Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The view from Grandma Rolf's driveway

After my grandpa died, Grandma Rolf lived in the house on W 21st street for several more years.  Probably until 1953.  I remember not going to school one day in the 5th grade, but going to Grandma’s house.  Uncle Hank was there, kids were shooed aside.  After that Grandma lived in an apartment. Over a Hough bakery, where she also worked.  I could draw a picture of the inside of that house.  Sometime I’ll write about all the magical places in the house.

But the outside of the house was just as wonderful.  Games like croquet were saved for our backyard in Akron, which was a city block long and superb for the game.  At Grandma Rolf’s we played on the drive way.  It started at Grandpa’s workshop and went all the way to the road.  That little something sticking up from the snow in front of the trash can on the left was a gasoline pump.  Clock parts were cleaned in gasoline.  Grandpa’s shop was in the garage.  I never was in the shop.  That’s a cherry tree in the yard in front of the garage.  Every year those cherries were picked, pitted and canned in my Grandma’s kitchen.

The driveway went all the way to the street.  There I am on a tricycle and my older brother, Walt, is just walking.  It must have been late 1946.

In 1947 my Uncle Hank came home from the Army.  I didn’t know it was 1947, or even that the tall man was my uncle.  But one day he and my dad took me for a walk.  Turn right there at the end of the drive.  It was just a couple of houses to the first cross street, and then a whole block to Valley Road.  I walked between them, holding their hands.  We turned right on Valley.  We went into a store.  We came out with a tricycle and I rode it home!  Here I am, riding it on the driveway.  Walt’s on the little tricycle.  And, Mom, Dad, a man I don’t know, and my Grandma Rolf.

Another thing about that driveway:  the milk man came up the drive with the milk.  Here are Mom and I at Grandma’s back door.  No idea whose car that is.  Not ours; it has four doors! Right over Mom’s shoulder is the milk door.  That’s where the milkman picked up the empties and left the milk.  Not just any milkman.

He drove a horse drawn milk wagon.

I found this milkman on the internet.  His truck has pneumatic tires, just like Grandma's milk man.  Most pictures I found were older and the wagons had wooden wheels.  Grandma's milk still came by horse, even when she left.
The milkman would take my brothers, Walt and Mel, in the wagon for a ride to the end of the street and deliver them back to Grandma on the way up the street.  I never went for a ride, and don’t remember ever wanting to.  My memory is not being allowed to cross the street unless Grandma Rolf watched, and waiting for the milk man’s wagon to move along so I could cross the street and play with some body’s granddaughter over there.
How vast it all was back then.  I’ve been back, but more than twenty years ago.  It was a small, tidy neighborhood in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

If you have a smart phone......

My bud in the other end of the building stopped to shoot the breeze yesterday.  Just ketchup, we've both been pretty busy.  Her bathroom's being remodelled at home; they're showering at the neighbors.  I commiserated; I climbed a ladder to the second floor when we remodelled here twenty odd years ago.  I told her about our new kitty and how he was rescued with a kitty app in a parking lot in Pennsylvania.  And so forth and so on and we were good and caught up and got back to work.

From her email this morning:

You’ll laugh at this one: after you told me about the kitten and the Kitty app, I downloaded the (free)kitty app on my phone yesterday and tried it out on Pita.  He LOVES the kittens!  I have to keep him confined while the construction is going on, and it’s a battle every day to get him into the bedroom.  This morning he followed me right in with the Kitty app!  Works better than peanut butter…

And, her cat's named Pita for a reason.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The journey or the destination?

From the time I was two years old, we lived in North Hill in Akron.  Most Sundays we went to visit someone for the day.  Aunt Laura and Uncle Frank in Richfield, Grandma Rolf in Cleveland, Grandma Cox in Cleveland, Uncle Hank and Aunt Flo in Parma or Aunt Helen Rita and Uncle George in Marlboro.  All the destinations except the last involved essentially the same route.

Our car until the late 1940’s was a 1936 Dodge coupe.  When my brother was born, Dad cut some stuff out from behind the front seat, and put a sheet metal bench across for me to sit on.  It was supposed to be comfortable because there was a six inch foam rubber cushion on it.  Adults never understood the sheet metal cut into the backs of legs.  When my second brother was born, my brother Walt went back there with me.  They never believed him either.
That car’s emblem was a ram figurine right at the front of the hood.  The ram had long, curved horns.  Uncle Hank sat on the hood, caught and tore his pants on the horn tips.  He went into Grandpa Rolf’s workshop, came back with a hacksaw and sawed the horns right off that ram.  That’s the car I remember.

Ours was black
Walt and I generally stood up in the back of that car.  If you sat down, the edge of the sheet metal was like a saw, or you stupidly braced your feet against the seat in front and were told “Get your feet off the back of the seat.”  (As a driver do you remember how awful to have a child kicking the back of your seat?)
So, it’s Sunday, I’m standing behind dad holding the edge of his seat, Walt’s standing behind mom,  Mel (the baby) is on mom’s lap in the front street.  Down Dan Street hill to Furnace.  The sharp turn under the railroad trestle.  Through Akron’s projects to Tallmadge.  Down Tallmadge, another two sharp turns.  Up the hill (now Memorial Parkway).  We’re waiting, waiting, waiting for Merriman Road.  Oh, the houses.  Walt and I each had a favorite.  Mine was totally out of place Spanish architecture.  I don’t remember Walt’s favorite.

Down again into the valley to Riverview Road, along the railroad track that had a crossing.  If there was a train going our way, dad would pretend to race it to the crossing.  Two little kids in the back seat, jumping up and down and screaming and mom in the front, “Now, John.”
Across the tracks, through Ira, through Everett to Everett Road.    There was a clay bank along the road, we stopped to fill a bucket with clay occasionally.   Through the covered bridge.  First you had to stop and be sure no one was coming as it was a one lane bridge.  My parents had an artist friend.  “Mary sat in the river and painted this bridge.”  What a mystery to decipher.  How could her arms be long enough to paint the bridge from down in the river?

Across the rickety rackety bridge.  Would it hold us up this time?  Would a wooden plank break in half and put us in the river?  Up Wheatly Road.  Old McDonald had the farm right at the top.  We wondered what animals would be out this time.  Down Hawkins, down Southern, watch for the drive way between two banks, we’re at Aunt Laura’s house.
I hope children still enjoy the journey as much as we did.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Letters to France after Grandpa Rolf's death

Uncle Hank gave copies to Mom of the letters he had received concerning their father's death.  He gave her photocopies of the letters on V-stationary, two per 8 1/2x11" sheet, arranged so that her two were on one sheet and two from friends were on the other.  He added a little post-it note telling the order he received them, and I've included it first.

Uncle Hank in France
Note from Uncle Hank:  Lenore, I thought you might want these (letters) for your files.  It was odd, Elma Ludwig’s February 23rd was the first info on Dad’s death I received.  Your Feb 18th was next followed by the March 4th letter, then came Howard Becksted’s Feb 25th letter.  I never did receive the Red Cross cables, etc.  Henry.

To Sgt Henry M. Rolf
From Elma Ludwig
February 23, 1945

Dear Hank,
Received your V-mail of the eleventh and it was swell hearing from you.

Will was very lucky and got home yesterday with only a four hour lay-over in Cheyenne.  He got in at 6:00 instead of 12:00 like he was supposed to.  He likes flying and now that’s the only way he wants to travel from now on.  He thinks his son is pretty wonderful but he doesn’t live up to all those father stories cause he’s not a bit nervous with Chuck.  I wanted to see him act like all new fathers do—you know, afraid he’s breakable.  But he doesn’t act at all like he should. I was very disappointed!?  He brought home a pair of salt and pepper shakers from the pane.  They are made out of paper and are real cute.
Ray’s address has been changed to “Branch #5, Hondo Army Air Field Hondo, Texas.”

I’m very sorry, Hank, about your father’s death.  It was a shock to us and I know that you are deeply touched by it too.  My mother and father also send their sympathy.
Hope you are feeling fine. Until next time.  Always your friend, Elma

From Lenore Lytle to Sgt. Henry Rolf
475 E Third St, Ext.
Barberton, Ohio
February 18, 1945

Dear Hank,
This is very much of a red letter day in a sad way for all of us.  Daddy has called upon his last reserve of will power and gallantly rode to his maker.

He and Mom along with Grandpa and Grandma Cox went to Dave and Marie Kinner’s 25th anniversary celebration Saturday night and on the way home he had a heart attack driving the car.  Henry, God must have been steering the car through his lifeless hands because the Buick steered a straight course over the curb and landed in a clump of bushes for five……illegible…………….car was going.

It was an awful…illegible…and is still hard to believe but mom wants you to know that daddy didn’t suffer and you know dad would not have been happy if he couldn’t have died with his boots on.  Mom is holding up beautifully and I know she will continue to hold the fort.
We are not worrying about the business.  That will have to iron itself out as we go along.  Mr. Balash is working on getting Wilbur back if possible.  If that cannot be arranged something else is sure to pop up.  I’ll keep you posted on developments.

I called the Red Cross on sending you a telegram and they advised writing mail, but if I insisted on a cable to send one via Western Union.  I did that and am posting this letter too.  They didn’t guarantee delivery for two weeks to a month so I’m hoping the cable gets through faster than that.
Everyone has been wonderful and … coming over in the morning to handle the details for us.  Clayton is going to work a full week and he will be a good rudder for Warren because he is like a lost soul knowing he doesn’t know everything.  He will be all right though and Clayton will be a great help.  I know there is no use telling you not to worry because I know you will but we will do the best we can so just do your stuff in getting this war done so you can come home.

Dr. Burr is taking it hard and felt badly when he had to stand by helplessly and say there wasn’t a thing he could do for Dad.  There was very little delay in getting him to the hospital as the Parma and Cleveland police were right there with the ambulance.   They had trouble getting him out of the car because he had slumped over to one side.  Mom tried to revive him with snow before she went for help but when she saw he was gone she went back to Kinner’s to call.  As far as she can determine he died about half way down Velma Avenue because when she told him he better slow down for 14th Street he didn’t answer and then she realized the car was going too fast for the icy roads.  By that time they had jumped the curb across 14th and ended up in the field.  She got the ignition off.  I don’t know how she did it because she was in the back seat and that is an awful long reach to the dash board.  None of them were even bruised because the muddy field helped slow down the car and the bump over the curb must have knocked his foot off the accelerator or else somehow or the other he put his foot on the clutch.  We will never know but someone guided the car.  Grandma Cox has some sore arms from trying to hold Daddy up in the seat but she is all right otherwise.  Mom will write in a couple of days.  There are things she has to do but we are all thinking of you and keeping our chins up.  I hope you are sitting down when you get this, Hank.  Love and more love, Lenore.

To Sgt Henry M. Rolf
From H. S. Becksted
Feb 25, 1945

Dear Henry
I hope your mothers cables have reached you before this letter for I would not want to break such news to you in this manner.  Just one week ago today you and I lost the best friend we ever had or may hope to have.  There is nothing unusual in this except that it does seem untimely.  You must have sensed that something like this might happen in view of his previous attack.  It should be some consolation to you to know that your father was called a very good friend by many people.  That was plain to see from the great number who came to see him for the last time.  He was just and generous in many ways and for these things we pray that he may receive his reward.  I can realize how hard it is for you to be so far away at a time like this and you have my deep sympathy.  Being a good boy, who is now a man, I know you will come back to take a man’s place and carry on.  Sincerely yours, Howard B


From Lenore Lytle to Sgt. Henry Rolf
4214 W. 21 St.
Cleveland, Ohio
March 4, 1945

Dear Hank,
Johnny brought up five letters I had at home.  Boy was that ever a haul.  This mail situation certainly has been messed up since before Christmas.  I hope things keep moving now because you boys need the letters we civilians write.

I am still in Cleveland with mom and will be here until Wednesday the seventh.  By then we should have most of the details taken care of and then I have to go home and take care of some of our affairs.  Things surely do pile up.  I don’t like the idea very well of leaving Mom alone but there isn’t much else we can do right now.  She is considering trying to find someone who would like to stay nights and that way she wouldn’t be alone all of the time.  Of course we will come up every weekend but she has to be here during the week to take care of things.
I should have written sooner Hank, but this second letter was harder to get started at than the first one.  Then, I guess, I still didn’t believe it because I hadn’t seen Daddy but it is true and as he would say “The show must go on.”  We are doing our best and I think everything will work out for the best.  We have some hopes of getting Wilbur released from duty.  But things like that usually hinge on the right guy reading the applications.  All we can do is keep our fingers crossed.  Halash is helping us all he can and we have some other contacts, so all in all things look half way promising.

His going leaves an emptiness that can’t be filled, but all our hearts are full with his goodness, his cussedness, and other things that were just W.E.R.  We have a lot to look back on, especially the past few years.  He saw the things he wanted to see, spent his dough, bragged about his granddaughter at the drop of a hat, kidded the life out of us about spending money to get another brat instead of the other way around.  He wanted us to have another one though and now I do hope it might be a boy.  Oh yes, I’m half afraid to say anything but 40 days have elapsed since the last period so maybe I’m finally on my way.  I hope so.
We are not going to do any watch work at all in the shop unless Wilbur comes back.  Warren was getting along just swell but he didn’t know some of the harder parts and if he ran across something he couldn’t do you would just have to give the watch back to the customer and that wouldn’t be too good.  They are going ahead though and fixing clocks.  Warren does that after hours while Buck is doing his work from three to six.  It gives Warren something to do.  He was working on a model airplane but that doesn’t bring in any money.

Mom is doing a swell job of holding down the fort, but those nuts down at the Service Recorder don’t have someone to calm them down.  They are going off on too many tangents.  They’ll settle down in time but it makes it tough in the meantime trying to keep them all straightened out.  Ike is trying to get home but about all he can get is a thirty day furlough and that won’t do much good, though he might be able to give Ed and Ralph some orders as to what they can do and what they can’t do.  The job is too big for them.  I don’t need to tell you that, though.  We are going over to Gram and Gramp Cox’s for dinner today and I’ll write more often now, I promise.  The sun is shining all day so far for the first time in ages.  Love, Lenore
In this letter Mom is staying with Grandma in Cleveland and Dad is coming up from Barberton on weekends.  And, she's pregnant with my brother, and look at the little story I'll never know--spending money to get the brat--which is a conversation I can imagine between my mother and my uncle.

 Mom and Uncle Hank
Mid 1930's

Friday, August 26, 2011

Grandpa Rolf

Walter Rolf, 1893-1945

My Grandpa Rolf died in February, 1945.  I was 22 months old.  My parents and I lived in Barberton, in The Projects, my Uncle Hank was in France, driving transports for the U.S. Army.  There are amazing letters from family and friends to Uncle Hank on the event of grandpa’s death, and I’ll post them in sequence later on.  Mom also wrote some fine passages about her father and about growing up, written for people in the family working on genealogies.  More good reading.

Grandpa Rolf and Joanne, 1943
I have no memory of my grandfather, but I have a good impression of the man he was.  He was humorous.  He was generous.  He had fun.  He loved to travel all over this country, and just consider what roads were in the 1930’s.  He loved technology and owned many cameras, and even moving picture cameras.   He enjoyed himself. His wit must have been close to my dad’s.

I do have one strong memory that involves my grandfather.  Here’s a picture of my mom and brothers, Walt and Mel.  It’s from my Uncle Hank, who got those captions onto pictures.  So, this is “Waiting for the Train”, Christmas 1951, at Grandma Rolf’s,  and there is a small tree on a gate leg table that now lives at Shelly’s house (aside).  In 1944 I was 19 months old at Christmas, a full size tree stood where there is a lamp in the window, and the train track went around the tree.  Same train my brothers are waiting on in 1951.  In 1944 and 19 months old I leaned down and picked up the locomotive.  I picked it up with two hands, palms down on the top. I gripped it with little fingers.  It was HEAVY!  I turned around and carried it the length of the living room,  my arms extended full length. I put the engine in my Grandpa’s lap.  He said, “Put it back.”  I lifted that sucker and carried it back to the track.  I have such a memory of the weight of it!
My Mom was fond of her dad, and close.  She had stories.  She told asking her dad why he used a knife in one hand and fork in the other to eat.  Not the way her mom taught herself and her brother.  “To defend my food from all my brothers and sisters!”  Like realizing my dad was Sparks, years later she realized he dad was an only child.  Once she asked him for money for something.  He said he had none.  She told him he could just write a check.  Probably analogous to a toddler telling a parent today to stop at the ATM.

In the front porch window of Grandma’s house hung a glass sign with gold lettering, facing the street.  When I was very young I sat on the swing on the porch behind the sign and puzzled out those strange letters:



All the individual letters were backward, too. One day I saw they made sense if I turned them around:
“Watchmaker” was no mystery to me, although there no longer was a W. E. Rolf in the house.  My Uncle Hank, my mother and my father all repaired watches and clocks in the 1940’s; Uncle Hank in a workshop in his basement and my parents in the spare room at our house.  Uncle Hank refurbished and gave me a Westclock Big Ben when I went to college.

At my grandma’s house, and later at Uncle Hank’s house, there was a lathe that was mighty handy.  I especially remember it was used to turn screw threads on whatever handy dowel rod was commandeered to make a new croquet mallet handle.  It turns out, that was a mighty important lathe.  The U.S. Army gave it to my grandfather.  I have the bill of lading. 
First, my grandfather gave his lathe to the U.S. Army.  Not to get one in exchange, he had no idea that would happen.  He DONATED his lathe to the cause when this country was gearing up for war.  I have that receipt, too.

But, Grandpa Rolf quickly became part of gearing up for and going to war.  He designed the works for a time recorder that the army went on to use and he was given the contract to manufacture them.  He needed a lathe.  So, the Army gave him one to replace the one he donated. The parts of a watch, and a time-keeping machine, must be fabricated.  I imagine the inside of an analog watch today is mass stamped gears.  A digital watch is circuit boards.  If they are even purchased and worn these days.  It’s as easy to glance at the cell phone as the wrist.  And, horology is the science of measuring time. I can understand that keeping things on time in the Army would be important.

I have only a photocopy of a photocopy of the newspaper bit about my grandfather.  I’m going to guess it was in the late 1930’s, while grandpa still had the original lathe.  It probably was a human interest type story.  The mind can easily fill in the missing words on the left margin, so I’m not going to retype the article. 
That’s some background on my Grandpa Rolf.  Now reading letters from home and my mom’s accounts will be really interesting.  I’ll get going on them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grandma Rolf

My Grandma was born in 1894.  She was of sturdy Western Pennsylvania farming stock.  She was born and lived her first years Austinburg, Ohio.  Her name was Ethel Cox.  Her father, Melvin Cox was an older child and his siblings stretched down to Uncle Pearl, who was twenty years younger than her father.

There is another cigar box of pictures somewhere in this house and one picture is my Grandma and her brother Elmore.  It was taken by a travelling photographer; they would work their way through a neighborhood taking pictures of children, often using props.  In this picture Uncle Elmore is on a huge tricycle, Grandma standing beside him, clutching a huge doll with a cracked face.  Both children were less than five.  Grandma told me once “When Mother opened the parlor door and I saw that baby hanging on the tree, I KNEW she was for me.  I was on air all the way to the tree, and Mother put her in my arms.”  Uncle Elmore hit the doll and cracked her face, but Grandma didn’t care.  The baby was hers.

I don’t know much about my grandma’s childhood until she was fifteen and graduated 8th grade from Dennison.  There she is in the second row, third from the right. 

 In some class in school she made this cunning little vase.  And sturdy; it’s quite thick.  There’s her name on the bottom and the D is probably for Dennison.  No idea what the marks on either side represent.
Eighth grade was her last year of education.  She was required at home, on Selzer Avenue in the West 25th street area of Cleveland.  Her father, my great grandpa Cox, was a painter and wall paper man.  Her mother took in borders, and needed Grandma’s help with cleaning, cooking and laundry.  My mother said so much responsibility fell on Grandma she had a nervous breakdown at age 16.

Here’s grandma in 1912, on her 18th birthday.  Blouses were called shirtwaists, and as long as I knew her she wore shirtwaists.  She also wore corsets, and I’ve heard her say “Pull up your corset strings, ladies, we have work to do.”  She was some worker.

Here’s her mother, Lenore Smith Cox.   And a 1918 picture of four generations, her Grandma, her mother, herself and her baby daughter, my mother.

Grandma had two siblings, Elmore, who she adored, and Louise, who she thought was silly. Here’s my grandma and her sister Louise.  And, her brother Elmore.  No idea who the other fellow is.  These are probably both 1919 snapshots.

 In the 1920’s Elmore was married and had two young sons.  He ran motion picture cameras in movie houses.  He was electrocuted and died when the equipment short circuited.  Mom remembered the tragedy, how terribly it affected her mother, and especially her two little cousins.
Grandma was married in 1917.  Between then and leaving Dennison in 1909, she worked hard taking care of boarders.  Times were not the best.  Money was not plentiful and sometimes nonexistent.  She said their dinner meal was bread with flour gravy too often.

Her brother had a motorcycle and rode with a great gang of friends.  What a different connotation the word had almost a hundred years ago.  Like most men of the time, this gang wore white shirts, jackets and ties to leave the house.  This is probably a 1918 photograph.  I can’t make out which is Uncle Elmore, but the third from the left is Walter Rolf, the man she married.  But first she had to meet him.

At their house the third floor attic was used to hang laundry in the winter or on rainy days.  Grandma was up there one day, hanging laundry and heard Elmore leave the house.  She was jealous he could go on a motorcycle jaunt and she had to work.  She leaned out the window and called his name.  He looked up.  She spit.  Hit him square in the face.  Served him right!
Doing laundry and hanging it in the back yard one day she heard Elmore in the side yard.  He had been teasing her and grandma was fed up, so she waded up the soaking wet shirt she was scrubbing and threw it into his face when he came around the corner.  The person who peeled off the wet shirt was Walter Rolf, who she did not know.  

 Here’s Walter Rolf in 1918, when my mother was born.  And a picture of my grandmother on that motorcycle, but I doubt she ever drove it.  I could be wrong; she sure could handle a car.

Grandma’s mother, Lenore Smith Cox, died in 1923. Great grandpa Cox married a widow, Marcia Zerbe Enos.  She was the Great grandma Cox I knew.  My Grandma called her Marcia.  I was a long time figuring that out.  Especially since she wasn’t terribly fond of Marcia.  Great Grandpa Cox died when I was about eight or nine years old.  Great Grandma Cox died when I was 26.  Beth was four years old and remembers her legs dangling over the edge of the chair at the funeral.  My first semester in college I boarded at Great Grandma Cox’s house and rode the bus to Flora Stone Mather College.

Here are Melvin and Marcia  with my Great Aunt Louise in the kitchen of the house on Selzer Ave.  Hidden behind my great grandmother’s shoulder is a set of canisters made in Czechoslovakia.  The usual flour, salt, rice.  One is labeled Farina.  They are on top of Ann’s cupboards in Wisconsin, now.
I remember dinners at Grandma Cox’s house.  All the women were fine cooks.  Grandma Cox made city chicken and clover leaf rolls.  Around the table counterclockwise, my brother Walt, my Grandma Rolf, Grandpa Cox (her father), Grandma Cox, my Dad, my Mom, my little brother, Melvin, and my cousin, Ken.  No idea who is out of sight, or where I was.

My Grandma Rolf was the only grandmother I had.  I only remember her as a widow and my pervasive childhood memory of her is as a strong, independent woman.  In looking back, she raised a strong independent daughter who raised a strong independent daughter, and so on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Uncle Bill leaves Orient

I transcribed the following from the December 25, 1975 Akron Beacon Journal clipping in my daughter's big notebook.  There's plenty of beauracratic spin here from the Developmental Disabilities guys, but Mr. Allio is to be commended for his total honesty in saying Uncle Bill should not have been made a ward of the state and, by extrapolation, should have been released from that status.  My parents' repeated efforts were rebuffed by a system that knew better than they.

Akron Beacon Journal
Christmas, 1975
Best gift:  After 53 yrs. in institution, he’s free

By Charles Lally, Beacon Journal Staff Writer

Though he never committed any crime, William Lytle, 66, is a free man for the first time in 53 years.
In 1922 when he was 13, Lytle was committed to Orient State Institute for the mentally retarded.  He spent his life there until last May when he was returned to Akron for a “trial visit.”

Lytle was told recently that his formal release from the state hospital will come within the next several weeks.
“That’s the best Christmas present I’ve ever had,”  Lytle said.

William Lytle is not retarded and never was, according to Tom Allio, district representative for the Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
Allio was instrumental in gaining Lytle’s release from the state institution.

Allio said that from the Akron area there are at least 340 people in state mental institutions for the retarded who don’t belong there.
Like Lytle, he said those 340 persons could live a normal, meaningful and productive life, but their return to the community is delayed or prevented because there is nowhere for them to live while they make their readjustment.

Lytle was one of five children from a broken home.  With his brother and sisters, he was sent to the Summit County Children’s Home, but young Bill had troubles there.
Though the records are as bad as state hospital conditions, Bill was apparently viewed by Children’s Home officials as a slow learner.  He had injured his head in a fall from a second story window onto a brick sidewalk and county officials decided in 1922 he belonged in an institution for the retarded. 

Bill said he never went farther than the second grade in school, and his formal education didn’t advance very much at Orient State.
But it was there that Bill became an avid reader.  “Zane Grey is my favorite author,” he said.

“I used to read the books to the blind boys.  The words I didn’t understand I spelled out to them—some of them went as high as the fifth and sixth grades—and they would tell me what the words were. That’s how I got my education,” he said.
Bill doesn’t complain about his 53 years at Orient State.  But he does say that “you’d better believe” he is happier back in Akron, working a full-time job at Goodwill and living with his brother and sister-in-law Mr. and Mrs. John Lytle, 729 Moraine Ave.

Bill said conditions at Orient State improved drastically during the past few years, but the impersonal wards and empty days had nothing to match his lavish lifestyle now.
Living with his brother’s family, Bill has his own room, a new color television that he bought with his own earnings, a dresser, a closet, places to put his own belongings, a little privacy when he wants it.

“During the summer I sit out on the front porch.  It’s nice and comfortable out there.  In the winter, I can watch television or spend time with my family,” he said.
Lytle said the most difficult part of his readjustment to life outside the state institution was “getting used to my job.”

“Now I’m really used to it,” he said.  “I like working, meeting new friends.

“I like it fine.  I like the people I work under.  I ain’t going to retire as long as the Good Lord lets me,” he said.
William Lytle is lucky.  Despite more than five decades at Orient State Institute, his family did not forget him.

His older brother John and his wife frequently visited him, and more than 30 years ago they sought his release.  They were refused, they said, because authorities said William was a ward of the state and could not leave the institution.

A life sentence.
But when the Division of Mental Retardation opened a local office at 500 Grant Street two-and-one-half years ago, workers there began attempting to release those from state institutions who didn’t belong there and to keep out those who shouldn’t be sent to an institution.

Lenore Lytle credits the local office with gaining her brother-in-law’s release.  She had given up hope, she said.
Allio said there are hundreds more like William Lytle who should return to the community, but they have no families to take them in.

The need, he said, is for more homes in which to place these persons while they make their readjustment to the community and homes to which to send persons instead of state institutions.
Allio’s office is seeking Akron area families willing to open up their homes to people like William Lytle.

Through Social Security and state payments, persons operating these “foster homes” are paid for the expense of feeding and housing their roomers, though state staffers caution that it is not a way to make money.
The state examines the home for health and fire safety and licenses each foster home.

State workers said it is important that as many persons as possible are kept out of state institutions and that as many as possible are returned from the institutions to live a more sheltered life in the community.
"We have to avoid them being warehoused in the community as well as at the institution,” according to Nick Gambone, the coordinator for the local office of the Division of Mental Retardation.

MDS Fact Checker

I spent Monday at Linda's and yesterday at my real job.  I didn't feel like more organizing of the family stories, so I leafed through a huge book of family genealogy assembled by my youngest daughter twenty years ago.  I still can't wrap my brain around charts of people (collateral stroke damage?), so I sorted through her odds and ends and came up with so many family facts!  I need to resort and verify with cousins and make a few corrections (Aunt Laura, Aunt Ruth and Aunt Helen Rita all went to the convent orphanage!).  It should be sorted and presented chronologically, so I'll get on that.

And, Linda has given me an MDS degree:  Master Denim Sewer.

This actually is step three.  I will never be an MDSt or an MDC.  Master Denim Stripper or Master Denim Cutter.  Those degrees belong to Linda's mother Alberta, who sits in the swing and strips jeans down to flat pieces with no seams, then sits at at the cutter and turns them into tiny strips.  You've met Alberta, on Linda's web site.  I sew them end to end, according to Linda's exacting specifications:  No Dog Ears!

Here ya go.  Aren't they beautiful.  Denim rugs and wool rugs will outlast you.  Those wild and crazy things she weaves will, too, but what happens when you repaint the kitchen!  Denim and wool--way to go.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jan's Dad

Here is the beginning of Jan's story of her dad.

My dad was different than Joanne’s dad.  Her dad got sick when she was young and managed to keep going.  My dad was always a fragile kind of person physically and when I was 9 he went away.  My friends all thought my dad had died and didn’t mention his absence so I wouldn’t be sad.  I knew my dad was in a hospital in Columbus, but because I was only 9 and they thought he had tuberculosis, I was not allowed in the hospital to see him on my mothers bi-weekly visits.  I was in the 4th grade.  I remember having to go to the Morley Health Center to get a tuberculosis test.  It was a round quarter sized mark on my arm.  I did not have it.

 Janice about 9 years old

I was 11 when he returned.  He was not a broken man, but he looked broken.  His health issues had taken quite a toll on his body.  His tuberculosis turned out to be histoplasmosis, but it took the doctors 9 months to figure that out and start a different treatment.  I believe he said there were 9 men in the ward with him with the same disease, but he was the only one who survived.  His theory for his survival was that he took his treatment drips as drips were meant to be, done slowly; his compadres took it as quickly as they could get it dripped into them.  My theory for his survival is that I could not be allowed to grow up without a dad.

One of his treatments was to collapse his lung because it had lesions on it.  That didn’t work for long, his lung partially reinflated and the surgery had to be redone.  His ribs had been cut away for the first surgery and had pretty much regrown, but the second time the ribs did not grow back.  So without the ribs on the right side of his body, his spine became crooked and he suffered from pinched nerves and migraines for the rest of his life.

Those years when he was gone were very hard.  Mom worked to put Joanne through college.  Walter was in the Air Force and Melvin was a troublesome teenager with wild friends.  I was just an innocent child with a few friends, growing up in complete ignorance of the troubled times I was living through.  We made it through.   I grew up.  My dad was around until I was 25.

All those years were borrowed time.  He spit in a bottle, stuff he coughed up from his lung, every six months and it got sent to a lab some where for analyzing.  He said for every 6 months that he lived he made medical history for the survival rate of histoplasmosis.  It was a disease not much was known about in 1963, only that it was an air born disease probably caused by bird droppings.  It can lie dormant for years and one day can get you.  More is known about it these days and the treatment is still a couple of years long and people recover from it.  Lots of people are exposed to it with nothing more than flu like symptoms; they never even know they had it.

Another bit will be forthcoming as time permits.  Here's a wonderful childhood picture of Jan and neighborhood friends.  She thinks she was six or seven and it must be about back to school time because it's her back to school haircut.  When I scanned it larger than the original I pointed out dad's dirty feet and her dirty hands were in close competition.  We laughed.  Dirt on kids was a big part of growing up at our house.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Uncle Bill

My Uncle Bill was born September 6, 1909.  He was slow.  Family story says the neighborhood boys were playing at a construction site and Uncle Bill fell from the attic through to the basement of a home under construction.  Jan says she knows as a result of his injury he had a metal plate in his head. He wound up labeled as having the mental ability of a twelve year old.  That’s debatable—Uncle Bill was sharp as a tack, shrewd as they come. 

Uncle Bill on the left, in 1910
When his mother could no longer keep the family of five children together, Uncle Bill went to the Akron Children’s Home, together with my dad.  Family lore also says that because of his mental slowness Uncle Bill was not sent to school; his reading, writing and arithmetic was taught him by my dad and continued on his own when he and dad were separated.  Dad was always bitter that “the system” mishandled Uncle Bill, who he felt could have been as productive a person as any of his siblings.
It seems logical the children could have been wards of Summit County when they were in the Children’s Home.  Uncle Bill remained in guardianship for a long time; when my father left the Children’s Home Uncle Bill became a ward of the state and was sent to Orient State School in Orient, near Columbus.
From a description at  The Orient State Institute was established as a farm colony in 1898 and operated as a branch of the Columbus State School. The facility had 180 acres, of which 1,358 acres were under cultivation. The school had its own band, orchestra, and choir, weekly movies, religious services and recreation. On July 15, 1926, the Orient facility became an independent unit and in 1937 received patients from various counties in Ohio. This continued until May 15, 1950 when the organization was rejoined under the Columbus State School and became the central receiving area for all feeble minded persons, adult and youth. In 1984 it became the Pickaway Correctional Institution.  I’ve searched a lot of internet looking for a picture of Orient, as I remember it.  I’ve only found a picture of a farm crew at Orient.

Uncle Bill would have been around age 15 when he went to Orient in the early 1920’s.  The pamphlet shows teachers with classrooms so perhaps Uncle Bill had a little education.  More likely he was assigned to the farm fields.  We went there in summer and always met him with a field team or near his dormitory.  My parents always brought a quantity of fresh fruit to give to “the boys”.  Bananas were the especial favorite and they could be seen sticking out of the tops of coveralls as the men passed bananas around.  After I was grown and gone, Jan remembers still stopping often at Orient to visit Uncle Bill and be sure he had enough of everything, including money.

Mom and Dad spent years working on the red tape of getting custody of Uncle Bill and bringing him home to Akron.  The best they could do was “work release” each summer.  Better than nothing.  My parents bought our home in 1945 and set about renovating it.  Uncle Bill’s help was invaluable.  The front porch was closed in, a garage built, landscaping done. Dad and Uncle Bill laid a sidewalk from our house to the garage.  Several small blocks in colors made a large block.  Dad poured and colored them one night, they laid the block(s) the next.  They hand dug a fruit cellar under the front porch of our house.   And Uncle Bill spent a couple of months each year with his family, his brother, his sisters.

The garage Uncle Bill helped build
The sidewalk, 20years later. 
Back in Orient, Uncle Bill had a life.  He hired out at a handyman to a local family.  He walked or bicycled  the short distance, shoveled snow, mowed grass, made minor repairs for a couple named Dolly and her husband George.  He did handyman work for other people in town, as well.  After Uncle Bill was able to come to Akron my parents took him back to visit Dolly and George.

Most of all, Uncle Bill was an entrepreneur, the middle man in countless deals for bicycles and radios.  He apparently was a fine negotiator; everyone got what they wanted and Uncle Bill always traded his stock of goods up.  He collected and jealously guarded a complete set of the work of Zane Gray.
In the 1970’s Governor Rhodes, of Kent State shootings infamy, turned out state mental facilities. Just released people back to their point of origin.  It was a huge hit on the social services systems in the state.  Especially social workers dealing with people who had no support system at their “point of origin.”  Uncle Bill had my parents, still living at his point of origin, and especially my tenacious mother to guide him through the process of integrating into an open world.  Many, many were not so fortunate.  My uncle was in his 60’s and a wonderful man with minimal life skills.  He could make a peanut butter sandwich, cook himself a hot dog, fry bacon, but get a job?  What were they thinking.

So, mom took a crash course in the welfare system, guided him through SSI, Medicaid, Section 8 housing.  Some of his earlier apartments she considered appalling, and when an opportunity arose to house him in a Senior Citizens facility in downtown Akron, the renovated Mayflower Hotel, she snatched it.  It was a perfect fit and Uncle Bill lived there the rest of his life.

Uncle Bill in the '70's
Uncle Bill’s preferred mode of transportation in good weather was his bicycle.  He rode it to Richfield to see Aunt Laura.  He rode it to Marlboro to see Aunt Helen Rita.  And he rode it across the high level bridge to visit Sis and John, in North Hill.  My mother’s neighbor worked for the Akron Water Department, and often saw Uncle Bill on his red bike.  When he reported on Uncle Bill at the head of an endless line of traffic, going down Memorial Parkway into the valley, Mom sadly had to intervene and take his wheels away.  He could ride the bus around Akron and she would take him to Richfield and Marlboro.  She went as often as he did, he could just go on her schedule.  Uncle Bill was in his seventies by then.

Uncle Bill had a full head of beautiful white hair.  He was rather vain about it.  His secret to keeping it white, not yellow:  rinse with hydrogen peroxide, not tap water.

Uncle Bill and a girlfriend.  He was always taking care of a girlfriend.
When I was a child, card playing was a major entertainment in our house.  Mom thought card games in the summer an excellent way to keep kids up to snuff with math.  Uncle Bill was a sharp card player.  Canasta was his special favorite and be careful, he could take you down with a pair of corn hooks any day.

Uncle Bill’s other favorite social activity was attending AA meetings.  Uncle Bill only ever drank black coffee, but AA took him in anyway.  He loved the people and the comradeship. Jan asked Uncle Bill why he attended AA, knowing he never drank.  Uncle Bill said it made him realize other people had bigger problems than his.

Uncle Bill was also a member of Grace Baptist Church.   When Uncle Bill died in 1985 mom planned on a small service at the funeral home and no graveside service as there were no longer enough men in the family to be pall bearers.  On the day of the service we gathered in a small room.  Then the funeral director opened the back, to double the size of the room.  Eventually the hall was filled.  The funeral director had located Uncle Bill’s minister and asked him to do the eulogy.  The entire congregation showed up and filled the funeral home.  Many stood to talk about how Bill touched their lives.  The bus driver was going to miss him because Bill had turn by turn directions every Sunday to pick up other members.