Shortly after I was born, my parents moved into an apartment in Hayward, but within a year they had bought a house on the east side of the city along Highway 77. They both wanted a place of their own with room for a garden, a garage and a fenced front yard where their firstborn could play safely. A year later Grandma Hopp gave me a young Canada goose as a pet to play with.
I named him Jeep. No one ever figured out why I chose that name. Years later a possible explanation came to me. World War Two was going on and Jeeps were often mentioned on the radio. We listened to news broadcasts every day, so my pet’s juvenile squawk may have sounded like a word I heard on the radio. Incidentally, Jeep may have been a girl goose, but I have always thought of him as a boy.
As you can tell from the photo, Jeep and I became good friends. Mom told me that Jeep was also a watchgoose. When I turned three, I learned how to unlatch the gate. “Jeep would squawk like crazy when you tried to go out in the street,” my mother told me. After a couple of close calls running after a three-year-old, however, Mom had Dad put a hook out of my reach on the gate, so Jeep reverted to his role as playmate.
As happens with men and geese, particularly ganders, as they get older, they get meaner, and so it happened with Jeep. Thus, when I turned five, we returned Jeep to Grandma and Grandpa Hopp. Saying goodbye to him was a major turning point in my life. No one ever told me what happened to him, but my guess is that he ended up in a roasting pan. Grandma was fastidious about not eating her pets, but Jeep was my pet, not hers.
My fifth birthday was important for another reason. A few months after turning five, I entered kindergarten. It was exciting to meet new kids and get to play on the swings, slides and merry-go-round. Even more exciting were the people I met on my way home from school every afternoon. I never had much time to visit on my way to school in the morning, but there was no bell calling me to class at home.
My mother walked me to school the first week or two, but after that I was on my own. As best as I can remember, my classmates also walked to school by themselves. Mom lectured me about how to walk safely the mile between our house and the school building. Before I soloed, she followed a half block behind me as I crossed the railroad tracks and Highway 63 and looked carefully before crossing any streets. In a few days she felt confident enough to let me go on my own, though she met me the first few times before I crossed the highway and tracks on my way home.
My mother was already in the habit of baking treats for anyone who stopped in. This included me, so I generally got home with plenty of time for a snack before supper. There was homemade bread, of course, but on most days I could also count on a cookie or a piece of cake. The recipe below is from one of her friends.
I doubt that I ever had Mrs. Elwick’s Lazy Daisy Oatmeal Cake, simply because I think I would remember the name if I had, but it’s a delicious way to turn a common ingredient into something special. Mom may have served it to me years later. I can almost hear her: “Try this, I got the recipe from Mrs. Elwick. It’s got oatmeal in it, but it’s good.”
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Pour boiling water over the oatmeal in a small mixing bowl, cover and let it stand for twenty minutes. Beat the butter until it is creamy, then gradually add the sugars and beat the mixture until it is fluffy.
Preheat the oven to 350º and grease a nine by thirteen-inch baking pan.
Blend in the eggs and vanilla and stir in the oatmeal. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spices into the creamed mixture. Mix the batter well and pour it into the greased pan and bake the cake for fifty to fifty-five minutes. Test for doneness after fifty minutes. A toothpick stuck near the center of the cake should come out clean when the cake is done.
Let the cake cool a bit but do not remove it from the pan while making the icing. Spread the warm cake with Lazy Daisy Icing.
Lazy Daisy Icing
6 T butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 T whipping cream
1 cup Wheaties, flaked coconut or chopped nuts, or any combination of the three
Cream the butter and brown sugar, stir in the cream and fold in the Wheaties, coconut or nuts. Spread the icing on the cake and broil it for three to five minutes until bubbly.
NOTE: You can substitute half and half for the whipping cream.