Memories of food, fresh from the farm

Sustaining: Franklin Baker's farm supplied many of the family's needs.

150 Years of Howard History

March 13, 2001

Franklin D. Baker, 87, a former dairy farmer and longtime resident of Ellicott City, was interviewed by folklorist Alison Kahn in 1997 for an oral history project coordinated by Friends of Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway Inc. His farm is now the Mount Hebron community, including more than 500 homes, Mount Hebron High School and Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church. This is the second of two excerpts.

I was 7 years old when we came here in '20. ... Rockland, that was the name of the [one-room] school ... My older sister, well, she's 92 or 93 ... she went there and then went to high school in Ellicott City. Drove a horse and buggy to Ellicott City to go to school. ...

She drove the horse and buggy, and there was a livery stable there where the post office is, and they'd pull in there and put the horse in there, and walk the rest of the way to school, you know, and then come back and get the horse and hook her up to the buggy and come on home. ... I went to school with her, see?

I remember we would take biscuits to school with sausage in it, you know? And [the other kids] wanted to take it away from us. Never got anything to eat like that, you see. ... Well, they had store-bought stuff, see? ... And we always had somebody with us, somebody come home from school with us and stay all night and eat, you know.

We always kill a couple beefs in the fall. And pigs, I don't know, we'd kill 15 or 20 in the fall, then some more in the spring. Had a smokehouse. And we used to get a ton of salt to salt the hams. ... And the beef, you see, eat that in the wintertime, you didn't have to refrigerate that much. Cold weather took care of that, see. But for the pork to keep it all summer, why, you had to salt it down. ...

Oh, yeah, we raised vegetables, and my mother canned tomatoes and blackberries, and, you know, all that kind of stuff. ... And she put up sausage in half-a-gallon jars, you know, and put the lard on and turn them upside-down. See, that would seal them, just like being canned. We'd have that all year round. And tenderloin. There was the pork chops, she had that in jars, too.

And then she baked bread all the time. ... And flour, we'd take wheat to the mill and they would grind it. You take up like a bushel of wheat and you'd get back 40 pounds of flour, see, and she used to bake the bread with that, see. ...[For breakfast] we'd have ham, rice and what you call grits, you know, like that? She'd fix that at night and then fry it in the morning. And sausage and bacon and molasses - always had to have molasses and biscuits. And fried potatoes, she'd fry potatoes, always had fried potatoes and onions. That was a breakfast. And gravy.

I remember when they first started selling cottage cheese. It was in about wartime, '42 or '43. And over here at Dunloggin [farm] I never will forget ... the fellow that was running the dairy, and he made a great big tub of it, and there was three fellows got around there with these jars and put it in there with a spoon and pack it down and then put the top on. That's when the first cottage cheese we know was being sold.

I served 19 stores on Main Street - restaurants and stores. ... Most of the stores, like Sam Yates, they sold a good bit of milk. I would leave two cases there in the morning, early in the morning when I went by. Then I'd stop back maybe 10:30, 11 o'clock, see if they need any more [milk], or cream, or chocolate milk, or buttermilk. ... Had to stop at the stores about three times a day. ...

I'd feed cocoa beans to the cows to get chocolate milk. No, [really] we'd get about a half-a-gallon cans of Hershey's chocolate syrup, see, and mix that in with the [milk] to make chocolate milk. It was fresh raw milk, you see, and just mixed it right up every day. Well, buttermilk was ... churned buttermilk, like my mother used to churn some. ... Did you ever drink churned buttermilk? It is delicious, you know. It's got them little hunks of butter in it, real hunks of butter in it, you know, and it's something else. ...

Yeah, they get cultured buttermilk now, you see, and it's some kind of - I don't know what they call it, we call it a germ. And you just take one of these and ... put it in a 50-gallon tank and it would turn into buttermilk - cultured. ... I don't guess anything tastes any better than fresh buttermilk. And that cultured buttermilk, you know, it's nothing like it. ...

Yeah, well, after we got electricity, let me see ... we quit selling raw milk. And there was a dairy over in Baltimore County, and we would take our milk over there and they would pasteurize it for us and put it in our bottles. ...

Then in '56, we ... got in the building business, and ... we got all zoned for half-acre lots, the whole 460 acres. That was in 1956, and we're still working on it now to finish up back there. ... We started in '56 and Columbia didn't start until '60-something, see? I lived [in Hebron House] from 1920 to 1960, 40 years I lived there. ... Now, we got over 500 houses on the place and a school and a church.

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