Summer Theme: Yankee Thrift
The smell of apple blossoms and lilac-could there be anything sweeter? It’s a reminder that the Museum will soon be opening for the summer season and so planning is underway for activities at the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) Museum. This summer’s theme is Yankee Thrift-Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” The serialization of Philip Tiemann’s memoirs of Cavendish in 1933, see article below, has been a good reminder of ways we can adopt the depression era approach to reduce waste, save money and live a simpler but satisfying life. That said, a quick trip through the Museum’s laundry day exhibit makes us grateful for electricity and washing machines.
Upcoming CHS Events
• May 31 (Sunday): Opening day of the Cavendish Historical Society Museum. The museum will be open every Sunday from 2-4 pm until Columbus weekend.
• June 14 (Sunday): 2-4 pm Yankee Thrift Workshop-No Sew T-shirt Totes and other items. Please bring an old T-shirt and scissors.
• June 27 (Saturday): Annual plant sale at the Museum grounds.
• July 12 (Sunday): 2-4 pm Yankee Thrift Workshop-Housekeeping, Make It Yourself . Learn to make your own clothes detergent and cleaning supplies.
• July 25 (Saturday): Fifth Annual Cavendish Town Wide Tag Sale
• Sept. 13 (Sunday): Annual Phineas Gage Talk and Walk, 2 pm at the CHS Museum.
For more information about these and other events, please use the contact information listed above.
Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann
Philip Tiemann was born in New Jersey in 1900. He moved to Brook Road in Cavendish, VT from Chatham, New Jersey with his wife Isabel (Carr), and three children Wyeth, Ann and Joyce in 1933. Naming the property Windy Hill, Tiemann wrote about the family’s experiences “Memoirs of Coming into Vermont (Cavendish)” during the height of the Depression,” in 1966, after his wife had died (1958) and just a few years before his own death in 1969.
As part of the process of applying to have Windy Hill listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, the current owners of the property, Mary Anne Butler and Peter J. Von Bartheld, obtained a copy of Tiemann’s Memories and provided the Cavendish Historical Society with a copy. In order to share this fascinating piece of Cavendish history, CHS is serializing the Memoirs by chapter, each week on their blog. After each chapter, CHS provides an aspect of Cavendish history that Tiemann touches on, covering such topics as what Cavendish was like in the 1930s, Hawks Mountain, keeping house etc.
These were not easy times for the family, as they were learning how to farm, and living without any of the luxuries they may have had in New Jersey. It wouldn’t be until 1947 that the house was wired for electricity, so a wood stove was required for making meals and weekly laundry would have been extremely labor intensive.
Cavendish in the 1930s
To help put Tiemann’s Memoirs in perspective, it’s helpful to understand what the 1930s were like in Cavendish.
The Stock Market Crash in 1929 did not have an immediate impact on Cavendish. Few people had investments to lose, and for the Gay Brothers Woolen Mill, 1929 was the best year, financially, in the history of their business. It took several years before the depression was felt. Cash was scarce, but for many farmers, that had always been the case. Frugality was part of the Depression, but it wasn’t caused by it.
With a population of 1,418 people Cavendish was a farming community but also had a number of small businesses, many of which were able to weather the Depression. There were two woolen Mills, Gay Brothers in Cavendish village and Black Bear, which replaced Proctor Mill, in Proctorsville. In 1937, the latter mill, though profitable, closed, most likely due to union strikes the year before. The building was sold to the village of Proctorsville and never used for textiles again. It burned in the 1980s and today is now the Proctorsville Green.
In 1933, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established in the Proctor-Piper Forest in Proctorsville. It was located on Bailey Hill above the Hillcrest Cemetery. One hundred twenty five unmarried men, between the ages of 18-25, came from New York to join local men in clearing trails for horse back riding and hiking and to create a recreational area. In 1935, the CCC completed its Proctorsville project and the group moved on to New Jersey.
Besides the Duttonsville School in Cavendish Village and the Proctorsville school on Main Street, there were still four rural schools-Center Road, where the Tiemann children went, Tarbell Hill, Wheeler and Gilchrist. The latter two were on Twenty Mile Stream Road.
The Opera House in Proctorsville had a pool table and two bowling lanes. Dances were frequently held there as well as the screening of silent movies. There were also boxing matches and minstrel shows. Sophie Snarski, who played fiddle for dances, said that between the dances in various locations-including the “kitchen hops,” where farmers would take turns hosting a dance-there was a very active theater group. In fact, she was playing almost every night of the week as well as the weekends.
The New England Hurricane of 1938 struck on Sept. 21. Strong winds blew down thousands of trees while heavy rain caused flooding again in the river valleys.
By the mid 1930s, the Proctorsville Gulf Road south to Gassetts in Chester (Route 103) and then east on Route 10 to Springfield had been paved. This made it easier for Cavendish men to work in the machine shops of Springfield. While work was slow at the height of the Depression, before the end of the decade, with the war heating up in Europe, jobs were available and many men were commuting daily to Springfield for work.
Reference: Chubb Hill Farm and Cavendish, Vermont: A Family and Town History 1876-1960 by Barbara B. Kingsbury
While much of Tiemann’s Memoirs deal with farm work, what about Mrs. Tiemann’s responsibilities?
In 1933, if you lived in one of the areas of town with electricity, and had the funds for an electric washer, you still had to run your clothes through a ringer before you hung them out to dry. It wouldn’t be until 1937 that Bendix introduced what we view today as the automatic washing machine that combined washing, rinsing and spinning.
In many households, Monday was washday. Clothes were sorted, pretreated, soaked in large tubs and agitated using a “dolly stick” or something similar. Particularly dirty clothes were then scrubbed on a washboard. Many homes had a system where the washtub would be set in cement or brickwork, with a firebox underneath and chimney to take away the smoke from the burnt wood.
Washing soda (sodium carbonate) was used to clean clothes that had stains or grease or oil on them. Because of the coarse nature of the crystals, they were rather harsh on clothes, to say nothing of being hard on skin.
Depending on how dirty the clothes were, they may need to go through the washing cycle twice before heading to the rinsing tub. Lifted by a stick, clothes would be rinsed with cold water until clean. Either using their hands or a “wringer,” also called a “mangle,” the clothes were rung out and hung on lines to dry.
Whites would have been done in separate tubs and a bluing solution added to help whiten them.
If a family could afford it, there were rotating drum devices that could be operated by hand, which were more effective than the dolly stick and scrub board. These initially were wooden drums but as the technology improved, metal drums, that could be heated, replaced the wooden drums. Stop by the Cavendish Historical Society Museum (open Sundays 2-4 pm from Memorial Day to Columbus weekend) to see an example of a drum cleaner and many other laundry devices used throughout the years.
Washing clothes was an all day affair, so clean clothes were often ironed the next day. Flatirons were filled with hot coals, and when hot, ironed out the wrinkles. Another way was to heat up “irons.” Because these would quickly cool off, the 1930s housewife would have 2-4 irons on their stove or fireplace to help speed the process.
Household laundry starch was added to the washing process not only to stiffen clothing collars, shirt-cuffs and women’s undergarments, but starch also protected the clothes from stains and sweat. Dirt sticks to the starch, not the fabric and therefore washed off more easily when the clothes went through that exhaustive wash-cycle again.
While large houses would have had a special room for the laundry called the “scullery,” for many homes, the kitchen would do double duty as the laundry room.
Because it took so long to clean them, people wore clothes much longer than people do today. It wasn’t uncommon for men to wear their shirts for one week, two weeks or even up to a month, before having them washed.
According to the American Bible Society, the best thing to do with it is to recycle it. "It should be remembered that a Bible is a book. It may be helpful to think of the ways we discard books. It would be a good thing to make it useful, and one way to do that is to recycle it. Recycling is an honorable act and that is fitting for a book such as a Bible."
Cavendish Historical Society Board: Dan Churchill, Jen Harper, Bruce McEnaney, Kem Phillips, Gail Woods. Coordinator: Margo Caulfield
BECOME A MEMBER, RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP, DONATE
If you have not joined the Cavendish Historical Society, need to renew your membership, and/or would like to be a volunteer, please complete the form below and sending a check, payable to CHS, to CHS, PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142. All contributions are tax deductible.
Phone Number: _____________________ E-Mail: ____________________________
__ Individual Member $10 ___ Senior Member 65+ $5 ___ Sustaining Member $500
__ Household Member $15 ___ Contributing Member $250
___ I would be interested in serving, as a volunteer .I would be interested in serving on the following committee(s):__ Program Planning __ Fundraising __ Building (Museum)
__Archives _ Budget –– Cemetery __ Hands on History
Donations are always welcome and can be designated as follows:
__ For general purposes __ Educational Programs __Publications
__ Archaeological Activities _ Museum & Archival __ Special Events
__ Rankin Fund __ Williams Fund __ Hands on History
__ Other (please specify) __ Cemetery Restoration