Skinner, Gladys (Zimmer) - Memories 2006

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY
Gladys (Zimmer) Skinner

I believe it was in 1935 or 1936 when I first worked at Warner’s Lake. I worked at Engle’s Fur Trading Post for Jay and Lydia Engle. I received $1.00 a day one candy bar and ice cream cone. I worked seven days a week from when they got up until they went to bed. I slept in a screened room upstairs where I could hang sheets up for privacy.

Jay ran the outside business, which included the beach, boat launch and boat rentals, and Lydia ran the store. I worked with Lydia. She always called me “girl” or “The girl” if she were talking to someone else, but never by my real name. Jay used to keep milk in the woodshed in a couple of those big milk cans the farmers used. He would keep it cold so it wouldn’t sour. Whenever someone would stop to get milk, I had to go to the woodshed and dip the milk from the big milk cans to fill their container. Supplies for the store were also kept there and on Monday mornings I would restock the shelves in the store. There was a big problem with this however; Jay kept his pet alligator in a big tub in that woodshed. I was scared to death of that alligator, and whenever I had to go to the woodshed I would peek around the door to make sure that alligator was in the tub before I would go in. Jay also sold furs in his store. One day he came up from the beach and wanted to know if we had sold a fox fur. We informed him we had not, and he told us to call the troopers because a lady had stolen a fur. It seems she had it hidden under her coat, but the tail hung out below it and Jay caught her and had her arrested. All the children liked Jay because he told such wonderful stories. As the children became older, they still listened, but I don’t think they believed him anymore.

My second summer I worked at Grace and Zeb Strevell’s boarding house on the North end of the lake. I received $10.00 a week plus tips and room and board. I was to help with meals, make beds and take care of the cottages. I carried fresh linen to make the beds and water to fill pitchers for each of the cottages. I also had to empty the chamber pots when necessary. Sometimes we would get a break after lunch to go down to the lake for a swim. We all slept in the attic, as the rooms were all used for the boarders. I remember how hot it was up there with just a little window for ventilation and many nights we would get up and go down to the lake for a swim to cool off.

One of the boarder’s favorite meals was Aunt Gracie’s stuffed peppers. When we would clean up from lunch, all the dishes were taken to a table in the kitchen where Harriet would scrape them clean. When there was a sizeable amount of scraps, Harriet would say to her Grandmother “Time to stuff the peppers,” and we would all laugh

Zeb was quite a handyman and was always there to help anyone who needed it. Gracie didn’t have as much patience as some of us, so if Zeb didn’t come right away, she would keep calling him. After a bit you would hear Zeb holler “Good god Gracie I’m a coming.” The rest of the summer whenever we wanted a laugh, someone would holler “Good god Gracie I’m a coming” and we would all crack a smile.

One family came and stayed the whole summer. All I can remember the wife doing was knitting, and the little girl read a lot. The father left early each morning to go to work, so I had to be up early to serve him his breakfast. When they left after the boarding season ended, he gave me a $100.00 tip. I couldn’t believe it, at that time $100.00 seemed like a fortune to me.

At the end of the summer I stayed an additional two weeks while Gracie and Zeb went on vacation. I kept an eye on Elias and fixed some of his meals. I remember his favorite dinner was milk and crackers.

I really enjoyed working that summer for the Strevells.

Gladys Marie Zimmer Skinner