THE LIFE OF TWIN GIRLS GROWING UP ON THEIR FARM IN WEST BERNE Story told in 2007
The Ensminger twins, Rhobe and Euretha were born on February 1, 1915 at their farm in West Berne on Line Road. The twin girls were delivered by a midwife, Rhobe Wolford. Since Rhobe was the smaller of the twins, she was nick named “Tiny” and Euretha was nick named “Beebe.” Rhobe and Euretha had two older sisters, Bessie and Alice. Their Mom, Flora Dennison (had a twin brother, Fred), and the Dennison Family was from Huntersland. Flora married Burton Ensminger who was also from Huntersland. The twins did not have any brothers, so their father referred to his four daughters and his “four hired hand.” Flora and Burton did not have the twin girls until they were 40 years old.
Beebe spent more time with her Dad with the outdoor farm chores and Tiny spent more time helping her Mom with the inside house chores. Their Mom was never out in the fields and always inside cooking and cleaning, etc. Their mom was a great cook and Beebe loved her Roast Chicken and she made the best dressing! Their father would slaughter a chicken for dinner and Beebe would pluck the feathers and dress the chicken. Beebe remembers helping her Dad plow the fields with their team of horses, plant potatoes, and milk the cows and dress the chickens. These horses were very important to their farm since they did not have any tractors or automobiles in the early years. The girls enjoyed riding the horses through the fields. Their horses were their main transportation whether they were hooked up to the farm wagon, carriage or cutter (sleigh). Beebe said that during bad snowstorms they would travel through the fields instead of on the roads because the roads were blocked with snowdrifts. While going through the fields, sometimes the sleigh would tip over. It was very cold riding during the winter and sometimes they would put layers of newspapers under their clothing to help them keep warmer (even with their long johns on). Their farm had very rich soil because there was a lime ridge going through their property and they would cut three cuttings of alfalfa hay each season. Their mowing machine was drawn by their team of horses.
They had to walk about one mile to the Waldenville School and during the winter they would wear long johns under their dresses and snowsuits. When they got to school they would roll their long johns up so that they were not seen under their dresses. They wore simple dresses (cotton or wool) all the time. The Waldenville School was a one-room schoolhouse and she remembered practicing handwriting and arithmetic; they did not have many books to carry like the children do today. They carried a lunch box to school everyday. On cold winter days, they would all sit around the woodstove to get warmer. It was the boys’ job to bring the wood in from outside for the one room schoolhouse. They remember one of their teachers, Charlie Becker, who rode his bike to school everyday. Once in awhile the twins would get mischievous and jump out of the woods along side the road and grab onto the teacher’s bicycle to stop him so that he would have to get off his bike and then walk it up the long hill. Their Dad, Burton, was on the Board of Trustees at the School at that time.
They heated their home with wood that they would cut from their woods. They did not have electricity when they were small children and they would use candles and oil lamps. They kept their food cool by keeping it in the dirt cellar. They canned all their vegetables and smoked their meat in their smokehouse and also canned meat in jars. Tiny remembered picking raspberries, strawberries, and elderberries and making pies and jam. Tiny and Beebe’s father would flail the beans (a method of getting the beans out of the pod) and then the twins had to go through a bushel of beans and separate out the bad ones. They also remembered picking the big patch of peas in the field. Fresh meat that was going to be sold would be stored in the icehouse briefly until they brought it to the market. They would get large chunks of ice from a nearby lake and then put them in the ice house and cover the ice with lots of saw dust. Beebe remembers making their own popcorn from the corn in their fields and this was a special snack in the evenings. Beebe remembered going “nutting,” where they would collect hickory nuts and butternuts, etc and then crack them open with a hammer on a large stone. Once in awhile, they would take a special trip to Middleburgh or Schoharie to buy bananas and other food they needed. Most of their food was from their own farm (chickens, pigs, beef, lambs, wool, milk, eggs, vegetables, potatoes, berries, etc.). The family’s income was made from selling their farm products. The twins enjoyed going to the West Berne Village with their father to take the milk in the large milk cans to the store to sell. Their mom had a cream separator that would separate the cream from the milk to make butter; she use to make their own soap which they used for hand washing their own clothes and for baths. Their water came from two wells, one by the barn and one by the house. They would bring pails of water to the house and used a dipper many times, instead of a glass to get a drink of water. There was a cistern in the cellar which would collect the water that was caught from the house’s drain gutters and their father would keep a watch on the water level of the cistern. If it was getting low, then they would have to wash their clothes in the creek. Their bathrooms were an outhouse, but they felt lucky because their outhouse was attached to a long shed that connected to their house, so they did not have to walk outside. They saved all their catalogs (Montgomery Wards and Sears) and local newspapers to use for toilet paper. In the evenings, they would bring an enamel pot into their rooms in case they had to go to bathroom in the evenings. Their older sister, Bessie, would give the twins baths in the wash basin in the kitchen and they would warm up the water on the wood stove. Tiny remembered that they would take an old broom and remove the end of it and attach a bunch of strips of heavy paper from the flour bags to swat it around the room to get rid of the flies in the house.
For light, they used candles and had two oil lamps in their big kitchen. Tiny remembered that one of their chores when they were teenagers was to clean the glass globes, cut the wicks, and fill the oil lamps with oil. Beebe remembered that her Dad would put live candles on their Christmas tree, but always had a large pail of water next to the Christmas tree in case of fire. Their Dad purchased a radio that ran on batteries and the twins would share one headset together so that they each had one ear phone to themselves. They could not listen to the radio more then one hour per day so that the batteries would last a long time. They were one of the last families in West Berne to get electricity, but when they did, many things changed in their household. They did not have many books, but the twins remember their mother reading them the Bible. Their older sister, Bessie, would tell them bedtime stories. They did not have many toys, but Tiny did remember that they each had a teddy bear that they loved.
When they were teenagers, their father purchased a pickup truck and he would let them drive the truck through the farm fields and this is how they learned how to drive. Their first car was a Model T Ford, known as a “touring car.” Once they got cars, they would go on a trip once a year with their friends; usually traveled within the state.
They never had a television on their farm. One of the most exciting outings for the twins was to go to the “Street Movies” in Schoharie. They would close off the main street and people would set up folding chairs on the street and a large screen was put up. As teenagers, they enjoyed this event. Their Dad kept a tight leash on his four girls, but once in awhile they would sneak out to some local dances. They were not allowed to date any boys until they were in high school. The twins rode on a large Wade Tour Bus to go to their high school in Schoharie. When they were in 10th grade, they opened up a high school in Berne, but they chose to continue and finish up their high school years in Schoharie where they graduated in 1933. Beebe took college entrance courses in high school because she wanted to go to college for nursing, but her parents would not send her to college because they needed her to stay home and help with the farm until she got married. Both twins were married in the same year when they were 20 years old. Tiny married Gene Mudge and moved to Guilderland Center and she had two children and also a set of twin boys. Her parents, Flora and Burton, sold their farm in 1949 in West Berne and moved in with Tiny where they lived until they passed away. Beebe married Stanton Shufelt and lived in Rensselaerville; she had three children, but did not have any twins. At 92 years old, both twins are alive and hoping to see the day when one of their grandchildren might have twins!