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Stirring up memories


Storing up memories
January 12, 2005

            I’ve been looking back at old copies of “Stirring up memories”—sort of stirring up some memories of my own.  It’s been lots of fun, and the best part is the memories I’ve shared with folks. 

            The first person I visited, Bessie Phillips was approaching her ninety-ninth birthday—now she’s passed the century mark.  Bessie told me how she grew up cooking on a wood stove—one of her favorite food memories is her mother’s teacakes.  Later after Bessie was married to Dennis Phillips she graduated to an oil stove, but it was around 1950 when she finally got a gas range.

            I learned in the months to come that lots of Decatur County cooks have wood stove memories.  And teacake memories.  Not to mention ironing on hot summer afternoons with a flatiron heated in a fireplace.  Yes, even in August.

            It’s not surprising that there are so many overlapping memories, yet each of these women added a special story and bit of brightness to the memories I’ve collected.

            Share a few with me now. 

            Frances Lee’s memories stretch all the way to Europe and her time as a prisoner of war when she served as an Army nurse during World War II.  She grew up wanting to see the world—and she did.

            Other memories are closer to home.      Mary Jackson Guyton remembered sewing on the old treadle sewing machine, but since her little legs didn’t reach the pedal, her brother John perched there, pumping up and down like wild.   Mary also recalled her mother Melissa’s straight advice when the children set out on the long hike to visit their grandparents.

            “Pick up your feet and walk like you are worth $10,000.”

            Sometimes one memory led to another.  Dorothy Adams told me how when the children picked blackberries growing by the roadside, her mother, Sallie Screen, turned them into a stove-top cobbler, the crust cooked like dumplings in the steaming syrup.

            This led Sam Griffin to ask if I’d ever heard of a dewbie, or doobie, or dubie.  Maybe no one was sure of the spelling, but lots of folks from Naomi Carter to Audrey Howard to Kathleen Rice up in Dalton and Jane Miller in Attapulgus—I heard all about dewbies and sweet fragrant summertime memories.

            Why am I recalling these memories?  Because we are getting ready to set down some more.  Every woman can tell similar stories, but every woman has her own to tell.  Together with the Post-Searchlight and the Bainbridge-Decatur County Arts Council, The Story Circle Network of Austin, Texas is going to sponsor a special five week workshop for older (over 50) women to help them capture and keep their memories.  I’ll be leading it, and we’d love to have some “Stirring up memories” readers join us. 

            We’ll be meeting on five Thursdays (January 27 through February 24) from 10 a.m. until noon at the Firehouse.  Or bring your lunch and stay to visit.  If you’re interested, call the Firehouse at 243-1010 and leave your name and number, or, if you want to know more before deciding—ask for a brochure.  We’ll have to limit the number, so call soon.

            What a treasure for children and grandchildren and our whole community!

            Eva Causey called me when I told of Helen Sanders’s fond memories of riding behind the family mules into town and to a grist mill near Albany Road.  Eva knew all about that mill—her late husband Elmo Hendley’s grandfather had owned it in the early 1940s.  (It was more recently known as Sikes Mill.)  I went to see Eva to learn more about the mill and about how she grew up in Baker County and later in the Pine Hill Community.  I was mighty impressed when Eva pulled out a manuscript of more than fifty pages.  Memories she’s recorded to share with her two children and five grandchildren.  Plus!  She’s added pictures.

            Eva's not the only one keeping memories.  Gloria Coppinger comes from a family of memory keepers.  She’s keeping stories for her daughter Barbara Santoro and Barbara’s daughters, Rebecca and Claire.  But there’s more at the Coppinger household.  Gloria’s grandmother, Julie Chandler, when she was just turning 91 picked up her pen and wrote down her childhood memories.  What a treasure for Gloria, Barbara, Rebecca and Claire.  (It runs in the family—Gloria’s aunt and uncle have also penned memoirs.)  Now Gloria is going to join us at the workshop to store up even more memories.  I hope she’s joined by lots of “Stirring up memories” readers.

            For all the food memories I’ve recorded, it seems that teacakes and pound cake are all time grandchild pleasers.  The Coppingers are so fond of Grannie Julia’s teacakes that Barbara embroidered a sampler with the recipe for Gloria to keep in her kitchen.

Grannie Julia’s Teacakes

1 cup sugar

1 cup Crisco

3 eggs

3 teaspoons buttermilk

1 teaspoon soda

Nutmeg, vanilla and enough flour to make a stiff dough

Mix all ingredients.  Roll out on floured surface and cut.  Bake at 350 ° until lightly brown.

            I asked if maybe I could use butter, but Gloria says it must be Crisco.  I used a half-teaspoon each of nutmeg and vanilla and about three and one-half cups of flour.  I rolled the dough to about a quarter-inch thick and cut with an inch and a half biscuit cutter.  In my oven they browned in 8 to 10 minutes.

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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network