On Tuesday, September 12, 2017, three volunteer guides brought Heritage Center artifacts to residents of Our House, an assisted living home in New Richmond.
The informal program, presented by Avalene Swanson, Wayne Tubbs, and Sara DeLuca, included a display of several household items used in decades past. Residents were encouraged to share personal memories regarding these common tools of daily living.
Items included: rug beater; ball of fabric strips (used for making braided rugs); feather duster; hot water bottle; sad iron and early electric iron; sprinkling bottle (used for dampening clothes before ironing; corn sheller; ceramic crock and wooden masher; canning jar; jar of recycled buttons; milk bottle; coal and ash shovel; embroidery hoop; darning egg (for mending socks); fur muff (a fashionable means of warming the hands); World War II biscuit tin.
Nine residents (ranging in age from 80 to 102), one visitor, and several staff members enjoyed sharing stories prompted by these objects. They recalled that daily chores were hard and long. Yet there was real satisfaction in contributing to the well being of family and community. Nothing was wasted. “Recycling” was not a common term in those days, but everything was well used, conserved and re-purposed whenever possible.
For example, the heavy sad irons, which became obsolete with the advent of electric irons, made fine doorstops or bookends. They could also be heated in the oven and wrapped in towels to warm a chilly bed.
The glass milk bottle prompted a special memory for one gentleman who grew up in Minneapolis. As a young boy, he often rode along on his father’s milk route, helping deliver bottled milk throughout the city neighborhoods. The horses knew the route well and needed little guidance.
Several ladies with country backgrounds remembered bringing the cows home from pasture, feeding, milking, separating the milk, whipping the cream and churning the butter.
The darning egg was well remembered. Socks with holes in heel or toe were not thrown out but were skillfully “darned” for further use. Someone recalled that mother sometimes slipped a light bulb inside the socks she was mending, which helped her make expert repairs.
The Mason canning jar stirred images of large gardens, fall harvests, canning chores, colorful rows of fruits and vegetables lining the cellar shelves, “put by” for winter.
Everyone recalled the chamber pot – a welcome alternative to the outhouse, especially on cold winter nights.
Avalene, Wayne, and Sara also shared photographs of the Heritage Center buildings, describing the collections displayed inside.
Since many residents in assisted living homes and extended care facilities are unable to tour the museums in person, it is gratifying to bring selected items to them and encourage the sharing of personal memories and a common history.
Faces light up. Stories begin to flow. For this volunteer guide, it is an ample reward.
- Sara DeLuca