December 1990

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at Bancroft Lake Farm


Vi Gunderman

When I was a little girl, I lived with my grandparents on their farm between Savona and Sonora, near Bath. It was called Bancroft Lake Farm then, but is known as Round Lake Farm now.

My mother died at the time I was born, and I was the only child in the household. Christmas was a memorable treat for me, because my father and my cousins came that day. Grandmother Bancroft's relatives came by horse and buggy, from Bradford, Savona, and Bath.

We always had a Christmas tree. Grandfather and I went out into our woods the week before Christmas and found a tree. Grandmother decorated it with popcorn and tinsel and a special silvery angel that always went on the top of the tree. A friend of my father had brought us two large glass balls from New York City and they had a place of honor on the tree.

On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, I got my present from Grandmother—always practical clothing—usually long underwear, wool, of course. One Christmas a friend of my father, Jim Armstrong, brought me a lovely porcelain doll, with beautiful blond curls, from New York City. Her eyes opened and closed. I was allowed to play with her only on holidays and Sundays.

My everyday doll was reversible. She had two heads, one at each end of her body. When the doll's skirt was one way she was my black Aunt Jemima doll, and when the doll's skirt was flipped the other way she was a white-faced doll.

For Christmas Day the dining room was made larger with the double sliding doors between it and the living room opened wide. A dozen or more adults ate at the big table, but we six or eight children ate in the kitchen with one adult to keep order. At times, we became so excited and unruly that the supervising aunt would call in Grandfather Bancroft. He was a Justice of the Peace and was a member of the Bath Town Board. One look from Grandmother Bancroft could calm me right down. Children, when I was six years old, were supposed to be seen and not heard.

The dinner was one of the highlights of the day. Turkey with cranberry sauce was, of course, the center of the meal, turkey home grown by Uncle Jim Hewey. Desserts, too, were lavish. There was pumpkin pie, apple pie, and strawberry short cake made from Grandmother Bancroft's canned strawberries. We children drank milk; the adults drank tea or coffee.

There were dishes of ribbon candy and of hard candy balls set out to eat. Grandfather bought the candy in Bath from the Messerschmidt Candy Company.

After the dishes were cleared away from the dinner table, we children were allowed to play quietly at one end of the dining room, or we played outside if the weather was good.

In the evening we ate the left overs from the Christmas dinner, and then, Grandmother played the organ for singing.

There were two big guest rooms for those who were too far away to go home Christmas night.

© 1990, Vi Gunderman
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