Sunday, June 21, 2015

Grandma's kitchen at Windham Historical Society Museum - By Walter Lunt

Step back in time by stepping in to a kitchen of the early to mid-20th century. The Windham Historical Society has re-created the indisputable domain of grandmothers and great grandmothers, minus only the sweet smell of bread baking, bacon sizzling or soups boiling, mingled with the smoky scent of the wood burning stove.
Windham’s Early Kitchen, a new display at the society’s Town House Museum, features a vintage cook stove, a Glenwood ice box, slate sink and dozens of cooking and serving aids and utensils from days gone by when electricity was a luxury and food was prepared by loving hands.

The wood-fired American Magic-Chef cook stove, off-white with soft green trim, was a familiar and popular fixture of the early modern kitchen. The overhanging warming ovens would keep brown bread hot until the baked beans were served from a steaming brown and white pot. A cast iron skillet, which once fried fish filets and eggs, sits over round stove lids, fiery hot from the burning hardwood sticks below. Hugging the oven on the opposite side is a water chamber, an early version of running hot water. Close by, a wood-encased Glenwood ice box, no longer crammed with slowly melting ice blocks. History reveals it was replaced in a Windham household by an electric refrigerator in 1939. 

In many households, Monday was washday using a metal wash tub and wash board and a hand crank wringer. An early Windham diary reveals judgmental neighbors. Out for a walk and gazing at the clothes line next door, a homemaker notes the lack of bright whites. Apparently, as the exhibits shows, a prudent homemaker used Sawyer’s Liquid Crystal Blue “for whiter whites.”

The pantry, lined with red and white checkered shelf paper, harkens back to days of home-made apple sauce, jam and canned goods. The silver plated tea set would be a show-off possession, displayed prominently on a high shelf, saved for use on special occasions.
The center display is a kitchen table, “set” with a colorful table cloth and knives, forks and spoons beside the dinner plates, properly placed and ready for the traditional evening meal for the whole family that would share in discussions and news of the day.

Dozens more early kitchen cooking aids and utensils complete the exhibit: Canister sets, potato ricer, red and white enamelware, food grinder, soap saver, soapstone and much more.

Windham’s Early Kitchen remains on display through fall. Summer hours at the museum near Windham center are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., and some Saturdays. Call ahead.


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