Monday, September 26, 2022

An Earliest Memory - Monday Memory

I climbed out of my crib after my afternoon nap and went downstairs.  It was as though I'd walked into a golden wonderland.  Through the long, narrow, west-facing living window shone the glow of a late autumn sunset.  It had turned the room warm and golden and beautiful.

There are times a memory is barely a wisp.  An image or two, a feeling, a sense....  This is one of those memories.  And I think it a strange thing how a memory can sometimes drift into non-memory, no before the beginning and no after the end.  The memory just evaporates.

This is one of my earliest memories and was, perhaps, my first observation of how light changes throughout the day and from season to season.  Noticing the light is something I still do and enjoy.  Sometimes I think I can almost tell the time and season from the angle of the light.

I wish I had a photograph of that afternoon sunlight.

Do you have very early childhood memories?

—Nancy.

Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Monday, September 19, 2022

Apple Tree - Monday Memory


There was a little apple tree in our back yard.  It was a small, scraggly, scrappy tree that produced a nondescript variety of apple.  My dad built a split-rail fence across the back of our yard with just enough space to mow between the tree and the fence.  That meant that I could climb the fence to make it easier to get into the tree.  (The tree's crotch was about as high as I was.)     

My mom had forbidden me to climb the tree.  The warnings she issued were, "Do not climb the apple tree" and "Stay out of that tree."  I was a mostly-obedient child, plus I didn't want to get hurt if I fell from the tree and I didn't want to face my mother's anger if she caught me.  But I did climb the tree once (without getting caught or falling) and decided the bark was too rough and scratchy.  Not only that, being in that little tree was nothing spectacular.  Because it wasn't tall enough to give an expansive view and it wasn't full enough to hide in, it didn't have the attraction that being in a bigger tree might have.

Nonetheless, I loved the tree.  In late summer the apples fell to the ground.  Sometimes I would find one that was still perfect--not bruised from its fall or half-eaten by birds or bugs.  In those days, I thought there was nothing better than eating one of the tree's fresh, sun-warmed apples.

Have I mentioned that my mother was frugal?  Nothing went to waste in our home if she could help it.  During the days the apples were ripe and falling, she gathered them from the ground or sent me out to collect them.  Mom looked them over, choosing which had enough good fruit left to use.  She cut and boiled them for applesauce or, better, she peeled and sliced them for pie.  And please don't ask me why we didn't pick them from the tree instead of letting them fall.  I have no idea why.  Maybe there weren't enough ripe at any one time to make it worth getting the ladder out to pick them.

There were days when there were enough bruised apples left on the ground that we had to be careful where we stepped.  The bees buzzed around the fruit, claiming the apples as their own. 

Sometime after I left home, the tree either died or was cut down.  I wish I had a photo of the tree, even if only in the background of a family photo.

Isn't is strange how, in the midst of life, we take things for granted that in later years we look upon as happy memories?  I so wish I had photos of some of the times, places, and events from my past.

-–Nancy.

Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Is this My Ancestor?  (And Free Access to the British Newspaper Archive)

FindMyPast is offering free access to the British Newspaper Archive during this time of national mourning for Queen Elizabeth, through Monday, September 19, 2022 (but I don't know until what time).  It may be a helpful source if you have British ancestors.

I generally love using newspapers for family history but newspapers in England in the early 1800s gave so little information that it's hard to tell whether the person is an ancestor or not.  Many of my ancestors have commonly used names--Mary Bell, William Doyle, Robert Laws, Robert Reay, Elizabeth Thompson--returning many search results, usually with nothing more than name and location to help identify.

When I searched for William Doyle this is what I found on the front page of the Saturday, February 11, 1826, edition of the Newcastle Courant.  (The link may not work unless you have an account.) 

The second entry under the heading "GENERAL HUE AND CRY" (What a foreboding phrase!) reads,
WHEREAS JOHN BAILEY, late of Rainton, in the County of Durham, Hewer; DANIEL GILLONS, late of the same Place, Hewer; WILLIAM DOYLE, late of Wallsend, in the County of Northumberland, Hewer; and GEO. MAUDLIN, late of Walker Colliery, Hewer, being bound or under Agreement to work at the Coed Talon Collieries, North Wales, belonging to the Welsh Iron and Coal Mining Company, early on Saturday Morning last, ran away and absented themselves from their said Employment without Leave or Notice—This is therefore to give Notice, that if they do not return to their say Employment, they will be prosecuted to the utmost Rigour of the Law; and any Viewers of Collieries, or other Persons employing or harbouring the said John Bailey, Daniel Gillons, William Doyle, and George Maudlin, after this Notice, will be prosecuted as the Law directs.—Coed Talon Colliery Office, 3d Feb. 1826.

My ancestor William Doyle was born in about 1802 (based on his age at death as stated in his U.K. GRO death certificate).  William would have been about 24 at the time of this article.  He had married Martha Reay about a year earlier in Wallsend, Northumberland.

The only two identifiers in this notice fit my William.  He was a coal miner and he had lived in Wallsend as recently as May, 1825.

How would I know if this is my William Doyle without more identifying information--either from the newspaper notice or from previous research?  The U.K. Census didn't begin until 1841, three years after William's death.  My only records for William are his church banns and marriage records, and his civil death record.  And church records from the births of his children:  Jane was born in 1826 in Wallsend; William was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1928.  It's not for lack of searching that I don't have more information about him.  You can't find records that weren't created.

If I knew in which colliery William worked; if I knew the names of his friends, neighbors, or co-workers; if I knew anything about his work history....  Any of those might help.  But as it is, I feel helpless to know if this is my own ancestor, my third great-grandfather.  And for the record, I hope it isn't!

As I said before, I love newspaper research but I don't find--or haven't yet found--British newspapers of the early 1800s to be of much help.

But by all means, you should take advantage of Find My Past's free access to the British Newspaper Archive this weekend if you have British ancestors.  I hope it's helpful to you.

-–Nancy.

Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Monday, September 12, 2022

Learning to Iron - Monday Memory

Before about 1970 ironed clothes were the norm, at least in our home.  Mom ironed shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, my dad's pants, handkerchiefs, pillowcases, and probably a few other items (but not sheets, as some women did).

My mother began teaching me how to iron before I started first grade, probably when I was 4½ or 5.  Her ironing board was in the basement along with all the other laundry equipment.  The outlet for the iron was in the ceiling near the light, so the cord did not get in the way.  It was an efficient arrangement.

Mom always ironed on Tuesday (the clean clothes having been dampened on Monday) while I played in the basement.  One day she told me to come over to the iron and she showed me how to iron my father's handkerchiefs.  She explained how to flatten them to prepare to iron them, where to start, how to iron so they were smooth and without creases, and how to fold them.  She also told me that the iron was hot and that I shouldn't touch it. 

Then she turned off the iron and had me iron a handkerchief.  (She must have had me stand on a step stool to reach the ironing board.)  It was amazing.  And fun.  Like magic, really!  I probably didn't iron more than one or two handkerchiefs that first time.

The next week I ironed some handkerchiefs and then learned how to iron my dad's boxer shorts.  They were a little harder but still fun.  I realize now that she taught me to iron using items of clothing that didn't matter it they weren't perfectly ironed.

Mom also had an ironer, called a mangle by some people.
I didn't learn to use this till I was 9 or 10, and I thought it was great fun, too.  And even better than using an iron.  Mom used it for anything flat including the sleeves of my father's work shirts, pillow cases, table cloths, probably the legs of my father's work pants, cotton curtains, and I can't remember what else.  I loved using that ironer.  It was a great time-saver for my mom, who used it more often than I did.

I don't think many people iron clothes these days.  It's much less necessary with the advent of clothes dryers and wrinkle-free fabrics.  I occasionally have the need to press or iron clothes, not not often.  But my ironing board and iron are always at the ready since I use them to press seams for making quilts.

How about you?  Did you learn to iron when you were young?  (Probably not if you're younger than 40.)

Top and bottom advertisements courtesy of HEARTH (Home Economics, Archive:  Research, Tradition and History), Cornell University Library Digital Collections.  Iron ad here; ironer ad here.  Photo of ironer my own.

-–Nancy.

Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Monday, September 5, 2022

First Grade Memories - Monday Memory

When I was young, we went to the Canfield Fair on Labor Day, or over Labor Day weekend.  It was a fun end-of-summer tradition.  And then, the next day--excitement reigned!--school started (except for the year the levy didn't pass).  Here I sit on Labor Day weekend, in 2022, with my thoughts turning to my earliest memories of school.

Sadly, I don't remember the very first day of school in September, 1956, and have no photos, either.  Moms didn't take photos then like they do these days.  A few memories from throughout the year come to mind, though.  The photo to the right is not a school photo but was taken when I was about 6.

My first grade teacher's name was Mrs. Blott.  She seemed to be about my grandmother's age and though not feeble, she was not spry, either.  (Though, as you'll read later, she was strong enough.)  I think her patience was dwindling, or perhaps she'd never been a patient person.  She must have done a good enough job teaching me because I learned to read and write, learned some math, and probably some other things in her class.

For reading, Mrs. Blott divided us into small groups.  She sat in a chair, then gathered us around her to sit in smaller chairs where we slowly plowed through learning those first sight words in the Dick and Jane readers.  (There was no kindergarten in our school system so any preschool learning happened at home.)

I don't remember our desks but I do remember there was a larger table near the back of the room with a stack of manila drawing paper and crayons where we sat to make drawings.  I think there were probably scissors and paste (the white, minty kind) on the table too.  Probably six or eight children could sit there at a time to draw and color.  When we'd finished our other work or when Mrs. Blott was reading with other children, we were able to draw and color.  I loved that table.

One of the best memories is having a short, mid-morning break when half-pint bottles of milk were delivered to our classroom to get us through to lunch time.  Mom sent money on Monday--maybe a quarter?--and we were able to choose between plain or chocolate milk.  Chocolate milk was not an option at home:  no chocolate milk, ever, came into our home.  At school I could choose, without my mom knowing, and I chose chocolate.  It was something I looked forward to every day.  And. oh, those little milk bottles.  I desperately wanted to take one home.  At about 5½" high, they were just perfect for a 6-year-old's hand.

There was no cafeteria at the school, nor a lunchroom either.  Some children carried their lunches with them in bags or lunchboxes.  Others of us who lived nearby walked home for lunch, ate, then walked back for the rest of the day.  They called us "walkers."

The walk between home and school (and vice versa) was a little more than two short blocks.  Our house was the first one on Furnace Street.  I walked the short distance up Furnace Street to Main Street (which was also State Route 46, so a fairly busy highway), turned left onto the sidewalk, walked another block and a half, then crossed the street to the school.  I must have already learned about watching for traffic and crossing streets because there was no traffic light, no cross walk, and no crossing guards.  I don't remember my mom ever walking me to school.  Times were different then.  And I don't remember walking to school with other children when I was little.

Our classroom had wonderful chalkboards--old-fashioned, black, slate boards.  They went around two walls of the room, at the front and along one of the sides, and had trays at the bottom to hold both chalk and erasers.  They had been installed when the building was new, about the time the photo at right was taken.  (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress; more photos here.)  Mrs. Blott usually wrote on the one at the front of the room where she sometimes wrote and had us copy what she wrote onto our papers.  She occasionally had us go to the side board to write a word or copy a simple math problem.  The dust was awful but that eraser!  Gosh, it worked like magic to remove our marks.

One disturbing experience happened that first year of school between Mrs. Blott and a girl in class everyone called Bunny.  Bunny wore thick glasses, was larger than the rest of us first graders, and seemed to understand and do things more slowly.  One day, for reasons I didn't clearly understand at the time (and still don't), Mrs. Blott grabbed Bunny by the wrist and flung her against the wall, into a corner.  It was frightening to see and it made me wonder if I could or would be next.  I think all of us in the class were stunned into silence, probably most especially Bunny.  Did I tell my parents?  I don't remember.  And I don't remember what came of the incident.  Clearly, someone should have reported Mrs. Blott to the principal.  Who of us first graders would have done it, though, especially when we lived in a time when the teacher was right, no discussion? 

One other little memory is of the radiators.  They were the old-fashioned, cast iron variety.  They were installed under the windows, along a good part of the wall.  When we came in from playing outside on a snowy day, we put our mittens and gloves on the radiator to dry.  And they steamed.

This post is already so long and I completely understand if you're finished reading.  These last paragraphs describe my memories of the school itself and not personal memories of events.

The school I walked to was the Mineral Ridge School, also called Weathersfield Township School, in Trumbull County, Ohio.  As a township school children attended who lived in areas in the township that weren't within the boundaries of a city school system.  In the 1950s our township had a relatively small population so all grades went to the same building.  The first grade rooms were on the first floor to the left of the main door as you're looking at it.  Notice those great, tall windows!

Our classroom seemed large to me.  The classroom door was at the back of the room.  When entering, the closets were to the left along most of the wall and the rest of the room to the right.  Sweaters, coats, hats, mittens, boots, and lunches went into the closet.  In front of us was a wall of windows that faced Main Street.  Around the corner from the windows was a wall of chalkboards which continued around the next corner of the room (where Mrs. Blott flung Bunny).  The teacher's desk sat in front of the chalkboard not far from the windows.  Our desks faced the chalkboards and the teacher's desk.

*   *   *   *   *               *   *   *   *   *                  *   *   *   *   *

I look back at these memories and wonder that I didn't feel intimidated going into that cavernous school with its wide halls and high ceilings, the rooms even larger but equally tall, and with older kids in the building.  Somehow the principal managed to keep a tight rein on most situations and we all survived.  (But I wish I knew what happened to Bunny.)

Was your first grade experience at all like mine?

I'm linking this post to Elizabeth Swanay O'Neal's The Genealogy Blog Party:  School Days at her blog Heart of the Family.  During the month of September, others will be posting their school days memories or posts about other school topics.  Visit and take a look.

-–Nancy.

Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Pistachios - Monday Memory

Photo courtesy of
jtlewis, StockFreeImages.com

I first learned about pistachios from my brother, Bob, who was (and still is) 11 years older than me.  While in high school in the 1950s he worked at Beazel's, Mineral Ridge's only grocery store.

One afternoon when I was perhaps 7 or 8, we were driving to I don't remember where when he pulled into Beazel's parking lot and told me to wait in the car.  (You have to understand that this was a small town--a village, really--in the 1950s, when kids waited in cars without parents or older brothers being concerned.) 

Bob walked out of the store a few minutes later with a clear bag with something red in it.  He told me they were pistachios, a kind of nut, and offered me some to try.  Oh my goodness, I loved them immediately.  They were delicious and I think we finished the bag.  If you've ever eaten red pistachios you probably remember how they turned your fingers red.  It seemed strange but I never asked why.

Though I loved them, they weren't something I spent my money on.  What little money I had came from my allowance and mostly went to buy either ice cream cones in the summer, or M&Ms.

It wasn't until years later, as a young adult, that I rediscovered pistachios at a health food coop.  I was surprised that they weren't red but pleased that they were as delicious as I remembered. 

They've become one of my favorite snacks and these days I spend my money on them--and shun M&Ms..
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Did you eat red pistachios as a kid?

I anticipate that Monday Memory posts will become an irregular series focusing on my childhood and young adult memories.  If you are a child of the 1950s, perhaps you will identify with some of the memories I share.

-–Nancy.

Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Lulls in the Conversation - Monday Memory


My grandparents' home was cozy and comfortable, quiet, calm, and clean.  It was a welcoming home.  In reality, it was more likely my Gramma herself who was welcoming. 

The living room was graced with a well-polished, arched mantle clock which sat atop the piano between two beautiful, tall, blue and white vases.  Sadly, I have few photos of the inside of my grandparents' home and none with the clock or vases.  (If only I'd known when I was young what photos I'd want now....)

Family congregated at Gramma's house for celebrations and holidays. After a large family meal the women did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen.  When the kitchen work was finished, all the women and girls—my grandmother, her four daughters, and several granddaughters—moved to the living room to sit and visit.  (The guys fled the scene!). 

Talk went from one conversation to another, meandering from the weather, news of family and mutual acquaintances, the best way to do something in a home (clean windows, clean woodwork), a new kind of cleaning product, etc.  All the things that couldn't be covered in a two-minute, long distance phone conversation or written in a two-page letter were open for discussion.  The topics were all over the place and I seldom paid too much attention when I was little.  I was just happy to be there, encircled by the love of family.  Who knows, my cousin Belinda and I may have been playing with dolls, or cutting out paper dolls and their clothes, or involved in some quiet activity that didn't disturb the conversation.

Suddenly there would be a lull in the conversation and all the talking would stop.  We sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes.  Invariably, after about a minute someone, usually Aunt Polly, would glance at the clock on the piano and say, "Well, it's 20 after."  Or, "It's 10 of."  As though that explained the break in conversation. 

When I was 10 or 11, this had happened often enough that I finally asked what that was 20-after and 10-of business was all about.  She told me that when a conversation lulls, it's usually at 20 after the hour or 10 of the hour.  And as far as I could tell, no one was watching the clock.  I didn't know what to think about that but then I noticed it seemed to be true, at least at my grandmother's house.  An unusual phenomenon, to be sure. 

Has anyone else noticed whether this occurs when you're sitting around having a conversation?  (And do people even DO that anymore, that is, sit around having conversations, with cell phones so prevalent in so many hands?)

The grandmother of this memory is Emma Virginia (Bickerstaff) Meinzen.  She was the only grandmother alive during my lifetime and lived just two houses away.  I visited her often and always felt not just welcome but much-loved.

-–Nancy.


Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content, including photos, from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A Family History House?

I saw this post at Colossal and immediately thought, "Family History!" 


The house was about to be torn down but before it was, a man who had lived there as a child wanted to honor those who had lived in the house as well as those who had lived in the neighborhood.  He printed their names on strips of paper and glued them to the house.

Wouldn't it be amazing to do this to an ancestor's home and add all the names of family members, their ancestors, and their descendants?  Or not even a real house -- maybe a dollhouse-sized house.  Will I ever do it?  Probably not, but I'd love it!

The words in this post are mine; the image is a screenshot from the post at Colossal.

-–Nancy.

Copyright © 2022 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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