Recently, I’ve noticed ads about fried bologna sandwiches, $4 and up. My mother would have been shocked! You see, Mother would never admit to even having bologna in the house, much less paying that price. Her parents had little, but lived well. Her grandfather was injured during the Civil War and the family money was gone before she was born. She was brought up thinking she was the uppermost of the upper class. She had sweet memories of carrying her dancing slippers and riding on a horse-drawn trolley to dance class. She was far above the farm boy who wanted to woo her, even though she was divorced and had a little girl to care for. The farm boy came from a large and prosperous family who learned how to do for themselves. The nine surviving sons had some college after high school graduation and on leaving home, each received either a horse and buggy or a car. (The only girl went to a school of nursing.)
Mother, her child and the farm boy got married and settled into family life. The first World War was over, followed by the Depression. They had a son to go with her daughter, giving them a pair. That was all they wanted and all they could afford to feed and clothe. I was that third one and there really was no room for me. I caused a hardship but my dad managed.
When World War II appeared, the belts got tighter as the skirts got shorter and the government devised a rationing program with books of stamps. That meant standing in line at the butcher shop. I was sent with coins — less than a dollar — for a pound of “ham sausage.” I don’t believe there was any such thing at that time. I was given a pound of thin-sliced bologna. With that, Mother made what she called “combination sandwiches.” That may have sounded elegant. It actually was a plate with neatly arranged fried slices of unidentified “meat,” fried eggs, sliced cheese, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and white bread, to be selected and stacked as desired. Sometimes she fried cubed pieces of “ham sausage” and made gravy, which was delicious over boiled potatoes. She never ordered hamburger, only buying ” ground beef.”
A pound of those “cuts” went a long way and with a vegetable from our garden, fed our family of five. We had a few contributing hens and there was a rooster but I don’t know that he contributed anything. Maybe we ate him.
My sister and I wore hand-me-downs and then homemade clothes when Mother learned to sew. She made some sturdy clothing (the nicest thing I can call it) before becoming an excellent seamstress. After leaving the town of her birth, they moved to another couple of locations before settling in Plain City. Once there, she was finished with simple Butterick dress patterns. She advanced to and bought only Vogue patterns for herself; her clothes became “outfits.” When I was the last one at home, my clothing came from a store and I could finally look like my peers.
She never made one move without her upright piano. She was often able to use her musical talent as a very accomplished organist and pianist, and sometimes was even paid.
Her wardrobe carried her through the move to Piqua, the spot they finally called home. She quickly became one of the best dressed women in town and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. She was not alone in that; a few Piqua businesses had begun to slow and fold. More of her associates were clinging hard to their social/financial past. One of her close friends questioned me about her, indicating Mother gave the impression that she ‘“came from money.” Mother wasn’t the average social climber. She was born and cut her teeth on the top rung of that ladder. She gave her address as “West” Park Avenue. (Was that higher on the ladder?) I corrected her, saying it’s not West Park because there is no East Park! I should have saved my breath. There was a West Park Avenue as long as she lived here.
Carolyn Stevens may be contacted via mail at 719 Park Ave., Piqua, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.