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The Good Old Days


It’s amazing what will trigger a memory, a full belly laugh and a story. I will always be so grateful to my grandmother, Rose Behnke for taking so many photos of my mother and uncles as they grew up on the nursery.  Mom (Sonja Behnke Festerling) and I like to look through all the old photos of the ‘good old days’ as she calls them.

This one caught her attention the other day and had her laughing and remembering.  Like many of us, she and her brothers had many pets (dogs, cats, horses and the occasional frogs and turtles) but her very favorite was a bantam (small chicken) hen named Gretel. Gretel was one of a number of Golden Bantams given to her to raise by her neighbor, Mrs. Miller.  (On a side note: my mom told me the Golden Bantams laid little brown eggs that my grandmother would use to make coffee in the percolator.  Shell and all went into the grounds.  Sounds nasty to me, but that’s how she did it.)  My mom loved Gretel and would carry her all over the nursery.  And when she was not being carried she was following my mom around. I think most 4-H’s understand the way my mom felt. Bantams make wonderful pets!  The only problem I see with this story is I am pretty sure this was a rooster, not a hen. Maybe his name was Hansel?

by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke’s Vice President

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hello Stephanie!
    I enjoy reading your memories. I remember your grandmother very well from when we were in the same “Slender and Splash” class at the Silver Spring YMCA in the 1970s. I hope to meet you some day when I visit the nursery. Have a great rest of the summer!
    Rose Haldemann

  2. Oh wow!! More memories when you mentioned the YMCA.. Many times we spent there. She signed us up for tennis and swimming lessons. And she loved going there

    I am at the nursery most days except for Thursdays and Sundays

    Take care

  3. Your nursery was a family tradition in more than one way. We always went there at Christmas for our poinsettias; I first saw the little Pom-pom type there long before other stores carried them. The same goes for orange poinsettias. My Nanny always insisted on a visit to the nursery when she came from Pennslyvania to visit. My cousin Kel continues that tradition every Thanksgiving.

    I will always be grateful to the lecture I attended at Behnke’s while my house was being built. Andre Viette said if you only have $10 to garden with, invest $9 in the soil and your $1 plant will do well. The advice has served me well and I always share that notion with new gardeners and elementary school students. Even though you are an hour away, I look forward to shopping there, Beth Beighley

    I enjoy the good old days in your newsletter. (I still have paper editions!)

  4. Gretel was probably a hen who turned out to be a rooster but the name stuck. But, you know, having wattles and a comb does not make you a rooster as the city of Gaithersburg found out the hard way:

    Look at this purring chicken baby… that is actually a hen, even though she has a nice pair of wattles and a comb:

    Here’s Nana, the poker playing rooster:

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