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Sep 12

It Came From Under the Summer Kitchen

No, this is not a story about some creature that came crawling out of the earth. It is the tale of a very old item that was put away many years ago and forgotten.

Earlier this summer Joe was weed whipping at the Schumm farm when Marilyn walked across the barnyard pushing a cute little three-wheeled cart. It was obviously very old and in fairly good condition. She asked Joe if he thought I would want it.

Was she serious? Of course! I would love to have it!

P1070618

Where did this lovely old cart come from? And why would she offer it to me?

Marilyn and her husband now own the house where my Schumm grandparents lived, the house where my mom and her sisters grew up. Behind the main house is a breezeway and on the other side of the breezeway is the old summer kitchen.

People don’t have summer kitchens these days because most homes are air conditioned. But years ago many homes had a second kitchen, separate from the main house, where the family would cook in the summer. This way they would not heat up the main house while cooking.

My grandparents’ summer kitchen was a separate building, a very nice-sized kitchen. It set up on blocks and there was some space between the floor and the ground.

A few years ago Marilyn turned the summer kitchen into her laundry room and she wanted to insulate around its foundation. Her husband was under the building working when he felt something poke him in the back. As he carefully started to dig he saw a mental handle. He kept removing dirt from around the object, digging mainly with the claw end of his hammer, until he eventually uncovered the entire little cart. They removed the cart from underneath the summer kitchen and carefully cleaned it up.

Why was this cart buried in the dirt under my grandparents’ summer kitchen? Who put it there? And when?

My aunt Amy, my mom’s older sister, recalls that they used to shove things in the space under the summer kitchen. She vaguely remembers this old cart and believes they put it under the building for winter storage. My mom does not remember the cart at all, so it must have been put under there when she was a very young girl.

I would guess that the little cart was under the summer kitchen, in the dirt, for 7 or 8 decades. Until a few years ago. It is amazing that it is in such good condition!

Gendron Mail Cart (3)

Gendron Mail Cart

You can still read the writing on the side, where the word DELIVERY was painted. The manufacturer’s metal name plate is still attached to the end. It was made by Gendron Wheel Co,Toledo, Ohio.

Original name plate, Gendron Wheel Co, Toledo, O.

Original name plate, Gendron Wheel Co, Toledo, O.

Marilyn did a little research and learned that it was a mail delivery cart, used to pick up mail at the train station and deliver it to the post office.

Marilyn used the cart for decoration in her home for a few years until she felt it took up too much space. She decided to get rid of it but she wanted someone from the family to have it. Lucky me! Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Also ironic is that Joe was going to make a flower cart for our back yard and this was exactly the type of cart we wanted. Although this cart is now too fragile to be used outside it can be used as a template to build a garden cart.

Still, I am using it as flower cart, but for artificial flowers in our basement.

Gendron Mail Cart

Gendron Mail Cart

The Gendron Iron Wheel Company, founded in 1872 and incorporated in 1880, originated the wire wheel and made bicycles, tricycles, invalid chairs, go-cars, baby carriages, doll carriages, coaster wagons, toy wheel barrows, and other such items. And obviously mail carts. Gendron became a subsidiary of American National in 1927. [1] I would say this cart was made before 1927.

But where did my grandparents get this mail cart in the first place, so many years ago?

Although there was a post office in Schumm at one time, there were no postmasters in our immediate Schumm family. Perhaps it was used at the Willshire Post Office. After all, a train ran through both towns.

I can only speculate that the cart outgrew its usefulness at the post office and was sold or given away and somehow my grandparents ended up with it. It was probably a handy little cart to use around the farm, sort of like a wheelbarrow.

But did my grandparents forget they had stored it under the summer kitchen? How could you forget something like this? They were frugal and resourceful people and it is hard to believe that they would have not used it until it fell apart.

There are some things we will never know…

In the end I am glad they did forget about it, leaving it buried safely in the ground for years, waiting to be rediscovered and re-purposed one day.

 

[1] Gendron, Ind., Wikipedia (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendron_Inc. : accessed 11 September 2014).

9 comments

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  1. Sondra Samples

    What a neat story! I remember how excited Donny and Marilyn were when they found the cart and have seen it displayed in their home. How generous of Marilyn to “pass it on” to your family!

    1. Karen

      Yes, it certainly is a treasure! A little money did pass hands. 🙂

  2. Trude Laffin

    Neat story, Karen! What a wonderful find!

    1. Karen

      Thank you!

  3. Brian Brewster

    How did the wooden part of the cart ever make it through that many years in the ground? A real find for them, and you.

    1. Karen

      That is what we wondered. You would think it would have rotted but evidently the soil protected it. Amazing!

  4. Debbie Mayes

    How cool!

  5. Marilyn R. Baxter

    What a wonderful story , Iam so glad the cart has a home with family to treasure it. If you ever find out where and how it came to be here I would love to know, thanks Karen,

    1. Karen

      Thank you, Marilyn, for offering the wonderful little cart to us. We do truly treasure it. I will be sure to let you (and probably all my readers) know if I ever find out more about its history.

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