Monday, June 15, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: Of Sewing Machines, Sóska, and Squealing Pigs

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

Two weeks ago I posted the first 10 minutes of a tape my grandfather Martin Deutsch recorded with his brother, Ted in 1977. Below are the next ten minutes. They're still talking about their life in the village of Almasu/Varalmas in Transylvania in the first decade of the 20th century.


Martin: Ted, I’m going to stop it here and go back just to check and see if we’re doing OK. All right I’m getting back to earning a living. Mother used to sew, what did she sew, did she have a sewing machine?
Ted: She had a sewing machine
Martin: Of course, a treadle, we didn’t have any electricity there I don’t suppose, and she used to sew and probably bake, she was a smart cookie, she was a smart baker
Ted: She was a baker, but I don’t recall her baking for anybody. But she did sew because we had neighbors, and they brought in their clothes for repairs, alterations, fittings, and she would fit their children’s clothes, women’s clothes.
Martin: So she was a seamstress in a way
Ted: In a way she was a seamstress, and they would pay her in form of milk, or whatever else she wanted they would bring it to her.
Martin: I was talking to Bert yesterday and she was telling me that she remembered from discussions with you or anybody that there were a lot of goats being raised, and I do recall myself that there were goats for goat milk and cheese
Ted: We had goats at one time I remember we had about three goats
Martin: I thought we had a real flock of them.
Ted: No, not more. I don’t remember more than three, for if we had young ones we used to sell them to somebody else. You have to feed goats.
Martin: I know we didn’t have any pigs. (laughs)
Ted: No pigs we didn’t have
Martin: But they were raised in the community I guess, weren’t they, pigs, and cattle for milk
Ted: There were people raising pigs on their farm, I could listen to them once in awhile they were butchering.
Martin: Yeah, that’s right, butchering was very common, yes.
Ted: They would make their own bacon and pork chops.
Martin: I do recall that very clearly, all the squealing.
Ted: And then followed up with their – they would build a big fire and roast a pig in the fire outside.
Martin: I guess they’d roast the whole pig (Ted: that’s right) and they’d have it for the winter I suppose. Yeah, I do recall the squealing pigs. Now I was about…when we came away I was between five and six years old, so that I have a recollection there too. I was telling Bert yesterday that I recall this mountainside as children we would go up a hundred feet or so on a mountainside on an incline and roll down.
Ted: Yeah! That’s right, it was one of our past times, we used to roll down the mountainside.
Martin: And I remember shoska, picking shoska as you came down the hill – what is shoska is it a watercress, I always thought.
Ted: I thought it was spinach.
Martin: I doubt it would be spinach – I think it had a sweetness a tartness. Spinach doesn’t have that, and I think shoska is watercress, but I don’t know whether watercress has to be at the water. I don’t think it does.
Ted: I don’t know.
Martin: I think it will grow on a hillside.
Ted: I always thought it was spinach.
Martin: Bert said the same thing, but I felt like it was more like watercress.

Sóska is the Hungarian term for Sorrel, though it is often confused with spinach.]

Ted: It was probably sweetened up when it was prepared it would taste sweet, but it isn’t sweet naturally.
Martin: Now you may have a point there, but if you pick it on the hillside you don’t prepare it for anything, you just eat it right there. We did.
Ted: That’s right.
Martin: I recall as a child, of course being impressed by the mountain, it must have been a tall mountain. I don’t recall….I always had the impression, I always wondered what was on the other side of the mountain and I never did find out, it was far away, it was just beyond my comprehension.
Ted: Usually the mountains there surrounded us. Practically, the whole town. You could only get into the town through a pass in the mountain.


Ted (cont): These passes occurred in certain spots and I remember going with Dad on a horse and wagon we’d cross the river and go up the mountain and then there was a road on the other side there’s another little town called Buchem. We went there.
Martin: Buchem, would you call it BUCZOM or something?
Ted: It sounds like BUSC.
Martin: BUSCOM. I imagine that would be on a map. I am sorry I don’t have that map, I think you and I
Ted: I don’t know it would be on a map, but father’s brother lived there.
Martin: Now that wouldn’t be more than what…how many miles?
Ted: I would say it would be
Martin: A day’s ride?
Ted: I would say ten, fifteen miles, a day’s ride.
Martin: Yeah, it was a day’s ride on a horse, and possibly you would have to stay over and come back the next day.
Ted: That’s right, to visit him we’d have to go through the mountain pass.
Martin: Fifteen miles over a mountain and poor roads…
Ted: Mostly forest, there was a rough trail there you might say.
Martin: You would probably take your lunch along, and feed the horse on the way.
Ted: Well, yeah, always, we would take oats for the horse and something to eat on the way. But the mountains were – the range are the Carpathian Mountains.
Martin: It was a range of them. I thought I saw on the map they were called Carpathians and also Transylvanian Alps.
Ted: Transylvania is the big range and those cross Romania and goes through several countries, but the local range was called Carpathians.

[Note: The Carpathians are the largest mountain range in Europe, covering Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia. The Transylvanian Alps are another name for the Southern Carpathians.]

Martin: Now, the house itself. I was talking to Bert last night just refreshing my mind. She said the floor was just a dirt floor. Was not a wood floor
Ted: That’s right. No basement. Sort of a clay, finished clay, hard clay.
Martin: The house itself, was it a wood house (Ted: Yeah) it wasn’t a log cabin, it was cabin like, but not log cabin
Ted: No, it wasn’t. Mostly the outside was plaster, but the frames were all wood. Everything was wood.
Martin: Probably hand hewn lumber.
Ted: Most likely, but I wouldn’t recall. I know it had plaster on the outside.
Martin: No plaster on the in[side], and we probably had a wood a stove to burn wood for heating and for baking and for cooking.
Ted: We had a wood stove. Not only that, but outside we had a clay oven, and you could bake in there for your breads.
Martin: We burned wood – and we would pick up firewood in the neighborhood.
Ted: There was no other fuel.
Martin: There was no oil, no coal.
Ted: We had plenty of wood all we had was to go up the mountain.
Martin: I guess we did a lot of that, all the kids would have to forage.
Ted: We’d pile the wood on our lawn along the house for the winter.
Martin: Like on any farm, of course now, around here.
Ted: We would chop it up and wait for use.
Martin: How big was the house. Was it one room?
Ted: The house was one room, yes
Martin: And here we were, 7, 8 people
Ted: We were at one time, all of us were there, there was 7 people.
Martin: Except for Al of course we were all born probably in that one house.

[Note: A reference to their brother, Allen, who was born in Chicago in 1914.]

Ted: That’s right.
Martin: Did we stay in one place all the time?
Ted: We were in one place, as far as I…
Martin: We never did move?
Ted: No, in the 11 years I spent there
Martin: Were you 11 you think?
Ted: Well, I was 11 when we came out, yeah.
Martin: So you were old enough to know as much about it as most people.
Ted: If I was born in nineteen hundred and two, I was there 9 years anyhow, from 1902 to 1911, I was there for nine years, so we were living in that one place all that time.

[Note: Their mother left for America in 1912. The rest of the family followed in 1913, so Ted would have been 11 by then.]

It's fun to hear each one of them remind the other something they had forgotten. My grandfather remembers hearing the squealing pigs after Ted mentions them, and my grandfather reminds Ted about their rolling down the hills as a pasttime. That's what kids did before videogames.

If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post below, or in the comments.

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