Miller, Frances (Becker) - Memories

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Frances Becker Miller - Memories

Frances (Becker) Miller

Lewis and Sarah Barton Becker were my grandparents. They had several children, but when my father was born his mother died shortly after. My grandfather then married Elizabeth Wood. My other grandparents were Peter and Margaret Shultes. Uncle Minton Becker repaired shoes in Altamont. Ivy Becker married a Filkins and they were the East Berne Filkin’s. Grandma Shultes was a Campbell and her relatives were from over Huntersland way.

Back in the 1930s the above home was made over into a cheese box type structure. There was a kitchen parlor and storage shed on the lower floor and a couple of bedrooms upstairs. I believe this was done about the same time the twins Mavis and Maver were born. You had to go outside to get to the bedrooms upstairs. I remember getting the twins all wrapped up along with ourselves to go upstairs to bed. This was while Clifford Shell was building the rest of the house. The twins slept in my parent’s bedroom, my bedroom was so cold, I told my mother my blankets were frozen to the wall. We would take heated flat irons and soap stones up with us to warm the beds. All of the Becker children were born at home. We did not have any indoor plumbing at this time either. I don’t think it was until 1945 that we had water up to the farmhouse.

Our lighting at this time consisted of kerosene lamps. One of my daily chores was to wash the chimneys for the lamps. It was my job because my hand was so little it would fit right up inside so I could wash and dry easily. We had one Aladdin’s Lamp that had a silk mantel, but I was never allowed to take that one apart. When the house was rebuilt in the 1930s we had electric put in.

Originally my Becker grandparents lived in the house and rented from a lady who lived in Albany, her name was Mrs. Trotter. When they moved down to the corner of Switskill road and Sickles Hill road. where Morris Willsey lived, my grandparents Shultes moved in. They lived there for a while but eventually moved up on Sickles Hill road were the sharp corner is. Whenever my grandfather Shultes would go down to Berne or West Berne, friends he would see would always ask him what his wife Libby was doing. His answer was always the same, washing the window; everyone got the impression that’s all she ever did. I remember that my grandparents Shultes had a parlor with an organ. I was never allowed to go into that room. The only time I can remember being in there was when my grandfather passed away and he was laid out in the parlor. I was allowed to go in to see him but not to touch anything else.

Becker Homestead

I went to the same one room schoolhouse that my mother did. It was on Switzskill road on the sharp corner by Balls. Clyde Ball was my first teacher. We had to walk to school almost all the time, once in a while daddy would take us. Mrs. Charles Ball had turkeys and I was scared to death to go by their house for fear the turkeys were going to get me. I remember when I got big enough to help carry the bucket to get water for the school. Sometimes we would go to Balls or down where Joe Drezelo lives now to get the water. I felt really grown up when I was able to do this. I went by bus to the East Berne School for one year and Charles Scrafford was the teacher. My 7th grade I spent at the Berne school with Clyde Ball as my teacher. 8th grade I went to the new Berne-Knox Central School. There were 11 students in my graduating class in 1937.

When I was younger, Bessie and Luther Wright used to take me to Sunday school. I spent so much time with them I didn’t know who my real parents were. I called them Daddy Wright and Mammy. Even yet to this day I refer to Bessie Wright as Mammy.

I can recall when we used to take the cutter up Sickles Hill in the winter. We would have heated soapstone in a bag by our feet and a big lap robe with hair on it over us and we stayed quite warm. We would go up to Grandma and Grandpa Shultes or on up to Uncle Isaac’s or way up on top to Aunt Ima and Uncle Bert’s by the Methodist Church.

I am sure daddy wanted a boy when I was born, because I had a lot of chores to do including getting the cows from the pasture down to the barn for water. I would go up the road towards the Shaffer farm where the hills were and that is where the pasture was for the cows. In the springtime they liked to stay up there because there was lots of water. In the summer it was a different story as water became very scarce, then they were very happy to be driven down to the barn because they were thirsty. I would have the water tub filled before I brought the cows down, but it didn’t take them long to empty it. Then I would have to start with the hand pump to keep the tub filled while the cows drank. I was only as tall as the pump and I would get so tired that mother would help me until daddy would need her in the barn for something. Mother worked right along side Daddy when it came to farm work, they didn’t have any hired hands. Once in a while someone would walk down past our farm, like Frank or Fred Tubbs from up on the hill by Tubbs pond. They would walk down to the store in Berne for groceries. Sometimes they would stop and stay overnight at our house and then work for daddy the next day. They had to walk down from their house because their family didn’t own any horses. Another man was Harve Watson from up on the hill, he would work for daddy a couple of weeks and then daddy would drive him down to Greenville to the Stanton Farm.

About this time the Gilboa Dam was being built, so on Sunday daddy would take us all down to check the progress. A couple of Berne fellows worked there, Charles Bogardus and Everett Schoonmaker. On other Sundays we would go check on the progress of the Alcove Dam and I think those were about the only to places we went to see. We used to out to Schoharie once in a while to the outdoor movies. My father’s uncle ran a store there; it was Becker’s store. Mother and daddy would visit there and I would go down where the movies were playing. These were outdoor movies and people stood in the street to watch them. I wasn’t interested in the movies but I would go around and visit with all the people I knew there.

It seems like I always had schoolwork or chores to do as I was growing up. After the twins were born, it was mostly washing diapers. No disposable diapers in those days! Daddy hung lines up in the house to hang the diapers on to dry. As I recall I always had Mavis to watch and mother took care of Maver.

As I got older I started going to Christian Endeavor at church, Daddy would take me down on Sunday night and come and get me when it was over. After a while Hubert made a deal with daddy and he started bringing me home. That is how I first became involved with Hubert and started going out with him. I graduated in June, turned 18 in July and married Hubert in October of 1937. After we got married we moved over to the farm at Cole Hill.

At one point I decided I was going to make ice cream. We got a used ice cream maker from Dutchers and I started making it at the farm. We had 18 flavors and exceptionally good soft ice cream. I even picked my own strawberries and raspberries. I used to pack it in pint and quart containers. I had to make soft ice cream the day the school board met, so Hubert could take some to the board meeting. Everyone had to have some before the meeting could start. All the ice cream that we sold was done strictly by word of mouth advertising. Camp Orinsekwa and Camp Woodstock used to come down quite a bit. I was always under state inspection; I don’t know many people whose kitchens were inspected by the state of New York. I sold ice cream until Stewart's started delivering door to door and that put me out of business.

During this same time, Ski Land was operating at the bottom of Cole Hill. The Foxenkill Grange ran the concession down there. They had hot dogs and hamburgers and homemade pies and cakes with various drinks available. I was right up to my neck in grange work, so I was always making pies and cakes besides the ice cream that we made. Running that concession is one of the ways we raised money to pay for the hall. William Rouse of Voorheesville owned Ski Land at that time. I never could understand why the state never showed up to inspect our grange operation, but they never did.

After my Grandmother Shultes became a widow, she moved down to Berne and lived across the street from the Lutheran Church, with my Aunt Ima Watson. My Grandmother Becker moved into a house down below the Luther Sand farm on the old Berne to Knox road. She lived there with Aunt Elma. My Grandmother Shultes used to sew the horsehide covers on baseballs to earn extra money. Aunt Elma crochet baby clothes and sold them to the big department stores in Albany. I used to love to go down to my Grandmother Shultes, because she made special onion syrup for a cough. I know that may sound awful to most of you, but I loved it. I always seemed to develop a cough when I was there and she always had some of her special onion syrup for me.