Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Making Sorghum Molasses the Old Way

I am always grateful for those willing to share memories with me that give a glimpse of the past. The following story takes us back to a time when even something as simple as molasses came by hard work. Thank you, Floyd Ganus, descendant of Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery for sharing the following memory of your Grandpa and Grandma Ganus and how you learned to make sorghum molasses the old way .

Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery
"We lived about a mile west of Grandpa (Robert Lee Ganus) and Grandma’s(Stella). Across the road and about an 1/8 mile up the hill lived Uncle Floyd & Aunt Jean. They had two girls Roberta, a year older and Olivia about 3 years older. There for a spell we didn’t have a car, electricity, or a radio so our entertainment was to walk up the hill and visit them. Also, we were dependent on them to take Mother or Dad to the grocery store. I was 3 or 4 and had an older sister, Virginia, 5 years older and a brother Robert D. 2 years older.



Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery with their six children
Robert Orvil b. 1910, Floyd Otto b. 1912, Andrew Monroe b. 1917, Robert Lee Ganus,
Stella Montgomery, Ida Mae b. 1907, Stella Jane b. 1904, Mary Olivia b. 1902
"This particular place was on a sandy creek bottom and Dad (Robert O.) Decided it would be a good place to grow sweet potatoes and sugar cane. They both did pretty well and my older years I have regained my taste for sweet potatoes. The sugar cane was a big summer treat to us kids. Mother (Edith P.) Would cut a stalk, clean off the leaves, and cut away the outside stalk and give us the sweet core to eat on. The core was mushy with sugar water and thus delicious to us kids. So for that summer we had the equivalent of a candy bar for several times , a real treat since store bought candy was unknown to us.

"When early fall came Dad gathered all of the sugar cane by cutting them off at ground and stripped off the leaves. When he finished with plot, less than an acre, we had a wagon load of sugar cane. Since our transportation was a wagon drawn by a team of horse, we got up early in morning and took the trip about 2 and one-half miles west to the old black mans place to squeeze the canes for the juice. The press was a metal contraption about the size of washing machine with a pole extending from the top to the side 15 or 20 feet. He had a donkey trained to walk the circle around the press giving it power. His was a very slow walk. The old man sat on the ground next to the press and fed the stalks into the press. My brother and I found out why we were invited on this trip. We were the carriers of the sugar cane stalks from the wagon to the old man feeding them in. You had to duck under the pole to hand him the canes. The process of extracting the nectar took about 2 hours or so. Time goes fast when you are having fun- I mean working. When we left the old man kept all of the sugar cane juice and kept it for the final tasks of cooking it down into molasses.
"By the time it was ready, we had moved about a mile or so on the other side of Grandpa and Grandma’s. Also, I guess Dad got good prices for those sweet potatoes since he now owned an old pickup truck. He came in one day with several jugs of dark molasses for us. Dad loved molasses and an evening supper would often be pancakes and molasses. Us kids would beg Mom into making home made the syrup by boiling some sugar in some water and adding maple favoring. This was much better than the strong tasting molasses. With so much molasses and reluctant eaters part of the molasses turned into sugar (looked like dark brown sugar). Thank goodness!"




Times certainly have changed and I for one am grateful that when I need molasses for a recipe, I can grab a bottle from the grocery shelf .Thank you Floyd, for sharing memories from your childhood years and teaching me about the process of making sorghum molasses the old way! 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, August 12, 2016

Foto Friday-James M. Lee and Alice C. Suttles



I love this picture of James Marshall Lee and Alice Cathleen Suttles. James was born 1 December 1859 and was the son of Samuel Solomon Lee and Rebecca Ganus. Alice Cathleen Suttles was born 22 September 1862 and was the daughter of Alfred D. Suttles and Nancy C. Baker. 



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Feeding the Bindlestiffs

I knew my Grandma Hazel Mickelsen Ganus well. She died in 1987, the day before our third child was born.  I was fortunate enough to know her during my childhood, throughout my teen years and into my adult life. Even though we lived several states away, every summer we made the trek across the country to visit our family in Colorado. We had family dinners at her house and I often spent the night there. Although she did not like to travel, I remember several visits that she made to our home.

I say I knew her well, but in reading her life history I realize that although our lives overlapped, there was so much that I didn't know about her at the time. Thankfully she did record some of  her experiences in a life history and from that I have a few glimpses into her world, but oh how I wish that I had heard the stories straight from mouth.

I've heard people talk about the Great Depression and what it was like but I think for those of us who have lived in a world with so many comforts, it is hard to imagine how bad things really were for so many. My grandparent's life was deeply impacted by those hard years. While many of my grandparent's siblings remained in Colorado and Oklahoma and continued to farm during the difficult Depression Era, Grandpa Heber Monroe Ganus and Grandma Hazel bundled up their kids and followed Heiselt Construction on various projects throughout Utah and California.


Lake Almanor
Public Domain 
One of the projects took Grandma and Grandpa Ganus to Northern California where Grandpa worked to help clear forest land for a railroad track that would run from Keddy, California to Klamath Falls, Oregon. During that time they lived in a small camp a short distance from Lake Almanor.  There, Grandpa gratefully worked when so many were without work. In her history, Grandma shared some of her observation of things they saw during those years.

By Unknown - Library of Congress
Public Domain,
Speaking of their time there in the camp near Almanor Lake, she said:
"This was during the depression and so many people were out of work, we could see men walking along the highway with packs on their backs, any time of the day looking for work. Mr. Heiselt was very good to feed them that came asking for food. 
"Some of the men got to coming to our house asking for food. I always gave them something to eat. We felt sorry for them. These people were called bindelstiffs. 
"The railroads allowed people to ride free. Many days we would see big long freight trains go by with people riding all over them, some on the flat cars, some on box cars, some in gondolas, and one time we even saw a woman with a baby riding on top of a boxcar. 

"One night three men came to our place asking for something to eat. I gave them some potatoes, a can of corn, bread and some coffee. They seemed real glad to get them. But they went just a little way from the house, where there was a place someone else had fixed to cook on. They built a fire and cooked their supper, then laid down in their sleeping bags around the fire to sleep. 
"I was so nervous and frightened I didn't sleep any all night. In fact, I sat by a window where I could see what was going on. Heber wanted me to go to bed, saying they wouldn't harm us, but I just couldn't. Goodness knows I don't know how we could have protected ourselves from them if they had, for we didn't even have any kind of a gun or even a dog. I was so glad when morning came and they were gone. The ground was covered with snow, too. 
"The majority of this kind of people were good, just out of work and looking for a job of some kind. There were eight or ten companies working on this job, and they probably hit all of them for work."

The thought of large groups of people riding on top of trains and men walking along the road looking for work is heartbreaking. Grandma indicated that they called the people bindlestiffs, a word I had never heard before, so I looked it up and learned that according to Merriam-Webster, bindlestiff refers to a "hobo: especially one who carries his clothes or bedding in a bundle."

It was not an easy time to support a family, nor was Grandpa's work easy to do, but for a time, he had work when many were unemployed. At first, Grandpa was paid and they had hope things would work out. But in the end, Heiselt began to have financial trouble, workers went unpaid and word spread that Heiselt's machinery was heavily mortgaged and that the company was in serious financial trouble. Sadly my grandparents realized that they would never see the $2,000 owed to them, so they packed up their kids and what little they had and returned to Colorado.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved