Ozarks Viewpoints

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


After only the second or third time eating out, away from a home dinner table (with the exception of Navy days), thoughts began to arrive about the Thanksgiving dinners at the Ray house at Ninth and Townsend. Today, the property is an apartment house that can still be filled with memories, especially of some of the meals and then of the kitchen that provided facilities to cook for what was most usually a very large group.

So far as the downstairs of the home was concerned, the dining room was about the largest, with the kitchen ranking about third. Actually, it had to be large to accommodate the facilities for meal preparation for all those who would be around the dinner table on holidays. Then too, accommodating the Charter Oak (name reminder courtesy of Hal Miller) wood cook stove, which required quite a few feet of floor space.

Always ready

That black and chrome monster was always ready to go into action, it had to be to feed the hungry crowds that either lived there or found their way in the door about mealtime. My aunt Missie Pearl, mom's sister, was the apparent supervisor of the stove. All she had to do was have one of the boys fetch an arm load of "shekan" (she can carry) fuel out of the wood house, and the meal preparation was underway.

Aunt Missie was the rotund member of the family and her liking to eat probably is what made her such a good cook. Many times, she would give credit to the Charter Oak with being one of the main reasons for the appealing menus.

The stove

Charter Oaks, at least this model, had six caps on which cooking could be accomplished. The oven turned out some of the best baked goods you could find anywhere. There was a warming oven at the top, near the flue and a water reservoir that would heat water. That oven and the cook's magic, always provided some of the best dinner rolls to be found anywhere. We kids called them Sunday biscuits and urged that they be included on as many meals as possible.

Once baked, they were placed atop the warming ovens, with the admonishment that they were not to be disturbed until mealtime.

Adding to their appeal was usually some fresh, farm churned butter, which was available for special occasions.

The caps, also warmed by the firebox, had lifters with which they could be removed while in the process of cooking a part of the meal. It was best not to drop one of the lifters on the floor since it would either mash a foot or burn a mark in the linoleum floor covering used in those days. As remembered, there were some of those on that kitchen floor.

Cooks accomplished at using these stoves knew exactly how many sticks of wood to load into the firebox to get the exact desired results.

That wood was no larger than 18 inches long, preferably 14 inches and was as narrow as could be split out of a piece of firewood. This material came from the wood house, located just a short distance out the back door. There was always a sharp ax in the house, which kids were not allowed to touch. The floor, for some reason or other, was gravel.

The wood house, also served as a holding house for any female pets that might be in the family when they were in heat. To let one of them out during this time of confinement meant real trouble for the offender.

Dinner tables

The dining room was about the second largest downstairs room in the house, it had to be just to hold the dining room table. While this table accommodated 10 or 12 persons, there was most usually an overflow area, usually reserved for the children there for the meal.

These auxiliary tables could be at the kitchen table that had been cleared of food storage or there were always card tables around that could be set up near the big table.

If you were one of those relegated to a smaller table, it was best to be at a card table nearby where refills of food were easily passed.

Missed home

Prompting this remembrance was this past Thanksgiving, enjoyed in Overland Park with Shelley and Dennis, when we joined the apparent masses that aren't at home for the holiday.

The reason for the "eat out" was because the Bartkoski house is undergoing a remodeling that was supposed to be finished by the holiday. For those who have gone through one of those extensive projects, it seems like nothing falls into place on a time schedule.

But who cares, part of the family was together, and telephone calls kept us up-to-date with the others.