No, no, no.  This is not a True Confessions piece.  Not even I can remember that far back.  Romantically speaking, that is.  But one day when a couple of my sisters and I were visiting with my mother, I asked what we did as a family on Saturday evenings when we were kids.  That would have been in the 1940’s or so, you know, back before HDTV and Stereos and Computer games.  This is what they told me.

“Well, let’s see.  Mom would bring in the big galvanized tub, set it up in the pantry, which was close to the kitchen and had a door, and she and Dad would heat water on the woodstove to fill it.  The first order of business was to wash everyone’s hair; twins first – that was Dean and I – then in ascending order of age; Gladys, Lois, Mary Ellen, Jackie and Janet. (I think Dad and older brother, Philip had to wait until last. )  The shampoo was bar soap and the rinse was vinegar.  I can still remember how sweet and clean hair smelled after a vinegar rinse.

After the heads were all shampooed, it was bath time.  The twins were first 😉 then the rest of the kids.  While the others bathed, the twins hair was toweled dry and they were jammied.  I’m sure hot water had to be added from time to time to keep it warm and make up for what we splashed out.  Or, rather, what Dean splashed out; I was an angel. Around six years of age, Dean decided he was too mature to bathe in the same tub with his sister so a towel had to be draped between us.  I bet that was a chore!

When all the heads and bodies were pronounced clean enough for Sunday, the water was used to wash everyone’s socks so they would be clean for next day  (Did we wear them all WEEK?) and hung up behind the base burner to dry. Was this the end of the tub’s usefulness?

No.  The water was then used to mop the kitchen and pantry floors. After that we made fudge.”

When I heard that last sentence, I suddenly had a vision of water being scooped from the tub to the candy pan.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, you know better than that!”

Actually, Fudge was just one of three candies for which my Mother and sisters were famous.  Also starring were Divinity and Pulled Taffy.  Does anyone make divinity nowadays?  There was nothing more lovingly designed to melt in the mouth.  Made with scalding hot nougat poured over a meringue-like mixture, beaten just until the shiny texture turned matte and poured into a platter with walnuts, it was quite literally divine.

Pulled taffy was poured into a platter, allowed to cool just until it began to harden, then with butter-slathered hands, was pulled and pulled and tossed from hand to hand to keep from burning ourselves.  When it had turned the color of a child’s blonde hair, the ropes were ready to spread on a cool surface to continue cooling and hardening.

I remember the story told about an aunt who lived in Chicago and who was a very regal appearing lady.  She also wore false teeth.  On a visit one Saturday night, the girls talked her into a taffy pull and let her have a bite of the soft taffy.  I’m sure they didn’t REALLY know what it would do to dentures, but poor Aunt Ivaloo had a very hard time getting free of it without taking out her prosthetics.

None of today’s candy tastes like the original.  Maybe it’s the hard work that went into it and the pure ingredients.  No margarine, no artificial flavorings.  My sister, Gladys, still makes fudge for everyone at Christmas.  The real kind filled with walnuts and heaped two or three inches deep in the pan.  We all keep telling her she has to quit doing that with her arthritic hands, but I’ve never known one of us to refuse that fragrant package.

Yes, Saturday night was for baths and cleaning up and having family fun whether it was making candy or playing with the double-twelve set of dominoes.  Saturday mornings had been spent listening to “Let’s Pretend”, “The Green Hornet”, “The Lone Ranger” and, for the older kids, “The Shadow” and “Innersanctum”.  Remember the intros, “Out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse, Silver!  The Lone Ranger rides again!” or “Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows! (ghostly laughter)”

Saturday nights were for families and we had a big, happy one!





About dswan2

Poet, author, columnist, lyricist, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, wife of 50 years. Born and raised in America's Heartland
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