By Peggy Goodrich, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
Do you sometimes feel like an old house looks? Think about it.
One does not have to drive many miles down Oklahoma side roads to see an old house — or several — that have seen better days. Usually, they have no windows and the doors are long gone, and the roof is beginning to sag in the middle.
Those wonderful old houses that usually look much the same on the outside because of the construction and the lengths of lumber available, each has an interesting story to tell, of happiness and heartbreak, poor times and party times, life and death and early history in the making — stories of childbirth and children who died young from whooping cough, diphtheria or scarlet fever, and wakes for older ancestors.
If we look ’round those old houses, there are still remnants of irises (they were called flags back then) that once bloomed and beautified the yards. Wonderful old pink and yellow roses still can be seen along fence rows that attract mocking birds and other birds to nest within. There is a hardiness about those plants and the houses they surround.
When we see a group of old trees with juniper berries and a lilac bush somewhere close by, and perhaps the dirt mound of an old cellar, we can be sure at one time there was an old house — perhaps a homestead — on that property. Those old trees were transplanted as saplings from near a river or big creek. So many people brought seeds or cuttings with them to settle this country, knowing that a house needed these things of beauty to make it a home.
We see the same transformation in our beautiful Enid. When I first set eyes on Enid when I attended Phillips University, we had city buses and a bus station on the corner across from Garfield Furniture. There were several department stores around the Square. One could hardly find a parking place on Thursday night to sit in our cars and watch the people go by and shop.
Nothing is permanent but change, so gradually, the downtown area changed, as it still is changing. During construction, we hate to see such a drastic alteration, but when it is finished, we will be proud of the progression of our beautiful town. We will brag about how up-to-date Enid is.
We will still hold wonderful memories of what once was. We will move on as our ancestors did.
It seems to me that those old houses and buildings are a lot like people. At some point in our lives, we begin to sag in the middle, and chins become somewhat like an old house, whose rafters finally rot away and begin to lean and slant and slope. Weather, time and natural depression take their toll, and houses and bodies begin to show wear and tear. Yet the beauty around them remains and lives on.
Not too long ago, I took my young nieces to the place where I was born. When I told them about my birthplace, they could not believe it. In their minds, the house looked that way when I was born there. Not so. It was a relatively nice house back then, with flowers and a front porch and well house, much like every family dwelling looked then.
I was only 3 years old when we moved from that small house to where I grew up, but I remember many, many things about it. I remember the lean-to kitchen, the heating stove in the front room, the pantry with its shelves full of staples and a wash stand in it with a water bucket and wash pan. One would not conceive of that arrangement nowadays, but back then, it was normal in most houses.
The bedrooms had little dinky closets, but there was no need for large walk-in closets like we all have now. We had few clothes to store — just a Sunday best, and no more than five dresses for school and play. We each had two pairs of shoes, one for Sunday school and dress-up, and a pair of brown brogans for school and work. Our socks and underwear could fit in one dresser drawer.
Times were simpler back then, as were the living arrangements. No one thought twice of sisters sleeping several in a room or two or three to a bed. I never felt deprived or crowded or without privacy. We had neighbors who put down pallets at night for the kids to sleep on because their house was so small. No one ever considered that it might be child abuse or overcrowding. The togetherness created happy families and joyous times and wonderful memories. One cannot ask for more than that from a childhood or a home.
The memories of mealtimes in those old homes live on. Aromas of cinnamon rolls, hot bread and cookies permeated the walls. Beans or roast cooking on the wood stove welcomed everyone when they stepped into the room. Those old recipes and memories cannot be improved upon. They are as good now, if not better, than they were back then, like this chocolate cake. It baked while we ate dinner and it was served warm from the oven with a simple icing of sugar and cream mixed together, or slathered with homemade butter and icing omitted. Oh, what memories.
My Grandma’s Chocolate Cake
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa
1⁄2 cup shortening (malted butter, oil or bacon drippings is what I am sure Grandma used)
1⁄4 cup buttermilk
1⁄4 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄2 cup boiling water
Mix sugar, flour, salt and cocoa. Stir in melted shortening and buttermilk that has the soda mixed in it, beaten egg, vanilla and boiling water. Pour into greased and floured 9-by-9-inch pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes until it tests done.
Old houses, like old people, have great character, and their stories are worth re-telling and re-hearing. Also, there should be some beauty remaining after they are both gone. Think about it.
Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.