Washing the Kitchen Ceiling

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, May 13, 1913:  Started to earn my dollar washing off the kitchen ceiling. Want to get it finished by tomorrow. The Bryson girls were down.  

DSC03888.Blanche.BrysonBlanche Bryson (Source: “Cut” from picture in History of the McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm. Used with permission.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Really??  Washing the kitchen ceiling?? Why?? I’ve knocked a few spider webs down from ceilings, but I’ve never washed a ceiling in my life.

Whew, it must have been a lot of work, if it was going to take two days.  At least Grandma got paid for doing it.  $1 back then would be worth about $24 today.

The Bryson Girls

One of the Bryson girls would have been Blanche. She was a friend and Grandma’s and her sister Ruth, and is mentioned several places in the diary.  Blanche was a teacher at the Keefertown School, a one-room school house, near McEwensville. Both Blanche and Ruth went to the Sunbury teachers’ meeting that I showed a picture of a few days ago. I’m not sure what the other Bryson girl’s name was.

Mother’s Day Celebrated a Hundred Years Ago

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, May 11, 1913:  Mother’s Day. Went to Sunday School this morning. Managed to while away the time for I didn’t go any place, because I didn’t.

Mothers.Day.5.15.11

Source: Milton Evening Standard (May 15, 1911)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

According to Wikipedia, Anna Jarvis organized the first modern Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia to honor mothers and motherhood. Ms. Jarvis promoted the holiday, and it soon spread to other places. It became an official US holiday in 1914.

It’s surprising how quickly Mother’s Day caught on throughout the country. Grandma considered it important enough to mention in the diary in 1913—only 6 years after the first celebration of Mothers Day.  And, the local newspaper, The Milton Evening Standard, had an article about it two years earlier.

Flowering Shrubs a Hundred Years Ago

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 9, 1913:  The weather has quite suddenly changed and it is very cold.  That’s all I have to write about.

Forsythia

Forsythia

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Brrr—cold weather in May is no fun. But even cold days are almost tolerable when I see all of the beautiful flowers and flowering shrubs erupting into bloom. .

Today, I’m going to share pictures of flowering scrubs that were in the April 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal.  Some of the plants are still popular today—others I don’t recognize or seldom see anymore.

Weigela Rosea

Weigela Rosea

Tatarian Honeysuckle

Tatarian Honeysuckle

 

White Lilac

White Lilac

Kerria Japonica

Kerria Japonica

 

Has the Meaning of Varnish Changed over the Past Hundred Years?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, May 8, 1913:  Rufus was busy shining up the piano, desk, etc. with varnish. It’s rather difficult to keep from getting in it, and then you have to handle your fingers so gingerly. I’ve been warned several times.

piano

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The piano was almost new. Grandma’s mother purchased it on March 29, 1913:

. . . Ma bought a piano. I’m so glad for now I can learn to play.

The meaning of the word varnish must have changed over the last hundred years. When I think of varnish, I think of a lacquer; but it sounds like Grandma was referring to furniture polish.

Grandma called her sister Ruth, Rufus when she was annoyed with her.  I can almost see Grandma’s fingerprints on the shiny piano wood; and Ruth’s exasperated expression.

What Was Grandma’s Oldest Sister Like?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, May 7, 1913: Haven’t done much today to make this entry interesting. Besse was out here this morning.

Besse (Muffly) Hester

Besse (Muffly) Hester

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Besse was Grandma’s oldest sister. She was  seven years older than Grandma—and would have been  25 years-old in 1913.

The diary and other sources provide lots of clues about what Besse was like.

Besse was married to a butcher, Curt Hester; and lived in nearby Watsontown.

According to the History of the McEwensville Schools, 1800-1958 by Thomas Kramm, Besse Muffly was a teacher at the Red Hill School, a one-room school house at the south end of McEwensville, from 1906-1909.  She probably quit teaching when she got married.

Recent photo of building that once housed Red Hill School. It is now a home.

Recent photo of building that once housed Red Hill School, the school where Besse taught. It is now a home.

Besse and Curt occasionally came out to the Muffly farm on Sunday afternoons. For example on March 2, 1913 Grandma wrote:

Went to Sunday School this morning. Besse and Curt were out this afternoon.

Besse also came out to the farm alone sometimes. For example, she helped with the cooking and serving when the threshers came:

Was in such terrible trepidation this morning, lest I would have to miss school and help Ma with the work, but Besse came to my relief. So glad I was. I missed those stacks and stacks of dishes for dinner, but have to confront them tonight.

September 13, 1911

Several places the diary mentioned Grandma, Besse, and their sister Ruth having fun together. For example, on April 15, 1911, Grandma wrote:

Besse was out this afternoon. We three kids went for arbutus and I got some this time.

Besse had also faced some difficult times. The previous year she had a baby that died shortly after birth. On April 9, 2012 Grandma wrote:

I was an aunt for one brief half a day yesterday, but didn’t know it until this morning. I was so disappointed when I heard it was dead. My little nephew was buried this afternoon. The baby I never saw. I feel like crying, when I think I am an aunt no longer.

Spring Chores the Same from Day to Day

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, May 6, 1913: These days of spring bring to me the same tasks which vary little from one day to another.

Cover of Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (August 15, 1913)

Cover of Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (August 15, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds boring. What were the tasks that needed to be done every day?

  • watching cows to ensure that they didn’t escape from the pasture?
  •  milking the cows?
  • gathering the eggs?
  • feeding the farm animals?
  •  planting the garden?
  • cooking?
  • cleaning closets and other spring housecleaning chores?  (Does anyone do spring housecleaning anymore?)

Baked Rhubarb with Orange

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 2, 1913: My thoughts this evening are hardly worth writing about.

rhubarb with orange

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma—There must have been something worth writing a hundred years ago today. Did you ever try the menus that were published in Good Housekeeping magazine?may.1913.menu

menu.may.3.crop

One of the foods listed on the May 3, 1913 menu is Baked Rhubarb with Orange.  .

Baked Rhubarb with Orange

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

5 cups Rhubarb cut into 1 inch pieces

3 oranges

Preheat oven to 375°. In a small bowl combine the sugar, mace, cloves, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Wash the oranges, and pare off the peel thinly; coarsely chop and then set aside. Remove white inner skin and seeds from oranges and halve.  Slice halved oranges.

In a large bowl combine the rhubarb, sliced oranges, chopped orange peel, and sugar mixture.  Put into a 2-quart baking dish.

Bake in oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until the mixture is hot and bubbly—and the rhubarb is tender.

Serve hot or cold.

Adapted from recipe in Good Housekeeping (May, 1913)

This dish is excellent. The orange peel and spices nicely balance the tartness of the rhubarb.

According to the old Good Housekeeping magazine:

Rhubarb thus prepared keeps well, and is good morning, noon, and night. As a breakfast relish, nothing is finer than a very tiny saucer of it.

Previous posts with other rhubarb recipes include:

Stewed Rhubarb (Rhubarb Sauce)

Rhubarb Sponge Pie

Rhubarb Pudding

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