Written by: June Martin Smith

 

Mary Eleanor Scott Martin

 

 

She lived through two world wars and the Great Depression.

During the Great Depression, she shared what we had with all the hungry people who came to the door asking for food. We had so many that we checked to see if our house was marked in some way. One day she gave a man a cold potato. She said that if he was hungry he would eat it. Thatís what we were going to have! She also took in family members who had lost their jobs and they lived with our family until they got back on their feet.

In World War I, she worked as a volunteer sewing uniforms for the soldiers.

In World War II, she worked as a volunteer folding parachutes and making bandages. She did everything she could for the war effort, even talking my sister Jean and I into giving up our rubber dolls to be melted and made into war equipment. During the air raids she made sure our house was dark and her husband Schuyler, an air raid warden, made sure the block was dark. It was pitch dark. You did nothing to let the enemy bomber know they were over a city.

Food was rationed. The groceries were pretty bare. The canned goods were needed by the troops. When you saw a line you got in it knowing they had some new supplies. Then you not only had to have the money, but also the food stamps. We all grew "Victory Gardens" to help with our food. We also had grapevines, a nectarine and a plum tree. We had a big asparagus patch in the garden and when it went to flower we would use that for the greenery in our flower bouquets. Mary Eleanor always had flowers.

All nylons went to the war effort. My sister-in-law, Camille, used pancake makeup on her legs and drew a line up the back with an eyebrow pencil. All stockings back then had seams up the back. There were no pantyhose and all the stockings were taken and used for the nylon.

Mary Eleanorís sister Maude made homemade soap as it was also in short supply. I never liked it like the store bought soap, but at least we had soap.

As soon as the war was over and rationing was lifted the first thing we bought was chocolate and sugar to make fudge. We had not had any chocolate since the war began.

Even during these tough times, Mary Eleanor and Schuyler would bring soldier boys home from church for a home cooked Sunday dinner. They were far from home, homesick and dinner with a family was greatly appreciated.

Mary Eleanor lived in one county, got her mail in another and went to school in yet another, all in the same town of Big Spring Kentucky.

During her lifetime of 99 years, she saw many changes. She saw school children go from using slates to computers. She saw transportation go from horse and buggy to space shuttles. She saw surgery go from taking out tonsils on the kitchen table without anesthesia to organ transplants with various anesthesias. She saw the only medicine go from caster oil all the way to gene therapy and diverse chemotherapy. She saw handheld fans go to air conditioning. She saw tiny country stores go to huge shopping centers. She saw rarely traveled roads turn into bumper to bumper traffic jams. She saw wood burning cook stoves replaced by microwave ovens. The list of changes could go on and onÖ

Mary Eleanor was a great cook and did a lot of it without a recipe. We are all still trying to recreate her wonderful bread pudding but canít seem to get it right. She made great pies and at Christmas, she always made three cakes: fruit cake, jam cake and coconut cake made from fresh coconut that she grated herself. When she took pies to a social gathering, her family always got a piece of her pie first. Then when people finished eating and went to get some of her pie, it was all goneÖ her family had already eaten it. One of her favorite vegetable recipes was fried green tomatoes.