A continuing saga of a cluttered office.
Submitted by anonymous Verona resident. 9/1/2021
As I write this, much of this summer’s bounty signals the end of the growing season. Canning is still part of the summer routine for some people. As I mentioned last month, a lot of activity centered around our family’s wood-burning kitchen stove and canning was part of that.
Here on my desk is a pair of quart canning jars. But now these two jars serve a different purpose being filled with more of my “treasures.” One contains a variety of colorful seashells, an assortment of seed pods, and a pestle used for grinding spices. The unique items (to me) are a little part of life gathered along the way. The other glass jar is protecting two completely dried onions. All that remains of the once-plump orbs is their shiny bronze, fragile outer skins; yet somehow they retain their original round shape and hold a special beauty.
One jar has a glass top and metal bail closing device. The trade mark on the bottom of the jar indicates it’s from Hazel Atlas Glass Co. and was produced sometime between 1906-1955. The other is a Ball jar with a glass lid and metal screw-on ring. The designs of the embossed word Ball changed ever so slightly over years. The particular design can be used to identify when the jar was produced. By going to the Ball web site, I found this jar’s design fits the period of 1933-1962.
Moving my thoughts away from the culinary, I glance up at the bulletin board. Prominently displayed are a group of three items whose purpose is purely protection. I think I collected them because of their commonality: their use; their size, all approximately 11”; and their elliptical shape.
The first, my favorite, is a large, snapping turtle shell. It is basically bone, formed by the turtle from protein and various types of calcium. Its color offered protection in the simplest of way – camouflage. The earth-tone hues served well in blending into the turtle’s environment as did the intricate 13-segmented design on top. It is nature providing a protective “helmet” from nature itself.
The second of this collection is a WWI GI-issue head-covering. Man’s protection from man. However, this simple, Army-green steel helmet offered minimal protection at best. It has two straps which can be adjusted. One circled around the inside to make it a “one size fits all” headgear. The other, a narrow chin strap, held the helmet in place.
The third is an early 1970s bike helmet. Man’s protection from self. This white helmet is constructed of “expanded polystyrene”. The amount of foam required for preventing serious head injury created a bulky, uncomfortable-to-wear piece of equipment. I have never seen anyone wear this type of helmet. When worn it must have made the person look like Speedy Alka Seltzer!
And so the collection and the remembering continues. Next month I’ll share more of the “treasure trove” from the office corner. Till then, you remember . . . it’s good for you.
The Ol’ Pack Rat
A continuing saga of a cluttered office.
Submitted by anonymous Verona resident. 8/1/2021
While sitting at the old desk in the cool basement on a hot July day thinking about the August Chronicle issue, I let my eyes wander to the space between the old Coke and beer cases. Leaning against the bulletin board between them is a special small shovel. As in all shovels, it has two parts: the handle and the blade. This is a unique shovel by size, three inches short of two feet. In our house we called it an ash shovel used to remove the ashes from the firebox of our wood-burning cook stove.
This tool is machine-stamped from a single piece of metal. The blade portion is long and narrow, 4” wide and 10” inches long. Its sides are slanted and tapered, ranging from 1” at the end to 4” high at the handle. The leading edge of the blade is not just worn uneven but is worn through in one spot from the constant rubbing of metal on metal over the years. The metal of the handle was rolled to form a tube.
My job as a kid was to empty the wood ashes when my mother needed it done. That was a several-step process: Go to the backroom off the kitchen and get the ash pail. Take the piece of old rug to put under the ash pail to make sure no hot coals landed on the linoleum flooring in our kitchen. Cautiously shovel the ashes out from the firebox.
When finished I put the ash pail back next to the wood box which also served as a reminder that box needed to be filled every other day. So out to the woodshed I would go, load my sled or wagon with wood and trudge back to the room off the kitchen.
Directly above the stove was a floor grate used to send heat up to my second story bedroom. It also sent up adult conversations from down in the kitchen! I could lie in my bed and listen to stories not always meant for little ears to hear.
It’s nostalgic to me…thinking of the old wood stove located in our kitchen at an angle near the wall. There was just room enough for me to carefully climb behind it on cold winter mornings. One end of the stove was a reservoir which was a continual source of warm water. Of course, that too required being filled on a regular basis just like the wood box. Filled not by water from a faucet but from the outdoor pump, and carried by a pail full through the backroom into the kitchen.
Our stove had four removable lids. On special occasions one lid would be removed and a cast iron waffle iron was put in its place. The round waffle iron had a top and a bottom lid, each with its own handle; the two were nested together. Directly opposite the handles, the lids were hinged to a circular base that sat on the stove. That allowed the waffle to be flipped, so one side would be baked at a time over the open flame.
Yes, I have lots of memories from the warm kitchen, the heart of our home. Maybe yours was, also… so remember, it’s good for you.
The Ol’ Pack Rat