Newsletter - September 2006


Burlington Historian

September 2006

Annual Meeting To Be October 8, 2006

The Burlington Historical Society’s 2006 annual meeting will be held at the Museum on Sunday, October 8, at 1:30 p.m. All members are invited to attend. The business meeting will include a summary of the year’s activities, a preview of planned activities, and the election of four members to the Board of Directors. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics of interest to the members.

Directors whose terms of office expire this year are Judy Stone, Ray Ziebell, Patricia Crowley, and Marilee Hoffman. The latter two were recently appointed to the Board to replace long-time Directors Carlyne Klein and Marjory Ann Peterson.

A program for members, as well as the public, had not been decided on at the time this newsletter was finalized. Watch local newspapers for an announcement of the program.

Society's Photo of Rural Mail Carrier Popular

The Society's photograph of Fred Martin with his horse-drawn mail wagon, which is posted on our website with an article on the beginning of rural mail delivery in the Burlington area in 1904, has turned out to be very popular. The May-June 2006 issue of Driving Digest used the photo in conjunction with an article on rural mail delivery. Alabama Heritage magazine plans to use the photo in an upcoming issue.

Those who have visited Burlington's Pick 'n Save store may recall seeing the photo among those on the store's inside walls.

Martin was one of Burlington's first six rural mail carriers. His route - No. 21 - was about 25 miles long and covered an area of about 18 square miles. He delivered mail in parts of Lyons, Spring Prairie, Burlington, Bloomfield, and Wheatland townships. There were 110 houses on his route, and he served a population of 550.

President’s Message

Labor Day is just around the corner and soon autumn will be upon us. Our summer has been hot and humid and I for one will not be sad to see it end. My favorite season has always been autumn with frosty mornings, apple orchards laden with crisp fruit, and a beautiful mantle of color upon the foliage of our woodlands. A treasured remembrance of mine is farm fields littered with orange pumpkins, which soon would be carved to sit in windows and on porches to greet the sure-to-come trick or treat children. Autumn will be welcome.

Our annual Ice Cream Social held at the end of July was again a success although the weather was unusually hot. My thanks go out to all the volunteers who showed up and worked regardless of the heat, to make the event worthwhile. My thanks also to Jeff Kramer - the Banjo Man - and his fellow musician who delighted all the many people who came to sample the goodies and to visit Pioneer Cabin. Speaking of the Cabin, thanks also to the docents who handled cabin duties during Maxwell Street Days and to all the docents who do such a great job greeting and informing those who visit Pioneer Cabin.

The Master Gardeners of Racine County and members of the Burlington Garden Club have contributed many hours of care to the Vintage Garden at Pioneer Cabin and the Legacy Garden alongside our Museum. Their efforts have been widely appreciated and well noted as we continue to receive numerous compliments on the appearance and tidiness of the gardens.

At our next Board of Directors meeting, we will be deciding on the dates for our programs and events in 2007. This information will be supplied to the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce for use in their publications. Thanks to all our members who support our mission with their donations and memberships, which are sincerely appreciated.

            Doug Lind

Where Burlington Men Went in 1881

                        —The Standard, Dec. 10,1881

From time immemorial, so far back that "the memory of man runneth not to the contrary," mankind have indulged in amusement. Many people have had their national games--as the Greeks for instance. Socrates was wise, but he couldn't play pedro. There is no historical allusion to the fact that Dionysius, Philip of Macedon or Themistocles, could unflinchingly hold a full hand, and, in the sweat of their brow, win the golden guilders in a social game of three-card monte.

Burlington is not behind any of these old nations. It has one sport, in which even professional men, as well as men of all trades, join heart and soul. When the brilliant glare of kerosene-lit windows illumines the darkness, you may see them sallying out, and hastening toward a long, low ominous looking building on Dodge street. Let us enter. A long, level stretch of flooring; a lot of spherical objects; a group of enthusiastic individuals; a number of upright wooden pillars; a trough--and that is all. This is the Burlington Bowling Alley. Many a social evening is passed in this place, and very often somebody has the luck to make a run of 51--technically known as a "cocked hat."


While bowling may have been primarily a men's pasttime in 1881, women's bowling started in Burlington about 1918 and is still going strong. This 1949 Jackson's Drug Store team included (l to r) Wanda Hertel, Elizabeth Sennott, Edna Schneider, Mary Rice, and Florence Koch



Not the 1881 bowling alley on Dodge Street, but
the Palace Alleys on Pine Street in 1956


Hints to Housewives - 1863

                      -- Whitewater Register, December 18, 1863

As a general rule, it is most economical to buy the best article. The price is, of course, always a little higher; but good articles spend best. It is a sacrifice of money to buy poor flour, meal, sugar, molasses, butter, cheese, lard, &c., to say nothing of the injurious effect upon the health.

Refined sugar usually contains most of the sacahrine substance, therefore, there is probably more economy in using loaf, crushed and granulated sugars than we would at first suppose.

Butter that is made in September and October is best for winter use. Lard should be hard and white, and that which is taken from a hog not over a year old is best.

Rich cheese feels soft under the pressure of the fingers. That which is very strong is neither good nor healthy. To keep one that is cut, tie it up in a bag that will not admit flies, and hang it in a cool dry place. If mould appears on it, wipe it off with a dry cloth.

Flour and meal of all kinds should be kept in cool, dry places.

The best rice is large, and has a clear fresh look. Old rice sometimes has little black insects inside the kernels.

The small white sago, called pearl sago, is the best. The large brown kind has an earthy taste. These articles, and tapioca, ground rice, etc., should be kept covered.

The cracked cocoa is the best, but that which is put up in pound papers is often very good.

To select nutmegs, prick them with a pin. If they are good, the oil will instantly spread around the puncture.

Keep coffee by itself, as its odor affects other articles. Keep tea in a closed chest or canister.

Oranges and lemons keep best wrapped close in soft paper, and laid in a drawer of linen.

When a cask of molasses is bought, draw off a few quarts, else a fermentation, produced by moving it, will burst the cask.

Bread and cake should be kept in a tin or stone jar.

Soft soap should be kept in a dry place in the cellar, and should not be used till three months old. Bar soap should be cut into pieces of a convenient size, and laid where it will become dry. It is well to keep it several weeks before using it, as it spends fast when it is new.

Which of the above would still be pertinent today?

Grain Flailing
Flail - An instrument for threshing or beating grain from the ear by hand, consisting of a wooden handle at the end of which a stouter and shorter stick called a swiple or swingle is so hung as to swing freely
"When the snow finally did get too deep, and Gramp couldn't go out, he would do his flailing and clean up his grain.

He would sweep the barn floor, and put down what was called the flooring, a layer of rye or oats about a foot deep.

He would flail that. After it had been all threshed, it had to be shook up and turned over with a fork and flailed again.

Next he pitched off the straw, and then took his winnowing tray, which was a boxlike affair with hand holes on the sides and no end or top. He would take the grain in that and get a shaking motion to it that blew the chaff practically all out. To winnow beans he used to wait for a windy day, and take them out and pour them from one tub to another while the wind blew the dirt away. It saved a lot of work.

A flail is made of two parts. I guess there's people nowadays that haven't ever seen a flail. The handle is called the stave, and varies in length according to the fancy of the man who uses it. The swingel (sometimes you see it called swingle), the part that strikes the grain, is not more than two feet long. You change according to the grain you're threshing. For oats you use a heavy swingel; for beans you have to have a light one, because the heavy ones would crush the beans. The swingel is hinged loose to the stave. Sometimes this would be done with a wooden swivel, a thin splint bent into a bow and lashed on over the end of the swingel, and another bow lashed over the end of the stave. Those are unusual, though. The most prized fastening was an eelskin; if you couldn't get eelskin, it was woodchuck rawhide.

The swingel has to turn both ways because you strike both right and left. We always started striking left, two of us standing up side by side. I'd swing my stave over and bring the swingel down on the grain to the left, and Gramp would swing and bring his down about six inches from mine. Then I would bring my flail up over my left shoulder, and down to the right, and he would hit about six inches away again. You just keep your ears folded back and don't hit yourself in the head, and you're all right.

After we had gone the length of the barn floor once, we took forks, as I said before, and shook the flooring, and turned it over other side up, and flailed the other side. Then it was supposed to be all out. We would shake it up again, pitch the straw off, and sweep the oats to one side to be winnowed."

             Walter Needham, "A Book of Country Things," pp. 31-32.

A u t u m n  M e m o r i e s

Things That Go Bump in the Night

                    Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

One of my favorite seasons is fall -- nature's last hurrah before winter sets in. The month of October seems to combine all the wonderful things about fall in the space of only 31 days. You have Indian summer to look forward to with its warm days and cool nights. You have the beautiful fall leaves that make you just happy to be here. You also have days on end when it's gloomy and the rain comes down in buckets and you think the sun is never going to shine again. See - you have it all.

Fall also seems to energize people -- especially moms - it's the season of fall house cleaning -- who can forget that? Remember when mom would get out the buckets and rags and cleaning supplies? Every kid knew what that meant -- it meant at least a solid week of drudgery and no matter how nice it was outside, you knew you were going to be inside cleaning out drawers, washing woodwork, cleaning out cupboards, helping with the enormous amount of laundry that just seemed to come from nowhere, polishing furniture, washing windows and generally being "useful." Those were the days when you actually looked forward to going to school. School was tough but it wasn't like this. When you were finished, everything smelled so good and looked so nice that mom was determined to keep things looking good and shipshape all the time. We always got the same lecture -- "Now that everything is clean and in order, I don't want to see that kind of a mess again! Everyone is just going to have to pitch in and do their share." Of course you know what happened -- that was good for a while but it didn't last. In the spring we started the process all over again with spring housecleaning. It never ended!

After the housecleaning was done we had one wonderful thing to look forward to -- Halloween! This was a favorite holiday with all kids, big and little. What other holiday do you have where you get to go door to door dressed up in a silly costume and get candy and goodies from all your neighbors? It was a dream come true. The flip side of candy and costumes was the scary part of Halloween. I think in every little town there is always one house that must be haunted and at least one little old lady that is scary and she just must be a witch. Lyons was no exception -- we had Miss Carey.

Miss Carey was a very scary looking individual. She seemed to look right through kids, right into their very souls and she could tell if you were a mischief-maker or not. You just knew she wouldn't tolerate any sass from kids. Most of the time she looked like she had just swallowed a very sour pickle and she didn't seem to approve of much of anything, especially kids. She was a rather short, stout lady with a very stern, unsmiling face. She lived with her mother in a small white house around the corner from us. Her outhouse got tipped over every year on Halloween by some of the big kids. I can honestly say we never did that -- she scared us too much.

If mom sent me on an errand to the store, I would run past her house so she couldn't stop me to ask questions. Every once in a while she would stop me in my headlong flight past her house. "Young lady, how is your mother?" "Have you been behaving?" "Do you help your mother around the house?" "Do you get good grades in school?" "Are your brother and sister being good?" The questions went on forever. There I stood looking everywhere but at her, my heart pounding so loudly I thought everyone could here it, shifting from one foot to the other, desperately wishing I was anywhere but there. Finally when I thought it would never end, she would let me go with a warning, "Now behave yourself young lady, don't get into any mischief, I'll know if you do." By this time I would be so rattled I couldn't remember if I was going to the store or coming home from the store. I would go home and tell mom and her only comment was that she certainly hoped I had been nice to her and didn't talk sassy. I couldn't believe it, me sassy to Miss Carey? The woman scared me pea green, I didn't have it in me to be sassy to her, I could barely speak or breathe or think when I was around her. All normal brain functions ceased. What was mom thinking?

On Trick or Treat night mom would get us all dressed up. Our costumes were never very fancy, sometimes we would be hobos, dad would put burned cork on our faces to darken them and we always had a couple of his red handkerchiefs pinned on us somewhere. Of course we had to carry our little bundles tied to a stick on our shoulders and wear big old bib overalls and an old flannel shirt. It was great! They would send us out on that dark and spooky night with admonishments ringing in our ears, "Be careful!" "Stick together." "Don't be greedy." "Remember to say thank-you." "Priscilla you're the oldest, take care of the twins." (Like I hadn't heard that one before!) "Be careful crossing the street." Honestly if more than 3 cars went past the house during the day it was a traffic jam; and at night except for the downtown area we never saw anyone. We saw more dogs and kids than we did cars.

Remember what that was like -- Trick or Treating at night? There was something magical about that. This was before razor blades in apples, before tainted candy, before you had to worry about whether the treats were wrapped candy from the store. This was when you could get homemade popcorn balls or caramel apples from the neighbors and not worry about what might be in them. Remember what it was like to be scared and excited and happy all at the same time. You never knew what would happen on Halloween. You had to be prepared for anything. We would traipse all over the village, collecting our goodies, meeting up with our friends and doing all the exciting things kids do. Then we would come to Miss Carey's house. We would stand out front and argue over whether we should knock on the door or not. My brother was all for doing it, my sister and I thought better of this idea. Usually we would spend 10 minutes arguing and eventually we would just slink quietly into the night and leave Miss Carey in peace. We just never quite had enough guts to knock on that door and holler "Trick or Treat." Who knew what she would do to us? We might disappear and never be seen again. She could tie us up and leave us to molder away in the basement. Who knew what lived down there? I, for one, wasn't taking any chances -- I wanted to live to see another day. And I knew if I lost the twins, my parents would never forgive me and I would be as good as dead anyway. I had to make sure all three of us got back home safely, so no Trick or Treat at Miss Carey's door.

What a great time we had. How much simpler and uncomplicated were those times. How much fun it is to remember the things we did and the good times we had. You will be surprised to know that I have some very fond memories of Miss Carey. The summer I graduated from 8th grade, I was doing an errand for my mom that took me past Miss Carey's house. By this time Miss Carey's mother had passed away and she lived there by herself. She had aged a little over the years but was still a very commanding figure. It was as if she had been lying in wait for me because the minute I was in front of her house, there she was waiting for me. I didn't know what was coming -- I frantically tried to review our activities for the last couple of weeks, trying to remember if we had done anything we shouldn't have -- I couldn't think of a thing. What could she possibly want? This time she called me by name -- she had never done that before -- oh boy, we must have really done something awful! I always say you have to be prepared for the surprises that life hands you because you never know what's around the corner. We weren't in trouble for anything! How on earth did that happen? She wanted to congratulate me on my recent graduation from 8th grade and she wished me success in high school. She also had a small gift and a card for me from her to mark the occasion. She told me to continue to be the well-behaved girl I was and told me how happy she was to have such well-behaved children as her neighbors. I think I must have stopped breathing altogether -- I couldn't believe it! I think I remembered to thank her and walked away -- stunned at what had just taken place.

I recovered from the shock of Miss Carey turning out to be a pretty nice old lady and moved on to high school. Through the years I would see her out and about the village, shopping or at the post office, she always said hello but she kept pretty much to herself as she always had. We moved away from Lyons at the end of my senior year in high school and I remember reading some years later that Miss Carey had passed away. It turned out that she had been a teacher in the Chicago School District for many years. She really did know how to read a kid's soul and tell if they were mischief-makers or not. We were right about that but wrong about a few other things. I don't think I will ever forget her or the lesson I learned -- it's true you can't judge people by how they look -- you have to get to know them and appreciate them for who and what they are. How exciting this makes life -- to never know what's around that next corner or who you are next going to meet and how they will affect you and your outlook on life. Life is such an adventure, how can you resist taking part to the fullest? Remember to enjoy and appreciate!