Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Our Momma Taught Us To Do Chores

This picture of Mom and Les was taken in 1954 about the time Betty and I were becoming more useful when it came to doing chores. (Aged 8 and 10. Mom was 35 1/2 in this pic.)
The one chore we got more than our share of was doing the dishes! At first we took turns washing and drying. But we both preferred drying. Eventually it evolved into me almost always doing the washing and Betty the drying.
One rule was that if the plate/glass/utensil had the tiniest bit of anything left on it, we could put it back in the dishpan to be re-washed. That led to some fights once in awhile - "That was clean!" "No it wasn't!" - etc.
I remember Mom telling me years later that whenever Dad would have an upset stomach he would say "The girls haven't been washing the dishes well enough!" Like he had what? Salmonella?

By this time, I was very proud of the fact that I could cut up a chicken by myself. The knives we used were similar in size to the one on the left, though they had black handles. Mom always kept them sharp. By the time she died, the blade of the one she always used was worn down.
Peeling potatoes and carrots was an early chore she gave us. We always used a vegetable peeler much like the one second from the right. This is known as a swivel peeler. It is still my 'go to' choice even though the black handled one is supposed to be more comfortable to hold and use. Its blade is fixed. I know we were taught to peel away from the body which I still do for carrots, but when peeling potatoes, I pull the peeler toward me.
I remember the time our teacher took us home with her because we were catching the train to Chicago later in the evening. She told us we could help by peeling the potatoes for supper. We were given paring knives like the one here in the middle. I embarrassingly asked, "Don't you have a potato peeler? I can't peel potatoes with a knife."
The one task we almost fought to do was frosting a cake. That's Mom's well-worn spatula on the right. I wonder how many cakes were frosted with it over the years.

Our earliest outdoor chores centered around the chickens. In the foreground is our chicken house. It was divided into two sections. If you went in the left door, you were in the 'nest' section. It was a much smaller area. There was one long row of wooden nests along the west wall and a double section of metal nests opposite. I hated gathering eggs because there was always at least one old biddy setting on the nest. And she always pecked me when I tried reaching for the eggs under her. I don't know how Mom knew if I skipped that nest. She always sent me back to get those eggs. I didn't appreciate the lesson she was teaching me at the time.
The right hand door of the chicken house led to the larger roosting and feeding side. There was also an interior slat-like door between the two sections.
Way in the background on the left side of the picture is the brooder house where the baby chicks lived from spring until fall. If we were careful not to step on them, we were allowed to help fill the feeders using a small scoop. As we grew older (and more careful?) feeding and watering the chicks became one of our every day chores.

We were way too little to carry much when we were first introduced to the chicken chores. Mom gave us our own 'buckets' - empty one gallon paint cans. At first we were able to carry only one at a time. It was a big deal to be able to carry one in each hand! The corn crib wasn't far from the chicken house. Inside on the left were three bins for small grains. Two were for oats, one for shelled corn. (The other side of the crib held ear corn. Depending upon our size and carrying abilities, Mom put oats in our little buckets while she carried five-gallon buckets to fill the chicken feeders. Different buckets were used to carry the water pumped from the well at the house. We also had separate buckets with some straw in the bottom for gathering eggs. Imagine how proud a two-year-old child was to have one or two eggs in the bottom of their very own bucket!

Learning to do chores while little was an accomplishment. It was fun. It gave us a feeling of importance and self-worth. Having to do chores when we were older was just that - a chore (not fun).
I'm sure there were times it would have been much easier for Mom to just do it herself rather than yell, nag, cajole, entreat or threaten us to get our chores done (especially when I had "my nose in a book"), but she knew teaching us to do chores was part of her job as a parent.


  1. I really liked this blog-your memories are so vivid-GOOD JOB

  2. I have favorite hens too the ones who peck and others who let me stroke them and check for eggs , but the mean girls I can tolorate their pecks I have never bled. I talk to them the same way but, handle them rougher than the good girls.