Academic journal article Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

In Her Own Words: The Story of Alice Testrake

Academic journal article Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

In Her Own Words: The Story of Alice Testrake

Article excerpt

These stories were told by Alice Testrake at her home in Ripley, NY, in the winter of 2013-2014. Family members were sometimes present. The stories were collected and illustrated by Art Facilitator Valerie Walawender, MA, as part of Hospice of Chautauqua County's Art Enrichment Program.

My Early Years

Alice: I was born in Coder, PA, at my grandparents' place on May 20, 1924. Of course, I don't have memories of my first few years. I knew my grandparents. I had a great-grandmother I knew real well. We just called her Grandma. My great-grandmother was my dad's grandmother. We'd go to her house in the fall, just about every fall.

It was her birthday. She liked to eat. Everybody took a dish to pass. I think we had to go to Oil City. The sun was shining real nice one day. We were on her porch. I had an uncle. Uncle John. Someone had a magnifying glass. (While he slept) any one of the kids held a magnifying glass over his bottom. He got burnt. He was "hot"--a little bit perturbed. When we were young we didn't have all this--video games.... We had to make our own fun.

I had a sister older and a sister younger. I got my oldest sister in trouble when I was in high school. My uncle played football. The people in high school thought we were twins (my oldest sister and me). Virginia (my sister) didn't like it. One day the coach came up to me and asked me, "Where's your brother?" I told him that John was not my brother. He's that other Carnes girl's brother. She got mad because I had said Uncle John was her brother, not mine. So he got in trouble for not being in school. Uncle John was just two years older than we were.

Virginia was my oldest sister. Maxine was the youngest. There were three boys: Jim, Henry, and Bob. I was second. I just had a sister younger than me. My brother Bob is 10--11 years younger than me.

My grandfather, their name was McAfoos. He was my mother's father. He liked to go hunting. He'd go hunting on his deathbed, I think. He chewed tobacco.

Paula (Alice's daughter-in-law): That's why they called him "Tobacco Juice." Ron used to tell me that.

Alice: My grandfather always made our skis for us in the winter. We had dozens of cousins. He made a sled for us. There was a "crick" just down below the house. He always had a swimming hole. He'd clean it out to make the swimming hole.

He was a farmer. Back then they grew wheat, hay, corn, and oats to feed the animals. They had two horses. Sometimes they had three or four cows. They had pigs, chickens. Cats were in the barn. For some reason, they never had a dog.

Walter and Loretta, my aunt and uncle, never had a dog either. They'd let the horses out. There was a watering trough in the woods. You'd let the horses out. They'd have to go as far in the woods for the watering trough, as far as Myra's, the first house up the road. They'd go out and drink and come back. Nobody went with them. The cows, they'd always have to have somebody with them. You'd put a rope on them and lead them out. The watering trough never froze in the winter. The crick always froze in the winter.

My grandmother's name was Louisa Hice. My grandmother always wore an apron. She'd always say, "If your nose is clean, you can come in." One day the pastor came. She never looked. She was busy. It didn't bother her. She was surprised it was the preacher.

She was right out with the boys. She made things for Halloween. Coder School was, half of it was my relations. She made a list of things you had to hunt for the scavenger hunt for Halloween. She made cookies for Christmas. We had cookies galore. Molasses. Sugar.

When it came to butchering, she'd help butcher the pig. They made their homemade whatever. They called it liverwurst then. You could have it in a sandwich. You could just have it on a plate. I don't know what it was made of, but it was delicious.

Paula: Your grandma was Louisa. …

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