Photo by Gavin Ashworth
I was just a skinny little thing, about 7 or so, my grandmother allowed me to use an empty chicken house as my “store”, trading with neighborhood girls. The “store” was actually a shed built by my Uncle Bill in which to raise pullets for sale. When the pullets were sold off, and it was not time to buy the little yellow baby chicks for the next season, I could use the chicken shed, or the ‘brooder house’ as it was called for my little business. But first I had to sweep and sweep the brooder house until most of the gray dust was gone, and the feathers swept away. Some of the feathers refused to budge from the cracks in the floor. I didn’t think about “sanitary” in those days of the Great Depression. Besides, the kitchen pump had to be primed just to get a basin of well water to help with the chore.
The year was 1935, and sometimes everything seemed to be colored gray except the gorgeous sunsets I would watch while sitting in my rubber tire swing. A ribbon of hope with its purples, pinks, oranges, and reds. The Depression seemed to sweep everything in its way with a fat paint brush dipped in the bucket of lost hopes. My, I am getting dramatic! But the ‘brooder house store’ was my way of pretending I was a trader of great treasures, and my imagination could color my small collection in beautiful hues.
My mother had given me a small tilt top table. She managed to get the table as a store premium at Bates Department Store in Ashland. You know, you buy so much merchandise and you get a prize…a bonus.. One prize was this little tilt top table, and another was a bamboo whatnot stand. Thinking back, Mama shouldn’t have trusted me with the pretty little table with a decaled rose in the center of the top. And, luckily, she kept the bamboo whatnot stand in her living room.
My playmates who lived next door were older and craftier than I was, and before long, they were carting the table off to their playhouses and I was left with a box of old beads!!! As an adult, and deep into genealogy, this episode reminded me of my Dutch Ancestors and their bargaining with the native Americans for all of Manhattan Island. An island for a handful of colorful beads!
The brooder house store lasted a few months and then it was time for Grandma to buy the baby chicks and nurture them into frying size chickens for our dinner table or to sell to the neighborhood. Sometimes to give away to those who were less fortunate than ourselves.
My next treasure trove nest was a lower drawer in my old bedroom chest. My cache included a chipped cake of soap in the image of Shirley Temple. Also several rocks I especially loved after finding them in the creek at the bottom of the hill, and a few other items there were either free or tossed away by a neighbor. I was also into sending penny postcards to manufacturers for free samples of face powder. Their ads I found in magazines belonging to my mother…probably “True Stories.”
My memories of those days will always be with me. But the best memories are not something you can hold in your hand. A vision of the pink Lady Slipper found in the back woods is an example..….no, I did not pick it, but left it there to enjoy on my walks home from school. And the falling stars on a summer night are another ‘forever’ memory. Grandma would spread white sheets out on the grass and my brothers and I would make wishes whenever we spotted a falling star..
Actually, we kids were fortunate to have a grandmother with a wonderful imagination. She made everything exciting….from the ghost stories she told, to the homemade toys, and the Dutch cookies that were big and fat with a strange name.
She encouraged us to employ our imaginations and use what was on hand to create play houses, or dig gray clay out of the road banks to make small sculptural objects. Grandma would fashion kites out of newspapers, and twigs. The kites would never fly, but it was fun running across the field trying to send them aloft. Perhaps the kite tails made from scraps of fabric were too heavy? Grandma’s son, our Uncle Bill, who lived with his family next door to our house, could make sling shots, and guns made of wood, a clothespin and rubber bands.
Then comes a time to grow up, get married, have children, and collect both adult and childish things.
The following posts contain a few of MY FAVORITE THINGS, whimsical or practical…it makes no difference in the way I love and respect them! Perhaps you will enjoy seeing and reading about them….and stirring up your own memories…?