Friday, October 7, 2011

Grand Pa...intro and poem:

At the age of six late in the summer of 1950 grandpa said I could help him make grape juice and wine from the many grapevines of our yard. He had planted these vines several years after arriving in the USA and buying the house we had lived in.
He had arrived alone from the small village of Kuklov in Czechoslovakia and been processed through Ellis Island an 1907. The village is located southwest of the Carpathian mountains and near Bratislava and Prague. There are many vineyards in this area along with an abundance of small farming communities raising farm animals, vegetables and fruits.
In our yard of approximately one acre we had a shed of 20' by 20' that had a workshop and 2 four foot high barrels with a large screw type wine press at the top of one that could be unbolted from it as needed. There was also a wood pile to season wood to be burned in the furnace and a wood stove in the kitchen to cook food and for heating the home in the winter months. Near the wood pile was a stump to chop wood into smaller pieces for burning in the stove and a large round foot operated sharpening stone. A chicken was sometimes killed for food at this location behind the shed which was far away from the chicken coop. We of course wouldn't want the other chickens at the coop to see what was happening. At the far corner of the yard away from our house was that long chicken coop in which lived about a dozen chickens and one rooster. At the far end of this property was another 2 story house that was built years after grandpa and grandma had bought the main house. That one was built by him and his sons for the eldest son and his wife after they married and to start their own family. He had 3 sons and 4 daughters.
Grandpa worked for the city of Beacon, NY in the department of public works repairing the roads and city buildings and making street signs. His main thing at home was gardening fixing the house as it needed repairs (it needed constant upkeep since the main core of the house was built in the 1750s and its first floor had very low ceilings while the 2nd floor add on had 12 foot ceilings) while his real labor of love of what we might call a hobby was the tending of the vineyard of concord grapes and the walk through grape arbor path of red and white grapes. He used these other grapes (they tasted really good right off the vines) to experiment giving his grape juice and wines different tastes is what I've been told. I wonder what grandma thought of his wine making hobby that he must have started soon after they had married and bought the old house along with all the grape vines being planted soon afterwards. He met grandma at a Slovak club gathering around 1912......she was from another area of Czechoslovakia.
Now back to my wine making experience with grandpa on that sunny and warm late summer day at our back yard on 25 Howland avenue in Beacon,NY. ... I was probably playing nearby or using some of his tools to make something or maybe even getting into trouble. He called to me while nearby and said I could help him make juice from the grapes again. We had already picked several pales full of grapes the previous day and had dumped them into large wood boxes in the shed near the two barrels that was used to make juice. A few days before I had watched him use a large hand turned screw attachment contraption to crush the grapes and have the juice flow out of a spigot at the base of the wood barrel. For that first batch of juice I had helped by taking the picked grapes from the grape storage boxes and dropping them into the barrel till almost near the top of the barrel......then grandpa would attach the device on top and turn the round wood stick handle to press them down crushing them by means of a worm gear while at the bottom of the barrel the juice flowed into a pale. But this time things would continue a little bit differently. He told me to take off my shoes and socks, to get the old pair of wooden shoes stored on a shelf nearby and to take them over to the water hose at the side of the house where we usually washed the vegetables from the garden.......He told me to wash my feet real good with soap and water and put my clean feet into the washed wooden shoes without stepping barefooted on the ground and come back to the shed next to the grape barrel and step onto the clean towel on a low foot stool next to the barrel. When I stepped onto the towel covered footstool after slipping my feet from the wooden shoes one at a time I looked into the barrel which was only half full of mainly the blue concord grapes and some of the white and red grapes sprinkled amongst them. This was to be one of grandpas special grape juice concoction this time....... for sure! Surprise!!! No special top was placed on top of the barrel this time ...yet!...... After looking into the half full barrel I asked grandpa ...What's Next? ...Answer---You!...Me?... Yes ! You. You are going to crush the grapes with your feet........Now roll up your pants real high climb up to the barrel edge and well let you go in and stand on top of the grapes. With a little difficulty I hesitantly got in but soon found what fun it was stomping up and down upon those sweet smelling grapes......much better than splashing in puddles of rain water for sure. The pale was soon placed by grandpa and the spigot opened and the juice of the harvest flowed....As I stomped and jumped up and down holding on to the barrels edges grandpa added more grapes because I had done well in crushing them down lower and lower. We both had lost all track of time with all the fun we were having but eventually I know I had become tired and somehow had gotten out but that part I somehow don"t remember......For all I know today..... I could still be stomping grapes with grandpa till this very day..... Maybe I am as I lay asleep and dream.
Later grandpa got some empty pop and wine bottles and filled them with the juice we had produced and corked half of them for me. (the pop bottles) Then we put them on shelves in the cellar. That room had my toys, tools and models of wooden boats and wagons we had built together along with books stored high up on shelves. Those books I sometimes took down but could not yet read so well but in later years I would read some of those classics such as Treasure Island, Huckleberry Fin, King Arthur"s Tales and Great Expectations. I remember there was about 50 small pop bottles with grape juice that was my own personal supply. The other bottles that grandpa filled were larger wine bottles with something added to help change the juice to wine which had to be stored for a long time before being brought to the dinner table on special occasions. The cellar grandpa stored his wine was separate and locked with his special large key. When we went inside it was to place his recently bottled corked wine bottles upon shelves which were separated and had numbers on the shelves to designate when they were bottled. Nearby there was also half a dozen clay or ceramic jugs also corked with one special one that looked like a mallard duck that would play a tune when lifted from the table....there was a windup key underneath and a sensor pin that started the tune as it was lifted..... and the tune is one of the two following depending on the occasion or who is singing it.
....Either "How Dry I Am" or "Oh Happy Days" .... but sometimes we made up our own words to go with the tune.

A Poem for Grandpa

At our little vineyard
Grapes blue, red and white
Picked,crushed, juiced
With yeast then fermented
And seasoned for years
With stories told
of family and friends
among laughter and tears.

I liked the grapes,
The grape juice so fine,
You liked the wine,
I drank the juice,
We sipped and sang,
"Oh Happy Day"
"How Dry I Am"
Those tunes sublime.

Music from a simple time,
A windup clay mallard.
Cork covered jug
Played that tune for us
And our thirst
Heavenly quenched
With Gods own Grapes.

A thankful harvest
Was our joyous task
As we sang together
That time long past,
Mind, soul, spirit,
Forever more,
Upon this Earth
The Lords Grapes
Are Cast upon
This land of men
Women and children.

grandson- Stephen Patrick Matthew COYLE
grandpa- Stephen Guta
grandma- Helen Guta
mother- Mary Coyle
father- Matthew Coyle
grandma- Mary Bonner
grandpa- Patrick Coyle

date- 10/07/2011

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