Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “life in big families”

A “Little Bobby” Story from My Childhood in Vineland, NJ

BlogEverday[1]Blog Every Day in May. Prompt Number 18: Tell a story from your childhood.

I posted about Mom, Ellen Mason Carlton Kroelinger, and our life in our big chaotic household with ten kids and two adults for Mother’s Day. We also had one or two dogs, a dozen cats, and a wacky duck to add to the confusion. You can read that background to this story here in “Missing My Mom.”

We kiddos all have funny memories of growing up on Brewster Road in Vineland, New Jersey. One story in particular surfaces at almost every family reunion: The Ten Siblings and The Incredible Disappearing-Sticky-Cinnamon-Bun Story.

With ten children and two adults eating at every meal, Mom had to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Though the kids helped in turn, she still prepared the bulk of the meals. For dinner, Mom had to cook a dozen of everything: twelve ears of corn, twelve potatoes, twelve pork chops, twelve big meatballs, or twelve whatever happened to be on the menu that night.

Mom didn’t have to bake bread though, because our old reliable Palmonari Bakery delivery truck came by every afternoon to dropsticky-buns-lg off giant loaves of crusty Italian bread. We all loved to go out and check out the goodies that Joe, the driver, had tucked in a long pull-out drawer in the back of the Palmonari truck. Sometimes he had crumb buns (yum), and sometimes he had sticky cinnamon buns (double yum).

Joe was always full of news of the neighborhood, and since we were near the end of his run, he often had a few minutes to chat. The problem was that sometimes his goody drawer was empty when he came to our house.

On our luckiest days we got cinnamon buns.

How many cinnamon buns are in a dozen? Twelve?

Nope. Thirteen. Palmonari’s sold a “Baker’s Dozen” which has thirteen delectable sticky cinnamon buns.

Little Bobby, the darling of the family.

Little Bobby, the darling of the family.

Do you get the picture? Twelve family members eat their allotted cinnamon bun, sitting around the twelve-person dining room table. One cinnamon bun remains on Mom’s big, white porcelain platter in the center of the table. Ten children with bottomless pits for stomachs stare at this incredible, delectable bun, their childish minds whirring at the speed of lightning, calculating how best to claim that last mouth-watering, caramelized-brown-sugar-pecan-nut-and-raisin-topped cinnamon bun before anyone else could get it.

There are conflicting reports on how this all came about, but everyone seems to agree that sweet little Bobby, the youngest sibling, Mom’s little darling, grabbed the bun and shoved it in his mouth before anyone could think of a more democratic way to handle the situation. And being the youngest, he was the most capable of getting away with this kind of self-centered assertiveness. First off, he was little, and second, he sat in the coveted, protected spot next to Mom at the end of the big table. Little Bobby could do no wrong in Mom’s eyes. Of course, Bobby was special in our eyes, too. And he was so clever that we all had to laugh at his high jinks. Oh well, who needed that cinnamon bun anyway?

The Last Meow

CAt Swag  cat and cat food bagIs it time to eat yet?   What? All I wanted was a little snack to tide me over until dinner time. No big deal. I can still eat my dinner.

I promise!

Meow for now.  =<^:^>=

Missing My Mom


Blog Every Day in May, Prompt 12.

What (or who) do you miss? (a person, a thing, a place, a time in your life)

May 12 was Mother’s Day, so a tribute to my mom is in order.

My mom, Ella Mason Carlton Kroelinger, was born in Saluda, Virginia on March 21, 1909. She passed away at the age of almost 92 in February, 2000, in Vineland, NJ. (Mom later changed her name to Ellen.)001 (4)

Mom grew up on a plantation in Virginia, but because of family health issues, the family moved to Southern New Jersey (Vineland) where the weather was supposedly not as hot and humid as in Virginia. (Wrong!) She had a eight siblings: Richard, Bob, Louise, Pearl, Annie, Inez, Virginia, and Minnie.

Carlton family in 1916

Carlton family in 1916

Grandmother Minnie E. Carlton feeding the chickens at Brewster Road and Vine Road.

Grandmother Minnie E. Carlton feeding the chickens at Brewster Road and Vine Road.

Mom's father, Richard Alvin Carlton, Sr. checking on the chickens at Brewster Road and Vine Road.

Grandfather, Richard Alvin Carlton, Sr., and his chickens.

Mom married Adam Emil Kroelinger, on November 7, 1928, and over the years, nine children joined the family (six girls, three boys): Joyce, Joan, Adam, Shirley, Beverley, Bill, Judith, Janice, and Robert. And since nine children made for an odd number, they added a foster child, Charles, making a round dozen in the family.

Times were tough economically in 1929, so the family lived with Daddy’s family on my grandfather’s farm for a while. In August of 1938, reportedly without telling my mother, my father bought a big, two-story, needs-a-lot-of-work house on Brewster Road, along with three acres of good farm land, for the whopping deposit of one dollar. The owner of the house, a widow named Martha Pennock, sold the property to my father for a total purchase price of $2301.00, a fortune in those days.

Over the years, the house grew to be a beautiful home, graced with forest-green shutters, a screened porch, and wide green-and-white striped awnings. Towering oaks and maple trees surrounded the house. Mom planted red and pink azaleas, lavender rhododendrons, cherry trees, and dogwood trees all around the yard. She loved her beautiful flowering yard and happily worked many hours in it, planting petunias, pansies, asters, and marigolds to keep the yard colorful. The kids, however, complained about how much grass had to be cut (a least an acre) and how hard it was to pull all those hoses and sprinklers out to water the lawn during the hot summer days.

The Kroelinger house on North Brewster Road, Vineland, NJ

The Kroelinger house on North Brewster Road, Vineland, NJ Photo: Joyce Kroelinger Ellis, 2000

Our huge vegetable garden out back supplied us with many a meal. I remember running out to the garden before dinner many times to gather lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and scallions for our really “Jersey-Fresh” evening salad. We all raved about Mom’s famous Italian dressing, but none of us can make it like she made it.

Mom kept busy during the summer canning and freezing crop after crop of tomatoes, green beans, lima beans, rhubarb, eggplant, corn, and peas. We all loved Mom’s southern fried zucchini, and we had this family favorite a lot during the summer. You know how prolific zucchini is!

Our neighbor, Mr. Cervini, had a peach orchard adjacent to our property, and out of self-defense and to keep us kids out of the orchard, he gave Mom a weekly basket of peaches in season. Summer desserts featured these delectable peaches sliced and sweetened with a dash of sugar, and on our lucky days, with a little vanilla ice cream. The strawberries in our own patch were excellent, too. We picked cherries off of Aunt Annie’s trees and plums off our own tree.

Our lives seemed to center around the long maple twelve-seater dining room table. With two pull-out leaf extensions, the table was always stretched to capacity. When company came, and they often did, the aunts and uncles commandeered the adult table, and the kids sat at a special kids’ table on one side of our huge dining room. These family get-togethers were the best. Aunts and uncles and cousins came from miles around. Mom cooked for days, and we always had a feast with food supplied from our garden and grandfather’s farm, as well as chicken or turkey from Uncle Bob’s farm.

The aunts and uncles gathered frequenly in the evening for coffee and news.

The aunts and uncles gathered frequently in the evening for coffee and news. (L to R: Virginia, Ellen, Inez, Minnie, Annie, Louise, Daddy, Uncle Bob-Uncle Ham to the kids) Here they are in the kitchen of the Carlton homestead on Brewster and Vine Roads in Vineland, NJ. Uncle Ham was always making us kids laugh.

I never saw my mother angry. When the kids acted up, she simply said, “Your father will be home soon.” And that was enough to straighten us out in a hurry.

Mom always called me “Nan,” and I never found out the story behind that nickname. I asked her once, and she couldn’t remember how that name came to be. Of course, my brothers had great fun with my nickname. “Nannygoat, Nannygoat” became the familiar taunt. But, haha, I got back at my brother Bill: “Billygoat, Billygoat.” We traded barbs until Mom made us stop with “Your father will be home soon” reminder.

Honestly, I don’t know how she managed to take care of all of us. It must have been like herding cats, each of us going full speed in a thousand different directions, all at the speed of light and at the highest decibel levels.

Family. Feasts. Fun. That’s how I remember Mom. She was a special lady, and we all miss her very much.

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