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Pioneer Potluck: About my Mom's Birthday

Posted: December 19, 2012 - 11:07am
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Loretta Melvin McClure, Mom about early 1980's with her favorite ornaments that she had gathered throughout he years. Mulberry Street, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Loretta Melvin McClure, Mom about early 1980's with her favorite ornaments that she had gathered throughout he years. Mulberry Street, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Born Dec. 19, 1915 Fort Collin, Colorado

Died Feb. 3, 1999 Fort Collins, Colorado

As you can see, our mother spent most of her life in the same area.

This is what my mother wrote in her tiny hand writing in what I call my Heritage Book:

“Loretta Edith Cogswell grew up near Wellington, Colorado with her parents on a farm. She attended school near Wellington and studied piano for several years by a teacher at the school ... When the instructor was no longer available she studied by correspondence with the American College of Music in Kansas City, Missouri. Following two years of high school in Wellington she moved with her parents to a fruit orchard near Fort Collins. She assisted her father with the care and harvest of the fruit and worked various jobs around and in Fort Collins. On August 28, 1936 Loretta and John Melvin McClure were married in Greeley, Colorado. John formerly of Westfall, Kansas, came to Colorado from Kansas in 1934, working for various area farmers. After spending a month in Kansas following their marriage, John and Loretta returned to Colorado, where John was employed by a farmer and sheepherder. The following year, February 1937, they rented an irrigation farm east of Fort Collins and one mile from the orchard where Loretta’s parents resided. The owner of the farm Sam Kamp was well known as a producer of Japanese popcorn. He wished to retire. The corn was marketed as KempKorn which he canned and sold to Safeway Stores.” (Dad continued to grow corn for Safeway for a few years.)

That is all I know about my mother growing up. I never heard her play the piano. She did see to it that Elaine, Ginger and I received piano lessons for many years from Kathryn Sutherland. I inherited my dad’s tin ear and monotone voice. Playing the piano and keeping rhythm and timing were very difficult for me. Once in a while my mom would poke her head through the door while I was practicing and say “Ann start over – or can you play something different?” I played Christmas carols all year long, just so I could get them perfect at Christmas. I am sure my mother tolerated more than I know!

My first recollection of celebrating my mother’s birthday probably was when I was 6 or 7. Mom always baked her own birthday cake, chocolate angel food cake, and Dad would give her a small present. One year he gave it to me to wrap, which I did with utmost care and great honor. I found real pretty wrapping paper and took a long time wrapping it. Those were the days of no Scotch tape, so it had to be tied with ribbon. I was so proud to hand it to her. Dad even said “that’s real pretty, Ann.” As I gave her the present, she looked at me a little sideways, her chin down and her eyebrow up, and said “This is Christmas wrapping paper; I guess I have to wait till Christmas.” Dad and I both convinced her it was a birthday present and that she could open it now. So on every birthday, I would remember this and always look for the prettiest birthday paper I could find in the middle of December. In later years she was emphatic about “If you wrap my birthday present in Christmas paper I WILL NOT open it until December 25th!”

In earlier years she fried chicken, mashed potatoes, made gravy and made her own biscuits for her own birthday dinner. I do not remember Dad ever taking her out to eat, which she probably would have declined anyway. And in later years he bought her flowers, they did not have to be wrapped

We had many birthday parties for her through the years and she was always a little embarrassed at all the fuss. AND we never knew exactly how old she was. AND she never told either!

If my mom was known for anything it was baking cookies. She baked cookies all year round. Bake tons of cookies for Christmas. Susan recalls when we moved to Alaska, she would send us baggies full of cookies, wrapped tightly with twist ties. Packing was crumpled newspaper, which we smoothed out and read. Then the shipping box was wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. Still no Scotch tape. How did we ever do without Scotch tape? She would ship us cookies throughout the year.

Mom loved flowers and spent many, many hours irrigating her yard full of Lily of the Valley, cosmos, Iris, marigolds, pansies and tending to the big lilac bush. As I have mentioned before she always carried a hoe everywhere to clean out the little irrigation ditches but most of all just case she saw a snake. Then she would do her “snake dance,” chop that little water snake into little bitty pieces, dig a little bitty ditch and scrape the remains of the little snake into the ditch. She would scrape some soil over the top of it tamp it down with the bottom of the hoe and then finish by stomping it with her feet. I still smile with this image.

Mom loved Christmas and she worked hard for us to have a beautiful Christmas tree, thoughtful presents, wonderful dinners and most of all her cookies. She would start the first of November making cookies and continue to bake them after Thanksgiving and a week before Christmas. She stored them gently and carefully in her big freezer. She doled them out carefully, and when the tray was down to crumbs, magically she would fill it again.

Her Christmas dinners were spectacular after the remodeling of the farm house. She worked even harder at her dinners and her baking. I can honestly say her most satisfying moments must have been when everyone seated at the dinner table, complimented her on her dinners and her baking. She planned her life around baking and cooking,

My mom’s favorite cookbook was “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book” written by Fannie Farmer. I have this cookbook plus I have collected three more, one just recently.

During World War II, Mom helped Dad in the fields and then cooked meals. She sewed for us, washed clothes in her ringer washing machine in the basement, and carried the wet clothes in the basket up the stairs, out to the clothes line. They were hung on the clothes line in her orderly fashion so the occasional neighbors would not see our underclothes. We would wait for the gentle Colorado breezes to dry them. She taught me how to carefully fold and place them in the basket. After we carried them in the house, we put the towels, sheets and pillowcases away and the underclothes. Then the clothes that were to be ironed were laid out on the table and we sprinkle them with warm water, folded them back to so they could be ironed the next day. That was done every Monday and Tuesday. Mom taught me how to iron so as not to have one wrinkle because “what would the neighbors think” if we had one wrinkle in our nicely starched clothes.

I find myself doing more and more things like my mother did however I do not iron clothes because my neighbors do not care if I have wrinkles in my clothes and neither do I. We have a simpler life compared to how it was in the olden days. I am not so sure it’s the best

My kids and I will celebrate Grandma’s birthday, by opening a present at two o’clock December 19, in memory of the Loretta Edith McClure. Happy Birthday Mom! I bet she is in God’s kitchen baking cookies!

Pound Cake Fruit Cake

This is from my friend Pat in the Louisiana. She states that she makes Pound Cake from scratch but is sure a boxed pound cake would be the same. She says she makes her own fruitcake because she wants to know what’s in the cake. Me too!

1/2 pound sticks butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3 cups of sugar

5 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for pan and dredging

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°

With a mixer cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar a little at a time. Add eggs one at the time beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl, add to mixer, alternating with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla.

USE AS much candied fruit, nuts as you like. Pat used candied red and green cherries, pineapple, lots of chopped pecans all dredged in flour before mixing into the cake batter. (I added chopped dates and apricots)

Pour into a greased and floured Bundt pan or four large foil baking pans and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Note: Use whatever candied fruit and nuts you like-this is a personal preference. She also loosely covers the top of the cake with foil after the first 30 min. She finds the cake is a little dry until it’s soaked in some rum, wine or whatever you like. She put the baked cake into a 2 gallon plastic bag pours a little coconut rum at a time, adding more as it is soaked in. She adds Grandma always baked fruitcake a good month before Christmas, wrapped it in cheesecloth and stored it in tin of some kind and added a little wine each day. That was good to. Thank you Pat

Rhubarb Strawberry Coffeecake

From my friend Jan See

3 cups of flour

1 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup of butter

2 slightly beaten eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 cup of buttermilk

The recipe for rhubarb filling

In a saucepan combine 3 cups fresh rhubarb cut in half inch pieces and one package sweetened sliced strawberries thawed... Cook fruit covered about 5 min. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cups cornstarch. Add to rhubarb mixture. Cook and stir for to 5 min. until thickened and bubbly. Cool.

Topping

3/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup butter

In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, soda and baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cut in butter to fine crumbs. Beat together buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients. Stir just to moisten. Spread half the batter in a greased 13 x 9 x 2” baking pan. Spread the cooled filling over the batter in pan. Spoon remaining batter in small mounds atop filling. Combine remaining sugar and flour and cut in butter to fine crumbs; sprinkle crumbs over batter. Bake at 350° for about 40 to 45 min. 12 to 15 servings... Thank you Jan

My mom’s recipes for her cookies are IN my cookbook “Cookin’ at the Homestead.” Her favorites were chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, and brownies.

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