Sunday, January 11, 2015

Memories of Backwoods

This is one of the Backwoods Christmas parties.  The only Backwoods picture I have at this time.

 Back row: Einar Erikson, Harold Zuehlke, Ransom Tyler (my Dad), Ned Elton  Sitting:Rick Zuehlke, Pug (my Mom), Tom Erikson, Tip (my brother) in front, Henrietta Erikson, Janet Erikson(in front), KD Elton, Me in the grey sweater, Lynn (my sister), Eddie Elton.  Sitting in front on the right: Sue Zuehlke, Phoebe Zuehlke and I think Ned's Grandmother sitting in the chair.

Now I am going way back to reminisce about the great times we had in our neighborhood which we called Backwoods.  These memories were brought on because I just received word that the eldest of the Backwoods kids, Rick, has just passed away.  There were 8 of us and Rick Zuehlke lived next door and was probably 5 or 6 years older than I was.  The rest of the kids in backwoods were:  Janet and Tom Erikson, Sue Zuehlke (my best friend and confidant of our childhood.  She is a year older than I.), Lynn (my sister), Tip (my brother), and Ned Elton (Closest in age to me and my "boyfriend" through our childhood).

  We were a close knit group of kids because we lived sort of "out in the country".  We all went to the same elementary school (fondly called Jefferson Jailhouse) and were more like sisters and brothers than friends.  All of our parents went together and bought a piece of property from a farmer and built 5 houses in the farmer's backwoods during the depression!  It was so unusual that The Milwaukee Journal did a piece on the construction, complete with pictures, back when they were building the houses in the early 1930's. This was before I was born, of course.  The property was located about  a quarter of a mile from the Milwaukee/Waukesha county line.  Jefferson School was 1.2 miles from our houses and we walked and then later rode our bikes to get there and back home. It had started out as a 2 room school (I'm pretty sure Rick and Janet were in school at that time), but each room was then divided into 2 rooms and by the time I went there, there were 2 classes in each room.  There was no kindergarten so none of us except my brother (the youngest of the Backwoods kids) even went to kindergarten.

The backwoods was a pretty big piece of property of many acres and we had woods and ravines to play in.  Each family had a large vegetable garden (WWII was in full swing in my very early days and they were called Victory Gardens) and the Eltons  (who lived next to us on the other side) had grape vines and a raspberry patch down over the hill in back of their house. (the scene of one of our major adventures).   They had a chicken coop too.  Dad had an asparagus patch down there and there were currant bushes that Mom had us pick from to make currant jelly.  We had a chicken coop, apple trees, and a place for a milk cow (Daisy) too.  Dad had a compost hole that he made fertilizer in and he also tapped all our maple trees and Mom made maple syrup from the sap.  It was our job to collect the sap each day in the spring.

Some of my other memories of those early times were of Dad picking honeysuckle blossoms and Mom making honeysuckle fritters with them.  I never have tried it myself but I do remember how we loved those fritters! Dad also had crabapple trees and at least one plum tree.  I remember that Dad would get up early and go out and pick flowers for Lynn and I to put in our hair on Sundays and he always had fresh flowers for the house all summer long.

 Every week or so all summer the families of the neighborhood would take turns hosting a potluck Backwoods picnic. These were not quite the backyard barbeques we all think of now.  None of our properties were fenced so we had all 5 yards to play in.  The picnic sights were not too near the houses and we did not have barbeque grills. Our moms cooked over the open fire or made most of the food at the house and then brought it to the picnic sight. The grownups would sit around the fire visiting long after dark and all the kids would play 50 all scatter, Sardines, and other games using the whole neighborhood as our playground.  There were no city streets, only our private dirt road that the 5 houses used to access West Howard Avenue.

The other Backwoods event was an annual Christmas party.  It was hosted each year by a different family.  It was a potluck and I think our moms organized it so whoever hosted it had the main dish and the family that had it the last year brought the dessert and so on.  All the kids drew names for giving presents and I think there were family gifts given by each family to each family.  We had a big feast and then the whole group would play Charades (when we got old enough).  Oh how we loved playing that game!  I guess the youngest kids had to go to bed so it was a right of passage when you got to play Charades with the grownups!

There were other Backwoods gatherings but those were parts of our adventures to be remembered another day!

So long, Rick, I never forgot you calling me Vanilla Pecan instead of Penelope Ann, the time you tried to get Sue and I to pose sitting under the hose you hooked up to the clothesline pole so it dripped cold water on us in 99 degree and 95% humidity weather so you could take a picture to enter in a photo contest, and your early Disney movies shown on a sheet that you charged us a few pennies to watch after dark night after night. I will always picture you working on that Model T station wagon in your driveway. 



Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome 2015! I'm back.....

The fireplace in Danny and Kathi's new home out at Eagle's Watch in Walden, Colorado.
Kathi had great decorations up for Christmas.
Kathi and Danny at the big New Years Party they held at the bowling alley
Here it is 2015!  I certainly took a big break from my blog (like 6 months) but I am still around. A lot has been gong on in my life and with the new year here it is time to look back at some of the adventures that I have had since June. I am sitting in Danny and Kathi's new house in Walden, CO on New Years Day after helping them throw a very successful party last night at the bowling alley and restaurant they are purchasing. It was a lot of work but went well. They had to go back in this morning to finish cleaning up. I wasn't ready to go when they were so I was going to drive over later. It has been extremely cold (-31F) the last few days and my car wouldn't start. So today it finally warmed up into the teens. I went out to start it but it was totally dead!  What a way to start the new year!  Meanwhile Danny and Kathi still haven't made it back to the house so I am watching the Rose Bowl and wondering what they are doing. I feel kind of guilty not helping them but not guilty enough to walk to town.
Paul, Thomas, Carla and Jim took a selfie during the Broncos game!
Me, Jo, Diana and Jason ringing in the New Year
Someone photo-bombed me, Glen!

I was going to post some pictures taken during the party and of Danny and Kathi's new house all decorated for Christmas but I hit a wrong button while transferring my iphone pictures to my computer and ended up sending all my pictures since October to computer heaven!  Maybe even since July 4!  What a bummer! I am going to see if I can get some off of Facebook and messages I sent to family with a picture included!  How I wish my computer savvy grandsons were around!

As you can see I figured out how to get some pictures off of Facebook of the party and I took some more pictures of Kathi's house decorations so all is not lost.  On the Friday after New Years, Janet and Greg Ray invited me to have dinner and go bowling with some of their family and friends!  These are pictures from that party.

This is Heather Ray Kirby trying to pick up a spare.
Besties Janet Ray and Bobbie Corkle had a nice visit along with the bowling.     

Heather, Doug, and Tanner with their cheesy smiles.