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Remember Kem-Tone paint?Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2011, at 10:20 AM
Every so often I think about Mama.
She died of Alzheimer's disease when she was 93.
She was born in 1910.
I guess she didn't have an easy life.
She was a housewife and mother of four.
She kept house, cooked meals in a hot kitchen because there was no air conditioning.
I remember those hot sticky summers.
We lived in town on a gravel road and there was always plenty of dust to go round.
My job was to sometimes dust the furniture and sweep the floor with a straw broom.
There were no carpets, just linoleum.
It was a constant battle to keep dirt and dust out of the house, especially when the windows were left open to let in a breeze.
There was nothing we enjoyed more than a rain shower to cool things down.
Like most teenagers, I was a bit selfish, self centered, too.
When Mama asked me to make my bed before I went to school, I resented that.
After all, she was home all day and had plenty of time to make the beds.
What else did she have to do?
I had to get ready for school and had no time for bed-making.
Now I realize how thoughtless that was.
Mama had plenty to do just to keep the household running and the meals cooked three times a day.
The grocery shopping was done at Crow's Market which was within walking distance from our house.
We had a charge account which my dad paid off the first of each month.
Sometimes I would walk to the store to pick up some item or two that Mama needed.
The store owners knew to put it on the tab.
Mama didn't drive a car so she depended on neighbors to take her to various places.
What an inconvenience that must have been.
Dad worked long hard hours and wasn't available to take her where she needed or wanted to go.
I wonder now how she managed.
Of course, we didn't go to the doctor on a regular basis.
Mama did the doctoring with remedies, like Vick's salve and cough syrup.
Mama wasn't a Martha Stewart. She wasn't a gourmet cook or an interior decorator.
But I remember that she often painted the walls in what she called Kem-Tone. She called it "kemtoning the walls."
Kem-Tone interior paint was introduced by Sherwin Williams Co. in 1941. It was the first commercial wall paint that could be washed.
The fast-drying water based paint became an instant hit with do-it-yourselfers. The paint roller was also introduced at the same time.
Before Kem-Tone, our walls were painted with flat enamel which took several days to dry and had a strong odor.
Mama was amazed at how fast her Kem-Toned walls would dry.
Her cooking was basic. She fixed pots of beans; soup beans, pinto, and butterbeans. Also lots of homemade soup or chili. And catfish that Daddy caught.
She wasn't much for baking, except for an occasional cake or pie, nothing fancy.
Mama came from a large family. She had three sisters and three brothers. She was the oldest. Only the youngest survives today.
Mama told me once that her mama (my grandma Adams) didn't want the kids "messing around" in her kitchen because she couldn't afford to waste any food. Maybe that's why Mama didn't learn my grandma's cooking skills.
Of course, my mama married when she was 18. She had to learn "do it yourself" homemaking and motherhood in a hurry.
Mom passed along her basic skills to me. But I learned to make pizza and casseroles after I left home.
One thing Mom left with me was her creed: Grab your coat and go, the housework will wait for you.
"There will come a day when you can't go, so get out and have some fun.
Go while you can."
I guess I was thinking about Mama today because we had a family reunion last Sunday.
She always loved our reunions; all the laughter, talking, and the good food.
She wasn't supposed to eat sweets but she would con someone into putting some on her plate.
She'd say, "Just cut me a small piece of that strawberry cake."
Then a few minutes later she'd ask for "just a taste" of that ice cream cake.
Before we knew it, she'd have eaten a whole plate of sweets.
That's how Mama was. A five foot two con artist.
I missed her at the family reunion.
She would have loved the strawberry cake....