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Sisters Enjoyed The Simple Life in Barton

Photo by Shelley Hanson Gwendolyn Carter, left, poses with her daughter Susan Mihelarakis at her home in the Colerain area. Carter is 98 years old.

BARTON — Gwendolyn Carter and two of her sisters — Katherine Moravick and Lois Keller — all celebrated their birthdays in June, turning 98, 91 and 96, respectively.

Carter, who prefers to be called Gwen, and her siblings grew up on Barton Road between the village of Barton and the city of St. Clairsville. Two of her siblings have since passed away — sister Norma and brother Maurice.

Growing up in the Barton area provided a simple, yet often-fun life, filled with walks to a nearby creek’s falls, to their one-room grade school, Cherry Hill School in Barton, and sometimes with the neighbors across the road — the Pickenpaugh boys, Carter said.

“It was good because many other kids grew up there, too,” she said.

Carter said her father, Charles Griffiths, worked as a coal miner. Her mother, Katherine Untermoser, immigrated from Germany and came through Ellis Island in New York City. She noted her mother provided a strict upbringing for the children.

“We weren’t allowed to wait on them or hold hands,” she noted of the Pickenpaugh boys.

Carter graduated from St. Clairsville High School. She went on to the Elliot Business School to study stenography. Her first job was working for a law firm in St. Clairsville.

It was at the business school that she met her future sister-in-law, Betty Carter. Betty’s brother, George Carter, was in the service during World War II. As part of a local letter-writing campaign to soldiers, Betty encouraged Carter to write to her brother. Since Gwen did not know what to say in a letter, Betty decided to send her brother Gwen’s address so he could write her first. The rest, as they say, is history.

In her family history that she wrote years ago, Carter also talked about what life was like as a child during that era. As the family grew, the sleeping arrangements would change. At one point, her father’s sister, Margaret, and her five children needed to move in until Margaret’s husband could find work.

“They slept crosswise on our fold-out davenport and on the floor of the living room,” she wrote. “This was during the Depression years. We had plenty of food because my mother raised chickens and dad raised a lot of vegetables.

“We had apple trees, peach trees and berry patches. We raised pigs which were always butchered in November; and owned one cow.”

“When she had a calf, dad would sell it because we kids became attached to it as a pet, and couldn’t think of eating it. We also gathered hickory nuts, black walnuts, chestnuts and butternuts and hazelnuts.

“Mom made our clothes from feed sacks, and Grandma Untermoser always sent us a dress for Christmas.”

Carter also wrote by the time she reached high school the family had more money and could sometimes buy store-bought dresses. She also talked about what it was like to have their own cow, and what a luxury it was to have their own fresh milk and cottage cheese whenever they wanted it. When they did not yet have electricity, the family would keep milk and other perishables outside, “suspended from the ceiling of our back porch.” In the summertime, ice was purchased to keep food cold.

“Every spring, dad would raise a couple pigs and butcher them at Thanksgiving time. Neighbors helped each other butcher and cut up the meat, and in return received some of the meat. Mom knew a way to fry sausage and pack it into lard and it would keep a long time in the cool part of our basement. They also salt-cured the hams and hung them there. Sometimes I wonder how we escaped food poisoning,” she wrote.

Carter’s family history also included a variety of recipes she had collected over the years from home, her siblings and friends. Some of the titles are of dishes we still know and love today like a potato casserole with cheese, chili, and spaghetti and homemade meatballs. There are others like homemade ketchup and a dish called “lumpia.” A quick check via the Internet shows lumpia is a traditional Indonesian or Fillipino dish.

“Lumpia” from Gwendolyn Carter family history:

Mix together 1 pound of ground beef and one pound of ground pork, three diced onions, 2 ½ grated carrots, three eggs, 2 tablespoons garlic salt, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, a pinch of Accent, and a 1 ½ teaspoons of onion salt. From the frozen food section of Krogers, you buy a very thin type of pastry called spring roll wrapper. Place a tablespoon of meat mixture on each wrapper and roll tight. Seal with beaten egg. Fry in medium hot oil.

Carter now resides with her daughter, Susan Mihelarakis, in the Colerain area.

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