Old Independence Regional Museum recently hosted the Daughters of the American Revolution at the museum in honor of Constitution Day on September 17. One of the DAR members, Ms. Deanna Brown, was reminiscing about her family home and mentioned a stove. Because we are looking for kitchen appliances from the 1940s or before, I inquired further. Ms. Brown said she would be happy to loan us her mother’s old stove, and gave the following history of the appliance. We plan on featuring a 1940s kitchen in the shared exhibit between the Smithsonian Institution and OIRM entitled “A Taste of Community”. Below is her mother’s history.
[S]he lived in Fourche Valley (Yell County, AR)…growing up. I expect many families in this area that didn’t live “in town” used similar stoves, and most likely had similar stories. Living away from the city, they didn’t have many of the modern conveniences that those in town had… but they didn’t know any different as no one in “the valley” had them. Russellville, AR, was their “big city”. Below are some of her memories of the stove and life growing up during that timeframe in the rural hills of Arkansas.
She thinks they got the stove sometime in the mid-40s. She was born in 1939 (number five of six kids) and was in first or second grade when they got it.
She’s pretty sure they bought it through the Sears and Roebuck catalog… That’s where almost everything they had that wasn’t grown or made in “the valley” came from. She remembered how excited the family was when they got it. Their previous stove was a cast iron pot belly. This one, although still wood burning, was “fancy” because it had a reservoir to heat water that they used for many purposes and had multiple places on the cook top for pots. Mom and her sisters helped their mother cook. Most everything they made was home grown. They ground their own corn to make cornmeal for cornbread. Soup beans and cornbread with salt pork was a staple they ate quite frequently. Almost every morning, my grandmother would make homemade biscuits / rolls and they would have eggs from their hens. They thought it was a great treat when they were able to buy “store bought bread”… I can remember the smell of my grandmother’s homemade bread as she continued her tradition until she died. How could they think store bought bread was better? They canned and preserved vegetables grown in the garden, had a root cellar to store potatoes and other root stock. They had a smokehouse to preserve meat that my uncles or grandfather killed or when they killed hogs in the winter. Pork was preserved by salting and smoking. They almost never ate beef as the cows that they raised were their primary source of income- sold to go to people who lived in the cities.
The stove was one of the primary methods of heating the house as well as cooking. They had a fireplace in the living room, but the stove put out much more heat. Mom remembers spending lots of time in the kitchen trying to get warm in the winter as they didn’t have insulation.
The stove was also used to heat up water for their bath water. They drew their water from a well. In the winter, they would fill up a wash tub in the kitchen and heat the water on the stove to get it warm. My grandfather and the boys would go out on the porch (or somewhere) while my Mom, her sisters and mother bathed then the girls would leave for the guys to bathe. There were 3 boys, 3 girls and my grandparents. They didn’t get running water until Mom was a junior or senior in high school.
Thank you, Deanna, for sharing your family’s story with us! We look forward to displaying your stove in our upcoming exhibit. If you have a 1940s refrigerator or icebox, please contact OIRM at 793-2121. We would love to borrow them for two years while we are showcasing this exhibit. Also, if you have any items pertaining to restaurants – menus, pictures, tables, chairs, signs, et cetera, please let us know. The goal of this exhibit is to incorporate as much material from our area as possible; this is YOUR exhibit.