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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Varnadore/Lewis Cookouts


It's an old saying, but true, that life in the 50's moved at a slower rate. Tradition was huge and certainly our family, Varnadore and Lewis, had theirs. I wish you had known what it was like to be a part of the cook outs this bunch of folks could throw.

My maternal grandmother, Ida Mae Johnson, grew up in a large family. Three daughters married three Lewis boys, also of a large family. From this framework, two of those couples raised their children in Milford, CT. It produced many aunts, uncles and cousins for me and my sister. So we became very close to Ida and James Lewis' children --my mom Eula, her brother Jim (Uncle Dubby) to me, and my Aunt Judy, who for a time, also lived close. From this produced my cousins, Jimmy, Linda, Cindy, Jeffrey, Cathie and Debbie. Not to mention all the other cousins from the other 2 brothers who married the Lewis girls. To say our Family Cookouts were full of people is an understatement!

Most of these cookouts, for whatever occasion, were held at my house on Coe Lane in Ansonia, or at Uncle Otha's in Milford CT. Both houses at that time , afforded lots of woods for the kids to explore while the adults visited.

The day would begin with the trip to the ice house with my grandfather to get a big chunk of ice for the sodas. Then to my grandfather's hot dog stand to pick up the wooden cases of soda for the event. Some time there was a parade to go to or be in at the start of the day. My Dad would go in the back yard to be sure the grass was cut and the horseshoe pits were clean and in good shape. Then down into the cellar to pull out the badminton set. Lastly, the ping pong table would have to be set up. I would dream that maybe maybe THIS day I would beat my Uncle Dubby at ping pong. But he was brutal and that never happened! At any rate, I knew later in the evening maybe I could beat him or Dad at Chinese Checkers. My phone number, which I still remember, 203-735-3566 was the number for the one black phone in the kitchen from which all calls were made for a very long time. There were no cell phones, video games, DVRs , CD players etc to distract our carrying out of this event.

The sodas were in glass bottles and gleamed as they sat under the mulberry tree, chilling. Pepsi of course for my Uncle Dubby , orange, grape, root beer, Coke. The grill we used at our house was unique, in that my Dad who had been a welder for awhile, had made it. It was made of sold steel and weighed a ton. The side dishes that were laid out by this group of southern women, was to die for.
But what I remember the most was how much the adults were happy and joking, playing games with kids and adults alike.Invariably, as the day wore on, songs were sung, maybe a banjo would come out or a harmonica. Someone would yodel! "Poor ole" Kaw-liga" would be sung in southern tradition. The adults would visit to long into the evening and the kids would go outside to play hide and seek in the dark and catch fireflies. There was time for everyone that day and not one had a clock to watch.
One other very fond memory I have is when we took these cook outs to the public park in Bridgeport CT ,where multiple baseball games were going on by the men, as the women cooked on the grassy areas surrounding the games and the kids crossed the street to take a dip in the ocean. Such wonderful wonderful times to grow up in. I feel very blessed to have been a part of that time in the 50's. So wish you had known those times with me....

1 comment:

purchasewoods said...

I loved this. Ellen. And there was Hammonasette State Park and I think we did New York once but we had so much fun. With no video games, cell phones, or IPODs. We laughed all day and we were honestly tired when we went to bed. And we hauled out 'Your Own America Sings' and Mitch Miller. Thank you so much for doing this.