In this heartwarming memoir, Alene Veatch Dunn combines family history and the stories of life as a young girl growing up in East Texas.
Dunn’s primary focus is the ’40s and ’50s, the years she grew from childhood into adolescence and spent a lot of time at her maternal grandparents’ farm. Here the writing is richly detailed with the likes of warming feather beds by the fireplace, Granny’s snuff box, and the old dresser stacked with Bibles.
From the remembrance of an old pie safe, now used to store mementos of the past, to “Dinner on the ground,” an outdoor food feast held after a church service, to the tiny oven that could produce “the most mouth-watering buttermilk biscuits almost crawling out of the pan …,” moments surrounding food and togetherness were cherished by Dunn. These friendly gatherings often included neighborly gossip, news, and laughter.
The text incudes various forms, such as poetry, lists of old-time expressions and life lessons Dunn absorbed from her elders, and, in one case, a letter written by her uncle about his participation in WWII under General Patton. Dunn also occasionally addresses readers directly.
Overall, the writing is lively, and Dunn’s reverie of the past becomes infectious, as does her sly humor. Often, it seems as if she’s winking at readers, as when writing about her disagreeable cousin Viola, who complained, one day, that she didn’t like what was for lunch. Still, writes Dunn, she joined others at the table. “Sometimes, after a hard morning’s work, it is just best to let things alone and eat what you’ve got before you. At least that is what they all did, including Viola who didn’t like pinto beans and cornbread.”
Readers will find some repetition and may feel that some of the ancestral information is less interesting than other parts of the narrative. But overall, Memories of the Way It Was is an endearing and entertaining recollection of days gone by.
Also available as an ebook.