Tag Archives: Paul Kaser

A Slice of My life: A Memorial for My Father

MEMORIAL: Paul Kaser 1909-1996

My father,Paul Kaser, died twenty years ago today. A Memorial is supposed to be a solemn affair, bordered in black. But that is not who my father was.
This is who my father was. He told stories. Especially shaggy dog stories. This is my free form version of one of my favorites.

Grass Shack

Grass Shack and Coconut Palm by Forrest and Kim Starr

“There once was an island far away in the South Pacific. The King of the Island lived in a grass shack like all of his subjects. But his grass shack was bigger and grander. His grass shack had three stories, a separate room for sleeping and another for eating, a breezeway, a patio, windows looking out on the surf and a double door made of pieces of driftwood.

“Being a king, of course, he had to have a throne. When he first became king of the island, he had a modest stool which served as a throne, since everyone else sat on the ground. But after a year, he thought he should have a more impressive throne, so he stored the stool in the third floor of his grass shack, and had a wooden chair built from pieces of a shipwreck. The chair seemed quite grand to him until one day he visited another island. That king sat on a chair that had arms and a high back. It was much more impressive than the island king’s plain chair. So when he went home, he commissioned a new chair with arms and a high back and he stored his old chair in the third floor of his grass shack.

“For a year or so, he felt quite grand, but then a tourist happened upon the island with a magazine that showed a throne in a far off country. It was carved ornately and decorated with precious jewels. Of course nothing would do but that the island king have a more ornate throne. He commissioned his finest craftsmen to build a new throne with carving of dolphins and waves. Since there were no precious jewels on the island, he asked them to inlay colorful seashells in the wood. He stored his previous throne (the one with arms and a high back) in the second floor of his grass shack, since the third floor was getting rather crowded.

“Of course by now you can guess what happened in another year. A shipwrecked sailor staggered ashore carrying a wireless set. The king, who by now had learned a bit of English from visitors, listened to the stories on the radio and heard the description of a throne that had a high back, and carved arms, was covered with jewels but also had rare and wonderful fabrics covering the seat and the back. He had to have a throne like that. Buying fabric from a passing ship, his craftsmen built the new throne and stored the old throne that was decorated with seashells in the second floor of the grass shack.

“The King proudly sat down on the soft fabric and leaned back on the carved wood frame. But as the craftsmen left the grass shack palace, a wind came up, the building swayed, and it came crashing down on the king seated on his throne and killed him.

“The moral: People who live in grass shacks should not stow thrones.”

Can’t believe you have been gone for twenty years, Daddy. Because you are still in my heart and my mind. And you still make me laugh.

Mom and Dad and the Ninth, a Special Day

Today marks 78 years since my parents were married–June 9, 1938–a special day.

My sister and Brother are in Arizona for a reunion. They suggested we meet on June 9th, since that was the wedding date of Paul and Harriette V. Anderson Kaser. As I wrote in an earlier post about their courtship, the Ninth of the Month was always a special day for them, since it was the date in 1933 that they had their first official date.

The Love Letters

love letters 1938

Love letters 1938- Paul Kaser and Harriette Anderson

I am looking at letters from 1938–the year they were married.  As with most of the time during their long courtship (1933-1938), they were separated during the week and met on weekends.  Unfortunately, the letters that survive rarely include both sides of the conversation. I have almost daily letters from Dad during 1935, when they had just started dating, and not very many of his from 1938, although Mother’s letters indicate that he must still have been writing very regularly.

By 1938, Dad had landed that permanent job that qualified him (in their eyes, if not yet her parents) to marry her. He had moved into an apartment in New Philadelphia, Ohio where he worked for the federal Weather Bureau.  She was teaching school in the tiny town of Clark, Ohio and sometimes living with her sister Rhema Fair and Rhema’s husband Earl, but other times spending a night or two with her parents, Guy and Vera Anderson in nearby Killbuck, Ohio.

I have edited the letters slightly and removed the most personal (and mushy) bits.

Problems They Faced

Since she had a car and he did not, she drove to New Philadelphia each weekend, or he borrowed her car. In this letter in December 1937, it sounds like he may have gotten back late, and reflects other problems.

Well I went down to the office as soon as I arrived and they were very nice about everything so that’s all fixed. The only bad thing they let one of the other fellows drive my truck today and hes kind of hard on trucks and I don’t like that very well.

Had any sign as to how things are going to go over there this week. I hope they cool off now. {probably her parents, who did not want her to marry him.}I see in the New Phila {Philadelphia} paper where a Tusc {Tuscarawas} county teacher put under a peace bond. May be that’s what you ought to do. At least you aren’t the only teacher who has trouble with the board.

I called Mbg. {Millersburg} just now and Keith {his brother} is still coming along fairly good. I sure hope nothing sets in.

Mother told me that when she told her parents she was going to marry Paul, they didn’t believe it, and “when Paul went to talk to them, Vera (Harriette’s mother) was furious.” In later years, they became reconciled and my grandmother praised my father as being as good to her as her own sons.

The reference to the school board is because the Clark, Ohio school board continued to hold back teacher’s pay, (it was the tail end of the Great Depression after all)  a problem that Mother returns to frequently in her letters.

Paul worries about his brother, who has to have major surgery. Their father had died after surgery for a hernia.

The Special Day

Mother wrote letters like journal entries, recording her day’s activities and her feelings. One letter was being written on the 10th March, 1938.

Darlin’

Please don’t think I forgot what day yesterday was for I honestly didn’t. but last night I had such a headache I came home before P. T. A. was over and went straight to bed {Harriette suffered from migraine headaches all her life.} but dear I never forget the ninth and never will in fact it will even be more important as time goes on. Did you wonder what we would be doing on our next ninth? {June 9th when they would be married} I did. And you know what I decided.

Tomorrow evening we take the B. B. [basketball] boys to Fisher’s Restaurant and Thursday we go up to Bert Geauques for super and Friday night I am coming over to New Philadelphia, or am I? We could come back and then you could drive back Saturday, or is that too much. Just as you say.

She signed the letter “Duchess”. I explained Dad’s pet name for Mother in that earlier post, Love Letters and the Course  of True Love.

 

She returns to the subject of the Ninth in May, when, despite the fact her wedding was only two weeks away, she was on a bus trip through New York and New England and into Canada with students and other teachers.

Mother on a Road Trip

Dearest Paul,

This is the first night that I have stayed in the bus but the cabins are so terrible and cost .75 per person that I preferred to sleep in the bus with the women. Helen and Mellanie to be smart wouldn’t do it. We have gone only 721 miles, but have had a grand time and have seen a great deal. Today we were at Thousand Islands.

Mr. and Mrs. Bechtol are lovely. She popped corn tonight and when anyone fixes corn they are swell. We are going thru Vermont and New Hamp. Then for home. This afternoon I had a case of homesickness but stopped it quickly but I do have a lot to tell you. And I will always be happy after the ninth {June 9 when they are getting married}. I don’t think we will get home before Monday or Tuesday, but I will {?} all when ever we do.

I love you dearly,

Harriette

Waxing Poetic

My Dad was a great reader, and in later years my Mother said one of the works he was introduced to by his friend Delmar Alderman was The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott. He must have been under Scott’s Arthurian Romance spell when he wrote this one!

To the Duchess, From Paul, Greetings

By this token do I acknowledge My indebtedness to Thee, Fair Harriette. Thy acceptance, know then, Will but place me further in Thy debt.

For Friendship, graciously bestowed, do I thank Thee.

For Companionship, indispensible, thank Thee.

For My Mind, awakened to the good meditation, thank Thee.

For My Soul, aroused to pleasant dreams, thank Thee.

For My spirit, refreshed anew to the content of life thank Thee.

For all that thou wert, for all that Thou art, for all that Thou canst be to me, do I offer my heart I gratefulness.

Receive then, carrissime, this earnest of my obligation as bearing My whole being, an unworthy, but willing gift. And grant me yet this one prayer, that I may be Forever

Thine

Paul

The BIG Special Day, June 9, 1938

Despite the ongoing problems she had with the Clark school board getting paid and despite his over the top romantic longings, they were finally married on June 9, 1938, as I explained in Love Letters and the Course of True Love.  And she did not regret resigning from the Clark teaching job.

 Coshocton Tribune June 1938

Coshocton Tribune Article, June 15, 1938

She had hoped for a real honeymoon trip, writing from her own road trip,

We aren’t crowded in the bus and so far I don’t believe the trip will be very expensive. At least I will try to keep it from being, because there are several things I want, I wish we were on our trip now. I bet we can have a nice trip and not spend much in fact I would even like to stay in a tourist camp with you.

However, they spent their honeymoon one night at the Neil House hotel in Columbus, paying an outrageous $4.50 for their room and more to keep the car in the garage. Her memories included the smell of peanuts from the peanut vendor outside the front door.

Neil House honeymoon

Neil House hotel in Columbus Ohio and parking garage receipt for the night of their wedding.

Then they spent a few days at 4-H cap Hervida in Washington County, where Dad had been hired to lecture about weather because of his job with the Weather Bureau. There he lectured on weather subjects and she did First Aid. She noted that she had learned First Aid when she was a basketball coach.

Despite the problems and difficulties that plagued their five years of courtship, the marriage lasted the rest of their lives, and for the rest of their years, they grew nostalgic about the 9th of any month. Dad addressed anniversary cars to The Dutchess for decades.  In 1988, we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary–marking that special day.

Paul and Harriette Kaser

Paul and Harriette Kaser, 50th Wedding Anniversary, June 1988

Better Buckwheat pancakes

When I first posted a recipe for Buckwheat pancakes, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the different ways that people make them.  Not even counting the possible add-ins like apples, bananas, nuts, berries and even chocolate chips. You may want to read (or re-read) that earlier post for more information on Buckwheat.

This picture shows how the think pancakes made with that original recipe turned out.

buckwheat pancakes

The originally posted recipe, cooking and cooked.

Since my goal here is historical accuracy and channeling my ancestors, I wanted to come as close as possible to the buckwheat pancakes made by our German ancestors, particularly my paternal grandmother.

I posted a recipe that was an amalgam of some I had read on the Internet along with Joy of Cooking’s version of buckwheat cakes. I had to borrow a photo from the internet since I had not snapped one of my version, which turned out much thinner than the borrowed picture I used. The picture above is the real result.

Then my brother left a comment.

 My father told me about how his mother kept a batch of buckwheat starter, that is, somewhat fermented with yeast…lasting for years. I have tasted buckwheat pancakes made with yeasted buckwheat. They had all the unique goodness you mention in regular buckwheat but included a distinct tanginess (a bit like that of hard cider). Domestic store-bought buckwheat, though good, lacks personality compared to this slightly tipsy version. (Bob’s Red Mill brand has produced a non-gluten buckwheat pancake mix.) I guess the only way to get a nostalgic retaste is for us to start our own immortal batch in memory of our “ancestors in aprons.

To make a starter, I would need yeast, but I had one more buttermilk recipe to try first. (I promise I’ll get to the yeast version one of these days, I promise, Grandma Kaser.)

This recipe, labeled “Old Fashioned Buckwheat Cakes” was on the site Spark People, but I am not able to find it again.  It is similar to the recipe I posted before, but enough different to make a BIG difference.  The previous recipe used only baking soda (no baking powder) because baking powder did not come into use until the Civil War period, so Colonials would not have cooked with it.  But since my father was remembering pancakes made in the early 20th century, his mother would have had baking powder.

buckwheat pancakes

Buckwheat pancakes in iron skillet.

That makes a big difference.  The previous recipe combines buttermilk, baking soda and egg for leavening.  This new one not only is gluten free because it uses no flour other than buckwheat, and it has no egg, good for people with egg allergies. Without the egg, it still turns out much lighter than the other one, which tended to be thinner, like a crepe, (which of course is closely related.)

So I urge you to forget about my first attempt, and try this delicious buckwheat pancake.

Buckwheat Pancakes – The Real Deal

Serves 4-5
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Breakfast
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Serve Hot
Region European

Ingredients

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup water (warm but not hot)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (dissolved in 1/4 C water)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease ((or substitute softened butter)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Directions

1. Start the night before you want the pancakes, and mix the buckwheat flour, buttermilk and warm water. Store, (covered with a towel) in the refrigerator overnight.
2. When you are ready to make the cakes, you may want to fry some bacon first, both to eat with the pancakes, and to give you 1 Tablespoon of bacon grease to use in the batter.
3. In small bowl, dissolve 1 tsp baking soda in 1/4 cup water. Add 2 Tablespoons baking powder, bacon grease and molasses. Remove the buckwheat mixture from the refrigerator and stir in the additional ingredients. Set aside, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1/2 hour.
4. Heat a griddle or iron skillet hot, greasing it very lightly with bacon grease or vegetable oil. (I pour in some oil, then blot it with a towel. I can use the towel to wipe across the skillet before I bake the additional pancakes.) The skillet should be hot enough that a drop of water will immediately evaporate.
5. Cook the pancakes, about 1/4 C of batter at a time, being careful they do not burn before turning. (If you are used to looking for bubbles to indicate when they are ready to turn, they do not behave the same way as other bancakes, and they cook very quickly.)
6. Serve hot with butter and syrup or blueberry jam,

Note

I originally saw this recipe on a site called sparkpeople, but I am unable to relocate it. I recall that it was referred to as Old Fashioned Soured Buckwheat Cakes, and was unique in that it did not add cornmeal or wheat flour and used no egg. Also, it relies on the buttermilk for the original rising rather than yeast.

Don't stint on the overnight step OR on the half hour to rest after you add the baking soda and baking powder.