The Story of Beep and Huddy

Just a Housewife, That was Enough!

It’s hard to believe now but prior to the 1950s most women stayed home and took care of the house instead of going out to work.  A housewife like Bertha Coble Keller had more work at home than she could get around to.

Bertha was married to Harrison Keller, the co-owner of Keller and Heisey Stockyards on North Market Street along the Conoy Creek {the vacant lots behind Rita’s Italian Ice}.  She called him “Huddy” and he called her “Beep.”

Beep devoted her life to making sure Huddy always returned to a clean house when he walked up the street from the stockyards for his lunch and dinner.  Sometimes he was on the road picking up “hummies” (calves) in his “hummy truck,” usually in Clearfield County, so she didn’t have to make him a meal but other than that she cooked three meals a day.

They lived in the yellow brick Queen Anne-style house at 120 North Market Street.  Harrison’s two sisters, Ella and the reclusive Emma, lived next door, currently the Miller & Sekely Funeral Home.

Half of the Gothic Revival-style house on the other side of the Keller’s house was rented by the Gilbert Steever family.  The Steevers had moved from Philadelphia to Elizabethtown in the early 1930s because Mr. Steever worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service sorting mail and wanted to live in a small town close to the line.  The two Steever children, Gilbert and Margaret, soon became acquainted with their new neighbors.  Beep was their favorite because she was especially kind to them according to Margaret Steever Garber.

Margaret remembered Beep as a large woman but not heavy like Huddy.  Her usual attire was a plain housedress with an apron over it.  Margaret was never at the Keller’s house for breakfast but she recalled that lunch and dinner seemed to be similar as far as quantity.  Huddy rested in the parlor after lunch for an hour on a sofa chair before walking back down to the stockyard.

Margaret was about 6 years old when her family moved next door and she was immediately impressed by Beep’s large garden.  The garden had every kind of vegetable imaginable to the young girl.  There was even a big cold cellar in the middle of it where the potatoes, apples, turnips, and cabbages were kept over the winter.  Huddy ate fresh vegetables in the summer and canned vegetables from the garden during the winter.  If Beep needed a fresh vegetable she did not have, she called Beck, the green grocer located in the basement of the David Martin’s Store, and he delivered her order by truck.

Beep had additional deliveries from the egg lady, the milkman, and the baker.  Once she had the ingredients, she was ready to cook–from scratch.  If she made boiled chicken pot pie, she made the dough, rolled it out and then went out back to get the chicken.

At the back of the lot was a barn which housed cars and a chicken pen.  Gilbert and Margaret were fascinated by Beep’s skill in dispatching chickens.  In the yard, Beep chopped off their heads, dipped them in scalding water and pulled out their big feathers.  Then she took the carcass inside to gut and to give a final cleaning, searching the skin for little pin feathers.

When telling the children of her future plans, Beep always prefaced her comments by saying, “Honey, if I live till next year, I’m goin to….”  The kids would see some of her projects be completed.  In the back of the house was a huge kitchen with an additional out kitchen a few steps down.  There Beep made dried beef and bologna, which the kids got to taste.

Margaret loved it when she was invited to stay for lunch or dinner.  At four o’clock Beep started to peel, slice and cook potatoes in a skillet with grease.  “Those fried potatoes were the worlds best,” Margaret said.  Beep made her young guest feel special by putting her food in special little dishes.

Beeps generosity extended to the town hobos.  In the backyard beside her grape arbor was table and chair.  When a man knocked at her back door and asked for a handout, she directed him to sit there while she prepared him something to eat.

Harrison’s reclusive sister, Emma, gave music lessons.  Anna Needham took lessons from her but Emma never talked to Margaret.  The other sister, Ella, was friendly and showed Margaret flowers and told her what kind they were.  Ella even allowed her to watch when she made soap out back, but she didn’t compare to Beep.

Beep’s life was routine, filled with home-centered tasks.  She went to the Reformed Church on Sundays but other than that she was busy keeping her home spotless and her husband well fed.  Margaret has only pleasant memories of her time spent in Beep’s bustling but benign world.




Garber, Margaret Steever.  Interview in the summer of 2007 at Margaret’s house in Elizabethtown.

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