I woke up this morning thinking about visits to my grandparents house. Not sure how that came to mind but my memories are nothing but pleasant. As a child I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio in a small but historic village called Greenhills – one of three WPA villages built in 1938. The other two were Greenbelt, Maryland and Greendale, Wisconsin. I could write about Greenhills but that is a story for another time. Back to Grandma and Grandpa. My family always visited my grandparents in Belleville, Illinois every summer and for several Thanksgiving holidays that I remember.
On what seemed like a long drive to a young child (are we there yet?) really wasn’t that long, maybe 7 hours tops. We always made a stop at a Stuckey’s. My dad had to have their pecan divinity candy. I loved Stuckey’s! If we didn’t stop there, we found a Howard Johnson’s for lunch and the best milkshakes!
Anyway I knew we were getting close when we drove past this humongous catsup bottle in the town of Collinsville, IL. It’s actually a water tower. Always a highlight of the trip for me because it meant we were almost there.
Grandma and Grandpa lived in a small 2 bedroom house with a couple of sofa beds and a large bed in the basement. Somehow my parents, brother and sister and I all managed to fit! The driveway was all white gravel which made it especially fun to sit and play for hours. My cousins and I would pretend the gravel was food and we served it up on little play dishes to any adult who wanted to play along. Hours of fun!
My grandparents house had a distinctive smell that seemed to always be there everytime we would visit. It was my grandma’s soap! She only used Dove soap bars and the entire little house smelled like Dove soap. Whenever I smell that soap I think of Grandma! All of the grandkids in the family contributed to a small booklet of memories for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday years ago and every one of us mentioned the Dove soap smell!
My cousins also lived in Belleville so whenever we visited they were always over at my grandparents house. There were big family game nights and it seemed the game was always Tripoly. Mostly the adults played and the younger kids played on the floor under the table! We would also help Grandma bring out the snacks and drinks. She always had without fail a chocolate candy with little white dots on it that we just loved called Non Pareils. For years I thought they were only available at grandma’s house! She would also set out dishes of M&Ms. My dad made Highballs in the kitchen for the adults. The kids were treated to sodas in brightly colored aluminum glasses. I had those glasses for a long time but when I moved they somehow disappeared. Later we would go outside and catch lightning bugs in jars and my grandpa gave us a nickel for each bug! What a fun time!
During the day we always made a trip to Eckerts Farm for peaches! And we’d go with grandma to the Tri-City grocery store where they had real metal mini sized grocery carts for kids to push!