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From the Museum: This week’s tour leads us through the kitchen at the Drew County Museum

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Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 3:18 pm

Oops! In looking back over the past few weeks, I have come to the realization that I skipped our kitchen area! I suppose that call for 50 lashes with a wet noodle! Ah, me! I’ll rectify that omission with a quick look at our kitchen area now.

Entering through the back door we first step into the back hall/foyer. The first item we see is a beautifully restored china cabinet/pie safe. This particular one came to Drew County from Georgia in 1859 via a covered wagon. I can imagine that it crossed the mighty Mississippi River near Gaines Landing or Lucca (“Lucky”) Landing and traveled up Gaines Road to Drew County.  

Inside the cabinet are a wide assortment of Havilland China pieces and an elegant silver-plated coffeepot.

When you turn into the kitchen you must first pass through out modern kitchen area that is useful when we host events at the museum.  

As you enter the older historic kitchen area, you can look to your right and first see an elegant old cane bottomed chair. Beyond that chair sits a rarity of the museum. It is a metal kitchen stool that also serves as a “portable” indoor clothes dryer. The stool has metal rods that hang beneath the stool. However these rods can be lifted upward, folded outward and used to hang towels, bonnets, diapers, clothes, etc. to dry. It truly is unique and quite utilitarian. I have never seen another like it!

Next to the stool sits a true “icebox”. It is a metal box about 42” high with inner shelves and a “compartment” to put big blocks of ice to be kept somewhat “cool” in the summer. The old ice tongs lie within the box. An ice “order card” rests on top of the “icebox”. In the days before electricity many families began to purchase the iceboxes to store ice bought at the local “icehouse” (another story). A delivery man, called the “iceman”, had a regular route he’d run. Housewives buying ice had square order cards with the number of pounds available printed on the four sides of the cards. The housewives would set their card in the window with the amount of ice written across the top and the iceman would come in and deliver the ice to the box even if the housekeeper wasn’t home. (Do you remember the days when folks didn’t lock their doors?  The process may sound complicated but isn’t when you see the icebox and its accessories.)     

Going past the icebox you see an unusual chair, or is it an unusual table? The piece of “homemade” furniture is actually both and easily “folds” from one to the other! Oh, notice the butter mold, the homemade kerosene lamp and other items resting on the table.

Corner shelving displays several lovely pieces of carnival glass. In front of the south window is a small dining table with several interesting kitchen pieces atop it and an antique wooden baby’s highchair at one end. It is sitting beneath an old wall telephone that would surely interrupt any meal!

As we round the corner in the kitchen/dining area we see a very old pine pie safe with a punched-tin front in a star pattern. There are several random pieces of dinnerware therein, but my favorite is the pieces of Royal Doulton China in the “Tea Leaves” pattern. This is really quite lovely.  

I have often felt the most interesting feature of the pie safe however was the stained “rings” around its “feet”. Mrs. Mason told me kerosene, or “coal oil”, caused these blemishes. Folks would put kerosene in small dishes under the legs to keep insects from getting into the food stored in the pie safes. (That’s why the cabinets were often called pie safes. They kept pies, etc. safe from bugs! Cheery, isn’t it?)  

Incidentally on top of the pie safe sits several bottles labeled “Arkansas Wine”. We once had an acclaimed winemaker in Drew County! (Another story!)

Looping around the kitchen, we now come to the old metal “cook stove” with its fires made by wood. This one has all its parts and the top is covered with many interesting nonelectrical kitchen “appliances”; such as a 4-slice toaster, a sausage grinder, waffle irons, a square skillet, bread pans, irons, kettles, a crimping iron from 1900 (Look that one up!), and perhaps my favorite, a small four-pint pressure cooker used by Drew County’s first home extension agent to teach the skill of pressure canning to the ladies of the county during the 1930s! It is a real treat.  We have it’s much, much larger prototype sitting out in one of the cabins. You should see it too. There’s another great, true story!   

Now we really have finished our tour of the first floor of the Drew County Museum. Come see our treasures for yourself!    

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