Memories, Tales, and Finding Yourself

I am so thankful that Chad’s relatives take the time to write down their stories and share with the family. Aunt Carol is one of those women who appreciates the memories and the importance of preserving family history. In her words below, she remembers a much simpler time on Grandma and Grandpa Ruzgis’ farm:

Some of my best memories of Gramma R was how generous and hard working this amazing lady was, although we didn’t think of that then. I don’t ever remember her complaining, although she had a lot to complain about. When I would stay with her, she would let me sleep in bed with her, she and Grampa R were always up around 4 AM to milk cows. I got to sleep in. I loved it when they called for the ‘cows to come home’ late in the afternoon for 2nd milking… come boss, come boss…

They raised most of their own food… apples, vegetables and potatoes. After milking the cows, the milk was separated (milk from cream) in the separator room. One of my favorite cows was named “Daisy,” (all of the cows had names). They did not have a tractor when I was young, but farmed with big work horses. There was a hen house, the chickens roamed free around the farm. It was frightening when someone yelled ‘chicken hawk’, everyone ran. I didn’t know what Chicken Hawk was, and I didn’t stick around to find out; I immediately hid in the house. A time I didn’t like was when they butchered the pigs. I’ll never forget the scream. They would slit the throat of the hog and drain the blood for blood sausage. Uck! A delicacy was the head cheese they made from some unknown part of the pig.

When we visited the farm, most slept upstairs. There was no inside bathroom facilities, we always had a pot we carried upstairs, then emptied in the morning. I remember my mom and aunts sleeping in the front bedroom, giggling all night long.

I loved going on grocery shopping trips with Gramma R in Scottville. She always bought me candy. I yearned for a used Brownie Kodak Camera I saw in a store window. She bought it for me after a lot of whining on my part.. We often stopped at Johnny’s Tavern in Custer. Gramma R would drink a glass or 2 of beer. Mom, and usually Aunt Rae and/or Aunt Phyllis were with us (someone had to drive). Johnny eventually built a larger bar and roller rink on the north side of US 10 farther to the west, but still in Custer. Gramma always wore a babushka on her head. I wish I had one of her babushkas, and I wish I had her old crocheted sweater vest, it was dark green with some orange trim. Always worn to town or church.

Gramma & Grampa R’s English was very broken and both were difficult to understand. They called me Kedala instead of Carol. It was so exciting when the cousins (Joyce, Janice & JoLynn) came over and we’d play in the woods & creek across from the farm. Karen & Ron Evanauskis were occasional visitors too with their parents, Johnny & Doris. On holidays, Gramma R would make her kuguli, yummy! She let me drink coffee brewed on the wood stove, and she always let me add lots of sugar. Unfortunately, I still do.

Grampa Ruzigs had asthma very bad. At night, he used to sit in the dark at the kitchen table and snuff some black stuff off the top of the can lid. He wasn’t very patient with us young kids, thought we were too noisy. Mike & Jerry used to give him a lot of grief. He was a very hard worker, never drove, always walked or hitchhiked to work in Ludington. Life was very difficult in those days. I wonder what kind of person he and Gramma would be today. I can’t imagine leaving your home and family and coming to a strange country where you could not even speak the language. Especially difficult when they had to leave a daughter behind in Lithuania, always planning to send for her, but the money was never there. Gramma never spoke of her.

I was thinking about the fall/winter holidays coming up and all the opportunities for family time. These large, delicious meals and gatherings are the perfect opportunity to hear old stories and learn about those people who still live through you. Thanks for reading!

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