In the 1940s...

In the 1940s (the World War II years) the demand for butter tubs and cheese boxes kept the Blum factories very busy. It took a long time before wages went up, but as foreman, Lester had to put in a lot of extra hours, many unpaid. However, his dad compensated him in other ways. A couple of times when I went to make a payment at the lumber company or on the doctor bill at the clinic, I found that big-hearted Grandpa John had paid in full! Very timely!

How did we make some extra money to keep growing (our home) and "growing" (our family)?

Lester often thought he'd rather be a farmer! I couldn't blame him, after starting as a teenager in that noisy, saw-dusty factory. But I had experienced, and knew the hardships and labors of that early farm life too well to let him make that mistake.

Making use of our extra acre gave him a taste of it, small scale! He had it plowed and planted potatoes. After lots of work weeding, hoeing, and digging he had very good potatoes, and they sold for 25 cents a bushel!

The next attempt at farming: we fenced that acre in and bought a cow. After all, we were using a lot of milk. We also made our own butter. The boys enjoyed cranking the churn and the buttermilk was wonderful for baking. When there was a surplus of milk, we let it sour to the curd stage and made our own delicious cottage cheese.

Next, "Farmer Lester" bought a pregnant pig, and it was a special family moment watching the birth of the piglets. They were raised to a marketable age, and then finally the mother pig supplied us with many good meals. We had the hams and bacon smoked and I canned some. Remember, there were no freezers then. I made lard and the surplus lard went into a batch of laundry soap from a recipe our mothers used.

Each year we bought 100 baby chicks for the boys to raise. This provided many good meals and a steady supply of eggs. There was always a market for the surplus fryers and eggs.

excerpted from my grandmother's 2001 memoir, "A Look Back"
Lester was my grandfather; John, his dad, my great granddad


Vacations at the lake

None of us ever tired of the vacations at the lake. In fact, even as I write this, 68 years after my first visit to Bear Lake, we are having a family reunion at the Turtle Flambeau (Flowage) this September weekend in 1999. All of our six kids and their families including our 9 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren will be there.

The early vacations at Bear Lake were just one week, and usually our reservation was in June when the fishing was good. The big 2-story log cabin 29 miles from the nearest town was well furnished and comfortable. This was at the end of the road and there were no neighbors around the lake then. So it was quiet and isolated.

In those early years, electricity had not yet reached that far and that presented a refrigeration problem. Grandpa Blum and Uncle Paul tried various ideas to generate power. Because it was not always successful, we packed accordingly and pioneered it for a week with canned goods and a crate of live chickens for fresh meat!

Our packing list for just one week was enough to fill a trailer -- especially the years when we needed diapers (no disposables then).

Did I say "vacation"? (It got better!)

excerpted from my grandmother's 2001 memoir, "A Look Back"

* * * * *

Flowage1

The Blum Cabin at the Flowage viewed from the island

It's June 1st and I've been thinking of my grandparents. June was their month at the cabin! We would usually visit sometime in June, too.

Flowage4

Vicki and Great Grandpa Sutton near the boat house on the island

...to be continued.