IMG_1637IMG_1638As unusual as the front of the house was, the rest of the house was also curious in it’s design.  I have thought back and decided that the small porch on the north-facing side of the house at one time led into what would have been a living room.  On the north were also two additional bedrooms.  They were connected with a closet.

The kitchen had its’ south-facing porch.  On the South was the dining room with a windowed door to the office.  A central hallway provided stairs leading to the second floor.  The walls were plastered, not insulated, and were rimmed with magnificent woodwork that Dad would varnish along with the wooden doors which had transoms above them.

While I was in grade school the northeast-facing room with the porch was my bedroom in which, with darkened windows, I recovered from the measles.  It was in this room on a summer night with the bed shoved next to the north window, arms resting on the wooden sill and nose pressed against the screen (a barrier to June bugs and mosquitoes) I saw the Northern Lights.  Kansas really is that flat.

The small bedroom on the north was my winter bedroom.  Tucked between the other two north rooms, it was cozily sheltered from the northeast winds that blew across Kansas.  It was eventually converted into an indoor bathroom.

My folks always slept in the big bedroom with the door that led to the office.  If anyone called during the night, (in those days, night was after 9:00 pm) one of them would get up to direct the call to the appropriate party.  This became a challenge as time went by and people used the phone for more than emergencies.

The kitchen was always the hub of the house and Mom managed it very well.  It was the kitchen porch that welcomed everyone and everything.  “Everything” included the cocker spaniel I had when growing up and the baby chicks or turkeys which would spend a night or two before being transferred to the incubator in the garage.

In my earliest memories the kitchen was equipped with a kerosene stove, wooden and painted bead-board cabinets on the east wall, a hand water pump over the sink, a pantry, and what I thought was the best table in the world.  That table had a white porcelain top that separated in the middle to reveal a pop-up ironing board.  Mom would do all her bread making on that table which included Swedish tea rings and the best rye bread in the community.  I don’t recall what we used for refrigeration.

The interesting thing about the water pump in the kitchen was that it drew water from a cistern just outside the house.  Rain water would flow from the gutters of the house into a shallow concrete pan which was divided into two sections.  Water flowed through the pans in such a way as to remove debris.  Then it went into the concrete holding tank under a concrete slab.  This water, not having the benefit of being filtered through the earth, was only for cleaning; dishes, bodies, and such.  Mom was always wary of water that had the potential of harboring dead mice, snakes, and bugs.

It was a major project when the kitchen underwent a remodel.  The original cabinets were replaced with sleek oak ones.  Mom now had the benefits of an electric stove and a refrigerator.  Those appliances were a blessing.  Besides being the bookkeeper, switchboard operator, keeper of the house, washer and ironer of the clothes, tender of the chickens and turkeys, Mom cooked from morning to night.

I have recalled with joy the meals which emerged from Mom’s kitchen.  Most days began with breakfast and consisted of fried eggs from our chickens, bacon, toast, and grapefruit.  At ten o’clock there would be a break for coffee and a homemade sweet roll.  Noon brought chicken or ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits and jam, corn, and homemade pie.  At four o’clock there would be more coffee, this time served with cookies or cake.  Then there was supper- again a full meal.

All this good food involved prep time and clean up-no dishwashers in those days.  Produce would be from the garden in the summer.  In winter we ate the excess from Dad’s garden that had been canned by Mom.  Milk and cream came from the nearby farms; eggs from our chickens.  In her everyday, sleeveless house dresses and apron, Mom fed the world.  No one coming near the house on Burma Road ever went away hungry.