topic 1910's 1920's

Papa Pepere Victor Mama Memere Helen geography

   We were fortunate in being healthy, active children. I could run all day outdoors. Then Mama would scold me for getting so red in the face--she said I "was like a deer."

   Papa talked to me more than Mama did. She was always so busy--cooking and then sewing all afternoon. Every time she made our dresses (Florence and I dressed alike). She was always sewing late at night making the hems. We'd be needing to wear the dresses the next day for a trip or school event or parish rally or state rally (when I won top blue ribbon for 1st place statewide in reading, language, and geography in Fifth Grade.

   Ah, geography my favorite subject--besides literature which was for the soul -- nourishment.

   We had no running water in the house when I was a little girl. We had water from the skies--rain, real clean rain. Papa had cisterns built to hold the water--at one time we had 4 cisterns. We had a large supply of water. But when the drought came every few years, he allowed the people from the plantation, workers to come get water every evening. They'd come and ask and he said yes, they could have what they needed. So different persons came with a bucket in each hand and took their water home to drink and cook. They'd wash clothes in well water or a barrel tank by their house that didn't hold very much in a dry season.

topic 1910's

coffee Memere Poline Tante Pauline

   My grandmother Reulet (Tante Pauline to many) was the official coffee roaster. I don't know how often she did this, maybe once a week. The odor of coffee permeated the house and the kitchen walls and ceiling would turn black from the smoke. After the coffee was roasted black, she'd let it dry and place it in big jars. There was a coffee grinder screwed into the pantry wall by the kitchen door and it was Aunt Marie's job to grind it every night for the coffee pot for next day.

topic closets & armoires

closets armoire

   We had no closets--but my mother's room had an armoire where our best coats were kept. We'd hang nails back of our bedroom doors to hang dresses and boxes for hats. A chest of drawers and a dresser --- 2 beds in the room, 4 girls shared the room. We each had a drawer in the dresser. The top drawers for cosmetics. We'd buy Coty powder, talcum powder, Tangee lipstick (the cheapest), maybe a tiny little metal round box of rouge used very VERY sparingly. You didn't want anyone to know you had rouge on, especially our pastor. We didn't wear makeup to go to church.

topic 1920's


   Shampooing hair -- First, break an omelette of 2 eggs; scramble that in your hair until it gets stiff. You'd wrap in a towel. Then--much much soapy water--rinse, rinse, rinse with vinegar, white pure rain water. Once in a while you'd give your hair a castor oil bath before shampoo. Result--glossy black hair that brought raves.

   For a time while most of us were in grammar school -- Just before leaving the house to walk to school -- we'd kneel down with Mama in the front room to say a few prayers: an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.

   My grandmother Appoline (Pauline) also did the bread baking for the family in the oven of the wood stove. Of course, it burned wood, but it was made of cast iron. She was so strong to mix the dough, roll it, place towels over it at night to let it rise--and the next day was the baking after she had cooked the dinner.

   Her two brothers Justin and Jean (both of whom had taken her in when she became a widow with 7 children) would come in from the fields where they did much hard farm work raising sugar cane and corn--also vegetables, fruit trees, and taking care of hogs, etc. They'd wash up, dress clean and come to dinner at about 11 o'clock. Sometimes they did not have to go back out in the fields. They'd later go feed the mules and hogs. The others took care of the chickens and baby chicks.

   When they planned to cook chicken, the chickens destined for the cook pot would be placed in a cage and given their rations and water.

   There was also egg gathering to be done. I didn't mind helping with that, especially if someone else got the hens off the nests first and chase them out in the yard.

   Then you had to watch out for snakes. There's a particular kind that liked to sit in the nest and eat all the eggs. I was very afraid of meeting with a snake. I did get to a nest once and a big snake was curled up in it awaiting a grand repast.

   When clothes had to be ironed -- such as men's shirts and ladies' and girls' dresses -- we had a flat iron that was heated on top of the stove.

   When you put the dress on the ironing board--the dress had been sprinkled to a certain degree, not too much, not too little, and rolled up in a towel.

   Then it was time to test the iron--how would you do that? Well, it's a certain "touch" and I mean touch -- you'd lift up the iron with hard cloth, raise it, wet your finger and in a split second you'd touch the hot iron. Somehow you learned to do it so quickly, like a magician--that you never never did burn your hand. Just a matter of pure judgment and a prayer--

   When the clothes were hanging all day on the lines, some little people had to hurry up after school to gather all the clothes in baskets (not plastic, however) and learn how to put the clothes in different baskets. Some clothes could be folded right away--such as sheets--it took 2 to tango a sheet. Either it went straight to bed or it was folded and put away. All the blankets had to be folded or partly folded and placed at the foot of the bed. Put pillow slips over the pillows. Fold all the children's clothes and put away in drawers.

   To wash clothes we had a big box of Octagon Soap. Some women made their own soap -- I never saw it done. (There was a demonstration at the Vacherie School: Cajun Festival Aug. 7, 1999.)

topic 1920's


   The Eclipses

   We knew from the newspapers when an eclipse would occur. We'd darken a piece of glass with smoking to hold it up to the sun. When it got fairly dusk -- or twilight, all the chickens would start running for the chicken house. I mean they really ran -- They thought it was night. I guess they came out later when it got daylight again.

   We'd take our places under the pecan trees. That's where we spent our childhood. I was so sorry the pecan trees had to be cut down (to build a road to the back....)