When I was about 10 years old, my grandparents lived in the town of Iaeger, in McDowell County.
My Uncle Hubert, a former U.S. Marine who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, managed the local theatre. Known as “the showhouse” to us kids, it served as the primary babysitter for us during the weekend and week nights too if school wasn’t in session.
Back then, every young boy had a cap buster, likely a holster and belt to go with it. Daisey Red Rider bee-bee guns were also a favorite, but we couldn’t take that to the theatre, only the cap buster pistol, without caps, of course.
In those days, our grandparents were alive and healthy. We called our grandma “Ma’am” and our grandfather“Grandpa.”
They were a striking pair. It was said that Grandpanever opened a pay envelope during the entirety of their marriage. I found that to be an admirable trait, so I followed his mantra with the same devotion to my wife.
Every Saturday, Grandpa and I walked to town, less than a quarter mile away, and shop for groceries at a little store called the “Piggly Wiggly.” Grandpa liked his plug of Brown’s Mule chewing tobacco andespecially his Limburger cheese.
We both loved that cheese, but Grandma hated the smell of it.
Grandpa and I would go into the kitchen, while Grandma was taking her afternoon nap, and shut the door.
First, we’d cut two slices of Grandma’s fresh, home-baked bread for each of us, slather them with mustard, and then lay on a thick slice of that Limburger.
Yes, it was wonderful, but we weren’t finished yet.
For “dessert,” we’d spread our second slice of bread with Mayonnaise and sprinkle on some brown sugar. After we finished our second snack, any leftover Limburger had to be stored in the “cheese dish,”covered with a cloth and taken out to the garage-woodshed.
That was Grandma’s rule. And you didn’t want to go up against any of Grandma’s rules.
Then we had to get the pungent smell out of the kitchen, so we’d open the windows and “shoo” it out. We had to do this even if it happened to be winter and 10 degrees below zero.
Next, Grandpa would get out one of his big iron pots and pop a batch of corn on the old woodburning stove.
This last effort really did the trick!
Finally, we could open the door and go into the frontroom sitting area. When Grandma woke from her nap, she’d often come in to her rocking chair and start sewing something for the grandchildren, darning socks, patching our nearly worn-out blue jeans, or mending our shirts by sewing on buttons.
I’d sit on her footstool while we listened to Amos ‘n Andy on the radio while Grandpa quartered a big Granny Smith apple to share.
Though I was only a pint-size youngster at the time, I remember thinking, “This is probably the closest I’m ever going to get to Heaven here on this earth!”
Looking back on it now, I think that little boy was right. After all, what better time to reminisce and relive the days when our families were truly close—when uncles, aunts, first cousins, second cousins, the whole tribe lived right in the same town or neighborhood as I did.
Above all, it’s fun to recall the fun that our families found in the days when they spent much of their time together…going to the movies on Saturday night, picnicking on warm Sunday afternoons, singing around the upright piano or listening to favorite radio programs.
Those were the days when kids did chores…when everyone pitched in and worked together as a team…when family pets (both dogs and cats) entertained each other.
Now, you might even shed a tear or two as you recall “the old home place” as it was back then.
The only thing stronger than Grandpa’s Limburger cheese was the love and closeness our families once felt—as evidenced by our own family memories.
Top o’ the morning!