Things Get Better

By Donald Ketzler


During the next few years things did get much better. For one thing we were “electrified” That is, electric service was extended up Brixham Road all the way to Bartlett’s Third Hill Dairy Farm. We now had light, an electric pump to pump the water to the house, electric hot water heater (no more Saturday night bathing in a tub in the kitchen with water that had been heated on the black stove). We could listen to the radio-“Amos and Andy, the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger, Jack Armstrong the All American Boy, I love a Mystery etc.”


We also had a telephone. It was a party line with two or three other people using the same number. Sometimes it was difficult to make a call because a “gabber” was using the line. And you also had the problem of a nosy person listening in to your call.


We didn’t have to confine ourselves to the kitchen when it was cold. A big hot air, coal burning furnace had been installed. It was still cold in the upstairs bedrooms because the furnace only had two downstairs vents. One for the living room and one for the dining room.


Dad was still working at jobs in New York but doing better financially and we saw more of him. But most of the time Mom, Walter and I “held down the fort”. We even became real farmers with a couple of cows for milk, chickens for eggs and eating and pigs to be butchered. We had a vegetable garden and planted a few apple trees.


Mom’s idea of being self-sustained was at least partly realized. But we soon learned that it required a lot of work. We took turns milking the cows twice a day (no electric milkers attached to the udders; just hand power) I used to get a kick out of squirting milk into the mouth of a begging barn cat. Other than that it was a pretty tedious job and you always had to be prepared to fend off a kick from a cow that was reluctant to being milked.


Chickens had to be fed and given water twice a day, their eggs gathered and when it was time for one to provide food for us its head had to be chopped off its feathers stripped off using scalding hot water and then gutted. This all sounds gross but such is the reality of farm life.


We all weeded the garden and Mom did a lot of canning and preserving. She made sauerkraut and pickled beets and all kinds of other food that I can’t remember. I can remember though that we made elderberry wine in late summer having picked the bunches of berries by the side of Goodwin Road where they were plentiful. We mashed the berries, put them in crocks, let them ferment and then put the fermenting  juice in a big barrel, A bent glass tube affair that had water in a circular part was inserted in a hole in the top of the barrel. The barrel was then brought to the basement of the house. You knew when fermentation was done when there was no longer bubbling in the tube. You then took the tube out and sealed the hole and you waited until a cold day in the winter to open up the barrel’ insert a rubber tube and siphon the wine into bottles and enjoy.


One winter day I remembered that the wine had not been siphoned out yet. I thought it was my important duty to do that job. Without anyone knowing it I got the rubber siphoning tube and descended the cellar stairs to do my job. I opened the sealed barrel, inserted the siphon and gave a good suck to start the flow. It flowed alright. I got a big mouthful of wine. Now, it would be wasteful to spit it out so I swallowed the whole mouthful. Since I hadn’t been able to get the wine running into the bottle I felt obliged to try again. Same thing. One more try. Same thing. At this point I had the feeling I should or needed to quit. I went back to the stairs to go back up when I realized the stairs were moving (or so I thought) I more less crawled back up the stairs upon making it up I was as sick as a dog. I there and then resolved I would never take a drink of alcohol as long as I lived. (A resolve I didn’t keep).


Continue to Part 5