Photo by James Milligan (1967)
Hexie brought Lynda Elizabeth Jeffrey and me together several weeks ago. Lynda had googled Reggie Hammerstein and the recent post: Oscar, Reggie, and the Recipe appeared. She then emailed me and we have become fast friends. In fact, we’ll be meeting each other for the first time at Highland Farm next Tuesday, May 8th, 2012.
Thank you, Lynda, for sharing your adventures with Hexie.
Not far from Highland Farms was another Hammerstein residence called “Sky Island.” Located on a 100 acres of wooded property, this was the home of Hexie Hammerstein. Hexie (the former wife of Oscar’s younger brother, Reginald) had a very unusual title… she was known as “Bucks County’s Bona Fide Witch.”
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to meet this diminutive, energetic and gracious lady. In the 1960s, my mother was the historical editor and staff writer for a local magazine called “Bucks County Life.” My mother decided that Hexie Hammerstein, the well-known, self-proclaimed witch who lived in Upper Black Eddy, would make a fascinating profile subject for the magazine’s Halloween edition.
My mother set up an interview with Hexie and encouraged me to go along with her. Having attended numerous séances, table-tilting sessions and Ouija board parties with my mom (who, obviously, was into the paranormal!), I was game for one more “unusual” experience!
Finding “Sky Island” was an adventure all in itself! As our old yellow Pontiac climbed up and up the steep, winding, one-lane wooded road, we held our breath until, at last, we arrived at the top of the hill. Perched on this knoll of land, was Hexie’s magnificent 16-room remodeled farm house. Hexie greeted us warmly and welcomed us into her house through the “Great Door” (a fifty-foot tower rising to the top with a ruffled, shingled turret). As she gave us the grand tour of her home, Hexie pointed out to us her 200 year old black cloak and hood (hanging on a hook in the Great Tower – alongside the “Wall of Broomsticks”) and the unusual coffee table made from a huge set of antique blacksmith bellows. “I put legs on it,” she said, “but it still works!”
No doubt, the kitchen was Hexie’s favorite room in the house. She was a passionate cook and at one time, even hosted a series of televised cooking shows from her “Sky Island” kitchen. She had invented (and patented) several cooking devises – a “Pie Dart” which she boosted was the “ultimate pie crust maker,” a plastic non-stick envelope used for rolling dough, and a combined measuring spoon and fork.
Ushering us into her bright and spacious living room, we made ourselves comfortable on the semi-circle couches that were grouped in front of the massive brick fireplace. Before the interview started, Hexie served us some of her fabulous homemade quiche. It was the first time I had ever sampled such an “exotic” dish (I was used to college dorm food at the time!). To this day, I can still remember savoring each bite of the flaky buttery crust, the creamy custard filling and the fresh herbs sprinkled on top. “Lots of fresh herbs from my garden,” she said. And then gesturing wildly, she chuckled and added… “When I cook, I like to throw everything in!”
By Lynda Elizabeth Jeffrey … to be continued.