Remembering my Grandparents
At Grandma & Grandpa's Home
My grandmother, Edna, was about 4’8” tall with a medium built. She was the eldest daughter in a family with six children. Edna’s father, Lawrence ran a small Dairy farm and did construction work. Lawrence was a respectable man who earned enough money to provide for his big family, and gave each child lots of love. Edna’s mother, Leota was a homemaker. Grandma Edna said, her mother, had been a fine woman. Leota had been a mail order bride coming to America from overseas. There is much in the way of disagreement in the family as to whether she came from Germany or Scotland. Whatever her country of origin, Leota managed to learn English but had a thick accent. She kept an orderly home, sang in the church choir, did all manors of home crafts, cooked good meals, and raised their four sons and two daughters. Per Grandma, Lawrence and Leota had grown close over the years and loved each other very much. Edna says that she had a very happy home life during her younger years.
Leota taught both daughters how to do the “women” chores, handcrafts and housekeeping skills. Lawrence taught his four boys how to do the “man” chores; yard work, woodwork, painting, and mechanical work.
When Edna was in her late teens, Leota became inexplicably ill. The children later learned that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Folks did not understand how to deal with such things back then. Leota was told to have lots of bed rest. Lawrence went into a deep depression unable to control his chronic weeping after hearing the news. Grandma stated that it was a sad time for all. Back in those days, folks didn’t understand depression. There was no one to help Lawrence deal with Leota’s condition. He started drinking for consolation. Because of Lawrence’s severe depression and drinking, he lost his construction job and the dairy was not producing they way it should because he wasn't paying enough attention to the job.
Being the eldest child, Grandma Edna became the surrogate father needing to make an income. She acquired a position in a large factory. She got up early every morning, prepared breakfast and lunch for her entire family before leaving for work, then, walked to work with her friend, Claribel and her younger brother, Harry. Edna was employed as a seamstress. With Leota taken to bed, the “woman chores” fell on Edna as well. She became the surrogate mother for her siblings and helped Leota with personal care. It was then that her younger brothers took on odd jobs learning carpentry skills to help out.
Even though Leota was ill, she was a strong presence in the home. Leota spent most of her time in the oversized rocking chair in the living room or in bed convalescing. Her children enjoyed being near her. Leota continued doing handcrafts, and mending. Grandma Edna remembered this period of her life as joyful, but difficult.
Grandma Edna said that despite the hardship her family was going through, they always got dressed in their finest clothing to put on a good “public front.” Lawrence would put on his top hat, and Leota put on her best bonnet. Leaning on Lawrence’s arm, Leota and Lawrence would stroll with pride down the center of town to the Baptist church every Sunday morning with their children walking behind. You could almost see them when Grandma spoke. Grandma stated that her parents were highly regarded by the Ohio community.
Edna never forgot the hard times she had in her life. She had become the head of her family by default. But, Edna had a strong, loving spirit, and it never got her down. Back in those days, females did not have that amount of responsibility. Edna’s siblings understood their plight and attempted to help. Edna’s wages were not adequate to feed the large family. The younger boys tended the garden out back, and the family ate lots of potatoes. The older boys pitched in getting part-time jobs in construction, painting and mechanics after school.
Over the years, Grandma Edna continued to walk to work each morning with Claribel and her brother, Harry. Harry listened to Edna’s sad story, and thought highly of what Edna was doing to help her family. Harry was one year younger than Edna. He had always been a responsible chap. Harry proposed to Edna, telling her that he intended to take good care of her, and relieve her burden. They married that December. Grandpa Harry had assumed the role of the head of the household. He helped Edna raise her siblings and care for her parents.
Grandma was a great babysitter too. When I was young she taught me how to make soap, sew, crochet, make statues, cook and do many more fun crafts. It was always great to go over to grandmas
My Grandfather Harry was a tall man, about 6’5” tall, with a husky build. Grandpa said that times were different when he was a child. His father was a respectable banker in the community who made enough money to provide for the family. In his family traditions and since Harry was a boy, he needed to learn a trade so he could provide for himself and a family later in life.
Harry went to work as an apprentice when he was nine years old, working in a newspaper office after school. It was there that he developed a love for language and reading. Harry started delivering papers, became a proofreader, a typesetter, and finally a journalist. In his quest for knowledge, Harry purchased reading materials to help him learn things. He was a voracious reader. His father, Wesley, stepped in to counsel Harry due to his mass acquisitions and purchased an empty storefront to house them. With his book collection, Harry founded the first borrowing library in the small community where they lived. Harry began lending books to others and at a young age the first town librarian. Eventually Harry donated the library to the town and moved on to another apprenticeship as a boot maker. This is how he met Edna.
Grandpa Harry had two sisters, Ruth and Claribel. He was the baby of his family. Grandpa Harry was a soft-spoken man. He had beautiful Calligraphy handwriting, and told great stories of the days gone by to this eager listener.
One of the most proud things grandpa spoke about was when he watched over Franklin D. Roosevelt's casket during the viewing period. He said he had to stand at attention all day and night but he was proud to do it. Grandpa thought a lot of President Roosevelt.
Eventually, Harry and Edna had children. My mother Rowena was first born, then her sister, Eileen, came along. With Edna’s siblings and their own children it was increasingly expensive. Grandma reflected even so, they were one big happy family. Both grandparents worked second jobs to support the ever-growing household. Grandma Edna was a woman with a generous spirit who believed in charity to others. She understood that everyone has times when money is hard to come by. Grandpa said Grandma Edna continued to give money to help others even if it meant going without for a bit. This was a habit that she never gave up in her lifetime.
Harry and Edna continued to work hard to raise their family with four adults and seven children. After taking a second job working in a beauty shop as a beautician, Edna’s strength failed. While doing a permanent, she ingested some of the permanent wave solution into her lungs causing permanent lung damage. Edna could not stop coughing, and could not stop working either. So, she continued to work sick. She developed walking pneumonia and eventually bronchitis. She had such a severe case of bronchitis; she never fully recovered from it, coughing everyday for the rest of her life. The doctors told the family that Edna needed to move westward, or she might die in the cold weather. Moving was a tough decision for the struggling family.
Edna’s sister, Virginia Irene, who liked to be called Irene, told this writer that she had been quite the looker when she was young. This was not a hard stretch of the truth because as she told the story she was still very attractive. Irene remembered many a young gent wanting to have her affection and stated that she witnessed the problems that her sister was having trying to raise her siblings and children. So, at age 16 she accepted a marriage proposal from Bill; the richest single guy in their small community. Irene also confided that she did not want to leave her friends and family. Bill assured Edna and Harry that he would love and care for Irene. He also told them that his farm provided enough capital to care not only for Irene but, provide for her parents, Lawrence and Leota in the style they had been accustom to. Bill arranged for a live-in housekeeper and a nurse to make daily visits.
Heading West - Westward Ho
Harry and Edna packed up and headed westward, taking Edna’s male siblings with them. Their large caravan moved slowly from town to town. The older members of the family took on odd jobs from town to town along the way. They would only stay long enough to save enough money to move onward. During this time, Grandpa Harry continued to study and read spending time in the town record offices and newspaper offices. He also continued his education by mail order and attended trade schools whenever the family stayed long enough.
Grandma Edna grew stronger as they journeyed westward. Harry and Edna took up Country Western Dancing for enjoyment. Edna used her sewing skills to make Square Dance outfits and sold them for extra cash. They took the entire family to the ho-downs every Friday night for dinner and dancing. Their third child, Wayne, was born in Indiana. Edna always said, she was “living on borrowed time.” She was amazed at Wayne’s birth, and everyone believed she loved him best as a “God Send.” Edna truly believed she would have died in Ohio. Edna and Harry reflected, that they were one big happy family on an adventure. As Grandma said, “Life is what you make of it.”
Settling in Arizona
Eventually, the family settled in Bisbee, Arizona. Harry got a job as a Machinist. Their three children, two girls and a boy, began attending Elementary School. Edna’s siblings, who had become fine young men with many skills along the trip, became restless staying in one place. So, the brothers decided to keep moving westward. They all said their good-byes, and the brothers eventually settled on the California coastline.
Harry continued to work on his education in the evenings. He earned a Bachelor Degree in Education, and was hired as a High School shop teacher. So the family moved one last time to the "big" city, Phoenix. Edna secured a position as a seamstress to help defray the cost of her education. Edna acquired a Realtors’ license and sold homes to help Harry earn a living as well as continue her charitable giving.
After being established in their church, in employment and the community they wrote to those remaining in Ohio.
Hearing all about the opportunities out in the West, Harry’s older sister, Claribel and her husband, Buster, came to visit. They saw all the golf courses and all the land. They decided to stay and moved nearby. I don't remember what Buster did for a living but they seemed to make enough money to have their needs met. Claribel had befriended grandma when they were little introduced Edna to her brother Harry. They remained great friends all their lives and both Edna and Harry couldn't be happier Claribel and Buster moved to Arizona. Grandma said not only was it nice that they would have family close by., but because Claribel and her husband, had several boys and no girls it was nice for Claribel to have girls to help train in the homemaking skills they learned when they were young. Claribel always said she enjoyed that Edna had two girls to make frilly things for. They lived just a few doors down from my grandparents and visited everyday. Grandma said that it felt like home again with family living nearby.
Remembering Grandma and Grandpa
Making a Life in Arizona
Harry never stopped bettering himself and when he earned a Masters Degree in Counseling, he was promoted to post as High School Counselor. Grandpa loved all his jobs but told this writer that he especially enjoyed counseling youngsters. He even practiced vocational testing on all of his grandchildren. Grandpa was a member of Menses having a very high IQ. He was glad to see after giving aptitude tests to his grandchildren, they were all able to acquire knowledge also. He was anxious to see what path they would take when they grew up. Grandpa Harry was well loved by all his grandchildren and students. He remained a counselor until he had forced retirement at 65.
Grandpa wasn't one to take things standing still so, he began taking classes in marketing at night in preparation. Once he retired, he started an advertising business. He took pictures and made brochures of the activities in the area. Then he mass produced the brochures using his printing skills. He contracted with the different outfits in the area and drove brochures to hotels and community centers in the immediate area and surrounding towns to advertise the places and events. For his trouble, he was paid for the advertisements by the establishments he made brochures for. I honestly believe he might have started the brochure advertising business, but I was young still and didn't understand much about it at the time.
Harry and Edna celebrated over eighty years of living with their family and friends.
Do You Believe in Ghosts?
A strange thing happened in a small town somewhere between there and here. Grandma told the story of the family needing a place to stay for a time. Grandpa and the boys had acquired positions that would give them some capital and they needed a large place with all of them. As they drove though the town, they noted a large house in the town that appeared vacant . There was a sign in front so they inquired from the Realtor regarding the cost to rent the home. The Realtor told them the place had not been occupied for some time because it was “haunted.” My grandparents chuckled about this, because they didn't believe in ghost or haunting. The Realtor stated that because the home was “haunted,” they could rent the home cheap. Such a deal they thought they had. After traveling and living in the trailer, the family was glad to move into such a large home where everyone could have their own room.
The first night all seemed well until the strike of midnight. The family woke to rattling, moaning and scraping noise. They when to the hall to look and noted a previously locked door had been opened. The family had a discussion figuring there was some natural cause for the noise and went back to sleep. The next day, all the men and boys moved a large bureau in front of that door. It took all five males to push it in place because it was heavy. Then, they waited and watched as the clock struck midnight. Lo-and-behold, that door opened. That door pushed the bureau aside “as if it were a feather” and the chain rattling and moaning began again. Grandma, who told me the story, started laughing at this point remembering the fear struck family scrambling to get out of the house. They moved all their belongings out the next day, handing the keys to the realtor as soon as the office opened choosing to camp out while staying in this town.