Remembrances of Fred and Anna Taylor

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Fred and Anna (Millirons) Taylor

My Remembrances

See also Fred and Anna Taylor Biography

My recollections of my grandfather and grandmother are rather limited, but I'd like to set down what I remember so the younger generations might know them as I did. My grandparents were affectionately known as "Mom" and "Dad" by all their grandchildren. I don't know exactly where this started, but it is rather unique as the Taylor family typically is. The recollections below are from the 1950's.

First, Mom and Dad themselves. Dad was of medium height and build. His most remarkable physical feature was his hair. As long as I knew him he had a full head of silvery hair and always had his trusty pipe. He was a quiet man who took great delight in teasing us grandkids. As for Mom, the things I remember most about her were the spark in her eyes and her sense of humor, both of which reflected her tremendous zest for life. She was truly one of the unforgettable people of my life and I'm sure one the primary reasons for the closeness of our family today. She remembered every birthday and anniversary of her mushrooming family and was the the "commmunciations center" for the family, relaying news from family to family by her prolific letters. She had extremely long hair, but it was always tied in a bun so you never knew how long it was. And she always wore gingham dresses, never, ever, pants.

Their lives spanned the time of the greatest technologcial improvements the world has ever seen. They were both born within a decade when their parents and grandparents pioneered in Cloud County, Kansas in the 1870's and early 1880's. The Taylor's came west in a covered wagon. Towrds the end of her life, Mom was flying from one family to another by jet airplane and died just before man landed on the moon. Dad was born just two years after the real Gunfight at the OK Corral and lived to see it replayed on movies and television.

As far as I have been able to determine, as long as Mom and Dad lived together, they never lived in a house that had running water or electricity. We kids used to fight over who was going to fetch a pail of water from the windmill. It never ceased to marvel me to hook up the pump to the windmill and watch the wind pump the water. (And how much I felt a part of the "farm" when this little city kid could do such a "country" thing). We had to beg Dad to put a milk can on the porch, because we would be too afraid to walk to the outhouse in the dark of the night. My hands were so sore from shucking popcorn to get corncobs for fuel for cooking the evening meal one night I couldn't throw a baseball for a week. I was told Mom and Dad used coal when times were good and corncobs when times were bad. The telephone was one of those that hung on the wall with the earphone on a cord and the mouthpiece in the wall unit. They were on a party-line, of course, and answered only to "2 shorts and a long" ring.

Mom cooked on one of those "prairie ranges" you see in antique stores nowadays. The range used either corncobs or coal. To turn on high, you put a lot of fuel in, to turn on low, you let the fire burn down a bit. Yet, Mom cooked for family reunions on that stove for dozens of people at a time and everything turned out perfect - cooked from scratch - pies, cakes, chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, you name it. After Mom determined how many chickens she needed for dinner, she would tell Dad how many chickens she needed. I'll never forget the experience of seeing Dad grabbing the chickens by the head and throwing it around his head in a big circle - called "wringing it's neck".

To the best of my recollection, the pot-bellied stove in the living room used only coal. Corncobs would burn too fast and not give heat to the room that would last long enough. That stove brings back memories because it was around this stove that the family would gather after dinner during family reunions and talk till late in the evening. How did we talk till late in the night? Easy - kerosene lamps for general use and the gas light to read by (no electricity, remember! .. and this was in the 1950's).

Mom used to tell the story that I once asked her how she took a bath since there was no bathtub in the house. A question that to the best of my recollection, I never got an answer to, but it generated quite a laugh when recalled at family get togethers. I suspect, however, that the bath water was heated on the kitchen stove. We kids took our baths in an old Wheeling galvanized metal bucket. Of course, I "knew" that Mom and Dad couldn't take their baths in that, because it was too small <Grin>.

Of course the living room and kitchen were the only rooms with heat and only when the stoves were burning. So, at night we used to crawl into bed in a bedroom about the same temperature as it was outside and snuggle under one of Mom's big, thick, homemade quilts. Her quilts were all homemade and would warm you up in no time.

I've already discussed Mom's great cooking abilities, but I should talk about one specialty that is fast becoming a lost art - canning and making jellies. I was never around when Mom canned to see what she did (although my mother canned prairie plums), but she used to send me to the cellar to fetch the creamiest homemade plum butter, most delicious apricot preserves, or jellies you've ever tasted. I can't remember if the cellar was separate from the house or was under the house, but I do remember it was just a hole dug into the ground - the walls were dirt. It was always cool down there.

I also recall my mother telling me the story of how Mom "taught" her some cooking lessons. Mom had sent my mother recipe's for whatever. My mother couldn't make them to come out the same no matter how close she followed the receipe. So, when we visited them one time, Mom said, well, we'll just have to make this together. (Let's pretend it was a cake). Mom would start throwing stuff in the mixing bowl as my mother was scrambling for the recipe. Real quickly, my mother said: "Wait a minute, you're not measuring anything". Mom said, "Oh, yeah, well I had to give you something to go by, so I guessed when I wrote down the recipe. You see, for that pan over there, you only need about so much flour, and you add milk until it looks like about.... this consistency... etc". Needless to say, my mother learned not to take the recipe literally after that and learned more to cook by "feel".

As I said my recollections were limited and that's about all I recall now. The amazing thing to me is that the way of life I've described above wasn't a two week camping experience - this was the way they lived their lives day-in and day-out, for over seventy years, until Dad died in 1960. Mom then moved to California to live with the family out there.

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Copyright 1997, 1996 by Norris M. Taylor, Jr.