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Memories of Grandfather and the Farm

By Bob Chubon


Regrettably, my only memory of granddad (Peter) is from the time of his funeral. He was laid out in the living room of the farmhouse as was still a common practice in those days. I was about five years old, and for us kids, it seemed like a festive occasion. Seeing relatives was a special treat as travel was difficult, and visiting infrequent. Granddad's death was a truly momentous happening insofar as the family was concerned. Because it was at the time of America's entry into World War II, military recruitment and drafting were at a frenzied pace. Virtually every young man was being pressed into service. With all of Peter's sons enlisting except Peter Jr. (my father), there was no one else left to care for the farm. So we moved from Bradford, where dad was as a molder in a foundry that made engine blocks, pump housings, and other castings for submarines, which was why he was not drafted or permitted to enlist. So dad spent the war years working the night shift at the foundry and maintaining the farm during the day. He was fortunate to have a dear friend and neighbor, Frank Bergman, to commute with him because the trip to Bradford was quite arduous in those days, especially during the winter.

Taking up residence on the farm was fortuitous, in a sense, because I learned a lot about granddad's lifestyle. Although the house had electric lights, there were no modern conveniences. In fact, despite the electric lights, the original gas lights were still in place and functional. The kitchen contained a large cast iron gas cooking range, which was used for heating water, as well. The heated water was sometimes used for bathing, which was done in a large metal tub brought into the kitchen. A pitcher pump was mounted to the sink attached to a wall and drew water from the nearby spring house. I still have memories of dad thawing the frozen water pipe with a blow torch during the often sub-zero winter weather.

The house was heated by three coal-fired pot belly stoves located in the kitchen, living-room, and upstairs common area. To survive the cold winter nights, the beds were fitted with "feather ticks," that is, hand-made natural down-filled comforters, that were 6-12 inches thick. There was a traditional country outhouse, but also, each bedroom was equipped with a porcelain finished pot for nighttime relief. The cellar had a coal bin, root cellar, and a storage area for canned goods. The root cellar also contained barrels for vinegar and cider. Granddad and his Slovak friends often got together and played pinochle and drank hard cider.
Granddad's death and the subsequent move to the farm resulted in some insights about his life that I feel privileged to hold. However, his death has left its share of painful memories, as well. Unfortunately, he died intestate, that is, without a will. When the war ended and the family gathered to settle the estate, as so often happens in such situations, disagreements arose. The disagreements quickly inflated into a major family feud that ultimately had to be reconciled in court. The outcome was that the farm was put up for sale and eventually purchased by the Trulick family. So after a five-year stay, in 1948 we moved up the road and could only watch granddad's place weather and change. In closing, I am comforted by the fact that, although it took decades, the family feud has finally been laid to rest. And that leads to an incidental lesson I learned about Slovaks from the experience: They sure can hold a grudge!