Reminiscing with Seniors

by Linda C Butler

We had dinner tonight with my mom in the seniors’ complex and sat with the other ladies at her table.

I asked what they remembered about the horse and buggy days.  Mom remembered when her folks got a model T Ford.  Women in those times did not drive but Aunt Lizzie, who was a bit older than mom, wanted to try.  She watched how it was done, and when nobody was around she started the car and attempted to drive around the farmyard.  Her driving was short-lived as she didn’t know how to steer and hit a cow.  Fortunately the cow recovered. After that incident she was forbidden to drive again and only Grandpa drove.

Iris, who is 100 and of English descent, said that during the war her husband wanted to be a fighter pilot, but instead was sent to Canada as a flying instructor.  He taught in Saskatchewan where it is flat with no trees, an ideal place to train pilots, as there were no obstacles for beginning pilots to fly into.  Iris followed her husband to Canada a few years later.  After the war they returned to England and then later emigrated to Canada.

She told this story before there was electricity: She had just moved into her home and needed ice. Ice was delivered by an iceman who drove a horse-drawn wagon. She asked her neighbor to send the iceman to her place when he next came and a day or two later the man arrived and carried the ice into her house and put it into her icebox for her.  After she paid him, she said:  Knock me up next time you come.  She said that was a common English expression, meaning knock on my door.  The iceman looked at her strangely and left without saying anything.  Her husband told her that night that Canadians have a different meaning for the phrase.

May, originally from Scotland, told us one time she sent a get well card to a lady in the hospital and wrote on it: Keep Your Pecker Up, which in Scotland means Keep your spirits up.  She was embarrassed when she learned the Canadian meaning of the phrase, but everyone who saw the card got a chuckle.

They talked about Christmas cakes and puddings and May said that after the traditional fruit cake had aged, it was covered in jam and then a layer of marzipan (almond paste) added, followed by royal icing, a thick white icing.  After that it was decorated with small china ornaments.  Iris said that their family omitted the royal icing and put the china figurines directly on the marzipan.

It was traditional to add small objects to the cake or Christmas pudding. A button in the cake meant that you would be a bachelor, a silver thimble meant thrift and a threepence coin would bring wealth. Stores sold packages of trinkets for this purpose and other objects were a tiny wishbone for luck and an anchor for safe travels.

Iris said that the English called cookies biscuits.  She said that her Canadian grandchildren would correct her when she offered them a biscuit. Iris talked about currant cakes which were often served with afternoon tea. They were rich in butter and eggs, but there was never icing.

May told us about preparing sauces for meat.  Usually both a hot and a cold sauce were served with every meat. Mint sauce was served with lamb, but if mint was not available an onion sauce was used.

It was interesting discussing food preparation from so many years ago and we had an enjoyable dinner.


About Linda C Butler

I write pioneer stories from the Herb Lake Ghost Town in Manitoba. Please do not re-blog this material or re-publish without my permission.
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2 Responses to Reminiscing with Seniors

  1. I remember those birthday cakes. the lucky person got a coin.

  2. When I was young Mom often put several coins into a birthday cake as a little reward — wrapped in wax paper so they wouldn’t affect the cake & vise versa.

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