Friday, January 22, 2010

Louisiana Gumbo... Poem turned into Needlepoint and a Family Memory...

One of the things I enjoy the most about selling vintage items are surprise connections... This is a wonderful story about one of those "connections"...

I recently found an unusual needlepoint pattern by a lady named Ora Mae Harding who passed away in 2009. For several years she designed needlework and took great pleasure in working with color and texture. Well, this pattern was a delightful poem titled Louisiana Gumbo, written by one C.H. Dillemuth. From the name you might think it's a recipe... but it's not the kind you cook. This one represents the "Gumbo" of nationalities that call Louisiana home.

Well... I listed this Needlepoint pattern in my store. Shortly after that, Charles Dillemuth's granddaughter was researching her family history and stumbled across the needlepoint pattern. We exchanged several delightful emails and the needlepoint pattern is now hers. She was completely unaware that her grandfathers poem had been reborn as a needlework pattern and now she's trying to see if anyone in her family knew the lady who did the needlework. She sent me a copy of the original poem along with the photo of her grandfather that you see here. I asked if I could share the story. She said her grandfather who passed away in 1989 would have gotten a kick out of it!!

A Recipe
by C.H. Dillemuth

Base Stock:
Start with fifty tepees of 100% Americans (Choctaw, Natchez, Houmas, Chickasaws, or other long forgotten ones).
Now drop in 10 canoes of French explorers.
Add 17 schooners of Spanish settlers.
Pitch in a few frigates of Portuguese pirates (with some Canary Islanders).
Now add all the lost and wandering Cajuns (absolutely essential for the proper flavor).
Dump in assorted Germans, Alsations, Italians, Hungarians, Swiss and Swedes.
Now thicken the broth with the cream of African tribes (Congolese, Nigerians, Swahili and more).
Don't forget, add one can each of Kentucky riflemen, Tennessee woodsmen, and some fighting Irish.
Pour in a flock of Mississippi Rednecks (they are still pouring in).
If desired, stir in a few Texans and assorted Western cowboys - their hot air will keep the pot bubbling.
And for an extra touch of flavor, ladle in some Lebanese, sprinkle in a few Syrians, spoon in some Latin Americans, and round out with some homeless Sephardic Jews seeking a permanent hearth.
Now garnish with Damn-Yankees who have sense enough to leave the snow behind and you wind up with
Uncle Sam's best dish

Here's the original poem on the left with the Needlepoint pattern on the right


Come visit me at Stone Hill Collectibles... You never know but what there might be a few family memories of your own hidden on the shelves... perhaps Moms recipe in a cookbook... a place remembered on a postcard... or perhaps even the crochet pattern for that beautiful heirloom afghan that your grandmother stitched.... And if you make a "connection" of your own that you'd like to share? Just let me know!


  1. What a wonderful story !

    I am so happy that she now has her Grandfather's poem and this pattern for it.

    This is one of the reasons why I just can't throw away any old photos, recipe books, tablecloths, or other vintage things that are in decent shape.
    You never know what it might mean to someone.

    I have a whole room of vintage items and I hope someone who knows the former owners of the items or the folks who are in the photos, or someone who just loves old things will stop by one day and be thrilled to buy them and take them home.

    I have so many of my own family memories in the form of photos, vintage doilies, pillowcases, furniture... and they mean so much to me to have them around.
    Most are not worth a whole lot in dollars, but they are worth much more than that to me in memories and meaning :)

    Organically Yours,

  2. What a beautiful story. I love the Louisiana Gumbo recipe! It will make a great needlepoint piece.
    Keep Stitchin'...

  3. I just ran across the last e-mail my mom wrote to me before she died. Was very sad. For some reason I ended up doing a quick search on the internet for her name and ran across this blog. Mom loved her needlework. At her memorial service, we had many wonderful pieces out for display. It's really neat to see a little bit of my mom (her cross stitch design) continuing to touch someone else in this world. Thanks for sharing. Made my evening a little brighter.

    Eric Harding - (Ora Mae's son)

  4. Indeed, this story warms the hearts of several of us Hardings. Mom (Ora Mae) passed away in December, and as I was going through the pieces she had done to select representative examples of her work for her service, I specifically remember stopping to read the LOUISIANA GUMBO pattern. It has been fun to hear ways in which she touched people's lives whether it be through her needlework or any of the other activities she used to enjoy. Thank you for sharing.

    Gwen Harding-Peets (one of Ora Mae's daughters)