“I don’t remember what it was I said one day. I must confess, from a very young age I was prone to say things without thinking. Whatever it was, it offended (her). I was banished from the farm for a year when I was twelve.”
* * * *
What a wonderful lady!
Mr. and Mrs. Kelly and their family came to be caretakers of the County Farm, across the road from my childhood home in the forties. I was ten years of age when the Kelly family came to live in our neighborhood.
I adored the majestic building, easily seen from our front yard.
The farmhouse was a very large, very old building. Elderly folks who couldn’t afford a home and needed someone to care for them, came there to live.
Some folks called it the Poor Farm, but to me, it was never poor.
It always displayed a dignity which deserved the regal title, “County Farm”.
When I was very young, I began to visit the Farm as often as I could. There were seven older people living there at the time. A section of the large house was set aside for their comfort; a dining room, bedrooms, a bath and a living room. There were bedrooms upstairs. I never saw them, but I knew where the doorway to the stairs was located in a hallway.
Mrs. Kelly cooked the meals for the residents. She baked, canned and prepared what appeared to me to be wonderful food.
One of the more able ladies who lived at the Farm, whose name was “Rilla”, helped with the table settings of the long dinner table in their separate dining room. She always turned plates and cups at each place upside down before the meal; first the plate, then the cup.
I was fascinated by Rilla’s table arrangement. I’d never seen anything like it.
Mother wasn’t happy when I tried to set our dinner table the same way. It seemed quite picturesque to me. I could never understand Mother’s disdain for the arrangement. Perhaps she wasn’t against it, she just knew we didn’t have a need for it.
On the front side of the house, which I passed on my way to visit with Mrs. Kelly, there was a porch. The older ladies often sat in their rocking chairs, watching the world (and me) go by.
On one such occasion, I noticed one of the ladies had a newspaper spread out across her stomach as she sat quietly in her chair. I asked her why she had it there and she said, “It’s to keep my bowels warm”.
Now that’s a remedy I would never have thought of on my own.
The Kelly family had a grown son and daughter pursuing careers in far off parts of the country. Their youngest daughter still lived at home and was soon to graduate from high-school.
I don’t remember what it was I said one day. I must confess, from a very young age I was prone to say things without thinking. Whatever it was, it offended Mrs. Kelly. I was banished from the farm for a year when I was twelve.
It was to be a lifelong lesson.
Be careful what you say. Be aware, if you can, of how the other person may be receiving your words.
For the next year, I didn’t follow my favorite path to the County Farm. At thirteen I ventured a return.
Mrs. Kelly welcomed me as before. Our friendship continued.
Many times I watched Mrs. Kelly kneading a very large pan of bread dough in the County Farm kitchen. I now bake my own bread and would never be able to knead such an amount of dough at one time; although now, as an adult, I am a larger woman than Mrs. Kelly; but apparently not as strong.
My bread recipe dictates kneading the dough for ten minutes. I’m sometimes able to continue for seven. Mrs. Kelly would likely suggest that the bread would be finer if I followed the directions of the recipe.
(She was strong and determined with many responsibilities in life. She always had time for me.)
When visiting at just the right time, the aroma of baking bread always greeted me near the kitchen door. Not far behind me, there were bread customers waiting to purchase a wonderful loaf of Mrs. Kelly’s homemade bread.
As I recall, she charged them $1.00 per loaf; the loaves were huge. I checked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that one dollar in the 1940’s is equal to $16.24 in 2022. With that in mind, Mrs. Kelly’s customers were willing to pay a rather high amount for her bread; at that time. (Something to reflect upon.)
It was worth it!
Her long gray hair, was always carefully braided and wrapped neatly around Mrs. Kelly’s head. A clean and ironed cotton dress was always her attire.
She never walked anywhere slowly; always on the move and carrying out her vast responsibilities.
The kitchen and her family’s living quarters were neat and very clean. The dishes were done and everything was in its’ place. In the pantry, next to the kitchen, sat a wire basket of eggs, waiting for her local customers who weekly purchased the freshest eggs in town.
Sometimes Mrs. Kelly allowed me to go to the chicken coop with her, to gather the eggs. I loved it.
One summer, I observed Mrs. Kelly preparing a bountiful meal for eight men who had come to help Mr. Kelly with the threshing. Never have I seen nor smelled such a wonderful array of food. I remember the table and the men who had come to help Mr. Kelly, filling their plates again and again.
No one ever left Mrs. Kelly’s dinner table hungry.
As years went by, Mrs. Kelly and I became closer friends. When I graduated from high school near the top of my class, as had her sons and daughters, she invited me to the room where graduation pictures of her children were displayed on an old upright piano.
She was very proud of her family. There was my graduation picture, now displayed next to those of her children. This was Mrs. Kelly’s way of showing how much she cared for me.
She was proud of my achievements too, and there couldn’t have been any clearer proof.
After high school, I became employed in the town where I’d grown up, although I now lived half an hour’s drive away. Driving back and forth each day; arranging to arrive for work a little early so I could spend time visiting with Mrs. Kelly in the County Farm kitchen as she was busily preparing meals for the residents and baking bread for her special customers.
The aroma of those wonderful baking loaves continued to greet me at the door.
A few years later, I married and went to live in a neighboring town.
Opportunities to visit Mrs. Kelly were few. I felt lonely and sad without friends I’d left behind in the town where I’d grown to adulthood.
I often shared my feelings with Mrs. Kelly. She offered me the understanding of a caring friend.
At the birth of our first child, Mrs. Kelly came to the hospital to visit. As I recall, that was the only occasion on which I saw her away from her home at the County Farm.
Putting her hand on my arm as she stood near my bed, she said; “Now you’ll never be lonely again”. I needed to hear that.
One day, while visiting in my former town, I decided to go and spend some time with Mrs. Kelly at the farm. She wasn’t home. I was told she was in the hospital.
Going directly to the hospital, I sat down in the waiting room. Just then, Mr. Kelly came through the inner door.
He was crying.
I was informed by a nurse that Mrs. Kelly had suddenly gone into cardiac arrest…and died.
Our times together had ended, but as you can see, treasured memories have remained.
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Photography By Mary Anne Whitchurch Tuck
http://www.thatremindsme.chat (Memories & Observations)