When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, then they often become items that are tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.
Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories:
The Little Weather House
I don’t know what prompted me to think or even remember this little weather house this week. I haven’t thought about it in a long time, but somehow a memory of it popped in my head the other day, and I knew, this was my week-two story. It has been buried in the back of my china cabinet all this time, but somehow it called to me… to write its story.
My china cabinet desperately needs a cleaning and rearranging, as I had to intensely search it out; it was hiding way in the back. I’m sure when I tackle that cabinet, I’m going to discover more goodies.
To a young girl, visiting her grandparents farm, this little weather house held much fascination in wondering, could it really predict the weather? I knew nothing of the working concept, but I always stopped to see who was popping out of the doorway in this small gingerbread-type house. If the witch was out, well it doomed the weather for rain, but if the two children were out, I knew I could play outside in the sunshine.
I can still close my eyes and see it hanging, in that exact spot, on the back porch at my grandparents (McKinley) farmhouse. Funny how sometimes you see something daily, never giving it another thought, until that day when you suddenly look at in a different light. It’s then, as if you just discovered a treasure – and you did – they are your family heirlooms!
I gave it a cleaning and look over, and after reading the directions on the back of the Weatherman Jr. “weather forecaster”, I reset the figures by twisting the string to set them evenly in the doorways. Now to place it on a shelf and watch. Supposedly the witch comes out of the doorway 8 to 24 hours in advance of rain or stormy weather, unless the children come out of the doorway 8 to 24 hours to predict clear or fair weather. The last part of the directions totally threw me off: It read – if both figures remain evenly in the doorway, it indicates changeable or variable weather.
In knowing my grandfather, I’m sure his answer about a house predicting the weather would have been, “if you want to know the weather, then look outside.” He never held faith in new fangled gadgets!
One of my first thoughts on this re-discovered heirloom was – where did it come from? I immediately called my mother, who quickly said, “it’s 10 o’clock, why are you still up?” I then had to explain my call, although I didn’t wake her, but she was surprised by the late call. She quickly answered my question. “Yes I certainly remember that weather house, it hung on the back porch wall, right by the door leading into the dining room. I know it definitely wasn’t there when I was a young girl, so I think it probably appeared maybe when I was older or even after I married. But I know it had been there a long time before you took it home – I’d say over thirty years at least. So that would make it about 60 years old today.”
“As to where it came from, well I can definitely tell you that my daddy would never have bought it or bought any novelty type item like it, so either it was given to them as a gift or I’m thinking it was one of those free items that came packed in the flour sacks as a free give-a-way. I remember my mother pulling out items from the many bags of flour she used yearly; everyone loved the free items inside. Another possibility is that it came from his cousins general store in town, maybe my mother saw it in the store and wanted it – he never refused her anything, whether he liked it or not.”
In researching my little Weatherman Jr., I found that it’s more considered a folk art piece because of the Alpine chalet design, although often decorated in the style of a cuckoo clock. They typically have two doors on the front – side by side – for the figures to appear through.
After posting a picture of my weather house in my Greene Co., GA. Facebook group…. one person told me they had won one a long time ago on a punch board. Well that gave me new food for thought! I remember my mother talking about punch boards being popular, and there’s another story coming with that. I did google them and found that they often had trinkets and toys attached to the punch board to win. I’m more leaning to that theory now; maybe my grandmother won it for a penny or a nickle punch – at least I’d like to think so! She would have thought it pretty and hung it up – against granddaddy laughing. My grandmother McKinley often spent Saturdays with her cousin who owned the general store in town; many things in their house came from that general store – so why not the little weather house?
The more technical name for the concept of predicting the weather by using these figures is called a hygrometer, and it is noted as such on the back of the house. A hygrometer is an instrument used for measuring the moisture content in the atmosphere, often using a human or animal hair under tension connecting to the figures.
Identifying it as made from bakelite marks it as being produced before the end of the 1940’s.
Even though my little weather house is only made in bakelite, with a value of about forty-five dollars – its priceless to me. And now that I’ve preserved its story, it will always be given a spot to shine in our family, and it won’t be hidden in the back of my china cabinet any longer.
Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to read more stories…
© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco