"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe


     ANNUALLY, WITH APRIL AND MAY showers, temperatures on the rise, trees leafing out and fruit trees blooming, our thoughts turn to gardening and other activities associated with spring.

     Back in the old days nearly everybody had a garden -- both vegetable and flower. Flower planning and planting was the responsibility of the women in the family, and the vegetables were left to the men. The vegetable garden covered a small plot in the back yard. We had a yard man who yearly spaded and prepared the soil for planting. We did the weeding and hoeing after that. One didn't have to use a commercial fertilizer in those days. There was plenty of manure available and it had been spread in the late fall all over the garden area -- sometimes over the entire yard.

     We children helped plant the tiny seeds purchased from the Barteldes Seed Company or the Busch Seed Company.

     Our vegetable patch was small. No canning from the garden was done at home, so it was planned for immediate consumption only. We grew green onions, red and white radishes, leaf lettuce, green beans, sometimes a few climbing beans on part of the back fence, a small amount of dill for fall dill pickles, and a little horseradish and parsley. Our eyes still smart thinking back on grinding the horseradish root. We had quite a few rows of leaf lettuce, as wilted lettuce was a favorite at our house. When the radishes came up, it was our task to help thin them out. Radish sandwiches made from fresh lettuce leaves and a layer of radishes on Mr. Henry Gerhardt's or Mr. Planz's rye bread, buttered generously with sweet country butter purchased from Kasold's, were a Sunday night supper treat.

     Vegetable gardens eventually thinned out until World War II. Then the Victory gardens were considered a necessity due to food shortages. After that came Company gardens. FMC (formerly Westvaco) donated acreage adjoining the plant for employees who wished to raise vegetables for home use. In other parts of town, several families went together and rented plots of ground.

     In planning the early-day flower gardens, the usual list for seeds was nasturtiums, morning glory, hollyhock, and sweet peas. Around Easter time, pansy plants were purchased from Mrs. Paul R. Brooks, whose red brick home and greenhouse on Tennessee Street were where the Theta house now stands. It was closer and more convenient for us to buy most of our plants from Mrs. Whitcomb, whose home and greenhouse stood where the Douglas County State Bank parking lot is. Those living out east

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and south patronized Mr. Luther whose place was at 15th and Massachusetts on the northwest corner.

     Some other popular flowers for the yard were tulips, hyacinths and "flags" (Iris). Roses too, both bushes and climbing, were in most yards. Dorothy Perkins climbers were a favorite before Paul Scarlets came.

     There were several large nurseries to supply the trees and shrubs. Adolph Griesa's Mount Hope Nurseries; T. E. Griesa; Ince; and Wm. Frowe were the larger concerns remembered. Mr. Frowe ordered direct from Japan the first Japanese Magnolia trees that were planted in Lawrence. Messrs. Irving Hill, Otto A. Fischer and I. J. Meade, each ordered two of the three-year old trees. That was some 55 years ago. (One at the Fischer residence, 743 Indiana, has survived and is visited every year by many residents. It is now taller than the second story of the house. ) The following year an embargo was placed on the magnolias coming into the States and it was a few years before any more could be shipped.

     Other old-fashioned shrubs were lilacs, snowballs, spirea, bridal wreath, and Japanese Quince (Japonica).

     Going back to vegetable gardens, North Lawrence residents had bigger gardens and many of the negro families made a living from them. Riley Rogers, who at one time was County Treasurer, had one of the largest layouts. He supplied many of the local grocery stores. You drove over to his place if you wanted vegetables for home consumption.

     There were other growers who took their products to the residents. They were both men and women. They had regular routes and regular days for delivery. Their wagons usually were one-horse drawn. They would either call out "vegetables," or ring a bell as they came down the street, usually in front of the houses, to let you know they were ready for business.

     Housewives would stream out, housedresses, aprons, hair curlers, boudoir caps and all, and usually would have a large tin pan to hold their purchases. Scales were in the wagon. There was no attempt to arrange the vegetables attractively. They were in boxes or bushel baskets. In sweet corn season, the corn was in damp gunny sacks.

     There were other things besides vegetables and berries the housewife had peddled to her door. We had milk from the country and not from a creamery. Butter and eggs were brought each Saturday morning from another source. The butter was packed in two-pound, brown jars, (Bennington, no doubt). We can remember back fifty years ago, the price was 25c a pound. During the Depression, fish, chickens, cottage cheese and wild black currants were brought to our back door.

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     Spring meant other things besides planting. When the elm and maple seeds were falling, we would scoop them up by the handful off of the brick walks and put them in peck baskets. Mr. Barteldes paid up handsomely -- 25¢ a basket. Dandelion and peppergrass digging brought us more spending money from our grandfather Jaedicke.

     Spring also meant showers and storms. We were always assured when the severe electrical storms occurred, we need not fear because we had two lightning rods on the roof to prevent being struck. The heavy rains were usually welcome, particularly if we had had a dry spell, as it meant our cisterns would be filled. Nearly every home had at least one cistern and one well. We had two large cisterns and one well because cistern water was piped through the house. The cisterns were covered with a heavy iron lid that had a ring in the center with which to remove it so as to measure the depth of the water. If you couldn't see the water, then one of the men in the family would take a long pole to see how far down the water level was.

     For the benefit of the present younger generation, rain water was caught in the guttering and a pipe ran underground into the cistern. Our well had an outside pump. In earlier years, cistern water (soft water), was piped into the kitchen to the dry sink where there was a small hand pump. At Grandmother Fischer's house, the dry sink was hand-made of black walnut and lined in tin. Next to it on a small handmade walnut stand was a bucket of well water. A long-handled tin cup always stayed in the bucket. We did not drink cistern water. The well with a tall pump, was just outside the back door.

     In the springtime, Saturdays and Sundays were our fun days. After we had performed our required Saturday chores, we would get on our bicycles and ride either to a woods adjoining the cemetery, or take the Lake View road in the opposite direction. Since there were no paved or black top or gravel roads, it was contingent on how dry the dirt roads were. The woods and country side would be covered with violets, yellow, white and purple, Sweet William, Johnny-Jump-Ups, Jack in the Pulpit, dog tooth violets, and ferns. We would dig up a few plants of each and bring them home to plant in the back yard. Today, that same back yard is covered with the results of those plantings. The Lake View road yielded wild roses, which we never could transplant, primroses, wild strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Too bad we didn't know about Morel mushrooms then.

     If the days were rainy, we'd all assemble in one house and go up to the attic and dig out of the many boxes and trunks, clothes to dress up in. As we grew older, we'd make fudge or divinity or popcorn balls. Then we would take turns reading O'Henry or Dickens out loud while the rest crocheted or em-

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broidered. Those early carefree days were followed by hikes to Lake View via the Santa Fe tracks, some 6 miles or more, and taking the 9 o'clock train back. Others took canoe trips up the Kaw.

     Then there were special days. May Day was always observed. You made May baskets of paper and filled them with flowers and hung them on the door knob of your favorite grownup in the block. "Decoration" Day, (Memorial) we would go to the daisy field where the K.U. dormitories now are located at the top of Irving Hill Drive, or on any country road, and pick wild daisies. It was an annual worry in all homes, that rain might destroy the blossoms before Decoration Day.

     The day before, in the morning, we would pick most of the blooming flowers in the yard, that would make bouquets for the family graves. Peonies, iris, the old-fashioned red and yellow roses, moss rose, violets and lilacs. When spring came early and warm, then the worry was the flowers might all be gone by Decoration Day. After we cut the flowers, we would sit on the shady, cool back porch and make little bouquets and tie them with string. A large wash tub was filled with several inches of water and the bouquets were placed stems down. Mason fruit jars were assembled by the wash tub.

     Early Memorial Day morning, all were packed in the carriage and the family drove to the cemetery. Water was piped near the family lots and we would fill our sprinkling can and fill the glass fruit jars while others placed the bouquets. If we ran out of jars, the flowers were placed on the Myrtle covered graves. Our Grandmother's grave always got one extra bouquet and the prettiest. The other grandmother was still living.

     Memorial Day too, meant a preparatory week of visits to the schools by old soldiers, in uniforms, who told us about the Civil War, Spanish American War, and Quantrill's Raid. On that day, each room had a special program with patriotic songs and "pieces" spoken, and ending with a prayer. On Decoration Day there was a parade down Massachusetts Street before the old soldiers went to the cemetery to place flowers and a tiny flag, on the graves of the fallen soldiers.

     Those were the days of earthy and simple pleasures.

Printed in Journal-World May 1, 1969

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