Salome as a Cook, Baker, Seamstress and Ultimate Home Manager
When asked of her memories of her grandmother, Salome Reymann, as a family and home manager, granddaughter Mary Michael Lawson realized that she may have a unique and special perspective. In her youth, Mary spent many days living in the Reymann home.
And while Mary and her parents did not reside in Akron, they visited “Grandma” often, spending days and sometimes even weeks. Mary’s unique experiences with Grandma are because she spent day-to-day from morning until night, witnessing and living all things Grandma.
When arriving at the house, Mary and her parents, Reymann daughter Agnes and her husband Bud Kennedy, were always greeted with hugs and an incredible home-made apple pie. Apparently, Bud, early in his courtship of Agnes, complimented “mom” on her delicious pie. Grandma took the compliment to heart and there was always a pie waiting for Bud.
Mary’s bedroom was two doors from Grandma’s bedroom, however Mary never heard Grandma awake in the morning. Mary would go down to the kitchen and find Grandma there, dressed in a house dress, comfortable shoes, and hair braided wrapped in a crown on her head. And always with one of her hand sewn aprons on for the remainder of the day, hard at work in the kitchen. The kitchen was equipped with a commercial three door refrigerator, a commercial electric mixer, large kettles and pots and a huge wooden rolling pin. Special built-ins included in the cabinetry were flour and sugar bins. Grandma was known for her delicious cooking but never wrote down a recipe. Over the years people attempted to capture her recipes but the written instructions are interpreted from her pinch of this and handful of that. Many included Grandma’s vegetables and fruits she harvested from her own garden, orchard and vineyard.
Mary recalls Grandma cooking for an army, even when most of her sixteen children had left home. Two adult sons, Mary’s uncles Joe and Richard, lived in the Reymann home plus there always seemed to be extra people at the large kitchen table at dinner time. Grandma’s kitchen and table were open to all. Grandma’s seat at the table was strategically by the sink so that she could pop up when needed. As with most families, all seemed to have their designated seat. Charles Reymann, Grandpa, died when Mary was young but she vividly remembers his seat, next to Grandma.
Another early memory was coming down to the kitchen and discovering Grandma and Elizabeth, Grandma’s good friend and household helper, preparing kuchen, the table covered. And Christmas was a spectacle of delicacies to be enjoyed, spread out on the dining room table and buffet.
Grandma was an excellent seamstress. Mary recalls the sewing room with large built-in cabinets at the top of the back staircase. Grandma told of growing up in Alsace and receiving little formal education, focusing on domestic chores. Young girls were taught gardening, cooking, baking and sewing. Grandma was especially gifted at embroidery. Raising her large family, many of Grandma’s sewing skills were used in clothing her children, and frugally recycling worn sheets that would become table linens, edges tatted or embroidered, dish towels and eventually rags. Every scrap of fabric had a very long and useful life! Two precious recycled items, used many times by the Reymann children, grandchildren, great and even great great grandchildren, are the baptism gowns that Grandma made from pieces of her own wedding gown, intricate and beautiful.
Mary remembers, especially in the summer, Grandma doing laundry in the basement, using a wringer washer until it was replaced with a more modern washing machine. Grandma would haul large laundry baskets of wet clothes and linen up the cellar stairs and hang them on the lines that stretched across the backyard.
Grandma was truly the ultimate in home management. She managed her household, employed skilled labor when needed, managed her finances, financially helped her family, and supported charities beyond what others were even aware of. Her desk was located in the foyer room at the bottom of the main staircase and she could be found there with her paperwork.
To Mary, all that Salome, Grandma, did seems overwhelming. She truly was, and is, an example of a valiant woman, wife, mother and grandmother. In her later years, Grandma would dress for the day and come downstairs. She was weak but never stopped. Climbing the stairs was an exertion so she would not return to her bedroom until the end of her day. A day always spent in service to others.