From the lodge…….The weather is sure the topic these days. It’s hot, its humid, “I hate this hot weather.” Too hot to sit outside, too hot to do anything…my oh my, how soon we forget the cold blustery snowy days when we wished for warm days. It’s summer folks! It is supposed to be hot.
Come take my hand and share the summer of my early childhood back in the late twenties/early thirties. Ah, here we are, this is the street. Dixie Highway- the gateway to the south it is called. My Grandmother lives just a few doors down at 874 Dixie Highway. My mother, brother and I lived with Grandmother in the huge family home.
It was a beautiful stately home. Just a little further, look– you can see the two towering oak trees, one on each side of the front yard, their long branches and dense foliage touching each other, shading the entire front yard, the porch and the front rooms of the house. They were our summer parasol that dared the sun to peep through. They wrapped their arms around our front porch and were a beacon to all to come sit a spell under their cool protection.
The front porch was in and of itself something to see. It was large enough to accommodate three swings: one on each end and one in the middle, providing plenty of room for nine or ten adults or for untold numbers of kids who loved to cram in the space and swing, giggle and drink Grandmother’s lemonade or ice tea. All were welcome; you just put your hand through the round opener on the iron gate and joined the other neighbors already there. This is what people did back then. They walked in the evening to just visit, get an ice cream cone or, in this case, to partake of Grandmother’s special beverages. As a neighbor man, Mr. Queen, said: “Lizzie you make the damn best lemonade in town!”
This lemonade was not your average lemonade. My brother Omar and I were taught how to make this nectar of the Gods. The recipe: for one large pitcher, squeeze eight plump lemons, add one cup of sugar and one small jigger of bourbon with lots of chipped ice.
I was taught to use the huge iron lemon squeezer, When you dropped the squeezer lever down on the half lemons it was so heavy it pulverized the lemon, but a little lemon rind never hurt the lemonade. It was Omar’s job to chip from the block of ice in the icebox with an ice pick until the pitcher was pretty nearly full. Only Grandmother had the touch to add the bourbon. This was a daily ritual unless the grocer was out of lemons and every time that happened my Grandmother would tell him, “Mr. Hoyer, I may have to take my business elsewhere if I can’t get my lemons!”
Well the fact was when we did not have lemons we had ice tea. Fresh tea was placed in what were called tea balls and dropped in boiling water for 6 minutes (not one minute more, not one minute less), one cup of sugar was added to the prepared tea, the ice chips added and Grandmother’s jigger of bourbon was the touch of magic.
The nights were magical as well. Neighbors visited each other on their porches or leaned on their fences just to talk and spread the neighborhood news. It is how they found out if someone was ill or needed help and, if so, they helped each other. They sat with the sick, they relieved the care givers, they held the hand of the dying, and yes, they even helped “birth the babies.” The immediate care centers of those times were the neighborhood care givers.
That porch was always a gathering place, sometime to show off a new quilt patch pattern, to welcome new neighbors, always to exchange news items, and to welcome back old friends and family who had moved away. One such person was my Uncle George, who lived in Chicago. He was Grandmother’s only son. She had five daughters. George was raised with all the girls. I loved my Uncle George – he was very special. He was also very handsome, had a wonderful voice, he played the piano to perfection, and, I, being in my innocence, did not know until many years later he was gay. Maybe that could explain his carefree demeanor and flamboyance. He was married for a while and he and Aunt Minnie had one daughter, Marcella, who inherited her father’s musical genes. She was a opera singer for years at the St. Louis Opera and she also sang at the Met and on New York City radio.
That front porch had so many memories. We, of course, had no air conditioners, but we had oak trees to shade us, lemonade and tea to quench our thirst and cardboard fans from Schoppenhorst Funeral Home to help keep us cool. If it got too hot we just made more lemonade and fanned faster! So if the heat’s too hot, get into the kitchen, mix up a pitcher of lemonade and just keep fanning. This too will pass, winter will be here, it will be too cold for most of us and we can wish for summer again.!!!