Coronavirus can’t stop Muriel from baking up a storm
Every Christmas Muriel Anderson’s home fills with relatives.
She has 12 nieces and nephews and her husband Willett “Bill” Anderson also has a big family.
This year, thanks to Covid-19, things were different.
“My nieces and nephews called and wanted to know what we were doing this year,” the 86 year old said. “I said everyone is going to have Christmas at their own home. They were disappointed with that.”
Mrs Anderson said celebrating Christmas with just her husband felt strange.
“You just don’t cook as much when it is just the two of you,” she said.
But her “not as much” still included pound cake, fruit cake and two pans of her signature Christmas pudding.
"The Christmas pudding is what my nephews and nieces like,“ she said. “I make old time pudding. You do the regular mix. Then you have a cheese cloth. You have to grease the cloth. Then you flour it. You get your water very hot. You tie the pudding up and put it in the water and bake it like that. When it comes off it has a lot of skin on it.”
Although they could not celebrate at her house, she made sure all of her nieces and nephews had a slice.
She comes from a long baking tradition. Although it was her mother, Joyce Darrell, who taught her to cook; her father, Leroy Darrell, worked at the Bermuda Bakery on Pitts Bay Road in Pembroke, for many years.
“Then the dough would go into these machines which would put it into pans. Someone else would take the pans and put them on the racks.”
“He was the dough maker,” she said. “He would make 4am to go in and start making the dough in time for the other gentlemen to come in.
“My first job was at Tumbridges (Supreme Food Store), a place on Happy Valley Road,” she said. “One part of the store was a grocery and the other sold sandwiches and ice cream.”
While working there, she and her friends enjoyed having a dance at the nearby club Unity Patio.
Hoping to land a better paying job, she took secretarial classes with Millie Neverson, and typing classes with Merle Brock Swan.
“When I went to do the typing exam I was so nervous I couldn’t finish it,” she said.
So she followed her father into the Bermuda Bakery.
“I started off in the cake department,” she said. “I wasn’t making cakes but was packaging them. They had layer cakes and you would pack so many for the drivers. Then after that I went downstairs to one of the offices to work with the salesmen.”
She worked her way up to the accounts receivable department.
“When I first went there I was on the switchboard taking orders for customers like Harmony Hall or the Southampton Princess. Back then the drivers had radios in their trucks and we had a phone. If Fourways Inn was waiting for their order, I would say ’base to route 4’ or something like that, ’Fourways is waiting for their goods, how soon will you be there?’ ”
The only equipment she was ever intimidated by were the computers introduced in the 1980s.
“I was very nervous learning how to use the computer,” she said. “A gentleman who was showing me how to use it was saying the computer can’t hurt you. You can’t break it. Just do this. I took to it after awhile.”
Today, she is plenty comfortable making Zoom calls on her laptop.
She retired from the company, which is now defunct, on November 30, 2001 after 48 years with them.
On her retirement, management sent her a letter thanking her for her long years of dedication and praised her gentle spirit. The letter said she had been an example of the “highest level of commitment and responsibility to ones vocation and life’s work”.
She doesn’t miss working at the bakery, but was disappointed she was forced to retire in November.
“I wanted to work until the end of the year,” she said. “That was my choice.”
The company closed in 2005.
Now she is very active in her church, Mount Zion AME in Southampton.
“In my life I am most proud to have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal saviour,” she said.
She was confirmed at St John’s Anglican Church in Pembroke as a young girl.
“That means you don’t do worldly things any more,” she said. “No more dancing, only dancing for the Lord. When we moved to Southampton, my neighbour, Mary Mallory, invited me to go to Mount Zion Church. I have been there ever since.”
She has sung in the choir and taught Sunday school. She now works with the stewardesses at Mount Zion, helping to serve communion to the sick and shut in.
“We take them communion,” she said. “We go to rest homes.”
She also enjoys taking part in a seniors club at her church and often helps to prepare church meals, or make cookies and baked goods for church sales.
All of that is on hold right now due to Covid-19, but she is attending prayer meetings at the church on Zoom.
“I haven’t been out that much during the pandemic,” she said. “I mostly just go to do grocery shopping. Covid-19 has been hard on senior citizens. I miss my friends, but we communicate by telephone.”
She and her husband will mark 60 years of marriage on September 7.
She is not sure yet what they will do to celebrate but thinks their family might arrange something for them.
“The secret to a long and happy marriage is give and take,” she said.
The couple first met in Southampton.
“At that time my father was building a house in Southampton,” Mrs Anderson said. “I was in my late 20s. My uncle was doing the tiling in the bathroom. Willett Anderson was there working with him. He was good looking. I said wow, what a gentleman – so tall!”
They were married at St Anne’s Anglican Church in Southampton in 1961. Mr Anderson worked as a mason for most of his life, and built the house that they have lived in throughout their marriage on Granaway Heights Road.
“He built it while we were courting,” Mrs Anderson said.
The couple never had any children.
“It wasn’t by choice; it just didn’t happen,” Mrs Anderson said. “But I have nieces and nephews. They made up for it. I always liked children.”
Her hope is that they will all be able to get together as a family again, when the pandemic subsides.