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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From Grandma Lytle to Shelly

Mom wrote this informational narrative to my daughter, who was assembling genealogical information.  Tommy and Jimmy are mom’s cousins, sons of Grandma Rolf’s brother, Elmore.  Ruby is their mother.  I found some more Rolf vacation snap shots and put them in a reasonably appropriate place.   And, this 1921 labeled by my Uncle Hank.

Letter from Grandma Lenore Lytle to Shelly, May 11, 1990

Dear Shelly

Tommy sent the information I asked for.  Aunt Ruby’s first marriage was to Elmore.  She had an unusual middle name for a girl.  She was an only child.  Her Mother was a widow and married a man by the last name of KOESTLE.

You said Laura’s genealogy listed occupations.  Uncle Elmore was a “moving picture” operator at the Denison Theater on 25th Street.

Grandma (Lenore) kept a boarding house for the operators of Selzer Ave. because Grandpa Cox (Melvin) was a painter and work was non-existent in the winter.

My father was a watchmaker and was an apprentice in that trade for several years.  In 1923 he went out on his own in the front bedroom at 5214 21st St. in Cleveland.  Later, he converted the double garage into a shop and assembled clock movements for the Service Records Co.  It is still in business.  The instruments were mainly in the then fledgling trucking industry.  Drivers were paid for running time at one rate and standing time at another.  My Dad also developed other clocks for other purposes.  The biggest headache was to get a strong enough spring in a small enough space to run the clock for 72 hours.  Times have changed.  Now we throw watches away and buy a new one.

Grandma Rolf work alongside Grandpa and was the driving force in his success.  She never let him get discouraged.  She made the deliveries of fixed watches and clocks to the many jewelry stores in Cleveland.  Dad took care of the Grandfather clocks because he had to reassemble the clock when he repaired the clock movement in his shop.

Henry and I cleaned many a clock movement in high-test gas with a solvent to prevent explosions.  Even though we were warned to keep the door and windows open, we occasionally disobeyed.  It didn’t take long to get “high”.  However, we were reminded over and over of the danger so we pretty much “obeyed”.  Guess that’s why I’m still here.

Dad employed my Grandfather Lou Troike’s next door neighbor Wilbur Ludwig, two men he had trained—Harry Maxwell and Eddies Jenkins (only had one eye). Eddies was my secret hero when I was in the 8th grade.  My Maxwell had polio as a youngster and was on crutches.  Also, a young diabetic boy worked, but I can’t remember his name.

Back in the 30’s no one had much money.  WPA was the form of employment for many men.  Dad repaired alarm clocks at 25c and that’s what kept him going during the worst of the depression.  Then the Lewis Recorder hired him as a contractor and things got better.

Great Grandpa Rolf (Walter Ernst Rolf) loved to travel.  He would love all these highways.  Guess I got my wandering feet from him.  He never was much of a church goer, but, the Broadview Baptist Church and everyone around him benefitted from his generosity.  No one in the neighborhood went hungry.  He was most happy when everyone around him finally recovered from the depression and got off WPA.
Uncle Hank, tourist

Mom, 1933.  Another vacation, I'm sure
Great Grandma Rolf (Ethel) quit school after 9th grade.  Algebra was enough for her.  She went to work at 16 as a cashier at May Co. downtown.  Money was needed at home.  Typhoid, scarlet fever, and other contagious diseases were the order of the day.  Rows of houses had signs on them.  I don’t know how the well people fared.  They had to stay elsewhere.  Bring groceries and leave them on the steps.  The Mom of the house really had it rough.  She was quarantined too and had to take care of the ill.  Uncle Elmore was about 18 when he had typhoid.  He managed to survive.

Before the stock market crash of 1929, Dad helped an unemployed carpenter by having him build a cottage in the Sheffield Lake Village off Route 2 East of Lorain.  We cousins had a lot of fun with our friends.  Tommy and Jimmy built a miniature golf course in the vacant lot between our two cottages.  You had to pay a penny to play.

Mom (right) and Uncle Hank at the cottage, 1932

We had Catholic neighbors behind us.  Of course, our parents went to Cleveland every day to work.  The mothers went in once a week to do laundry (no Laundromats) and we all were on our own.  We didn’t go swimming that day even if it wasn’t raining.  I was about 12 or 13 and younger than the 4 Catholic girls.  I had to go and hold their hands when it stormed and they were alone.  Never could figure out why they were so scared.  Always felt their religion should see them through any problem.  They went to Church every Sunday.  I didn’t go in the summertime.  Once in a while a visiting preacher would come to the dance hall and the community would attend.

As for me, I finally grew up.  I graduated from James Ford Rhodes in Jan. 1936.  I turned 18 the next month.  I went to a Burroughs Calculator School.  I had to be the fastest operator because I was the only one who had a watch.  I had to get done so I could time the rest of the students.  Good thing my Dad was a watchmaker.

I went to work at Bailey Wallpaper Co. in May, 1936 at 33 dollars a month.  My own claim to fame at that job was helping to set up Social Security.  I typed up those little cards for the employees.

I met your Grandfather through a neighbor who lived on our street.  Daisy Haupt knew Frank Neillie from WPA days.  She helped Laura and Frank and the three children (girls).  Again, neighbors helping neighbors.  Laura and Frank lived in Independence and we would all congregate there to play “Armbusters”.  You removed all valuables from your arms because 10 or more people playing solitaire can get quite hectic.  Iris, another neighbor, and I always made food to take.  We had to hide the cake in the trunk because Henry and Mike Baehm would eat the nuts and or the frosting.

Daisy and Don built a house on Valley Rd. and your grandfather helped wire it.

By the way, Grandfather went into the Army at 17.  He was medically discharged in 1931 and he always said 1932 was the year he didn’t eat.  He did manage to accumulate tools.  Walter still has most of them.  He had been a radio operator and instructor in the Army.  When he couldn’t get a job at the radio station in Cleveland, he got on a wheat carrying freighter on the Great Lakes.  He stayed there until he got caught in a cable and flipped overboard and broke his ankle.  He stayed with Daisy and Don, but I didn’t meet him then even though I walked past his house every morning and he would come to Dad’s shop to pass the time.

He went to work at Babcox and Wilcox in Barberton.  By then, Laura and Frank put two voting booths together and called it home.  We managed to meet there in late 1941.  We were engaged by Easter 1942 and married in June.  He wanted to be married before he was 35.  His birthday was in August.

When I was pregnant with your mother, he got the last work release issued by B&W and went to work for Goodyear Aircraft.

He always felt that he had been born in a wonderful time.  He had come into the horse and buggy age and went out in the middle of the Space Age.

Enough memories for one day.  There are more good ones than otherwise.  I’m grateful.  Love, Grandma

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