Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Common Household Items - Welcome to Grandma's Kitchen

Grandma’s Kitchen (1950’s - 1960’s)

Somewhere along the road to Grandma’s house, we drove through a time warp, at least a decade behind everyone else in the country, or so it seemed. Grandma lived in a tenant farmhouse amid cotton and cornfields. Until I was fifteen years old, they had no indoor plumbing, which meant water had to be hauled in from the well. 

In the early years, they had a torpedo bucket (yes, it looked like a torpedo or a bullet) which we lowered into the well by turning a spindle by hand. When we raised the filled torpedo bucket, we slid a lever on the bottom to release the water into a regular water bucket. We repeated this until the buckets were full.

We carried the water buckets into the kitchen and set them on the water table in the corner. A dipper hung on the wall beside the table. Everyone drank water from the same dipper. Everyone--friend, foe or family. If you took more water than you could drink, you didn’t pour the “leavings” back in the bucket of clean water, you poured it into the washpan, also located on the water table. The washpan was for washing your hands. Everyone used the water in the washpan until it was dirty. Then it was thrown out. 

Grandma did have electricity in simple form. Light bulbs hung from the center of the ceiling in each room. You pulled on a string to turn on the light. She had a refrigerator in one corner of the kitchen. A gas stove occupied the opposite corner and a round wringer washer sat in between. These were her only appliances. 

Next to the stove, Grandma had a Hoosier cabinet (see inset picture above). It looked like a breakfront and had a built-in flour bin and sifter on one side. After sifting the flour, she pulled out the shelf to mix and roll out her biscuits. Grandma made fresh biscuits every morning. And one very important ingredient in those delectable biscuits sat next to the Hoosier cabinet in a five-gallon can--lard. 

Another, smaller breakfront held her dishes. These were of many and various designs she’d managed to keep in one piece over the years. And most of the glasses in the breakfront were former snuff glasses. This tells a lot about Grandma. She dipped snuff until her death in 1988. We learned not to look in the peanut can. Those of you with any knowledge of snuff or chewing tobacco will get that.

On the opposite side of the kitchen from the gas stove, a small pantry closet was always well-stocked with canned goods, mostly home-canned. Grandma loved her garden and put up hundreds of pints and quarts of vegetables every year. What she didn’t use, she gave away to family as long as they promised to return the jars. Her canner was a large blue enamel pan. She didn’t have a pressure cooker until much later. As a child, I loved to open the curtain that served as a door to the pantry to gaze at all the beautiful jars of food, especially the jams and preserves. 

There was no sink in Grandma’s kitchen. She washed dishes in a dish pan on the table after the meals had ended. She’d heat water in a kettle and fill the pan, add dish soap and enough cool water to keep from getting burned. Another dishpan was for rinsing. She set the rinsed dishes in the drainer and I would dry them with a flour sack towel. 

Besides her aqua-blue Formica table and plastic-backed chairs, the only other thing in the kitchen was the potbellied stove. This was only used on really cold mornings. Most days, the gas stove did a fine job of warming things up while baking tasty biscuits. Grandma didn't seem bothered by any lack in her life. For me, it was sometimes painful to work so hard when I knew an easier life, but it was a wonderful experience filled with memories as warm and tender as those biscuits.

I have listed a few of the common household items in Grandma’s kitchen. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. 

Common Household Items in Grandma’s Kitchen:
Major appliances                                 Dishes      
Gas Stove/Oven                                    Plates, bowls, cups, saucers, etc.
Refrigerator                                            Mixing Bowls
Wringer/Washer                                    Platters
Gadgets                                                 Jugs
Whisk                                                     Substances
Spatula                                                  Baking Soda, Corn Starch, Baking Powder
Nutcracker                                            Apple Cider Vinegar
Manual Can Opener                           Lard
Bottle Opener                                       Soaps
Ladles                                                    Detergent
Butter Churn/Dasher                           Borax
Crock                                                     Starch
Canning Jars & Lids                           Peroxide
Cast Enamel Canner                          Rubbing Alcohol
Broom                                                    Coal Oil
Dust mop                                              Cast Iron Skillets, Dutch Oven
Whiskbroom                                         Cookie Sheets
Dust pan                                               Cake & Pie Tins
Scrub brush


This week's prompt:  Grandma sent me to the Hoosier cabinet to sift out a cup of flour for the teacakes. As soon as I turned my back to do her bidding, my brother . . .


  1. Love this article! So interesting since I didn't live near either grandma and have no memories as dear as these...

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I have so few opportunities to talk about these memories when I don't get teased for being ancient.