Tag Archives: Ellsworth Hall

Twelve Treats of Christmas – Day Seven

Popcorn Balls

My mother told us how they used to make popcorn “in the good old days.” They put the corn kernals into a mesh basket with a long handle, something like a “Jiffy-Pop” set-up. The cook then shook the basket over the fireplace fire until the corn exploded and filled up the popper.

Winter Sunday afternoons were popcorn time at the farm on Whirlwind Hill. My grandmother popped a huge pot of corn, buttered and salted it, and left it on the kitchen table. When we came in from sledding we filled our little green melmac bowls with the salty snack and brought it with us to the living room to eat while we listened to the grown-ups engage in their Sunday chat.

Sledding on the hill, 1950's

Sledding down the hill toward the farmhouse, 1950’s

We saved some of the popcorn for my Grandpa Hall’s popcorn balls. He was a slow eater, and one popcorn ball might last him several evenings. This was ok, because popcorn balls seem to get better over time, especially if you wrap them in green or red cellophane tied with ribbon. My mother made these for him, knowing that on cold winter nights his favorite pastime was to sit by the wood stove in the kitchen and nibble on a popcorn ball and some hickory nuts.

Janet Hall Crump and her Daddy, Ellsworth Hall

Janet Hall Crump and her daddy, Ellsworth Hall, sitting on the lounge in the dining room where he took his daily after-lunch nap.

Update – Climbing the Three Notches

On a recent April Saturday afternoon I set out in the company of my brother Kirt, my cousin Dean, and Dean’s wife Jean, to climb the mountain ridge that we call the “Three Notches.” We wanted to follow the paths our ancestors used long ago, and we also hoped to find some marks left on a rock at the highest point of the ridge.

In a 1944 letter to his future wife Betty, my mother’s cousin, Austin Norton wrote:

“When I was a kid I used to be crazy to go out to Mother’s home [his mother was my great-aunt Ellen, my grandfather Ellsworth’s sister] and help them hay and milk. I would ride my bicycle out there every Saturday just to get in the way and watch. That must be a satisfying way of life, farming I mean…There is a range of hills beyond the farm which we love to climb for a picnic lunch…Our favorite spot on the range is called “Three Notches,” and on the highest notch, Mother’s dad [my great-grandfather William E. Hall] has his name chipped into the rock. That’s the highest point of land in Wallingford and you can see for miles around, Long Island Sound on one side and Hartford, the capital on the other.” – Austin Hart Norton

Since last March, when we first heard about the carving, my brother and I were, as Austin put it, “crazy” to go search for it. These mountains (which in Alaska would be called hills) are part of the trap-rock Metacomet Ridge that stretches from New Haven, Connecticut to the Vermont-Massachusetts border. We decided to start our hike at the south end of Fowler Mountain, just east of Whirlwind Hill, and follow the Mettabesett trail to the base of the first of the three peaks. When I asked my brother how far a walk this would be he said “Not that far.”

"Not that far!" - A view of the Three Notches and Fowler Mountain.

“Not that far!” – A view of the Three Notches and Fowler Mountain.

My brother had never climbed the “Three Notches.” He’d ridden a horse on Fowler Mountain back in the 1970’s when the old cabin used to be there. Dean had gone more recently, and agreed to guide us on this sunny, windy afternoon.

Determined to go on this hike despite a bad cold and a worse fear of ticks, I sprayed myself with a ridiculous amount of “Deep Woods Off” and hoped for the best. The trail, although steep and treacherous in places with loose rocks and branches hidden under deep layers of leaves, was wide and sun-dappled and easy to follow.

Starting up the trail

Starting up the trail

I was thrilled to come upon patch after patch of wildflowers.

First were the adder’s tongues –

Adder's tongue (or trout lily)

Adder’s tongue (or trout lily)

Then rue anemone and bloodroot –

Rue anemone

Rue anemone

And just as I was telling Jean about hepaticas and how hard they were to find these days, I looked down and saw a small army of the bright little flowers popping out from under brown leaves. Joy!



A cabin used to stand somewhere on the ridge of Fowler Mountain. My brother and Dean looked for signs of this former refuge, but there wasn’t enough time for a thorough search. This was proving to be a much longer walk than I had planned on, and “not that far” had begun to seem like wishful thinking. I could see on my phone map we were still a long way from the Three Notches.

But at the end of Fowler Mountain we came across an old marker for the George Washington Trail. Although the plaque itself was gone (most of the metal plaques on these markers have long ago been spirited away by vandals), the post was enough to show us the place where our first president and our early Hall ancestors crossed the Metacomet Ridge on their way from Wallingford to Durham. It ran perpendicular to our trail up the ridge, and someday we’d like to explore it more thoroughly.

George Washington Trail marker post

George Washington Trail marker post

Ahead of us was another steep incline, which I hoped was the ascent to the first notch, but in a “Bear Goes over the Mountain” scenario, we found yet an even steeper climb on the other side. I was ready to quit, but Dean prodded, “Come on Carol – It’s worth it.”

Getting closer

Getting closer

It WAS worth it. The view was spectacular. To our left we could see Whirlwind Hill and the view beyond to New Haven and Long Island Sound. To the right we looked at Meriden, Hartford, and on toward Massachusetts.

The view from the notch - looking toward Whirlwind Hill and beyond to Long Island Sound.

The view from the notch – looking toward Whirlwind Hill and beyond to Long Island Sound.

And then my brother said, “Here’s the name!” He found our treasure. On an outcropping of rock overlooking the Ulbrich Reservoir, were letters and numbers carved into the rock’s surface.

Kirt with the carved rock

Kirt with the carved rock

My great-grandfather’s name, W. E Hall,  was still there – a one-hundred and thirty-year-old memento of his wish to be immortalized on this spot. The carved date of 1874 indicates he was probably thirty-seven years old when he chipped away at the hard rock.

Set in stone

Set in stone

Happy and satisfied with our findings, we took photos of each other before beginning the long trek back to our car.

Kirt and Carol

Kirt and Carol

It was so quiet up there – a peaceful solitude that’s hard to find these days. We could understand why this spot was a favorite for our relatives, and we plan to go back whenever we can. It cheers me now to have a focus for those mountains beyond Whirlwind Hill. The distant view is more meaningful because of knowing where to look  – at a spot on that high windy rock where part of my family history is set in stone.

"The Three Notches,"  Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014

“The Three Notches,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014



Outbuildings #6 – A House for an Auto

OutuildingsMost of the real work on the farm happened in the barn, in the fields, and in the house. Some of the outbuildings were so specific in purpose that they were often hastily erected and as quickly abandoned when seasons or activities changed. Others had longer lives and a bigger presence. They were spread out around the property in an almost haphazard way. A few of them I remember from childhood, but others I know only from photos.


A House for an Auto

In the spring of 1921 my grandfather Ellsworth began to think about getting a car and building a garage for it. I think of this “auto” looking like the one Uncle Wiggly, “The Bunny Rabbit Gentleman,” drove in my mother’s favorite childhood book, “Uncle Wiggly’s Auto Sled.”

From "Uncle Wiggly's Auto Sled," written by Howard R. Garis, Illustrated by Lang Campbell, 1920

From “Uncle Wiggly’s Auto Sled,” written by Howard R. Garis, Illustrated by Lang Campbell, 1920

My great-grandmother Lydia recorded the progress of the garage and the auto.

Saturday, March 12, 1921 – “Ellsworth…is thinking of building a house for an auto when he gets one. Children all have hard colds. Agnes and Emily have one. They are all sneezing in concert.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, March 16, 1921 – “Man came to show Ellsworth a Buick automobile.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, March 17, 1921 – “Nice day. Men busy carting dirt getting ready to build a garage opposite the horse barn at the top of the hill.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Friday, March 25, 1921 – “Ellsworth has a new automobile – came today.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Saturday, April 9, 1921 – “Agnes went out to take her lesson in the automobile this afternoon with Mr. Beaumont for teacher. Will have to give her several lessons. Am afraid they will have an accident someday, but hope not.” – Lydia Jane Hall

I don’t think that my grandmother, who was a very good driver, ever did have an accident in any automobile on the farm. She did almost all the driving. Her big black car fit perfectly into the garage, and we loved being asked to go along on her errands. We followed her into the dark muskiness of the garage, climbed onto the big back seat where, unencumbered by seat belts, we bounced up and down as the car traversed the East Wallingford hills, hoping to be bouncing up when we hit a big bump so our heads would touch the car ceiling.

"A Shed for a Car," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

“A Shed for a Car,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

See also Outbuildings #1, #2, #3, #4, #5

On Monday:  March Window

Outbuildings #5 – The Woodshed


Most of the real work on the farm happened in the barn, in the fields, and in the house. Some of the outbuildings were so specific in purpose that they were often hastily erected and as quickly abandoned when seasons or activities changed. Others had longer lives and a bigger presence. They were spread out around the property in an almost haphazard way. A few of them I remember from childhood, but others I know only from photos.


The Woodshed

The woodshed in the backyard of the farmhouse adjoined the old barn. Both buildings were torn down sometime in the early 1950’s I have vague memories of them, the most vivid one involving my grandmother hanging clothes on the line strung from the house to the side of the barn.

"Washing," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

“Washing,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

My great-grandmother Lydia recorded the origins of this woodshed. I have no idea what they did before that for wood storage. Maybe it was put into the barn, or more likely just kept in a pile close at hand. They needed large stores of wood for the two stoves in the house. Before the arrival of the tractor in 1921, the cutting, splitting, and sawing of sufficient wood was a year round on-going chore. The tractor and the woodshed were great helps for my grandfather and his workers.

Saturday, December 17, 1921 – “Cloudy most of the day. Men busy getting large stones from the ravine to lay the foundation for a shed for the wood pile.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, December 19, 1921 – “Nice day. Men busy placing the stones for the woodshed.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, December 29, 1921 – “Snowing this morning, cloudy most of the day. At night the wind blew very hard, grew cold, and before morning it was down below zero. Two men worked all day in the shed and didn’t finish. Walter went home. We have quite a large shed.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Saturday, January 5, 1924 – “Clouds and sunshiny. A light snow fell during the night. The wind came up at night and much colder at bedtime. Men busy getting wood ready to saw for the two stoves – with their many chores, keeps them busy.” – Lydia Jane Hall

"The Woodshed," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2015

“The Woodshed,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2015

See also:  Outbuildings #1, Outbuildings #2, Outbuildings #3, Outbuildings #4

On Monday:  Measles


I miss the putt-putt sound of a tractor. There aren’t any real working farms left on Whirlwind Hill. Some land is still farmed, and a few cows pastured, but I seldom hear the farmer’s useful machines going up and down the hill pulling their loads. What a nuisance it used to be when I was in a hurry to get someplace only to find myself stuck behind Mr. Cella’s tractor and manure spreader. There was often no way to get around until he took pity on me, pulled to the side and slowly waved me by. But still, I loved that sound and the slow pace of life it implied.

What tractors lack in speed and beauty, they make up for in strength and simplicity, and in the beginning of the twentieth century they became indispensable farm equipment.

The first tractor came to the farm in 1921. Prior to that, horses and oxen did the work. In this grainy photo from around 1914, my grandfather’s hired man, Andrew Rossi, drives a team of oxen down the lane.

Andres Rossi driving an oxcart, around 1914

Andres Rossi driving an oxcart, around 1914

In 1921 my grandfather Ellsworth took a step into the modern world. He bought a McCormick-Deering Farmall tractor.

Saturday, November 26, 1921 – “Cloudy, cold, and stormy. Ellsworth been to Peterland watching a man trying a tractor which he wants to sell.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Tuesday, November 29, 1921 – “Ellsworth has decided to have the tractor and will soon work at Peterland pulling out trees.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, December 1, 1921 – “Nice day after the storm. Men have gone to Peterland pulling out trees. Ellsworth says it does good work. Hope it will be of great use to him.

Tuesday, December 13, 1921 – “Nice day. Chores done. Men fixing the machine to saw, everything ready. Have commenced sawing. The wood all sawed into one large pile in time to do the chores. A great help.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Here is the original tractor being used in 1939 at the backyard woodpile to saw the wood into usable pieces. This tractor didn’t have regular tires and was used mainly for pulling and for running machines.

Cutting wood from the woodpile with the Farmall tractor, 1939

Cutting wood from the woodpile with the Farmall tractor, 1939

It sat out in the field behind the house for many years, and my brother, who adores tractors, had his photo taken sitting on its front end.

Kirt Crump on the Farmall tractor, 1952

Kirt Crump on the Farmall tractor, 1952

The farm had its own gas pump to keep the tractors going.

The old gas pump on the farm in 1972.

The old gas pump on the farm in 1972.

My grandfather always used Farmall tractors, whose distinctive red color may have influenced the purchase of my brother’s favorite toy.

Carol, Kirt, and Blossom the dog, 1953

Carol, Kirt, and Blossom the dog, 1953

Later on, when my father bought our land on Whirlwind Hill, he bought a John Deere tractor. He used it to rake hay, haul brush, plow the driveway in winter, drag the horses to their final resting places in the back fields, and give rides to his grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

Charlie Crump on the John Deere

Charlie Crump on the John Deere

Charlie Crump and Paul Bryner on the John Deere, 1975

Charlie Crump and Paul Bryner on the John Deere, 1975

It’s not easy to drive a tractor, but young farm boys usually know how to drive one long before getting behind the wheel of a car. My grandfather preferred driving the Farmall to driving the car, and left all the auto duties to my grandmother.

We still have some tractors on Whirlwind Hill. They’re  useful in all seasons, and little boys love to look at them and wish they were sitting high up on the seat and putt-putting slowly down the lane.

Carol and Henry with the new tractor, 2008

Carol and Henry with the new tractor, 2008

Outbuildings #5 – The Woodshed

Getting in the Ice

"Ice," Carol Crump Bryner, 2015

“Ice,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2015

In June 1967 I moved to California for graduate school. Among the many things I learned about the west coast was that no one there called that thing in our kitchen an icebox. It was a refrigerator. In California-speak a pocketbook became a purse, dungarees became jeans, and sneakers became tennis shoes.

There’s a reason we called it an icebox. The one I remember was a big wooden box with a zinc lining, a heavy door, and a compartment for a block of ice. In this photo from our Thanksgiving supper in 1948, the icebox is right behind my head in the farmhouse kitchen.

The icebox, 1948

The icebox, 1948

I remember ice blocks being carried into the kitchen hanging from large metal tongs and then squeezed into their icebox compartment. At that time my grandparents were, I assume,  buying it commercially, but until at least sometime in the 1930’s my grandfather cut his own ice and stored it in the icehouse.

January was the month for getting in the ice. My grandfather waited until the pond ice was thick enough before spending the several days it took to harvest it.

Monday, January 8, 1912 – “Pleasant morning – washing done. Ellsworth preparing to get ice. Went up to Wilbur’s to get his ice plow. Towards evening commenced to snow.” – Lydia Jane Hall

The ice plow – probably pulled by a horse and guided by the farmer – cut grooves into the ice, first one direction and then another until the gridded ice could be sawed into blocks.

Wednesday, January 10, 1912 – “Clear and cold. Commenced getting ice, which is nice and thick. None so thick in a long time. Mr. Cella and son helping them get ice. Busy all day. Nice sliding on the hills.” – Lydia Jane Hall

The blocks were piled onto sleds and pulled back to the farm by horse teams.

Monday, January 19, 1914 – “A dark cloudy day. Looks much like a storm. Our washing not done. Men cutting ice. Got in three loads in afternoon. Ice twelve inches thick. Hard for the old blacks [the farm horses] to pull it up onto the road.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Ellsworth Hall with Little Doll and Old Doll, 1913

Ellsworth Hall with Little Doll and Old Doll, 1913

Wednesday, January 21, 1914 – “The men finished getting ice. The ice house is full of nice ice.” – Lydia Jane Hall

I wish I knew where the icehouse stood. It may have been the building next to the creamery. The ice would have been packed in sawdust to keep it frozen, and used all year.

Saturday, January 26, 1924 – “Much colder. Children at home going out and coming in with their cheeks like red roses. Agnes took Lydia to take her music lesson this morning. After dinner helped Edith clean kitchen and dining room and bake cookies. Men cleaning out the ice house getting ready for the ice, which they are expecting soon.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Lydia writes about two of the ponds used for ice cutting.

Tuesday, January 11, 1921 – “Ellsworth is cutting ice. Brought in six loads of ice from Mr. Leete’s pond. Mr. Leete and Charles Argonnis helping him.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Friday, February 8, 1924 – “The men are getting ice from our little pond down in the meadow. Mr. Ives is working with them. They are putting it in his icehouse. Ours is filled. They put it in – nine loads today.” – Lydia Jane Hall

One of the problems of the old-fashioned icebox was that the blocks of ice often had dirt and plant matter in them that made a mess as they melted. But the winter ice for me was all about skating and sledding, and I loved being able to peer down through the ice to see the frozen detritus. We skated on the little cow pond next to the lane until the late 1950’s when my Uncle Francis built a larger pond just up the hill from the smaller one. It was there that my cousins played hockey and I had a skating party where a friend fell and knocked out his front teeth. I’m sure my grandfather would have wanted some of that splendid ice for his icehouse, but these days I’m not sure if he would ever find ice that was twelve inches thick.

Skating on the big pond. The farm on the hill belonged at the time to the Farnam family

Skating on the big pond. The farm on the hill belonged at the time to the Farnham family.

On Monday:  Have you Counted your Handkerchiefs lately?

A Special Day

"And One to Grown on - A Birthday Cake for Henry," Carol Crump Bryner, 2015

“And One to Grown on – A Birthday Cake for Henry,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2015

Today, as a departure from my regular blog subjects, I celebrate a very special day.

Eight years ago my first grandchild, Henry Thomas Kennedy, was born, and even though he isn’t technically part of my “memories of a family farm,” he counts in the history. To the next generation – sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, cousins and the children of cousins, grandsons and granddaughters – we pass the torch. Thinking about this continuity comforts me as I try to ease into old age.

I was lucky to live close to my four grandparents. They were my “back-up plan.” I counted on them being there when my parents weren’t around. They made a difference in my life, and I try to make a difference in Henry’s life. I know for sure that he, and my other grandsons, and my step-granddaughter, make a huge difference in mine. They make me laugh, they keep me busy, and they put things in perspective.

Because of Henry I now think of cashews as “Rainbow Nuts.” A headache has become a “Head Feeling.” And any time I want to encourage someone, I say the words a four year old  Henry said to me in the grocery store after I successfully poked the little straw into the carton of chocolate milk – “Good job, Gramie!!!”

I don’t know what my grandchildren will remember from our times together. They might think about the games of soccer we played in the house, the walks we took to the park, the melty ice cream we ate on a hot summer day, or the times I got irritated at them for this and that. I hope they’ll remember how very much I cared that they were brought into this world, that their parents and grandparents loved them unconditionally, and that we bragged about them and their accomplishments.

Happy, Happy Birthday Henry!!!

Henry and Carol on Whirlwind Hill, March, 2008

Henry and Carol on Whirlwind Hill, March, 2008

On Wednesday:  Getting in the Ice

Ellsworth’s Birthday

My father, my cousin Tom, my grandfather Ellsworth, and I were born near Christmas. Competing with the baby Jesus on his special day was a tricky business that often resulted in gifts labeled “Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.”

But we were lucky to have family who loved us and made our birthday celebrations special without taking any of the joy away from Christmas. One year my cousins from Indiana gave me a gingerbread house for my birthday. I was young then – maybe seven or eight – and am not sure if Lydia, Bill, Tom, and Nancy drove east for the holiday or just sent the house. In any event, it was miraculous to me, and I can still taste those candies on the roof.

Carol and the gingerbread house

Carol and the gingerbread house

My grandfather’s birthday was December 28th. In 1913, on this date, he married my grandmother Agnes.

Sunday, December 28, 1913 – “Cold night Saturday night, cold today. Ellsworth a married man. Spent the night with his bride in Springfield. His birthday today – thirty-two years old today.” – Lydia Jane Hall.

Five and a half years later my mother Janet was born, and she and her daddy were great friends.

Ellsworth and Janet Hall, 1920

Ellsworth and Janet Hall, 1920

Ellsworth had modest taste in food and a liking for eating it in little bits throughout the day. He hid favored snacks on the shelves of the pantry and china cupboards – squares of chocolate and boxes of “Hi-Ho” Crackers are what I remember. We all knew his hiding places and helped ourselves to his stores, but I don’t think we were ever scolded or seriously admonished for this behavior.

But once a year, on his birthday, he had an extravagant treat when my mother baked him a fresh coconut cake. She was a meticulous cook and followed all recipes to the letter. She had a hard time organizing her closets, but she could beat an egg white so that it stood at attention in perfect peaks.

For this annual confection she first baked delicate layers of cake and filled them with lemon custard. Next she covered the stacked rounds with a boiled frosting of egg whites, sugar, vanilla, water, and cream of tartar. Finally, she grated fresh coconut and gently patted it onto the graceful swirls, a long and painstaking process undertaken with love and care. It was a beautiful sight – this large snowball of a cake – and my grandfather was always delighted.

"Janet's Coconut Cake," Carol Crump Bryner, colored pencil, 2012

“Janet’s Coconut Cake,” Carol Crump Bryner, colored pencil, 2012

On Wednesday:  A New Year


I miss the Thanksgiving celebrations on Whirlwind Hill. But since I married and moved to the west coast, I’ve come to love the new traditions that have evolved. For the last twenty years my husband and I and our children have spent Thanksgiving with his family, first in California and now in Oregon. This year we’ll again be in Portland, where the celebrations are chaotic and joyful, but still all about bringing together the generations.

My grandson, Henry Thomas Kennedy, with his great-grandmother, Zoya Bryner, Thanksgiving, 2013

My grandson, Henry Thomas Kennedy, with his great-grandmother, Zoya Bryner, Thanksgiving, 2013

I often think of those special days on the farm and how much the tradition stayed the same year after year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2014 – “Nice day. Men busy about home. Very busy indoors getting ready for the coming Thanksgiving once more. Hope all may have a good time, for the time is short for us all to be here together.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thanksgiving on Whirlwind Hill was the holiday when all the family came “home” to the homestead to share the big noon feast, the afternoon walks and games of touch foot ball and hide the button, and the evening’s light supper highlighted by Aunt Betty’s chocolate éclairs.

For several days before the event my mother and aunts and cousins and I helped my grandmother clean the farmhouse. We took the china out of the cupboards and washed it, polished the silver, ironed the tablecloths, shined the glassware, and made elaborate centerpieces of fruit and leaves and ferns. On the Wednesday evening before the big day, I did my own two jobs. I cut the red and green grapes in half and took out their seeds to ready them for the meal’s first course – fruit cup – and I made the place cards. In this photo of the 1962 Thanksgiving, you can see my little Pilgrim Hat place cards – probably made that year with the help of cousin Nancy, seated on the right.

Thanksgiving at the farm, 1962

Thanksgiving at the farm, 1962

In 1951, the Wallingford Post interviewed my Aunt Ellen for an article titled “Mrs. Henry A. Norton Recalls The Thanksgiving Feast 50 Years Ago.”  (And thank you to my cousin Ellen Norton Peters for sharing this article with me.) It seems astonishing how very much work went into this often quickly-eaten meal. My grandfather barely finished carving the turkey and passing the plates when someone wanted seconds. The important part of the meal was the community, because as Lydia said – “The time is short for us all to be here together.”

Thanksgiving, 1960, Charles Crump, Janet Crump, Ellsworth Hall

Thanksgiving, 1960, Charles Crump, Janet Crump, Ellsworth Hall

Here is what my Aunt Ellen said in 1951.

“Father [my great-grandfather William E. Hall] made a great deal of Thanksgiving. It was more of an event than Christmas. All the family came home to the Homestead for the family gathering. It was a happy time for young and old alike. I can remember Mama and I starting about a week ahead of time – polishing silver, waxing the furniture and getting ready for the big day. In those days everything we put on the table was right off the farm. We had mince-meat to make and nuts to gather from the hickory and butternut trees. The day before we started cooking in earnest. All the desserts had to be made, raised donuts, pumpkin pies, mince pies, raised loaf cake and Indian pudding. We made them in quantity for the twenty or more folks coming. There were hot breads to be baked and the turkey to stuff. The old wood stove was working overtime.

Of course we made all our own bread and for dinner we baked raised biscuits and rye bread besides the regular white bread. Mother and I used to do it all. Now, some fifty years later, family still get together, but we all do some of it.

The big day started bright and early. The turkey was popped into the oven, so as to be done to perfection for the noon feast. The men all went hunting that morning. They started off bright and early for rabbits and squirrels and came home with tremendous appetites, ready for their Thanksgiving dinners. The children were sent out to play or had a glorious time playing hide-and-seek around the big house.

The ladies retired to the kitchen to get the meal ready. The big table was pulled out to its full length and set. We caught up on all the gossip and family chatter as we peeled potatoes and turnips and dished up the pickles and jelly. My mother always made a chicken pie, too. One of my brothers liked to have a piece of chicken pie after he’d had the turkey. We all had a small piece, too, or Mother felt quite hurt. How we ate it all I’ll never know. We even made one freezer of ice cream, and tapioca for the little children.

By the time the turkey was ready, the table was loaded with goodies. It is funny, but I don’t remember having cranberry sauce then. That must have been added in later years

There were pickles that we’d put up, little cucumber pickles, mustard pickles, and the other kinds, apple jelly, grape jelly, preserves and celery that we raised in the garden, all the bread and biscuits and butter that we’d churned and those things that made up Thanksgiving dinner.

As the men and children were sitting down, in came great steaming dishes of onions, potatoes, turnips, and finally, with great ceremony the big bird was brought in and put down in front of Father. After grace was said, the turkey was carved and everybody was served.

After the dinner was cleared and the dishes done (believe me there were lots of them, but all of us together made them disappear in a hurry), all the family gathered around the piano and had a grand time singing all the old favorites. How Father loved to sing! It was such a happy homey day. The family still gathers as we have done generation after generation. There will be about twenty this year. In the world today, and the rush of modern times, it is hard to have that happy, relaxed day, as we used to 50 years ago. Still we shouldn’t lose sight of what Thursday, Thanksgiving Day stands for.” ~ Mrs. Henry A. Norton, 1951 – (Ellen Hall Norton)

A Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Thanksgiving on the farm, 1904

Thanksgiving on the farm, 1904

People in photo:  Front row from left – Melissa Hall, Gertrude Hall, Samuel Hall, William Cannon:  Second row – Alice Hall, Ellen Hall Norton:  Third row, seated: Lydia Reed Hart, Hattie Hall Cannon:  Fourth Row – William Hall, holding hand of his mother Edith Hall, Carrie Hall:  Back row from left – Wilbur Hall, John Cannon, Cynthia Hart, John Hart, Lydia Jane Hall, Edgar Hall, William E. Hall, Ellsworth Hall

On Monday:  December Window


The Cottage

Taking a vacation was a rare event for my grandparents. The most they could afford in summer, when so much work needed to be done, was to go on outings for the day. And it seems, from reading journals and letters and post cards, that the favored outings took place near bodies of water.

My Aunt Ellen, (my grandfather Ellsworth’s older sister) lived on the farm until she married Henry Norton and moved into downtown Wallingford, Connecticut. Ellen and Henry, to escape the summer heat, took trips to the Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut coasts. In the early 1920’s they started going to what my great-grandmother Lydia refers to as “East River.”

Monday, June 6, 1921 – “Nice day. Men busy hoeing corn. Agnes went to town to the dentist…Ellen and family went to East River yesterday afternoon. Got home about eight. They expect to spend their vacation there soon.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Ellen and Henry must have rented a cottage in East River during the summer of 1921, and my grandmother Agnes took my mother and her brother and sister there for outings.

Thursday, June 30, 1921 – “Stormy some of the time…Agnes is all ready to go. Children are delighted. They have finally gone about half after eight. Went after Hattie and went town way. Hope they will get home safely…All reached home safely at six o’clock.” – Lydia Jane Hall.

In 1928 Ellen and Henry bought a cottage near Circle Beach in Madison, Connecticut, and we have all been delighted ever since. I began my visits to the shore when I was six or seven months old.

Janet and Carol Crump at the cottage, 1946

Janet and Carol Crump at the cottage, 1946

I took my own children there often.

Carol, Mara, and Paul Bryner in front of the cottage - Betty Norton on the porch

Carol, Mara, and Paul Bryner in front of the cottage – Betty Norton on the porch

Unlike the farmhouse, with its half-remembered rooms, the cottage still sits on a grassy knoll above Long Island Sound. The rooms, with their spare, comfortable furnishings, have changed little over the years. My aunts and uncles, and now my cousins, have gently and lovingly cared for every inch of the house, so that the next generations can also be delighted. It’s a happy place, and a place I’ve tried to make a little bit my own by painting it over and over. On Wednesday I’ll talk about painting the cottage and show you a few of those paintings.

Margy Norton Campion and Austin Campion on the back porch of the cottage, 1984

Margy Norton Campion and Austin Campion on the back porch of the cottage, 1984

On Wednesday:  Painting the Cottage