Clare County Review & Marion Press

Postcard from the Pines: Tea Talk, Iced Please

Library Ladies Tea 1959 Carrow, Richardson, Brown, McLeod

Well, we asked for it, and we certainly have it. ‘It’ being hot, humid, truly miserable summer weather. And it is just in time for official summer which rolls in at 5:04am on Tuesday, June 21. How can this happen? We just welcomed official spring! How did we get to the middle of the meteorological year so soon? Technically we will then be on the downside of the year, even though most consider the beginning of summer the height of it. If the rest of the season behaves like the start, it’s going to be a long hot slide into fall…which will go by too quickly.
The weather ‘forced’ us to watch some of the pomp and celebration in honor of Queen Elizabeth II and her Platinum Jubilee. It seems like we just celebrated along with her Diamond Jubilee. A lot has happened for Britain and the Queen in the past ten years, and both appear to be holding up well.
The most pleasing, unexpected and plainly delightful event we saw was afternoon tea between the Queen and the equally famous Paddington Bear; just two very old friends enjoying a moment over a cup of hot tea and a marmalade sandwich. They were delightful and enjoyed everything two old friends and a pot of tea should. Forget the misbehaving little Prince Louie, Paddington stole the show.
My grandmothers and my mother-in-law all had a deep affection for tea. They sometimes come to mind when brew a pot of tea for iced tea, which truth be known, is how I prefer my tea, any time of the year; hot in the morning, iced the rest of the day.
Here, in our town, tea parties as we think of them now, were not the norm. There wasn’t a lot of leisurely afternoon tea drinking going on. Most were too busy taking care of home and family to go out of the way to drink tea. It was a staple and often on the table at every meal, everyday and enjoyed by all. One of my great-grandfather’s preferred tea over coffee and declared it to be a real man’s drink. He drank it at every meal in the very old, “saucer’d and blowed” way. That is, hot tea poured from the cup into the saucer and then blown on to cool it enough to drink from the saucer.
The tea pot was always at the ready at Grandma Berry’s house. No one had to mention it twice before the kettle was heating. She kept the cookie jar well supplied with good “dunkers”—which however messy, aren’t just for coffee or milk. Grandma used tea bags and preferred the orange pekoe Salada Tea brand. She drank coffee early in the morning alone and enjoyed tea working at her typewriter or with visitors, anytime.
My other grandma, who was the only tea drinker in her house, began her day with green tea, made with loose leaves and steeped in her mother’s teapot,. She poured it into her cup through a tea strainer and added a drop or two of heavy cream, fresh from the cow.
Grandma enjoyed her tea at the kitchen table having a moment of quiet before she began a busy day on the farm. The cookies she dunked in her tea were of her own making. Often they were large sugar cookies with a raisin in the middle. Molasses or peanut butter cookies were often in the jar too and because of their jumbo size, one was usually enough.
My mother-in-law, the little Irish Mary Catherine Kelly, always had a tea pot on the table and hot tea came with every meal, no matter the weather. For her, tea was almost a condiment, like salt and pepper. It accompanied everything. In her later years of ill health, she took enormous comfort in a hot cup of tea. Mary used tea bags and several of them to brew a ‘stiff’ pot of tea. She always chuckled when she told us of how her father believed that the strings on tea bags gave the tea an odd taste. Loose tea was used in James Kelly’s kitchen.
I met my oldest best friend at a tea party. She was just one and I had just reached three. We sat on little chairs at a child sized table and drank ‘play’ tea from tiny china cups. We ate real cookies from matching plates and had a grand time. It was the first of many tea parties for the Blevins Street Girls. We still have them.
A hot cup of tea is many things. It is almost always a comfort. It warms us when we are cold, refreshes us over ice when it is hot. It soothes us when we are sick. It consoles us when we are sad and warms our hearts when we enjoy it together. Tea is a tie that binds.
Our photo this week is one of the Library Ladies, holding a tea at the new M. Alice Chapin Library in the mid 1950’s. Notice that they’ve polished up the silver and brought out the best china. This event was held at the ‘house’ library on Pickard Street. Among the ladies pictured are Inez Carrow, Winnie Richardson, Julia Brown and Olive McLeod. All of these ladies worked hard to give Marion a well stocked and well funded library available to all.

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