Have you ever walked into a room and suddenly been reminded of something you hadn’t thought about in many years? In his novel, In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust tells how the narrator is transported back to his childhood by the scent and taste of a Madeleine.
If a little cake can take a man back to his childhood, think what a kerosene lamp can do.
I have a clear and detailed memory of my grandparents’ home whenever we light a kerosene lamp at the cabin. When we visited Grandpa and Grandma Rang in the evening, Grandma would light lamps at dusk. The odor of kerosene transports me back to what I remember as a huge country kitchen. There was a large dining table at the south end of the room, a small table on a side wall and a big cookstove at the north end.
The stove was white and silvery with a black top and a warming oven and water tank above the cooking surface. The stove sat about three feet from the wall, and my father told me how he had spent a couple of nights as a boy on a chair between the stove and wall wrapped in a wool blanket and fortified with Grandma’s dandelion wine as he battled whooping cough.
The lamps were on the tables. The light was warm and inviting, but the corners of the room were in shadow. Mosquitos whined outside and crickets sang to each other. I remember hearing an owl call a few times, but I didn’t pay much attention to the voices of the adults.
I was more interested in exploring the mysteries of the room. There was the little table by one of the west windows with a straight-backed chair where Grandma sat and read or did needlework during the day. The sink had a pail beneath it to catch wash water, and there was a beautiful kitchen cabinet next to it. The stove, which was always warm, even on the hottest days, was about halfway between two doors on the north wall. Grandpa kept the woodbox next to the stove full so Grandma could cook breakfast, dinner and supper.
In the northeast corner of the room was the door, usually open, into Grandpa and Grandma’s bedroom. It was a large room that also served as the parlor. It had a tall wood stove with chrome fenders at the bottom where Grandpa could brace his feet while he read the paper after supper.
In the northwest corner of the kitchen was the door that led upstairs to the bedrooms where my father had shared the “bunk room” with his brothers. The second bedroom was smaller and had a door to provide privacy for the girls. I don’t remember whether the bunk room had decorative wallpaper, but I recall the floral print in the girls’ room. It had a south-facing window and was sunny and cheerful.
Both rooms had small grills set in the floor to let warm air from the stoves downstairs provide heat in the winter. The girls’ room was above the kitchen and was probably colder than the boys’ in winter, since the small firebox on the cookstove would not have held a fire through the night.
The tall wood stove in Grandpa and Grandma’s room was the main source of heat in the house. Grandpa would stoke the fire with some big logs before going to bed to make sure the fire lasted through the night. Still, my father told me that he remembered waking up in the morning with frost on the blankets. Of course, he may have only been trying to make me feel lucky that we had an oil stove that kept the whole house warm on the coldest winter nights.
Jerri doesn’t have kerosene memories, but when she steps into a walk-in freezer, she is reminded of trips to the locker plant in El Dorado, Kansas. Her family rented a storage locker to store the meat from their farm or purchased from neighbors on butchering days. “Maybe it is just because El Dorado was the big town,” she muses, “but I always remember those trips to town.”
When we stop to buy deer corn or sunflower seeds at a feed mill, the smell of cracked corn and other grains transports her back to her family’s chicken coop on the farm where she lived until she was six years old. Her parents gave the coop to Caroline, a neighbor who insisted on showing her appreciation by bringing a gift chicken from time to time. She delivered the live chicken in a gunny sack, much to Jerri’s mother’s dismay.
“If she brings me another live chicken, I don’t know what I’ll do!” she would say, as she expertly decapitated the innocent bird. Sunday dinner was assured.
Jerri associates the “closed up smell where old people lived” with her grandparents’ home where her father’s sister Ruth lived with her parents. She remembers the odor of the gas space heater in the bathroom. When we light a burner on the range, Jerri often thinks of how she asked her mother if she could have a bath in the tub. It was a memorable occasion, her first tub bath.
Jerri also remembers Aunt Ruth’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake, not because of the smell but because of how good it tasted. Here’s how to make it. Jerri doesn’t have her aunt’s recipe, but here is what Mennonite ladies were baking when Jerri was a girl.
1 cup lukewarm water
4 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 cups milk
2/3 lard or shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
6 - 8 cups all-purpose flour
About 1 to 1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
About 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Warm a cup of water to about 100º in a small bowl and stir in the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar. Allow the yeast to proof until it begins to foam. Heat the milk until it steams and add the lard or shortening, stirring until it has melted, then pour the milk into a large bowl.
While the milk cools, stir in three-fourths cup of sugar and four teaspoons of salt. Test the temperature of the milk by shaking a drop on the inside of your wrist. If the milk feels only slightly warm, beat in the eggs followed by the yeast.
Add flour a cup at a time, beating well between additions, until you have a soft dough that just begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. You should have added between five and five and a half cups of flour.
Let the dough rest in the bowl for five minutes, then turn it out on a lightly floured surface. The dough will be a little sticky, so flour your hands before you begin kneading. Knead for five or six minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and put it into a greased bowl, turning the dough to cover the surface with grease.
Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, Put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk. Turn it out on a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so, then form it once more into a ball and return it to the greased bowl, turning the ball as you did the first time. Cover it and allow it to rise until the dough has again doubled in bulk.
Once the dough is ready, divide it into four equal parts, make four balls and press them into well-buttered eight-inch cake pans to rise.
Preheat the oven to 375º.
When the dough has nearly reached the tops of the pans, dot with teaspoonfuls of sour cream, sprinkle with generous amounts of cinnamon and sugar and bake twenty to twenty-five minutes.
NOTES: You can be creative with this recipe. The dough is tender and only slightly sweet. At Jerri’s suggestion we used some poppy seed filling left over from her Christmas baking to make a delicious variation on Aunt Ruth’s coffee cake. We divided the dough for one coffee cake into two parts, rolled out one and put it in the bottom of a pie plate. We spread a generous layer of poppy seed filling on the dough and finished the cake with a second layer of dough. We let it rise and baked it for twenty-five minutes.
I’m sure that you could do the same with your favorite preserves or pie filling. How about a cherry or blueberry filled coffee cake?
-- Chuck Rang
Grandpa and Grandma Rang’s farm was two miles from their church at Phipps, Wisconsin. Trinity Lutheran Church was a modest white clapboard church built in 1905 on land donated by a parishioner. Another family donated five acres across from the church for a cemetery. The church was demolished many years ago, and trees grow where I once recited Bible verses, but the cemetery is still maintained, and we visit it regularly to put flowers on the graves of my parents.
My first memories of church services and other activities all involve that little church. My mother and father were active members, which meant that we kids were also part of that church family. It was there that I learned that one should fill the front pews out of respect for the minister, that you didn’t need fancy clothes but you should wash and wear clean pants and shirts and that you kept quiet and paid attention during the service. Mom made sure that I was dressed in a clean white shirt and wore a clip-on tie every Sunday.
I remember potlucks with lots of food and time to play with the other kids while our fathers met on church business with the minister and our mothers visited with each other. By the time I was five or six I was one of the kids who had walk-on roles in the Christmas play. While the older kids were dressed as angels, Mary or Joseph or the three Wise Men and recited scripture, we little kids pretended to be shepherds or, worse, sheep.
It must have been a Christmas service that persuaded Grandpa and Grandma Rang to take their family to church on a snowy December night in 1922. My father told me the story many years ago. In the summer, the family rode to church in their Overland touring car, but in winter they traveled by horse and sleigh. On that occasion, however, the snow was so deep that the horse could not pull the sleigh.
“It acted just like a plow,” said my father. “Pa told us we would have to walk. So that’s what we did. And we weren’t the only ones.”
“Pa broke trail, and George and Margaret who were bigger helped tramp down the snow. I helped Stub get through it and Ma made sure no one got lost. It took us a while, but we made it in time for the service. The minister’s wife had hot cider for everyone afterwards in the parsonage next door to the church.
“It was easier walking home, because we had made a pretty good trail. Harold (my father’s younger brother) was born about two months later. Ma and Harold did just fine.”
Today I think often of this story when church is canceled because of a winter snow or ice storm warning. “People don’t want to have an accident driving in bad weather,” says Jerri. I don’t reply, but the temptation is there. “Couldn’t they just walk?”
Only through the efforts of the present can we support both the memories of the past and the plans and dreams of the future. The Heritage Center celebrated their volunteers and members as more than 120 attendees packed the Annual Meeting last evening in the Pavilion.
Executive Director Bev Peirson kicked off the meeting by recognizing the many ways that members and volunteers support the Heritage Center. Our community support is at the heart of what we do and makes the Heritage experience a reality. Board of Directors President Paul Mayor also gave a heartfelt thank you to attendees and introduced the board members who shared achievements and milestones for the year.
But the highlight of the evening was the recognition of the many contributions that Irv and Mary Sather have made to the Heritage Center and the New Richmond community. “This place that we are all part of is a very special place and wouldn’t be here without Irv and Mary’s vision, hard work, and dedication,” said Mayer. “The Board wanted to find a meaningful way to recognize their immense contribution to the Heritage Center. So tonight, we dedicate the pavilion to Irv and Mary in recognition of their contributions and rename it the “Sather Pavilion."
Both Peirson and Mayer also presented Irv and Mary with a commemorative plaque to be displayed on the Pavilion.
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
July 11th - August 22nd
Pack up a picnic, bring a blanket, a few lawn chairs, and make yourself comfortable by the bandstand at the Heritage Center. Each evening offers a unique performance and is always family friendly. No two nights will be the same; so don’t miss a single one. And it’s free! There will be pop and popcorn available for sale.
This series is made possible by the generous support of the Heritage Center, City of New Richmond, and the sponsors listed below with each event.
In case of inclement weather, we’ll move into the Pavilion, with limited seating.
Heritage Music Photo Gallery
I too have stared out the window
On a dim dull Saturday morning
And watched the rain pound puddles in the driveway
And wondered why it should rain
On the day we planned the picnic.
Like you I have blessed the weatherman
Who promised a sunny weekend
With blue skies and light winds,
Days perfect for ball games and hiking,
For mowing the lawn and visiting with neighbors.
And I have cursed that same oracle
When storm clouds blotted the promised sun
And the heavens poured on us
As we crouched sullenly in our tents
While the wind whipped wet leaves through the gray air.
Once I was nearly buried on a hay wagon
By the sweet half-dry hay as old Johnny Martinson
Drove the Farmall in high down the rows as we hurried
To get the hay to the barn before the rain came,
And I remember the extra quarter I got when we did it.
But I remember also my father telling us
Of dust storms in Nebraska in the thirties,
Of ropes strung between the house and barn
To guide farmers to and from their chores,
Of days so dark that the chickens roosted at noon.
And long after the Dust Bowl years
I remember summers so dry
That the grass cut our feet like oat straw,
When ponds went dry and blackberries
Withered on the wilted vines,
When people prayed for rain,
Under merciless bright skies by day
And on windless nights with heat lightning
Flashing and mumbling beyond the horizon,
Prayed so hard that finally the rain did come.
But most of all I remember when I was twelve
Weeding the garden one hot dry day
(The best days to weed, my father told me,
Are when it is hot and dry and sunny.)
Home alone and hating the work,
Dreaming of heroes who did not weed or hoe,
When suddenly from the west a storm
Swept up the valley and over our woods and garden.
Lightning and thunder and raindrops big as grapes
Stung my cheeks as I stood stupidly in the storm.
But I think that you too would have shared my joy
With the corn waving in the garden, potato leaves nodding at each drop,
The pines washed green and oh! the puddles of cool water
Washing the dust from my bare feet as I rejoiced
In the splendor of the rain.
The Heritage Center has announced the appointment of Beverly Peirson as its new Executive Director.
With a Masters in Teaching and Education from UW-River Falls and 36-year teaching career, Peirson has shown a true commitment to education and knows first-hand the type of experiential learning that The Heritage Center provides to all ages. Now retired, she volunteers at Grace Place and is a previous Heritage Center Board Member.
“My vision for the Heritage Center is to see it grow, but maintain the core mission of preserving the history of New Richmond and to educate our children and young adults of what life was like in the past,” says Peirson. “The Heritage Center hosts some amazing events, like the Hillside Music series and Heritage Days, that I’d like to help grow and promote, along with our historic buildings as a place to visit and learn. Finally, I want to make sure our volunteers are honored and appreciated. They are the heart and soul of the Heritage Center.“
Originally from the Deer Park area, Peirson has lived in New Richmond the past 30 years with her husband Jim.
Located on the old Bell-Tierney Farmstead, just south of Main Street by the big barn, The Heritage Center helps to build a connection with our past through exhibits, tours, programs, and events.
The Heritage Center will offer a training and orientation for volunteers interested in becoming tour guides for their historic sites on Wednesday, April 25th from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Tour guide volunteers will receive an overview of the Heritage Center and its buildings, which includes a "walk about" with current guides. The docent training workshop is free and open to the public. Current and past docents are welcome to join the new volunteers to update their knowledge and share a few pointers.
Visitors come from near and far to The Heritage Center to learn about how people lived here in years past. Last spring, approximately 960 children plus teachers, assistants and guests visited the Heritage Center. The tours begin in the Pavilion with an introduction to early New Richmond, farm life and the 1899 cyclone display. Camp 9 School is always a favorite, probably because it is most connected to their lives. Other popular buildings are the Immigrant Cabin, Ubet Store, History Shed, Bell Tierney Farm House and the Blacksmith Shop.
Come to the spring meeting, share your love of history and our community, and learn how to be a Heritage Center Tour Guide.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 -- 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Reminder: This weekend is the first real test of your New Year's resolution to declutter.
Even if your goal this year isn't to clean house, we have a list of eight ways that decluttering can help you kick off the year with a fresh start and achieve your new year, new you thing.
1. Reduce Stress and Be Happier
That clutter in your house could be causing stress. It competes for your attention and makes simple tasks more of a challenge when you can't find what you're looking for. Research shows a direct link between high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and the amount of stuff in a home.
2. Focus More on What Matters Most in Life
Clutter is visual noise that is distracting because it's stuff not being used. It becomes the go-to pile for procrastinators. If you're set on achieving a new goal this year, you need to stay focused and not get distracted by items that might be calling out to you to be finished or "put to use". Don't let small things distract you or drain energy from those more meaningful life goals.
3. Improve Confidence and Self-Esteem
Clutter also can make us feel disorganized and overwhelmed, making us feel like we don't have our life together. Each item can also carry with it a bit of guilt. Not only at the cost of the item, but subtle shame in not finishing a project or the feeling that we bought more than we need. The key is to keep what inspires and motivates us.
4. Let Go of the Past
This one's a no-brainer. To move on and let go of the past, there are certain items that you should let go of as well. This is a category of clutter all to its own. These items might have a purpose, so you keep them, but they subtly affect your mood. As mentioned above, if the item makes you feel good, keep it; if it drags you down, it's time to get rid of it.
5. Being More Present and Focused
Want to be more present and focused this year? Making space and getting rid of things that you don't need is a great way to start. Clutter can be a distraction and feel like another thing on your to-do list. Be in the now.
6. Get Better Sleep
With so many benefits of clearing your space and grounding yourself, it's not a surprise that decluttering can improve your sleep.
7. Be More Creative
This goes hand-in-hand with reducing stress and finding space. When you eliminate the distractions and create a space that improves your mood, you allow yourself to be more creative and finally take on that novel or that baroque ceiling mural idea that you've been putting off.
8. Support Charity and Give Back to the Community
If your resolution was to give more to charity and support your community, the Heritage Center is a great place to start. We’re still accepting donations at the north entrance of the Barn, Monday – Friday 10 a.m to 2 p.m. (donation days change in Spring).
While decluttering, you might also come across a piece of local history that you might want to share. If that’s the case, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a description of the artifact.
There are also many other local charities that accept donations, including GracePlace, Goodwill, ReStore (Habitat for Humanity), and FiveLoaves.
The historic Victorian farmhouse is now filled with lights, sights, and sounds of the season. The folks at the Heritage Center have been busy decking the halls with boughs and holly in preparation for their annual Holiday open house and Christmas luncheon.
Holiday open houses will be held on Saturday Dec. 2 and 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The flea market will also be open in the pavilion at the same time for pre-holiday sales.
The center's annual Farmhouse Christmas Luncheon is set for Thursday, Dec. 14. There will be two seatings for guests 11:00 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $12 per person. Call 715-246-3276 for reservations.