After the Flood

It was August of 1955 when a hurricane brought the Great Flood which caused the Lockatong Creek to overflow as the Delaware River, fully four miles to the west, rose forty feet  and flooded its banks.   What had been a slow running creek, at its widest point twenty feet and three feet at the very deepest, became a half-mile across and ten feet deep.

Water came fast and furious, flooding the chicken coops and went down into the cellar of the house.   We had fifty fully filled crates of eggs (a crate holds thirty dozen eggs) that had to be thrown out.   All the chickens drowned.  Mama and Papa had to walk away from the farm.     

This was the beginning of the end of Mama as a farm lady. 

It was not much later that Papa and she moved to Dunellen, New Jersey and Papa opened a shoe store called Klik Shoes on Highway 22.  He bought closeouts and Mama became a shoe saleslady!

Gone was the hearty cooking—gone was the Purina Feedbag Apron Lady.  The conversion was swift, and overnight her mannerisms changed.  She became a glib talker and the customers crowded to her.  It was especially with foreigners that she wove her spell.  As she fitted the shoes, she spun stories about the old country and the farm—they loved it, and her.

Besides the change in her clothing, she had a definite change in her diet and cooking for Papa.  While he still craved the hearty meat and potatoes, Mama became a “nutrition freak.” Papa never saw a potato that he didn’t like.  His favorite was a hearty potato soup laden with flanken (flank/ribs of the cow). 

When she was in the apartment, she saw the cooking shows and subscribed to every nutrition magazine she learned about.  Her vocabulary included all the long nutritional terminology, pronounced with her still heavy Polish accent.  While I had studied poultry and animal nutrition at Rutgers University, her updated nutritional terminology far surpassed mine.

Often I asked her, “Mama, where did you learn that and what authority said it?” Invariably she spouted a litany of jargon and names until I stopped her and caved in. 

The most bizarre of all was her “addiction” to those “vitamin pills” How many vitamins can there be! Mama always came up with a new one or element that so-and-so said is essential.  What had been Mama’s medicine chest of remedies on the farm became her shelf of bottles filled with nutritional musts.

These weren’t the only changes in Mama.  Her clothing was now up-to-date.  She still kept her thrifty ways, but Mama became an even shrewder shopper and her closet filled with clothes was “chic and smart”.  This was the final change in Mama’s becoming a “City Lady” and casting off her labor-laden days caring for chickens, roomers, and boarders.