Monday, August 10, 2009

Remembering Grandma

My Grandma Mix is the reason we are pie lovers and pie makers.

My little grandma made pie every week until she went to her heavenly home at the age of 88 years young. In her later years she made pie with an oil crust so she could manipulate the dough with less strain on her wrists.

I have never been able to make an oil crust work for me.

She was the queen of pie. But she really wouldn't have thought so. Pie was just a simple yet delicious part of daily life. She passed her pie-making skills onto her daughter and at least one son- my father. My dad loved pie so much he could never get enough. He made it for himself when no one would make it for him.

I remember eating Grandma's pie on Sunday afternoons when we would visit her and my wheel-chair bound Grandpa in their little city apartment. She would always make us a chicken dinner and pie was always the dessert.

My grandmother, Rubena Bluhm, was born in 1904 and her family was among the first settlers in northern Minnesota. She wrote a family history book in 1991 where she recorded many stories from her life in her family of eleven children making their way in the northern pines among the Sioux and Chippewa Indians. There they picked berries and harvested wild rice.

Her book describes the details of life and the history of our family. She also spotlights many interesting people and characters that stood out in her memory. We were all amazed when she took on this project in the twilight of her life. She even took a writing class to help her get her words just right. She had an editor and had the book published in a spiral binder. Copies of it went to family members and friends, far and wide.

I'd like to share some of her stories here once in awhile. I think it's good to be reminded of those who came before us. The stories of their lives can help us keep our own in perspective.

I thought this story of the early cars would be fun to read, especially for my sons who read this blog.

In the words of my grandma:

People went by train if they had to go any great distance. Otherwise it was travel with horses, wagons and buggies. Even after automobiles came into use, horses had to be used during the spring break-up or after a long spell of rain. The roads would be impassable for automobiles. Our local doctor kept a private railroad handcar to take him to the different towns during the spring break-up.
The automobile was a wonder to everyone. A garage was built at Remer- the Royal Garage, where cars were gassed and repaired.

From the very first, there were accidents; people drove too fast over the poor roads, and many were reckless drivers. Those who still drove horses hated the automobiles because they frightened the horses when they met on the road.
I will never forget our first automobile ride. My father's cousin, Clara Schottsberg, and her husband and little girl came to visit us from Detroit. They had a big gray touring car; I can't remember the brand name. Mr. Schottsberg was very proud of it. He called it "Baby". He took us all for rides in it and we thought it was wonderful. But Mr. Schottsberg didn't think much of our roads, especially the mud that dirtied his precious Baby.

A few days before there were to go home to Detroit, Mr. Schottsberg decided to wash and shine the car. He thought the lake would be the ideal place to do it. He would drive the car around to the sandy beach, back it into the water and wash it. It was nearly noon. Mother said dinner would be ready soon. The men told her not to worry; it wouldn't take them long. An hour passed. Dinner was ready, but the menfolks hadn't come. We waited some more, then, ate our dinner. We could see the men working at the car across the lake. Whatever were they doing?
After another hour or so, they came walking home, tired, hungry and dejected. But no car. Its wheels were buried deep in the sand on the beach. Every time Mr. Schottsberg tried to drive it out, the wheels sank deeper into the wet sand.

After the men had eaten their dinner, they took the horses, wagon, planks and shovel to the car, and after still more work, were finally able to pull it out.

Our first automobile was a Model T Ford. Because production was just beginning, the price was $400. Later, when mass production was at its peak, the price was much lower. I have read that in 1924 every other car in the world was a Model T Ford; and the 1925 Ford Roadster sold for $265.

Our car was open on both sides. The four small windows in back were transparent isinglass (thin sheets of mica), as were the windows in the curtains which could be buttoned on in case of rain. There was no trunk. The few simple tools required were carried in a small tool box. The cushion on the front seat had to be lifted off when the gas-tank was filled. We carried two spare tires because the front and rear wheels were different sizes. The motor was cranked by hand at the risk of breaking an arm when the motor kicked over. (My brother Arthur's wrist was broken that way).
The car was called the Tin Lizzie because it looked almost flimsy beside the heavier cars. Many jokes made the rounds. For example: "Two Fords are going down the road, one behind the other. What time is it? Answer: Tin after tin."

But our Model T was really a great car. It was simple and dependable. Dad could replace parts cheaply and do most of the repairs himself.
Dad used it as a power source, hooking it to the saw-rig to cut stove-wood and to the grinder to make horse feed. Although its top speed was only forty miles per hour, it had good acceleration. And its high ground clearance made it ideal for our rough roads. It could be driven almost anywhere.

Maybe today's car makers should revisit Henry Ford's original ideas for the family car- simple and affordable with parts that can be replaced cheaply and easily by the owner.

Yeah right.


  1. Very cool.

    Can you imagine if we had to start our cars at the risk of breaking an arm? Everybody is so afraid of risk now that that would never fly.

  2. Doesn't this sound like an episode of The Waltons?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.