Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old Ladies

I'm not thinking of ladies who are old so much as I am thinking about ladies from older times, times that were perhaps slower and gentler, more delicate, perhaps even more refined. Or maybe just more down to earth and simple.

When I was poking around at the second hand store the other day I came upon a clear plastic bag of handkerchiefs. I wanted to pull the staples out so I could have a closer look. I wanted to see if they were worth the 90-cent price tag, but if the staples are removed and the bags are open, they won't sell them until after they've gone to the back to be reprocessed. So I poked through the clearness of the bag and, with my daughter encouraging me, decided to hand over the 90 cents and call them mine. There were about 24 hankies of varying ages and used-ness. Some were faded, some nearly threadbare. Two, crisp and bright with labels attacheed, were folded as if they'd just come out of the gift box. Some were from the 1940s and '50s. Others were a little newer and one was, I think, much older - white embroidery on white linen. There was also a new linen one with its label shiny label just waiting for it's own monogram in the corner and tatting around the edge. I decided the bag was a good buy.

What is it about these little pieces of cloth that make them so dear? Certainly not their intended use in handling the sniffles and runny nose of a cold. Possibly for the charming prints that cover their surfaces, or the delicate tatting or crochet around their borders. Probably the real appeal is that they bring to mind ladies I love from a time long past. Didn't they always carry a handkerchief in their purses or pockets? I think my Gramma Meinzen did and so did my mom.

As a child I remember sometimes choosing handkerchiefs as Christmas gifts for my mom and gramma. Do you remember how ladies' handkerchiefs were always larger than their flat square boxes and were folded to fit? There were 4 folds arranged in such a way that the hankie looked like a smaller version of itself and the geometry of the decorations was preserved. Sometimes the hankies were sold in sets of three or four to a box, all with the same print but in different colors, or sometimes the set was made up of a different flower or motif embroidered in the corner of each.

Pockets in dresses and aprons (or if there were no pockets in the dress, sometimes the hankies were tucked under a sleeve or under a bra strap at the shoulder) were always at the ready. My Gramma Meinzen is the lady on the left. Notice her nice big pocket. You can be sure there was a hankie in it.

Hankies were useful for another purpose: I learned to manage an iron on hankies and my dad's boxer shorts. Hankies required the most care because there were to be no ironed-in creases or wrinkles. I started ironing before I started school. I wonder how many hankies I ironed before I perfected the job.

Now, handbags - or purses, or pocketbooks - call them what you will - are a different memory all together. Handbags definitely held a hankie, but there were other great things in pocketbooks: a coin purse; a billfold; a compact with a mirror and powder puff; probably lipstick; keys; maybe a pen and a small pad of paper.... It's not like I spent time looking through Gramma's bag, but occasionally, and probably to keep me occupied and quiet during a car ride or some other wait, she would open her purse and pull out things for me to look at. What a treat! I enjoyed the contents of her purse, but I often liked the purses themselves. Sometimes I would go so far as to ask her if I could have one or other particular ones when she was finished with them. I remember only once did she pass one on to me. It was large and black and heavy - I was small. It seemed more like a suitcase than a handbag. Gosh, the things I could pack into it! How I could play "grown-up"! I loved playing with it no matter that it was over-large for me.

Treasures. My grandmother's handkerchief and purse would be treasures if I had them, but since I don't have them, the memories are treasures enough. What treasures do you have or remember from an "old lady" you loved when you were a child?

By the way, the ladies in the photo above, from left to right, are sisters Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen, Cora Bickerstaff, and Mary Ellen "Mayme" Bickerstaff Morris. The photo was taken about 1953. That year, Gramma turned 60; Cora, 42; and Mayme, 54.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What do you call them?

What do you call a direct ancestor you've never met?

I used to say I was looking for "Henry C. Meinzen" or "Elvira Bartley Gerner" or whoever it was. Then I began saying I was looking for "my great-grandfather, Henry C. Meinzen" or "my great-grandmother, Elvira Bartley Gerner." When talking to my family about my searches, they knew who I meant when I said "Elvira" or "Henry C." But something just didn't seem right. If those ancestors were alive, I certainly wouldn't address them as Henry C. or Elvira. So in my mind I've begun thinking of them as Gramma Elvira and Grampa Henry.

For me, family history and genealogy are not about names and dates but about relatives I haven't yet had the opportunity to meet. Their bodies are dead but I believe their spirits live on and that we'll meet when we arrive in eternity. It will be a happy day for me because those relatives I've been able to find will not be strangers to me. I will at least recognize their names and that they are family.

So, what do you call deceased relatives you've never met?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Birthday Wish

This is my beautiful neice-in-law, Val D., who is Adam's wife. I just wanted to remember her on her birthday, today.

Happy Birthday, Val! I hope you're treated like a queen for the day.

This photo is the companion to her husband Adam's photo. Both were cropped from their wedding photograph. You can see that I don't get new photos of my nieces and nephews very often. I know Val hasn't changed much, though. She's just as beautiful as ever.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Looking at Faces

I believe that all the people in these photographs are my Meinzen family members. Are some of the people in the photographs the same people? I think so, but I'm not sure, so I'm looking for resemblances and noticing the changes that time might make in the features of the people.

I can definitely identify the individuals in the middle photo, and I can definitely identify two of the individuals in the first photo. I'm guessing who the other people are.

The estimated date of this photo is 1892-1900.

The older man in front is Henry C. Meinzen. The woman behind him is his wife, Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen.

Is the man on the left in this photo the same man in the photo below standing on the left? The nose is very similar. The face shape is similar, though the older man's face isn't quite so long. What do you think?

Are any of the young women or children in this photo also people in the two photos below?

The date of this photo is probably June, 1920.

Henry C. Meinzen, seated, is circled by his children, left to right: Mina, Naomi, Henry, Robert, Belle, and Lula.

The estimated date of this photo is 1900-1908.

Does the lady who is standing in this photo look like a younger version of the woman in the photo above who is standing on the right? Imagine a difference of 20 years....

Does the lady sitting at the back in this photo look like the woman in the above photo who is standing on the left?

You can see more information about these photos here, here, and here.
These are scanned images of black and white photocopies of photographs. They were in the box from Aunt Polly.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Birthday Boys

I'm wishing two great-nephews who are brothers happy birthdays.

Max, on the left, turns 4 today, October 15. Happy Birthday, Max!

Aedan, on the right, turned 2 on September 24 -- and I missed it! I hope you had a very Happy Birthday, Aedan!

Their mom doesn't send new photos very often, so these are a year or so old. I can only imagine that they've grown cuter since these were taken.

Happy, happy birthday, boys!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Remembering Beulah

This is my paternal grandmother, Beulah Mae (Gerner) Doyle. Isn't she lovely!

I'm celebrating her birthday today because I missed it in September. She was born on September 13, 1888, to Fred and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner in Butler County, Pennsylvania. She was the 11th of 16 children, and the 7th of 10 daughters.

I know so very little about her, and nothing at all about her early years. In fact, I didn't learn her name until I was in high school. I grew up completely unaware of a 2nd set of grandparents. My mom's parents lived down the street from us and they were the only grandparents I knew. You'll understand why after you read more about Beulah.

Her family lived in Butler County, Pennsylvania, most of her life but for a time during her young adult years, they lived in Mercer County. It was there that she met Gust Doyle. I was told that they met when Beulah attended a camp meeting not far from Gust's parents' farm. They married on December 19, 1911. Beulah and Gust were both 23.

Gust and his father, William (also known as Billie -- or Pap to family members) were farmers in Stoneboro. They owned a very large strawberry farm, had milk cows, and grew crops on the land. I don't know who lived where when Beulah and Gust married. Perhaps they lived in the farmhouse and Pap and his wife, Tressa (known to family as Maw), had already moved into town.

On February 27, 1913, my dad, Lee, and his twin sister, Leila, were born. Leila died just 3 days later on March 2. I can't imagine how Beulah must have felt at the loss of one of her wee babes. Devastated, no doubt. But then, just 3 weeks later, Beulah died, too. Her death certificate lists cause of death as "puerpral septicemia", an old medical term that translates to blood poisoning after giving birth. What a sad home, husband, and family! As a youth I overheard a conversation in which someone said that Beulah had gone outside earlier than she should have after giving birth. I don't know that that would have caused blood poisoning but it could have increased her susceptibility during those late winter weeks.

Gust remarried a few years later. Lee grew up in a home where his father loved him and his stepmother didn't. (I once heard Dad indicate that he knew what it was like to live with Cinderella's step-mother.) Gust protected Lee by keeping him nearby as much as possible instead of in the house with his stepmother. Lee worked the farm with his father, helped mine coal, and spent time with his grandparents, Maw and Pap. Gust passed away of colon cancer in October, 1933, when Lee was just 20 years old.

I wonder if Dad grew up not hearing many stories about his mother, and so there were none to pass on. I wonder if his growing up years were so difficult that he didn't want to bring them forward in his memory and share them. And perhaps his memory of his father was just too precious and painful to share.

I wish Gust had shared good memories of his wife, Beulah, with my dad so that he could have shared them with his children. I wish Dad had passed on to us his good memories of Gust. They would have become second-hand memories to us, precious and dear, to help us know those who came before us.

Dad had this beautifully framed photograph of his mother, Beulah, hanging in his and Mom's bedroom. The photograph at the top of this post is a digital image of the framed photograph at the right.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nuts! A Childhood Memory

When I was walking through the produce aisles at the grocery store yesterday I happened upon the peanut display.  They looked so good, and they were on sale, too, so I bought two bags.  Large bags, maybe 24 ounces.  You know how they say not to shop when you're hungry....  After I checked out and transferred my groceries from the cart to the car, I opened one of the bags and ate a few, and then a few more. Standing there eating those peanuts reminded me of Dad.

I think my Dad - Lee Doyle - liked peanuts a lot. I have 3 distinct memories involving Dad and peanuts.  When I was little, perhaps 3 or 4 years old, occasionally Dad would take me with him when he went to buy gas.  It was always late mornings when we went, and always to the gas station on Main Street in Mineral Ridge.  Was it Smitty's that was on the south end of the Ridge?  I remember a man would come out of the station and pump the gas.  He and Dad would visit and Dad would check under the hood.  When he was finished, he'd close the hood and go into the gas station while I stayed in the car.  The gas station was a smallish building and you had to up a number of steps to go inside.  Dad would disappear through the door, then soon emerge, hat on his head, with his hand in his sweater pocket.  Back inside the car out would come two little 5-cent bags of roasted, shelled peanuts.  And we would sit there in the car and eat them.  What a treat!

I also remember going to the Canfield Fair where there was a peanut seller with a cart full of peanuts.  Was it Eddy's?  The cart had a mound of peanuts in the center and along the sides were small brown bags of peanuts with the tops folded very carefully and particularly, all alike.  It seemed that the peanut stand was conveniently close to wherever we were going to meet everyone else.  (Did Dad plan that?)  Dad bought us a bag or two of peanuts and we stood there cracking and eating them.  I remember that he showed me the "button" - as he called it - and explained that if I pressed it, the peanut would split in half.  It always does!

When we ate peanuts at home, which was an "event" because Mom rarely bought peanuts in the shell, she would spread a large cloth on the floor in the living room, and we would all sit around it and crack our peanuts over the cloth.  Mom was such a meticulous house-keeper that she would not have wanted peanut crumbs anywhere in the house.  Peanuts do create a lot of crumbs, but they are so good!

Oh, and then there are the pistachios!  My brother Bob introduced me to pistachios.  He used to work at Beazell's in the Ridge.  One day I was riding with him in the car and he stopped and went inside.  When he came back out, he had a bag of little red things.  I didn't know what they were because I'd never seen pistachios before.  We pried them apart and ate.  Delicious!  I think that was the beginning of my love of pistachios.  You can't find the red ones anymore, but the natural ones are just as beautiful and just as delicious!

I guess I'd say peanuts are a comfort food these days.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

A Little Genealogy Silliness

I first heard "I Am My Own Grampa" at an outdoor evening performance several summers ago in Nauvoo, Illinois. It sounds preposterous, and perhaps it really is, but I thought this little video demonstrates its possibility quite simply. If true, it certainly would be a genealogist's nightmare filling out family groups sheets and pedigree charts! Enjoy.

And here are the lyrics should you want to figure out the relationships or sing along.

I Am My Own Grampa
by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe

Many, many years ago
When I was twenty-three
I got married to a widow
Who was pretty as could be.

This widow had a grown up daughter
With flowing hair of red.
My father fell in love with her
And soon the two were wed.

This made my dad my son-in-law
And changed my very life.
Now my daughter was my mother,
For she was my father's wife.

To complicate the matter
Although it brought me joy,
I soon became the father
Of a bouncing baby boy.

My little baby then became
A brother-in-law to dad,
And so became my uncle,
Though it made me very sad.

For if he was my uncle,
then that also made him brother
To the widow's grown up daughter,
Who of course was my step-mother.

Father's wife then had a son
Who kept them on the run,
And he became my grandson
For he was my daughter's son.

My wife is now my mother's mother
And it makes me blue
Because although she is my wife,
She's now my grandma too.

If my wife is my grandmother,
Then I am her grandchild
And every time I think of it
It simply drives me wild.

For now I have become
The strangest case you ever saw,
As the husband of my grandmother,
I am my own grandpa!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Sister's Birthday

My sister, Marsha, was born on October 9, a few decades ago. I don't know the date of this photograph. I'm guessing that she was about 9 or 10 when it was taken. Such beautiful eyes and a wonderful long braid. I remember that her hair was very long at one time, perhaps to the middle of her back or longer, and she wore it in two braids sometimes.

Doesn't she remind you just a little of Anne Frank? I always thought so.

This post is in her honor. Happy Birthday, Marsha! I hope you're treated like a queen.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Adam!

My nephew, Adam D., is celebrating ... how many years? ... on October 6. I know he's at least 30-something years old, but the exact number I cannot remember. Yes, I know I could look it up, but some folks probably would rather not have their ages broadcast across the internet.

So Adam, I'm just going to extend an old-fashioned wish and say I hope your birthday's grand and that you're very well-celebrated!

Happy Birthday, Adam!

This photo was taken on his wedding day, September 22, 2001. Isn't he good-looking?!
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