Leona & C.W. Heitsch

Object ID: 2013-001-023


 It is so cold this morning it reminds me of my Michigan roots, a kid on the farm. Mom would get up and the first thing I’d hear would be her shaking the grate on the furnace, which was in the basement under my bedroom, getting the ashes down to where she could remove them and then throw more coal on the faltering fire, then up to get breakfast for Dad and me (he out in the barn early, with Curly the cow and the heifer and letting the horses out to drink at the big tank in the barnyard, etc. and to fill mangers with hay and grain. all with snow surrounding, often more falling. After Dad drove me to school, mom would put on her denim jacket, made by the prisoners at Jackson Prison, go out to the apple shed, and the day would begin…she’d have left enough logs in the black range in the kitchen to go until noon. There were tall kerosene heaters which did about nothing, to put by the people who sorted the apples…Mr. Harger, who was also Pine Lake School Super, Mom and Dad. There were sometimes l7,000 bushels of apples in the apple storage, stacked way above Dad’s head and propped to keep from falling with 2×4 s  in several places.  A track ran down the middle of the storage,it stood about 2 1/2 feet above the floor, and crates were put on the track to push them out to the sorting shed, which used to be a pig pen before we got there. Mr. Harger poured bushels into the “maw” and the apples were carried on a belt with holes to capture and hold big apples and let the little ones drop into a crate by the side, the big apples went into a  polisher, rotating brushes which directed apples forward with flopping rags above to polish them, they spilled out into the sorting area, long  round wooden rods wrapped with rope to keep the apples advancing while mom picked off the bad apples to put in a crate beside her, they then spilled into three bins, sorted again by belts with holes, and Dad crated the apples in paper lined crates (we did a hundred of these each time he was to drive a load to the Union Produce Terminal in Detroit) and stacked them for loading on the the 39 Dodge for a trip to Detroit.  (These trips were early in the AM, so he could be back to Walnut Glen Fruit Farms to work up more apples).  It was cold on mother’s toes, I am sure, standing there all day, even with a kerosene heater not too far away. With temperatures that cold, apples could not be forever left in the sorting room, or on the truck, they would freeze. Yet in all those years of sorting, 1939 through years in the 50s, nothing ever froze. Mom would go in to fix lunch, Mr. Harger would come in and eat his packed lunch in the kitchen, and they’d go back, time out for Dad to come and get me from Pine Lake School.  I’d help some until time for Mr. Harger to go home and for us to do the chores in the barn, and have supper.  Sometimes it was up to me to put some more wood in the kitchen range and move the huge aluminum teakettles over from the side of the range, so they would be boiling when Mom came in.   (No piped hot water, the big kettles were our supply for dishwashing). The reason I started this was to explain my mother.  Dad and I decided, one Christmas, that she should have something warmer than the Jackson Prison denim.  We got, from an Army surplus store, a coat that would serve to keep a trooper warm no matter what.  So proud we were.  Mother opened the package at Christmas, told us that her denim coat was good enough and she wanted to take our purchase back and go to Sears in Pontiac and buy curtains for the dining room, which served as living room too, as the living room was closed off for the winter, to keep the house warmer.  She did it, and bought a curtain stretcher a thing which had small thin nails all along it, and could be set up to fit whatever size curtain you had, you could put on several curtains.  So the morning sun came up through fresh new curtains, I kind of wish I had kept a swatch of one of them, just to show the pattern mother chose. It is cold enough today in Missouri to think of this, but no Michigan like crunch of snow, just bare ground and hungry birds flocking to feeders.