Cleadslinger32’s Weblog

Exford King House as it looks today

Posted in Uncategorized by cheryljk on May 14, 2009

Exford King House as it looks in 2008

 

The very first part of Exford’s house was built aproximately in 1933.  I know because my name and the date can be seen in the concrete footings.  I would have been one year old.  We were living in Grandpa Xavier’s house. 

Dad was being paid 25 cents an hour laying cement for the new road.  He had a wife, four kids, and was building a house.  The floor joists came from an abandoned barn.  The vertical wall studs came from abandoned telephone crossbars.  (Recyling is nothing new). 

 His cousin, Father Moses Minnie, loaned him 800 dollars to complete the structure.  There were later additions on the right-hand side starting in 1940.  So, this is where I grew up.  My bedroom was near the left dormer window upstairs.  I lived there much of the time until 1953 when Uncle Sam grabbed me.

Posted by cheryljk for Richard

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View of Lyon Mountain from Tolosky’s Camp

Posted in Camps, Richard's Pictures by cheryljk on February 28, 2009

lyon-mt-from-tolosky-camp-richard-pix1

Boudin

Posted in Daily Life, Food by cleadslinger32 on September 24, 2008

I’d like to get back to Depression food.  I don’t know what city folks ate in the 30’s, but I have a good recollection of what my family survived on.  Remember that Dad was earning only 400 dollars a year.  He had a wife, four kids, and he was building a house.

One food item I recall was”boudin” which is a French-Canadian name.  Sometimes we called it blood pudding.  Usually we had it as a sausage that was fried in a skillet.  Having grown up with it, I thought that it tasted fine.  Sometimes we had it sliced from a bread pan, but I don’t remember Mother making it.  I do recall once when Aunt Irene showed up on a November day while  we were butchering a hog.  She carried a large cast iron skillet with some salt sprinkled on the bottom.  She held a dish towel on the pan handle to protect her hand from the heat.

I used to help during the butchering, and that is a story in itself.  We boys, usually Corky and I, would hold the pig down while Dad inserted a long, thin knife into the animal’s carotid artery in its throat.  He would feel its throat to find the pulse, them very slowly and carefully he would sever the artery and slide the blade all the way to the heart.  This actually seemed painless to the animal.  It would just lie there, sometimes grunting slightly.  Soon bright red blood would come spurting from the wound as the heart continued to pump.  Then the animal would seem to fall asleep.

Meanwhile, Irene would catch the blood as it spurted out; then she would hurry to the kitchen with it so she could prepare the boudin.  I’m not sure what all was in it, but it seemed like there were tiny bits of fat  along with some condiments such as nutmeg or cinnamon.  I guess that I should Google a recipe for it although I’m not planning to sticka pig any time soon.  I wonder what it would be like with deer blood?

I’m sure that many city folk will find this whole idea gross.  Yet, remember that we are talking about survival.  We are also talking about self-reliance and absolutely shunning any kind of social assistance.  In those days you also raised and killed your own chickens.  Nowadays, most modern cooks have never plucked a chicken nor drawn the intestines.  Food items from the grocery store are usually ready-to-cook and sometimes precooked.  Let’s not get into fast foods.  I’m not sure if many people have any idea where Big Macs come from.  I can still find blood sausage, boudin, blut polska, or whatever in local food stores although it has been a while since I’ve had any.

Some other kinds of Depression food were: baked beans, rice, home-canned vegetables and meat that we raised and Mother canned in glass jars. sauerkraut and spare ribs, fish from the lake or brook, some venison, wild berries for jelly, a lot of “patates” (Québeçoise for potatoes), sow belly and salt pork, oatmeal, and the list goes on.  I wonder, however, that if there was a really bad depression if modern-day people could adapt and survive on old-style cooking.  Next, maybe I should tell you about how to make head cheese.

Pea Soup and Johnny Cake

Posted in Daily Life, Food by cleadslinger32 on September 12, 2008

It must be time for some more nostalgia.  Looking into the food pantry at home recently, I noticed a long lost package of whole, dried yellow peas.  Uh huh!  I thought.  How long is it since I’ve had any “soupe aux pois à la Québeçoise”?  Understand that this is unlike green, split pea soup.  The recipe that I grew up with during the Depression years required whole, yellow peas.  Today you can still find some in most grocery or whole foods stores.   Back in the thirties we got some in Uncle Sullivan’s granary which was in the barn that had been built by our grandfather, Xavier.

Of course, in those days farmers still used horses, and horses require oats as well as hay.  Both oats and yellow peas are cool weather crops very suitable for both Chazy Lake and Quebec.  It seems that there was a serendipitous relationship in growing them simultaneously in the same plot of earth.   Naturally, the ground was first fertilized with horse and other dung the previous fall.  In the spring a mixture of oats and peas were sowed together, with oats predominating.  The pea stems have tendrils for climbing, and so the pea plants would climb the oat stalks where they would produce pretty white blossoms at the appropriate time.  The two species must have liked one another since peas are legumes and nitrogen develops in their roots, thus enriching the soil.  Old Sullivan King, Séraphin, must have brought this type of cultivation from his Quebec connection.  Peas with salted pork was the main diet of the Voyageurs who paddled from Lachine near Montreal all through the Great Lakes and beyond in search of furs for which they traded with the Indians.

Anyway, getting back to Chazy Lake and Depression food, Mother would send us to the granary with a container.  Hanging next to an opening there was a slotted sieve used to sort the peas from the oats which had been raised and harvested together.   When we were kids we called this recipe “Frenchmen’s Pea Soup”.

To make the recipe Mother would first place the dried peas in a flat cake pan and remove any little pebbles, bugs, or whatever didn’t belong.  Then the peas were allowed to soak overnight in a larger pan.  In the morning the first water was drained away.  Fresh water was added along with a meaty ham hock.  Sometimes she used a slab of spare ribs.  Remember that we raised our own pigs.  The pea soup was allowed to simmer on the wood-burning stove most of the day and was consumed during the evening meal where it was served with corn bread or Johnny cake.

Anyhow, after soaking, I made my version by placing everything in a cast iron kettle and baking it in the oven at 225 deg.  I also added some pork ribs, carrots, and onions.  And don’t forget the Johnny cake.  This meal brought back fond memories.  I guess that I may try using the crockpot next time.  Corn bread, of course, was another Depression food staple.

Depression Baby

Posted in Daily Life, Exford and Catherine King, Work by cleadslinger32 on March 5, 2008

I was born in Chazy Lake, NY, in 1932. What was this rural area like at that time? First, remember that this was in the height of bad economic times–jobs were scarce, salaries were small The road that passed close by the house was still gravel, but soon the state decided to pave this road with concrete.

Dad got a job working for the WPA during the road construction. Actually, I was born in Grandpa Xavier’s house across the road from us. I was the fourth kid born in our family. Dad was paid about twenty-five cents an hour for mixing and laying concrete. He earned an extra fifty cents a day for lighting all of the kerosene signal flares along the new construction site at dusk. In the morning he would extinguish them, trim the wicks, and refill them. That gave him the handsome salary of $8.50 a week or about $400 a year. Perks! You gotta be kidding. Oh, by the way, Dad was also building a house.

There was no running water unless someone ran down the hill to the spring and scooped out a bucketful. I remember as a little kid trying to haul a pailful up the grade to help my mother who was washing clothes by hand. I had to use both hands and managed to spill half of the water on the way up. Usually my oldest brother, Jim, had that task. He could carry two pails at once.

It is hard to say which of my parents worked the hardest. Very likely it was a tie. I still can picture my mother dipping warm water from the reservoir on the side of the wood range and using this water to do the laundry. After rinsing and wringing by hand she would hang the items of clothing outside where, depending on the weather, they would either dry or freeze stiff. The wash tub she used was the same one I used while bathing in the kitchen next to the wood stove. Later she used a gasoline-powered washing machine with a roller wringer. This contraption was in the basement with an exhaust pipe running out the wooden door. Mother could never get the Maytag engine to start despite her protestations. That became Jim’s responsibility. It was, nevertheless, an improvement.

In those days of no-press laundry, everything had to be hand pressed with a hot iron. We had several small irons with detachable handles. Mother would line these up on the hot wood range and iron clothes until one would start to cool off. Then she would replace it with a hot one.

Electricity finally did come in the early forties and with it there were many improvements such as lights, refrigerator, freezer, radio, iron, and other things that we didn’t even know existed.

I should also point out that Mother came down with tuberulosis when I was two. She received treatment in a sanatorium in Saranac Lake. While she was away Dad hired a woman as cook and housekeeper. This woman fed us well. She did, however, bring in some unwanted guests, namely bedbugs. When mother returned, she found us fat and sassy but also covered with bug bites. People then didn’t rely on sprays or baits to eliminate insects. Big brother Jim had to remove all of the mopboards and wash everything down with kerosene to kill in insects, their larvae, and nits.

For several years we had the luxury of a two-hole outhouse which made for company on frosty mornings. Toilet paper was too expensive so a Montgomery Ward catalog sufficed. Every year dad would move the biffy a short distance and shovel dirt in the old opening.

In cold weather we heated the house by wood. We had a nice grove of maple and beech trees which we cut with a crosscut saw and split by hand. At first my two older brothers did the wood work, but soon I had to help as much as I could. I never even saw a chainsaw until well into the 50’s. Mother cooked with a wood-burning range. She mastered the use of this type of cooking even though she grew up as a city girl. This range also heated the kitchen area. In addition there was a rather fancy wood stove in the living room close to the stairway leading upstairs. I remember that the stove door had some small isinglass windows so one could see the fire. At first the upstairs depended on heat rising from below. Later Dad installed a humongous furnace that burned either wood or coal. There were ducts leading to the various rooms. Sometime in the 40’s we started to use hard coal. That was a big improvement.

Even though we still didn’t have electricity, Dad devised a way for us to have running water. First of all he hand dug a ditch to the spring and attatched a hand pump in the kitchen. Then he bought a hydraulic ram for twelve dollars. This operated without electricity and served us well for several years. At first the stream of water that came to the kitchen simply squirted in with a swoosh, swoosh, swoosh sound and splashed into the sink. Before long he had installed a large tank way up in the attic. This gave us a pressurized system so that we finally had a sink with faucets, a bathtub, and a flushing toilet. Of course, having all of this water to spare meant that a cesspool needed to be dug and so it was. Dad also ran a loop of water pipe into the interior of the furnace to heat water. There was no pump. The warmed water would rise to the upstairs bathroom and the kitchen then gradually as it cooled it would drain down to be recycled. It worked.

Nowadays we have many electric and electronic gadgets to amuse ourselves with. When we were kids one of our forms of entertainment was a wind-up Victrola with two 78 rpm records. Oh, wow! Later we had a batter-powered radio. As the battery started to run down, we kids had to sit closer and closer to the speaker in order to hear. The set required two batteries, one of which was quite large. We had to wait until the batteries were completely run down before we could buy new ones.

By this time Dad had hired on at the mines in Lyon Mountain. He worked on the surface in the concentrator. Before long he was promoted to foreman and, finally, financial problems diminished.

Continuation of Depression Baby

I still remember my first day of school in Chazy Lake.  This was a one-room school that housed students from grades 1 through 8, all taught by one teacher.  My first one was named Anna Alpert.

I remember my dad saying that “old” Sullivan King (Séraphim Roy)  donated the land for the school and that his son Xavier built the frame school using NYS architectural plans.  Aunt Valeda thought that he actually build the Ledger’s Corner School instead so I don’t know for sure.  I have an original insurance policy for the building dated 1914.  That could be the year of completion.

Prior to that there was a stone structure about half way between the school and Noel’s store.  Uncle Sullivan said that he attended the stone school at first.  It had rows of plain benches for the scholars to sit on, and each one had a slate and chalk to do their sums or to write.   It is likely that the other children of Emma and Xavier also used this stone school.  At first it was called “King School”.

I had turned five a few weeks before school opened in 1937, and I followed my older brothers and my sister to school.  I was barefooted as usual.  Some of the older kids laughed at me.  I suppose that it was childhood peer pressure that encouraged me to wear my shoes the next day.  Anyhow, the teacher let me stay.   Each seat accommodated two students and had an empty inkwell.  Later on, about once a year we would be allowed to use a steel dip pen and fluid ink to write a composition in ink.  Penmanship was considered very important and we practiced our Palmer Method carefully.  That first year I sat with my big brother Jimmy who was in eighth grade.

Each grade only had four of five students so classes were necessarily short so that the teacher could cover every class.   Two sides of the room were mostly covered by slate blackboards.  This way several students could be writing or calculating simultaneously.  The teacher had to write all of her tests, announcements, and lessons on the board.  Music class was always on Friday afternoon.  There was one set of paper-covered song books that were used year after year.   All grades sang together such ditties as “Solomon Levi”, “Silver Threads among the Gold’. and “When Johnnie Comes Marching Home Again”.  The second teacher I remember was a Miss Cannon (sp?).  After that it was Aunt Delia, and, wonder of wonders, she had a piano brought in.  Not only that, but she could play it.  Drawing class was also an all-class activity.  Sometimes the priest from Lyon Mountain would come to impart some knowledge of catechism.

The biggest social event of the year for us scholiasts was the Christmas program.  Of course, there was always a pageant involving the Holy Family, shepherds, and even a donkey wearing a gray blanket.  There were recitations and songs.  Once when I was ten, I played “Silent Night” on a button accordian.  World War II had started by then so we boys wanted to emulate our fighting heroes.  We all wore leather pilots’ helmets with goggles on top.  Peter Garcia, Victor Dubrey and I made up a trio.   With great gusto we sang “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!”  Naturally, we were each wearing our treasured helmet.

The stage was in the front of the room with the teacher’s desk removed.  The older boys would stretch a piece of strong telephone wire across the room.  We used several brown army blankets which were pinned and draped over the wire for curtains.

It seemed like every person, young and old, attended this momentous event.  There wasn’t enough room but people crowded around.  Since there was no electricity one of the farmers would bring a mantle-type lantern that burned gasoline to provide light.  It would hiss and emit quite a bit of heat.  There was also heat from the wood burner, and all of the bodies.  Finally Santa Clause would Ho Ho his way in while carrying a big sack.  I decided that it was really Benny Brooks, a local storekeeper , and a friend of everyone.  Earlier, everyone would exchange names and buy a small present for the other person.  Sometimes the teacher would give small presents and students would give one in return.  Finally,  Santa would hand out these presents as well a a piece of red and white ribbon peppermint candy.

To be continued, please stay tuned.

Exford L. King

Posted in Exford and Catherine King by cleadslinger32 on March 2, 2008

ExfordMy dad always went by the name Exford Louis King.  I notice, however, that in an old census report he is listed as Louis Xavier Exford Roy.  Cousin Cheryl has explained the complexities of exploring and interpreting French-Canadian names.  I won’t get into that.  Anyhow, as the story goes Dad was born in the year 1900.  His mother Emma ran what today would be called a bed and breakfast.  There would only be a few guests at a time.  In those days the expression “English” meant anyone who spoke English as their native tongue.  And so, an English-speaking couple was enjoying the fresh mountain air in and around Chazy Lake.  Grandmother Emma put them up while she was pregnant with my dad.  The time of delivery came, and Dad was born at home.  The “English” lady promised that if she could name the child, he would receive a handsome legacy.  She named him Exford, perhaps partly after his father’s name of Xavier.  Time passed but no monetary award  ever followed.  The name lived on, however.  Dad named his oldest son James Exford and I named my son Michael Exford so the name continues.  Incidentally, I was born in the same house thirty-two years later, and my grandfather added Xavier to my birth certificate.

Bullheads

Posted in Daily Life, Food, Uncategorized by cleadslinger32 on February 20, 2008

We called them bullheads. Some other folks called them bullpouts. Francophones around Chazy Lake called them barbottes. I think that black bullhead is the accepted term. They are actually a type of catfish with “whiskers” near their mouth. These are feelers, I suppose, because they usually feed after dusk.

When we were kids we caught hundreds of them over the years. In some places people disdain them by saying they taste bad or look ugly. But, hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Actually the taste is very much like that of a brook trout. The flesh, however, is less firm, not like that of a pike.

In May, during their spawning time, one of the best places to catch them was at the mouth of Seine Bay Brook. In full sunlight, if one looked out into the shallow water, he would not be able to see the bed of the stream because it would actually be black from shore to shore with bullheads all heading upstream. Many folks came from Lyon Mountain and other places to fish for them there.

The tackle people used was basic. Some used telescoping steel rods with a simple reel. Others used cane poles or hand-cut saplings. I would cut myself a pole on the way to the bay. Usually it would be of alder. Boys, at that time, almost always carried a jackknife, and alder was easy to cut. Mostly for line we used a heavy threadlike, black fishline. A large hook with a long shank worked best because it was easier to extract the fish from inside its mouth. Normally we didn’t use lead sinkers although sometimes I would use a steel washer or nut for weight in current. The bait of choice was a big, juicy nightcrawler. Naturally, I knew the best places to dig for them was at the outlet of the cesspool.

Another good place to fish was Mud Pond. At that time there were a few brook trout there, but one didn’t catch many. The very biggest bullhead we caught there weighed about two or three pounds. In the lake they were much smaller. Once I was at the edge of the brook and I noticed hundreds of bullheads on the shore gasping for breath. some were dried out and dead. Obviously there had been a flood. I followed the course of the brook upstream all of the way to Mud Pond, and still there were dying fish everywhere–no trout just black bullheads. When I finally reached the big beaver dam I saw immediately that a section of it had washed out either by a flood or, perhaps, it had been blasted out with dynamite. Whether this was an act of nature or just that of some dam damn fool, I never found out. Soon the beavers went to work, however, and repaired the damage. It took a few years before good fishing returned.

One could catch the bullheads all summer long at dusk and at night time. They could be caught almost anywhere one dunked a worm. My brother Jim and I liked to go up to the bay at Deep Inlet to fish them. I remember one clear, dark, moonless night while we were fishing and looking at stars and constellations that the first Russian Sputnik came tumbling across the sky. It is common to see them now, but, at that time, it was a thrill.

Of course, I have to mention the numerous times I was stuck in the thumb by one of the spines on the fish. There were three spines. One was on each side near the fish’s gills. The other was along the spine on the dorsal fin. The spines were very sharp, and if a person was unlucky enough to get pierced by one, it was very sore for quite some time. Some people say that there is poison on the barb. One or the other of my thumbs was usually sore all summer long. Eventually I learned how to grasp them safely.

These fish had no scales. Instead they were covered by a tough hide that had to be peeled away. My dad taught me an easy way to strip the skin off quite easily. Some other people would use pliers.

Normally we would just fry them unbreaded with salt and pepper. One never worried about bones because they all came out at once sort of like with brook trout but easier.

I suppose that now I should thaw out some frozen salmon that I bought at the store. That will be good, but it’s not the same. I’d rather have the bullheads.

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