Friday, September 30, 2011


When I first remember my dad he was a tall man and slender.  About 6’6”, probably 160 pounds.  Straight bearing, like a soldier, broad enough shoulders.  He did a lot of physical labor at the house after work—turning gardens (with a spade), trundling wheelbarrows of dirt.  Building a room out of the open front porch.  We kids went to sleep many, many nights to the sound of the Shop Smith in the basement.

Dad had some amazing skills he brought out of the army.  He could wiggle his ears, for one.  At the end of his army career, before he was medically discharged, he spent months on his back in the hospital because of ulcers.  To amuse himself he learned to isolate and use muscles.  Like ear wiggling muscles. One eyebrow muscle.  He could make an arch of his little finger and index finger and dance the two middle fingers in and out of the arch.  He could pull off his thumb (which really was a sleight of hand trick).    Of course we children tried and tried and, unlike not being able to take out our teeth like our grandma did, we developed some small dexterous skills ourselves.

And, dad read to us.  It was my 8th birthday and I’d received Heidi as a birthday present.  He was reading it to Walt and me, and had Heidi half way up that mountain when he got sick.  He went to bed on my brother’s birthday, the day after mine, and then went to the hospital.  We kept waiting for him to come back and read what happened to Heidi at her grandfather’s house.  When I couldn’t wait any more, I found the book and kept on reading.  Walt got bored and wandered off, but I had to know. 

When dad came home he was very skinny and ate baby food from jars for a long time because much of his stomach had been removed to cure the ulcers.  He probably weighed 140 pounds, and stayed that way for years—until he tore down the chicken coop and contracted histoplasmosis.

After a while dad was feeling better and asked me if I wanted to hear more of Heidi.  I had finished it.  “Well, well,” he said.  He took all three of us to the library.  Dad sat on a chair at a table in the children’s section.  His knees were up near his elbows.  He held my little brother, Melvin, on his lap, and all three of us wrote our names on a little white card.  Each of us received a library card to use to borrow any book we wanted from the library.  Mel could print only his name; he was only three, and had sat and practiced it over and over at the dining room table so he could get a library card, too.   The library was downtown, and either mom or dad had to drive us, but it was a weekly outing.  Thanks, Mom and Dad. I’ve never been over the habit.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to make a tent from a parachute, using the tent poles from your old Arctic Army tent

It’s good to have a sister ten years younger.  Vacations went on after I was gone and the red and white parachute tent went on too, at least a couple more years.  Jan knows how dad did it.   Her big brother Walt told her.

This parachute seems to have thirty panels, so let’s use it for an example.  From thirty panels you could have five equal sides.  So, every sixth panel, at the same height, put a marble against the fabric on the inside, gather the tent fabric around the marble on the outside, tie a cord tightly around the fabric and the marble, and, hey presto, you have a handy knob on every sixth panel around the outside.  If that knob is four feet off the ground, and you make another marble knob directly above it, eight feet off the ground, you can then finish rigging all the tent ropes needed to make a parachute look just like an Arctic Army tent.  Too bad it was not waterproof.

I also remember our red and white beauty being pitched over a picnic table several times on the way to Yellowstone.  I remember that worked admirably for sitting inside and playing cards.  Jan remembers the tent was actually pitched over the picnic table because my brothers had left one of the tent poles behind and it took a few states to find a hardware store that had an adequate substitute.  I remember that now. Sisters are more amazing than anyone!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The eight inch stool from the projects

When my parents were married in 1942, they lived in “The Projects” in Barberton.  Dad worked for Babcock and Wilcox.  Before I was born he got a “work release” from B&W and took a job at Goodyear Aircraft.  It was the war; men could not leave jobs designated critical to the war effort.  Apparently the job he was going to take at Goodyear, electrical design on those big convoy blimps, was more important than ship boilers at B&W. 

Mom listed the address as 475 E 3rd Street on her letter to Uncle Hank, but when I looked on Google Earth, it’s a square city block of brown earth and construction (or demolition) debris.  It looked fine when I lived there; I remember doors in rows in red brown brick.  Inside our door was the kitchen, stove on left, table on right, in front of the window.  When I was a baby I didn’t have a seat at the table, I had a swing.  It was squarish and white, a tray went up to get me in and out.  It was suspended from the ceiling by chains to each arm rest.  Anyway…

Babcock and Wilcox is in Barberton, or was, and Dad took the bus to work.  And home.  Coming home one day he found a piece of a packing crate.  The truck it fell from was not in sight, so he picked it up and carried it home.  He used the entire piece of wood to build a stool for me.

This  stool went through our household of four children, plus any adult use for an eight inch stool.  Mom would look at the top shelf of a cupboard and say, “Bring me the stool.”  Dad used it all the time.  Kids slid it around for balance. Kids used it to reach the sink.  And probably other things they shouldn’t. It came to my house and went through two more kids.  The feet look like they’ve been to a war.

I painted it blue one year to match the décor in Beth’s bedroom.  With no regard for all the original markings.  Something had been destined for Ford, from Conn.  After the kids left home, I got some respect and stripped it back to the original wood.

Back at mom and dad’s, meanwhile, there were grandchildren and adults who needed a stool, so dad built a couple more.  It seemed sufficient for a long time.  But then the great grand children began to arrive. 

When Jan and I quit weaving we turned our thread barn over to the guys for a workshop, and our brother Walt just jumped on that opportunity for a woodshop.  He built a monster workbench and has spent the last eight years making sawdust.  He built and sold hundreds of those eight inch stools.  Each grandchild has a personal stool with foot prints and hand prints and birth date and little inscriptions of love.  If Walt thinks someone is too short, they go home with an eight inch stool.  If you look like a special little boy or girl, an eight inch stool goes right in your car.

A couple of the current model.  That blue strip?  Mom invented that adaptation in order to get into a tall truck and pull the stool in behind her.  Guess someone needed to get into a tall truck recently.

My own eight inch stool is right under my desk, with my feet on it.  I hope that delivery made it to Ford.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cat and mouse games

It’s Time

Back when I was exhibiting at shows, I’d think occasionally how I’d know it was time to quit.   Would it be when we ran out of ideas and customers stopped buying?  Would it be when I needed the next van?  When I loaded up each year for the first show in February I’d think “Maybe I won’t be able to lift the dolly in this year.  I’d have to quit.”  I’d think about my friend Lucy, always ten years older, who drove a van as big as mine and hauled a trailer.  From Alabama!  And, the dolly would go right up there and I’d be off for another season with our customers and the friends I worked with. 

Then Jan was done with weaving, and I needed a new hip.  But I couldn’t just go.  So, we decided on one more, reduced, season, to say thank you and good bye.  My hip hurt but I could still lift the dolly in the van.  She’d rather be quilting on her big new Gammill, but she kept on weaving.  It was good  to say Good Bye.  I took a few jibes from cynical husbands who read my banner.  “Oh, yeah, just like Cher!”  Well, she has what it takes to go round twice.   It really was so long, been very good to know ya.  That was 2003, by the way.  Lucy is still out there, with her daughter, now.  We had such fun rooming together.  But, it was time.

Linda called me this week.  Did I still have my Farewell Tour signs, and could she have them.  My very tall sister found our old banner on top of the shelves, and I just finished clipping off the Farewell Tour appliqués.  Linda thinks she’ll sew them on her banner while she’s at St. James Court Art Festival this weekend.  That’s the show I retired from.  Sold out by four in the afternoon, drank a Champaign toast with all my friends who had secretly planned a little farewell, and Ann and I came home. 

So, good job and good luck, Linda.  From someone who always believed in lucky shoes, lucky slacks, and just plain luck, you’ve picked the luckiest show to sew on the Farewell Tour patches and start.  Then pass them along when you’re done.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What may have happened

Aunt Laura certainly filled in enough detail about her mother for me to form conclusions.  The only adjective I recall Aunt Laura ascribing to her mother was irresponsible.  Uncle Bill never mentioned her, nor did my dad, but his disdain was understood.  Aunt Ruth, charitably, offered no opinion on her mother, and my cousin Marge said in her note about Aunt Helen Rita, “Mom’s love was to Grandma Hogue.  That in itself says a lot.”

I can piece together that Mary Emma Hogue, oldest of nine living children of James Lindsey Hogue and Mary Cecelia Maley Hogue, when she was seventeen or eighteen married Georg Marrion Lytle, a man fourteen years older than she.   At the time of her marriage in 1906 Maime had seven living siblings and one yet to be born in April of 1907.  She and four sisters were born in Deerpark, Maryland.  The family lived in Akron, Ohio by October 1897, where the youngest sister, Sarah, died at age nine months.  Five more children were born in Akron, four boys and a girl. 
Coalmont Pennsylvania
map from the 1873 Huntingdon Co. Atlas
Georg Marrion Lytle was born in Coalmont, Pennsylvania.  Coalmont and Deerpark are about a hundred miles apart, and the trip is over the mountains, not through them.  Maime lived in Deerpark until she was six, when the family moved to Akron.  We don’t know how Maime and Georg met, but they probably did not meet in Deepark.  Georg was twenty two when Maime and her family left Deerpark.  He may have been working for mining companies at the time, and moving about, but without knowing his employer and their business locations, it’s difficult to say what towns Georg may have been in.  It’s probably safe to say they met in Akron, a hub of commerce.  Maime’s father was a man of business, a developer, in business with his brother-in-law, Frank Bisson, who developed Bisson Avenue, named after him.  So, Georg and Maime met.

Vintage postcard
Deer Park, Maryland

We know little of Maime’s personality.  Almost nothing, in fact.  Aunt Laura calls her irresponsible; my cousin Pat tells of Grandma Hogue yelling down Bisson Avenue for the returned Maime to tend to her own crying baby.  With seven younger siblings in her house and herself the oldest, Maime was certainly expected to take some responsibility for child care, laundry, cleaning and food preparation.  According to Aunt Laura, there seemed to be no joy in the house.   I’m certain Maime saw Georg as an escape.  Perhaps even as a responsible parent figure, given the age difference.

So, they married and lived in Coalmont, with Georg’s parents, the wisp of a grandmother remembered by Aunt Laura.  They married in 1906, my dad was born in August 1907, Uncle Bill in 1909, Aunt Laura in 1911, Aunt Ruth in 1913……just as many babies, and as often, as the house she left on Bisson Avenue.  They were back in Akron when Aunt Helen Rita was born in 1915, so Aunt Laura’s memory is right on her three to four years of age, hanging on the picket fence at Grandma Lytle’s home and watching the school children, probably including her brothers John and Bill.

So, nine years after marrying George, and with five children in that time, Maime left Coalmont and went home to Akron.  Aunt Laura cites the reason as being frequent moves for Georg’s jobs.  I wonder.  Aunt Laura, at least, lived in Coalmont, with her Grandmother.  Georg’s family appears to be educated; he was an engineer, two brothers and a sister were teachers.  I would think schooling for the children in a fixed situation would be important.  Can’t discount, though, that children not in school were left with the grandmother and the two older boys travelled and were resettled.  But I wouldn’t bet on that.  My dad had stories about his uncles that I think would be more likely to have unfolded in a more set situation, where the Uncle was teaching, than heard as my dad moved from place to place.

I’m betting Maime was more tired of regularly having children than she was of moving.  So, she went home, at age twenty six or seven, with five children (one unborn), and without a plan.  She refused to return to housekeeping with Georg, who lived another fifteen years, dying, probably of tuberculosis, in 1930, fifty four years of age. 

In the end, the extended family could not take responsibility for Maime and her five children.   If the children went to the Children’s Home at the beginning of 1921, just after Aunt Laura’s tenth birthday, there is a six year gap when the five children were “everybody’s children”, but nobody’s children.  A long time to eat “coffee-sop” for dinner and get your hugs from somebody else’s mother.  I can appreciate my dad’s attitude toward his mother and understand why none of her children would buy a stone to mark her grave.  And I can understand why my mother could say “Fifty years is long enough!”

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I cannot remember a summer without one or more vacation trips.  Every trip save one we camped.  We were already in full camping mode on that one, but were meeting my dad in St. Louis.  He was already there for a convention.  Mom was delivering our next door neighbors to their grandmother somewhere along the way, we would put up overnight at that house, and our trip home was my exclusive stay at a motel during my childhood.  No, we camped.  My parents intended to show us every nook and cranny of this country, and to accomplish that on Mom’s budget, we camped.

Among our destinations, or just stops, I remember Niagara Falls, Letchworth, Luray Caverns, diamond and emerald mines in North Carolina, an ore mine in Minnesota, Yellowstone, Mammoth Cave, Meramec Caverns…..and more.  Vacationing and camping in the late ‘40’s my parents slept outdoors and we three children slept inside the car in some affair my dad rigged up.  He did something to the back floor to make a flat bed.  One slept on the floor, one on the back seat and one on the front seat.  We had moved up to a new car by then, a 1940 something Dodge, we were kids, what the hell.  It must have been better than the ’36 hornless Dodge; I had no complaint.
Ours was red and white and named Sarah

Then we got a 1956 Dodge station wagon and Mom and Dad upgraded to the inside; we kids went out.  I have to admit, that station wagon was mighty close to a house on wheels and Mom was just too ingenious not to solve any problem.  She sewed a screened cover for the back that made a boot when the back door was lowered.  The bed of the car with the back gate down accommodated my six foot six inch father.  When we arrived at a destination, one of the first jobs of children was inflating six air mattresses.  By mouth.  But the first job was pitching the tent.

By the ‘50’s family camping had improved enormously from my earliest memories.  We generally did not have to dig a latrine or build a fire ring, for example.  And, by the time we had the station wagon, we also had a three burner Coleman stove and a Coleman lantern.  I’m sure Coleman made tents, too, but we did not have a Coleman tent.  We had an Army and Navy Surplus store right there in Akron, Ohio.  And, if Dad couldn’t get it there, the store in Cleveland was even bigger.

We had an eight man Arctic Army tent.  It said so, on various labels sewed on its waterproof sides.  Along with instructions for properly inserting the stove pipe through the stove hole.    It was waterproof.  It stunk.  It weighed at least twenty pounds.  I considered saying fifty, but I’m being fair, as I didn’t have to handle it.  My brothers were in charge of putting it up.  Job One.

I am certain an eight man Arctic Army tent is so large because eight men plus a stove require a lot of room.  I am equally certain there is plenty of room, flat at that, in the Arctic.  Down in the lower 48 the land is much lumpier, stonier even, with lots of tree roots and scrubby brush bristles all over the ground.  I’m certain my brothers did not pitch my portion of the tent on the worst terrain; they slept in the tent, too, and all air mattresses would fail overnight.

In addition to stinking like an old, waterproofed Army tent, this tent leaked.  Not a little.  All eight men could hang all their gear, probably even their boots, from cunning little rings sewn everywhere around the interior.  By a sewing machine with a needle and that needle punched little holes.  Moisture seeped through those little holes and rain was driven through those little holes.  Then there was the stove pipe hole.  And the hole for the center pole.   And windows that closed by a tied flap.  If we didn’t get up in the morning damp, we got up drenched.  Mom loved to reminisce about the one trip where it rained thirteen days out of fourteen.  But then, she was sleeping inside the car.

After a number of years the Arctic Army tent became obsolete, and Dad got a new tent.  No, he made a new tent.   At the Army and Navy Surplus store he found the perfect……………red and white parachute.  From one end of the internet to the other I cannot find a photo of a red and white parachute.  He must have bought the last one.  Here’s a white one in its full glory.  Imagine every other panel poppy red.  That was our new tent.

It rigged up rather like the Arctic Army.  Probably used the same center pole; every third or fourth section was rigged to stand just like the picture of Arctic Army.  Don’t ask me how; it still wasn’t my job to set it up.  People came from twenty camp sites away to admire it with awe and discuss the possibilities with my Dad.  He was mighty proud and held his audience enthralled with his quiet dissertations on the physics of tent making.  A regular Omar Kyam.

Parachute silk does not turn water.  No, water comes through as through the proverbial sieve.  And, it was inagurated on the longest vacation we ever took, twenty one days, to Yellowstone.  Three thousand six hundred miles.  In a tent that every adult on the way admired and three children despised.  It was my last family vacation; I went to college in the fall.  But before the next summer my parents had bought a pop up tent camper.  Trails along right behind.  Sleeps six.  But they only needed to sleep five; I went to summer school every year of college, to graduate in three years.

The most important thing I learned from my parents through all those vacations:  leave your campground cleaner than you found it.   And the vacations were swell, too.


My closest friends, for some strange reason, were all named Mary.  At the Convent school, I had a “best friend”, Mary Buchwald.  She played clarinet in the Convent orchestra.  When I was offered an instrument, my choice was the clarinet, as Mary played.  We were together in the orchestra and it suited me right down to the ground.  After Mary B. left the Convent, another Mary came along.  She was Mary Szabo, and she had the most beautiful long black hair, a braid across each shoulder, nearly to her waist.  We nick-named her Ramona, after the Indian maid.  She is still a good friend, though she and her husband Bob Ruppert, have moved to Wisconsin.  We correspond only at Christmas but still consider ourselves “best friends.”

My third dearest and best friend Mary, I met after we moved here to Richfield.  I was so forlorn and disheartened when we moved here, with an unfinished house, little kids, no friends and no way to get any place.  Mary Horn made herself known to me, and in many little subtle ways, brought me into the community and introduced me to others, who also became our friends.  Mary Horn and I used each other for “crying towels”—we were both having some troubles with our married daughters at that time; and we were confessors to each other, for venting our frustrations over our kids, a sharer of each other’s heartaches as well as each other’s joys and triumphs.  My best and last “best friend” died of cancer of the pancreas, in June 1974, and I still miss her horribly, even today, many years later.  I’ve had many other friends over the years, that I still keep in touch with, but these three Marys were my best and dearest friends.

Organizations and I didn’t get along very well.  I’ve always been more or less a “do-it-yourself” type of person.  Never card to mingle with groups.  I did join the Friendship Quilt Club when our Bobby was about 3 years old.  Hand in hand, we’d walk to wherever the quilting was to be held that day.  He’d take a toy and play very quietly by himself while we ladies quilted (and gossiped), then after lunch he’d curl up in a corner someplace and nap.  I became secretary of the Club and later, president for 2 years.  Stayed in the Quilt Club until I went to work 2 days a week at the Mount Augustine Convent.

I enjoyed working there, with the nuns, ‘til I had to have foot surgery in 1972.  Went back to work there again, maybe in 5-6 weeks, as a seamstress in the laundry, until they got another retired teacher-nun to help full-time.  Since then, I have stayed at home, “doing my own thing,’ which constituted some quilting, but mostly now my new hobby, making crocheted afghans.

I have always voted, primary or national, since I was old enough.  Mostly you could say I’ve voted Democrat, thought I’ve swung to the other ticket if the Republican was the better, in my opinion.  Voted for Roosevelt in 1932 because he promised to bring the country out of the depression.  He did that and put men to work on Public Works Projects to keep them off the relief rolls.  Voted for Ike because he’d been a War General and thought he’d be able to keep us out of another war.  He did, but we got into the Asian wars, (Korea, Laos and Vietnam) later.  I didn’t vote for Nixon because I didn’t trust him an inch.  His presidency proved him to be a vicious and sneaky individual.  I did not vote for Carter, when Ford took over Nixon’s unfinished term, because there was too little known about him as a forceful man who could hold the reins of our country.  His term has proved that he is still a peanut farmer at heart, who doesn’t know how to keep our country on an even keel.  He is too wishy-washy and too undecided on the major issues that are tearing our beloved country apart.

My philosophy in life is to “Do the very best you can, while you trust in God to give you the gifts and talents that will permit you to do your best in whatever state in life you find yourself placed.”  I yearned all my life to be a good wife to a good man, to be a good mother to our children.  I have a wonderful husband who has been a good friend, lover and companion as well as husband and father.  We raised our four children under hardships and near poverty, but we didn’t consider them as hardships, nor did we consider ourselves “poor.”  We had little in the way of luxuries, but we had close ties to all our family members, brothers, sisters, in-laws, parents, and visited relatives and friends frequently.  Our children have grown even closer to each other as they’ve grown up and married.  And their children too are “friends” with each other.  Even though there have been two divorcers in our immediate family, the love and the caring are still there.

The happiest days of our lives were while we were working and struggling against odds, to rear our children and somehow or other to have a home of our own.  We did accomplish these things, much to our joy and peace of mind and heart.

I mentioned earlier in this chronicle that I am Catholic.  Frank’s and my family were averse to our marrying, but we eloped anyhow.  We raised our four children in the Catholic faith but one by one they deserted the Church they’d been brought up in.  After 45 years of prayer, Frank finally gave me the great joy of becoming a Catholic.  My heart overflowed with joy and gratitude to God when first Linda, then Diane, then Joey, then Beth, then Joyce, all married into the church.  They all, except Diane, married Catholic spouses.  Diane didn’t even tell us she was receiving instructions in the Faith until she was nearly ready to be received into the church.  With all these grandchildren coming into the Church, my prayer and hope is that their parents will eventually return to the church of their youth.

There is no particular passage or verse in the Bible that is my favorite, but my favorite prayer is the Serenity Prayer, especially where it says “Give me the grace to know WHAT to do, and the strength to do it.”

The changes in technology since we were married are really amazing.  Our first cars were purchased for $25.00 used.  They were junk heaps, long past their prime, but Frank was mechanically inclined enough to keep them running well enough to get him to his job.  Washing machine or dryer, we had neither ‘til long after our last child was born and someone gave us a used washer—and I was in seventh heaven.  Our oldest daughter and her husband gave us an electric dryer for Christmas in 1970 and that was the BERRIES.  While our kids were growing up, television became a household word, but we couldn’t get one.  When Frank came home from the hospital after an appendix operation, we rented a TV while he recuperated.  Since then we’ve had several small TV sets and in 1980 finally bought our first color TV 19” screen.  The breakthroughs in medicine and space exploration are particularly thrilling.  So many diseases are just unheard of and unknown today, thanks to research and dedicated doctors.  Space is just something we watched cloud formations in.  Who could believe man would “take one small step” (on the moon) for such magnitude of things they’d discovered, of vital significance to mankind.

And, UFO study is certainly turning up some mind boggling information about creatures from SOMEWHERE in outer space.  They have to be more advanced and intelligent than our own earth planet occupants, to have such sophisticated vehicles to approach our Earth planet with.  What worries me most of all is that our children (or their children) will have to suffer the holocaust of nuclear war.  It will devastate the earth and make it completely uninhabitable for generations or longer.

I know that my prayers were answered in several instances.  When I learned I had cancer, I prayed I’d be cured so I could continue to be a good wife and mother; so that my children wouldn’t be left motherless at their tender ages.  I know my prayers were answered when my beloved husband, then our grandchildren came into my own Catholic Faith.  Other prayers too, for “safe journeys,” “job possibilities,” “family reunions,” etc., have all been answered.  Our grand children are following the example of their parents before them, and their grandparents took in striving to put a lot of loving and caring into their marriages so they will last.  Frank and I have little less than a year to go, to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary, and they have been very happy years.  There have been differences of opinion, tears, sorrow, quarrels and sickness.  But on the whole, I wouldn’t change one year of our marriage for all the travel and jet-setting, or palatial abodes or fabulous jobs or anything else that  could possibly be offered.  No matter what we had, or didn’t have, our home and our hearts were always filled with love for each other and for our children and their children.

Our kids and their kids meant everything in the world to us, and each other.  There is nothing, but NOTHING in the world more important than a loving relationship beween parents and their children.  Our children disappointed us at times, and I know we must have disappointed our children at times too, but the loving relationship still stands.  I feel especially strong on this point because I was shuffled around so much in my childhood and never really know or had a “home” that I was very determined that my husband and my children would never be deprived of live and a family relationship as I was deprived.

Laura Emma Marie Lytle Neillie, This day of March 18, 1981, 8:20 p.m.


It was the corner acre of a 60 acre farm belonging to Joseph and Julia Hajek.  We bought the corner acre, in the N.E. corner of Hajec’s farm.  When I first saw the place, I thought it was the most desolate spot on God’s green earth—nothing there but the farmer’s corn patch and his cows browsing!  However, we bought it for $75.00—one acre of worn-out farm with not a stick of a tree or bush on it.  Bill Logan, a long-time dear friend, told us the City of Cleveland was selling some of its portable wooden voting booths.  Frank ordered two of the booths for $25.00 each, and for another $25.00 we had them moved out to our lone acre in Richfield.  They were set down in an L shape, side by side, and that was just the beginning our Dream Come True.

We all, little girls included, worked at “our place” when we could.  We’d picnic there and the girls had a ball playing around the two voting booths.  We added a third room off the one that would become the kitchen, and this became the kids’ bedroom.  By this time I was pregnant again.  Frank’s Dad bought us some fruit trees, and planted them around what would someday be our HOME.  We moved into the three unfinished rooms, (no ceilings, no walls inside, no window screens, very primitive) in June of 1941.

That September, our only son Bob was born.  We named him Robert Charles, for his grandfather, Charles Robert.  It was a joyful time for us.  The girls were delighted with their baby brother and frank was proud enough to bust his buttons because he had a son.  We added a larger room north of the front voting booth, and by putting a partition through the center, the room became two smaller rooms for the children.  Pat and Ellen slept on one side of the partition and Kathy and Bobby on the other.  Frank and I now used the bedroom off the kitchen, and the room we had been sleeping in became our living room.  With some second-hand furniture we’d bought, and used pieces we were given, the place finally was beginning to look like a home.  We put up ceiling board in the 3 original rooms, and wall-paneling in the voting booth rooms, replaced the tiny windows with the larger ones, and screens.  Frank’s brother Elmer wired us up so we could have electric lights instead of the oil lamps we’d been using.  With the electric in, we could have an electric pump on the well too, so we didn’t have to go outdoors to pump water.

Until our third daughter, Ellen, married, the four kids slept in the large partitioned bedroom.  After she left home, we dismantled the partition and the one big room became the master bedroom, and our son Bob moved into the small bedroom off the kitchen.  In the meantime, during all those changes, my brother helped pick down the dirt in the unfinished cellar.  He’d pick down a lot of dirt during the weekend, and the children would haul the dirt out in their little sand pails or gallon paint buckets.  Sometimes they didn’t appreciate Uncle Jack for doing all that picking, but they hauled dirt with a right good will none-the-less.  We’d had professional house raisers lift our 3 rooms and dig a trench all around.  They put up the original basement walls and lowered the house back down on the foundation.  When we finally got all the dirt cleared out of the basement, we cemented the floor and had working area for laundering.  We also had a coal furnace installed, and that too was a wonderful thing for us all.  We’d heated before that with a Warm Morning Coal stove in the kitchen, so that furnace in the basement was a blessing in all of our opinions!  Eventually, the coal furnace was replaced by an oil furnace, then that in turn was also replaced by a gas hot water heating system.  We were really making a home of our two little Voting Booths, and what a thrill each improvement was to each and every one of us.

After the married children started bringing their children to visit us, the small front voting booth that served as living room was no longer adequate as far as seating arrangements were concerned.  So we hired a local architect, Mr. Lowry, to draw up some plans for another larger living room.  At first he tried to add the new room to the front of the house, incorporating the roofs from the two front rooms, into the overall plan, but it just wouldn’t work out right.  So then he considered the back of the house.  By using the one bedroom on the L, and squaring off the remaining space, he came up with a 14’ by 20’ living room with a nearly flat roof.  We had Mr. Watson and his son from Peninsula build the shell of the room, and we finished the inside ourselves, as we have done through out the house.

BABY DAYS.  Our Kathleen Marie was born at 3:00 p.m. on a Thursday.  She was born adult and perfectionist! She walked and talked early, and used perfect words at all times, never using “baby talk.”  She was always ready to be friendly to our friends.  She has grown up to be just as perfectionistic as when she was a child.  Our Pat was only 1 ½ months old when friends offered to drive us to Akron to bid goodbye to Ruth, who was about to enter the convent.  On the way to Akron, we were in an auto accident in which we were all more or less injured except Kathy, who had only a few bruises.  A friend was holding the baby, Pat, and her head got knocked against the rear door as the car rolled over.  Her eyes were damaged, and until she was through second grade, she saw all pictures upside down.  Because of the accident, pat’s speech was very slow and she drawled everything a yard long.  Her eyesight returned to normal about the end of her second grade.

Ellen was the most beautiful of our babies.  She had large blue eyes and golden curls.  Her beauty was only “skin deep”, as she became most obnoxious in her insistence upon immediate and constant attention.  Even misbehavior was employed to bring her the absolute attention she demanded.  She must always have “center-stage.”

Bob was a very fussy baby.  With the girls, I had no discomforting pregnancies, but when he was conceived, I was constantly ill, the whole nine months.  Even after he was born, he had colic for months and it seemed he did nothing but cry. The girls were so easy to care for that I just didn’t know how to cope with that fussy baby boy.  He did grow out of that colic stage eventually and became a loveable and loving little boy.

God gave me an abundance of good health to be a good wife to my Frank and a good mother to our little family.  The pregnancies were easy except for the last one.  My brother John would come up from Akron weekends and worry about my looking so badly.  He’d bring fresh peaches and corn, I’d cook for the family and immediately after eating I’d have to run outdoors and heave everything back up.  Our baby was taking so much of my strength and the hard work of bricking and painting and “doing” for the house was sapping what little strength there was left.  After Bob was born I felt fine again, except for his constant crying and fussing made me extremely nervous.

When Bob was about 4 years old, after he had become a lovable and loving little boy, I developed a cancer of the uterus and had to have surgery.  I was desperate and I just KNEW I’d never return from the hospital to watch my family grow up.  Kathleen, who was only 14 years old at the time, got the other girls off to school, her daddy off to work, and fed them too when they got home again.  Bless her heart, she did a wonderful job being surrogate mother while I was in the hospital.  Thank God, I did have a successful surgery and things have been wonderful ever since.  When I was around my sixtieth year, I developed bursitis in my left shoulder which the doctor attributed to my doing too much quilting for too long at a time.  He advised me not to quilt for at least a year, which advice I flowed.  It bothered me, as I dearly love to quilt, but my sister Ruth got me hooked on crochet, in the meantime, so I needn’t sit twiddling my thumbs and driving myself nuts.  Now, I can quilt again, as well as enjoy doing the crochet.

It was about this same time that I told Frank I could no longer cope with hauling our looms to the Art Shows to demonstrate weaving.  I’ve neglected in this journal to say that some of our six looms are between 5 and 15 years old.  We weave placemats, rugs, fancy wool scarves and various other fancy articles.  We’ve made out well as far as sales of our articles went, at the Art Shows.  But when I said no about carting the looms to the shows, nobody bought our wares because not demonstrating, they didn’t realize these articles were handmade.  So, the room that had originally been our bedroom, then our living room, became the LOOM ROOM.  We’ve had students we’ve taught weaving from time to time, but nothing spectacular has been the result of our weaving hobby.  Some of our items have gone to many states in the USA, some have gone to Sweden.  We were very proud of THAT sale, as the Swedes are some of the most accomplished weavers in the world.


I was still working at Charity Hospital switchboard.  One day a young man came in to see the Superior at the Hospital.  When he’d finished his business, he came back to the switchboard and asked me “where the other girl was.”  I told him she’d gone home and wouldn’t be back to work until 7:00 o’clock the next morning.  I was still very shy and timid, but something must have loosened my tongue, ‘cause I accused him of wanting a date with the other girl.  He blushed and stammered, so I told him Catherine was too old for him, why didn’t he ask me for a date?  So, by golly, he did, and I was amazed and ashamed of my own boldness.  But he did show up the night he said he would, and took me to the old Hippodrome Theater downtown.  I even remember the movie, Joan Crawford, in “Are these Our Children?”  Afterwards, we went down to the old 9th St. Pier and sat watching the water and fighting mosquitoes.  He was smoking a pipe, but that didn’t faze the mosquitoes, they finally chased us home.  We had a number of dates after that first one, but didn’t have money for eating out, or movie treats, very often.  It wasn’t long, (about six months, I’d say) before we decided we were truly in love and made for each other.

His mother didn’t want us to marry, as I am Catholic and he was not.  My mother didn’t want us to marry as she designated him a “cripple.”  He does wear an artificial leg, but at no time in his life has he ever considered himself a cripple in any manner.  So we just took the bull by the horns and eloped to New Cumberland, West Virginia, where we were married before a “marryin’ parson”, the Reverand Howland.  We left quietly on Friday a.m.,  got our license from Mrs. Pearl Friday evening and she sent us walking down the street where she said there were several “marryin’ parsons.”  We picked one out and he married us.  When Frank asked him how much he owed, the parson told him, “As much as your little bride is worth.”  Frank told him I was worth a million but he only had $2.00.  The parson accepted that, and was probably darn glad to get it, as this was in the deep of the depression.  We stayed that night at the Green Lantern, (rent, $1.00), right there beside the railroad tracks.  We were on the second floor and the trains went right by the window.  Had the window been open (in February?), we could probably have touched the trains with our hands.  Saturday night we stayed at Appels’ Guest House, a beautiful room in their home. They gave us breakfast, and we started off for home.  We stopped at the Lincoln Restaurant in East Liverpool for supper.  Had soup to nuts, for $.75 apiece.  He actually served us a bowl of soup to start, then a full-course dinner, then a bowl of nuts and mints to top it off with.  What a meal. Try and find anything so good now, at that price?  When we got to Cleveland, Frank called his sister and asked if it was safe for us to come home.  She said yes, it was safe, but we could expect a cool reception.  “Cool” wasn’t the word for it, it was just downright “frigid.”  We stayed at Frank’s parents’ about two months.  Marion was young, still in school and Mother Neillie didn’t want us around holding hands in front of Marion.  So she gave us money for rent and we went out apartment-looking.  The only thing we could find that we could afford was a little 2 room box off Hough Ave. in Cleveland.  It was in the heart of prostitute territory and as a matter of fact, the house was a prostitute’s apartment house.  But, we didn’t know that at the time.

Our next move was to James Paige’s home where we had another 2 room apartment.  Mr. Paige was a wonderful old man and his housekeeper, Mrs. Weeks, mothered Frank and me.  Our first daughter, Kathleen was born there.  We moved across the hall to his 3 room apartment later, and our second daughter Pat was conceived there.  We needed larger quarters, expecting our second baby, so Frank found a small 2 story, 4 room house in Independence, Ohio.  No running water, a pump at the kitchen sink, and a privy out back.  In spite of the inconveniences, we were extremely happy there.  The landlord hadn’t wanted to rent to us, with a little one and another coming, but he finally relented and let us move in.  He fell in love with our Kathleen and would stop by our door in the morning on the way to his garden, down the street and ask if Kat-a-lin could go with him.   He’d plump her into his wheelbarrow and away they’d go until lunch time.  It was a morning ritual.  He and his son had a jewelry store in Cleveland and he told his son to bring him a little ring with a diamond chip in it.  Kathy wore the ring until her hand grew too large for it.  When our Pat was born, he got a ring for her too.  Our landlord died shortly after Pat was born.  We stayed on there in the little house and eventually our daughter Ellen was born, 1936.

My brother John was staying with us while his boat was laid up (he was a radio operator on the coal barges plying Lake Erie) and I had gone to the grocery store one day while the girls were down for their naps.  Ellen was about 6 months old at the time, napping in her buggy in the living room.  Kathleen and Pat were asleep in their beds upstairs.  While I was gone, a terrible electrical storm came up and lightening struck our house.  The landlord told Frank to get as much insurance as he possibly could, as he had paid insurance on the houses (he and his family owned nearly all the houses on the street) for years and had never collected anything back in the way of insurance.  Told him to repair the damage to the house and keep whatever money was left, for his labor.  With the $100.00 left, we hired a realtor to find us a piece of property we could afford.  Our constant dream and hope was to someday have a home of our own.  He finally found a place in Richfield that we bought with $75.00, one acre, bare as a baby’s bottom.


Sunday was church day.  My grandfather had bought a big old Overland auto which he never learned to drive.  The older boys took turns driving grandma, two aunts and a neighbor to St. Mary’s at Thornton St., for Mass while we children walked.  Sometimes, the whole group, children and adults would walk home together, often stopping at Aunt Bessie’s (Mrs. Lige Moon).  They had several children and didn’t often get to go to church.  Sunday evening was the big festive meal at Grandma’s, where there were often 20 or more persons fed in relays at the dining room table.

There were no special shopping trips at Christmas, or any other time in our family.  My grandparents managed, but I can’t imagine HOW, with so many to care for.  There was always a Christmas tree and usually a present for each kid.  Fourth of July was family picnic day.  Everybody turned out to go to Mud Lake (now Nesbit Lake, I think), to have a huge picnic, with all the Aunts contributing goodies for the spread.  There would be political speeches, swimming (wading for us little tots) and fireworks.  Maybe us little ones could have a sparkler apiece, but mostly we enjoyed the grub and the chance to run and play unsupervised.

Birthday gifts were unknown, birthdays not even acknowledged.  I can remember only one birthday party for me, my 10th.  It was just after four of us were put in the Summit County Children’s Home at 264 South Arlington St., Akron, Ohio.  My mother came to visit that evening and brought cake and ice cream, and the Five Little Peppers book for me.  My brothers and sister, my mother and I and the Superintendant of the Home ate the ice cream and cake in the big community dining hall.  Mrs. Tuite, in charge of the kitchen, had made the table festive for us, with a table cloth and napkins.  All our meals at the Home were taken at bare tables, so this was a real occasion and a long-remembered treat.  I had another birthday party for my 20th birthday.  A surprise party, given by my friend Stella Ostrowski and my mother, at the apartment we all shared in Cleveland, off West 14th St., on Kenilworth Ave.  At that time I had a coat in lay-away and Stella paid the balance due on it and gave me the winter coat for my birthday.

I went barefoot in summer because Grampa could not afford to buy shoes for his whole brood.  I wore my Aunts and Uncles outgrown shoes to school.  My first pair of “my own” shoes I received when we went to the Children’s Home, and were each outfitted with new shoes.  I was nearly ten years old at the time.

At the Home too, I could indulge in my passion for reading ALL DAY if I so desired.  They had a huge library surrounded on three sides with floor to ceiling book shelves—well-filled too.  The fourth side was all windows.  Tables and chairs for reading and playing were scattered all over the room.  We kids just loved playing jacks on those lovely big smooth-topped tables.  I think I must have read every book there, boys and girls books alike.  I rarely played games with other kids, I was too shy and insecure.  I thought they wouldn’t like me, so made no attempts to be friendly—just stayed by myself and read books.  And I never did learn to swim.  On one of those family picnics at Mud Lake, Grampa set me up on his shoulders and waded out into the lake till the water was over his head, and dunked me in.  I was about seven years old and that episode scared me half to death.  I was so terrified, I’d never go NEAR water in its natural habitat ever after that.

Once, Johnny and my uncles ran away from me after school and I had to find my way home alone.  Had to cross a wide sandbank stretch where there was a big pond.  I either fell into, or blindly walked into that pond, in the dark of early evening.  My clothes froze solid on me, but I did manage to get out of the pond, as it probably wasn’t very deep.  I walked the rest of the way home, probably about a mile.  Maybe that’s when I caught diphtheria; I was about the right age.

Went to Kindergarten at Lane School, Akron, then to old St. Mary’s on Main Street. St. Mary’s built a new church and school at Thornton and Cobu?  I finished 2nd grade there.  Third and 4th grades I was at Crouse School on Diagonal Rd.  I finished 4th, 5th and 6th grades while at the Children’s Home, then back to Crouse school from September to January, to the last half of 6th grade.  In between times, I don’t remember when, I also attended St. Bernard’s and Annunciation schools, perhaps for only a month or two, between moves from this rental to that rental.

My grades were fairly good, as I learned easily.  While in 4th grade, had to write a book report on Miles Standish and Priscilla.  I wrote my report on them in rhyme and the teacher was so impressed she wanted me to take it all over the school and read it in each classroom.  I was too timid so she gave it to a little boy to take around to the other rooms.  I don’t know whatever became of it, would sure like to have it now, as I’ve always been more or less inclined to write poetry.

Brother John had joined the Army at Fort Benning Georgia at age 16, from the Children’s Home.  Also, from the home, brother Bill had been sent to the Columbus Ohio Institute for the Retarded.  He was definitely not retarded, a slow learner yes, he was.  When he was about ten years old he and some friends were playing on the upstairs rafters of an unfinished house grampa and Uncle Frank were building.  He was tagged “it” and was knocked over the edge of the rafter and fell to the ground.  He hit his head on a cement block down below and had to have surgery.  A silver plate was inserted in his head.  He grew physically to adulthood but remained mentally a 10 or 12 year old.  But if he had been able to receive the proper teaching and help at that time, which is availably nowadays for injured people like him, he could have made his mark in the world, as he has a phenomenal memory.  He possibly could have even been employed in a profitable way and even have been married and have his own family.

After John and Billie were gone from the Children’s Home, Grandma had to place us three girls under the auspices of the Catholic Charities organization. Grandma, Aunt Eva and Aunt Gen took us to the Good Shepherd Convent in Cleveland, at the urging of the caseworker from Catholic Charities.  All this was going on around us girls but we never knew anything about it, neither then nor later.  Grandma told us one morning that she was taking us on a picnic. (This was January 28, mid-winter and bitter cold.)  We were put in the convent two weeks after my 14th birthday.  At Easter, Grandma took Helen Rita back home again, she couldn’t bear it at home without little sister, as Grandma had called her since she was born.  Ruth and I stayed at the Convent until I graduated from a two year commercial high school, at St. Bridget’s.  Ruth was going to Cathedral Latin, where she spent a year.  Then, she went to live with Aunt Gen and Uncle Lloyd, where she finished high school at St. Mary’s.  She went into nurses’ training after graduation, at St. Thomas Hospital.  After completing 1 ½ years of nurses’ training, Ruth joined the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisterhood in Monroe, Michigan, on February 4, 1935.

After I graduated from St. Bridget’s two year Commercial Course, I went to work at St. Vincent Charity Hospital, as switchboard operator.  I worked there until I was married at age 21, in 1932.  Part of the time I was working at Charity Hospital, I lived with my mother where she was employed by Mr. Edwin Horst, as housekeeper for his 12 children.  His wife had died of T.B. when his youngest was an infant.  A sister-in-law was looking after his youngsters for awhile, until she too contracted T.B.  Then Mr. Horst hired Mom to mother his little ones.  One evening there was a phone call transferred from the hospital to me there at Horst’s.  It was from my Uncle Pete, my father’s brother, to tell me my father had died and his body was on the train in Cleveland, if me and my mother want to come there and see him.  My mother curtly told him she hadn’t seen her husband alive in 15 years, so why would she want to see him dead now.  That was the last I knew of my father, as Mom never talked about him.

Mom got sick while working at Horst’s and had to be hospitalized.  While she was laid up, Mr. Horst hired another housekeeper so Mom was out of a job.  She found a 2 room apartment on W. 14th St., next door to Grace Hospital.  We lived there, Mom and me, about two years, then we took a 3 room apartment further up the street, on Kenilworth Ave. John was being discharged from the Army, with ulcers, and Mom wanted him to stay with us.  I was making only $60.00 a month and paying $9.00 a week rent on the 3 room apartment, so there was barely enough left to feed us.  John couldn’t work, as he was ill.  So we moved again, into another 2 room apartment and Mom went to work as the landlord’s cook.  He kept a men’s boarding house and she cooked their breakfasts and suppers and packed lunches for them all, besides doing the housework. For this, we were allowed to live rent-free in his 2 room apartment next door.  Then Mom was called back to work for a woman she’d been housekeeper for, for years.  She was dying and wanted Mom to stay with her until the end, which Mom did.  She then stayed on in Akron at various homes, as practical nurse and housekeeper.