Tag Archives: Rhema Anderson Fair

Rhema Anderson Fair, The Dynamo Who Inspired Me

Note: WELCOME all Fair cousins (and all fair cousins as well). I hope you’ll add your memories of Rhema and Earl and also hope you’ll poke around and find stuff about Daddy Guy Anderson, Vera Anderson, Telmar Anderson, and other ancestors we have in common. Make yourself known to me. Love to meet relatives. I’ll be sharing a recipe from Rhema in December.

Remembering Rhema Anderson Fair, (1901-1996), my aunt, she who made the gravy.

Rhema Anderson Fair

Rhema Anderson (Fair) in 1909, about 8 years old.

Rhema Anderson was the sour-looking little girl in the 1909 family picture.

Telmar and Rhema Anderson

Telmar and Rhema Anderson, Photo from the collection of Kenneth J Fair at Ancestry.com

In fact, she didn’t look very cheerful in other childhood pictures, like this one with her brother Telmar.



No wonder the little girl was a bit grouchy.  Her mother died when she was 2 years old. When her father, Guy Anderson remarried a year later, she was sent to live with Franklin Anderson, Guy’s uncle. And when Rhema was eleven, Frank Anderson’s wife Sarah  Jane died.

Although she had contact with her father, and briefly lived with him, she must have felt like something of an orphan. I hasten to add that Frank and his wife Sarah Jane who had no children of their own, made a warm home for the little girl. But maybe Rhema just wasn’t suited for farm and farm community life.

When she was 18, Rhema became Rhema Anderson Fair when she married Kenneth Earl Fair (1898-1994). They lived  on his family farm in Clark Township, Holmes County, Ohio. Earl, who had 3 years of college,  taught school in Clark, and that’s where my mother, Harriette Anderson, had her first teaching job.

While Rhema and Earl lived in Clark, they had two boys–their only children. Rhema’s affection for Franklin Anderson, the man who raised her, was expressed when she named her first son after him.

You can see in this picture how tiny Rhema was. Mother may be standing slightly uphill, but she was never more than 5’4″, so Rhema Anderson Fair is about five feet tall.

Rhema Anderson Fair and family

Harriette Anderson, Baby Richard (Dick) Fair held by Earl Fair, Frank Fair and Rhema Fair on farm in Clark, Ohio 1925

Some time around 1940, the Fair family moved to Kent, Ohio,  Rhema took a job at Kent State University  as a housemother at a dorm, and Earl finished his college education. (I assume he got free tuition since she worked at the University.) These two, who had always lived on a farm or in a small farming community, took to city life and the University milieu like they were made for it.

Earl went to work for one of the big rubber companies, and that’s where he worked until he retired, as Rhema climbed the administrative ladder at the University, winding up as head of Student Housing at Kent State University. She wasn’t just a good cook…it seemed to me was good at everything she touched.

She was intelligent and witty and cute, besides. She always had a beautiful home and she was one of my role models because like many of the women in our family, she had a career outside the home before it was a routine thing for women to do.

Rhema Anderson Fair at Kent State

Rhema Fair at Kent State unversity. Photo from the collection of Kennth J. Fair at Ancestry.com

Always smartly dressed, and coiffed, she seemed to be a whirlwind of activity, known for her high heels clicking down the hallways, carrying the  5″2″ powerhouse around the campus. Since I had the same small feet that Rhema had, she used to send me shoes she tired of from her enormous collection, and bred a shoe collecting mania in her niece.

I remember one time proudly showing her everything in my closet, and she oohed and aahed over each dress and blouse, although in retrospect, it was not a very impressive collection.  She sent me the BEST Christmas presents–always just perfect for me–a purse, a scarf–perfume. Maybe I was the girl she never had (she had two boys) and that’s why she enjoyed sharing girly fashion things with me.

Her sour look in her early pictures could not be further from the cheerful, laughing Aunt Rhema that I knew. I remember her as  always interested in the person she was talking to, focusing her soft brown eyes on yours sympathetically. As a teenager, I felt that she understood me better than most adults. And maybe she did, since she worked with young people all the time.

When she and Earl retired, they left the lovely home they had built in Kent and moved to northern Arkansas  where Earl could fish and swap yarns with the locals.  They later lived with their son Frank and his wife Ruth in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Earl credited his long life to smoking cigars and drinking bourbon and branch water, and Rhema credited hers to keeping up with Earl. Their younger son, Dick, who died in 1968, at 43, did not have any children, but Frank made up for that. Rhema and Earl were very proud of their large family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In December 1986 the family gathered in Pine Bluff for this picture.

Rhema Anderson Fair and family

Rhema and Earl Fair (Seated on gold chairs) and Family, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Christmas 1986

Rhema wrote a chatty letter to her half-sister Harriette Kaser (my mother) along with the picture.

“How’s this for progeny.  We even look sort of ‘smirky?’ But really aren’t they a good looking bunch?….Earl and I just ‘muddle’ along–We are well considering Earl is 89 yrs old and I will be 86 in July…”

She told where all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are living and working and talked about some minor medical issues. But, really, hearing that Earl was 89 and Rhema is 86 made me look at the picture again.  Really?? 89??

Rhema passed away in 1996 at the age of 96, two years after Earl, who also had lived to 96.  Those are some genes to have in the family tree.

Oh, one more thing. In that letter to my mother that came with the picture. Rhema, known for giving fancy dinner parties and hobnobbing with the University set, says “I just made mush.  Earl wants mush and sausage gravy for dinner.”  There’s that gravy again. You can take the girl and boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of their cooking.

Thanksgiving Dinner: How to Make Turkey Gravy

Mother always said that Aunt Rhema made the best gravy. That is Rhema Anderson Fair (1901-1996), about  whom I will be writing more on Thursday this week. My recollection is that Aunt Rhema  was good at many things, but on family dinner occasions, she for sure would be assigned the gravy detail.

 recipe whisks


Of course the thing about perfect gravy is not so much the flavor (although I’ve eaten a lot of over-salted gravy)–its the smooth texture that is so elusive. I found it difficult to get smooth gravy or white sauce, until I started stirring with a whisk instead of a spoon. But having proved that I could do it, I now use a turkey gravy from a jar, and stir in the turkey drippings and giblets to give it more oomph. Shame on me.  But at least I draw the line at marshmallows on my sweet potatoes and mushroom soup-sauced green beans with onion rings–the two dishes that were must-haves from the 50s through the 70s.

What do we need gravy for anyhow?  If you cook the turkey right, it will be juicy and won’t need disguising and moistening.  Mashed potatoes don’t excite me. The only possible reason for making  mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner is to make  fried potato patties with the leftovers and I like leftover turkey gravy on the potato patties.

Come to think of it, the best reason to make a Thanksgiving dinner is to have leftovers! Turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, a bowl of dressing with gravy poured over it, like milk over cornflakes. Pie for breakfast…bring on the leftovers! But I digress….

Gravy is one of those things that mothers and grandmothers are just expected to know how to make, so of course nobody bothers to write down a recipe. Since I don’t have Aunt Rhema’s gravy recipe–or mother’s or grandmothers–I’m going to look at two vintage cookbooks and see what they say.

I know that in my family giblet turkey gravy was the assumption, and almost on auto-pilot, I cook the giblets in water, chop them up and mix them into stuffing or gravy. And I’d use low salt chicken broth instead of water to supplement the drippings. One more tip–baste the turkey with lots of butter to get the best possible drippings.

1925 Cook Book

1925 Cook Book Cover

In 1925, The Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book does not list turkey gravy separately, but includes it with their Roast Turkey recipe.  By the way, they roast a ten -pound turkey for four hours, which would leave a shriveled turkey jerky with our modern turkeys that cook much more quickly.

For gravy, pour off liquid in pan in which turkey was roasted.  From the liquid skim one-fourth cup of fat, return the fat to pan and brown with 5 Tablespoons of flour; add slowly three cups of stock in which giblets were cooked,[I don’t recommend this as it can be bitter], or add two cups of boiling water to dissolve the glaze in bottom of the pan and substitute for broth. [We would say ‘deglaze the pan with 2 cups boiling water or broth]. Cook five minutes, season with salt and pepper and strain; add the giblets chopped very fine.  The giblets may be used for force meat balls or chopped fine and mixed with the stuffing.

By the way, the Buffalo Cooking School gives helpful information about choosing fowl. Here’s what they say about turkey.

Turkeys are old when they have long hairs, and the flesh which shows through the skin is purple.  Turkeys are at their best in mid-winter. In the spring they begin to deteriorate.

Thanks goodness for Butterball or for the naturally-raised turkeys sold at natural food stores. You can see more of the Buffalo tips for fowl in my roasted chicken article.

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 1953

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 1953

Now fast-forwarding about 28 years, let’s see what the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook has to say about turkey gravy. Their gravy instructions come in four steps, accompanied by four pictures. And they suggest four variations–brown, cream, chicken, or giblet gravy.


Turkey Gravy

Gravy from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

1. Measure the drippings.  Lift turkey or roast to warm platter; it will carve better if it stands about 20 minutes.  Leave crusty bits in pan; pour out fat, meat juices.  When fat comes to the top, skim it off.  For each cup gravy, measure 2 Tablespoons fat back into the pan.

2. Add flour.  Set the roasting pan over very low heat.  Measure 2 Tablespoons flour for each cup of gravy.  We’re adding 1/4 cup flour to make 2 cups of gravy enough for 8 servings. Be sure to blend fat and flour well. [Note: their illustrations show the cook using a whisk.]

3.  Cook gravy till frothy.  Keep on stirring.  For richer flavor and color, brown the flour until its light tan.  The liquid for gravy should be lukewarm. Use the meat juices plus the giblet stock, milk or water.

4. Add liquid.  For each cup gravy, measure 1 Cup liquid.  Pour into pan all at once.  As you stir, blend in the crusty bits on bottom of pan.  Cook till thick; simmer about 5 minutes.  Pour into a hot gravy boat, serve to climax meat and potatoes.  It’s perfect gravy–smooth, rich, and full of flavor.

For Giblet Gravy, add chopped cooked giblets and use giblet broth for part of liquid.

Want a modern recipe for turkey gravy?  I looked at several, but Bon Apetit had the most delicious-looking picture, and an easy recipe. Take a look. You’re going to want to lick the screen.

So there you have it. Do you make turkey gravy? What do you put it on?