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Even the Hired Help Was Waited On

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A STRAY news item tells me a museum about dogs has been installed in the renovated servants' quarters of a former farmstead just outside Berlin. As the recognized authority on former Yankee farmsteads, I shall comment on this Teutonic adaptation - without any wisecracks about going to the dogs. We, on the ancient New England rocky acres, did not have servants except in the whimsicalities of the ancestors, said whimsicalities being unlikely to find rapport with modern-day suburbanites of Berlin.

Grandmother, for instance, would sit at the dinner table in complete exhaustion after having prepared the menu for a family of 10 - home-grown pork chops, mashed potatoes, fresh bread, creamed carrots, beets, squash, green beans, turnip, pickles (sweet and sour), conserve, stewed onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, apple dumplings with maple syrup, applesauce, apple tarts, apple jelly, mince pie, and cry-baby cookies. Grandmother took some happy composure from hearing her family eat, so she would dawdle with he r plate knowing her destiny was secure and she was earning her keep and appreciated. When the hired girl (who always sat at table) asked for more potatoes, Grandmother would rouse and serve her.

Then, ha-ha-ha, Grandfather would wipe his sated lips with his big, blue bandanna and jollify the congregation by saying, "That was good! Now, call in the servants to do the dishes!"

Grandmother always got a smile out of that, and after she finished the dishes she would begin to prepare supper.

I suppose no Prussian Torfbauer is going to believe that our hired girl sat at table with us - or the hired man. Or that Grandmother cooked for them, too. Servants' quarters? We didn't have butler and upstairs maids, coachmen and game keepers. We had, instead, three kinds of nonfamily assistance that lived with us.

First, state children. Not every family took them; they were wards of the state and a family had to pass inspection before getting any. The government paid, but not much, for their board and room and "instruction." They were expected to appreciate their good fortune and help with small chores. It was the way things were.


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