By Anne Hartshorne Allen
In this Tale of Blawenburg, Anne Allen remembers what it was like growing up in Blawenburg in the 1960s.
I moved with my family, my father, two siblings, and pregnant mother to Blawenburg in 1960. So different from Brooklyn, this little town presented a wondrous new world. While our home was cozy and warm, there was so much to discover about our new surroundings.
The main sidewalk in Blawenburg started at a bustling corner at Route 518 and Great Road and clung to one side of the road for eight or nine houses down to the church, where it disappeared into the lawn of the parsonage house. It was dirt, nothing fancy, and it worked fine through snow, sleet, mud, and dry spells.
People in Blawenburg came from all walks of life. Many fathers were farmers. My father was an editor, another father was a psychiatrist who worked down at the Neuropsychiatric Institute. Other dads were cops, janitors, and professors. As I recall, we were like many small hamlets where people of all classes lived next to each other. They all took good care of their modest houses, went to work, came home, and were around on the weekends. Just about each house had a family, so there was a plethora of children our ages to play with. We all went to school together.
Anne Hartshorne Allen gets ready to blow out the eight candles on her birthday cake, which is held by her mother, Val Hartshorne. Mrs. Elizabeth Brewer, Anne’s surrogate grandmother, looks on.
I discovered Elizabeth and Fred Brewer when I was probably seven or eight years old. They lived across the road from us in a farmhouse that housed two different farm families. Everyone shared spaces in those days; they didn’t think a thing about it.
Fred managed the big, white cow barn that was directly behind their farmhouse. There must have been thirty Guernseys, reliable and gentle dairy cows he would milk several times a day. And there were plenty of stalls for their calves, whose tongues were rough and moist when I would offer them my hands to suck on. I loved the smells of that barn–the grain, hay, and sweat of large, calm animals chewing their cud.
Fred and Elizabeth had the first colored TV set I had ever seen, and I used to lie on my belly in front of the TV with Fred and Elizabeth behind me. We would watch Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color together. One of the things I loved about being a child in their living room was that I had nothing to fear there. I felt safe, comfortable, and understood. I think they enjoyed having me there as much as I enjoyed being with them.
Elizabeth’s kitchen was vast, at least to my eyes. There was plenty of room to spread out all the chocolate chip cookie ingredients, and step-by-step we would measure, mix, and then spoon out the dough. I loved to lick the spoon. We would load the hot oven with trays of tasty treats, which would be ready in just minutes. Slowly, the kitchen would fill with the smell of rich, melting chocolate that added to the feeling of belonging and comfort that I felt in that house.
Elizabeth’s plant specialty was African Violets, and her large farmhouse window sills were loaded with little pots of furry-leaved, lavender and purple flowered plants, which we gently attended to weekly. We watered and dead-headed the violets to keep the little beauties alive and healthy. Elizabeth was a perfect teacher, giving calm and gentle instruction for whatever the project might be. I remember learning so much from her because of her nature.
Elizabeth was one of our favorite babysitters, because she had become a surrogate mother and grandmother to me. We didn’t misbehave when she was in charge because we didn’t need to. She knew how to manage children in the simplest of ways, and we children knew that.
Over time, Mrs. Brewer began to give us Christmas presents. They were nice and simple gifts, and we always showed our appreciation for her kindness–except one Christmas! She gave my little sister a fish puzzle. For some reason that I am still unclear about, Caroline simply did not like the puzzle. Instead of being gracious and appreciative, she fell into a fit of rage. She threw the puzzle into the corner of the room and then proceeded to run over to it and stomp on it, sealing her disapproval. I don’t remember what my mother did, but I remember thinking that the child must be punished. At the time I was nine, and Caroline was an adorable two-year-old.
Nat Hartshorne takes his daughter Caroline, the puzzle stomper, for a bike ride.
My best friend and I had our own sense of right and wrong and loved being in charge. Days after the horrible fish puzzle incident, Caroline, my friend, and I were upstairs in my house. We reminded Caroline of the rude way she had treated Mrs. Brewer and told her to go into my parents’ bedroom, sit in the empty laundry basket, and “think about it.” As younger siblings will do, she complied and sat in the basket. We closed the door and kept an eye on her through the peephole in the door. The poor thing did as we had told her and sat in the cramped basket for a few minutes. Tiring of the position, she started to get out of the basket, and we barged in to ask her what she thought she was doing. She got back in the basket to stay a while longer, “thinking about it.” We kept her there until we felt that she had learned her lesson.
We still laugh about the fish puzzle to this day, and I treasure those times when things were much simpler. Older children disciplined the younger ones, townspeople walked on dirt paths, and farmer fathers pulled out of their driveways on their tractors heading for another day in the fields.
Anne Hartshorne pumps gas at the corner gas station on the northeast corner of Route 518 and Route 601. Note the farmland above the car on the right where Cherry Valley is today.
The Blawenburg gang in the late 60s/early 70s.
L-R: Wendy Chapman, Lisa Rose, Caroline Hartshorne, Unknown, Unknown, Jane Pillar, Reed Chapman, Sarah Williams, Max Hartshorne, Cal Lovering
Puppies arrived in April,1972
L-R: Reed Chapman, Caroline Hartshorne, Cynthia Tregoe, Stacy (Calvin) Lovering, and Max Hartshorne
The girls sing by candlelight.
L-R: Wendy Chapman, Margaret Rose, Caroline Hartshorne, Lisa Rose, and Debbie Chapman
The contents of this blog were provided by Anne Allen.
Caroline Bush, Anne's sister, provided pictures.
Copyright © 2021 by David Cochran. All rights reserved.