Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekly Planner: Five Questions about Your Favorites

The five question challenge continues at Julianna Smith's 24/7 Family History Circle. This week we list some of our favorites.

  • What is your favorite book and why?
    • I can't name a single favorite book. My favorite series of books is the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich. As a child I read voraciously. First all of the Nancy Drew Books and then all of my brother's Hardy Boys. I like series books because you get to know the characters and look forward to what might come next. Some of my other favorite authors; Jonathan Kellerman, Faye Kellerman, Patricia Cornwall, Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov.
  • What is your favorite movie and why?
    • It's a Wonderful Life. It's just an amazing story. Who's life would have been different if I hadn't been born? How would my life have been different if someone else hadn't crossed my path at just the right time?
  • Where is your favorite place in the world and why?
    • Hawaii. We've been twice and I love the Big Island. Someday I'll probably do an entire series of post on our adventures there. But the biggest reason that it is such a special place for me is that on our first trip my Mother was able to join us and see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, at the age of 73. Being able to take her to Pearl Harbor is something that I'll never forget. That first trip we also traveled with Bean, her boyfriend, BJ, and Country Girl.
  • What is your favorite time of day? Are you a morning person, an afternoon person, or a night owl?
    • I'm definitely a morning person. I've never done well with late nights. My one job working third shift only lasted about a month. By afternoon I'm ready for a nap. My job right now does get me up a bit earlier than I'd like.
  • What is your favorite holiday?
    • Christmas! Time with family, food, presents, food, time off, presents.

Mom's favorites:
  • Book - She couldn't pick one either. If she had to pick a favorite author it would be Isaac Asimov but she loves books; sci-fi, mysteries or just a good tale. When asked she didn't mention Janet Evonovich but she looks forward to the Stephanie Plum novels as much as I do.
  • Movie - It's a Wonderful Life. A little fantasy and good wins over evil.
  • Place - Hawaii. She says she still can't believe that she got to go and is thankful she was able to get there while her health was still good enough to enjoy herself and swim in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Time of Day - Morning
  • Holiday - Christmas! She actually loves the period from Halloween to Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Everything is decorated, people are in good spirits, lots of good food.
So I guess this proves that this apple didn't fall far from the tree!

Week #4
Week #3
My Childhood Home
Carlisle Family Home
Syracuse Baby Camp

Week #2
Fun and Games in the 60's & 70's
Fun and Games in the 1930's

Week #1
My School Memories
Mom's School Memories

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Will DNA Solve My Mysteries?

When Jasia announced this topic for the 35th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, I started to think about what I know about DNA. When I think about DNA my mind goes to genetic testing for medical screening. I had to read up on DNA and genealogy.

So what mysteries in my family tree might DNA solve?

To test my own DNA I could only look at mtDNA. I have only traced the line as far as my great grandmother. I know her father was Irish but I have no idea about her mother. As I understand mtDNA, all I can hope to learn is which haplogroup I belong to. Interesting maybe, but it certainly won't help me fill in my tree.

The Y-DNA test might offer me some answers to other mysteries. I have traced my paternal line to early nineteenth century England. Berry is a fairly common name and there are questions as to which line to follow. If my brother or my nephew was willing to provided their DNA I could have it tested. I would then need to find male descendants of the several possible Berry's and have them tested for comparison. This would be cost prohibitive for me to undertake on my own. If someone were to start a one name study for Berry it might be worth getting my brother to participate and see if any others in the study were a match.

This method could also be used to break down one of my most frustrating brick walls. My gr-gr-great-grandfather was William Wisner. He recorded his birth date in his bible as 27 Mar 1783. Various census records indicate that he was born in either PA or NY with PA being the front runner. The first actual record I have found for him placed him in Onondaga County, NY in 1812. Based on circumstantial evidence I believe he was the son of Ananias Wisner b. 1757 which leads to another wall. There were two Wisner families in PA at the time that I am looking at. The line that I believe I descend from goes back to Johannes Wisner, b 1676 in Switzerland, who settled in Orange Co., NY. If I could test a male direct line descendant of William's and compare the results to descendants of Johannes' I should be able to prove or disprove my theory. I don't know if testing would prove a relationship to Ananias specifically, assuming I could find descendants to be tested.

I do have one mystery that I'd really love to be able to solve through DNA but I have no idea if it is possible. My gr-great-grandfather, Michael Camfield came to New York as an indentured servant. According to family legend he came with his parents, a brother and a sister. The family was split up and Michael spent his seven years on a farm in upstate New York. The name Camfield was given to him by the farmer because it sounded more American. The original family name is thought to have been something similar to Cumfeldt. I have not been able to find any records based on any possible spelling I can think of, or through soundex, that might help me. Is there (or do you think there ever will be) a national data base where results of misc. samples can be compared and I therefore might get lucky? Perhaps a data base kept by nationality? Is there some other way DNA could help me solve this mystery?

I look forward to any suggestions Blaine Bettinger might have for me as host of the 35th edition of the COG.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekly Planner: Five Questions about Your Family

The five question challenge continues at Julianna Smith's 24/7 Family History Circle. The questions this week deal with family.

  • How has a member of your family influenced you?
    • Put downs by family members have stuck with me all my life. My step mother always told me that I was the smart one and my sister the pretty one. I'm not exactly ugly and my sister is smart too. She was also the one that told me I had a brown thumb and it was only last year that I set out to prove her wrong. My dad convinced me that for a smart girl I was still pretty dumb.
    • For a positive influence I would have to say first, my mom. She has shown me that I can deal with whatever life throws at me. Secondly my kids continue to force me to look at things in new and different ways. They have brought joy into my life.
  • How often did you see extended family (e.g., aunts, uncles, cousins), and what was it like when you all got together?
    • The only relatives that we saw on a regular basis were my paternal grandparents. I remember going to visit them by myself. As a family we would go to their house for dinner, probably on holidays. My father's brother and his family lived in Philadelphia, NY and we would see them once in a while when they came to Syracuse. My mother's family all lived out of state. I've seen my uncle and his son four times. I met my mother's sister once and I've never met her daughters. John has a very large, very close, extended family and I was quite overwhelmed at family gatherings when we first met.
  • What kind of traditions did/does your family observe? Were there special ways you celebrated birthdays? Holidays?
    • My brother and sister share a birthday. A local department store had a birthday club where you could get a pie for your birthday so we always had both cherry pie and birthday cake for their birthdays. Birthday cakes were special because they were full of treasure. After they were baked mom would cut slits and hide coins wrapped in waxed paper. She also had a set of little tokens that she hid as well. I looked for them at her house this week but couldn't find them. It was a fun tradition and I don't know why I didn't continue it with my kids.
  • Did your family have pets?
    • We had cats. They never really liked me much. I remember tying the Christmas tree to the drapery rod to keep the cat from knocking it over and hanging the glass ornaments up high to keep them from being batted around.
    • John is allergic to cats so in 1990 we went to the shelter in Batavia and got a dog for the kids. She was just a mutt who didn't mind terribly well and I used to call her RottenMutt. The kids named her Amanda. She was great with the kids but didn't do as well with the grandkids when they came along. She moved with us three times and really became John's dog. She died two years ago and I miss her. When the grandkids were little they sorted out their grandparents by our dog's names. We were Grandma & Grandpa Amanda, my ex was Grandpa Phoenix, etc.
  • What foods did you family enjoy? Was there a special dish that was always on the table at family get-togethers?
    • When we were kids we had beef and potatoes almost every night except Friday when Dad would pick up haddock on his way home so I hated Fridays. I looked forward to holidays. Turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and ham on Easter. We did always sit and eat as a family.
    • We still eat together at the table. Turkey is no longer reserved for holiday's. Usually when we have a large group get together we have baked ziti. There is no one item that you can count on being on the table but you can count on there being too much! No one ever leaves the table until well stuffed with both food and conversation.

Mom didn't have too much to say this week about this topic. Maybe she'll be more receptive next week. I was surprised to learn that they had chicken or duck at Thanksgiving rather than turkey. She did say that the tradition of money in birthday cakes started with my grandma Berry. Mom then saw the tokens in a magazine ad and bought them to add.

Week #3
My Childhood Home
Carlisle Family Home
Syracuse Baby Camp

Week #2
Fun and Games in the 60's & 70's
Fun and Games in the 1930's

Week #1
My School Memories
Mom's School Memories

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ghosts of Halloween - All Grown Up

We were still living in Liverpool when we became grandparents. We also gained a daughter-in-law who was born Oct. 31 so Halloween became a double celebration. Mike & Alex will always associate Halloween with birthday cake. Mike's first year of trick or treating was around our neighborhood.

Mike & Angie 2001

In 2002, John was transfered again and we returned to Akron. The two years that we were there BJ, Angie and the boys came out to trick-or-treat and spend some time with us. PJ, Jae and the girls went to their other grandmothers. We did get to see Nikki, the week before, in one of the cutest costumes I've ever seen. That's her on the right as a chicken. There was a little fan built in to keep it blown up. We couldn't help but laugh when we saw her. Our laughter upset her so much that she wouldn't wear the costume to trick or treat, but went as Barney instead.
Mike, Alex, Nikki 2002

Now that we're living in Snowville the only trick-or-treaters we get are Mike and Alex. They always stop by on their way to their other grandmother's as she lives in a nice, well lit housing development. (We live so far out that the kids next door don't bother coming over, instead they head to their grandparents.) We do work on Halloween decorating and crafts when they are here for kid's night. It's been years since I've made a Halloween costume. I was with Bean when she bought Sprout and Twig their costumes this year and I hope that they stop out for their first ever night of trick or treating.

I do have 100+ other kids at work each day who are busy talking about the upcoming parties that they'll be attending, the costumes that they'll wear and where they'll be going trick or treating. This year, at work, we're having a combination trick or treat - school bus safety event that I'm hoping will become and annual thing. It has me a little excited about Halloween this year. Who knows, if it goes well I may make myself a costume for next year.

This is the third in a series of Halloween memories.

Ghosts of Halloween - My Childhood

Ghosts of Halloween - My 2nd Childhood

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Weekly Planner: Five Questions About Home

The five question challenge continues at Julianna Smith's 24/7 Family History Circle. This week we focus on our childhood home. I suspect my sister will have something to say about the first question!

  • What was your room like when you were growing up? Did you share it or did you have your own room? What did it look like?
    • After my sister was born we shared the back corner bedroom. I don't remember much about that room other than the open shelves on the wall. After the light was turned out I'd often see things on the shelves that resembled monsters. Somehow some toy of mine ended up under the dresser in that room and in my quest to retrieve it I somehow got my head stuck under it. My father hand to lift it off to free me. After Dad left we were moved into the large front bedroom where I promptly divided the room in two by lining the dressers up down the middle of the room. I blamed myself for the divorce and resented having to step up and help my mother with everything when she had to go to work. Add puberty to the mix and I was a rotten sister to share a room with! Country Girl has since forgiven me and is now not only my little sister but also my dear friend.
  • Did you have a backyard? A garden? Did you grow fruits and/or vegetables?
    • We had a large back yard with a swing set. There was a little bulb garden in the back corner of the yard. Mom had a rose garden in the front of the house and that was the only garden.
  • Did you have a secret hiding place?
    • On the side of the house was a row of shrubs with prickers. The way they grew there was a large hollow area in the center where I'd go when I didn't want to be found. I don't think my parents ever knew I could get in there.
  • What household chores were your responsibilities?
    • Prior to my parents divorce I had to pick up after myself. Later I had to help with everything except the cooking.
  • In what room did your family gather most? Was it in the living room or around the kitchen table? What did you do there? Sing? Talk about the day? Watch T.V.? Tell stories?
    • The house is only 850 square feet with a galley kitchen so the combination living room - dining room was pretty much our only place to be together. We did have a basement where we could go to play.

The home that my father grew up in was used as a baby camp before my grandparents purchased it.

My mother, aunt and uncle were the fourth generation to live in the Carlisle Family Home.

Week #2
Fun and Games in the 60's & 70's
Fun and Games in the 1930's

Week #1
My School Memories
Mom's School Memories

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carlisle Family Home

The home that my mother grew up in was first owned by her great-grandfather, Daniel Carlisle and his second wife Hannah (Glover) Carlisle. According to family history, the family moved to Buchanan, MI sometime after 1857 where they had a house on Second St (now Dewey Ave). That house burned down with a part of the town and they moved to the house on Main St in 1863. Family history isn't clear as to whether Daniel and his sons built the house or if they purchased an existing home. The plot map here, from 1873, shows that at least one of the rear additions had been added. They had a large, triangular lot at the north edge of town. The house remained in the family for over 120 years.

Of Daniel's eight children, only his son (Issac) Ashley remained in Buchanan and the house passed to him. He was stone mason and he added the front porch. In the picture below you can see some of the various additions that were made to the rear of the home.

Ashley married Sarah Ann Camfield and they raised their three children in the house. Their son, Daniel and his wife Pearl Camfield, initially lived in Oak Park, IL after Daniel was discharged from the army. They returned to Buchanan in 1921 or 1922 and lived in a house on Days Ave, near the top of the hill. It was a nice little house, right in town; it had indoor plumbing and Pearl was very happy with it. This was the house where Mom was born. She remembers that they moved to the house on Main St in 1930 after Sarah died. According to the 1930 census they were living with Sarah prior to her death. Perhaps they had moved in to help her in her final months.

The house had both a well and a cistern. There was a pump in the kitchen from the cistern and that water was very soft and used for washing hair and bathing.A large wash tub was brought into the dining room and water heated on the stove for baths. The well pump was on the side porch and water had to be brought into the kitchen for drinking and cooking. I believe this picture is of that pump, however the writing on the back of the original only identifies my Uncle Bill, not the location. Grandpa wired the entire house for electricity and added an electric pump but water still had to be brought in from the porch. The outhouse was behind the house, on the other side of the beehives and Mom remarked that they "got stung enough". During the depression mail order catalogs were used and it was a real treat for mom if they got used up before the new one came and they got to use real TP. When Mom was about 13 she and her sister went and spent some time at the family's camp one summer and when they came home indoor plumbing had been put in and the pantry turned into a bathroom.

The parlor was at the front of the house and was wallpapered. There was a dark rug that Mom cleaned by sprinkling it with salt and then sweeping. There was a sofa and matching chair, a pair of wicker rocking chairs, a floor model radio and a combination desk and bookcase. The bookcase was filled with the World Book Encyclopedia. There was a dining room and kitchen and bedrooms and other rooms in the rear additions.

Mom shared an attic bedroom with her sister and their brother had the bedroom on the other side of the house. There was no railing around the stairs and they would jump across. The bedrooms only had about three feet of ceiling and then the walls sloped down to just a couple feet from the floor.The girls shared a bed that was shoved up next to this sloping wall and Mom had to be careful not to hit her head. Their room looked out over the spring bulb garden and vegetable garden. The girls didn't get along and when Mom was 9 or 10 she was moved downstairs to the spare room. It was long and narrow and looked out on the peony and vegetable garden on the other side of the house. Many of Mom's memories revolve around the gardens. She worked in the gardens very often. They canned all of the vegetables. They grew grapes for for juice and jam. Grandpa grew peppers that were pickled and were too hot for anyone else to eat. One of her memories is of planting seeds in the rain and after going into the house grandpa remarked that the rain was going to ruin all of his seeds. She was initially upset that their work was to be wasted until he realized that growning plants "ruined" the seeds that they came from.

Mom and Aunt Vivian married and moved away. Grandma continued to live in the house until she could no longer care for herself. Uncle Bill stayed in Buchanan and the house went to him when Grandma died. It needed too much work and the the house was eventually torn down and the property sold.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ghosts of Halloween - My 2nd Childhood

When my kids were much too young to go trick-or-treating I took one of their baby blankets and used a diaper pin to hold it at their neck for an instant ghost costume. We went to my mother's and I took BJ around to the people that still remembered me. It was a fun night and a way to not only show off one of my children but to reconnect to the old neighborhood. Being alone I thought that this would become an annual tradition for us.

Bean & BJ 1981

The next year I met John and our lives quickly changed. By 1983 we had moved into John's house in Pennellville, NY. There weren't very many houses on the street at that time so we went to John's cousin's house to trick-or-treat with her daughters. This year began the tradition of hand-me-down and homemade costumes.

PJ as a superhero, BJ not happy with his hand-me-down and Bean
as a Martian, the first of many costumes I made. 1983

In 1984 John and I married and I became a stay at home mom. With a bit more free time the quality of the costumes improved. We went to to Oswego, NY so the kids could trick or treat with their cousins.
front - Bean, Frank, BJ and Jean
back - Hugh and PJ
Clown and Cowboy costumes made by Apple 1984

Eventually more houses were built near us and John would take the kids trick or treating on our street. Because there still weren't very many houses the kids would get full size candy bars. In the summer I would start making little plastic canvas candy holders for all of the neighborhood kids. There were a couple of years that I dressed as a witch and sat at the picnic table in the front yard to hand out treats. My costume was a bit too real for some of the little ones and I'd have to take off my mask before they'd come into the yard. I always felt badly about that and wonder if it is one of their Halloween memories. The years that BJ and Bean were with my ex, PJ would either go to Oswego or with his cousins on his mother's side.

When BJ and Bean started school there was a Halloween parade at school every year that the kids looked forward to. We were also very involved with Camp Fire. In October each year there would be a fall gathering at Camp Talooli where we bobbed for apples, made nature crafts and took hikes.

Camp Talooli, Pennellville, NY 1987

Lahe Temelo, Camp Talooli, Pennellville, NY 1986

Every year the kids and I would decorate the house. Stuffed bats hung from the ceiling and cardboard decorations were placed in the front windows. Pumpkins were carved at the dining room table every year and placed on the front steps with candles. Costumes were planned and worked on weeks in advance. Many years I was more excited about the holiday than the kids were.

I don't know why we didn't take more pictures at Halloween. The ones here are the only ones that we have. In 1989 we moved to Akron, NY and while there I made some great costumes that I wish I had pictures of. There was the big felt snowman, stuffed with newspaper, that several of us wore over the years. One year BJ decided that he wanted to be Otto the Orange (mascot of the SU Orangemen) and I really outdid myself on that one.

After they had all left home Halloween lost it's magic. By then we had moved again and were living in a huge housing tract in Liverpool, NY. We spent the evening answering the door and not recognizing anyone other than the kids from the houses on each side of ours. We'd buy several bags of candy and turn out the light when it was gone. The dog would go crazy every time the doorbell rang and Halloween just wasn't fun anymore.

A Very Local Tradition
In 1989 we moved to Akron, NY. Being new to the neighborhood I was quite shocked and upset that our our house was toilet-papered on Halloween, the only house on the street to be decorated. It took days to get it all cleaned up. I had no idea why we'd be singled out this way. None of the other neighbors remarked on it and as I was still just getting to know people so I didn't bring it up. We were there for five more Halloweens and it never happened to us again but there were always several houses around town with paper hanging from every tree branch.

In 2002 we returned to Akron and I mentioned to a friend, who still lived on our old street, how hurt I had been that first year and how I thought it was awful that the kids got away with this prank year after year. I was quite unprepared for him to burst out laughing! There is a long standing tradition of papering the homes of the local school teachers on Halloween. Our first home had been owned by a teacher and the kids weren't aware that she had moved. The community saw it as harmless and no malice had been directed at us.

This is the second in a series of Halloween memories.
Ghosts of Halloween - My Childhood

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ghosts of Halloween - My Childhood

Ormsborough Tract, Taunton, NY 2007
Halloween has always been my second favorite holiday. I grew up in Ormsborough Tract, a small housing tract of mostly very small post WWII ranch homes. We'd get to go pick out a pumpkin and draw the face we wanted carved on it. My parents did the carving. They'd be placed on the front steps Halloween night and lit with a candle. Most years the the older boys in the neighborhood would go around smashing all of the pumpkins in the street after trick-or-treating. Every year we'd get to go to Morey's Mill to watch them press cider.

Our early costumes were store bought and had to be large enough to go over our winter coats. There must have been rainy years but in my memory every year was crisp and clear and it couldn't get dark early enough. Some local business would always hand out special trick-or-treat bags the week before and with bag in hand we'd head out the door as soon after dinner as we could. Mom would stay home to man the door and Dad would take us around the neighborhood.

Two of our annual stops stand out in my memory. The first was a neighbor across the street. We'd yell "trick-or-treat" and he'd respond, "show me your trick!" One year I tapped danced and another I did a little jig. Not very tricky but I did get my treat. The other house was on the next street and they always had their garage open and invited everyone in for cider and donuts. When we got home Dad would inspect our treats to see that they were safe and we'd sort out everything that we didn't like into a pile for him.

When we got older we'd trick-or-treat for UNICEF. There was a competition at school to see which class could raise the most money. We'd go out early, with the little kids and then rush home and change to go out again for candy. When we were older still, I remember the boys from the neighborhood still going door to door when they were considered much too old and when they had their haul they'd play nasty pranks. One year it was tomatoes and eggs, another shaving cream and the worst was when they'd fill a bag with scat, light it on fire on a door step, ring and run. They thought it was hysterical to watch the homeowner come out and stomp out the fire. Although I never approved of their pranks I never told on them for fear of getting beat up. They usually were caught and dealt with without my help.

I don't know if any pictures were ever taken of us in our costumes. The photo album of Mom's, that I have here at the house to be scanned, doesn't have any. I'll have to look in the other albums as I scan them.

(I looked online for a picture of the cider press of my memory and although I found hundreds of pictures none came close to the picture in my head. Has time warped my memory or was the process they used truly unique?)

This was written for the 34th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, Halloween and the Supernatural. It is the first in a planned series of articles recording family memories of Halloween.

Ghosts of Halloween - My 2nd Childhood

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Five Question Challenge - Fun & Games

Julianna Smith, at 24/7 Family History Circle has challenged everyone to record the answers to five questions each week on a specific topic. The topic for Week #2 is Fun and Games.

  • What was your favorite game when you were a child? Were you a board game enthusiast? A card shark? Or perhaps a kick-the-can kid?
    • In our neighborhood we played a game that was a combination of kick the can, hide and seek and tag, played with two teams. Our front steps were the jail. We drove mom quite nuts but she knew where we were.
  • Did you play any particular games with your family as a child? Easter egg hunts? Thanksgiving Day football games? Scavenger hunts? Charades?
    • We had marathon sessions of Monopoly and RISK. When we were younger we played Crazy Eights "Grandma Burley style". Grandma Burley was my mother's best friend's mother. Most of us now know the game as UNO and my grandkids love to play.
  • What were some fun places you visited as a child? Did your family go camping? Did you take family vacations? Was there a local destination that was a family favorite?
    • We had an Apache pop-up camper and went lots of places in the Adirondacks and Vermont. My two favorite camp grounds were Half Moon Pond in Hubbardton, VT and Cranberry Lake in northern NY. At Half Moon Pond we always had a site right on the water and spent hours fishing. There were also side trips to visit marble quarries and ski resorts where we rode the gondolas up the mountains. At Cranberry Lake we could roam all over the huge camp ground and climb Bear Mountain.
  • What activities did you do with family members? Did Grandma teach you to sew? Who taught you to cook? Did you go fishing with Grandpa? An uncle? Who coached your baseball team?
    • My grandparents had a boat and would occasionally take us to Otisco Lake, where they once owned a camp. My grandmother had two sons, her third pregnancy ending in the stillborn birth of a girl. I was the first granddaughter, so I instantly became my grandmother's favorite and I spent many weekends at my grandparents home. I've always felt a bit guilty about the special time I had with my grandparents that my brother, sister and cousins didn't have. I went sledding on Woodland Reservoir with my cousins. My grandmother, who told me stories of skating on the Ottawa Canal and the Erie Canal attempted (without success) to teach me to ice skate.
    • My mother taught me to sew and bake. Cooking I picked up as I went along.
  • Did you enjoy watching professional sports? What was your favorite team? Do you have any special memories of sporting events?
    • My grandfather would take us to hockey games at the state fair grounds and I used to love to watch them play. When we moved to Akron, John took me to a Buffalo Sabres game so I could see Wayne Gretzky play. The Buffalo fans were brutal and I was very uncomfortable in the stands. The sport is now too violent for my taste, both on and off the ice. I learned to like college basketball when I started dating John. Our wedding was planned around the S.U. basketball schedule. While living in Akron I loved to watch Curling on TV. I can no longer pick up the Canadian stations so I rarely get to watch. I would like to try me hand at it sometime.
Fun and Games in the 1930's - my mother's memories for week #2

Week #1
My School Memories
Mom's School Memories

Fun and Games in the 1930's

My mother really enjoyed sharing memories of her childhood this week.

When I asked her what games she remembered playing the list just grew and grew. Some of her indoor favorites were Monopoly, tidily-winks, marbles and jax. She doesn't remember playing any card games. Outdoors she liked jump rope, hopscotch, baseball and in the winter fox and geese which I remember her teaching us to play. She also loved to roller skate, ride her bike and in the winter she'd go sledding. She described in detail the steep street a 1/4 mile from home that was closed to traffic in the winter where all of the kids went and became quite frustrated that she couldn't remember the name of the street but it went down to Portage St. I asked her what kind of sled she had and I got the look. The look that silently says "are you stupid?" It was a flexible flyer of course! There was no ice rink nearby so she never learned to skate.

The family didn't take many vacations but she does remember one trip to Holland, MI to see the tulips. There was another trip to visit relatives "up north someplace" but she doesn't remember much about it. (I'd love to know who she went to see!) She did go to South Bend, IN to stay with her Aunt Ruby now and then. There was a boy that lived nearby that would have her over to do jigsaw puzzles. Sometimes she would see her younger cousin, Lorraine Edmunds, in South Bend and sometimes Lorraine's family would come stay in Buchanan. She didn't have any other cousins close in age nearby.

My grandfather has always been described to me as a mean, miserable man so I was surprised that one of her fondest memories was of him reading bedtime stories to her. There was a column in the paper (The Berrien County Record?) called Bedtime Stories. When the column was discontinued she was quite upset and tried to get her mother to write to the paper. Instead, her father started reading a chapter a night from a very thick book called Peck's Bad Boy. I did a search and found out that Peck's Bad Boy started out as series of newspaper stories in the late 1800's, written by George W. Peck. The stories were collected into a series of books. Based on the publication dates I'm guessing that the book was one my grandfather saved from his childhood. I'm not sure which book was read to my mother but I found Peck's Bad Boy Abroad online at google books. At Project Gutenberg I found Peck's Bad Boy With The Cowboys and Peck's Bad Boy at the Circus. I'll be reading them when I get some time. Maybe they will be books I share with my grandchildren.

I was surprised that the family didn't spend time listening to the radio together. The radio was in the parlor. Grandpa would listen to the news but he'd be sitting in the dining room so everyone had to be very quiet so he could hear without turning it up. Aunt Vivian apparently wasn't much interested in the radio. Mom and Uncle Bill would sit together and listen to all of the radio shows of the time. She mentioned several but she was talking faster than I was writing and the only one I remember her mentioning was Jack Benny.

The family also had a camp on Smith Lake, about two miles from Berrien Center but I will have to save those stories for another time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My First Job

I've been following Miriam's prompts at AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants and writing in a private journal. This week's prompt is to record memories of my first job and then all the jobs that followed.

While researching a bit I found a web page that brought back a flood of memories. Since my first job was a bit unusual for a girl from Syracuse, NY, I thought I would share just a little bit here.

My first job was harvesting tobacco on my father and step-mother's farm near Clayton, NC. Dad remarried when I was twelve and we went to visit during the summer and get an introduction to farm life. They had a small, 32 acre, farm with a horse, a pony, some cows, hogs, chickens, and more.

The farm came with a 5 acre tobacco allotment. I don't recall clearly if they had tobacco that first year or if it was the next but we worked all summer long on the harvest along with my step-sisters and their cousin.

We would pick the ripe leaves from the bottom of the plants and pile them carefully on a specially designed wagon. By the time we were done in the field we'd be covered in black tar. Then we moved onto the barn where we'd tie the tobacco onto sticks. We'd work in groups of three with two people gathering three our four leaves neatly together and alternately handing them to the third who tied them onto the sticks. Once all of the leaves were on the sticks we'd move to the barn where people climbed up the racks of the barn and we'd pass the sticks up person to person to be hung. I'm not good with heights and being short I almost always worked on the barn floor. Dad would light the fire and we'd troop back to the house to clean up. Since we needed the well water for all of the animals we had to conserve water so the bath tub was filled and the cleanest went first. I was rarely first and I remember how hard it was to scrub the tar off.

When the tobacco was dry, we had to pass all the sticks back out of the barn and then untie them. I can't recall exactly how the untying went but when we had it off the sticks we had to "sheet" it. We carefully placed it in the center of a large cardboard ring set on burlap. After a few layers either my younger step-sister or I would have to climb in the ring and walk in circles to pack down the tobacco while others continued to add more leaves. This kicked up dust that caused me to have severe sinus headaches. Once the ring was filled to a certain point the ring was carefully removed and the burlap tied up. When that week's barn full had all been sheeted, Dad would take it over to the auction.

We were paid for our labor; $100 for the summer, which I thought was a fortune back then. I don't remember what I spent the money on but I'm certain I made it last.

Go here for a page that has some great pictures on the process we used. The pictures are from 1985, very close to the time I recall.

Edit: I wrote this when I was tired. I don't know why no family member called me on this but my first year on the farm would have been 1972, not 1982 but the pictures are still very representative.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Five Question Challenge - School Memories

Julianna Smith, at 24/7 Family History Circle, has challenged everyone to record the answers to five questions each week on a specific topic. The topic for Week #1 was School Memories.

I thought I'd try and take this one step further and also record my mother's memories for each week's topic although they won't follow the question format. Her school memories are here.

  • What was your favorite subject in school?
    • I didn't have a favorite subject, I loved learning. My least favorite would have been Trigonometry.
  • In what extra-curricular activities did you participate? Sports? Drama? Music? Academics?
    • In middle school I was in the chorus. I went to NYSMA competitions and scored very poorly, one of the only things I did not excel at. I still love to sing, as long as no one is grading me.
    • I played in the band, alto clarinet and alto sax. The year I lived in Clayton, NC, I was in the marching band and remember practices where we had to march to a very quiet cadence when we approached the revival tent. I also still remember the trip to march in a parade in Wilmington. Because I hadn't been with the band in the spring, when they ordered uniforms, I marched in a navy concert blazer and really stood out from the rest! I had to practice in the barn and if I wanted to go to practices I had to get my own rides. Dad and Ann never came to a single concert or parade. When I moved back to NY with my mother she struggled to buy me a sax (I played a school instrument in NC, the school in NY wouldn't provide one) and she managed to get to every concert. I didn't join the marching band because of the cost and my work schedule.
  • Did you go on field trips, and if so, what was your most memorable field trip?
    • I went on lots of field trips. The two that were most memorable were a trip to the Everson Museum in Syracuse when I was in elementary school. They had pictures of naked people and I was shocked and quite worried that I'd be in trouble have having looked at them. The other memorable trip also involved nudity. In NC we went on a trip to Raleigh to see the movie Romeo and Juliet and there was a very steamy scene that we talked about for weeks. The bus broke down on the way back so we missed our ride home. That was the only time I was ever on a bus that broke down before I started driving them.
  • What teacher influenced you the most?
    • My fourth grade teacher is the only one that stands out. She taught me to be tough when the other kids picked on me. She also taught me to speed read so I could devour books at warp speed.
  • Did you buy a lunch at school, or bring one from home? What kind of lunchbox? What was your favorite lunch?
    • I know that I had several metal lunch boxes but I don't remember what was on them. They usually had a PB&J sandwich wrapped in wax paper and a leaky thermos. I did buy my lunch now and then, especially on pizza day. When I was in NC I discovered fried bolonga.

Mom's School Memories

My mother went to school in Buchanan, MI where the family lived at the end of Main St. She got off to a bit of a rocky start. The reasons why have been lost over the years but she was afraid of her kindergarten teacher. So she'd walk to school with the other kids and then go off and play until she saw everyone heading home when she'd head home too. She doesn't remember how she was found out but she didn't get in trouble, her mother simply walked her to school the next day and had a chat with the teacher. What was said will forever remain a mystery but she was never afraid of the teacher again.

She always walked with her sister, Vivian, her older brother, Bill, being a boy and all, would leave the house early so that he wouldn't be seen walking with them. One time the girls saw a snake, a blue racer, and Mom was dumbstruck. Vivian just missed stepping on the creature. They ran home and told Bill who went looking for it. It had been hit and killed by a car so he brought it home in the wheelbarrow. It was a big snake and Vivian decided to measure it. Later in the day when their mother was busy at some task Vivian held the snake up next to their mother, knowing that she was 5'3" tall. The snake was just a bit shorter.

During the 1930's they didn't have the warm winter boots that we have today. Instead she wore galoshes over her shoes. Several days each winter she'd arrive home with frostbite and her mother would go outside and bring in snow to rub on her feet.

On the way to school there was one family that had a pair of dogs, collies, if her memory serves. The pair was quite exuberant and would try and jump on her which she found frightening. Her mother had a word with the neighbors and the dogs were kept in during the time the kids had to walk by.

Three field trips stand out in her memory. With the Girl Scouts she visited a Sealtest plant to see ice cream being made. Also with the scouts she went to a Notre Dame football game where Notre Dame "beat 'em upside down and backwards." When she was just 8 she went on a class trip to the Chicago's World Fair. They took the train from Buchanan. Soon after arriving at the fair they came to a fairly new invention - an escalator. She followed a couple of others to try it out. When they came back down their class was just disappearing down a hall. She was so afraid of getting lost after that her focus for the rest of the day was staying with her class and she doesn't remember much else about the fair.

Until my sister put together a memory board for Mom's 75th birthday I had no idea that she was Salutatorian of her class. If I ask her about it she'll simply say that she was but it isn't anything she wants to talk about.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

More Weddings

While talking to Mom about her wedding she also told me what little she knew of my grandparents weddings. I have updated what I wrote about my paternal grandparents wedding here, to add a photo and the fact the the minister was a friend of theirs.

My maternal grandparents were married in 1919 at the Alamo, something that I'd never heard previously. I'm digging around to see what else I can find out about that. The Alamo does have a nice garden so I suspect that was where the wedding took place.

Jasia, as always, has done a great job putting together the 33rd Edition of The Carnival of Genealogy at Creative Gene. What a lovely mix of stories this month! An opulent fairytale wedding, a scandal, small private affairs, traditions, tragedies and mysteries; all interesting reading.

The next edition, Halloween and Supernatural promises to be fun!