My Grandmother, Aunt Beth, and Aunt Barb


Here is a picture of my grandmother, Barbara Noreika, alongside the old house with both my Aunt Barb and Aunt Beth. Barb lived with her husband Willie Baugh and son John in Enterprise, Alabama. Beth stayed with my grandmother through her death on the family farm. She had served as an agent with the CIA and spoke five languages fluently.

Aunt Barb was in much better physical condition over that of my Aunt Beth which often made her angry when Barb had to slow her pace while hiking. There was an unseen rivalry between my two aunts.

Rounding out my grandmother’s family were her two sons, Adam who lived in Wabash, Indiana (my dad) and Joe who hailed from Seattle, Washington along with his wife Mary and two sons Craig and Mark.

My dad was married to my mother, Treva, and I had three sisters. There was another Treva, Susie, and Kathy. The only time I met my cousins Mark and Craig was when our two families merged at the farm at the same time one summer.

Our family farm was located on Big Bass Lake near Irons, Michigan. But the rest of the family was scattered well around the United States and made reunions quite difficult. We saw Barb and Willie the most since Wabash was a stopping off point for when Aunt Barb picked up my grandmother each fall to bring her south for the winter to Alabama.  Does anyone in our readership know Barbara Noreika?

The Length of Our Family Field


Pictured here are my older sister Treva, named after our mother, and my youngest sister, Kathy. Even though Kathy is some eight years younger than me our birthdays are one day apart. They are pictured next to a signpost that reads, “Noreika Road” which was our original family name before my father and his brother and sisters changed the name to Norris in the 1940’s. My grandmother kept the original to the day of her death. Our field follows Big Bass Lake Road and extends to The Noreika Road where my two sisters are pictured.

This picture is taken from the dirt road that cuts through the middle of our property. For nearly one-half mile before you is our family farm field. It stretches all the way to that one tree which you can see from our cottage (pictured elsewhere). Somewhere near the middle of this field is a dip that I once thought was in the pattern of a flying saucer. The ground is severely indented and I can’t imagine how that came to be.

That field must have taken in one big crop at one time. It runs along the southwest corner of Big Bass Lake Road. About halfway through the field is another field that is bordered by our forest on each side and by our dirt road. It is apart from this main field. I used to call our family farm our “Ponderosa” cause it was rather large consisting of about 250 acres.

The Still at Big Bass Lake


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In the 1920’s, I just learned that my grandmother, Barbara Noreika, was once arrested for making moonshine. No, not the kind that glows on Big Bass Lake, but the kind of stuff that my grandfather once sold at his bar in Wisconsin before making the move to the farm. No doubt this moonshine made by my grandmother was prepared for my grandfather. I wonder if Elliot Ness was in on the bust?

My grandmother, I am sure, would have rather been in the kitchen preparing pasti with cole slaw over that of that other activity. Farm life then was difficult as the family faired largely on chicken, eggs, and milk, all home grown or produced by the animals of the farm.

There was a Lithuanian language barrier in the area and thus many people like my grandparents were segregated. Yet, like the Amish, they came together for barn raisings, to cut hay, and of course for social gatherings.

You just never know what things one might find out about their grandparents these days!

I am the Tallest one Here


I am the tallest one in this picture and it was my freshman basketball team at Wabash High School. I am 6 foot 10 inches tall. My nickname in high school was Twigs because I was so thin. I had a shot that I could flip the basketball from behind my back into the hoop on a pretty regular basis but never in a game. My best friend is also in this picture who now lives in Atlanta Georgia and his name is Keith Bishop. His father operated the Wabash Country Club. Those were the good old days.

Aunt Barb and Uncle Willie


Aunt Barb, often called Babs by her fariends, and my Uncle Willie lived in Enterprise, Alabama. They had an adopted son, John, which everyone, including them, called Jeb. Uncle Willie spoke very fast and at times was difficult to understand being from the deep south. Aunt Barb was the industrious one as she loved to walk at a brisk pace and was always busy in the garden or cooking.

Barb, Willie, and Jeb are all gone now. In fact of my grandparents family, each of their sons and daughters died in order of their birth. My dad first, then Aunt Barb, Beth, and finally Uncle Joe. His wife Mary died in 2012. Craig and Mark their sons are still alive today.

Uncle Willie loved to play the golf courses around the greater Big Bass Lake area and he also loved to fish Big Bass Lake. They are all missed much

Jeremiah


Jeremiah was my white long-haired cat for 15 years. He was one of the best pets I’ve ever owned. I often called him The Reincarnation of Buff who was a dog I found on my paper route when I was 11. Jeremiah must have been part Italian because whenever I made spaghetti his eyes were fixed on it. I used Parmesan cheese in my spaghetti and Jeremiah would often eat two strands of it and that was about it. He also liked KFC chicken what was rather negative to tuna fish. I guess Charlie got a reprieve. Jeremiah passed away several years ago but he will always be in my memory. I’m all the toys I bought for him which is largely ignored, his favorite was a simple piece of string and they love stalking it as I moved it back and forth. What a hunter!

Noreika Cows


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Noreika cows are not a type of cow but since they were owned by my grandmother Barbara Noreika that is how they were known. I only knew the cows when I was about six years old. She got rid of them soon thereafter. She asked me if I wanted to milk one and I was scared. She squirted me once with fresh milk which tasted pretty good. I used to avoid our barn because of our two cows. Back on the early 1950s the milk we drank on the farm came right from the original tap. It tasted great on cold cereal. In later years whenever I walked into our old barn I remember those cows. At one time we had horses and pigs as well but I never saw those. The cows were the next to last to go as she still had chickens for several years. It was still a great Farm.

Turtle Hunt at Big Bass Lake


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I remember when I was just a little boy how my dad would take our rowboat and row into the little inlets around Big Bass Lake looking for turtles. He wasn’t intereted in doing them in but to watch them. Among the lilly pads we would observe an occassional frog but now and then some turtles. My dad seemed to have a fascination with those creatures.

He never liked to row much in the middle of the lake. He always took the boat to the inlets and a kind of peace settled over him. At times we would just drift slowly as he scanned the inlets. He didn’t talk much on those trips with his mouth but his eyes spoke a thousand words. There was a fascination there for what he beheld.

It seems strange how people focus on one lttle thing over all others. My dad was never that impressed with the speedboats on the lake. But here he was now exploring the dozen or so inlets around Big Bass Lake to his hearts content. Perhaps he was reverting to when he was a little boy there?

Whatever it was, that kind of peace rarely came over my dad so it was interesting to watch how it develped on the inlets of Big Bass Lake.

Conversation at the Icehouse


On one of my boys club trips up to our family farm we encountered some relatives previously unknown to us on my grandmother’s side of the family. Francis (seated in chair) was my grandmother’s sister. Aunt Barb is seated on the beach in glasses before the Icehouse. I am seated by the tree and between Aunt Barb and myself was one of the boys from my club by the name of Steve Jones.

On this trip I met Corrie and the initial meeting came at Seaman Lake where we were staying at the time. She and her sister and brother mingled with the kids from my boys club during our stay there and then met again at the family farm for some good conversation.

The Icehouse, by the way, housed a large refrigeration unit to keep large volumes of meat cold and to house other items that needed that touch. It was nteresting to meet members of my grandmother’s family at this time

My Dad (Adam Norris) and Aunt Mary Norris


Here is a picture of my dad and Aunt Mary, who was my dad’s late brother’s wife. His name was Joe Norris. They are pictured in the old house kitchen which just happened to be my favorite room of all time. That is where my grandmother did all her cooking and she was some cook. That is one kitchen that the Smithsonian should have gotten their hands on.

Just out the door there was a short hallway that I always had to duck going through that led to the outside. I remember the floor on the entry way not being too secure. Once outside the water pump was just to the right of the door almost facing the kitchen window and then just beyond that was the grainery and the old cottage.

Just across the stony driveway was the icehouse, so called because of the big freezer within that housed all kinds of great meats and vegetables. And just past that was the chicken yard.

My dad never seemed to like coming back to the farm much as those days must have been painful to him. He might have had a rough childhood growing up there. It was on this trip that was the only time I ever met my two cousins, Craig and Mark. Since they lived in Seattle and us in Indiana that was a long way to go thus Michigan was the ideal meeting place, although still a long trip for Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary.

Party Line


in the 1950s my grandmother’s house had a telephone with a party line. I had never heard of that before but when I picked up the phone once I heard two ladies talking on it together. I started to speak because I was only 10 at that time. And one lady bawled me out for interrupting their conversation. The other said isn’t he sweet to which the First Lady said no. 2 years later my grandmother got a real phone at least what I would say about it. I don’t know how people in that era could stand party phones. What if there was an emergency? Have any of you had experiences with party lines?

Frisky


When I was growing up, as a lad of eight years old, my older sister and I had sort of adopted a backyard squirrel that we called Frisky for lack of a better name. He was overly friendly and would even eat right out of our hands. My mother drew the line when we both asked if it could come indoors in bad weather citing that they carried the rabies virus.

For nearly two months, Frisky would each day come right up our back stairs to get fed. Once, after a bad thunderstorm the night before, we found a dead squirrel in our backyard. It had to be Frisky because he never again mounted our backstairs in order to get fed.

My sister named him Frisky for how he frolicked throughout our backyard. He had ever so much energy to him. We both buried him in our backyard that afternoon and even my dad attended the funeral. I suppose you could call Frisky our first pet of any sort.

A few days later, our parents presented us with our first real pet, a cocker spaniel by the name of Waggles to help us overcome our loss. Yet Frisky was missed nevertheless.