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Helpful household tips from long ago

Helpful household tips from long ago

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In my grandmother’s day, collecting housekeeping tips, special medicinal remedies and the most delicious and closely held secret recipes of family and friends was simply a part of everyday life.

One did not throw the sock away because it had a hole. Items of clothing were patched, darned and dyed for continued use. Appliances, tools and household utensils were repaired, refurbished and refreshed.

Yes, Culpeper, once we were a thrifty bunch; learning how to recycle, reuse and prolong were educational components as vital to existence as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Rummaging through the family collection of odds and ends, I came across several books belonging to my grandmother. It appears that she purchased more than one copy of “Watkins Household Hints” and kept the best of each in her own version of the household Bible, a reference guide that would make any young bride green with envy.

Clipped, stapled and or pasted on blank pages were remedies to assist the housewife with management tips captured from local newspapers. The book that exhibiting the most wear was chocked full of additional pages from other publications — The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Bulletin No. 1474 — and favorite hand-written recipes.

I confess that I do not find the prospect of darning socks to be an objective exuding with charm. However, I enjoyed many of the remedies, chuckled over some and found others to be remarkably ingenious.


My own childhood memories included sewn feed sacks and many a frustrating ordeal involving an attempt to get one open.

How to open a sack: Machine sewn sacks can often be very annoying to open. Place sack so that the straight stitch is at your left- hand side. Cut the first straight stitch with a knife. Pull second straight stitch through. With one straight stitch in each hand, give an even pull and the sack will open.

And one for the socialites whose routine life included cocktails (not wine) and the once-commonplace-world of cigarettes.

Don’t scream when your guests put highball glasses on your priceless antique tables. Any stain ring or mark on wooden furniture can be removed by rubbing the stain with cigarette ashes and olive oil.

And for these recorded-setting days of heat and misery a recipe for iced tea guaranteed to resolve that worrisome condition of cloudy tea.

Clear as a bell, cooling as a brook — that’s iced tea when it is properly made. A reader from Falls Church, VA supplies a clue to the mystery of The Tea That Clouded.

It is sudden change in temperature that causes tea to become cloudy. Make a small quantity of very strong tea in the morning.

When it has cooled to room temperature add it to a pitcher of cold water and place in the refrigerator. It only takes a few ice cubes to give it a nice tinkle when ready to serve. I also add sugar while the tea is hot at which time it completely dissolves.

Until next week, be well and stay cool.

Zann Nelson is the former executive director of the Museum of Culpeper History. She can be reached at

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