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Little heathens : hard times and high spirits on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression
2007
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
History
Domestic
Topics
Great Depression
Economic depression
Hardship
Survival
Farm life
Family relationships
American history
Grandparents
Methodists
Fatherless families
Childhood memories
Setting
Iowa - Midwest (U.S.)
- Midwest (U.S.)
- United States
Time Period
1920s -- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Publishers Weekly Review

Kalish?s memoir of her Iowa childhood, set against the backdrop of the Depression, captures a vanished way of traditional living and a specific moment in American history in a story both illuminating and memorable. Kalish lived with her siblings, mother and grandparents-seven in all-both in a town home and, in warmer weather, out on a farm. The lifestyle was frugal in the extreme: "The only things [my grandparents] spent money on were tea, coffee, sugar, salt, white flour, cloth and kerosene." But in spite of the austere conditions, Kalish?s memories are mostly happy ones: keeping the farm and home going, caring for animals, cooking elaborate multi-course meals and washing the large family?s laundry once a week, by hand. Here, too, are stories of gossiping in the kitchen, digging a hole to China with the "Big Kids" and making head cheese at butchering time. Kalish skillfully rises above bitterness and sentiment, giving her memoir a clear-eyed narrative voice that puts to fine use a lifetime of careful observation: "Observing the abundance of life around us was just so naturally a part of our days on the farm that it became a habit." Simple, detailed and honest, this is a refreshing and informative read for anyone interested in the struggles of average Americans in the thick of the Great Depression. (May 29) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Summary
I tell of a time, a place, and a way of life long gone. For many years I have had the urge to describe that treasure trove, lest it vanish forever. So, partly in response to the basic human instinct to share feelings and experiences, and partly for the sheer joy and excitement of it all, I report on my early life. It was quite a romp. <br> <br> So begins Mildred Kalish's story of growing up on her grandparents' Iowa farm during the depths of the Great Depression. With her father banished from the household for mysterious transgressions, five-year-old Mildred and her family could easily have been overwhelmed by the challenge of simply trying to survive. This, however, is not a tale of suffering.<br> <br> Kalish counts herself among the lucky of that era. She had caring grandparents who possessed--and valiantly tried to impose--all the pioneer virtues of their forebears, teachers who inspired and befriended her, and a barnyard full of animals ready to be tamed and loved. She and her siblings and their cousins from the farm across the way played as hard as they worked, running barefoot through the fields, as free and wild as they dared.<br> <br> Filled with recipes and how-tos for everything from catching and skinning a rabbit to preparing homemade skin and hair beautifiers, apple cream pie, and the world's best head cheese (start by scrubbing the head of the pig until it is pink and clean), Little Heathens portrays a world of hardship and hard work tempered by simple rewards. There was the unsurpassed flavor of tender new dandelion greens harvested as soon as the snow melted; the taste of crystal clear marble-sized balls of honey robbed from a bumblebee nest; the sweet smell from the body of a lamb sleeping on sun-warmed grass; and the magical quality of oat shocking under the light of a full harvest moon.<br> <br> Little Heathens offers a loving but realistic portrait of a "hearty-handshake Methodist" family that gave its members a remarkable legacy of kinship, kindness, and remembered pleasures. Recounted in a luminous narrative filled with tenderness and humor, Kalish's memoir of her childhood shows how the right stuff can make even the bleakest of times seem like "quite a romp."
Table of Contents
Introduction
IThe Family
1Foregroundp. 11
2Great-Grandpa Jonathanp. 23
3Aunt Bellep. 30
4Thanksgivingp. 40
IIBuilding Character
5Oral Influencesp. 51
6Literary Influencesp. 63
7Religious Influencesp. 69
8Thriftp. 82
9Medicinep. 92
10Choresp. 104
11Farm Foodp. 117
12An Especially Pleasant Chorep. 144
13Water Windmillp. 148
14Milking and Other Nightly Choresp. 151
15Wash Dayp. 156
16Outhousesp. 162
IIIFall/Winter
17Country School: Monroe Number 6p. 169
18Box Socialp. 179
19Gathering Nutsp. 182
20Gathering Woodp. 191
21Winter Is Icumen In, Lhude Sing Goddamm!p. 196
22Town School: Garrisonp. 204
IVSpring/Summer
23Leisure Timep. 213
24Gardeningp. 224
25Spring in Yankee Grovep. 233
26May Basketsp. 243
27Birdsp. 246
28Animal Talesp. 250
29Raccoons and Other Crittersp. 259
Epilogue
30Mep. 269
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