Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hard-Working Mom Used Savvy to Stretch Family's Tiny Budget

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hard-Working Mom Used Savvy to Stretch Family's Tiny Budget

Article excerpt

My mom never threw anything away. She found other uses for everything.

In the 1940s, when we were a family of 11 kids going on 12, her saving ways proved practical for keeping us comfortable, despite the fact that we were among the poorest families in the neighborhood. It also was our contribution to the war effort.

We lived in a relatively isolated hillside section of Lawrenceville. Except for city steps up the hillside, the only way in or out of the neighborhood was a steep, cobblestone road that was often impassable in winter.

Mom's improvising began in the kitchen where, for instance, she made several meals from one chuck roast, turkey or ham, with the bones used for soup. When we ran out of stuff for sandwiches, we would have tomato sandwiches, the juice softening the four-day-old bread we bought for a penny a loaf at a local bakery. One of her favorites was rolled oats, which she thinned with sugared water for breakfast and thickened with extra flour for cookies.

Economies of all kinds became our daily routine. It was cold in our drafty, wood-frame house. Old newspapers and rags were stuffed into the seams and spaces around the doors and windows to help keep out some of the cold. At night, the wind whistled through the cracks and crevices of the house, making the creepiest sounds.

Water for wash day and for Saturday evening baths in the washtub had to be heated on the cast-iron kitchen stove. There was no working hot water heater, so warm had to do. Mom washed everything that wasn't white in her old Gainaday appliance with a hand- operated wringer, using as little soap as possible. For heavier clothes she used bar soap and the scrubbing board.

In the empty lot beside us, clothes lines were strung between the house and makeshift posts. The heavier, harder-to-clean clothes got extra time hanging out on the lines. In winter, we got the clothes back freeze-dried.

Our clothes were passed on down the line. Shirts, dresses, pants, coats, sweaters and socks that had seen better days were mended. Shoes with holes got cardboard insoles. Mom spent many a night mending or sewing on her foot-operated machine. …

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