Chores around the home

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 By an Almonte ‘Native’

 To stimulate discussion and relive memories……

O’Brien Theatre, 1930

    Though our days seemed to be filled with chores there was always time for play and activities. Let’s remember some of those chores!

   Bottled water??? Not in the 50s! In fact, a lot of homes had no running water. One house in the neighbourhood usually had a large pump over a hand dug well and that was where we got our drinking water. You took your buckets with a small bit of water to prime the pump. As the pump usually had a leather diaphragm it would sometimes be dry and therefore no matter how much you pumped, no water would come up. Water would need to be poured down into the pump (called priming the pump) to wet the diaphragm. The well would serve any number of homes in the neighbourhood. One never wanted to be in a disagreement with the family that owned the well. Once or twice a day, whether cold or hot outside, a trip with two buckets was made to the well.

   Water used for washing, cleaning, and any other nondrinking use was obtained from the cistern beneath the house. The cistern was usually located under the kitchen and was an open cement holding tank that collected the rain water from the roof by way of the eaves troughs and downspouts. A small hand pump over a sink in the kitchen was used to bring up the water. The sink was usually emptied into a grey well (a large pit in the yard that was dug and filled with stones allowing discarded water to seep into the ground rather than pool in the yard).

   Gardens needed to be dug and planted and hoed and weeded. These gardens grew most of all the vegetables needed for the family. The produce was either stored or pickled for use until next year’s crop was ready. Do you remember dusting the potatoes for potato bugs, or picking those long green caterpillars off the tomato plants?

   We also had chickens whose eggs were gathered every day for not only personal use but sold or traded to someone else for an item you didn’t have. Once during the year the chickens would have to be replaced and there would a killing day. Everyone in the family would be given a part in the process. The chickens were singled out, heads cut off, hung to drain and then the feathers were plucked off and finally the carcass was opened and cleaned. Those carcasses would be traded or sold while a few were kept for personal use. If you didn’t have a rooster, young chicks needed to be bought and thus the cycle continued.

   With the growing season over and winter approaching we knew that making firewood would be the next large chore. A large truck would offload logs in the yard in late October and then someone with a tractor and a saw attached to the back would arrive. We would help place a log on the saw and the log would be cut into the proper lengths for the stove. When he left, the next chore was to split, by hand axe, these rounds into burnable size pieces. This usually took several days of constant work. Then the wood was carried into the woodshed and neatly piled as high and straight as one could reach. Of course the next chore was to always keep the wood box in the house full. Can you still smell that wood stove in the kitchen? In the morning on a cold winter day, once dad got the fire up, you would race with your clothes in your arms to dress in its warmth.

   The grass was cut with a self-propelled lawnmower (you being the propeller). Push and push and push and heaven help you if you were going too quickly and a stick caught between the blades and the bar at the bottom. One of my first paying jobs was to cut some lawns in the area using this mower. I still have one of these mowers in my shed sitting right beside my sit on. Try to guess which one I use!

   There were many smaller chores. Everyone had a role in helping prepare supper, doing the cleanup and dishes. Do you remember the encounters with siblings as you disagreed while engaged in this activity and mom or dad telling you what could happen if you didn’t stop, be quiet, and finish. Walking to a store downtown to obtain groceries, raking the leaves that were burned in piles by the edge of the street, shoveling the snow, and cleaning the house were other required tasks..

   All this was done with very little whining. Your allowance would be just enough to get you admission to a Saturday matinee at the local theatre and some treats at Rooneys’ Poolroom.