The Manchester Enterprise: A Boy's Memories Bits of Clay

The kitchen table


The kitchen table…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller

Many of my favorite memories as a child are of our family around the kitchen table. Today, meals at a table are almost a thing of the past. The few that we have now are restricted mostly to holidays or special occasions. But when I was growing up there were three meals every day and if you were home it was mandatory to be at the table when the meal was ready to be served.
Back then you ate, when every one else ate. There wasn’t anyone who was allowed to sleep late in the morning. If you didn’t get out of bed when Momma whistled, letting us know breakfast was ready, Daddy would come and get us out of bed. And you didn’t want Daddy to come and get you. He wasn’t as nice as Momma.
Daddy was a military man. He served in WWII and brought home all the strict rules of discipline he was taught while in the Army. That meant a lot of things. First, everyone ate at the same time. Second, everyone had their place at the table. And third, everything that you put on your plate had to be eaten before you got up. We were constantly being reminded of “people in other counties starving to death” so no food was wasted.
Daddy sat always at the head of the table. Momma sat on Daddy’s left just beside him. Jackie sat at the opposite end of the table and the boys sat wherever a chair could be wedged in around the outside.
Breakfast started at 6 am every morning. Momma set the table but no one was allowed to touch any food until everyone was seated and Daddy said grace. Then the food started at Daddy’s plate and was passed to his left with everyone taking off what they wanted to eat. That’s because Daddy was the “Man of the House”. That meant his paycheck paid all the bills.
We never had to worry about not having enough to eat. Momma always fixed plenty. But what was left after everyone got as much as they wanted was recycled. Nothing much went to the dogs or into the slop bucket for the pigs.
Now what I mean by recycled is, if potatoes were cooked today for our meal the next day they might be served as potato soup or mashed potatoes, and if the mashed potatoes weren’t eaten then the next meal they might end up being served as potato cakes. Momma made the best potato cakes I ever tasted.
Left over turkey would be served cold on sandwich bread (we called it lite-bread) with mayonnaise or turkey hash. Fried chicken was always a great warmed up. My Momma loved fried chicken for breakfast.
Any biscuits that weren’t eaten for breakfast made a great sandwich with leftover ham, bacon, sausage or fried bologna (also known as boloney). I always loved the bologna (and still do) just about any time. Momma always said bologna was the poor man’s steak.
Back then, Daddy bought bologna by the roll. I ate it on sandwiches with mayonnaise or on those big Dixie Belle crackers with mustard. Momma sometimes fried bologna for breakfast and we ate it with eggs or chopped up in gravy. There’s not anything much better than bologna for breakfast I think.
When we had pickled bologna juice (vinegar) left over we sliced bologna and made another batch. I love it like that with crackers too.
After breakfast, when everything was cleaned up, it wasn’t long before dinner (Yes, I said D-I-N-N-E-R) was being prepared. We always had three full meals at our house. Dinner was served at 12 noon. Not at 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock. You might think that was awfully close to breakfast but you must remember, breakfast started at 6 am.
So if you wanted your meal hot you had better be at the table at 12 or it would be cold leftovers. Monday thru Saturday Momma took Daddy’s place at the head of the table while he was at work. 
There was one special thing I always noticed about Momma at the table. She always waited until last to fill her plate even when she sat at the head of the table. Momma was always like that. Always putting everyone before herself. But you know what, that’s the only way she would have it.
Supper was usually between 5 and 6 pm. The time varied a little only because sometimes Daddy had to work late or the weather might slow him down. And supper never started without Daddy. All of our meals were at the table. We didn’t fill a plate and take it to the living room to eat while we watched TV. That was never allowed
Mealtime was a special time at our house. As we ate, we discussed what went on or was going on in each other lives. My parents always wanted to know how things at school were going. They wanted to know if we had homework that needed finishing before bed. If we got a bad grade it was never the teacher’s fault like most parents complain today, Daddy put the blame squarely on our shoulders. If we got a spanking at school Daddy would warm our bottom up again when we got home. You could count on it.
At suppertime Daddy and Momma also discussed what chores needed done around the house the next day. He also asked Momma if everyone was “pulling their load”.
Our time around the table sometimes included a funny joke. Momma loved a good joke and she loved to laugh.
I can honestly say it was a great time to grow up when I was a kid. And some of the best times were at our table where I was taught so much about life, hard work, education and love. Those memories, around the table, played a big part in who I am today.

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When Candy Was King

When Candy Was King…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller

Even though the candy bar has been around for over 100 years, the money that it took to buy a candy bar when I was a kid was hard to find. Some days though, we got lucky and Dad would bring us one of the big Hershey bars from Dobson’s, where he worked, and Momma would break it apart giving an equal share to each of us.
At other times when we did have an extra nickel or dime we walked or rode our bikes to Sibert and bought a candy bar at my Pappaw Miller’s general store or the Tiger Grill owned by Bates and Lettie Sibert.
Back then a nickel bought a big candy bar. Today if you get a candy bar as big you have to pay at least $1.49 for one of the giant ones. Ain’t it crazy how the simple things have went up in price?
My favorite candy bar as a kid was a PayDay. There was something about the peanuts and the caramel center that went together perfectly with a pop. But as I said before money was hard to come by. So most of the times, the only candy we got was candy that my Momma made from scratch. The two that we had the most were chocolate fudge or peanut butter candy. And my Momma always made the best.
Sometime in the 60’s Momma got a new recipe for candy using Jell-O pudding. With Jell-O came all kinds of new flavors like butterscotch, coconut, lemon, and vanilla, just to name a few. Back then, when we got candy it was always a special treat.
It wasn’t long after the Jell-O craze when Momma got another new recipe for cream candy. It was so different from any of the other candy we had gotten before. Cream candy literally melted in you mouth but it was so rich that two pieces would give you a sugar rush that lasted for hours. For many years cream candy was king in the Miller home.
But cream candy wasn’t easy to make and it required costly ingredients, a special candy thermometer, a large marble slab, and hands that weren’t tender (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll explain that a little later).
The most expensive ingredients were sugar, real butter, and rich whipping cream. Most batches Momma made took almost five pounds of sugar and four pints of whipping cream. Back then you could buy four gallons of milk almost for what the four pints of whipping cream cost but the candy was worth every penny.
A marble slab was the hardest part of the candy making process to find. Momma’s got her a good one from Rosie Hughes on Bridge Street. It was about 3 foot long and  i8 inches wide taken off of a piece of antique furniture. There’s no telling how many good pieces of old furniture lost their marble slab because of the cream candy recipe.
Another thing the candy process required was a candy thermometer. The only thermometer we had at our house was one used for finding out if someone had a fever. The candy thermometer was a large one enclosed in a glass case that read temperatures up to 300 degrees.
To make cream candy the weather had to be cold to cool the marble slab we stored on our front porch. The candy would be poured upon the marble slab to cool it down where it could be handled. That meant cream candy could only be made in late fall and winter. What a shame, I thought. Some of the luckier people had a deep freezer where the marble slab could be shut inside to cool it down even in hot weather.
With all items needed and ingredients gathered for a batch or cream candy the cooking process began. The gooey candy had to be heated to a place on the thermometer where it read “Hard Ball”. When reaching this point, the cold marble slab was brought in from the outside and laid on our kitchen table and buttered up to keep the candy from sticking to it.
The boiling hot candy was then slowly poured onto the slab in long skinny rows to cool it enough so that Momma, Jackie, Darlene and another one of us could begin pulling it between them lapping over the mixture over with each pull. To keep the candy from sticking to their hands butter was generously lathered up on their skin too.
The pulling process continued until a workers hand got to where they couldn’t stand the hot candy any more. A fresh pair of hands would then move in while the other person cooled their hands and buttered up again for another round with the candy. I’ve seen my Momma’s hands with red blisters for pulling the hot candy so long.
When the candy began to turn white the candy was stretched out on the buttered slab and cut into small pieces with scissors. The individual pieces were then each wrapped in wax paper and the process was complete.
Making the candy was a family thing. We all gathered together in the kitchen and laughed at the “oohs!” and “ouches!” of hot sticky hands. The reward for the pain was a candy treat that only came in cold weather and I think for that reason it made the candy so much more enjoyable.
Making candy and cooking back then were times for family members to get together. Times that today are almost a thing of the past for many. At out house candy time was a fun time with a sweet reward.

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When candy was king

When Candy Was King…a boy’s memories

By: Rodney Miller

Even though the candy bar has been around for over 100 years, the money that it took to buy a candy bar when I was a kid was hard to find. Some days though, we got lucky and Dad would bring us one of the big Hershey bars from Dobson’s, where he worked, and Momma would break it apart giving an equal share to each of us.

At other times when we did have an extra nickel or dime we walked or rode our bikes to Sibert and bought a candy bar at my Pappaw Miller’s general store or the Tiger Grill owned by Bates and Lettie Sibert.

Back then a nickel bought a big candy bar. Today if you get a candy bar as big you have to pay at least $1.49 for one of the giant ones. Ain’t it crazy how the simple things have went up in price?

My favorite candy bar as a kid was a PayDay. There was something about the peanuts and the caramel center that went together perfectly with a pop. But as I said before money was hard to come by. So most of the times, the only candy we got was candy that my Momma made from scratch. The two that we had the most were chocolate fudge or peanut butter candy. And my Momma always made the best.

Sometime in the 60’s Momma got a new recipe for candy using Jell-O pudding. With Jell-O came all kinds of new flavors like butterscotch, coconut, lemon, and vanilla, just to name a few. Back then, when we got candy it was always a special treat.

It wasn’t long after the Jell-O craze when Momma got another new recipe for cream candy. It was so different from any of the other candy we had gotten before. Cream candy literally melted in you mouth but it was so rich that two pieces would give you a sugar rush that lasted for hours. For many years cream candy was king in the Miller home.

But cream candy wasn’t easy to make and it required costly ingredients, a special candy thermometer, a large marble slab, and hands that weren’t tender (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll explain that a little later).

The most expensive ingredients were sugar, real butter, and rich whipping cream. Most batches Momma made took almost five pounds of sugar and four pints of whipping cream. Back then you could buy four gallons of milk almost for what the four pints of whipping cream cost but the candy was worth every penny.

A marble slab was the hardest part of the candy making process to find. Momma’s got her a good one from Rosie Hughes on Bridge Street. It was about 3 foot long and  i8 inches wide taken off of a piece of antique furniture. There’s no telling how many good pieces of old furniture lost their marble slab because of the cream candy recipe.

Another thing the candy process required was a candy thermometer. The only thermometer we had at our house was one used for finding out if someone had a fever. The candy thermometer was a large one enclosed in a glass case that read temperatures up to 300 degrees.

To make cream candy the weather had to be cold to cool the marble slab we stored on our front porch. The candy would be poured upon the marble slab to cool it down where it could be handled. That meant cream candy could only be made in late fall and winter. What a shame, I thought. Some of the luckier people had a deep freezer where the marble slab could be shut inside to cool it down even in hot weather.

With all items needed and ingredients gathered for a batch or cream candy the cooking process began. The gooey candy had to be heated to a place on the thermometer where it read “Hard Ball”. When reaching this point, the cold marble slab was brought in from the outside and laid on our kitchen table and buttered up to keep the candy from sticking to it.

The boiling hot candy was then slowly poured onto the slab in long skinny rows to cool it enough so that Momma, Jackie, Darlene and another one of us could begin pulling it between them lapping over the mixture over with each pull. To keep the candy from sticking to their hands butter was generously lathered up on their skin too.

The pulling process continued until a workers hand got to where they couldn’t stand the hot candy any more. A fresh pair of hands would then move in while the other person cooled their hands and buttered up again for another round with the candy. I’ve seen my Momma’s hands with red blisters for pulling the hot candy so long.

When the candy began to turn white the candy was stretched out on the buttered slab and cut into small pieces with scissors. The individual pieces were then each wrapped in wax paper and the process was complete.

Making the candy was a family thing. We all gathered together in the kitchen and laughed at the “oohs!” and “ouches!” of hot sticky hands. The reward for the pain was a candy treat that only came in cold weather and I think for that reason it made the candy so much more enjoyable.

Making candy and cooking back then were times for family members to get together. Times that today are almost a thing of the past for many. At out house candy time was a fun time with a sweet reward.

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The Accident That Almost Happened

The accident that almost happened…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller

Snowy winters were always a treat growing up. The best part about when it snowed was there wasn’t any school. But close behind no school were all of the things we did when it snowed.
Winter brought all kinds of new things in the way of having fun. Snow-crème, snowball fights, ice-skating, building igloos, and sleigh riding. We almost spent as much time outdoors during the cold winter days as we did on a hot summer day.
One thing I remember we never had fancy winter coats, gloves, or winter boots to fight the cold weather. Nobody did. Back then when we went outdoors we dressed something like this:
Shoes- The only shoes I remember wearing in the winter were brogans. They were ankle high, unlined, leather, lace-up shoes that were not originally waterproof. We took care of that by rubbing them down with the skin off of a middling of bacon. The fat on the hog’s skin made the boots almost waterproof but they were still plenty cold.
Socks- To keep our feet from frostbite we come up with a good invention using a Rainbo or Kern’s lite-bread bag. First we put on a pair of socks and then we went over our socks with the plastic bread bag. Then another sock went over the bread bag. Sometimes even another pair of socks if our shoes were big or loose enough to still get your foot in them. It was warm and waterproof until your toenails punctured a hole in them.
Pants- We usually wore long johns or cotton sweat pants under two pair of pants. We put rubber bands around the cuffs of the legs to keep out snow and ice.
Coats- The way we did our upper body half was as many tee-shirts, sweatshirts, or sweaters we could get under our wool jacket.
Head gear- Most times a “boggan” or a ball cap was the only thing we had to cover our heads. If that didn’t work we just covered up as much as we could with one of Momma’s scarves.
I hate to sound like an old person but the winters back then seemed a lot colder and the snow came much more often. Lots of winter days were spent all bundled up outside in sub-freezing temperatures and many hours were spent on our pond ice-skating and riding sleighs on the ice if it was frozen hard enough to support us.
Now, here is my story. One winter our pond froze really thick with ice.  Several nights the temperature had been below zero. The snow was so bad that winter that we were off school from Christmas break until Valentines Day.
We had our on little ice rink that winter for several weeks. We skated on the ice and rode our sleighs down the hills that surrounded our pond onto the ice for many wild rides.
Then in February the weather turned a little warmer and the snow began to melt a little. The pond also started to melt a little getting a wet top to the frozen ice but we still kept riding and playing on the ice. Not thinking of the danger.
The warm spell continued and one day Anthony, Carlos and Darlene had gone to the pond like the many days before. But today was a little different. No one check out the ice condition as to whether it was safe to play on or not.  That was a big mistake.
The three pulled the sleigh to the hill beside the pond and all three got on the sleigh for another ride to the ponds icy surface. But what they didn’t notice was the sun had melted the edge of the ice completely.
Down the snow covered hill they sped but when they reached the edge of the pond the ice broke through and they crashed into the cold water.
All three were in the cold water and neither could swim. Anthony and Carlos were trying desperately to get their little sister out of the water but every time they lifted her up onto the edge of the ice it broke off again and again.
Finally, they decided to get out they had to make it back to the ponds edge. All three clung to each other as the finally reach the bank of the pond.  A terrible tragedy had been avoided. All three were cold and wet but at least our family was still complete.
Just the thought of what could have happened still gives me cold chills even today.  Our family was a close family and a loving family. I can’t imagine what it would have done to my parents and the rest of my brothers and sister if the accident that almost happened, hadn’t turned out the way it did.

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A New Year's Traditio

Why leave everything up to fate for the New Year. Wouldn’t it be better if you could increase your chance of good fortune? Well here’s what my Momma and Daddy had to say about how food could bring a person good luck for a new year if eaten on the first day of January.
The number one good luck food, the one we had every New Year’s Day for as long as I can remember, was black-eyed peas with hog’s jowl. Momma would always have a big pot of the black-eyed peas cooking with the pork and onions added to them for one of the best meals a person could ever hope for.  And everyone had to have a big helping of them. She wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I did a little research on where the tradition started and here’s what I found out.
The “good luck” tradition of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud in 500 AD. Abaye said, “Now that you have established that good luck symbols avail, you should make it a habit to see qara (bottle gourd), rubiya (black-eyed peas), kartei (leeks), silka (beets or spinach), and tamrei (dates) on your table on New Years Day.”
In the United States the Jews arrived in Georgia in the 1730’s and have lived there continuously since. The non-Jews around the time of the Civil War apparently adopted the Jewish practice.
A similar story says that during the Civil War, when the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi was under siege from the Union soldiers, they ran out of food.
The common practice of the Union troops of the North then was to strip the South’s countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock and destroy everything they couldn’t carry away. At that time Northerners considered “field peas” and field corn suitable only for animal fodder and did not steal or destroy these humble foods.
The residents of Vicksburg ate the cooked black-eyed peas (or as some people referred to them, cowpeas) to keep from starving and from that day forward the meal was considered lucky. Some even believed you should eat one pea for every day in the new year. That way you would have 365 days of good luck.
The pork part of good luck is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. A roasted suckling pig is served for New Year’s in Cuba Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria. Different pork dishes such as pig’s feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages.
In Spain, twelve grapes are eaten at midnight, one grape for each stroke of the clock.  Each grape represents a different month so if the third grape happened to be sour, March might be a bad month. For most the goal was to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight.
Some countries eat cooked greens, including collards, kale, chard, and cabbage. The reason, their green leaves look like folded money and are thus symbolic of economic fortune. It’s widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.
Fish is another choice for many at the New Year’s table. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccala, or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck.
In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and fried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize rice fields).
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with an emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped items. In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake, the recipient will be lucky in the new year (if he or she doesn’t break a tooth).
In addition to the aforementioned “lucky” foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the fowl scratches backwards which could cause regret and dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Now that you know what to eat, there’s one more superstition to keep in mind. In Germany, it’s customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year.
It’s also bad luck to do your laundry on New Year’s Day. Momma said if you did that meant you would be doing laundry the entire year.
We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next twelve months. To fail to smooch our significant others at the stroke of twelve would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.
Wear something new on January 1st to increase the likelihood of you receiving more new clothes during the year to follow.
Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on New Year’s Day. To do so is to guarantee you’ll be paying out all year.
And why do we have revelers on New Year’s Eve blowing horns and yelling “Happy New Year!” It’s said that the more noise we make by celebrating the more we scare away evil spirits.
Happy New Year’s everyone and don’t forget the black-eyed peas and hog’s jowl. It couldn’t hurt.

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e-Edition A-Section 10-23-14

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e-Edition B-Section 10-23-14

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