When I was a child I was seldom allowed in the kitchen. The house was small and I was considered to be “underfoot.”

But I do recall how the days passed and the effort that went into cooking and cleaning.

When my grannies were out in the garden, I was usually sitting in the dirt playing.

I loved it out there where the warmth of the sun caressed my head. I had so much fun playing with horned toads and lady bugs.

Gardening got into my blood then and it is still there today.

Back then it was mainly vegetables and berries that were planted. Food to eat.

Then they canned much of it in big jars for winter meals. Steam would rise to the ceiling from the pressure cooker, and the heat of summer bore down on us as the slow days of summer passed.

There were no air conditioners. Just open windows that seemed to let in the heat and somehow keep it captured in the small rooms all day.

My oldest Great-grandma had a penchant for pretty flowers. She liked phlox, as I recall. And four o’clocks.

The yard was always buzzing with bees and butterflies attracted to her colorful clumps of flowers.

The only canned food I ever remember seeing back then was the occasional can of Spam. Everything else in our house was homemade and fresh from our garden.

A meal often consisted of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, pinto beans with chunks of ham, cornbread and iced tea. The main meal was eaten at lunch time.

I recall the bubbling sugary scent of blackberry cobblers cooling on the counter. Or fried apple pies with the edges crimped by fingers that had done it so many times.

The big garden was fenced as was the entire perimeter of the land our house sat on. It was safe there. If someone got in they’d have to open the big long gate out front.

In the springtime there was an older black man who would come with his donkeys and till the soil to prepare the land for gardening. I’d see him sitting up high on his buggy as he passed.

I recall the slow steady clunk-clunk of the donkey hooves.

Life truly was the epitome of “slow living” back then. The man didn’t hurry along. He took his time and probably enjoyed the scenery of the countryside.

We had to walk a few miles into town to get groceries we didn’t grow or fetch something from the five and dime or drugstore.

It was not a hurried affair. I sometimes got a 10 cent ice cream cone at the drugstore before we started the long walk home.

My grannies wore bonnets to protect their heads and faces from the sun. I skipped along in front, where country roads finally blended into city sidewalks in town. And then in reverse on the way back home.

There didn’t seem to be set-in-stone schedules back then. You got up early in the morning and ate gravy and biscuits and eggs and maybe sausage. Your alarm clock was the ornery rooster out back.

Aprons would be tied in the back with fast nimble fingers that had done it probably hundreds of times.

After breakfast was cooked and the kitchen was cleaned came the garden chores and tending to the chickens out in the big chicken yard.

The long summer days were spent tending to whatever needed tending. Maybe it would be patching clothing or sewing on a button.

The sun would set and we’d have already eaten our supper. My grannies would have retired by then to the front porch where they watched the cars go down the road and rested from their long day’s work.

They’d have paper fans to fan themselves with and to discourage mosquitoes.

I still remember the rhythm of those rockers, creaking and slow and steady.

How magical it seemed that light slowly faded and suddenly night held court.

The tree leaves brushed against one another in the wind, making a rustling sound. And the dark branches were starkly etched in the moonlight.

Frogs would croak and crickets would chirp. Dogs would bark and run around the house. I would chase the lightning bugs, their bright light blinking on and off as they elusively flew through the night.

Finally the rockers would stop and my grannies would get up to head to bed. Chores would begin bright and early by 6 a.m. There would be flour to scatter on the counter and biscuits to be formed.

That was life in the countryside in the sixties.

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37 Comments

  1. Love this eulogy to days gone by, if only life were still so simple, easier even though there was more work to be done, less convenience.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE THESE KITCHEN PHOTOS!!!!!!! WOW!!! Better Homes & Gardens!! I’m glad I scrolled back a post!

  2. I too have wonderful memories of being wild and free in the country summers (winters too) during the 50’s and 60’s. Until I read your description didn’t realize how much I miss it! My husband and I live on an acreage in the country now but the magic isn’t there like it was in childhood. I consider myself very lucky to have those memories! There can never be another time like it.

  3. Brenda, I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed reading anything as much as I did this blog. You. truly are a talented writer; you consume me with your words. Please don’t ever stop.

  4. I absolutely love these first hand accounts of “back then”, Brenda, the comments too. My m-i-l is 90, her stories of growing up on a farm are priceless. I grew up in the suburbs in the 70’s, and the freedom we had! We rode our bikes and played outside no matter the weather. Television was for when you were sick! We camped in the Adirondacks, and on Lake Ontario all summer long. I got married and had sixteen kids, raised them in the country, where they could run wild outside. :). We’ve tried our best to limit screen time, and enjoy together time, sitting around the table solving the world’s problems. The kids are growing up, only four left at home, but the older ones have good memories of exploring in the woods. Thank you for sharing!!!

  5. Hi Brenda. When you share such accounts on your blog, you get complete freedom to write what you want. Maybe you wouldn’t get such freedom when writing a book. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

    I was born in the mid-1950’s in a semi-rural area of southern Ohio. My grandparents lived nearby and had 15 acres of so, with cattle and a very big garden. Older women in the area did indeed wear cotton dresses and sun bonnets when working in their gardens, but my grandmother broke with the mold and wore what we called “pedal pushers” — capris-style pants that hit at mid-calf — and bright cotton blouses along with a big pair of sunglasses while picking beans or tomatoes. She was the oldest of 11 children and had grown up cooking and canning and doing farm chores to help her mother take care of the younger children. She loved such tasks her whole life. My mother, meanwhile, had to do such chores as a girl in the 1930s and 1940s and she grew to hate it. She became what I call a “Campbell Soup mom,” because she fed my siblings and me a lot of convenience foods. But my grandmother gave us canned and fresh vegetables from her garden all summer long. She and my mom both shooed kids out of the kitchen when they were cooking, saying we got in the way, so I didn’t learn much from them. After I became an adult, I learned about gardening, cooking and canning from library books, and my grandmother made fun of me because of it. She said she didn’t need a book to do those things. But her mother and grandmother taught her and mine didn’t! I am just glad that I saw her do such things and that I developed the desire to want to do them. There is a lot of satisfaction in eating a tomato or a sweet potato that you’ve grown. But if you can’t grow such things, you can find people who do at farmer’s markets, and that is good too.

  6. ???From my heart filled with gratitude thank you Brenda for opening beautiful memories my childhood days,
    Playing with Mom’s empty thread ?spools.
    Mom had brought home from layaway new socks for my brothers back to school.
    My cousin & decided our dolls needed new dresses. needless to say we cut toes
    (4 pair’s) off cut holes in heals and our
    Dolls seri best dressed? Mom did not
    Ouch end of new clothes for doll clothes
    Ouch

  7. Beautiful piece Brenda. I grew up in the 70s, not out in the country but in country-Ish suburbs. Although it was nothing like what you describe, there are still similar elements. I feel life WAS safer then, and for sure simpler. I wish I could recreate it. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Wonderful writing…felt like I was there. I also grew up rural where life was mostly like the life you described. Makes me sad my Grandchildren will never have this sweet experience and so much of playing outside and enjoying nature. Thanks for sharing…your writing is a lot of talent where you can make us feel like we were right there with you. Hold onto the memories.
    :0)

  9. Brenda, I am sure that you have a book inside just waiting to be written. Your post sounds makes country life sound wonderful and is much the same way that my late father-in-law described. He passed this summer at 92 and although he left the farm to go to college and on to a corporate job the farm never left him and in fact if you asked him his profession he would say farmer.

    I’ve never lived in the country and in fact the thought of living a rural life is a little scary to me. That said, my fondest memories are baking, cooking and housekeeping alongside my grandmother.

    Life was simpler then and although there was a lot to do it seemed as if people took the time to stop and smell the roses as they say. Now a days I don’t think many people do that.

  10. Sweet memories of the country life! I was a little girl in the 60’s, so remember much more of my growing up years in the 70’s. We lived in the suburbs until I was 13; then we moved to KY for a few years. That’s where my mom was born and raised. We definitely lived the country life there, though my parents owned a tiny grocery store in town. We only lived there 3-1/2 years and then had to move back to IL, as our grocery store didn’t do well and my parents lost all their money.

  11. Sweet memories! We now live in a small country town and have a big front porch. Porch sitting is our favorite past time on evenings and weekend days when the temp is comfortable here in Texas. Things really do move more slowly in small towns.

  12. You did a great job organizing the cabinets, it looks wonderful. And thank you for the trip down memory lane. I grew up in Nebraska and much of what you shared reminds me of my childhood. Life was simpler then, and I truly miss those days. Now everyone is in a big hurry and are constantly looking at their cell phones. No one takes time to smell the roses anymore. Very sad!

  13. Your writing brought me back in time to my childhood. Growing up in the 50’s I felt so free riding my bike to the corner store…it was a mile away. Spending time with my grandma was the best. She had a wringer washer in the back yard, would bake bread every week, make homemade soup, and boiled pigs feet (it was delicious). My parents were extremely hard on us but granny was wonderful. I can’t remember her ever raising her voice (never hit us)and she always let me sleep with her at night. She had a huge plum and a peach tree in her front yard and I loved to help pick and eat fruit. We often went to the neighbors. She would visit and I would get to hold the latest baby goat. In the evening she would bathe me and her soap always smelled better that what my mom used. She gave me the hugs and kisses I lacked from my own parents. There was no TV shows to watch or electronics to play just a wonderful life enjoying the outdoors and a feeling of belonging in this world from my granny.

  14. Brenda, you could write a book, the way you transported me and your other readers, to a bygone era. How I wish for the country life! I guess that’s why my little kitchen is decorated with open shelves and red and white plates too!
    Your kitchen looks wonderful!

  15. First, I love your kitchen cabinets and the way you displayed your dishes! Second, thanks for the memories. I grew up in 40’s and 50’s and can idenify with many of your memories. If we were missing anything, we didn’t know it because we were happy and loved by our parents.

  16. Brenda ~ik you have a beautiful way with words! I could “feel” so much of what you wrote about ~ the warmth of the sun, how the food tasted, how the house & flowers smelled in a magical way!!
    Thank you for taking all of there!

  17. Your words just make these scenes you write about come alive. You have a real talent. Also, love the two colors of red and white in your cabinet. Very beautiful but calm at the same time. And you’ve styled them very nice. Beautiful post!!

  18. Life can be fulfilling and rich, even if not a lot of money to be had…in these ways you describe your childhood was rich!! You know, back then, we had time to dream too…we did not have a TV most of my life at home, and so one read, played music, sang, cooked, or just simply laid in the grass while looking at the clouds going past and dreamed…something to be said I think, for that.

  19. Brenda your menu and country living sounds a lot like mine I too grew up in the 60’s we had a huge garden everything we ate came from that or the chickens we raised for a company they would give us chickens after they came and picked up their chickens we had raised for them from babies the days were long and summers hot in the south we worked hard but enjoyed each day no one was ever in a hurry my grandmother cooked all of our meals and we had homemade biscuits everyday seems like there was more time back then everyone is too rushed now

  20. You have such a gift with words and I can see everything you describe so clearly and it brought my memories rushing back. My grandparents lived in a pretty big town in NJ about 15 miles from NYC but way back in the day, it was a very rural place, where the wealthy came to their summer mansions, or made their homes to be out of the city, where their big jobs were. My grands were Italian Immigrants and my grandpa, who grew up wealthy but had to give that life up because he wanted to marry my grandma who was of a lower class. So they came to America, where not having command of the language, used his knowledge and made a living working for the rich , one being Benjamin Moore,( yes the paint guy! )as a butler/ driver/ gardener. They lived in an old farmhouse, down in town, on a pretty big piece of land, where my grandfather had an enormous garden. He grew all kinds of vegetables and many gorgeous flowers, including some of the largest Dahlias I ever saw, some which grew to almost a foot across and came really close to an almost completely Black Dahlia. He kept bees, which not only pollinated his garden, but gave the most delicious honey. There were chickens, too and a huge coop right next to the green house. My sister, 7 cousins and I spent much of our lives there, because my mom and all my aunts took turns caring for my grandmother who was paralyzed from a stroke. We too, saw the women cooking and canning on the huge, black, iron, woodstove in the basement, which also roasted the Thanksgiving turkey! We ate so many meals at the big round oak table looking out the big windows at the gorgeous garden. Yes, I remember the heat and relaxing on the screened porch at night , but it wasn’t so bad, maybe because we were kids, who knows. I can still smell those days and hear them too, especially the crickets that would begin at dusk. Oh, how I miss those happy, family filled days and pity those that will never know them. Thank you, so much for bringing me back and allowing me to share my memories and for sharing your wonderful story that stirred them up!

  21. Brenda, you described my childhood exactly. I was raised by my grandmother and I experienced the same lifestyle as you. Thanks for the memories.

  22. Loved reading and seeing your post today. You painted such a beautiful story. Love the white in the kitchen. I am a big fan of neutrals, so calming and as a base, so easy to add and change up.

  23. Oh Brenda, i could feel such a calmness and relaxed state while reading this wonderful commentary. You have missed your calling I feel. I remember those wonderful hot summer days growing up
    in Michigan. We too had no AC but didn’t give it a thought. I remember my mom would make bread and butter pickles and when they were ready she’d make these delicious sandwiches with them on white bread! Such wonderful memories. And the cupboards look fantastic.

  24. Your written remembrance of long ago summer life is very evocative and charming. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

  25. This is a beautiful memory and thank you for your excellent writing. I grew up in Georgia in the 50’s, and I remember much of the same food-gathering activities. It was my job to take the old man who was plowing a big glass of sweet iced tea. I remember being anxious about this, but I had to do it anyway. Thanks for the memories, just like Bob Hope said!

  26. It truly sounds like an idyllic childhood in the country – we were fortunate enough to spend our summers out of the city, either on my grandparents’ farm in Ireland or camping in the mountains of NY. I hated going back to the city at the end of the summer, I used to cry and cry. I was never meant to be a city girl!

  27. Brenda, you just painted a beautiful picture of rural country life. I could envision everything you described down to the grannies’ rockers creaking on the porch and the flour dusted over the counters. Thank you for a beautiful memory of childhood then!

  28. I am 68 and I grew up out in the country in the mountains of WV. My paternal grandmother was my next door neighbor. I would walk through the woods and down the hill to her and my grandpas house. So I have so many of the same memories as you do. Except my childhood was from the 1950s into the early sixties.

    Thank you for this post as it brought back many memories of my own childhood.

  29. loved this walk down memory lane. my memories are similar but in the 40’s and early 50’s. Bushels of peaches and pears canned, plums from tree in backyard, sitting on porch with grandma in the glider or mom on the swing in the evening until mosquito’s chased us in to bed. i sat on side porch outside the kitchen and snapped beans by the bushel then washed the cans to put them in. i liked using the wooden handled dish mop to scrub the corners of the can. so many memories of what it was like before TV, cell phones, big supermarkets, everyone walking around looking at their hand, ha ha. the times they are a-changing.

  30. Ahhh the good ole days. We never had air conditioners either growing up and we never felt hot. I grew up in Michigan and we always had the windows open and I cannot remember ever being uncomfortable in the summer months. So funny how climate and things change. Love that country picture you showed. I love the open cabinets and how you styled them.
    Have a great week.
    Kris

  31. What a wonderful and sad eulogy to days which seemed better than the current roiling times we inhabit today. I wish we could recapture the innocence of the beliefs that once held us together as a nation and as family. Alas, were they really so grand;or, only so as seen through the gauzy film of memory.

    Marilynn

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