Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sewing Solution

I. The easiest way I have found to patch a knee in jeans:

Lay the leg of the jeans out smooth under the
foot of your sewing machine.
Take your patch and slip it under the foot also.
Start sewing around the outside edge of patch
with regular stitches or zigzag is good.
Also zigzag a few rows across where the tear
Is in the jeans.
remove from sewing machine.
Take scissors and reach down inside leg and
clip stitches. Neat Job.

II. This is another solution for missing buttons on a sweater:

Just cut the rest off.
Then call it TLC cardigan.
They like this because they don’t have to worry
about getting button-up straight.

III. A tip for darning socks – especially those white cotton work socks:
First turn sock wrong side out and then take a light bulb about
100 Watt is a good size for men.
Drop bulb into sock: take needle with stout double thread and
make a good knot at one end.
Start on one side of the hole and whipstitch it shut;
finish with a good double knot.
Remove light bulb and turn right side out.
Now see that didn’t take much time and your man will be so
proud of you after wearing socks with a hole across the heel
and years of begging to darn his socks.

I will provide one word of caution though to stand aside when he comes home from work limping and has stood all day with his newly darned socks. He will jerk those work shoes off to get to those beautiful darned socks to wad up and throw like a ball out of sight.

His proud smile just turned upside down with the remark, “Don’t you ever darn another sock for me.”

After that, I just bought new ones for him and kept a basket on my washing machine to hold clean holey socks that were then used in the garage to clean oil dip of cherished pick-up. Ma Ma June
(Editor’s note: All of the above sewing solutions my Mother used on my Dad. She detested sewing. In fact, she began to sew me a dress in 1955 when I was five and it never did get finished. Ma Ma June’s loving daughter, Diana)

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I have a lot of solutions for sewing. But, there is one beautiful stitch that I would love to learn and that is smocking. What has happened to that art of sewing? So far, I have not come across anybody or any pattern to teach a novice.

When I was young and up until I was nine years old, my Mother made all of my dresses for school, etc. Then I lost her, but I still have a school picture where she had done a lot of smocking. I remember this one little dress she made for me. It had smocking across the shoulders in the front and across the yoke in the back. Then on the long sleeves, she smocked and finished off with rick-rack.

I would put on my beautiful little dress and go out on the sidewalk and twirl around and around and my pretty little dress just floated. It was something special and so was my wonderful Mother.

MaMa June

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Solutions for the Seamstress

My family and friends would just about ask me to do anything i.e. mix concrete or mortar, be a carpenter or a gopher than to do a favor of sewing. I do know those jobs were backbreaking but the satisfaction when completed was rewarding.

Now take sewing, I have yet to get that same feeling.

My first experience as a seamstress was when I was in home economics class as a junior in high school. I touched a little on it one summer in 4-H. I think I had a skill, but it definitely wasn’t handwork with a needle and thread. I needed a few more tools to make it interesting such as a staple gun; hammer with steeples, safety pins and scotch tape to mention a few. This was long before Velcro.

In home economics we were to make a skirt with gathers, plain placket on one side and a band with one button and buttonhole. I thought this is going to be a piece of cake. Wrong!!! For my project, I chose a navy and white-stripped material. It would really look neat made up and no ironing. I’m talking years ago when everything had to be ironed. As years passed by, a new fabric was invented – no iron polyester. Tulane University in New Orleans invented this great fabric.

I was in New Orleans visiting my sister a few years after that invention. She was at work so I decided to take a bus tour of the town. As the bus driver drove past Tulane, he announced that this is where polyester was invented. Every woman on the bus let out a giant scream and crossed their hearts.

Now the skirt I was about to make was cotton and the wrinkles of seersucker, which I thought, was a plus. Anyway, I got started on my skirt not knowing what I was getting myself into and I think I still carry those scars. For some reason the teacher thought all those gathers should be the same size. I tried to accommodate her but my hands were a little oversized and so were my stitches. I looked at the other girls in my class and they had dainty hands, but not a one of them milked cows. I was satisfied with my gathers so I stitched them on the treadle sewing machine, but it did not pass inspection. You know I ripped stitches four times out of my blue ribbon skirt. I ripped them so many times it left holes all around the top. Being of a farm background, I suggested threading a piece of binder twine through the holes and finish with a nice knot and bow in the front.

About forty years later, someone heard me. I hated that skirt! Oh now, I don’t like to use the word ‘hate,’ but I sure built up a big dislike for it and never wore it.

I walked out of that class with a perfect ‘B’ and how to thread and operate seven different treadle machines, such as Singer, White and New Home sewing machines. I believe women in the township donated the machines as they acquired electric ones. We did have one electric one, but the more experienced students used it until they had trouble threading it, etc. So, I was the drafted student to keep everyone happy. On the treadle machines, I never saw so many kinds of bobbins and ways of threading them and the old belts were so dried out they were always in need of help. I watched for a classmate to have a problem with that electric one. I would then jump over to it, sit down, press my knee on the pedal and take off, throw it in reverse then forward until I felt it was safe for someone to use.

Now that was fun instructing others on all of those sewing machines. That’s what I got out of that class.
Ma Ma June

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Medicine Cure: The Old-Fashion Way Part 2

I remember going to a doctor two times while growing up. Once was for a smallpox vaccination and the other was when my Mother passed away. My Mother’s life was way too short – 44 years old and an aunt visited the doctor on my behalf to get something for me.

After my Mother was taken from us, I was only nine at the time and wondered why I could not go with her and the whole world turned upside down. I’ve heard people talk about change of life, but they knew nothing about the change in life this created. She had so much love and affection for all of us and much I wished I could have learned from her. Such a shock coming in home from school running up the lane and find her lying on the walk in front of the porch.

My Dad was the one with only four years of education who was “House-Doctor” manned with his big doctor book, when I stepped on two nails the summer we tore the old farm house down and built a new one. Every board was saved and used in the new home with piles of wood stacked in the chicken lot. Dr. Dad, no M.D. behind his name, but his orders were to get a clean bucket of extra warm water and put so much of this disinfectant in it and soak your foot in it. This disinfectant was a miracle drug. It was called “CNN” and was brown in color and a liquid that came in a square orange labeled bottle. This CNN was used on everything such as scrapes, scratches, cuts and also on cows utters. It had no limit on uses. It was purchased at the Thompson’s drugstore on the north side of the square in Danville.

Later in years I had a step-mother who was a career nurse, but after putting up such a fuss about it became a believer and the last bottle she purchased was between here and Florida. Then, they stopped making it. Maybe it was because there was a fellow that mixed up a batch of something in his bathtub and called it “Had’d Call,” the miracle drug. If my memory isn’t failing me I think you were supposed to drink this one. I hope he washed his feet after and not before mixing that up. It was advertised for a long time, but I didn’t use any for one thing it had to be bought. The reason for its name is that he didn’t know what to name it so he called it, “Had’d Call.”

Well, I kind of got side-tracked for a little while, but after a good soaking of my foot I was to grate a raw potato and bandage it over the nail hole in my foot. This you changed every few hours as the potato turned black and lost its effectiveness. The potato would draw the infection or puss as we called it out onto the dried potato and this you could see. You did this and soaked foot a lot until your foot was no longer swelled to the size of a baseball bat and back to normal when you could get your shoe on. It was a repeat procedure for the next foot, etc.

That was sixty years ago and so far I haven’t gotten “Lock Jaw.” As some would make a mental note, we can tell.

MaMa June

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Medicine: The Old-Fashion Way

I came across my Dad’s medical book the other day. What a book! It’s written by doctors back in the late 1800*s or early 1900’s. I saw a page in the back that you could fill out and send in with a 2 cent stamp to belong to their medical society. I wonder how many years it took before the doctors could sign with M.D. after their name.

This book is four inches thick and there is at the least one inch of items on Castor Oil remedies. Castor Oil was used for all illnesses and diseases. I wished I were the grower of castor beans.

Soybeans are one of the farmers’ major crops and they are finding all kinds of ways to put them to good use in our foods, etc. Wonder why farmers don’t plant every other row in their fields with castor beans? If my Dad was still living, I’m sure he would jump at such a wonderful ideas as he took a lot of pride in spooning this down our throats. We didn’t have a medicine cabinet not even a drawer to hold any. This wonder drug (Castor Oil) sat on the kitchen windowsill. It didn’t need any child safety or as I call them adult safety caps. Where were they when I needed them?

This Castor Oil was also good for exercise. You had the “back door trots” as they were called. We would try to stifle a sneeze when you were within gun shot distance of Dad.

Ma Ma June

Monday, September 7, 2009


We played a lot of games while growing up some of which took a lot of energy, but none of which cost any money.

Our games compared to today’s games would probably sound hokey. Then too, there was not much time for play. Sunday afternoon was our free time before evening chores. We played a lot of baseball. It was really softball as the balls were free taped on the box top of Ovaltine. A good hard hitting batter would smash them lop-sided in no time or they would fall in a fresh cow pile and that ended that day’s play.

We made bean bags out of pieces of burlap sacks or pillow ticking material and filled them with navy beans from the truck patch or used soy beans. We used to throw them over the roof of the hen house. On the first try, if the bean bag didn’t make it and tumbled back to you, the thrower of the bean bag hollered “pig-tails.” When you succeeded getting the bean bag over the roof of the hen house, the player on the other side caught it (honor system) then ran around to tag you.

The games of tag and hide and seek were favorite games to play about dark.

MaMa June

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lugs Prohibited

Putting up hay back in the late 30’s and early 40’s was a big summer job off and on all season.

I remember this one time my Dad bought two fields of hay from another farmer north of New Winchester. This was probably about six miles from home. So, all hay equipment plus manual hands were moved to these fields. The equipment consisted of two tractors (one a Farmall 14 and the other a John Deere D that sounded as if it was about to die on each breath.) To start the John Deer, there was a small tank, which held gasoline attached to a larger tank with fuel oil. You stood beside it and turned a big flywheel that cranked it up then hurriedly turned the gas off and fuel oil on. The Farmall had a crank you inserted in the front being careful to where you set it as it would kick back and your arm would hurt, but not to the extent you got out of holding a pitchfork. One day you would use the Farmall and semi-mounted mower. Usually the following day you raked hay in wind rows. One fellow was on the John Deere and one or gal on the rake. That rake would do in a pair of tennis shoes in a hurry trying to hold pedal down to gather hay into rows then trip it fast to make sure it was back down as tractor driver just kept going. He would turn around to remind you, “Keep those rows straight.” I didn’t understand this, as we weren’t in a beauty contest besides we could still walk and follow crooked rows. Now came the fun part. We selected our favorite three-tine pitchfork. Well, three of the four of us did. We took our rag handkerchief from bib overalls and polished the handles. This cut down on hand callous. With one person on each side of the row, we doodle up the hay, trying to make each stack about the same size until you rant into curves with more hay someone made with that rake. Across the field we would work under bright sunny skies with temperatures and humidity the same – almost 100 degrees but somebody said good haying weather. But if it rained that night and after the sun dried the top of our doodles next morning, guess what? It couldn’t dry bottoms so we got to man our pitchforks and turn each and every one over. When dry this time, as there have been times we had to repeat if another storm came through by then, you lost a lot of good leaves and your cows weren’t happy with you. If I told them once I told them dozens of times, take it to a higher authority and don’t count Dad this time. We pitched hay up to the two on the truck. I wanted to ride, but they told me there is an art to getting a good tight square load on and not to pitch any of those snakes up either. I didn’t hear many sorrys between the laughs when those snakes came back down the handle of fork or when the landed on my straw hat.

We took little brother with us on a few of the trips. He promised to be water boy. The water jug we used that day (we had two) was dark brown with one handle on the side and a corncob for the stopper. No ice just water. The jug was always wrapped in a burlap sack and sat under a shade tree. We had no name cups. We all drank from the same jug. Mmmmmmmmm good.

Little brother wasn’t big enough then to do much work. He just wanted to be one of the guys and he was a lot of fun. I remember coming home with a big load of hay on State Road 75. It had a tar top and was smooth (real nice compared to our gravel road). Along State Road 75, there were signs posted: “Vehicles with Lugs Prohibited.” Little brother couldn’t read that well. He sat in the middle between me and older brother driving and asked what the sign said. Big brother read it to him and told him, “He would have to get out as he was one of those lugs on that sign.” He then stopped the truck abruptly almost throwing our other hay hands, who were riding on the front fenders off. They never rode on top of the load of hay for fear they would get raked off by the utility lines running along the highway. The lines and poles weren’t as high then. And they could sit on the fenders holding on by way of the hood ornament. They would have a tough time riding on the front fenders today and no hood ornament either. Little brother was afraid he might be put out of the truck and walk home. So, he threaded his arm through mine. No way was he going to walk alone. On our next trip back to the hay field we had no water boy – no little Lug – and no cuddles.

The lugs on the sign really referred to those big steel wheels on tractors and some equipment like plows had more cleats on their wheels.

We had a Farmall 112 made by International Harvest Company. It had lugs on the hind wheels and was shaped like triangles growing out of the steel wheels. You could work in the fields in all kinds of weather and never get stuck. But when you rode it on a hard surface where lugs couldn’t dig in, it was rocking and rolling. You kind of felt like a duck, but they still left their mark. Then came the rubber tire wheels. Lug signs disappeared.

Little brother can have the last laugh when he became of age with all the luxuries and almost all of the comforts of home. He made it. He no longer could be called a “lug,” just a fun loving brother. I could use those cuddles now.

Ma Ma June
(Editor’s note: My Uncle Harold and Uncle Raymond loved to tease. Uncle Harold was the oldest brother and Uncle Raymond was the baby brother and even in his seventies was Mother’s ‘baby brother.’ Ma Ma June’s Loving Daughter, Diana)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Next Customer

This next customer reminds me of the story my husband told of a doctor on East Broadway in Danville years ago. My husband had something wrong with one eye, so he came for a visit with the doctor. The doctor’s waiting room was on the front porch with every seat taken. You didn’t check in at the desk or even take a number. It was on the honor system. You looked around at each patient and they looked around and then at you. The first to arrive was the first appointment then as that one came back the next one went in and so forth. Well, it was finally my husband’s turn after watching that entry door and by then he knew who was behind him. The doctor treated his eye and said, “That will be a $1.00.” My husband questioned him about the $1.00 and such a bargain and his trust was beginning to weaken. But the good doctor said, “Don’t worry; I’ll make it up on your uncle.” And my husband was lucky too that my Dad was not the next customer.

Ma Ma June

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Milking Machine

My Dad had four years of school education then had to work to help support his family. I don’t know what the teachers taught then but with the four years he was almost a genius in lots of fields. I just thought what he would have been with twelve years then again even six years. He was quite a taskmaster or General but all of us had great respect for him and loved him. His parents and some of his siblings came over from Germany and he was the first to be born in America. I won’t argue about that German blood but surely there was another mixed in. Everything he bought was a “good deal.” It made him feel good and an accomplishment. I felt embarrassed. Well, we went to buy a milking machine for our farm as up until this time we milked the cows by hand morning and night. Dad asked the clerk what the cost was for the milking machine. When he found out the cost, he said it was too much. As we were about to walk out the door of this one business, he was still thinking or so he says whether to buy the new milking machine. I was tempted to hold the door shut, but he then turned to the clerk and said, “I’ll take them if you throw in that red wheelbarrow.” They said, “Yes,” for which I was so thankful. The owners of the establishment just shook their heads and boy I didn’t say a word, but took notes. I think they probably made it up on the next customer. Poor soul, you never followed Dad as the next customer.

Ma Ma June

(Editor’s Note: Grandpa John always said, “Every job needs a good supervisor.” I was seven when he died but I remember vividly his sitting in a lawn chair outside pointing with his cane directing Mother and her brothers on how to do a job. I also remember going out to his house every Saturday morning and watching ‘Roy Rogers and Dale Evans’ show and finish with the ‘Sky King’ show. According to Mother, Grandpa John was a great re-cycler. When they built their new house shortly after Grandma Clara died, the Lieske children pulled nails from the old home’s boards to use in the new house being built plus wood, etc. MaMa June’s and Grandpa Lieske’s loving daughter and granddaughter, Diana)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Indoor Plumbing

With indoor plumbing you didn’t have to use Sears, Montgomery Ward catalogs or even a corncob. The system was not made for all of this roughage.

So, we were treated with store bought tissue even if we were issued only two sheets per visit. The tissue companies didn’t roll it as thin in those days.

I didn’t complain because it was so good to have a nice warm throne in the winter and a nice white bathtub with running water and a drain whereby it eliminated carrying the water back outside.

MaMa June

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thank You, Benjamin Franklin

We didn’t have indoor plumbing or even electricity. We had a two-hole mansion in the chicken lot manned with the old Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs. In the winter, talk about cold – these catalogs were still pushing for a sale and their pages froze together.

We were one of the first families in the county to have indoor plumbing and electricity. The electric company was located in Danville and we lived about ¼ mile from State Road 36. It was not on their schedule to put electricity down our road, but Dad had the flair of persuasion and they soon agreed to put it on their schedule if he was going to pay for it to be run to our property line. The company was to run it up the lane to our house with no fee attached. To me, electricity is one of the most wonderful things after the wheel. We have it and take it for granted.

Just stand in the middle of your home when the power is off and you find yourself saying, “What can I do?” Then darkness falls and it’s worse. You have your candles or other makeshift emergencies. But, when you go outside, everything is black and you don’t know how far or when. Sooner or later, it’s returned then you think of those who are unable to tell the difference and say a quiet prayer.

MaMa June

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dorothy June Lieske is born, June 7, 1929

I started out in this world the year of “The Great Depression” and I am still not sure when it ended and “The Great Society” began. My family was living on a farm about four miles west of Danville, Indiana which they purchased three years earlier after living in Indianapolis a number of years. Before I was born on that wonderful summer day, I had already been blessed with several siblings plus two after me. You know while I was growing up and being a middle child I would kind of analyze other families where there was an only child or where the baby of the family always seemed to me just a little extra special, a little extra this, and a little extra that and I just wondered how that might feel. Now on this day and year our great American country was in pretty bad shape. The banks were closed and no one could get their money, people were out of work, stock market down, not on our farm but they say things just were not good. No gloom of day was going to stop this baby. She was on her way! Dad went to the big telephone hanging on the wall and gave one big crank on it for the lady operator who manned the switchboard for our area. She in turn called the doctor who lived and practiced in Danville. (How long do they have to practice until they get it?) Now, Danville had a modern phone system owned by Ma Bell. Dad called a neighbor lady down the road who served as a mid-wife. Her telephone number was two and a short. That’s one long crank and a pause, another long crank and a pause, then a half crank. Also, the telephone rang into all the neighbor’s homes and this was a good way to catch up on things as they would listen in and it was faster than sending a letter that could take two days and three cents. No matter how discreet the neighbors tried to be, a clock would strike or someone would cough or sneeze. Then they would try to calm the kids who seemed to get deaf from the telephone rings.

After Dad got Dr. Grimes on his way, he then would try and make Mom more comfortable. Almost all the county roads were gravel and ours was no exception. These roads were narrow and one might stay one lane as you pulled over to the right only when you met someone and they did likewise. You had to slow down because the loose gravel would build up in the center of the road. I don’t remember ever a car following that was going to attempt to pass as everyone traveled about the same rate of speed and if you got too close to the car in front of you, the dust choked and blinded you. Everyone was real courteous and friendly because most everyone was a friend or neighbor. We had a very good county highway system that was located in Danville. They were very punctual and used a road grader that was manned by an operator with one grader blade that would sit at an angle beneath the operator. He would make one pass down the road and then came back on the other side which would smooth the road for about two weeks. Well, Dr. Grimes finally made it, but not until he had to open the farm gate, drove into the pasture, got out, closed the gate, drove about half way up the lane, drove through a creek where the water was as high as the running boards and then continued up the lane. He left his drooling car and walked to the house through the yard gate, up the sidewalk and onto the porch steps with his black doctor’s bag and his hat in hand. This was a ‘house call.’

I am sure my mother was thankful that the weather cooperated because if we had a big rainstorm the night before, it would have involved another delay for the doctor. A storm always created a creek too deep to drive across. You then would leave your car on one side and walked the rest of the way over a little wooden footbridge with a handrail on the side. This was fine unless it rained so much and the creek went out of its bank and the footbridge came loose from its stakes and washed downstream. But, this was a good day and I was a patient baby. In those days if a doctor could not be there for the delivery, the mother had to rely on a mid-wife, a member of the family or Dad. Boy was I lucky! Thanks Doc!

After I arrived and heard all the celebrating, applauding, hugging, kissing, laughing and crying, I realized someone was crying besides me. I noticed it was my sister. Our older brother did not want to pass up the opportunity to tease her about this wrinkle faced baby. He said, “She looks just like you, Sis.” Sis said, “No she doesn’t, she looks just like you.” I thought no one wanted to claim me. They batted this back and forth a few times until Dad stepped in and said she looks just like Uncle Tad two generations ago from the Old World. With this, my brother got quiet and sister stopped crying. Everyone was quiet except for me and I was crying even harder and shaking my fists. Dad picked me up and asked what’s wrong (everybody does this right?) Now this is the first time for an audible answer. I told Dad I did not want to be like Uncle Tad from that Old World. I just wanted to be me. Just me. Don’t you see just me? My Dad had a great big smile on his face and my mother smiled as did the rest of the family especially me. It was wonderful and felt wonderful to see all of the smiles and if we could go through life and share a smile or a little laughter each day how great that would be.

I don’t think Dr. Grimes went that extra mile on that June day for just the joy of filing another notch on the handle of his doctor’s black bag, but because he had a hand into bringing someone new into this world and just maybe she could feel extra special.

My Dad paid the good doctor $5.00 and gave him a cured ham. Doc was happiest receiving the ham. Since then I have had some nice people say, “That’s nice, but your Dad got short changed!”

Ma Ma June

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dorothy June Lieske Helton

The anecdotes/stories that will be posted were written by my Mother, Dorothy June Lieske Helton. If Mother was still living, our family would have been celebrating her 80th birthday today. Mother known to many around our community as June or MaMa June was an unforgettable woman. I miss her every single day since her death on April 20, 2004. Her death left a huge hole in my heart which is still mending day by day. Every day I wish I could hear the telephone ring with Mother's beautiful voice on the other end telling me about her day, what she had to eat and checking on her chicks if the weather was bad. My brothers and I were truly blessed to have such wonderful loving parents. Our Dad worked hard to provide for us and Mother gave us unconditional love. It is through both of them that my brothers and I have been able to reach the top of our professional fields and have strength of character and love for others. Both of my parents had a hard childhood in that Dad's mother died when he was five and my grandfather did not feel that he could raise Dad and his sister so he asked his brother and his wife to raise them with their six children. Mother's mother died when she was nine years old, in fact she and her siblings found her dead at the bottom of the porch steps when they returned from school. My grandfather was loving and did the best he could with eight children and gave my Mother such strength and love but she still missed her Mother's love. How lucky I have been to experience such unconditional love from my Mother in that "I could do no wrong in my Mother's eyes and heart." Ma Ma June's loving daughter, Diana