We ate a lot of chicken soup. String bean soup, too. The string beans would really grow good in our garden. We used to get lots of them. We had a lot of other soups, too. Mushroom soup, Lima bean soup, pea soup, string been soup, red beet soup. There was a lot a variety in our soups. Some soups, like chicken soup, you had all year around. Vegetable soups were more seasonal, when we had a garden, but some stuff like beets you could store a long time so you could have them much of the year, too.
Besides having a lot of different kinds of soup there was a lot a variety in the way the soups were made. With chicken soup you had noodles, but with Lima bean soup you had haluski. In most of the vegetable soups - Lima bean, pea, string bean - you put zaprashka to thicken the soup, to give it color and add more flavor. But you never put zaprashka in chicken soup. Zaprashka is made of flour and very finely chopped garlic and onions. You take that and brown it real slow in butter as dark as you want. That's zaprashka. When you made mushroom soup you used zaprashka, too. First you boil the mushrooms then you add a little of the mushroom water to some zaprashka to thin it out so it doesn't clump then you pour it back into the soup. That's the way you made mushroom soup. You used zaprashka in mushroom soup and vegetable soup, but not in meat soup that I know - at least not in chicken soup. But sometimes you could use zaprashka as a condiment on meat.
We ate the different soups in different ways. Some soups, like most of the vegetable soups, you just put in your bowl and ate it, but some soups, like chicken soup, you put in your bowl in stages and you ate it that way. I mean like chicken soups had different parts and you made the parts separately and you handled the parts separately. When you made chicken soup you made the soup in one pot and you cooked the noodles in another. You had to do that because the chicken you had you cook for hours and the noodles were done in a flash. If you cooked the noodles in the same pot as the chicken they would turn into a mush being in the pot so long. So the soup and the noodles were kept separate. In that kind of soup, the ingredients, the chicken, the onions, the carrots, that stuff, they weren't cut up very much so they were big pieces and you had to handle those ingredients separately from the clear part of the soup, the broth. The carrots and onions, you put them in the soup whole. My mother didn't cut the chicken into pieces, either. She'd just cut it in half. With soups like that you first put some noodles in the bowl, then you poured some broth on that, then you put a carrot or a piece of meat or something else you liked on top of that. Almost like a garnish.
Sometimes you didn't even eat the chicken with the chicken soup. My mother didn't like to kill chickens that were good egg layers and she'd often wait until they quit laying. I don't know how she knew which chickens were good egg layers but sometimes birds were pretty old and tough in those days. Or maybe it would be an old rooster. For birds like that even a few hours in the soup pot wouldn't soften them up. My mother'd take tough birds like that out of the soup and cook them a second time, roast them in the oven along with some potatoes and carrots or something.
For chicken soup my mother'd use one chicken and put it in a big pot. She'd use just one chicken in the soup. She'd use just one. She'd never get so greedy that she'd use two. Our chickens ran to eight pounds or so, so that would be enough. Then she'd add celery, parsley, carrots, peppercorns, two small onions, two small onions only. She'd always tie the parsley together with string. The parsley leaves, they'd usually fall off into the soup and give it flavor, but the stems, they were kind of tough and stringy and when they were tied up you could fish them out of the soup pretty easy.
For beet soup you'd use the same ingredients as for chicken soup except you'd use soup bones instead of chicken and there'd be beets in it, of course. You used to be able to get soup bones from the butcher free every once in a while - bones with a little meat left on them.
In string bean soup, pea soup and Lima bean soup you used zaprashka and potatoes. Potatoes never went in the other soups. Carrots, parsley, onions and pepper - I think they went into every soup.
Our chickens were kind of fat. And when my mother had a chicken that was real fat she would cut some of the fat off and fried it out in a pan, rendered it, and poured it into a container. If we killed a chicken that wasn't so fat we'd take some fat from that container and added it to the soup to fatten it up a bit. We used that chicken fat for colds, too. I think my mother put that chicken fat in tea or something or the other to cure colds. My brother Steve says that they'd take that chicken fat, mix it with some other stuff and rub it on your chest when you had a cold. Maybe he is right but I always though it was bear salve that they rubbed on our chests.
My mother saved bacon fat, too. She didn't mix it in together with the chicken fat. She'd save them both in separate containers. She used the bacon fat for frying, potatoes and stuff.
The feathers we got off the chickens we just threw away. We used other feathers when we made pillows and perinnas. Duck feathers were the best. Goose feathers are good, too, but they're not a good as duck. I don't know where the duck feathers came from, hunters maybe. Baba had a lot of geese and we bought a lot of feathers from her. So we only used duck or goose feathers for pillows and perinnas, never chicken.
My mother would come home with a big bag of feathers, like a flour bag or something, and we kids would peel the fluff of the stems, so that the stems don't come poking out at you through the sides of the pillow. My mother would dump a bag of feathers in the center of the kitchen table and we kids would gather round the table. We'd each take a feather out of that pile, hold it by one end, rip off one side, turn it around, rip the other side off. Then we'd do another feather.
We'd put the stems in one little pile in front of us and the fluff in another pile. So when we were peeling feathers there was one big pile of feathers in the center of the table and then each kid would have two little piles in front of him, one little pile of stems and a little bigger pile of feathers that had been de-stemmed. My mother would go round every once in a while collecting the fluff from each kid to stuff into the pillows. She was the one that actually made the pillows and perinnas, put the feathers in casings and sewed them up. We kids just peeled the fluff off the stems.
I don't know how long it took to peel the feathers for a pillow. It took an evening, maybe. I don't know. There was lots of time on the mountain. The sun went down and it got dark out and there was no place to go. You didn't go outside. So time wasn't anything you went around counting or looking for more of. But one evening, I guess, to peel enough for one pillow. With all the kids at work it didn't take long to trim some feathers.
Making perinnas took a lot longer. Perinnas are big bags of feathers, like pillows, but much, much bigger, maybe six feet by six feet. We used them instead of sheets and blankets on the beds. We just rolled up in them like in sleeping bags. Making a perinna like that was a much bigger project than a pillow. It took a long time to peel enough feathers for a perinna. Days... days. Days and days, a week maybe. We'd peel feathers for a perinna in a closed-off room. We used the smallest room, the boys' room upstairs, for that. If you didn't do it in a closed-off room the slightest puff of wind would blow the muck, the whatyacallit, the feather peelings, all over the place. No matter how carefully you tried to move, the feathers would fly around, get into everything. They'd get into your nose, your hair, clothes, everything. It'd tickle. There'd be a lot of dust. When we were peeling feathers for a perinna we'd be in that all day, days on end. It took so long that while we were doing it, the boys would have to sleep someplace else at night, any place they could find, other than their room. If it was warm enough, they could roll up in perinnas on the porch at night and sleep there. It was an experience, really. It was easy work, but it'd take a lot of birds.
When my mother did spring-cleaning she sent us out with the perinnas and we threw them on the clothesline to air them out and make them fluffy. And we had like a nine-by-twelve rug and we'd throw that over the clothesline, too, and we'd take a branch from a tree and hit it. We hit the carpet with sticks. We'd fluff up the perinnas, beat the rugs... what else is there?.. just clean up, dust, and clean, that's all, take a pail of water and soap and wipe up the place - that was spring cleaning.
Besides chickens, we had cats. We had lots of cats. Once we had too many cats. My father put them in a sack and put them in the car and took them down to the mill, to live at the mill. In a month they were back home. They walked way back home. People talked about that. They said those cats were really intelligent cats, to come home, to return home like that. They were knowledgeable cats.
John Goobic owned a cottage up the road near the Stetz home - John Goobic the father that is, not John Goobic the son. He had that cottage since the late 20's, I think. Mostly the family was there during the summer time. Then not really too long after he built that cottage, I imagine, he started a mink farm up there next to his house.
Horsemeat -that's what the mink ate - sometimes fish but mostly horsemeat. They'd buy up old horses down in town, bring them up to the Mountain and feed them until they needed them. Then they'd kill them, chop them up and feed them to the mink. Later on, towards the middle of the thirties, I guess, they got a lot of horses from the State Police. When they did that, the police would bring the horses up and shoot them. It was easy to get horses from the police then 'cause the police were going over to police cars and were getting rid of their horses. The mink couldn't eat just meat had to have some vegetables, and so they had a big tomato patch there, too. All summer long the kids up there were planting tomatoes, hoeing tomatoes, staking tomatoes, weeding tomatoes, picking tomatoes, boiling tomatoes, peeling tomatoes, and canning tomatoes so there'd be enough tomatoes until the next summer. About a ton - that's what'd take to tide them over. John Goobic, John Goobic the kid, and later on his baby brother Ted, the kids, the ones that did the work in the tomato patch, they'd say that they hated tomatoes.
When the mink were all grown up they'd put them into a room sort of, a barrel or something, a small cage, I don't remember. After that they'd put a hose in the back of a truck over to the barrel and gas them to death. The killing didn't ruin the pelts that way. They fed the carcasses to the next generation of minks.
Michael (last name unknown) was the one that did all that... ran the mink farm. He was caretaker... He took care of the mink and he lived in a cabin in the woods behind the mink farm. When you're a kid, somebody twenty years old looks old, but Michael was an old, old man, maybe in his forties or fifties, an old bachelor with white hair. We called him by his first name, Mike or Miko. It was very unusual for us to call an old person by his first name. Yes, yes, it was. We never did that. Miko was the only one. I don't know why we did it. Miko sometimes came down to visit my father.
I remember that there was a period that some men would come over to our house and play cards. I don't remember who they were, one or two of the King boys, the King boys' father, Harry King, he was there sometimes, I think - and Miko... I don't remember them all, but four or five came over to play cards. They played petro. I used to know how to play it, petro. I used to listen to the men and I learned how to play it. They'd start to play after dinner on Saturday evenings and play 'til about ten, I guess. Some neighbor around there was making moonshine and they'd bring some of that along with them to the card games. They'd sit there, playing cards, drinking moonshine and talk about the old country. But they didn't play for money. Petro wasn't a gambling game, they didn't gamble at all.
That period of card playing didn't last. I don't know whether it's true or not, but I kind of think that my mother didn't treat them nicely. I don't think my mother liked petro playing around the house. I'm not sure, but I kind of think that's what happened because that period of card playing didn't last very long. But it's hard to know for sure that she was against it because there wasn't anything you could really criticize about it. The men never talked loud or got rowdy, or anything. After the petro games stopped, my father played a game a lot like solitaire, but in Russian.
Joe and Leo Kenzakoski took up trapping. They got my brother Steve into it. Sometimes Ralph Meyers was in on it, too. They started... gosh, '29 or '30 or so. I kind of think that they got the idea from the mink farm but I don't know. They did it to make a bit of extra money. Steve ran his trap line from when he was about nine or ten or something up until he was up in his teens. About seven years, I'd say. Every year from November until March he ran a trap line. Steve had a lot of traps, ten or so, steel traps with claws, or teeth, or prongs along the edges. He'd set the traps anyplace that you would see tracks in the snow, or some sign that an animal had been there. Animals have their habits and they go back to the same places. He used parts of dead chickens or house food scraps as bait. Steve'd catch weasels, rabbits, foxes... different things. I used to watch him skin the animals. Mostly he'd hang the animals by the hind legs and cut inside the legs down past the stomach to the neck. Then he'd cut the head and tail off. After that the skin would peel right off. With some animals you could start at the tail and just peel the skin right off from there. After that he scraped the fat off the pelts, salted them and stretched them out. He nailed the skins to wide boards with tacks or small nails along the edges to stretch them. For the little skins that he had been able to peel off he had stretchers like little paddles that he could put inside. It took about a month for a skin to dry out. When the pelts were flat and dry he mailed them out west somewhere, to fur factories, wrapped in paper or in boxes. He sold his furs by mail. He got fifty, seventy-five cents or so for each pelt, I think.
Everybody in those days was looking for ways to make some money. One of the other Goobic boys had a minnow pond where he raised minnows to sell as live bait.
We did a lot of things to try to make a little money. Summertime we picked blueberries. All the kids worked together on that, picking berries. Blueberries and huckleberries - that was the same to us. Blueberries grow on bushes and huckleberries - they taste the same as blueberries, but the huckleberries grow down close to the ground. The blueberries are a little bigger. And swampberries. They were like blueberries and huckleberries. Same color, same taste as blueberries and huckleberries, too. I don't think you could much tell the difference. Swampberries are bigger, though, about the size of a grape. They grow in marsh areas. Where it's wet. We'd go up near the Stetzes' to pick swampberries. So those were the berries we'd pick - blueberries, huckleberries and swampberries. Sometimes during the lean years, let me think... that would have had to have been in the late thirties or maybe during the depression, we'd pick enough to sell. Once we had forty quarts, that's a figure I remember. That took a couple of days. We sold them at Percy Brown's. That was like a grocery store down on Northhamptons Street in Wilkes-Barre. We got a nickel a quart. You could get as much as thirty-five cents a quart if you could find a way to sell them direct to the customers. John Rock up the road was a milkman and he sold his kid's berries to people along his milk route.
I sold Cloverine Salve for a wristwatch and when I got the wristwatch, it didn't work. Cloverine Salve, it's still advertised today. It's for cuts and stuff. I guess I did it after I had seen an ad in a magazine. Probably an ad in a magazine that was stuck in a pile of newspapers we got from Mrs. Dunn. If you sold enough salve you got a watch. I sold it to all the neighbors. Everybody bought a can or two, but there weren't many houses there. But I sold enough to get the wristwatch. When I got it, it didn't work. I don't know why I had gotten one that didn't work. Somebody told me I should have sent it back. I don't know, I didn't know enough to return the wristwatch. If that watch had worked that would really have been something - nobody I knew had a wristwatch.
My mother didn't have her ears pierced, but I did. I was about twelve, ten or twelve, when I got my ears pierced. Somebody there on the Mountain, my neighbor, did it with a needle and thread. They held a cork behind my ear and stuck a needle through my earlobe and pulled a piece of thread through and then left the thread in it to heal - tied a little loop and waited for it to heal. I don't know what kind of thread it was. After it healed we took the thread out. I had two pairs of earrings. I had a pair of earrings with Christian crosses, Christian crosses, not Orthodox, that my mother bought me. And then I had something that was kind of like horseshoes, I mean, a little horseshoe type earring.
My mother liked to go to fortunetellers. I think she believed in them. I think she did, a little bit. She used to go down to Mrs. Konieczny in Irishtown to have her fortune read. Mrs. Konieczny, K, O, N, I, E, C, Z, N, Y, something like that, I'm not sure of the spelling. My mother knew Mrs. Konieczny from when she was living down in Irishtown and I went to school with her daughter. Mrs. Konieczny told fortunes on cards, regular playing cards. I remember I went with my mother down to Irishtown, to Mrs. Konieczny, to have my fortune read, too. She told me I was going to be a widow. That's all I remember about my fortune. That was while I was going to high school sometime, I don't quite remember.
I've read in a paper that the Russians had a lot of superstitions, but I didn't see any superstitions around our house - no salt, no thirteens, no... nothing. No, we had no superstitions at home, none at all. Except maybe the Evil Eye. That's kind of like a superstition.
A lot of people believed in the Evil Eye. Well, talked about it anyway. I don't know if they really believed in it all that much. If they did, it wasn't 'cause they wanted to be superstitious, it was because they didn't have much education. And it wasn't just the Russians that believed in it, lots of others did, too. The Italians and the Irish... They were big on the Evil Eye, too. The Evil Eye was supposed to get you sick or harm you, or something, I don't really know. "Uroky!" they'd say in Russian, "You got the Evil Eye!" That's what they'd say if someone looked at you crossways or something. The Evil Eye was like a superstition but it was kind of like an insult, too - someone looked at you in a funny way - you'd say, "That dirty dog, he gave me the Evil Eye."
I heard of another thing that like a superstition, but I don't know if I should tell it to you or not, because it is so ugly. Mickey Smatcher told us never to pick up a piece of gum in a wrapper or candy in a wrapper because in those days, some places, they would touch a piece of gum to a sore and throw it down so you could catch it. But I never saw any gum or candy or anything.
I did look for four-leaf clovers when I was a kid, though. Somebody said four-leaf clovers were good luck and I looked for them. The highest clover I found was a seven-leaf clover. And then I found a little four-leaf clover plant that just grew four-leaf clovers. And my mother said what's going to happen in your life that you could find so many four-leaf clovers? Didn't do me any good at all! They're supposed to be good luck and I had the worst luck in the world! There's really no good luck in anything that grows, but I used to be able to find a lot of four-leaf clovers.
Easter and Christmas were our biggest holidays. Easter was maybe even bigger than Christmas. Our Easter and Christmas, all the holidays, were always according to the old Orthodox calendar. Christmas was always on January the 7th. They don't have it like that any more, but when I was a little girl, Christmas was always January the 7th. On Easter we would have a big meal. My mother would be real busy a couple days before, getting it ready. She'd bake a paska and it looked real nice with a braided design on top. It was a round loaf with braids. It was baked in a pan and as it baked it sort of swelled out over the top of the pan, not like a mushroom, but with sort of a bulge all around. I especially remember the braids. Some others made theirs' with crosses on top, but ours always had braids. My mother decorated the Easter eggs, too, the pysunky. She used a large-headed straight pin and a bottle cap with melted wax that she kept warm on the stove when she was doing the designs. She made a small veal roast and grated some horseradish. Butter was prepared in a kind of oval form with a design on it. We would have kolbassa, too, made of ham, I think. And studenina, jellied meat or pigs' feet. After the food was ready we'd take a paska basket on Easter to church filled with eggs and a loaf of bread and a lot of things. We'd carry it into the church with a special embroidered cloth covering the food. Then inside the church, they'd take off the cloth and put a candle somewhere near the handle of the basket. We'd take the paska in... We'd go the night before, the evening before Easter and we'd come back home some time in the morning. They bless it for eating the next day. The food was blessed in church and we were careful not to drop a crumb on the floor. All the crumbs and shells were burned in the stove. During the Easter season we would greet each other by saying in Russian, "Christ has risen" (Kristos Voskrese) and then we would answer, "Yes, he has" (Voistinu Voskrese).
Christmas, they'd send one of us kids over to Baba and Deedo's to get a little bundle of hay for the table. He'd give us an armful. You don't need much because you have to flatten it out, you have to be able to stand plates on it. Then after you flattened it out you put the table cloth over the hay. Our table was kind of big with place for 8 or 9 people. Then we'd put a candle at the center of the table. At Christmas dinner we first all made the sign of the cross and ate a piece of garlic dipped in salt. There was a big flat loaf of bread as large as a pizza pan. My father would break this loaf into pieces and give a piece to each person. We have pirohy with prune filling and salt, and salt and garlic, and pork and bread. No, wait! Did I say we ate pork? I don't think we ate meat on Christmas meal. That was for Easter! My memory is getting so poor! And we have a bowl of kitsalitcha on that night made from sour oatmeal and pirohy stuffed with prunes. We'd have mushrooms and broad beans, nuts, fruit, oranges and tangerines. And, always a poppy seed roll.
We didn't exchange gifts at Christmas. Stuff like that - gifts, Christmas trees, Santa Claus stuff, American Christmas stuff - is something we didn't start to do until I was about 10, 12 years old. Then we started putting up stockings and on Christmas morning we had oranges and fruit.
There were a few other holidays. "Green Sunday" was one. They put up green branches on the porches of the houses. I don't know what that holiday was for.
We went to church mostly on Christmas and Easter. We used to really like to go down to have the Paska blessed for Easter. That was fun. But otherwise we weren't so awfully religious. We went to communion, to communion once a year. I don't know what other holidays. We didn't go every week. No. Oh, no. No. Uh-uh. Maybe once a month.
We got dressed up to go to church. In an Orthodox church you always had your best dress or a suit and a tie. My brothers had jackets and slacks and a shirt and a tie. That was our church clothes. We put them on to go to church the as soon as we came back we took them right off. That's the only time we really got dressed up. To go to church.
The priest was a family man. I don't know how many children, I don't know how many. He was a real nice man. His name was Father Kraskevitch. He took care of Christenings, weddings and funerals. He was very big on Russian stuff. He never spoke English. There were some people that wanted to speak English in church but he was against it. I know that some people went to him to get birth certificates or something and wanted him to write down an English version of their names but he always tried to get them to keep the Russian version. The choir director was Mr. Pelesh. Sometimes Father Kraskevitch went around to the people to bless the houses. He came to the mountain a couple of times that I know of, when I was little, to sprinkle the house with Holy Water. To bless the house for some reason. Keep the devils away, I guess, or something, I don't know. But he blessed the house a couple of times. Nobody ever spoke any English in church until after Father Kraskevitch retired.
The priests dressed in religious robes with big gold crosses on them during the ceremonies. I remember that I watched the babas praying during the services. They used to kneel and touch the floor with their forehead a few times. The services were three hours, three hours long. They had no pews, no seats, in the church then. You had to stand the whole time. And the sermons were in Russian and they talked in a special way with their voices, so I didn't know much what they were saying. Church wasn't anything we looked forward to exactly.
We never did have a newspaper. But Mrs. Dunn used to get a newspaper and we used that to line our shelves. Mrs. Dunn was one that lived there on the Mountain. Mr. and Mrs. Dunn, they were a real nice couple. Mr. Dunn was a veteran of the Spanish-American War. They were very old, too old to have kids at home anyway and that was very old to us. Mr. and Mrs. Dunn used to get a newspaper. There's some sheets in the paper, you know, that has no designs on it, just that smallest print. We used that to line the shelves in our cabinets with. We'd take a sheet of newspaper and fold it until it was the exact size of a shelf and then we'd stick it down on the shelf with thumbtacks. That's what we did to make the shelves look neat. And if we wanted any paper we would go to Mrs. Dunn and she would give us an armful of leftover paper after they had read it. So we never had a newspaper. Oh, yes, we did, we got the Russian newspapers! My father did get the Pravda and Gazeta Svit. One or the other, I don't know. Maybe it was Pravda at one time and Svit another time. Pravda is the Truth and Svit is the World. We did get both those newspapers, but maybe at different periods of time. But we never got the Times-Leader or any other English newspaper except by the armful from Mrs. Dunn to line our cabinets with.