Nagorski Family

Farm Memories

 

(1907 to 1955)

 

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Click hear to view map of Farm location in Milford

Click hear to view map of general Farm Layout

Click hear to view map of Farm Building

 



 

May 1992

Dear Family,

Here is a special addition to the long awaited Genealogy of the enate side of our family. It is called "Farm Memories" and deals with all the recollections we could muster about life on the Nagorski family farm off Wheeler's Farms Road in Milford, Connecticut. The period covered is 1907 to 1955.

It is especially appropriate that this story comes to you now, the 100th Anniversary, to the month, of the arrival of our family in America.

I hope you can enjoy what it is trying to portray.

Sincerely,

Homer John Susmuth



Among the few First Family grandchildren left, those of us labeled Level III, there are certain remembrances we have that are not easily passed on to newer generations. However, we will try. The original idea came to us in the mid-80's during a mini-reunion. When the 'word pictures' were written down, Regina Adams suggested that the 'word pictures' should have explanations for benefit of the younger people. She was right but it took another four years to do it. What you are reading now is a much expanded version. If there is anything anyone wants to have made clearer, please ask. Now, let's start with. . .

The People

  • Jah Dik - How Grandfather Nagorski was known to us.
  • Bob Cha - What people called Gramma.
  • Little Gramma - How people referred to Grandpa's Mother.
  • Auntie Lena - Oldest daughter of our grandparents
  • Uncle Chapulis - Her husband. Sometimes called Uncle William.
  • Auntie Annie - Next oldest daughter. Actual name was Albina
  • Uncle Pisarek - Her husband. Sometimes called Uncle Frank.
  • Auntie Josie - Third daughter. Full name Josephine.
  • Uncle Milewski - Her husband. Sometimes called Uncle Walter.
  • Auntie Fannie - Youngest daughter. Also called Fay.
  • Uncle Sussmuth - Her husband. Never called John but often Jay.

The Chapulis children included:

  • Eugenia - usually called Genia.
  • Edmund - usually called Eddie.
  • Charles - usually called either Charlie or Kahsh.
  • Mildred - occasionally called Mil.
  • Mary - Mildred's twin who died in infancy.
  • Walter - usually called Veet for Vitold.

The Pisarek children included:

  • Chester - who died at a very young age.
  • Stanley - sometimes called Stash.
  • Henry - always called by this name.
  • Irene - who preferred to be called Jerri.

The Milewski children included:

  • Milton - never often called by any other name.
  • LeRoy - sometimes called Roy.
  • Regina - sometimes called Reggie, and at one time the 'g' sound was like the 'g' in 'go' rather than 'giblet'

The Sussmuth children included:

  • Carmen - never called by any other name. 'In' name - 'Anybody'.
  • Norma - died in infancy.
  • Mignon - hated to be called Min. 'In' name - 'Somebody'.
  • Homer - never thrilled with the name. 'In' name - 'Nobody'.

And the parents name was 'In' name - 'Everybody'.

Two people who worked for our grandparents for many years included Peter Zaremba and a woman simply known as Antonyova.* Granma's brother Konstanty Pankiewicz and his family and her sister Rosalia, married to Jakob Malinowski, and their family lived in Milford, Connecticut also.

*Antonyova was really Anna Durako. Her daughter's name was Nellie. Nellie left the farm to work in Bridgeport when she matured. We met her when she visited her mother. Antonyova is buried in St. Michael's Cemetery, Stratford, CT.


Words often heard on the Farm …

  • YAK SHA MAHSH - How are you?
  • JANK KU YA - Thank you!
  • NAZ DRAWVYA YA - Cheers! (Literally)
  • BE YED AH - Trouble
  • TSAW? - What?
  • BOHZHUTS MOY - Good Heavens!
  • DAWB JHA - Good!
  • DOE BRON ITS- Good Night!
  • NYEETS NYEEMA - I don't know.
  • HUTSCH TOO TYE - Listen!
  • CHEE WHO - Quiet!
  • NYEEMA PIN YENZEE - No money!
  • PAS COOT NYICK - Nerd
  • PEEVO - Beer
  • PAWSHUTS PA KRAWVY - Go for the cows.
  • WODKA - Polish silver bullet.
  • Don't say HAUTZ - Watch what you say or it will come true.
  • MECHK AH - Spook
  • DOE VID ZAYNA - Good Bye
  • STATA BABA - Old Lady

Swear Words …

  • PSHAH MAHTCH - Probably means DARN!
  • PSHAH KREFF - Probably means S.O.B.
  • HOL YED AH - Probably means THE HELL WITH YOU!

Favorite Beverages …

  • Home grown applications for everything from sores to what ailed you.
  • SANILO - The World's worst tasting beverage, like FERNET BRANCA (an Italian beverage for stomach settling). Good for colds, and everything else, it seemed.
  • MASTCHE - Good for something (a salve made with herbs).
  • BROMVOLT - Same thing, different name.

The Places …

"The Farm" was the focal point of family life for as long as anyone wants to remember. It was located at 39 Wellington Street or 39 Wolf Harbor Road or Box 39, Wheeler's Farm Road. In any event, the mail got to the corner mailbox, regardless.

St. Michael's in Derby was the Church the First Family went to because it was Polish oriented.

St. Mary's in Milford was the Church everybody else went to. "Downtown" usually meant the Milford Green area. If anyone was going to Trumbull beach, a trolley left from the Green that would take the trip past favorite beach areas.

The corner of High Street and West Main Street was the absolute town focal point for our family because at one time or another, our Grandparents, the Chapulis's, the Pisarek's and the Milewski's lived at that corner. A number of us were born in the West Main Street house.

"The Store" was a small building on that same corner, built by Uncle Chapulis and another man, Perlowski by name. Uncle and Aunt Chapulis for time operated a meat/deli there. Above the store was a living area.

The "Little School House" was at the lower end of Wheeler's Farm Road and where Genia, at an early age, went to school for a while.

Peter's House was a miniscule shack across the road from the Farm and where Peter lived for many years. Having been there and hearing the comment by Milton, I still have to laugh when I think of his comment about the thickness of the air inside, "If you lit a match in there, the place would catch on fire!"

Eddie's Gas Station was built on the opposite side of Wolf Harbor Road on a little sliver of land remaining on the Nettleton property after the Wilbur Cross Parkway came through. It may be called Wilbur Cross, but to most of us it will always be known as the Merritt Parkway.

"The Out House" was to say the least an absolute disaster. It was where one did one's duty but under such trying conditions, it's a wonder everyone didn't end up permanently constipated. There were three holes in this structure, two for adults and one with a little step in front for youngsters. Obviously, it wasn't heated and, like the house, had no lighting. Most of us felt that a fate worse than death was to have to "go" when it was either dark, or cold, or raining, or snowing, or simmering in summer heat, which helped the effluvia paralyze the nostrils.

"The Wells", of which there were four. One for the original part of the house, serving the "little kitchen". This one had a chain hanging from a rusty, squeaky wheel, and water was obtained by lowering a beat-up pail down into the water, which seemed to be about 15 feet down. This well was outside, off a porch, where one had to bundle up if it was cold outside, just to obtain water. The second well was in the "big kitchen" and had a cast iron pump that didn't work most of the time. The third well was out in the cowbarn yard and was used to provide lots of water later converted to milk by the bovines. The fourth well was out near the horse barn and was used for that purpose as well as a cooler for beer sales during prohibition. I always wondered how we were able to have water in wells when the Farm was on the highest point within the town of Milford. Something about underground pressure was the only answer I ever got.

The Basement under the main house was used to store potatoes, fossilized spiders and many other mysterious things. It was dank and dark, and it had a low ceiling tough on anyone over 5'6".

The Attic was a nice dry, hot and cold place where all sorts of 'stuff' supplied by the family was stored. Strange trunks, old hams hanging, it seemed forever, up there. Boxes filled with secret plans for the overthrow of something.

The Wood Shed was just behind the smaller building which acted as a garage for Grandpa's Cadillac, a place where the breadman put his deliveries, the little room where milk cans were kept cool prior to pick-up by whoever bought this farm's daily supply and various items put in storage--could be any-thing. The 'Shed' had a large stump inside it which was used to split already cut wood into sizes that could be put into the two stoves in the house. The stump was also used to behead chickens when one was being prepared for a dinner. Ugh! This same building also had a large bin box containing corn cobs which were used to start fires in the stoves.

The Cow Barn was a focal point for activity around the animals living on the Farm. There were twelve stanchions and twelve cows. Most were Holsteins, but there was always at least one all black or all white cow and, as I recall, always one Jersey. This barn also had a large supply of hay and the other items for feeding the animals. I can still smell the malted feed given to the cows with their evening meal of hay. The Cow Barn yard was a soft goulash of mud, mire and manure … suitable only with disposable shoes or boots.

The Calf Barn was near the Cow Barn but it had its own little yard and a half dozen little pens where calves could live, sleep, and walk around. Granma once gave me a calf and said, "0omer, this is yours for this summer". I was so thrilled I had someone take our picture together. I don't remember what name I gave it but I never saw it again after that summer. It probably became a cow or a hamburger. I never knew nor did I think to ask.

The Hay Barn was the biggest barn of the six farm buildings on the property. This barn was all metal clad. It replaced a similar and larger barn that burned down after a lightning strike.

The Horse Barn was part of a complex that included the Blacksmith Shop and a string of shed-like openings where items like tractors, old cars, sulkies and agro-equipment were stored. The Horse Barn was for our two horses. These two animals were kept mostly for lugging hay wagons, produce wagons and various farm wagons. Generally, it wasn't a tough life for this duo.

The Chicken Coop was home for about 50 to a 100 chickens as well as an occasional quack of ducks and geese. The chickens were mostly Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns. The Roosters, of which there were only about 4, were Reds. They were very alert and about when morning was arriving. The roosters' crowing and the cows mooing were the two main animal sounds around the Farm.

The Pig Pen was a mess and was located near the Chicken Coop. There were usually two pigs in residence plus an occasional litter. I'll never forget how they would gulp at the stuff they were fed--mostly slop. I never saw them being fed a non-slop meal.

The Smoke House was a little building near the Out House and was used for hanging hams. It was called the Smoke House but I don't remember ever seeing smoke coming from it nor do I ever remember anyone ever using it for anything.

The Milk Shed was part of the smaller barn housing the wood supply, the old car and the corncob supply. When the day's milking work was finished, the milk would be put into large milk cans and then lowered into a concrete vat filled with water, and into which blocks of ice would be added during the warm weather. On the outside of the doorway there used to be a large sign that said "BE HEALTHY DRINK MILK".

Christie's was a dinky little store down Wheeler's Farm Road where many basic items needed could be purchased. The owner looked like Burgess Meredith, dirty sneakers and all. His name was really Mr. Dudley.

The Farm Animals were probably typical for a farm of this size. There were 90 acres of pasture, cropland and woods. The total menagerie usually included 12 Cows, 2 Horses, 50 to 100 Chickens, a few Ducks and Geese, 2 Pigs, a lot of Cats and, I've been told, Grandpa once tried having a few Sheep. Added to this there were a number of Dogs. REX, a beautiful Collie, was followed by TARZAN, a police dog, and then by PRINCE, another gorgeous Collie. There were others before these three, but I don't know their names.

The Blacksmith Shop fronted on Wolf Harbor Road and was part of the long series of buildings that included the Horse Barn, the open equipment shed, and abutted the big hay barn. This shop was Grandpa's real workshop and probably something he enjoyed more than any other activity. He made a lot of iron things here, such as hinges, wagon parts, and anything that could be made of raw iron stock. He had a huge bellows that worked with his forge to turn stock into white hot metal that could be pounded into any shape needed. The shop had a lot of mysterious things hanging in it and to say the least, everything was covered with either rust or dust. Quite a place.

The Farm House itself was built in two stages. The smaller house contained only a kitchen, a pantry, a tiny dining room, a bedroom and a well on the first floor. On the second, there were two small bedrooms. This house was built in the early 19th century to the best of knowledge available. The newer house, built attached to the smaller, was built in the mid-19th century, again a best guess. This house had a larger kitchen, a larger pantry, a good sized dining room that had a bread making fireplace (sealed up before my time), a large living room, a good front porch and a birthing room. Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms, the master one having its own fireplace, a small maid's (?) room in the back, and another set of stairs leading to the old house back porch. There was also an attic tall enough to stand in. The house was a standard New England white clapboard with dark green shutters. It's last real painting was probably in the late twenties.

The property was found for Grandpa by Uncle Chapulis, as were the other properties in town and elsewhere in the area. (A layout of the Homestead can be found at the end of this story.)

Other Memorable Spots on the Farm come to mind. There were two absolutely huge trees in front of the house. I think they were maples and stood anywhere from 100 to 150 feet tall. Other trees included three healthy pear trees around the house, several nut trees, a crab apple tree, a large hickory tree off to one side of the house and which always had a swing or hammock under its shade, a plum tree and, on the way to the woods, there were many elderberry bushes from which annual wine making got its supply. Grandpa used to make a lot of cider from the apple trees that were found in different parts of the upper grounds. For many years a vegetable garden existed behind the house for standard living needs.

As mentioned before, the house was on the highest point in the town of Milford. The crops such as corn, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and of course hay, were grown on the gently sloping downward plateau near the house. Further away there were two main cow pastures and a stand of virgin New England timber. It was the kind of woods that had no low undergrowth because the trees had been tall so long that lower plant life could not obtain enough sunlight. There were also several brooks in the woods that the cows could use when they were thirsty. Ground cover was sparse, but near the brooks could be found skunk cabbage, aptly named for if it was disturbed gave off an awful odor. We also found Indian Pipe and Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants usually near the brooks too. At the right time of the year we would gather Black-eyed Susan, Daisies and Verbena Hastate in the field next to the house. These plants were used in the making of that all-time grand elixir, known as 'Sanilo'. If an adult wanted to traumatize one of the children, all that was needed was a comment like, 'I'm going to give you some Sanilo'.

Around the house, were planted several huge Hydrangea bushes in front of the old house (we always referred to that part of the house as the 'little Kitchen'), a group of Rambler Roses in the front above a picket fence, a huge Gardenia* bush near the front main gate, tiger lilies and many other colorful perennial plants.

Of the two pastures, the upper one, in addition to many Cedar trees and lush grass growths around the cow flops, contained an extensive stand of Blackberry bushes. We used to pick these berries for breakfast many times. The usual routine was two in the mouth and one in the pail. It was quite a fulfilling chore.

More Unforgettables …

  • For those who have lived through it. Using the Grinding Stone out by the Horse Barn.
  • Wondering how someone hollowed out those big logs used to hold water for the Cow and Horse drinking needs.
  • The Plum Tree in the Chicken Yard only accessible when the shoes didn't matter.
  • Hearing the whistles of the steam trains down in the valley of the Housatonic River.
  • Looking at the lights of the Hospital and other buildings on the hills beyond the river.
  • Going to the Farmer's Market in Bridgeport at 3:00 a.m. to sell our produce.
  • Waiting for the Polish Bakery man to show up.
  • Waiting for the Butcher's Truck.
  • Waiting for the Mailman to put something in the Box at the end of Wolf Harbor Road…hopefully a check.
  • Looking at all the stuff the Pots and Pans man had in his truck. He came twice a year.
  • Wondering when the 'Road' was going to come through.
  • Watching a car go by and being barked at and followed by one of the dogs.
  • Watching other farmer's cow herds go by.

*Mignon says this was a Camellia, not a Gardenia.

  • Dying of fright if our herd was going one way on the road while another herd was coming the opposite way. If they had a bull in their herd, it was sheer panic.
  • Bringing in the hay with everyone pitching the hay to the top of the two-horse wagon piled unbelievably high.
  • Jumping in the hay barn from the top to the lower level.
  • Taking walks into the woods with the entire family of uncles, aunts and cousins.
  • Shooing billions of flies buzzing around the kitchen out the backdoor using two people and four towels.
  • The big family reunions every Easter, especially nice when everyone was there.
  • Eating the Easter Hosts that came from St. Michael's in Derby. Eating Granma's Easter eggs, colored with beet juice or onion skins.
  • Eating the great golden bantam corn in the late summer, grown right on the farm.
  • Eating boiled new potatoes, diced salt pork, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers under the big hickory tree at the side of the house.
  • Looking at millions of stars on clear summer nights.
  • Lighting the kerosene lamps at twilight.

Still More …

  • Starting fires in the kitchens with corncobs.
  • Going down to the pasture gate at about 5:00 p.m. to bring the cows home. Lowering the bars for them to pass through and hearing the little clicks if they didn't lift their feet high enough. The lead cow was first and all the rest did what she did.
  • Having to weed the tomato and potato fields on the hot sticky days of summer.
  • Watching the cows being milked and fed. Seeing the cats get a straight shot of milk from teat to mouth … a favorite trick of Peter's.
  • Looking over the new calves in their little stalls away from their mother's spot in the other barn.
  • Going to the beach, sitting on old blankets, eating Ritz crackers, wearing funny bathing suits, being told not to go in too deep and getting terrible sunburns.
  • Walking around the farm with head down to avoid cow flops, horse drops and chicken poo.
  • Sticking to the well-worn paths at all costs.
  • Watching a newly beheaded chicken racing around the lawn in front of the woodshed.
  • Listening to Charlie's battery operated radio out in the little kitchen area.
  • Watching Peter roll his own cigarettes and using 5 boxes of Ohio Blue Tip matches by the gross to keep them lit.
  • Listening to Granma's Polish records on the old RCA Victor tabletop phonograph in the living room.
  • Watching the little bird come out of his door when the hour struck on the cuckoo clock in the big dining room.
  • Drinking Grampa's cider and trying to forget that a few wormy apples might have been added to the rest.
  • Wondering what happened on that day when those two bullet holes were put into the ceiling of the front hall.
  • Making fresh butter or ice cream and marveling how it happened. Watching our grandparents go to their church in the little black buggy with one horse-power.
  • Accepting a 'whispered in secret' shot of whiskey from Gramma and her watching with kind laughter how its taste made us react. This was when one of us was only half sick. Full sick would have meant Sanilo. Needless to say, people tried to stay no more than half sick.

Again …

  • Wondering what other mysterious ingredients were mixed in to make that cure-all beverage. The formula for Sanilo exists but it's not been used in recent years. It may never be used again.
  • Admiring Grandpa's suspenders while watching him wind his big pocket watch.
  • Admiring the names "Albina" and "Fay" etched with their diamond rings into a glass window pane in the big dining room on their respective Wedding days.
  • Wondering how a much magnified fly's wing found its way into a pane of glass in the big kitchen window. Napping on that wonderful cot below that same window.
  • Listening to endless gossip carried on between our mothers and Granma, all in Polish, and with tantalizingly little translation for us.
  • Being so very thankful, when Chester Malinowski put electricity into parts of the house, in the early 40's.
  • Whitewashing the pantries and the milkhouse (shed).
  • Filling the heating stove in the big dining room with kerosene.
  • Looking at the lighted candles on the Christmas tree and worrying that a mishap could start a fire.
  • Using oilcloth tablecloths everywhere. I thought the word was "oy" cloth until I read the name in a Sears catalog.
  • Admiring the Victorian furniture in the parlor, a room rarely used.
  • Playing with the huge cast-iron doorbell on the front door.
  • Hating to use chamber pots.
  • Wondering where all those burlap bag aprons came from.
  • Wondering why someone papered over a doorway and the baking oven in the dining room.
  • Sitting on the homemade bench on the porch in front of the little kitchen and watching nothing go by.
  • Admiring Charlie's strength as he lifted huge logs from our woods into the circular saw for household firewood.
  • Listening to the insects in the hay fields during the day.
  • Hearing a different group singing at night.
  • Hearing a dog barking in the far off distance during the still of night.
  • Reading Charlie's Argosy magazines, and Mildred's books about Dr. Fu Manchu.

Note:

In reading all this, one should know that without telephone, transportation, electricity, city water, radio or newspapers, life on the Farm was like nothing experienced today. It was isolation with a capital "I". And if one could ignore all the inconveniences, it was a great life.

And around the Farm, who could forget…

  • Going to the outhouse at night when it was freezing cold, with a flashlight having weak batteries.
  • Doing the same thing in the hot times of summer when one's only companions in there were dozens of menacing spiders.
  • The sounds the cows and the horses made while they were drinking at their troughs.
  • The sounds of Granma's baby chicks coming from their covered box in the little kitchen next to the stove.
  • The wonderful job blue flypaper did in soup dishes placed strategically in out of the way places.
  • The crepe paper flowers that never died.
  • The cast-iron pump in the big kitchen sink that rarely worked.
  • The smell of the well off the little kitchen.
  • The rusty chain and ancient pail used at that well.
  • The drinking water dippers no one I knew ever used.
  • The floating objects in the well water.
  • The big picture of the Black Madonna hanging in the big dining room.
  • The three-dimension Holy pictures hanging in the living room.
  • The rags hanging in the doorways whose purpose I never fully understood. Was it for fly control, sound dampening or privacy?
  • The uneven kitchen floors usually covered with felt base linoleum every few years.
  • The hams hanging in the attic and the smokehouse. Never saw them put up or taken down.
  • The times, usually at the Easter visit, when all the cousins would have their picture taken lined up by height.
  • Finding that Grandpa's big green two door Cadillac had become a pickup truck.
  • Watching Charlie cranking the Ford Tractor. He was the only one who had the strength to move the crank at all.
  • Watching Charlie run the tractor pulling the hay mowing machine and Peter using two horses using the hay raker.
  • There was a big green truck that seemed to work mostly when produce was being taken to market. Wonder what make it was?
  • Working on my first ever job for Charlie as beer cooler and retriever of beverages for prohibition customers. It consisted of putting a half dozen bottles into the pail and lowering it into the horse barn well for chilling. I later was given the more technical job of being an assistant bottle capper.
  • Watching Peter empty the cow manure troughs in the barn and using a wheelbarrow that had its own armada of flies.

And if that isn't enough …

  • How about the dreams of turning the Farm into a giant picnic park someday.
  • Searching for hidden fortunes in the stone fences.
  • The ducking we tall ones had to do to go through doorways inside the house.
  • Wondering why we never talked to our neighbors.
  • Remembering Grandpa's funeral and how everyone acted at the party afterwards.
  • Rarely seeing family friends like the Horodenski's or even relatives like the Pankiewicz's or Malinowski's at the Farm.
  • Remembering the wonderful time when we attended Josie Pankiewicz's wedding to Ed White.
  • Recalling the visits made by Mildred, Stanley, Veet and Homer while they were in uniform during World War II.
  • Dousing one's self with Citronella for buzz-less summer night's sleep.
  • Enjoying the quiet solitude of the Farm when downtown seemed light years away.
  • Appreciating the friendly welcome and the hospitality of our grandparents when we came up to the Farm for a visit.
  • One or the other always managed to quietly slip us a little spending money when we were leaving.
  • And of course, who could ever forget Granma's always ready smile.

Before the Farm was sold in the middle 50's, all of the folks from Levels I and II were gone. A fire of mysterious origin swept throughout the barn area, wiping out all the things remembered. After the sale, the houses were taken down. Commercial buildings now occupy the general area we once knew so well. All the lovely pastures and virgin woodlands have been converted into streets and higher priced homes. Our 'Tara' is now gone.

Farm Memories has been written with the help of just about all of the Level III cousins.

Homer John Susmuth Fall 1989

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