JLS (jlsjlsjls) wrote,

Even day ... something a little different

I'm sure most of you are old enough to have seen (or at least heard of) the Ma and Pa Kettle movies. But have you ever encountered the real Kettles?

Betty MacDonald wrote four extremely entertaining volumes of autobiography ... if you haven't read them you're in for a major treat. In the first she described many interactions with her neighbours, the Kettles. The whole winning the automated dream house thing of the films was pure fantasy but the personalities of the main characters are only slightly exaggerated from the real thing (as MacDonald tells 'em, anyway)

MacDonald's first visit to the Kettle house, from "The Egg and I":
Mrs. Kettle had pretty light brown hair, only faintly streaked with gray and skinned back into a tight knot, clear blue eyes, a creamy skin which flushed exquisitely with the heat, a straight delicate nose, fine even white teeth, and a small rounded chin. From this dainty pretty head cascaded a series of busts and stomachs which made her look like a cooky jar shaped like a woman. Her whole front was dirty and spotted and she wiped her hands continually on one or the other of her stomachs. She also had a disconcerting habit of reaching up under her dress and adjusting something in the vicinity of her navel and of reaching down her dress and adjusting her large breasts. These adjustments were not, I learned later, confined to either the privacy of the house or a female gathering -- they were made anywhere -- any time. "I itch -- so I scratch -- so what!" was Mrs. Kettle's motto.
But never in my life have I tasted anything to compare with the cinnamon rolls which she took out of the oven and served freshly frosted with powdered sugar. They were so tender and delicate I had to bring myself up with a jerk to keep from eating a dozen. The coffee was so strong it snarled as it lurched out of the pot and I girded up my loins for the first swallow and was amazed to find that when mixed with plenty of thick cream it was palatable. True it bore only the faintest resemblance to coffee as I made it but still it had a flavor that was good when I got my throat muscles loosened up again.
As we ate our rolls and drank our coffee Mrs. Kettle told me that she and Paw had fifteen children, the youngest of whom was then ten. Seven of these children lived at home. The other eight were married and scattered in and around the mountains. Mrs. Kettle began most of her sentences with Jeeeeesus Key-rist and had a stock disposal for everything of which she did not approve, or any nicety of life which she did not possess. "Ah she's so high and mighty with her 'lectricity," Mrs. Kettle sneered. "She don't bother me none -- I just told her to take her old vacuum cleaner and stuff it." Only Mrs. Kettle described in exact detail how this feat was to be accomplished. As Mrs. Kettle talked, telling me of her family and children, she referred frequently to someone called "Tits." Tits' baby, Tits' husband, Tits' farm, Tits' fancywork. They were important to Mrs. Kettle and I was glad therefore when a car drove up and Tits herself appeared. She was a full-breasted young woman and, even though Mrs. Kettle had already explained that the name Tits was short for sister, I found it impossible to hear the name without flinching. Tits was a Kettle daughter and she had a six-month-old son whose name I never learned as she referred to him always as "You little bugger."

The four volumes of Betty MacDonald's autobiography are, in order:
The Egg and I (the early years of her first marriage)
Anybody Can Do Anything (life after leaving her husband and trying to make ends meet during the Depression)
The Plague and I (her time spent in a tuberculosis sanatorium during World War II)
Onions in the Stew (her second marriage)
Tags: bookseries: bettymacdonald, reading

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