Friday, September 17, 2010

Loraine Chase: Mother and Dad

Plainfield, Vermont, 1931.

Loraine grew up in Plainfield and moved to Randolph in 1952 after her husband accepted a job with the local feed store. The following is excerpted from "Mother and Dad," a tender portrait of a hardworking couple who turned a Depression-era family loan into a memorable mom-and-pop business. Loraine's recording of "Mother and Dad" is included in the exhibit now on view at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury.

I was born in Montpelier September 26, 1926, when mother was 26 years old. We lived in an upstairs apartment on Main Street in Montpelier in 1927 at the time of the flood. Dad was working for a furniture store on State Street. I was told mother panicked when the water kept rising up the stairs. She went across the hall to speak to an elderly tenant and he scolded her for being there without her baby. In due time, she saw Dad coming home in a boat.

From Montpelier, we moved to a little cottage in Barre. Dad was then working for Standard Oil. I attended kindergarten there. I have some memories of playmates living in back of us.

My brother was born five years younger than me. I have been told that when the landlord came to attend me when Mother went to the hospital, I was standing up in a chair by the counter and I told her I wanted to fix supper for Daddy.

We moved to Plainfield just before time for me to start first grade. We rented an apartment and Mother told me the woodwork was all painted blue and that was her mood there. Mother was always worried and I think Dad was an optimist. He borrowed money from my grandfather to start a service station. My grandfather regretted he had not loaned all his money, because he lost when the banks failed during the depression. Dad built a small building and it became our home and place of business—a Gulf service station. He built a garage with a grease pit where he sold tires and serviced cars. He had some previous training in Detroit.

I recall the black woodstove with reservoir and the metal tub that my brother and I took our baths in. The icebox was on the outside on a little porch. The milkman delivered milk to our front door early morning and the cardboard tops rose up high from the glass bottles in the winter.

Mother was a wonderful cook, and she made lots of homemade bread and most wonderful sticky buns. Her claim to fame was her brownies, which I think she sold two for five cents. People purchased them to send to their servicemen overseas during World War II. No package baking then. She also sewed with the treadle machine. She made me a winter coat and matching hat with a fur ball on the top.

Before I was in high school we had a nice house built there. That house had a nice sun porch. Mother turned that into a little ice cream parlor and sewed sandwiches and of course brownies. That grew and became a small convenience store.

Dad had a green thumb, and he made a rectangle picket fence with a trellis. He had beds of various flowers there near the road. He also had a hedge of cosmos that grew tall and full along the driveway by the house. He produced a vegetable garden and mother canned many preserves. My parents worked very hard seven days a week.

During the war, Dad went to work in the Windsor machine shop, and mother held the fort and pumped gas, which was then rationed.

My dad had some health problems, and he just passed out occasionally. Mother and us kids rubbed his arms and legs and he came around. The doctor never knew what his problem was, but in due time, I never knew of that happening. Eventually, they physically needed to sell the business.

New home.

Dad built a nice house in East Montpelier, where they lived for several years, and he tore down an old barn to build a very nice camp at Nelson Pond. It was next to the Chase camp. Happy families. Dad found the spring there which was used by some other campers.

After selling the East Montpelier home, they lived at camp in the summer and rented in Barre winters. Mother did housekeeping for some homes in Barre. They eventually rented an apartment back home in Plainfield.

My mother died at age 69 of heart failure. She was borderline sugar. Dad was alone for 10 years. He attended the Plainfield Senior Center and often took walks. He did very well to keep the spirit with a broken heart.
Mother and Dad.

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