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Grandma’s World War II Garden: Family Letters

Vera Anderson, August 1944

Vera Anderson, August 1944

Throughout the letters that my grandmother, Vera Anderson, wrote from Killbuck Ohio to my mother in Ames Iowa in 1943, she included many reference to her World War II garden.

Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens were just one of the many ways that everyday citizens on the homefront were enlisted to help the war effort.  The government helped people learn how to grow gardens, gave them brochures and recipe books to take advantage of the vegetables they grew and exhorted them to save the produce grown by farmers for the troops. And of course–Posters!

World War II Garden Poster

Patriotic gardening poster during World War Two

I’m pretty sure, however, that Grandma never thought of her World War II garden as a Victory Garden–let alone a Munition Plant. She planted gardens every year. She was still doing so more than ten years after the war when my family lived in Killbuck and my father also planted a garden.  People in small rural communities like Killbuck did not need the government to tell them that growing gardens could save money and provide healthy eating.  They always planted in the spring and harvested everything before the first hard frost.

Grandma grew flowers as enthusiastically as she grew vegetables–possibly more so, because flowers caused a lot less work, as you can see below.  An apple tree in her back yard provided small, misshapen but delicious apples as long as I could remember.

In her letters she is as obsessed with the effect of weather on the crops as any farmer would be.

Grandma Writes about Her World War II Garden

Undated letter, probably October 4th :

I gathered in my green tom. & mangoes [ bell peppers] also flowers tonight as they will surely go tonight. The frost hasn’t hurt anything yet.  The trees are beautiful.

Letter written October 12, 1943

Well we are having lovely weather –awful dry. I hear farmers say they are afraid the wheat will not get started for winter. (Coshocton Tribune front page article on October 11 reports the area has had only .77 inch of rain in six weeks, and none in 25 days.)

Later in the letter, she says,

I made 16 pts. of green tom and mango [bell pepper] relish last week and also 7 more pts of tom juice and 3 cans of Kraut like you said.

Salted Green Tomatoes for Relish

Green Tomatoes and Red Peppers, salted. (These look like tomatillos, but the seller at the farmer’s market said they were small tomatoes.

Unfortunately, Grandma did not leave recipe cards for these items. If you would like to make something like her green tomato and mango relish, check out this recipe that I found for “green tomato pickle” in a Mennonite cookbook. Or you might want to try grandma’s recipe for red pepper jam”.  I wrote about her canning in general and in a later article related my experience in following her recipe for “red pepper jam.” When you read these articles you will see that it would take A LOT of “mangoes” to make 16 pts of relish!

Making Canned Food--Re Peppers

Red Peppers for Ready to Make Grandma’s Red Pepper Jam

In an undated letter probably written in soon after the one above, Oct 13? she wrote:

I made some more catsup today. That is the last of tom. Only green ones now. Frost hasn’t hurt anything here.

Another undated October letter remarks on the weather, “No killing frost yet.” then later says:

We haven’t had any frost that harmed anything. My flowers are beautiful yet.

Oct. 16

It is raining here and cold. Glen Orr said it hailed a little.

 

But she is starting work at her GoodYear “Rosie the Riveter” job, so she would have no time for her World War II garden, even if the weather were favorable. Another letter in October says that Irene, my father’s sister, is busy canning.  Irene was a prize-winning gardener. November letters have remarks about rain and December it is ice and cold weather. But Grandma and Daddy Guy would have vegetables galore all winter.

While other vegetables had been harvested earlier in the summer–beans, peas, cucumbers, and most had been canned, at the end of the year, we hear that she is canning tomato catsup, tomato juice, green tomato relish and sauerkraut.  Her basement shelves were full of those jewel-tones in glass jars (like these from a farmer’s market) created from Grandma’s World War II garden.

Preserves at farmer's Market

St. Phillips’ Farmers’ Market in Tucson, Grammy’s canned foods

My Grandmother and Rosie the Riveter

Family letter 1943

Letter and envelope with 3 cent stamp, October 25, 1943 from Vera Anderson to her daughter Harriette A. Kaser

My favorite photograph does not exist.  It is a picture of my Grandmother, Vera Anderson, as a “Rosie the Riveter.”

The collection of old photographs passed on to me by my mother and to her by her mother and to her by her mother, contains many gems.  I have shared many of my favorites from those photos–Grandma Vera Anderson in her baseball uniform; the whole clan of Andersons and Stouts in front of a farm house that still exists; my mother and her two brothers dressed up like fancy dolls when they were toddlers, the Anderson family during World War II….and many more.

But the photo that I have only in my imagination shows my grandmother as a Rosie the Riveter. You’ve seen the popular poster of Rosie, who went to work in factories building war materiel during World War II.

Rosie the Riveter

J. Howard Miller (1918–2004), artist employed by Westinghouse, poster used by the War Production Co-ordinating Committee.

In a note from “Daddy Guy” (my grandfather) sent October 16, 1943 to my mother:

Guy Anderson 1934

Guy Anderson August 1943, Killbuck

Mom is going to work Mon. morning  at Goodyear. She has her slacks (Hell) and all that goes with the job.

Later in the letter he says:

I may get job caring for three Parks in Holmes Co. $124 year around. I am afraid of inflation. Mom working and if I get parks I can work in Williamson about 4 days a week but just so it doesn’t inflate Mom’s Slacks I don’t care.

He and grandma did care for parks for a while. I remember going with them when I was a small girl.  And Williamson refers to a man who roomed with them, and ran a factory putting together wooden boxes.

Leter from Guy Anderson

Letter from Daddy Guy (Leonard Guy Anderson) to Harriette Kaser, 10-16-43

Vera Anderson

Vera Anderson,August 1943

Since Grandma did not leave behind a picture of her in the slacks that my grandfather hated so much, I have to rely on a picture in words from her letters in 1943 to recreate her life as a Rosie the Riveter factory worker during World War II.

Daddy Guy had more reason to resent Grandma’s job than just the slacks.  He almost had the job himself.

In late September or early October, Grandma wrote to mother:

Dad got notice to come and take ex{am}. For work at GoodYear in Millersburg today at 60 cents an hr. He is all excited about it. I wonder if he will pass. I think we could get along but he seems to want to try and that will be a good way for him to find out. I hope he can for it would be better for him to being doing something and I think he would be happier.

However in the next letter we learn it is not to be.  Grandma and Daddy Guy had closed the restaurant (pictured at the top of the page) when Daddy Guy had a severe heart attack. He had not had a regular job since then.

Dad thought he had a job. They called him and told him to bring birth certificate Social Security Card and come up so he did and they said you go to Dr. Cole for examination and come back here in morning at 7:30. So he did but when they opened the letter from Cole. The man said he was very sorry but Dr. said No. He had a bad heart and there wasn’t any thing they could do. Dad was awful disappointed.

Mr. Williamson said for him to come up to {his} place and see if he could stand to make crates. He could work just as fast as he wanted to or as long as he wanted to as it would be piece work. So I guess he will try that.

On October 16, Grandma tells Mother that she will start “school”–training for her new job–at the Goodyear Plant in Millersburg. At the age of 62, Vera Stout Anderson is becoming a “Rosie the Riveter.” Just a couple weeks after her husband was turned down because of his health, she has been hired. He writes his comments about slacks that you read above, and Grandma says:

Yes I am starting to school Monday. 8 hrs until we go through school which is 6 days then we work 10 hours. I am riding with Mrs. Bernard Smith and Priscilla Spellman at 7 a.m. but at 6 when we work. I am still going to help out at the show as I won’t work night shift. I will not stay if I have to.

Sunday night, Oct. 24:

I am sending my exam papers so you can see what a dumb Mother you have. You needn’t return them. I start to work in morning at 6 o’clock. The school was hard for me. I just couldn’t study I am glad it is over. My grades in shop were 92% -85%, 97-94. Not so bad for an old woman. We only went 8 hrs to school {a day} but will work 10. I will tell you all about it after this week.
Vera Anderson letter Nov 1943

Vera’s letter to her daughter about her WWII factory work Nov 29 ,1943

Her factory work was not her only contribution to the war effort. [Delmar Alderman was the owner of the hardware store and good friend of my father. You can see his picture here.]

Buy War Bonds

Buy War Bonds poster WWII

I was out today getting War Funds for Delmar he put me on to get from here up to Apts and railroad St. Which I did. The ones that were at home.

Even while working eight hours a day at the Goodyear Plant, Grandma was taking care of rooms she rented and she also worked some nights at the end of the week at the movie theater which was only three doors away from her house. She sold tickets.

Nov. 18 she writes:

I am still[working] at the show and it makes it awful late for me when I have to get up at 4:30 every morning.

Mon. Nov 29.

Would have written you last night but I was so tired I just couldn’t. I cleaned my house all over yesterday and washed and then ironed my blouse & slacks so I could have them today. I have never bought but one suit.

We know we was somewhere today. They are trying to increase production so we had to step on it. We have had one raise and another one due now soon we are getting $.50 an hour for 8 hours. All holidays and over 40 hrs time and a half. We go to work at 6 and get off at 2:30. I get up at 4:30 every morning.

Note that Daddy Guy was promised sixty cents an hour when he applied for a job at the factory.  After working two months and having a raise, Grandma is still only getting fifty cents an hour. The Rosie the Riveter revolution brought new jobs to women, but at a lower wage than men were paid. Women are still waiting for the satisfactory outcome of that particular revolution.

December 14, she proudly writes:

I must tell you how I rate at shop. They transferred me over to Pre Assembly and it is much nicer and cleaner. We make parts on jigs and then they are drilled. They told Mrs. Bell and me today that tomorrow we would build them and each of us would have a man to drill them so it will be nice.

I must get some new slacks. I only have one pair and they are getting pretty thin. I wash them and dry them in evening.

Apparently the working conditions are not ideal, as she writes in this December 20 letter:

I didn’t work today as Dad had an awful night coughing last night. I guess he took my cold. I have just been sick. 1/3 of the people that worked was off with colds. They did not get the shop warm those cold days and we just stood around and shook. My cold is better. I took tablets every 1/2 hr for 2 days.

Nowhere in her letters does she mention what she is working on.  It is possible that since they were manufacturing parts, they really did not know what the final product was, but as I explained in this post, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation plant in Millersburg, Ohio, was making Corsair airplanes for the Navy.

It is also possible that Grandma was just being cautious.  Everywhere, posters warned people not to give away where their servicemen were going, and in factories, the Rosie the Riveter gals were warned not to talk about what they were doing.  These “Loose Lips Sink Ships” posters were not an abstraction to Vera Anderson, whose letters are filled with her concern for her son William J. Anderson, a SeaBee deployed to the Pacific.

World War II Poster

A WWII “Loose Lips Sink Ships” warning poster.

Words and posters paint a picture of my Grandma in her role as Rosie the Riveter.  I do not know how long she worked as a Rosie the Riveter, but as long as she was needed to help, she would be there.

[This has been my response to the prompt “My favorite picture” for the 52 Ancestors project.]

Waffle Iron Cookies

 

Waffle irons and instructions

When my sister, Paula Kaser Price, inherited our mother’s waffle irons and the oil-stained recipe , she also inherited memories and tradition. Paula’s story gives us a  great example of how donning an apron can lead us back to our memories of those family members long gone. Besides traveling back in time, the story travels from Hilliard, Ohio to Scottsdale Arizona to her home today in Virginia.

UPDATE: Paula adds, “It is a team effort as one cook frys the other dusts each cookie with powdered sugar. They are delicate so the rule is if any break the cooks must eat them immediately.”  And what a shame that would be!

A Note From My Sister, Paula Kaser Price

In later years Mom and I spent  a day making waffle iron cookies. The boys were sent away and we started cookin’. We had a wonderful time especially when the “boys” (Dad, Wayne, Eric and Aaron) showed up and gobbled them up getting powered sugar everywhere. Several dozen cookies were carefully hidden away before their arrival.

  Dad, Paul Kaser; Wayne Price (my sister’s husband); Eric and Aaron (my sister’s sons. Aaron’s name is Paul Aaron and he now goes by Paul.).

Paul and I carry on the tradition spending a day making them then distributing waffle iron cookies to friends. Still use the stained recipe paper with Mom’s handwritten notes.

The Original Recipe

Because each cookie is made individually, given time to dry then sprinkled with powdered sugar, it is a time consuming and messy project. We always made at least a double batch, many times a double double batch. Mom wrote the doubled amounts on the recipe. The recipe came with the box of irons that are  in the shape of a snow flake and a Christmas tree.

Waffle Iron Cookie Recipe

Recipe for waffle iron cookies with Mother’s hand-written doubling amounts

The past several years, because the recipe paper is torn in half and so oil soaked as to be difficult to read, I have thought I should rewrite it on clean paper. Then I reject the idea because using that recipe paper with Mom’s calculations is like having her spirit there watching over Paul and me and joining in with our fun listening to Christmas music, laughing, getting powdered sugar everywhere, anticipating the joy our labor will bring and the happy exhaustion at the end of the day.

So like Mom and I did In the 80s standing around the counter in my little house on Latham [Street, Scottsdale, AZ],  Paul and I  stand around the counter in our little house in the woods and fry us up some Christmas cookies.

Waffle Iron cookies with Santa

Sorry they don’t ship well. Also sorry I wondered down memory lane. Oh well, it is that time of year.

PS. Do you recognize the table cloth under the waffle box? It was always on the Christmas dining table in Hilliard. I think I remember being with Mom when she bought it at Lazarus [Department Store in Columbus OH].  Unfortunately now I can only use it folded in half as there is an ever growing hole on one side.

Recipe for Waffle Iron Cookies, AKA Rosettes

Waffle Iron Cookies

Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
Occasion Christmas
Region Swedish
Mother made "waffle cookies", a deep fried confection known as rosettes in Scandinavian countries.

Ingredients

  • 2lb shortening or oil (For frying)
  • 1 cup flour (Sifted or fluffed before measuring)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg (Beaten)
  • confectioner's sugar (To sprinkle over finished waffle cookie.)

Directions

1. Heat about 2 inches of oil or shortening 350 degrees
2. Mix milk, water, sugar, salt and egg together. Stir slowly into flour, then beat until smooth. Batter should be smooth and alost as thick as cream.
3. Heat waffle iron (rosette) in hot oil.
4. Dip iron into batter being careful not to get batter on top of the iron.
5. Dip the battered iron into the oil. As soon as batter begins to separate from the iron, gradually lift it up and allow Waffle to drop off into oil. When waffle is brown on one side, turn to brown on other side. Remove waffle from oil. Drain on paper towel.
6. Sift confectioner's sugar over the waffle when cooled. (Optional: add cinnamon and/or nutmeg to the sugar)
7. Store in air tightly covered container. May be reheated in warm oven.

A reader asks about the term “fluffing the flour”. Here’s my source.  I suggest this alternate because I realize to younger cooks, the flour sifter is a relic of the past.  Sifting is no longer “a thing.”  Do you use a flour sifter?