Friday, January 29, 2016

The 1950's—When Coffee Was "Coffee-er"

(Original artwork-all rights reserved)

...she's guilty. I didn't have a chance!

It's 8 am and I just watched half of my six brothers get on the school bus at the end of our driveway.
There she sits, sipping her coffee looking at her Family Circle magazine.

"Can I have a sip?" "OK, but just one..."

She lifts me up onto her lap and puts the teaspoon to my mouth. To this day I can remember how great it tasted!

Now that was a great cup of coffee—I couldn't wait until I was old enough to drink a whole cup.

What was it about the coffee back then that made it coffee—er? The commercials we grew up watching sure made it appealing..
...Take this Maxwell House Commercial for example!
I'm sure growing up with a dad who considered coffee a staple in his diet made an impact on me as well—he drank it black. At that time in my life, my dad was a salesman—known during the "great do it yourself era" as Mr.Sawdust. He worked for AMF (American Machine and Foundry) demonstrating and selling their DeWalt radial armsaw in the northeast region of the country. He spent a lot of time on the road so he knew all the diners that had the best coffee.

On his return home from a week of traveling he would call my mom from the road and say, "Put on the coffee, Jeannie! I'm comin' home." He'd drive up the driveway and as soon as he walked in the door we would run to greet him. I still remember hugging him—that smell of the road—his aftershave—the excitement of his return home with all the great news. He would give us a rundown of all that had happened that week—all the sales he had made, distributors he had set up. He was excited! He would come in and sit at the big Lazy Susan table and my mom would pour his coffee.

...and it was a great cup of coffee!

Last year I bought an automatic coffeemaker at Christmas time—nice looking twelve cup, with all kinds of bells and whistles. The coffee was.....OK. But after one year of use, it died. It still sits there looking very sleek and utilitarian. The only reason it's still there is that I just can't believe it only lasted for one year. Every once in a while I try it again and conclude that it is in fact...useless.

I thought back to the very first coffee that I recall and the pot that it was perked in. Maybe that is the key—I need to find that pot! Within a week one of my sons found the pot—vintage—perfect condition.
We perked a pot of coffee...and it was a really good cup of coffee!

I remembered the coffee pot my husband and I used as newly weds—a Chemex pot, shaped like an hour glass with a wooden band around the center, secured by a leather string. The cone shaped filter was placed in the top half along with the coffee. After pouring the boiling water through the filter we sat and waited...and waited... several minutes for the coffee to drip down into the bottom half.
But that was OK. We were so starry eyed in love, we didn't mind waiting. was a great cup of coffee!
(...Baby Boomers always did like "show and tell"–here it is!)
Maybe that first sip of coffee on my mother's lap was not in fact the best coffee around, though I remember it that way. Perhaps it was just that moment in time when mothers were not rushed, so children were not rushed. Most mothers stayed home and we all benefited greatly by their presence in our lives. We had time; time to be kids, to explore— time to imagine, time to create.
Maybe it wasn't the coffee after all.

During my dad's final years, living with his failing eyesight and other diabetes related health problems, he spent his days and nights on his computer, engrossed in his writing and genealogy research. He enjoyed it—but maybe it was a distraction from the reality of his decline.
He drank coffee, morning, evening it didn't matter; refilling and reheating in the microwave, over and over again, until it took on the likeness of 3-in-1 oil.
Not just coffee, instant coffee—if you can believe that!
Now this was a man who knew what a good cup of coffee was. I always wondered how he could tolerate it. Maybe I'm beginning to understand.

This morning my husband drove me to Milford PA, a quaint old town situated along the Delaware. I had an appointment with a surgeon, a follow up after some surgery a week ago. It was an operation I had been dreading for over a year, yet it was now all behind me. It went far better than anticipated, which I attribute 100% to finding the right surgeon. I was informed that all reports came back fine.

I had not been able to eat much for the entire week so the suggestion of a breakfast out sounded very appealing. We pulled off the road at an old mill turned restaurant situated along the Sawkill Creek, The Waterwheel Cafe & Bakery, known for its great food and historic atmosphere. It's one of those simple but charming turn of the century buildings, with bare hardwood floors, stone walls and exposed beams—several old glass display cases, one filled with great looking pastries.

As we sat at a small wooden table by the window, watching the snow falling outside through the old glass window panes, I realized my future plans and ideas were returning to me. What a great feeling!

The waitress poured our coffee and as I took a sip looking across the table at my husband—the same one I drank that Chemex coffee with thirty five years ago—there's was only one thing I could say— that's a great cup of coffee!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Christmas Eve 1956

Christmas Eve as a child in the 50's was always an exciting night—wondering what we would find under the tree in the morning. Would we awake to a white Christmas? That was always very important to me.
This memory—Christmas 1956—is a special one to me.

O come all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant, O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem.....My eyes were drawn to six stockings hung beneath the mantle and quickly matched each glittered name with a brother singing his very loudest, carols reserved especially for this night. As we encircled the piano, Dad played with purpose, "This is the real meaning of Christmas, " each resounding chord reminded us. Tomorrow at the first glimmer of dawn we would find each stocking overflowing...just as my young heart felt at this moment; my brothers, Dad and Mom, Christmas eve...what more could a five year old girl want? I glanced out the window behind the piano into the night so still. Snow was falling silently, draping our familiar world in soft flannel...It would be a white Christmas for sure!A muffled voice broke through the darkness, as a stranger lost in the storm, desperate for someone to hear. Faintly it came. The playing stopped as we stood motionless, hoping to hear it once again.
"It's a BOY! We have a BOY!"

Dad threw open the window and a gust of chilly winter air swept in the joyous news. Little Nanny Lucy leaned out our neighbor's window, waving her arms ecstatically, heralding the birth of her great grandson. Jimmy John would be a welcome addition to the family of three daughters! Waiting hot chocolate topped off the excitement before heading up to bed.As I lay awake gazing out at the full winter moon I pondered the words we had sung.... "Joy to the world...The Lord is come...Let earth receive her King..."An only son had been born tonight, bringing joy which could not be contained. They wanted to share it with the world...Kind-of like the angels so long ago. God's only son, born on a night such as this...Yet more than just a babe he was...
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

I thought back a year remembering my oldest brother pointing out the silhouette of Santa's reindeer crossing in front of the moon out my window. I was sure I saw it too! How could I sleep? But this year was different.I closed my eyes and slept so peacefully...
I was not looking for reindeer..
....for I had heard the angels sing!

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Christmas morning I was thrilled to receive the most beautiful doll I had ever seen.
I was always told she was a large Madame Alexander Doll-but I'm not sure that is what she actually was. I'd love to know!
Update: In August 2011, I received a pleasant surprise. One of my brothers, with the help of a friend found a doll like the one I remember after months of searching. It was like being reunited with an old friend!