Autumn on Derby Avenue,
1913 – 1923
By Loretta BonTempo Forte
Most of all, I remember the color of the trees in our yard on Derby Avenue, in October. Our yard glowed with color, with the light shining through the leaves, the gold was more golden, the red was brightened by its proximity to the dazzling gold, and was accented by the dark green of the pines.
Fall meant that the apples were ready to be picked. Our Baldwin apple tree was our favorite, the apples hard and juicy, but there were other choices among our orchard. My father knew the types on every tree, and saved the best looking ones for his work colleagues and as gifts to impress his friends.
I remember one night after dinner my father asked, as we were all gathered doing homework, “Who took the large red apple that was on the north side of the Baldwin apple tree?” There were smiles, as well as silence all around me, and I realized that my older siblings were all in on sharing that apple.
The barrels of apples would be stored in the ‘canned goods cellar’, and at night, throughout the fall and into the winter, the older children would go down into the cellar for apples. You had to be taller than I, to lean into the barrel head-first, to reach them as it got later into the winter.
And the canned goods cellar was an amazing place! As fruit and vegetables were picked from the garden and brought in, my mother canned them, ‘canning’ them in glass Mason jars. They were then placed in this special cellar room, each in their own place on the shelf: tomatoes, peaches, pears, grape jelly, string beans, roasted peppers and on and on— Outside of that room , in another part of the cellar were barrels of flour, sugar, and whatever else needed to be stored for use by a large family. My mother was very proud of the bountiful cellar of foods that she had prepared from the garden’s harvest.
Other vegetables were not brought into the house, but rather, stored in a root cellar, a large hole dug into in the side of a hill: cabbages, celery, carrots, and beets were stored and the entrance covered with a blanket and a wooden door. It was dark and cold, and I did not like being asked to fetch a vegetable from that scary dark cave!
As the cold weather set in, we sat around the black kitchen stove, on which there were shelves to put our chilled feet, and talked to our mother about our day at school, while she prepared dinner, and occasionally we were sent to the canned goods cellar for an additional delicious, lovingly prepared ingredient that she needed for that night’s dinner.