to picture places and events that were talked about. When I was sent off to bed, I would listen to more stories at the keyhole in the door. Often talk would center around my great-grandfather, and the time he traveled with a Wild West show in the early 1900s. He was a Gun-Smith and kept the show’s weapons functioning. I could really close my eyes and place myself in those days of old. High-O-Siver, away! My grandmothers brother was often in attendance and would tell stories about his life as an Engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. I often would dream of riding the rails in the Caboose.
Yes, back in the day there were many things other than electronics to keep a boys mind imagining. I sure did like playing Cowboys and Indians. Thanks to that dining room table, I could place myself in the moment.
Nice… Lee :-))
That was so much fun to look back at life with you. I laughed that you took your own dinner next door to watch Howdy Doody.
I got a kick out of that as well!
Similar for my dad … his birth mother died when he was 9, she had had a boarding house. Two of the residents built a desk and bookcase for her (which I still have). His father met a German family, and dated 1 of the 8 girls, eventually marrying her. That netted him an enormous network of family who loved him, and raised him. The kids of these families, cousins now to my dad, ate dinner at whoever’s house they were in come meal time. his new Grandmother said his mother was an episcopalian, and he should be taken to the episcopal church for confirmation. It was done. NOBODY disobeyed Grandmother! (by the time SHE died, there were five generations running around Scranton PA) I think the rest of the lot were either Methodist or Lutheran, though the church Grandmother attended (with whoever was still under her watchful eye) sang all the hymns in German. (and when she died, and a service was had for her, the hymns were still in German, as were the Lords prayer and something else.) Even I was taught to sing Christmas carols to her over the telephone when I was little.
Decades later, we’d drive up from Delaware to Scranton over the holidays. Grandmother would be sitting at her daughter Anna Schumacher’s table, playing euchre. She was in direct eyesight of the front door. Daddy would go in, kiss her on the cheek, and she’d say “Ya. My Rolf is here”. No fuss, no flurry, it was jus as it should be! Though Anna was technically his Aunt, they were only 3 years apart, and close as siblings could be.
Dad’s new mother was not enough older than him to BE his mother, and she was an accomplished figure skater (won events too, taught Bill Scranton to skater). Dad would be out on the ice with his pals, and then do ice dancing with his stepmother (Nana). They’d ask him who the gorgeous girl was he was dancing with! “That’s my stepmother!” And when she died, at HER service, Dad told everyone “you probably didn’t know this, but she was my step mother. We never used the word “step”, and I had an entire entourage of Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Cousins once removed, etc. as my family.”
Though her name was Johanna, most called her Hannah. to me, she was Nana. With the ample dining room table, in a lovely dining room furnished with a mahogany bar (and crystal glasses upon it in every shape and size), a breakfront of mahogany and glass showing off special things, including Dad’s birth mother’s Dragon Tea Set., a large buffet which held linens, and sterling silver. Most weekdays we ate in the kitchen on a little formica table with chairs that matched. But on Sunday, we ate in the dining room, appropriately dressed. (No jeans and Tshirts for THAT meal, EVER.) I asked her once why she used the “good china and “good silver, and her answer was because THEY were good. Never forget that. Use the stuff, because YOU are good.
Anyway, during the week, that dining room table (with thick pads that fit it) was the playing field for Bingo, Parcheesi, Canasta, Samba, or any other game du jour. OR, she provided a never ending stack of birthday, anniversary, get well or christmas cards for us to cut up with her pinking shears (aghast at that now, NO ONE cuts paper with my sewing scissors, on pain of death), to make gift tags for presents.
To every kid in the neighborhood she was Aunt Hannah. To me, she was Nana. And I vowed that when I grew up I wanted to be a Nana, because every kid ought to have a Nana. She allowed all the things that were forbidden at home: Coca Cola (bottled!), pancakes, and not being forced to “clean my plate”. She loved, listened, nursed cuts and scrapes, and played with us. I have never gotten that image of her out of my head.
She mowed their backyard herself, while Grampa tended his roses. They were like children to him. He talked to them, coaxed them to bloom. They were the most magnificent roses I’ve ever seen before or since. And there was not ONE weed in their entire yard. In later years, someone bought her an electric lawn mower, and she only mowed the cord off once. After that, she mowed sideways, each row farther from the house, and away from the cord.
She went to Silverbrook Methodist Church. Every Sunday. Corset, hose, heels, dress, coat. Sang out. Weekdays she did her “daily devotions” upstairs in the room over the garage.
I loved that room. It had two closets all full of treasures. It also had the aforementioned bookcase from Daddys birth mother. The Desk was in their bedroom. In front of the sink she had a “dry sink” kind of thing, where she grew the most magnificent African violets. They’d “have babies” and when those were big enough, she’d give them away.
So much of that is where I go in my mind …
You need to start blogging. Can relate to the African Violts.
Good to read your articles stories, love them. They also bring back memories. Hope all is well with you and your family. 🤗
Sent from my iPhone Blessings 🙏❤️
I greatly enjoyed learning more about your growing up years gathered around the various dining room tables. The dining room table memory of mine that stands out is when the family was clearing out my grandparents’ house after they’d died, and we ordered pizza for supper. My aunt made the remark that Velma’s dining room table had never, ever had pizza and beer on it, and Velma would be horrified if she knew. (Velma was my grandmother.)
Once they are gone, all is on the table. Wasn’t that a famous saying by someone?
I think so, although I don’t remember who!
Such a meaningful story. “Candy Man” has a style of his own.
Thanks for the look see old friend. Hugs are sent your way.
What a great post! My parents are Lutherans who are fine with alcohol but won’t play cards. My in-laws were non-alcohol-drinkers who played cards every night. Interesting mix when full families got together.
After many years of our home being the go to spot, especially Thanksgiving, we have passed the baton to our eldest daughter. Daughter #2 does a lot of hosting also. We must end this scurge so we can once again gather.
Would that be the Chester Ferry you are reminiscing about? I’ve been on it. When we go over the bridge, usually on our way home from Longwood Gardens, my husband and I often reminisce about the ferry. When I was young, quite a few of us would go from our church in southern NJ to a sister church in Boothwyn, PA…not sure if it’s called that anymore, but anyway, we always had to travel by the Chester Ferry to get there.
That ferry was between Camden & Philadelphia, early youth I grew up in Audubon and Willingboro. I spent two years in Wildwood Crest also. I also did some duck hunting around Pedricktown, Late 50’s early 60’s.
It is such a pleasure to meet you!
Been reading your Blog for some time now. Keep them coming.
I have followed you too, but for some reason, I didn’t recognize the name.