Last night my bride made BLT’s for our dinner. I was a pig and had two. Every bite brought back a flood of childhood memories of Sundays at Grandma’s house. In the mid-50’s, at least one Sunday a month was spent at Grandma and Grandpa Morrissey’s huge old six-bedroom house in Oshkosh. We’d make the trip from our home in Hortonville, a half-hour away, and arrive around 10:30 AM.
Grandpa and my dad both wore a suit. The women wore dresses. My sister Lynn and I had on our “Sunday best”. It was a formal occasion every time.
The entire family would go to noon mass at St. Peter’s Church in Oshkosh, and then return home to make the BLT’s. It was always BLT’s. And there was a well-practiced assembly line routine involved in their construction. Grandma Morrissey fried the bacon, and the bacon was always procured at Buttman-Binner, a butcher shop on Main Street in Oshkosh. Grandpa Morrissey sliced the tomatoes, which he called “tommy-toes”. If they weren’t from his garden, they were from the A and P. He had a knife, which to this day I can picture in my mind, which had one, and only one use: slicing the tomatoes for the BLT’s. My mom washed, drained, and prepared the lettuce and was in charge of setting the table in the dining room and making coffee. My aunts, Ruth Ann and Sara Jane, ran the bread prepration operation. There were four toasters involved; the bread was from Schoenberger’s Bakery, next door to the butcher shop. It was toasted to perfection, then one slice was buttered, and the other was coated lightly with Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayo. Never Miracle Whip; Grandpa said Miracle Whip introduced spices that had no business in a BLT. My dad and Grandpa were in charge of final assembly.
The sandwiches were assembled, sliced in half (NOT with the “tomato knife”), placed on a large platter which was covered by a clean dishtowel to keep them warm.
There was beauty and precision in the operation. The roles and the routine never varied.
When my Grandpa deemed that enough had been assembled, he proclaimed it was time to eat; the platter was transported to the dining room, everyone was seated at the huge table, Grandpa led the family in saying “Grace”, and the eating commenced. The taste was as indescribably delicious as it is memorable; I felt the same way last night eating Toni’s BLT’s as I did nearly six decades ago.
The adults carried on conversation during “brunch”, as it was called; my sister and I were children, “who were to be seen, but not heard”, by my father’s dictate. We were, however, always part of the clean-up crew afterwards, carrying dishes to the kitchen, where another assembly-line operation of dish washing, drying, and putting away – involving everyone – “he who eats, must help clean up” took place. Since both my dad, who had served in the Army of Occupation in Japan after helping Patton win the war in Europe, and my Uncle Jack were somewhat aware of the Japanese culture (Uncle Jack having served as a spy in the post-war Army), the phrase “many hands make light work” was repeated several times during the clean-up.
After the clean-up was done, “the men-folk” would retire to the “living room” where current events and politics and sports were discussed; “the women-folk” would retire to the parlor, where other topics were given a workout. Often, my sister and I would retire to the “sun room”, a four-season porch, where I was allowed to listen to Grandpa’s five-band radio – and in spring, summer, and early fall, that meant listening to Earl Gillespe calling the Braves’ game. My sister contented herself with dolls and other toys available.
At some point late in the afternoon, we would say our good-byes and return home. The BLT’s – and the family events surrounding them – will never be forgotten.