In 1953, my grandfather was outstanding in his field when someone took this photograph. The scrubby tree in front of the corn on the right side of the photo, I think, is a quince tree that looked pretty much the same 20 years later.
I have a handful of “honest” memories of my grandfather. By honest, I mean they’re memories that have been there since they formed—no supporting photographs, no corroborating stories from other family members.
One memory is of Grandpa retrieving a package of Limburger cheese from the pantry, opening it, and eating some with great enthusiasm. I got to sniff the cheese and probably could have had a taste. However, at that age I found the stench of Limburger most unpleasant (I confess I haven’t encountered Limburger since then).
A second memory is of sitting next to my mom at my grandparents’ kitchen table (it was a huge table where we had many family meals), and my mom encouraging me to watch Grandpa as he dug a generous spoonful of peanut butter from a jar and ate the peanut butter from the spoon.
I never saw my grandparents’ house like this. Never mind the awesome cars, by the time I was forming memories, the house was gray; covered in new siding. Not too long after that, my grandfather removed the porch and replaced it with a carport. The leafy blobs in the foreground are heads of cabbage growing in one of the many planting beds my grandparents had established in the yard.
I also remember Grandpa collecting brush in the woods, stacking it on an existing pile of brush, and explaining that critters would use the brush pile for shelter… and that “In a year or two, you won’t even know it was here.”
Whatever else I “remember” comes from seeing family photos repeatedly over the years. My grandfather died when I was about seven years old, but I remember his cats, his love of the woods, his non-stop maintenance of the house and yard, his dedication to my grandmother, and even his patented invention made obsolete by the subsequent invention of the ball point pen (Grandpa had designed a blotter that manufacturers could build into the handles of fountain pens).
My grandparents’ yard featured this dramatic raised bed. It had been the foundation of an outbuilding demolished years earlier (see below). I don’t remember Grandpa so much in this garden as I do having my brothers throw rotten tomatoes at me. I was the youngest, and after a tomato fight, I was the tomatoiest.
My grandfather was the crop surveyor for the state of Pennsylvania, he had a huge farm in Meadville that he subdivided and sold off over the years, and in retirement he contributed to food-production for his family by managing fruit trees, helping with the vegetable garden, and even tapping maple trees to make syrup.
Grandpa was a do-it-yourselfer because in his day practically everyone was. My dad is also a do-it-yourselfer… which may explain my fascination for growing and cooking stuff, and for preserving food to bridge one growing season to the next.
By 1953, my grandfather apparently had stopped raising dairy cows. The milk house was in its last days: my grandfather posed for this photo with a workman who was demolishing the structure. The wheelbarrow behind my grandfather is the best wheelbarrow I’ve ever used; it has a metal wheel instead of a rubber tire, and it rolls easily. My dad must have acquired it after my grandfather died. We used it at the weekend farm of my childhood where we raised horses and managed a large kitchen garden (over the years I used it to move at least 4 tons of manure from the barn to the garden). The wheelbarrow is one of the last things I brought to Lewisburg when I finished emptying my dad’s house. I’m pretty sure one of the newfangled, rubber-tired wheelbarrows we already owned is going to become a planter.