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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter - Morrellville Style

The Hanzel Sisters - Clara Pnykala, Dorothy Kinnel and Helen Lenz
As kids, our job during holiday visits to my great-grandmother Hanzel's house on Stackhouse Street in Morrellville would be to make "highballs (Slo Gin Fizz)" for all the Aunts - they would spend the rest of the afternoon giggling on the couch - just having the best time - trying to keep their false teeth from falling out. All the men walked around with pony bottles of beer. And for us kids, the best pop I have ever had, or will ever have in my life...Ice Cold bottles of 6 oz Cokes from an old Ice Box that sat on the floor in the sun porch. You would put the empties back in the long wooden case, so that you could get a refund when taking the bottles back to the store.
My great-grandmother Mary (Stofko) Hanzel 1894 - 1978
They say that smell of all the senses triggers more memories than anything else - for me then, holiday time at great-grandma Hanzel's house meant all the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen and her chicken soup. I remember once, watching her cut noodles for soup. It was almost magical the way her hands moved so fast, I still don't know how she didn't cut any of her fingers off! People sat down to eat in shifts, since there were so many of us gathered together. As kids, we'd eat towards the end - the chicken broth with noodles in a large white tureen with a chip in the handle sitting on the table, with the chicken, carrots and potatoes in a separate serving dish of the same white china. Then came the ham, pigs in the blanket, horseradish, cidek, pickled eggs and beets, potato salad and the paska bread. The soup bowls were used only during holidays and came out of the china cupboard - they were white with a red trim all around the edge and they sat on top of a regular dish for the rest of the goodies. If you wanted your soup to go it came in the best of containers - an old mayonaise jar wrapped up in a paper bag. 
Then for dessert - Glorified Rice:
1 cup cooked rice(not instant)
4 T Sugar
1-3oz pkg Cherry Jello
1 can crushed pineapple
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Cook rice. Drain well after rinsing. Drain pineapple and reserve the juice. Make jello as per directions, using pineapple juice in place of the cold water. When jello thickens, add rice and pineapple. Beat with mixer for 1 minute. Beat whipping cream and sugar until thick, fold into jello mixture. Keep refrigerated.
The Dining Room - Mary (Hanzel) Bobko, her two daughters - Janet and Karol and Dorothy (Hanzel) Kinnel
The Card Players
At the kitchen table was where all the rest were gathered playing cards. At times, they wouldn't even leave the table to eat - they'd sit there with their ham sandwiches playing the night away. As we kids would sit on the glider watching until were were either bored or an argument would break out on who should win the hand. That's when we'd all go down the cellar to play pool on the old bumper table for hours or hide in the cupboards upstairs. As a sort of "right of passage" was the day when you could sit at the table and play cards with the grownups...when one the guys would be bored and say "you want to learn how to play?". 
Grandma Hanzel surrounded by some of the grandchildren
 A visit to great-grandma Hanzel's  house on Stackhouse Street will always mean just one thing to me - for the rest of my life. Being accepted with no questions asked as a member of a close-knit family, since this is where I spent every Easter Sunday year after year - surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. Some years, it seemed like the house would be so full of people that it would be bursting at the seams. Even into the 1980's, people spent more time during the holidays visiting friends and family - since that's how you were raised. That's what I think is missing now a days - you can stay connected electronically 24/7. But it's the personal touch that has disappeared. God forbid, you might actually have to look someone in the eye instead of sending them a text or better yet....actually have to speak to them in person. Don't get me wrong - I love technology - without it - you wouldn't be reading this blog. But sometimes I do yearn for the days of rotary phones and party lines.....

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