Saturday, September 3, 2011


stories about
 Mary Peterson Boel Halverson

taken from letters from Erma Lorraine Ashby Drummond 

Grandma Mary
This is a story of the thrifty habits of my grandmother, Mary Petersen Boel Halverson, a story of how hardship and poverty like the building blocks of stone molded the life of this beautiful young Danish immigrant into the grandmother we all loved and cherished.  Habits that were learned when it was a daily struggle to find enough food for the family to eat each day.  She always remembered those harsher leaner times. 

                Grandma's Mother,  Maren would walk through the fields after harvest, gleaning kernels of wheat until she had enough to grind into flour and make bread with it.  She did this in Denmark, Utah and Idaho.  Grandma was taught by her mother just as Erma Lorraine was taught by Grandma.

Erma Lorraine said;  "My grandmother Halverson influenced my life more than any other person.  Erma Lorraine, in her young and formative years visited and lived with her grandmother after grandfather's death. 

                "One quality that grandma had was thrift.  After reading about what a hard life she had, I can understand it.  She never wasted anything, especially food. 

                We had to wash dishes without soap and that water went to the pigs because there would be bits of food it .  You didn't' use soap because that would give the pigs the scours and defeat your efforts to fatten them. 

                When you sliced bread the crumbs were saved for the chickens.  The breast feathers of chickens, etc. were saved for pillows and ticks.  Erma Lorraine said, "I remember piling into her old fashioned bed with the wonderful feather tick. 

                Any scrap of material over postage stamp size was put into a quilt square.  Worn-out clothing made braided rugs.

                Eggs and butter went to the store for cash, we rarely had butter on bread.  We used what sounded like "smear case" but was a Danish word, "smirkase" or some such.  It was bacon grease and you sprinkled pepper on it and it was delicious.  But don't try it with store bought bacon - has to be good old fashioned home cured bacon. 

                Grandma was very thrifty in peeling fruit or vegetables - they must be very thin.  You were in for a good scolding if Grandma caught you being wasteful.  She knew how to make do and I think I got a lot of that from her - which reminds me of another saying she used frequently, "Waste not, want not". 

Donna, Grandma, Mary Hanna, Mary vincent Halverson, Mapleton
                Grandma was also very proud.  I can see why she was so proud of that house in Mapleton, her first real home.  That front porch was swept every day.  Those kitchen windows were washed every single Saturday (my job, with Bon Ami and rags).  She didn't want anyone to drive down the road and see those windows dirty.  That is why to this day 60 some years later, I still have a fetish about clean windows.  But that seemed an awful job at the time to do those windows every week inside and out.  But Grandma was a very neat housekeeper and, although at the time, I thought she was a hard task master, I loved her dearly.  I'm always grateful for all those things she managed to impress upon me that helped make me the person I am.  She had another saying about "Idle hands are the devil's playmate."

                And the parlour!  I wonder if that room right out of the 1890's ever got any use before the house was torn down.  She had an organ, a lovely china cabinet, horse hair settee and chairs and a rug and lace curtains I think.  We went in every week and dusted everything but never used it.  This was saved for only special guests.  Family members were never entertained there.  Aunt Mary H. Bowen used the parlour to visit with the Jensen girl from across the road.  I wonder what happened to all the precious heirlooms.   (everything was either left in the garage or the grainery and was distroyed.  I tried to steal some of it to save it but my father wouldn't let me)

                I remember the huge cast iron soap kettle, (that Monty Bowen possesses) and Grandma making soap.  She was proud of her lye soap because it was so white.  The kettle was set up outside and a fire underneath it.  She had a long wooden paddle to stir it with and it was poured into flat wooden boxes, about 3" deep", to set and dry.  Then it was cut into bars a few days later and put away.  I remember Mom making the lye by filling a barrel with straw, adding ashes and pouring water through.  What came out was lye water to make soap.  I don't remember Grandma doing that but she probably did.  I don't think she would buy lye if should could make it for nothing at home.

                When Grandma left the house, even to go to the store on the corner, she dressed up and I mean dressed up.  She put on her good dress, coat, hat and gloves, and carried her good purse.  When you saw Mary Halverson in public, you saw a real lady.

Grandma Mary Peterson Halverson
                They must have been very poor when Mom (Myrtle) and Jim were little.  Mom remembers Grandma making flour soup (Mormon gravy).  She would have a small piece of bacon and tell them, "Now, Pa has to work very hard so we'll save the bacon for him to eat".  She said if food was scarce, Grandma always saved ample for Grandpa as he had to work so hard."

                Grandma was always given a cup of coffee in bed by Andrew every morning.  Her son Joe also did this for her after his Dad died.  She simply adored her husband.  Grandma used to show us the family picture and tell me about each one of her children, especially about Raymond and his death, and Chris and his going off to war.  Grandma would brush his uniform once a week.

                Grandma loved to play rummy although I think the Church frowned on this.  We always played rummy before going to bed.  We turned back the tapestry-like table cloth on the old oak round table in the kitchen.  If anyone came we hurriedly spread the cards out and put the table cloth over them.  We had such fund with our clandestine card games.  Grandmas wasn't above cheating and she was delighted if I caught her at it. 

                Nothing could separate the Dane's from their beloved coffee.  I can remember Great Grandpa Boel's visiting once with other people.  Grandma had cups with deep saucers, almost like a small bowl.  Sugar cubes were on the table along with a small sharp knife.  They cut the sugar cubes in half - and then half again.  Coffee was poured, a small amount at a time, into the saucer to cool.  A piece of sugar cube was held between the teeth and coffee sipped through it from the saucer.  I remember Great Grandpa Boel gave me a whole lump, an extravagant gesture!  It was the only sugar cube I got as a child.

                One couldn't talk about Grandma without mentioning her cooking.  Those wonderful loaves of bread, her famous rice pudding, chicken soup with lots of parsley and those wonderful Danish dumplings.  And creamed peas, fresh from the vine.  She loved clabbered milk and ate it sprinkled with sugar.  I guess it was her version of yogurt, but better as it was not sour.  Years later when I was able to buy raw milk, I made it.  She made wonderful vanilla ice cream and always used rennet in it.  She cooked the milk and eggs like a custard, added rennet and it was cranked in an old fashioned freezer.  When I make ice cream, I still do it Grandma's way. 

Jensen, Ray, Mary and Grandma Mary
  She made wonderful pickled peaches which I never succeeded in duplicating.  She also made watermelon rind pickles.  I can still see her in the summer kitchen (a screened room off the main kitchen with a kerosene stove) where she did all the canning.  She made grape juice from which she made wonderful grape punch and also grape jam, which she stirred and skimmed endlessly, priding herself that you never find a seed in her grape jam.

                And those famous cream cakes - gorgeous yellow layers put together with whipped cream and frosted all over with whipped cream.  Once when small I came upon those layers cooling on the old Hoosier Cabinet.  I certainly knew better but the smell of that delicious cake did me in and I ate several holes in them.  When I heard Grandma coming, I ran and hid under her bed.  I got properly scolded and called a "little beggar."  She always called us little beggars when we annoyed her.  I didn't get spanked.

                I think the valuable lesson I learned from Grandma was that I could really do anything I wanted to do it I just tried!  She had lots of sayings to demonstrate the principles she wanted to get across.  She was a loving and patient teacher.  Some of the sayings that I remember are:

"Beauty is as beauty does"
James, Ray, Myrtle, Chris,
Eliza, Andrew, Mary, Grandma, Harvey, Merrill, Joe
"A good seamstress sews with a short thread"
"Honesty is the best policy."

"You're not sugar or salt, so a little rain won't hurt you."
"Don't cry over spilt milk"
"Waste not, want not."
"Idle hands are the devil's playmate"
"A little patience and sweet oil will do wonders"
"Any job worth doing is worth doing well"
"A stitch in time saves nine."

                Grandma had two home remedies I remember, Parsley tea - for bladder problems.  And for Uncle Merrill's boils, she made tea from burdock roots to purify his blood - he hated it but he drank it - he was 17 or 18 then.

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