“Grandma’s House”

(A story by Bob Dickerson and his time with his Grandmother, Ida May Stout Wixom of Interlaken)

      Part of the good old days for me was the time spent with my Grandma Wixom. My Mother was sick for a time and I lived with Grandma for quite a spell during that time.

      Grandma lived alone, as Grandpa Ogden Wixom had died at a young age and before I was born. She made her living as a seamstress in her home, as in those days there was no help for a widow, like social security or welfare. She worked hard to keep her home and pay her bills.

      I can still picture her today at her treadle sewing machine, with her mouth full of pins. As she needed a pin, it came out on her tongue, and I was amazed she never swallowed one.

      One of her customers I remember was a William Wheeler who ran the local bank. If I was there at Christmas time, he always gave me a silver dollar and that was great, as at ten or twelve the most I ever had in my pocket was a nickel or some pennies. He always needed a suit or pants altered. She had many other customers in the village and it kept her very busy.

      Her home was on the back street on the east side of Interlaken and bordered on the railroad track. I believe the street name was Clinton but it’s hard to remember. (Phyllis Betzler believes the street to be Leroy between Railroad Avenue and Clinton.)

      It had a central heating system with one large round register in the living room. A two hole outhouse in the backyard and a large garden. No heat upstairs where I slept, but she always put a soap stone in the bed before I went up. This was warmed in a large old coal range in the kitchen, which I think used wood also.

      She was a wonderful cook and could make a great meal out of almost anything. She kept a large garden, which I helped her with at times. Also she kept chickens which I helped her kill and clean. It was something to see the chickens run around with their heads chopped off and then they were hung on the clothesline to flop and bleed out. I then would help her scald them and pull the feathers out. We ate a lot of chicken in those days and even though I felt sorry for the chickens, they sure tasted good at dinner time.

      I also helped Grandma make homemade root beer. Not sure how she made it but it sure was good. After it was made, she stored it on some shelves in the cellar. Every once in a while you would hear a loud noise and it was a bottle of root beer exploding. My favorite treat was Sunday night and some popcorn and a bottle of homemade root beer. The popcorn she grew in her garden and I helped her shuck the kernels off the cob when dry. Boy, did that make your hands sore and raw but it was worth it.

      She bought her milk and butter from a man down on Lakeview Street on the east part of town below the tracks. Many times I would go down there with her quart tin milk pail and bring it back. The man lived in a home and had a cow where my grandson Karl Westervelt lives today. The milk pail with a handle, I somehow acquired after Grandma died and my daughter Kathy Sweet in Poplar Ridge across the lake has it now. It is in pretty rough shape, but a wonderful memory and close to a hundred years old.

      Under my bed upstairs was a chamber pot for my night time use. This had to be taken to the two hole outhouse each morning and then rinsed out good. There was a train called the Black Diamond that went by, I believe about 11 a.m. each morning. It looked to me like it was going like the wind. If I was out there in the back of the garden, the engineer would wave as he whizzed by. I remember my Dad, Joe Dickerson, and John Kellogg going to either Geneva or Ithaca and riding that train on its last run before it was shut down for good.

      On Sunday Grandma and I would walk up to the Baptist Church for Sunday school and church service. She loved the church and my Aunt Carrie Wixom sang in the choir there.

      The minister, Kenneth Arnold I believe was his name, had built a replica of the church with a slot in the tower. If it was your birthday that week you went up during the service and put in the slot the number of pennies you were old. Aunt Carrie Wixom never married and lived at home with Grandma all her life. She was a great help and worked at the local canning factory every summer to help with the bills.

      Later in my teen years I was a janitor of that church and I believe I got a dollar for cleaning on Saturday and starting the coal furnaces on Sunday morning. But that is another story to be told another time.

      While staying with my grandmother, she taught me to crochet, knit and tat, which she was always doing while listening to the radio at night. To this day, although I don’t do it, I can remember crocheting and making long strings out of yarn. Also I learned to sew, which came in very handy when my wife died early in her life and left me with three young girls. All of these experiences with Grandma and also my Mother, a wonderful cook, came in handy later in life.

      Grandma was a hard worker and a very proud lady and never asked for help to get thru life. My Dad would help her with maintenance things on the house when needed, but again, she never really asked for anything, that I remember.

      One little thing that comes to mind is me going with a bucket down by the railroad station and picking up pieces of coal spilled as they filled the tenders on the trains. In those times you did anything to help get by and save a few pennies.

      Many nights we sat on her porch and watched the world go by. That is where we talked and she taught me in her own special way.