Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Grandmama McKinley’s Kitchen Cupboards
When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms and record your memories so the family treasures aren’t tossed in the trash; they are just as valuable as your family photographs and need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question… it’s the story which holds the value.
Something as simple as having an actual cupboard door from Grandmama’s kitchen… I consider an heirloom. Any object that holds memories, whether valuable or not… it’s really the memories that live on through the heirloom.
These cupboard doors came to me in the most unusual way… from an impromptu stop to see the family farm. While visiting my mother, we took a ride down to her old stomping grounds and the farm where she grew up. As we rode down the dusty dirt road to the farm, we were hoping to find the new owners home… and they were.
The road leading down to Granddaddy McKinley’s farm
Grandaddy’s farm bell stood on the pole on the left at the front of their yard… now it stands in my front yard. Granddaddy Bryan helped my husband get it down and told him this story. “The day it was put up, a man threw it over his back and climbed up the ladder alone to hang it.”
Granddaddy McKinley standing by the mailbox, which was quite a walk from the house; it was mama’s job to get mail when she was young.
My grandparents: Edgar and Ola (Askew) McKinley
(Standing in front of smokehouse with farmhouse behind them)
The new owners purchased the old farmhouse, along with a few acres many years ago after my mother sold the land to the Plains Logging Company. They built a new house further up where granddaddy’s two barns once stood, but kept the old farmhouse; they lived in it while building their new home. They were now in the process of updating the farmhouse for their son and daughter-in-law to call home. When they asked if we’d like to see inside, it didn’t take me but a quick second… to say yes.
Mama had the front porch enclosed when she moved back and a bottom put on the back side porch; it originally was screened from top to bottom.
The Well House
The one thing missing was the old granite stone blocks of uneven steps that had surmised as the back porch steps for as long as they lived there…. which I loved! They were where I’d first run and jump up on when we arrived on Friday nights… trying to jump over the toads in the yard. They were the back stoop where I sat with granddaddy to listen to the Bobwhite birds… he taught me how to whistle to them, and wait for them to call back to us. They were the very steps where granddaddy sat at the end of a long plow day, and my mother as a young girl would take off his boots and wash his feet. If those steps could talk… they’d tell even more tales… and if I thought I could have lugged them home to CT. I would have begged for them.
In stopping one day, I looked over and was excited to see the stone steps were still there, even though they weren’t used as the back steps any longer.
They say you can’t always go home… things are never the same, and for the most part, it’s very true… but it was really nice to actually set foot in my grandparents old home for probably the last time.
Walking onto the long back porch brought back memories of where our chihuahua, Teddy Bear, loved to run and bark at granddaddy’s foxhound dogs in the yard. He thought he was “big dog” behind the screen wire, but the one time he jumped up on the screen barking big and fell through… landing at the feet of Smoker and Bill… who just stood staring at him as he quickly high-tailed it back up the steps… whimpering to come in. Granddaddy had been repairing the screens and Teddy Bear made the mistake of picking the one screen not secured yet. I think he toned down his barking at the “big dogs” after that.
Another thing missing on that back porch was the old Coca-Cola thermometer that had hung by the back kitchen, for forever… until I married and my husband pointed it out to me. It left with us on that trip and still hangs in my kitchen today.
As I never thought to actually take a photograph of it hanging on the wall when we removed it, I improvised as to where it hung.
Now hanging on my kitchen wall!
Another heirloom that hung out on the back porch was this weather thermometer. I’m surprised it even lasted over the years, but I treasure having it. You can read that post on Family Heirlooms.
Entering grandmama’s kitchen that day, I discovered many changes, her small country sink which had always been my play area was now gone…. but I could still see the area where it once hung. The plumbing only ran down under the house and into a cement trough that ran the sudsy water out toward the field. When no one was minding me, I loved to make “lots” of soapy bubbles… and watch them flow out to the field. Being at the farm, was a place where you made your own entertainment!
Grandmama’s small white cast-iron sink hung to the side the window… there was a cabinet just above; you can still see the outline of where they both once stood.
Grandmamma’s kitchen bead-board cabinets with the old-fashioned wooden knobs were mostly still in place, but now being pulled out, to be replaced with new oak cabinets. I felt a little sad knowing that those simple wood cabinets weren’t going to be on the walls anymore… the cabinets that once held grandmamma’s best blackberry jam and peach preserves… and the counter which always had jars waiting for me to bring home… were soon to be gone! Mama reminded me that grandmamma always kept a small porcelain cup in the tall cabinet where she kept her biscuit dough in… for making sourdough biscuits. She’d take a pinch to add into her dough and then remove a pinch to add back to the cup to keep the starter going. Sure wish I had been able to sample grandmamma’s biscuits! Mama said they were the best… cooked on her wood-burning stove!
A photograph I took years ago after my mother moved out of the farmhouse… cabinets were still intact. There originally was a back wall on the cabinets but mama cut it away to make it open up into the dining room; she was always handy with a hammer and saw… never tell her she couldn’t do something!
As we stood there in the kitchen, listening to the owners tell us about the plans for the house, the wife mentioned, she was keeping the doors off the cabinets… planning to do something with them later. Then she looked at me and asked, “would you like a door.” She didn’t have to ask me twice! Now came the dilemma, as there were both short and tall doors… I’m horrible in making decisions, but she soon solved that in telling me to take one of each! How awesome was that?
I had planned to make a craft with them after returning home, but I’ve never been able to come up with something that I thought appropriate… so they’re still sitting in my basement… but I have them! If you have ideas, feel free to send my way!
Grandmamma’s corner cabinet that granddaddy built her. I can peek through here and see part of grandmamma’s old kitchen sink… if only my camera had veered over under the cabinet, but who thought I’d ever want a photograph of a kitchen sink!
In walking through the dining room, I noticed that grandmamma’s corner cabinet was still there. It wasn’t the usual dining room cabinet to display treasures in… grandaddy built it for her to store her summer canning jars. Those were her treasures! Mama remembers it always full for the winter months… jars of the vegetables she grew in the family garden. Grandmamma canned everything… and I’m told she made the best vegetable soup mama ever ate… it was my father’s favorite. Daddy treasured whenever she gave him a jar and on one occasion he dropped the jar in the sink as he opened it. Mama said he was almost in tears… not wanting to pour the rest in the trash. (I was told that the new owners liked the cabinet and are keeping it, only moving it to the opposite corner in the room… I’m sure grandmamma will smile as she loved that cabinet.
I never remember eating in the dining room there… they were plain country people eating only in the kitchen. From mama’s accounts, she did cook large Sunday dinners and often family came “to put their feet under her mother’s table” as mama says! Sundays was the only day grandmama made sweet tea… as she never liked tea. Granddaddy would buy a block of ice and chip it up to use in the tea, then keep the block of ice in a burlap bag under a mound of sawdust. I’m told that was how you kept things cold before you had a refrigerator… sounds odd to me, but it worked!
The room in the farmhouse I most remembered was their front bedroom, which also served as a parlor. I never thought it odd… but they lived simple. From the windows in that front room you could see anyone who turned into the yard and it’s where I’d sit and wait for granddaddy to come home from Friday night foxhunting.
The bedroom opposite the hallway from my grandparents room… the knotty pine walls were always my favorite in here.
A wide hallway separated my grandparents bedroom from this one… and that is where I slept, as well as my parents when we came; there was two high metal beds in there. The fireplace had been long walled up and a gas heater installed. Mama had told me a story about the chimney having a “trick” put on it long ago when two brothers lived there. A trick is similar to a spell. I’m glad she never told me that story when I was small, as I had a hard enough time sleeping there anyway. It was always so super dark out there in the country and I was afraid to look out the windows… thinking I’d see a face looking in. Also the knotty pine walls seemed to hold shapes of animals as I stared at them in going to sleep… I had a very vivid imagination!
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