I grew up on a “dead end” street in Cedar City, Utah. I was surrounded by Aunts and Uncles and cousins. My Dad’s oldest sister lived in an apartment in our basement. His Aunt Mima, his Mothers sister, lived in a little three room house across the street from the “Cox” homes.
I loved to go visit Aunt Mima. Her full name was Jemima Hamilton. She was born in Hamilton’s Fort, Utah, October 11, 1885, and died February 14, 1972 in Cedar City, Utah.
To me she was tall and skinny. Her hair was long and steely gray. She always wore it in a braid twisted around the back of her head. She had a wood burning stove in her small kitchen and a wood burning stove in the living room for heat. She had a trunk that held treasures that, if asked politely and if she was in a good mood, would show you what those treasures were. She had a hoop skirt that she said her grandmother Hamilton wore when she was crossing the plains from Nauvoo to Utah. If you were very careful she would let you try it on. Grandmother Hamilton must have been a very small woman. Even as a child of nine or ten it barely went past my knees. She had a small chipped glass that she said the Prophet Joseph Smith drank from when he came to visit Grandpa Hamilton in his “White Smith” shop in Nauvoo. She was careful to let us know that Grandpa Hamilton was a “White Smith” not a “Black Smith”. A “White Smith” was a finisher. He did more delicate work. He made fine tools and fixtures. Family traditions are that he made some of the keys and locks for the Nauvoo Temple. He may have made them for the St. George Temple also.
Aunt Mima never married. She told us that she had rheumatic fever as a child and it damaged her heart and she was told not to exert herself. She also said she was allergic to milk and milk products. I always wondered if she could tell if she ate cookies or cakes that had milk in them if it would kill her. I, of course, now understand that she could have an intolerance for milk in some forms but not all. I think it is sad that she put such restrictions on herself. Modern medical advice would probably have been to be active and that would strengthen her heart. But she lived eighty seven years, so I guess whatever she was doing it worked for her.
Aunt Mima did some handy work, she embroidered and tatted. She stopped doing close needle work as her eye sight worsened with age. I asked her to teach me how to tat, but she said my hands were too small. I wish I had been more persistent.
I would go to her house and beg to chop wood for her. I was always amazed at the wonderful dishes she could create on that big wood burning stove. She always made the Mincemeat pies for Thanksgiving. I have never eaten mincemeat pies better than those that Aunt Mima produced.
As a young woman in an attempt to support herself she bought a “Brown Bobby” machine. She would make her secret recipe Brown Bobby’s and sell them to local stores. Birthdays were always wonderful because Aunt Mima would bring us a dozen Brown Bobby’s for our birthday.
Brown Bobby’s are like a donuts only shaped like a triangle and baked in a waffle iron like machine. She never shared her secret recipe with anyone. Once she gave her precious Brown Bobby machine to my Dad to fix a broken electrical connection. While it was in our house my Mother made some gingerbread and cooked them in the Brown Bobby machine. They were delicious. But Aunt Mima was not pleased.
After she passed away one of my cousins got the “Brown Bobby” machine. They could not find the recipe so my cousin tried to duplicate it. She gave it to me and we found that if you use one of the modern electric donut makers you can almost duplicate those wonderful confections. Every once in a while my cousin will show up at my door and hand me a plate full of Brown Bobbies, what a treat. We expected to find these at all family gatherings.
Aunt Mima was camera shy, she would turn her head away. There are very few family photos that included her. I managed to get a couple of pictures of her when she wasn’t looking.
Eventually her big wood burning stove and heater were replaced by a new electric range and heater. Then she said she could hear the electricity running through her house. As she grew older she got more eccentric. She passed away when I was living in Marysville, Washington and I was unable to return home.
I remember her yelling at me to “get off that bike before you hurt yourself” as I struggled to ride a bike that was too big for me up and down our street. Hers was the only house in the neighborhood with a fence around her property. She was reclusive and didn’t want kids running around on her property. She had a deep testimony of the Gospel but she never went to Church or Ward functions she did not like being in crowds.
But she was Aunt Mima. When she hugged you it was like hugging an ironing board. But I knew she loved me. She did what she could for us. She always was a part of our family gatherings. Each Thanksgiving I think of her and wish that her mincemeat pie and those wonderful Brown Bobbies would magically appear. She will forever be a part of the fabric of my childhood. When she died I knew that she was having a wonderful reunion with her parents and brothers and sisters.
Aunt Mima’s Brown Bobbies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen
1 cup Shortening 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 cups Sugar 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
3 Eggs 2 cups Orange Juice
4 cups Flour 1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
Mix all ingredients together and bake in a donut maker following manufacturer’s directions.
Cool and glaze with a glaze of:
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup Water
Powdered Sugar to make a thin glaze.