Grandma's Diaries: Toasted Chicken For Birthday


Grandpa’s birthday–his 77th–is May 2, so the family gathers for a celebration. Grandma fixes toasted chicken for the dinner. I looked through my cookbooks and even explored on the internet, but I could not find a recipe for this dish. If anyone has the recipe or knows it by another name, I would love to have a copy. Grandma is busy with her garden. You will notice she uses the moon signs to guide her different kinds of plantings. She would be happy to know that her great-grandson, who was born on her birth date a century later, is using the same method for his garden. She checks the weather lore that predicted the number and dates of fogs in February is equal to the number of frosts in May. She also notes one of my regular adventures at her house. She would pack me a beautiful little lunch with fancy sandwiches, and Corky (their German Shepherd) and I would walk down the road west of the house to a lovely meadow surrounded by old oaks for a fancy little picnic lunch. 

Friday, May 1, 1953–High wind. I didn’t go quilting as my back is still causing trouble. I washed and ironed and also washed my hair. After the phone went out sometime Wednesday night, we didn’t have any service until 10 a.m. today. Carl said it sprinkled.

Saturday, May 2, 1953–Clear. Carl harrowed the garden at noon, and I planted until three when I cleaned up and went to Dr. Kraus for a treatment. Bought two and a half dozen tomato plants, 55 cents. Came home and put them out. I planted most of my flower seed: zinnias, marigolds, asters, straw flowers, bachelor buttons, etc. Butchered a hen. She weighed eight pounds after her head and feathers were off. 

Sunday, May 3, 1953–Clear. Beautiful day. I fixed toasted chicken, deviled eggs, radishes, and we went to Wayne’s for dinner. Merle’s and George and Fern (Best) there. George gave Carl a necktie, Wayne’s gave him tin snips; Merle’s, a plastic sun visor. We went to Keith’s in the evening. They have their basement windows in. Certainly is growing weather.

Monday, May 4, 1953–Cool, cloudy sprinkled. I planted limas, zinnias, sweet peas, gladiolas. My back is stiff. Carl plowed one acre in one hour. Tom Damman is plowing his pasture up. It comes up to the barn. Alberta sent Carl a sport shirt for his birthday.

Tuesday, May 5, 1953–This is the night it is supposed to frost. We went to Hillsboro. Carl ordered lumber from Rader. He paid $3.20 more on our Blue Cross Insurance. Company says we will have more benefits. He paid the tractor insurance and took out hail insurance on the wheat. I got a quart strawberries for 50 cents. I put out twelve seedling dahlias.

Wednesday, May 6, 1953–Clear. Rained after noon. Thunder and lightening in February. Did it frost? This should be May 5. It was real cool, no frost but low fog and heavy dew. I cleaned out the kitchen cabinet in the pantry. Mrs. Keith came while John went to ATA.

Thursday, May 7, 1953–Such a nice day early but clouded up before noon, and we had several small showers. I went to Hillsboro and got six big potted Mar-globe tomato plants, 25 cents each. Carl took the car to Raymond had the oil changed and greased and finished paying for the car, $160. Hazel Bremer died at 9 p.m.

Friday, May 8, 1953–Clear. Cut worms are working on my tomato plants. I mixed powdered moth balls, louse powder and put around plants. Mary (Nimmons) went along, and we took 200 pounds corn and 100 pounds chick nitrate to have ground. Then stopped to quilt. Carole came home with me. 

Saturday, May 9, 1953–Clear. Cleaned up the house, got dinner. Carole sat in the car while I went to Hazel Bremer’s funeral. Then we went to Litchfield, and she sat in the doctor’s office while I took my treatment. Then we shopped. She bought her mother a necklace for Mother’s Day. She can sure entertain herself around here.

Sunday, May 10, 1953–Mother’s Day. Carole, Carl and I went to Sunday School then to Wayne’s for dinner. We had fried chicken Geraldine bought from Buddy Ward. Waynes gave me two pairs Berkshire hose and Merle’s a very pretty brooch. They came after Carole at night. She and Corky took their lunch over to the other place about 5 and ate.

Monday, May 11, 1953–Howy Ward has his corn and beans planted. Wayne was all ready with his corn planter to take off for the field when I called up there. Carl says his shoats are not big enough to sell. I washed, went to Litchfield after disks for tractor. Made the chick yard full size. Tom Damman plowed three hours for Carl. Mrs. Keith came at night while John went to a meeting at Hillsboro. Thirteen or 14 men sowed beans and planted corn for Jim Garmon. Top on hogs, $24.75. Sign in neck-moist, productive.

Tuesday, May 12, 1953–Cloudy. 11:00 a.m. sprinkle. I went to see Harley (Newport) after dinner. Looked rainy, but Carl said I wouldn’t get wet. I went to a greenhouse in Taylorville and got tomato and cauliflower plants. She gave good count. Rozella Prior and her girls came after two dozen eggs to set.

Wednesday, May 13, 1953–Fred Hanni, Country Life Insurance Co., came about nine and was here until 12:30 writing up our insurance. We had $50.01 premium left from the expired policy. Carl paid him an additional $17.32 which paid our insurance for a year, $67.33, on buildings, household goods, stock, etc. Total insurance was some over $10,000. Five year premiums amount to $336.65. Select offering of hogs sold at $25. Highest since 1950. I covered tomato plants, ‘twas so near frost.

Thursday, May 14 1953–Rain and cold. It didn’t frost, but I think it surely would had it been clear. Fern and George (Best) came for dinner. George paid Carl his note for $350 which he borrowed last Oct. 28. Bruce Rhoads died at 8:30 p.m. His wife Mary got home from St. Louis hospital about noon.

Friday, May 15, 1953–We went to Merle’s to watch championship match between Marciano and Jersey Joe Wolcott. Carl got a hair cut. Connie didn’t want us to come home. She said she wanted to play.

Monday, May 18, 1953–Carl and I and Margaret left here at 8 a.m. for Wayne’s. Wayne, Geraldine and Linda went with us to Springfield. Carl went to Dr. Duncan. Doctor says Carl’s other eye is getting bubbles in it. Linda went to Dr. Airhart for an examination. She should go to the hospital the middle of June. I got a brown dress, two piece, $1, and material for two more. A Mandel Creation. Carl called at Kate Best’s. He thinks she is a gossip.

Wednesday, May 20, 1953–Clear and windy. Hogs top $24.60. I ironed. Went to Mrs. Rhener’s and got 120 strawberry plants which I set out and watered. We went to Wayne’s 6:30 p.m. to see about the corn planting. Carl says too wet. May be that is caused by plowing clover under. John Eckhoff’s was here while we were gone, and he brought his mother’s potato masher to me. About the only one I ever saw like that.

Thursday, May 21, 1953–It is hot, and I am too tired to work. Ernest McCammon came at noon and assessed Carl. Took our 48 Ford at $260, cow $60, 20 head hogs $200, grain $75, household goods $60, machinery $420. Total value $1,075.

Friday, May 22, 1953–Moon sign-Virgo, bowels-earthy, dry or barren, feminine. Just a sprinkle. Waynes had half inch of rain, so he didn’t come to plant beans until Merle called him. He and Jake (Mutchler) came and started about 10:30 and took off for dinner and got done at 3, planted 26 acres. He didn’t tarry long at dinner for the weather looked threatening most of the time. Didn’t rain only a sprinkle. Cyclone warnings came over WSMI at 11. Might hit Hillsboro. At 3 p.m. temperature 88 degrees. It dropped 10 degrees in less than an hour and 25 degrees in three and a half hours.

Saturday, May 23, 1953–50 degrees, showered. Wayne planted Tom Damman’s beans and corn. I went to the Eckhoff house sale. Harry Wykoff bought it. Went on to Hillsboro. Margie and Connie went along. I bought a pair slippers at Weinegand’s, $11.17. Looked for a hat. Didn’t find any. Took Ida Brown a setting of eggs, 60 cents and stopped at Fred Taylor’s to watch wrestling matches. Had ice cream and cookies. Lency and Ella (Ward) there.

Monday, May 25, 1953–Scorpion-watery, fruitful feminine. Wayne planted our 20 acres corn in three hours. Planted 300 M.F. I took feed to town to have ground. Got pepper-yellow, egg plant and sweet potatoes. Jake and Wayne got here for 11:30 dinner. Had apple pie with ice cream. Merle has bad diarrhea. Carole came to stay two nights.

Tuesday, May 25, 1953–Clear and hot. Thermometer registered 95 degrees in Hillsboro about 2:30. Margie, Jim, Connie and Carole went with me to Hillsboro Lake. Weinegand’s half-soled my slippers and put new heel caps on, $2, wow! Carl helped Merle get his plowing done. I made Carole a night gown. Merle came after her as the kiddies had to go to school for a half day tomorrow. 

Wednesday, May 27, 1953–54 degrees. Blackberry winter. What a change! Carl plowed on north end of meadow. He came to the house-vomiting and diarrhea. We had to sort out the seven Kessinger shoats for Wayne to load for market. Carl’s trouble lasted all night. He felt very bad. Invitation to Verne Mundhenk and Joan White’s wedding for June 1. Wayne had to spray his corn against a flea beetle.

Thursday, May 28, 1953–So cool. I have a diarrhea this morning, but I drank strong tea, no sugar and it stopped. We finally got the cow milked. Wayne’s came with the hog check. The seven weighed 1,675 pounds, each at 239 pounds, $414.59. He bought them March 19 at 100 pound each.

Friday, May 29, 1953 Still cool. Wow! My back is stiff. I washed. Took Margaret and Carole to Hillsboro. They went to Beverly’s (Bondurant/Baugher) eight grade graduation. I paid the taxes. Real estate $264.95. Personal $21.82. Carl is still plowing on the meadow.

Sunday, May 31, 1953–We went to the doctor, and Carl got medicine. He felt better by afternoon. We took a drive through the flat. Pocklington’s corn was weedier than any other. Carl predicts the wheat will be poor grade as it is heading wrong time of the moon.

Carole (Best) Brown of Golconda provides Journal-News readers with this glimpse of the past from her grandmother, Mary Edith (Newport) Best, Butler farm wife. Carole may be reached at


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