How I loved my grandmother, Evie Etta Hamrick Hicks and my grandpa, William Seth Hicks. Their old homeplace is a big, white Victorian house located at 1042 Steel Bridge Road, about 3 miles east of Cliffside, just off the Boiling Springs-Cliffside Road.
Grandma was a vivacious lady, with white hair kept put-up in two round buns on the back of her head with those long hair-pins. She had sparking blue-green eyes with a big smile that just brightened up your day! She loved to wear neat cotton dresses, usually with pastel colored flowers on white background, and black chunky shoes. She always wore a big red and white checked apron that had huge pockets and fit over the bust. Most of her aprons had some lace at the top and around the pockets as well. She had many aprons, but the red-checked one was her favorite, and mine.
Her kitchen held a big black and white wood cookstove in the corner. It had warming ovens up top, and a reservoir for hot water on the side. She would hustle to build a fire in the cookstove and as soon as it was hot—begin bustling around cooking up surprises! (Later, one of her sons bought her a white electric stove that was much smaller with tall legs and two ovens.)
She had a huge brown cabinet that had decorative tin on the doors, and kept lots of neat dishes and supplies inside, and coffee grinder up top. She even had hand-painted china one of her sons had brought her from overseas during World War II. She kept her flour in a special “bin” that Grandpa had made, and her big wooden “dough mixing bowl” sat on top of the flour bin.
She had a huge black sideboard (buffet) with brass handles, and kept tablecloths, silverware and the best decorative dishes in there. One side always held cookies. (Grandma never ran out of cookies!) On top of the sideboard, she always kept flowers that she grew in the backyard. Hung over the sideboard was a neat picture of white lillies in a gold frame. Her “white sink” was in the center of the cabinet space, with a long rectangular window over it. When I “helped” in the kitchen I enjoyed the view of the vegetable garden and grape arbor on the south side of the house.
Grandma and Grandpa also had a huge brown ice box that had lots of doors, with silver handles that clicked in place, with a big block of ice in the bottom section to keep the milk, butter, etc., very cold until used. Later, when they got a new electric refrigerator—a Frigidaire—they used the old ice box as the pantry.
I remember so well how her kitchen always conveyed the wonderful aroma of something grand cooking—usually apple pies and sugar cookies. I loved to knead the dough and make biscuits. She had the neatest cookie cutters, and we were always doing gingerbread boys and teddy bears around holiday time. Grandma also had the best-tasting egg custard. I thought it came straight from heaven. Another favorite was her banana pudding—a heavenly southern treat for the palate!
She never really measured anything, but would say this needs a pinch of salt, or a dash of pepper, etc. I was amazed at her many talents in the kitchen and elsewhere. She could make the very best “bread and butter” pickles I have ever tasted. And I loved watching her grind the fresh coffee and smell the strong aroma before dinner.
I remember when the whole family would gather around her big round oak dining table for the tastiest oyster stew in the whole world. She said it was a “secret” family recipe, but I can reveal that she put some apple vinegar, canned Pet milk, catsup and real whipped cream in the stew, along with the huge oysters she always used. Another favorite was in the summertime. They would make home-made ice cream, and our all-time favorite was creamy vanilla. The cousins sat on top of the hand-cranked freezer while it was churning.
They always had some home-made apple cider. Grandpa had a cider mill and all my cousins helped in loading up the apples from all the apple trees on their farm and making the delicious cider. Her pantry always held rows and rows of apple and grape jelly (we helped pick the Concord grapes from their arbor), and blackberry jelly (we picked those too, suffering the scratches and chigger bites afterward).
Grandma’s fried chicken was tops. She would go in the backyard and wring the neck of a young kickin’ chicken, singe off the feathers, cut it into pieces, and complete the tasty dish in her big black frying pan.
Grandma’s kitchen—a heavenly place. How I wish I could cook as well as Grandma did.
The Hicks, known as Willie and Evie, were parents of 10 children. Daughters: Ruth Hicks Putnam, Eunice Hicks Clark and Marjorie Hicks. Sons: Nicus, Wofford, Lewis, Linzie, Edley, John and Avero.
Peggy’s mother, Ruth, who married Hythe Putnam from the Mt. Sinai community in Cleveland County, worked over 30 years in the Finishing Plant at Cone Mills.