In 1959, my husband became the pastor of a small rural church in Western Pennsylvania. The church was in a community known as Rogers Mill, the rented parsonage was in Millertown (a collection of houses on homes on the side of a hill) and our address was Normalville. The church rented the parsonage from Chester and Minnie Miller and it was directly across the road from where they lived.
Minnie and Chester were very friendly and helpful. They helped us get situated in our new home, and I got to know something about Minnie.
Minnie and Chester were farmers. Their barn was our side of the road and the hill rising from the back of their barn was extremely steep. Minnie told me that several years before, she had been up on that hill and started to come down the hill, –fast. She kept picking up momentum and was running by the time she approached the barn, and she couldn’t stop! She put out her arms to stop her and ran full tilt into the side of the barn! It broke both her arms! She could do nothing with both her arms broken and Chester had to care for her and do everything to help her, –for weeks. What a hard time they both had! But now she could laugh at the humor in the situation.
When my husband asked Chester to give him some advice as to how to tend the coal furnace in our basement, Chester said he would send Minnie over to teach me! In their community, the women kept the furnace running. I had other ideas about my household duties. Minnie taught my husband about the furnace. I learned to put more coal on the fire when he was away and the fire was dying down, but I never did learn about shaking down the ashes, banking the fire, or what to do about the draft. But Minnie knew!
The women in this area didn’t buy packages of noodles, they made them. They didn’t have pasta machines, either. They made the dough and then rolled it out with a rolling pin, thin and flat and completely even. Many times when I visited Minnie, there was a round of rolled out noodle dough, flat as could be, drying out on her dining room table. I don’t know how she did it, but when the dough was dry enough, Minnie could cut it into strips that looked as though they had come in a package of egg noodles from the grocery store. I never could get my noodles to look as professional as Minnie’s did.
Minnie was a great friend to me. She was like a loving grandma to me. She gave me advice and looked after me. One night I had to get up during the night, -I’ve long since forgotten why. But I remember that the next day Minnie checked on me. “I just happened to get up in the night,” she said, “and I saw that your light was on. Are you all right?” I loved that she “just happened” to see that I had been up in the night. I didn’t mind how much she “just happened” to see because I knew she was looking out for me.
When we moved to our next home on the Laurel Mountain ridge, I hated saying “good-bye” to Minnie and Chester, but there would be other close neighbors and great friendships.