Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | October 31, 2015

Halloween on Palomar 100 years ago


From:  Barbara Anne Waite

Work remained a constant companion on Elsie’s mountain. October was one of the busiest months, requiring a large crew to pick and pack the apples. Elsie, of course,  had to provide the meals for all the apple pickers. Yet in this excerpt from the book readers can see how, in spite of the work, she remained upbeat and creative. Elsie told her grandchildren this Halloween story year after year.

“Up on our mountain, with no chances to go down, the pickers could hardly have spent the money they were earning. I wonder how they kept contented with so little to entertain them. One fall, we did give them a party that provided a lot of fun for Martha and Sadie, and me at least. It was a surprise Halloween dinner—a surprise in more ways than one.

Sometimes, if not always, a big meal was taken at noon to whatever orchard was being used that day, where perhaps we would join them for a picnic. That day, with the house entirely to ourselves, we decorated it lavishly. Branches of golden oak leaves and rosy sprays of Dogwood were a background. I had some construction paper with which we cut out such appropriate items as cats and witches on broomsticks and tacked them to the walls. We wrote out individual menus, partly humorous, largely in French, indicating that the usually informal meal would be served in as many courses as possible. We made place cards with a personal rhyme to fit each man. Then we prepared a special dinner. We chuckled over everything in anticipation of the surprise.

When the men came in to dinner, they stared about at the decorated walls and table and sat down, startled to find the place cards and menus. Probably a number of them had never heard of such things, much less seen them. They were silent, looking embarrassed. And why wasn’t everything served at once? The courses, one after another, bewildered them further. Our greatest fun had been planning the entrée or what appeared to be the entrée. With an air, Martha brought in a large serving platter with a great rounded oval cover I had inherited, designed to keep a roast hot. She set it down at the head of the table, lifted the cover, and out sprang a very live and very angry black cat! The response was not the shout of laughter we had happily anticipated, but more disgust, or pity for our unbalanced minds. At least the steak that followed was very welcome, as was finally the big cake. Anyway we girls had fun.”

Now, almost 100 years later,  I am having such fun sharing “Elsie’s Mountain” with those who never had the privilege to hear her giggle as she told her tales of life on Palomar.

I was privileged to be able to do this at the annual Apple Festival on Palomar Mountain this month. On Oct. 26th the Temecula Historical Society invited me to spend an hour telling Elsie’s stories. I look forward to speaking to the Historical Society in Ramona and other nearby groups. Next Saturday, November 7th, I will be at Bates Brothers Nut Farms selling books and telling tales.

The first 100 copies of  “Elsie’s Mountain” have sold or been given to potential reviewers in the last 2 weeks. I still have a supply to mail to friends interested in the special November price. It sells on Amazon for $15.00. During November I will mail autographed copies to those within the USA for $12. I am looking forward to hearing from those who have read and enjoyed.

Thank you all,

Barbara Anne Waite

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