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Can We Talk?

The 1950’s Remembered

Back in the ’50’s in Hamilton, horses still pulled milk wagons.    When we kids would see the horse coming down the street, we’d all run and greet him.  He never paid any attention to us.  I guess he was used to the children making a fuss over him.  That horse was so smart.  He dutifully stopped at ever house, the milkman stepped out, delivered bottles of milk, stepped back in the van, the horse proceeded to the next house and so on, until all the milk was delivered.

Bread was delivered and dry cleaning was picked up and delivered, blocks of ice were also delivered since iceboxes were still used extensively. Doctors had the letter “D” on their licence plates.  In case of a traffic accident, they were required to stop and help.

Yes, things were different then.  Women stayed home and ran the house.  Men went to work, brought home the paycheck and they lived according to their means – that is, according to the paycheck. 

After a couple of years of living in Hamilton, we built a house in the suburbs.  Mother worked hard at keeping a nice home.  Those hardwood floors were waxed and polished every week.  I loved the smell of the newly polished floors.  It’s one of those smells you never forget.

We had a garden in the back yard where Mom grew tomatoes, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, etc.  We also had cherry and apple trees in our yard because that area had once been an orchard. She made strudel and pies from them.  She canned the rest.  Our cold/root cellar was always packed with good things – compotes, pickles, canned pears, canned peaches, pickled beets, sauerkraudt – the list goes on and on.  Seems that all summer long there was something simmering on the stove, and the sterilizer was constantly in use.  All winter long, we ate the contents.  Although the fruit was not fresh, it was preserved in a sweet syrup and enjoyed untill harvest time the following year.

Once the grapes were harvested, Mom and Dad would drive out to the vinyards and buy bushels and bushels of grapes.  From there, they were put through a wine press in the garage, then transferred into wood barrels in the basement, to ferment.  For weeks and weeks they bubbled and brewed.  You could smell the wine-in-the-making throughout the house until fermentation was complete and the resulting wine was bottled and corked.

Understand, at that time it was illegal to make your own booze.  Nobody bothered with wine making as that would have caused a big problem with the European immigrant vote.  Winemaking was and still is part of our culture, no matter where in Europe you’re from.

However, erecting a still was a more serious problem.  Although Mother boarded up the windows in the basement, you could smell the schnapps-in-progress three blocks away.  Still nobody complained.  Well, maybe they did but nothing was done about it.  After all, it was for personal consumption.  However, I was constantly in a state of embarrassment.  Bad enough being a pre-teen and the only immigrant in that very Waspish neighbourhood, but to be the one smelling up that same neighbourhood with liquor and wine.  Well, it was a lot to overcome.

Still, there were some neighbours who visited our house on a regular basis.  Dad would always play the good host and offer wine, which they never refused.  They would drink several glasses and leave giggling and hiccupping. 

Oh yes, embarrassing as it was at the time, I can’t help but smile when I remember that era.

March 19th, 2008 Posted by | Nostalgia | no comments