Depression Era: Heart of the Home letters

Kansan recalls her mother's kitchen being papered with Capper's Weekly newspapers, and making laundry soap in an iron kettle

Making Laundry Soap

A fire and a large iron kettle were used to make homemade laundry soap during the Depression era.

Mykhailo Kovtoniuk/Fotolia

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When I was big enough to remember, during the Depression era, we lived in Wyoming out on the prairie. The houses we lived in were frame houses with no insulation. Some houses had nothing on the wall but 2-by-4s. I also want to say that my mother papered the lean-to kitchen with Capper's Weekly papers. Whether they were from a subscription we had or used ones from a neighbor, I don't know. I do know we read every word of it  – and we enjoyed the stories and jokes. I remember drying the dishes and reading the Heart of the Home letters. I sometimes wonder which shaped the values I have most – Capper's Weekly or my mother – probably both.

We also made laundry soap out of grease and lye. Mother used an iron kettle over a fire. We got our water from a spring near the creek, which was about a quarter mile from the house. So instead of carrying wash water to the house, she took the laundry to the spring after heating the water over a fire in the same iron kettle used to make soap. Mother washed everything with lye soap and a scrub brush on a washboard. When all was done, she spread the clothes over bushes to dry in summer. I don't remember how she dried them in winter, maybe they froze dry.

Hazel Caruthers
Burlington, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.