My Momster is getting mighty close to her 92nd birthday. She can barely see, and her hearing is nearly gone, but her mind is sound and the fount of knowledge she possesses is amazing. Her great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren refer to her as O.G. or, old-grandma. To some, that may seem disrespectful. To Mama, it’s a badge of honor.
I love when she comes home for the weekend and we two sit on my deck remembering her life. Sometimes she feels like she’s too old to be worth much anymore, but I disagree. Every question I ask, I learn something new about her history, about her accomplishments, about her failures–about her hard earned wisdom.
This weekend was no different. We were sitting on the patio enjoying the smell of fresh mown hay, one of Mama’s favorite smells, and somehow ended up talking about life during the Great Depression. Mama was only three-years-old when the stock market crashed in 1929, so the Great Depression was a major part of her entire childhood. But since she never knew “better times,” she was quite content with her family’s lot in life.
“Everyone was poor, so I never really thought much about it. We did what we had to do to make things work, and somehow they always seemed to work just fine.”
Mama said among her favorite things to do as a kid was listen to radio programs. “We didn’t have television, so it was radio and newspapers we got our information from. I do miss the family gathering around the radio. It was an enjoyable time for all of us.”
One of Mama’s favorite radio programs was called Henry’s Exchange Hints. (Now I have to insert here, if you grew up in the Great Depression, you are an extreme hoarder. Needless to say, Mama still has her “Henry’s Exchange” books!)
“Basically, ‘Henry’s Exchange’ was a program for people to share ideas and tips on anything from canning to cleaning,” Mama said.
Mama insisted she still had a couple of the pamphlets that were produced once or twice a year by the program, and sure enough, digging into one of her many totes, I found two of them.
It was great fun to read the pamphlets to her and hear her sweet giggle as she recalled poignant memories from her childhood.
Needless to say, I learned a bit myself
Henry Hornsbuckle originated and conducted “Henry’s Exchange,” and during its heyday, it was on the radio five nights a week. Mama and I picked a few of our favorite exchange hints to share with all of you. Enjoy!
If an egg breaks on one end, crack the other end, and you can boil without the contents coming out of the shell.
If you place vinegar on top of the stove when you are cooking, it will absorb the odors of cooking. It absorbs the odors and prevents them wafting through the house.
Turn a mettle colander upside down over meat when frying it. The small holes let the steam escape but the grease can’t splatter.
Poor cold water over eggs before putting them into boil and they won’t crack.
To brighten aluminum ware, use lemon juice rubbed on with a cloth, wash afterwards with warm, soapy water.
When anything sticks or burns in a kettle in which you are cooking, mix half water and half vinegar, set back on the stove and let the solution come to a boil. Wash with warm soapy water after boiling.
For bee stings, dissolve a pinch of salt in two tablespoons of vinegar and rub on the sting. This also keeps the area from swelling.
For burns, moisten a cloth with vinegar and bind onto the burn.
For sunburn, boil strong tea and when it cools rub it over the affected area.
When young cucumber vines have bugs on them, sprinkle with pepper when the dew is on in the morning. You can also plant two or three moth balls in the hill when planting cucumbers.
To get rid of ants in the garden, powder moth balls and mix the powder into the dirt where you find ants. They will never return.
For planting fine seeds such as lettuce, mix the seed with corn meal and you can see where you planted them.
Pull your tomato vines in the fall. pile them in a large pile, cover them with canvas or old quilts and tomatoes left on them will continue to ripen.
If you are leaving home for a few days and you don’t know of anyone to water you house plants while you’re away, take several sponges and soak them in water and place one by each flower. they will keep the dirt moist for a long time.
Sprinkle crushed moth balls over your bulb beds and you will never lose them to gophers.
Rub vinegar on brown spot on the skin for several days. The spots will disappear.
For complexion and freckles, squeeze lemon juice into milk. Rub the mixture over face and neck.
To prevent peeled peaches from losing their color and turning dark, put into water which a little vinegar has been added. The peaches will not take on the vinegar taste.
A small amount of lemon juice put on sliced bananas will keep them from turning black.
Pour a can of cream-of-mushroom soup over meat loaf about half an hour before it comes from the oven for a delicious gravy.
Grated orange or lemon adds an especially delicious flavor to sweet potatoes.
Odors from cabbage can be avoided by dropping two un-cracked English walnuts into the kettle while cooking.
After peeling onions, wash your hands in vinegar and them in soap. All odor will be removed.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as me and O.G. did preparing it. Cheers to all, and I hope these hints are helpful even in our age of modern technology. Watch for more in future posts from “The Book of O.G.”
Here’s a picture of O.G. with her great-granddaughter Adeline Jayne Kast.