Bonnie Boerema

© Copyright 2017 by Bonnie Boerema

Photo of Bonnie's Grandmother, Mabel.

My grandma Mabel was quite a woman. She was born in 1902. She married grandpa Luther in 1920, at age eighteen. He was five years older than her. He was born in 1898, and he’d been a cowboy out west before they married.

Her dad was Will, and her mom was Bertie. She called them Pa Pa and Momma. They farmed west of Conway, Missouri. They had eight children, five sons and three daughters. Grandma Mabel was their middle daughter. Grandpa Luther farmed, too, as did many in the midwest in the 1920’s 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. He was good at it, and made them a good living with it. Grandma Mabel helped him.

When I was a little girl, Grandpa Luther had made little red stools for my twin sister, Connie and me. Grandma would seat us on them at her feet while she milked a few cows. She raised her own baby chickens. While they were still young chickens, she’d take one, wring it’s head off, get the feathers off, wash it, cut it up, and it’d be in the bowl in fifteen minutes.

They raised pigs, and butchered a hog twice a year. She’d tell us, as little girls, “Don’t ever get in the pigpen, the hogs will eat you up.” They started work on week days at 5:00 a.m. on the farm. Grandma’s work was milking a few cows, separating the cream from the milk, stirring up the biscuit dough, rolling them out, and cutting them with a biscuit cutter. Then she baked them, and started breakfast, which consisted of bacon or homemade sausage, gravey and eggs, along with the biscuits. They were served with butter and sorghum molasses and hot coffee. They finished eating early, between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. Grandma Mabel was a wonderful cook. The smells coming from her kitchen worked up a real appetite. She cooked on a old wood cook stove. Then Grandpa bought her an electric cook stove. They had an old-fashioned ice box when I was really little.

It was cream from the top of the milk from their cows that they put on their table. When Grandma’s had the whole family for a meal, my mom, dad, and us, with my mom’s only sibling, Uncle Bill, who was eight years younger than mom, his wife, Brenda and their five kids. She’s fry one of her home-raised tender chickens with mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and candied apples, and iced tea or coffee to drink. Dessert was either strawberry shortcake, coconut cream pie, or chocolate cake.

When Connie and I stayed overnight with them as kids, at 5:00 a.m. you’d hear one of their roosters crow, “Cock-a-doodle Do.”

Grandma Mabel was an excellent seamstress. She used mostly Butterick or Simplicity patterns. Her clothing was so perfectly made, it looked like a tailor had made it. When my sister and I were very young, she made us many clothes.

The first sewing machine she had was a foot treadle on the bottom to run it. But over my growing years of the 40’s and 50’s, Grandpa Luther had bought her the best and newest model of Singer Sewing Machines.

She filled up the rest of her morning, until time to fix Grandpa Luther something for lunch, by either sewing or crocheting. She crocheted me two beautiful afghans after I was married and had my own family.

Their farm was west of Conway. Their afternoons in the 50’s consisted of errands into Conway or Marshfield, Missouri to get groceries and suppliesat the hardware store, or Grandma to get her hair done at mom’s beauty shop.

Then, around 4:30 p.m. they’d start their chores again, milking the cows, feeding the chickens and the hogs. Of course, they were very hungry by supper.

In their middle age years, Grandpa Luther became an M.F.A. Insurance Agent, with her helping him. They had a thriving business, with many customers. My first secretarial job was at the M.F.A. Insurance Company in Springfield. Grandpa Luther drove me to their office, and put in a good word for me. They hired me.

Both Grandma Mabel and Great Grandma Bertie were dear, sweet women, especially Grandma’s Mabel, who changed mine and Connie’s diapers, and gave us bottles in the middle of the night when we were tiny babies. I always wondered why I felt much closer to her than mom. It was because I bonded with her early on, and always felt her love. Grandma Mabel had a profound effect on my life. She was one sweet-spirited woman, as was her mom, Bertie.

When Connie and I would stay overnight as kids, she’s fix the feather bed mattress on the bed in the guest bedroom. The old type with straw tick on the bottom, and the feather tick on top.

When we slept on it, we’d sink down in the middle. But it was very soft and fun to sleep on. The next morning Grandpa did all the chores, and Grandma Mabel entertained and gave us all of her time, just entertaining and enjoying being with us.

Mom had moved back in with them during World War II, while dad was in the Coast Guard, fighting overseas, and mom was attending beauty school. Grandma Mabel took care of us. Uncle Bill told the story about how Grandma would just get one of us fed, and quit crying, and the other one would start crying. Finally, she said, “Luther, you’re going to have to help me, I can’t even cook.”

Great Grandma Bertie had Indian heritage, long black hair, which she wore pulled back, and black eyes. She lived to be ninety years old. She was a petite, slender lady, and still pretty when she died. When Connie and I were four years old, and she was living in her small home in Conway, we’d stay with her two hours. She’d pull us up close to her and the radio in her living room. We’d listen to Ma Perkins.

She was a remarkable woman, who’d raised eight kids, and seen many changes in her life. Born eleven years after the Civil War. She’d seen all the wars our country had engaged in. All the progressions – from horses to automobiles, from wringer washers and dryers to automatic washers and dryers, air-conditioners, dishwashers, and T.V.’s.

Neither Grandma Mabel or Grandma Bertie held a job out of the house. But they both worked very hard. Grandma Bertie eight children. Her three daughters, Maude, Grandma Mabel and Mary kept the home, and raised their families.

Along with all the hard work of being a farm wife, Grandma Mabel was an excellent cook and helpmate. Aunt Mary was a farm wife, too.

Their farm was near Buffalo, Missouri. Of Grandma Bertie’s five sons, Uncle Arvin was an insurance salesman. He and his wife, Hazel lived in Musokee, Oklahoma. Uncle Walter and his wife, Nita lived in Dallas, Texas. They both worked for an oil company. Uncle Ralph owned a jewelry store in Richland, Missouri. Uncle Paul was a substance abuse counselor in Phoenix, Arizona. Her youngest son, Lowell stayed on the old family place, and farmed it. In later years,  when Lowell died, he left the place west of Conway to his oldest son, Gary.

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