Grannie Annie: Medical transcribing, Walt Disney and dumplings

Our world is a little sadder and the court system has suffered a huge loss with the death of Carol Brenckle. She was a tremendous help to my family since 1986 and very helpful for many of our neighbors and friends, as well as touching many, many people with her assistance and smile. She made this community richer by her tireless professional contributions. We will miss her professionally and personally. God bless her great heart and soul.


— Ann Berg


The Pink Log House on Summit View, 1965-66-67

Our life in the pink log house was easy, fun and full of activities that included grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles and cousins. I enjoyed my work at the hospital and continued to get raises. I graduated from being an apprentice medical transcriber in six months, as you had to have all the typed medical papers checked and corrected before you could file them in doctor’s patient charts. It was a good feeling to file the paper in the chart and to know I had accomplished at last, learning the vast medical terminology, although it was a learning experience almost every day.

One doctor that I got along greatly with was a craniologist. In the 1960s, computers were not a part of the medical field. Doctors spoke into a tape recorder, the tape, when full, was then taken across the hall to the Medical Records Librarian, where she logged all the different doctors and patients on the tape, and then gave out the tapes to the transcribers. We typed on big long carriage IBM Selectric typewriters on sheets of paper that were then filed in patients’ charts.

This doctor — on a tape — requested me to transcribe his documents. It was hard work as he always used different terminology than I had learned for the rest of the body. My medical dictionary was always open, as there was no automatic spell check in those days. And if you used whiteout more than twice on the page you had to start over. So spelling correctly was essential! This particular assignment was more trying than usual, as he used almost every terminology connected with the head (cranium). I worked on this particular paper for about two hours before I finally fought my way to the end. The doctor said “Conclusion and Diagnosis: “I untied her pigtails and sent her home.”

As I was groaning (and the rest of the room looked up and smiled) at the conclusion, he said: “Congratulations, Ann — you made it all the way through. How long did it take you?” I was set up by the rest of the crew in the records department — as he did that to all the new gals — one by one. We all learned to take his dictation in stride along with the usual tonsillectomies and new babies. I still smile to this day at how hard I worked to get everything just right so I could do his papers. And usually my boss, Penny would give his dictation to me.

Dad loved Walt Disney Movies. His excuse to go see them was he HAD to take the grandkids to see Walt Disney. Almost every Wednesday he would gather up all the grandkids, my three and Regina and he would always ask me — most of the times I could go. He also loved Western movies of any kind. When we were growing up he would load us in the car and drive into Fort Collins to the “show.” There were three movie theaters in town — The American, The Lyric, and The Aggie. Usually the Lyric had the Westerns showing and we would settle down and wait for the first showing of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and any other movies that had John Wayne, Audy Murphy, Alan Ladd and Dad’s very favorite of all, Jane Russell — whatever movie she was in, he would take us. He thought she was “scrumptious.” Of course he never said that in front of Mom! Mom would never go so she did not know what she missed.

We waited a long time for “Mary Poppins” to come to town. The big day arrived and with all of us dressed in our finest. We filed with Dad, into the big theater and waited for the curtain to open and the music to start. From the very first we all were mesmerized by the beautiful colors, the dancing and the wonderful music. The very last song, “OH! Let’s Go Fly a Kite (Way up to the highest heights, Oh let’s go fly a kite”), is a catchy tune and everyone that left the theater had a smile on their face. As we reached the sidewalk on a sunny afternoon, Regina, age 5, skipped out into the sunlight and broke into song. “OH YOU go fly a kite — Oh YOU got fly a kite ...” over and over again, as she skipped ahead of us down the sidewalk. I started after her and Dad caught my arm … “let her go, let her sing” he said with a big grin on his face. We all had smiles on our faces and everyone around us had smiles as our little “Mary Poppins” skipped down the sidewalk singing at the top of her lungs. We sang all the way home in the car.

Gail learned to sing for a school play, “Feed the Birds” and the great “-x-p-alley-doe-she-us” — everyone knows part of that, even though most of us cannot spell it!

The rest of 1965 sailed by — I sent for big bright orange flowered, white and green sofa and chair covers for the dark green couch and chair that I inherited from Mom. I also bought and hung white draperies for the living room. The day the covers came I could not wait to get them on and show them off. I called Mom and asked her if she and Dad would come for chicken and dumplings and see my new couch and chair cover. She said OK — a little unusual for Mom as she usually declined most invitations to anything. I cooked the chicken, added the rest of the vegetables and at the last moment I made “Mom’s dumplings” and timed it just right to be in the pot as they were to arrive. All went well, according to MY plan, until Mom walked into my living room and saw the couch covers. Her face went blank, her eyes blinked, she looked down and then back to the covers, and uttered “a little bright don’t you think?” Dad’s comment was “They’re OK.” I was mostly astonished at their reaction as I loved them and was a little hurt.

Oh well — time to serve the chicken and dumplings, as I tried to be cheerful. I had already set the table in my finest china, the wheat pattern dishes with the gold rim that we got out of the Duz Laundry Detergent boxes. All my family saved them for me.

As I dished out the soup, Mom looked at me … again, and me not exactly knowing what was going on, cheerfully said “let’s eat” and as Dad took the first bite of my dumplings, looked at me with a grin and his comment was “more like cannon balls than dumplings!” as he pushed the dumpling-cannon ball aside and ate the chicken and vegetables. Taking their queue from Dad, everyone left their dumplings in the plate also. Mom knew the minute she looked at them that they were “sinkers.” The brownies I made were a big hit — can’t go wrong with Brownies.

To this day I cannot and will not make dumplings! I tried one more time in Alaska, when Bob and I lived in the little cabin and J.T. lived next door. Not having a whole lot in the house, and a big quart of Gail’s wonderful home grown chickens, I was hungry for “mom food.” I attempted dumplings. They were heavy and soggy, but being hungry in the middle of Alaska cold, we ate them. Bob’s comment to me was they were “real gut-busters, but the rest of the soup was real good.” When it came time for J.T. to leave and go next door, I asked him if he wanted to take some “BUTT GUSTERS” home! John thought he was hearing wrong, but as soon as Bob started to laugh and repeated what I said, John replied “UHHH no, I think what I just ate will last me awhile.”

I have not made dumplings since.

Never Fail Dumplings

This is my Mom’s recipe. She made them so easy.

They were very light and fluffy.

1 cup of flour

1 egg

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix very lightly. Divide into six spoons full and drop around roast or chicken broth. Cover for 15 min. and do not peak.

Uncover and serve.

Cornmeal dumplings

1 cup of flour

1 tablespoon cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of sugar

1 tablespoon of butter

2/3 cup milk

Combine all dry ingredients. Cut in butter with knife. Stir in milk using a fork just until lightly mixed. It will have lumps. Over stirring makes them tough. Drop by tablespoon into the hot chicken or beef broth simmer with the lid on for 15 min. Do not peek. This recipe ends with… These will melt in your mouth. I do not know as I have never made them!


Mexican Chocolate Snowballs

This is another cookie and baking for Christmas.

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (you may add more.)

2 cups white sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the first four dry ingredients. In a electric mixer bowl beat the sugar and oil. Beat in eggs, cocoa and vanilla. Gradually beat in dry ingredients until blended. Chill two hours covered with Saran. Heat oven to 350°. Form dough into 1/2 inch balls. Roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 14 min. and cool on a wire rack. Roll again in confectioners’ sugar while just barely warm. Cool and store in a cookie jar.

Granny Annie’s Cheese Ball

Another intervention of mine

1-8 ounce cream cheese soften

1 cup mild cheese such is Monterey Jack cheddar or Colby-grated – I use the food processor

Add to the food processor

1 tablespoon grated onion

2 tablespoons chopped black olives

1 teaspoon chopped jalapenos-add more as desired

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Add cream cheese and process until well mixed

Use your imagination and add bacon bits blue cheese or smoked salmon

Place on Saran and form a ball. On another square of Saran or waxed paper put chopped pecans or walnuts and parsley and paprika. Roll into the coating until well covered. This keeps he long time in the refrigerator and makes a nice Christmas gifts. This can be uses as a dip if you add ½ cup mayonnaise.

Lemon Meringue Pie

This is from scratch lemon pie like my Grandma and Mom made. It is so good and my favorite!

1 ½ cup sugar

½ cup flour

2 tblsp cornstarch

½ tsp salt

2 ¼ cups water-room temperature

Combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in heavy sauce pan or a double boiler. Add water and cook and stir constantly about 10 minutes until clear and smooth.


3 egg yolks (save whites) and gradually temper them by adding 2 tablespoons hot sauce over yolks while stirring. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the sauce pan mixture and cook 5 minutes-stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add:

6 Tblsp lemon juice

3 Tblsp finely grated lemon rind (op)

1 Tblsp lemon extract

Mix well and pour into already baked pie shell

With electric mixer beat the 3 egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar while continuing beating. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and beat in. Pile onto lemon pie and swirl meringue into peaks with back of spoon. Bake in a hot oven at 425% for 10 minutes on the middle rack. Watch carefully!! It will burn quickly!! Chill. Have a big piece for me!


Pineapple Coconut Pie

Drain 1 large can crushed pineapple in colander. Push most of the juice out with back of spoon. Set aside

Use the above Lemon Meringue Pie recipe for the sauce – Sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt and water, cook until thick and add the egg mixture and continue to cook. Omit the rest of the ingredients for the lemon pie.

Take off heat and add:

1 teaspoon lemon juice

The drained crushed pineapple

Stir into sauce and pour into already baked pie shell. Top with coconut and toast slightly under broiler. Watch carefully as it will brown within 30 seconds.


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