Friday, December 4, 2009
Aunt Effie and Uncle Harold
Who could forget Aunt Effie? If you were born before 1975 you most likely remember aunt Effie at all the holidays up at grandma and grandpa's house. She quickly became a fixture in our family, and she and grandma had become close friends. It wasn't always this way as they led separate lives.
Harold was grandpa's fraternal uncle. Uncle Harold was born on October 2, 1891, and he passed away in July of 1973. Aunt Effie was born September 2, 1891, and passed away on September 28, 1979. They had had one daughter, Mildred, born in 1912, who passed away at age 38 of heart complications. Mildred never had children.
In their earlier years, Harold and Effie had been friends with the great WWI flying ace, Eddie Rickenbacker. Harold and Effie ran in circles that were a bit above the ordinary, and their choice of friends reflected this. Somewhere in their early years they moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio, where both would work. Aunt Effie owned a millinery shop where she made and sold hats. They would eventually come back to Columbus where they bought a small, modest home at 6511 McGuffey Ave.
Aunt Effie enjoyed cooking and baking. One of the things she was most famous for were her Sugar Cut Out cookies. The day after Thanksgiving, Aunt Effie would begin to make thousands of these cookies as she would make them up, roll them out, ice them, and give them away to the many people whom they knew. These cookies have become a standard in my holiday cookie baking as they are the best I've ever had. The recipe had originally come from Aunt Effie's mother.
Aunt Effie and Uncle Harold didn't really come into the family as "fixtures" until around 1968/69, when Dad, Kim, and I were living up at grandma and grandpa's house. One day, Uncle Harold called grandpa and told him he needed help. His health was failing, he could no longer drive, and he also had back problems. Grandpa sent Dad over to take Uncle Harold to the doctor's office and the store, many times with Kim and I in tow. We got to know both well in this way.
I remember Uncle Harold liked to eat Kix cereal, which I thought was rather a horrid choice, at the time. He always kept a few boxes bought up and on the shelf.
As Uncle Harold's health began to fail, we kids were "farmed out" to stay with Aunt Effie. I remember one time when Uncle Harold was in the hospital, I had to go stay with Aunt Effie, and I had to sleep on his bed. They had two seperate beds in the same room as Uncle Harold had a bad back. Lucky me! I wanted to sleep in that pretty guest room (which I don't think any of us kids ever did get to sleep in!), but instead, I had to sleep in Uncle Harold's bed, which sported a door between the mattress and box springs! Yes, you read that right, a door. A heavy wooden door that was old, heavy, and shellacked a deep golden brown. It wasn't very comfortable!
After Harold passed away, each one of us older kids had to take our turn being "farmed out" to Aunt Effie's house to keep her company. This meant that Kim, Vic, Val, Irene, and I all got to go stay at Aunt Effie's house on a semi-regular basis in order to keep her company. Being the oldest and more sedate, I got to go more often than all the others. I wouldn't have minded so much had we been allowed to take a jog around the block once a day, but the neighorhood had deteriorated so that it was no longer safe to walk down the street~even during the day. One time, Aunt Effie wanted to walk down to the corner store a few blocks away, perhaps 4-5 blocks, and she told me to keep close by! Good heavens, a snail could crawl faster than she could walk, and when one is eleven years old, this is hard on the exuberance that one naturally has and needs to run off. There was no running off any excess energy at Aunt Effie's house! The funny thing is that dear Aunt Effie felt responsible for me and wanted me near her to protect me, but I am afraid had anyone tried to molest us in any way, that it would have been me doing all the protecting~ which I would have gladly done! I did love Aunt Effie! All of us kids loved her.
One time, when it was particularly hot and humid out, the only exercise I got in a three day visit was a quick trip out to the small back yard to water the three tomato plants growing near the clothes line. When Aunt Effie took her afternoon nap, I placed an SOS call to grandma to get me out of there!!! My knees actually hurt from inactivity! Grandma sent Dad up with a different kid, whom I can't recall, perhaps Kim, but I got out of there for a couple of weeks so I could go home and run like a kid needs to do. I couldn't wait to jump on a bike or go swimming and stretch my limbs. I was getting all kinked up sitting around doing nothing.
We all loved Aunt Effie, and it isn't that we so minded staying with her, there just wasn't much to do. I got smart after the first couple of trips and took a book or two with me, along with some puzzle books like Word Finds, and also a deck of cards (Solitaire can keep you occupied for hours!), and so I had things to do.
Of course, we were sometimes called upon to run the sweeper, run down into the basement to fetch something Aunt Effie needed, or to water the tomato plants.
By the time Uncle Harold died, Aunt Effie had little she could do to occupy her time. Her sight was not as good as it once had been, so she could not longer embroider or crochet, and she no longer felt compelled to bake, so grandma began to make all of Aunt Effie's favorite dishes for the holidays. The Chinese Chews, Rum Balls, and the Nut Bread would become traditions at the holiday feasts we always enjoyed. And that included Aunt Effie's Pecan Pie that grandma would make.
Aunt Effie had a "peaches and cream" complexion, hair that was barely gray, and she had never drank a soda pop in her life, though she did drink coffee. She liked her sweets as she always kept spearmint leaf and orange wedge jellies, and Kraft jelly nougats in the candy dish on the coffee table in the living room.
She and grandma used to like to go downtown on the bus to eat at the Colonial Room in Lazarus, and to get their hair done. This meant grandma would catch a bus on the corner of McCutcheon and Lincolnshire, then change and go to McGuffey where she'd have to walk to Aunt Effie's, and then the two of them would catch a bus downtown by walking down to the bus stop. Sometimes, Uncle Ed would drop grandma off at Effie's, and in later years, Alice would take grandma over to Effie's and help her clean Effie's house. Aunt Effie was thoroughly entrenched into our family.
When Aunt Effie passed away it was the only time I ever saw a misting of tears in grandma's eyes. Grandma sure loved Aunt Effie as they had grown close over the years.
We all missed Aunt Effie and her quiet ways once she was gone. But thankfully, we had her recipes and these helped us to keep the food traditions alive that we had come to love. I share them with you here, along with others hand-written in her cook books that I inherited when she passed away.