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Cutler Family Projects

Written by Alice May Cutler, contributed to Family Search by Ted Walker

Cutler Family Projects
Written by Alice May Cutler, 1976

            Ralph and Virginia Cutler kept their large "flock" busy with family projects. One of the most fun projects that they worked on together was the making of a family "Tennis Court." During the time that Garr was on a mission in Germany, the children saved all their extra change; quarters nickels, dimes and pennies in a tall silver Sacrament Cup. [The Sacrament cup was a left over from the days when the Church had used the large communal silver goblet-like cups to pass the water of the sacrament to the congregation. Each member took a sip and passed the cup on. This custom was not changed until about 1925 when individual glass cups in metal trays were used.] 

         Whenever any of the children sold produce at the door (a dozen bunches of carrots or beets or corn to someone who came knocking on their door) they were allowed to keep the money for the tennis fund. When sufficient funds had been saved, the lot directly south of the family home was cleared of raspberry bushes, vines, etc. and plowed, leveled and the area filled with clay from the "Highlands." It was smoothed and rolled level and flat with a cement roller until the surface was hard. Everyone took a turn pushing the roller up and back until the task was completed. With the money saved, they purchased a black pipe steel fence with tall metal poles and placed it on three sides of the court in addition to buying a tennis net and the poles to which it was attached. The total cost of the court when finished was $75.00. Every year the court had to be resurfaced and white goal lines re-painted before the game could be played. They all saved their money for a tennis racket and after the day's work was finished, the sons and daughters played tennis with the "hired help" or friends from school.

          Ivan became especially skillful at the game. Their daughter Lenore noted: "The grand satisfaction that we got out of the tennis court was the work on it. . . the working together. I don't think that we cared a hoot about it after. It faced the sun anyway. . . but it was the saving for it, working for it and planning it and working on it after hours. We were so tired!" 

         Making cider was another family project. In the early fall, the old wooden cider mill was hauled from the shed, washed, cleaned and scoured. Then baskets of whole apples were thrown into the mill, ground and pressed until the sweet juice started flowing out into a metal bucket. It was a gay time as everyone stood around; sons and daughters, hired help or friends, to drink of some of the first of the fresh juice to come out of the mill, worms and all. Later, vinegar was made from the cider and kept in a wooden barrel in the basement.

          Every summer the family worked together to make root beer in a large ceramic crock. With their own hand bottling machine, they bottled several quarts and gallons of root beer each summer.
Sometimes in the heat of summer, the bottles became too warm in the supposedly cool fruit room of the basement and then there would be a series of explosions that would rock the house.
Every summer there was usually one unexpected family project - the cleaning of the basement after it had been flooded. Someone would forget to turn off the irrigation water east of the house and it would run all night, sinking into the ground and coming up through the basement. "We would have water sometimes a foot deep in the basement and things would be floating around. Mother would get so upset because it made the place have a very damp smell and we would have to thoroughly clean the entire basement. The children all loved it - the getting on of their tall boots, wading around and making sail boats to push across the water. It was such fun!" 

          The basement itself was a unique, interesting and sometimes scary place. It contained three large rooms: the furnace room, to which large chunks of coal were delivered through the window openings at least once every month, rows upon rows of stacked logs for the fireplace and a clothes chute coming from the first floor bathroom; the fruit room, with its shelves filled to the brim with canned and bottled fruit, vegetables, pickles, jams, jellies, etc; and the main basement area, which housed the large water tank mentioned earlier, the washing machine, sink, clothes baskets, drain, long wooden work bench, a monkey stove for heating water and dyeing fabrics, a wooden barrel of vinegar and another clothes chute coming from the first floor cloak room. There were also stairs leading to the first floor and also stairs to the outside and long clothes lines for drying clothes on rainy or snowy days. The clothes to be washed would be gathered from the chutes and sorted into several piles on top of the long water tank. 

           The basement was a storage place for everything that didnít find a spot in one of the other rooms, so when it was flooded there were quite a few things floating around. It required a lot of working together to get things back to normal.
          One fall Roberta planned a Halloween Party that turned into a family project: "When Lenore and I were M.I.A. age, we had a Halloween party for the Mutual in the basement of our home. Our friends were led to the party by lighted pumpkins in the driveway directing them to the basement window in the coal room which was the entrance into the house for the party participants. Bending over, the guests crawled through the window into the coal and furnace room, down a ladder and followed a string around through the various rooms in the basement. It was dark and scary and the whole family was involved in the activities, issuing blood curdling screams, dangling life like skeletons, touching a face with slimy spaghetti, shaking hands with the guests with wet rubber gloves and all sorts of gruesome things that the children could think of. At the end of the string they climbed another rickety ladder and crawled up through the clothes chute into the bathroom and from there to the living room where the party took place. That is how they entered the house. It was the hit of the evening! Beth Christiansen's mother was our teacher and though physically heavy, she insisted on coming up through the clothes chute. We could hardly pull her through, but she was a good sport and lots of fun. We had more fun organizing the party and finding all the things we could do than the party itself."

Owner/SourceAlice May Cutler
Linked toVirginia Louise Burton; Ralph Cutler

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