Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Babies walk at thirteen months

I learned that statistic in a dorm corridor, from someone preparing for an exam in child psychology.  It was more like ba-bies-walk-at-thir-teen-months, intoned over and over in a list of must knows for the following day as the seeker of wisdom walked up and down the corridor, intoning the facts.  Every time she passed our door she seemed to be on ba-bies-walk.

When I was a young mother with a baby we lived in a third floor walk up.  The grocery store was two blocks away, easily managed via baby stroller. Carrying the groceries upstairs, not so easy.  Up three flights, baby on one hip and groceries on the other.  Two bags meant back down with the baby and back up with two arms full.  And, a final trip to retrieve the stroller.

Months into the childhood of my oldest daughter, who grew heavier each week, the refrain I’d learned in the dorm hall flashed into my mind.  I swore we would not leave that building until she walked the stairs once.

When Beth was seven months old I put her down for a rest on the first landing.  She crawled to the step and was up the flights before I could hoist the grocery bag.  We went back for the second bag and she crawled up all three flights, squealing with delight.  She didn’t learn to walk until fourteen months, and we didn’t live in that walk up any more, but it didn’t much matter.  She crawled up three flights like a trouper the months until we moved.

Baby walked at fourteen months

I don’t know how universal this may be, but it happened to me.  My first child was so easy I thought all babies would be that way.  My second child resembled my first in two respects only.  She was a baby and she was a girl.  End of resemblance.  Just to make sure I knew it, she had gold hair, not black.  Shelly did everything way ahead of Beth.   Like drink from a cup at six months.  That was because she could disassemble a bottle and pour out the milk.

In the kitchen one day she stood up and took off.  She was not yet nine months, but she had been standing for some time.  Standing in place, bouncing up and down a little.  Then she took off.  Not that rolling cartoon character first steps walk.  No, she had her destination firmly in mind and off she went.  Our doctor watched her with amusement.  “Those little ones with a low center of gravity do that, you know,” as she perambulated the office.

Not all babies walk at thirteen months!  And I am the first to tell you, babies who walk at nine months don’t know the meaning of the word “No.”  I couldn’t take my eye off her. A couple of months older, faster, more single minded, I found her crying in the kitchen, having dropped a big can of grapefruit juice liberated from the cupboard onto her big toe.    Rushed to the doctor for examination of the blue and purple toe, Shelly watched with interest as the doctor tugged her little toe and asked “Does this toe hurt?”  “No.”  He tugged the next toe and had the same answer.  And the next one.  And the next one.  As his fingers approached the obviously suffering toe her first sentence rang through the room and brought shouts of laughter from the waiting room.  “DON’T TOUCH THAT TOE!”

Baby walked at nine months

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A week late

I was at work until one today.  Then I brought the rest home and finished it at seven tonight.  But look what I found on the sidewalk.  I have three grandaughters who would love this.  What to do...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Where’s Betty

I worked for a couple of years at a small manufacturing company.  I was secretary to a vice president for a while, then moved out to the front reception area where I typed invoices and answered all the phones, as well as the previous secretarial duties.  All that occurred because there was an ownership battle going on, but way down the line we just did our job and got our paycheck.

It was the job where I met my best friend, Carol.  She was a temp, so concerned about arriving on time that she arrived an hour early the first day.  She walked around the building, wound up at the shop door and the foreman brought her through to wait in the lobby, where I found her when I unlocked the front door.  The shop foreman was so impressed by Carol’s work ethic he went to the president (it was a small company and a long time ago) and said Carol was the kind of person the company needed; she should be hired.  And, she was.

Working in the reception area in the front lobby I got to know Betty the woman who handled personnel and was the purchasing agent. Her office opened onto the lobby. She was much older than I; a motherly kind of woman.  I always was up for fun at a job, and Betty was plenty of that.  One time all the men had gone out for lunch, the president driving.  They weren’t gone long when a bad storm threatened.  In those days most cars weren’t air conditioned, and all windows in the parking lot were down, against the hot summer day.

Betty came into the lobby hollering for those of us left to help her roll up car windows, which we did, moments before the big storm broke and poured cats and dogs.   When it passed Betty took us all out again to wind down the men’s windows.  When they returned from lunch and checked their car interiors, they were puzzled.  They asked.  We all denied closing their windows against the storm.  That was fun.  But it was Betty at her mildest.

One day one of the men came down the hall, whistling.  He had a hand full of papers and stuck his head in Betty’s door to tell her something.  Popped his head back out and asked me “Where’s Betty?”

“I don’t know.  I didn’t see her leave.”

“Well, tell her I’m looking for her.”  He went back to his office.

Half an hour later, Betty called to me from her office to come in for something.  I went in and was curious; I hadn’t seen her return.  “Oh, I was here all along.  I didn’t want to talk to him so I hid under the desk.”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

“C” is for cut squares, not cat

Diane  On the Alberta/Montana border wondered if Toby filed himself in the “C” drawer, and then she wrote a wonderful post about her father leaving the cookies under “O” for Oreo in his filing system, but looking for them under “C” for cookie.   My “C” drawer is refilling itself, so there will be more quilts.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words about Jan’s project to fill the world with quilts.  Here’s the story.  Although not officially diagnosed, I admit to a touch of obsessive.  Or is it compulsive.  Whichever, it keeps me doing “something.”  Jan is an artist and I have no idea what keeps her cutting fabric into little bits and sewing them together a new way.   

We quit weaving in 2003 and by 2004 Jan was quilting full time and I transitioned to my elected position with no authority in my township.  Most days of the month I’m out of the office by noon. For several years  I spun and knit, for a local gallery, until they closed.  Then I walked into the studio and discovered those tubs of fabric scraps that quilters can’t throw away.  I immediately devised a plan to work them off and made steady progress at those scrappy blocks until Jan’s customers began dropping their scraps behind my chair and stealing away.  Like a bag I had over looked.  Just like Topsy, it grew.

We learned about keeping busy from our mom, who always had something going on.  Quilting, needlework, canning, gardening.  She was seventy when we moved here, and after the bustle of putting things away she was out of projects at hand.  She walked right into the studio and said “Teach me to weave.”  We did. 

All my life Mom quietly demonstrated the wider purpose of doing.  When I babysat a little girl down the street Mom had me take her downtown and buy school shoes and a coat.  When the church needed a piano, they got hers.   I read the genealogical letter Mom wrote for my daughter’s research, and Mom learned by example.  She said about her father, He never was much of a church goer, but, theBroadview Baptist Church and everyone around him benefitted from his generosity.  No one in the neighborhood went hungry.  He was most happy when everyone around him finally recovered from the depression and got off WPA.

And I learned from my Grandma Rolf, Mom’s mother.  I spent time with her when I was  young, and we rode the trolley from West 25th street to meetings of rooms full of ladies.  They cut and sewed  piles of clothes, while I sat on a chair and ate cake or slept in a corner.  It may have been the Broadview Baptist Church.  It probably was clothing to be donated.  I remember entering the room once, about five years old.  The ladies already there were quite dismayed.  My grandmother let go my hand, looked around, took a deep breath and said “Pull up your corset strings ladies, we have work to do.”

Some people write books.  Some people build skyscrapers.  Some people create art.  Some people sew five inch squares together. As long as Jan has guild friends who need to clear their stashes, the “C” drawer will be in business. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Old buildings with character

So many bloggers post pictures of great old buildings they find as they go about.  I love old buildings, too, and need to stop and take the pictures.

My house is more than seventy years old, but only qualifies for comfortable.  Although cleverly set into the side of a hill, providing a walk out basement, it still is the standard four room cottage built in the ‘40’s, before and after the war.  I lived next door to one of these old four room cottages when we lived in Mentor.  Gus, the old fellow who lived there, kept himself occupied in the winter by taking down an interior wall and relocating it.  He’d smile and say “she” wanted the living room bigger.  Or the bedroom.  Or the kitchen.  “She” was a lovely and frail old woman. 

One of my pleasures in visiting Ann is the old farm house she lives in; yellow Wisconsin bricks, about 125 years old.  She tells me it’s very typical of the time and use.  The front of the house is a two story brick column; behind it a one and a half story brick wing housing the kitchen and pantry rooms.  Next a wood two story addition with a separate entrance.  The brick front housed the farm family, the back was quarters for the farm hands.  “My bedroom” at Ann’s is in the brick second story. 

Here is a yellow brick farm house I found online.  If it had the addition of a mirror image house in wood on the back, it would be Ann’s.  “My room” is upstairs, on the right, in the front.  The downstairs bathroom, in the wood back of the house, has been in remodel and out of business since last June.  I understand it may be completed, together with a second upstairs bathroom and a new guest bedroom when I visit in April.

The barn has sunk to the ground and needs to be carried away.  Its silo remains, the lone sentinel.  In fact, Ann inquired into its removal, together with the barn remnants, and learned the silo may be on the county historical register, and protected.  The first silo in the county?

I am intrigued by the cross worked into the brick in the chimney that goes through “my room”. I asked Ann’s husband, expecting a story about gathering the hired hands for evening prayers, or some such.  He told me in fact the previous owners had done much of the interior renovation in place.  The wife was also a bricklayer, and replaced the chimneys herself.  The cross was her touch.  Ann’s husband, an engineer and a perfectionist, also told me she was not the mason she fancied herself.  If “my room” lacks character, though, I haven’t noticed.  I am very fond of the wide plank flooring in every room, with 125 years of paint.  Ann and her husband have a house full of rescued dogs, whose toenails have left their own history in all the floors.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Jan just got in from her guild meeting tonight.  This is a group of long arm quilters, mostly newbies, who started up a year ago and meet to exchange knowledge.  They asked Jan to help them start the guild and hoped she’d hang around and lend her business and long arm expertise.  As usual, Jan’s having too much fun to leave.

Tonight she took all those quilts in the last post to Karen, the liaison to TLC, the home for the quilts.  This guild meets in Karen’s quilt shop, so all the quilts were held up and admired again.  Then Karen told the group how Jan had approached her to make quilts for TLC and expanded the offer from crib size to bed size, and these were the bed sized quilts.  Then Jan explained how her sister had made 188 crib size quilt tops to be turned into charity quilts, and she had about 80 of them quilted.  Then Karen presented Jan with these five inch squares to go behind my chair.

Then Jan pulled up Cup on the Bus and everyone gathered around and read the last post.  They all looked at the empty drawer full of kitty.  Then everyone present said they would bring another 100 five inch blocks to the next meeting to go behind my chair.  And other long arm ladies said bring some of those tops that still need quilted, we’ll do them.  Can you believe it?


My sister’s new quilt donation project is Transitional Living Center, actually two group homes in Medina County.  They house ninety six severely and profoundly mentally retarded adults.  I don’t want to imagine being the caregiver there, the pain and the joy, day in, day out, a career that probably does not span the life of one of the residents.  What comfort the homes must bring to relatives who remain involved with their children or siblings in the homes.

I just finished quilt top 188 for Jan’s original Pregnancy Care project.  She has “contained the chaos” and finished out six of them into twin bed size to go to TLC, plus one she made.  Three have gone.  She just finished binding  one last night.  I’m almost sorry my hands can no longer control a needle enough to help with the finish needle work.  Almost.  I can still wield knitting needles.  And type.
Jan came back from a guild meeting last week with more donated fabric for the quilts. Apparently this job will never go away. That’s fine. Work is a blessing. Here are the TLC quilts completed.

This drawer used to be filled front to back, top to bottom with five inch squares.  Now a resourceful cat can pull it open and get it.  Not because he needs to, but because he wants to.

Since the containing chaos project is slowing, I’m taking some time to put together a quilt for Caroline, for her new bedroom.  Carol’s bear is guarding the blocks,  paper pieced snowflakes. There will be lots of sashings, but no borders!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I read Hippo’s confusion of gas and diesel containers the other day, and remembered the containers crafts people use to transport their wares.  Sturdy containers, easy to handle, preferably free, stacked up beside each booth during set up and tear down.  Then neatly stacked and concealed behind outdoor tents, and behind all that pipe and drape at indoor events.

I think all potters use egg crates.  The outside box that contains those foam one dozen cartons.  All those lovely Rubbermaid and Sterlite containers weren’t on the market in the 1980’s, and we had to be creative.  I used trash cans on wheels, all the handwoven shirts, jackets and rugs neatly folded inside. 

Stuff from our trash cans
The tragic events of 9/11 occurred at the height of the show season.  Almost as one artists came to the decision to fulfill their commitment to their public and put up their booths those next, awful months.  It was so strange; everyone carrying on and carrying such a burden.  My first show after that day was in Saratoga Springs, very near to New York City.  As I approached town traffic stopped.  Apparently there had been a fresh threat and all cars were being searched.  I had no problem pulling the lids off the totes in my van.  My memory of that show is the hushed grounds with an overflow crowd of stunned people intent on doing what they would be doing in any event.  And the crystal blue sky with no contrails.

The very next week after that my show was in Madison, Indiana.  The police were visible everywhere and one told those of us in the check in line to be very aware of our surroundings and the people around us, and please report anything unusual.  When he left we laughed.  Would it be unusual if a potter switched from egg crates to banana boxes?  We knew we wouldn’t be finding anything to report.

When I arrived at my usual booth I was setting up next to the same metal smiths I was always by.  We chatted as we stacked our containers and started our set up.  Several hours later they were putting on the final touches and brought out the five gallon can of water to fill and start a metal fountain.  I laughed aloud and Margie said yes, they decided last week they needed to stop having two five gallon red gasoline containers full of water behind their booth, and had invested in regulation blue water containers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Respect the cook

When we all moved in here twenty odd years ago, cooking defaulted to Jan.  Tom can handle his grill out on the deck, but for cooking you want Jan.  She and I go way back.  She lived with the girls and me when she ran away from home as a teenager.  That made our mom happy, our dad happier, and me happiest of all.  I could quit cooking.

Our mom wasn’t a good cook, except for pot roast on Sunday.  She passed off her skills to my brothers and sister and me; we learned the basics of boiling water and peeling potatoes.  Walt improved to be a good cook and Jan is a mighty fine cook.  Walt never turns down her invitation to stay for supper.

My divorce coincided with Jan moving in, back in 1973.  The events were totally unrelated; the timing serendipitous. I don’t like cooking.  It was difficult enough to pare my skills from cooking for six to cooking for two when I was married. I couldn’t grasp cooking better, too, although my mother-in-law dropped helpful hints.  She was a wonderful woman, and very tactful, but I was a poor absorber.

I think the cooking initially devolved to Jan because she left work at 4:30, half an hour before me.  So, she started the evening meal.  Coming home to dinner on the table, I knew my life was changing for the better. 

Beth and Shelly were little girls when Jan came to live with us.  Six and eight.  Latchkey kids.  The hardest part of divorcing.  Although I’ve heard some fine stories from them since of how they worked around forgetting their key.  That reminds me of a lost key story.  The standing rule was empty your pockets before your clothes go in the laundry basket.  Our dryer had gap between the drum and the frame; if a metal object slipped though it shorted the heating coil and the dryer didn’t dry.  The first time some kid pocket object shorted the dryer, the repair was on mom.  The second time I charged it to Shelly, whose scissors were presented by our repair man.  The bill hung on the fridge and her half her weekly allowance deducted for a long time.  The last time the dryer quit both girls hung over the repair man in the laundry room.  Who was going to be nailed.  Way upstairs I still heard Shelly shouting “It’s your key!  It’s your key!”

When the girls had another year or two under their belts, Jan put them in front of the stove.  I think they were quite willing to learn, another rule was the cook didn’t have to wash dishes.  When Jan went back home to live in 1976, I had two good cooks in the house.  I was in pig heaven.   When Beth went off to college I still had one good cook in the house.  But only for another two years.  Then I was on my own.

I learned to make several dishes that I include in the Family Recipe book that has gone to all new brides in the family.  Bread Sandwich:  fold a slice of bread in half.  Cheese Sandwich:  put in a slice of cheese before you fold the bread in half.  Tomato Sandwich: (I lived on these all summer, from the garden, with other greens tucked in.)  Everybody knows how to make their favorite tomato sandwich, so I won’t go into that.

Here’s what I ate all week.  Fill the copper bottomed Revere-ware pot my mother-in-law gave me with water and bring to a boil.  Add one bag of noodles, preferably home made style and cook until done.  Pour noodles into drainer.  Back in the pot put one stick butter.  When melted add one can corn, one can lima beans, one can tomatoes.  When it’s all hot, add back noodles.  Mix well.  Eat some for supper.  Eat some more for supper the rest of the week.  Find a date for the weekend, or go to your mother’s for supper.

Our cook has some of her art collection on a wall in the kitchen.  The two on the right are water colors by Ned Obeck.  Jan loves his subjects.  The lower one is "The Cookerer."  Above that, "Ice Cream."  The batik in the middle is by Paula Mae Green, "Blue Heron."  We have a heron rookerie not far from us.  It will be bustling soon.  Under the "Blue Heron," a little calligraphy I picked up.  I cannot remember the artist or read her name.  The print on the left, "Woodland Chicadees, 1994," a print by V.J. Shumaker-Pallen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The dulcimer and the harp

Newly divorced in 1973, one of my first acts was to contact a shop in North Carolina and see if a Mr. Sams dulcimer was still available.  Jim Sams lived near Asheville, North Carolina and made dulcimers. They were sold in a little shop for a very reasonable price.  Less than a hundred dollars, I recall.  I thought they were beautiful to see, as well as listen to.  My husband pronounced them a waste of time and money and we left.   The owner of the shop remembered our visit and even said, as our conversation progressed, “I wondered if you might be fixin’ to be done with him.”  They had several Sams dulcimers and we worked out an arrangement in which I paid for the dulcimer “on time.”  I was more than a year paying it off, and when the dulcimer arrived it had a note that it was one of the last dulcimers Mr. Sams made and she had held it back for me.  He made stands for them, too, but I was too late to buy one of them.

I could play songs on my dulcimer if someone else tuned it for me.  That was my sister, who lived with me for a few years back then.  I was really good with Moon River.  After Jan moved Mr. Sams’ lovely dulcimer had a place of honor in my living room and was played a few times by people who understood stringed instruments.  I sent it to live with Beth years ago.  Some day it may encounter someone who can play Moon River.

I can’t remember anything about the three men who made the harp.  Can you imagine browsing an art show early in the morning and encountering a fully stocked harp booth.  I knew I needed one just to support the audacity of three men who believed they could sell harps at an art show in the Midwest.   I selected the least expensive harp available and spent the weekend scheming how to find the money.  It was close to Beth’s birthday, and that became my excuse.

When I brought it home I handed it to Tom, who makes music on anything.  He could not play it.  In a flash I called Christina, Beth’s friend since childhood.  At the time Christina lived very close by and was just embarking on a career as a lawyer.  Best of all, Christina, a gifted musician, has a master’s degree in harpsichord.  Maybe the degree is music theory, but Christina and harpsichord are synonymous to me.  Christina arrived promptly, announced the harp first rate, and tuned it.  She gave Tom a two minute lesson in the theory of plucked instruments, and he could play it.

That’s how my daughter got a birthday present to keep dusted.   Some day it may encounter someone who can play Moon River.

Christina at the harpsichord.  A long, long time ago.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A thumb piano and a didgeridoo

In spite of my tin ear and inability to carry a tune, even in a bucket, instruments fascinate me.  Mom was a decent pianist and saw to it we had music lessons.  Mel, Jan and I gave up the piano in short order.  Walt was pretty good on trumpet.  The music gene apparently skipped a generation; music lessons stuck for Beth and Shelly and each can play you a tune or two.

Summer outdoor art festivals frequently included outdoor music groups with guitars, banjos, and even dulcimers, hammered dulcimers, lutes, and other folk instruments.  Wandering the booths before a show opened, I occasionally found craftsmen who made and sold folk instruments that fascinated them.  Of course I could not do them justice.  The thumb piano may just as well have been called an all thumbs piano.  I bought them any way; I appreciated the work and workmanship, and thought I could always find someone who could play them.

At our house that is Tom, who gets a tune out of everything I’ve brought home.  You’ve already met the flute walking stick.  It was made and demonstrated to me by an artist in New Jersey.  I think the walking stick bit was a marketing ploy; you wouldn’t want to be stuffing plugs of dirt up the end of the flute.  It’s very mellow; Pan would have liked it in his old age.

The thumb piano is a very old African instrument.  Mine has lost its neck thong and been scuffed around a bit. The tines are set in octaves. Mine (but long since passed to Beth), is one octave, great for simple mellow melodies.  Here is a fellow who uses all his thumbs beautifully.

I followed the sound of the didgeridoo to the maker’s booth and listened entranced to the humming sound, rising and falling like waves, like water, like the wind, like sand through an hour glass.  I cannot describe it.  Tom, the old coronet player, can made sound with it, and it’s fun to have in the corner for the kids to try.

I found this legend of the first Didgeridoo

Friday, February 17, 2012

“Mr. Lytle left the family in 1918”

Mary Emma Hogue Lytle, my grandmother, left her husband and returned to Akron and her family with her children.  Mary told one of her daughters the constant moving was the reason she left George Marion Lytle and took the children back to Akron. To what would be a childhood of neglect and poverty. 

Mary Emma was born in 1889, the oldest of 10 children.  Her last sibling, a brother, was born four short months before my father became George and Mary’s first child.

I believe Mary married George, fourteen years her senior, simply to escape home and the responsibility of tending to so many younger siblings.  There would have been endless loads of clothing to be scrubbed at the board, hung to dry, taken off the line, ironed. All those younger siblings to keep an eye on and keep diapered. The sheer drudgery is depressing to contemplate.

 She was seventeen when they married. Perhaps it was a love match.  I only say that because Mary Emma was from a staunchly Catholic family and upbringing, which shunned family members who strayed from the faith. George Marion’s religious affiliation is safely assumed in knowing he is buried along with his siblings and his parents in a Methodist cemetery.  But I think the most I can give Mary Emma is infatuation, and perhaps a bit of romance in leaving with a mining engineer to live in Pennsylvania.

My grandparents were married in 1906 and, like in the home she left, the babies arrived every other year.  When Mary returned to her parents’ home in 1915, after nine years of marriage, she was pregnant with her fifth and last child.

George Marion travelled because of his job.  But Aunt Laura, the daughter Mary told of leaving because of travel, also has memories of living with her paternal grandparents in Coalmont.  Parents may tell children whatever they wish, but Mary’s story of frequent moves isn’t that plausible.  I can’t see George moving from assignment to assignment trailing a wife and four children when he had a home base in Coalmont, where Aunt Laura said they lived until they moved to Akron. 

The record I was able to get from the Childrens’ Home contained the tantalizing line “Mr. Lytle left the family in 1918.  He did not appear in court in Pennsylvania.”  This is Mary Emma’s statement to the Childrens’ Home about 1921 when she placed her five children in the Childrens’ Home.  In the years after moving back in 1915, there was not enough food or clothing, or adult supervision, according to Aunt Laura.  She says her father did come one time, she thinks to attempt to reunite, but Mary refused.

I pursued ‘He did not appear in court in Pennsylvania.” Huntingdon County, where Coalmont is located, has a wonderful historical society that provided me with some information about that entry. A genealogical researcher located George Marion Lytle in the Plaintiffs Docket for 1921, where he posted a five hundred dollar bond guaranteeing he would be available for extradition to Ohio.  And when they went to pick him up in 1922, George Marion could not be found.

I looked for the entry on the other side of the ledger here in Summit County, where Akron is located, but the Clerk of Courts found nothing.  I assume Mary Emma filed some action against George, probably in domestic court, probably concerning support, that resulted in a judgment for George to be returned to the State of Ohio.  He jumped bail and disappeared.

The last bit of this puzzle also came from the Childrens’ Home.  In their records they had a letter from Peebles County, Colorado, informing them of the death of George M. Lytle.  He died of consumption, and known by a different name, but in his wallet they found letters from his daughters, pleading for his return.  The return address of the envelopes was the Akron Childrens’ Home.

George Marion died in 1930, a full fifteen years after the separation from Mary.  I have to assume he continued working; he was working when he died in Colorado.  Over that fifteen years his children grew up.  In extreme poverty.  Who left whom is not relevant.  I don’t know why Mary came home in 1915, but told the authorities in 1918 her husband deserted the family.  The order against him likely concerned support; the legal system was as eager in 1918 to see children supported by parents as they are today. My father didn't speak of the father who abandoned the children.  His three sisters, Aunt Laura, Aunt Ruth and Aunt Helen Rita, loved their father unconditionally to the end, and had no charity toward their mother.  AuntRuth, Sister Mary Pasqueline, said they were nobody’s children and they survived.
Another story from my family tree.
The three children who did marry and have children provided homes they surely wished for in their childhood.

My parents on their wedding day.  Grandma Lytle is beside my father; Grandpa and Grandma Rolf on either side of my mother.  The only pictures of Grandma Lytle are from that day.  She was the only member of my dad's family at the wedding.  My father had left the Catholic Church, my mother was not a Catholic.  Dad's many aunts, uncles and cousins did not attend because of this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jobs we’ve had

Driving home from work today, a satisfying morning’s effort behind me, I thought about the kinds of jobs I’ve held, then burst out laughing at the kinds of jobs my oldest daughter had.

To pay room and board I worked food service when I left home and started college.    The dorm cafeterias were not open in the summers; I worked at the Student Union cafeteria.  Only open five days a week, weekends were iffy for food.  Bread was most easily smuggled, not enough to last two days.  I had no allowance the last two years; my dad was in a hospital in Columbus, recovering from histoplasmosis.  I was grateful to be able to go to school.  I worked odd filing jobs around campus and typed papers for a quarter a page.  I scraped by, unimaginatively.

Shelly, my youngest daughter, worked food service jobs, too, at college.  The same job I did for room and board in my day only covered board for Shelly.  She left school after two years, went to English Nanny School.  It was a perfect fit and she was a nanny for several years before she married.  Shelly and I both worked the usual college jobs.

Beth, however, just didn’t do things usually.  She’d already graduated high school a year early and entered college younger than most.  She needed to work, too, to stay in school and had clerical jobs the first year.  By the end of that year she assessed her experience and decided she could do better.  I took a deep breath.

She picked a vehicle to suit her life style.  A Volkswagen bus, named Grumbelly by her friend Christina.  For the sound it made.  Then, she moved off campus, into a series of homes to make mothers cringe.  She made life-long friends of some of her roommates; one is married to my friend Ann.

One summer she had a job inventorying Cleveland’s trees.  I learned about that job from a friend who said he saw my daughter unloading a van of inner city kids and supervising them recording the size and type of Cleveland’s tree lawn specimens.

Another year I learned of her gainful employment through the W-2’s that came in the mailbox the next January.  She was a hot dog vendor at Cleveland Indian home ball games!  Don’t think I didn’t see her for four years.  She called home for money, if needed, and came home to do laundry occasionally.  Grumbelly was infrequently serviced by my mechanic, and since his wife worked with me I’d hear from Gail that Ed had found Beth broken down or out of gas along the freeway, and bailed her out.  For over a year she worked in a deli that specialized in wine and cheese, an education that fostered her current career.

When she finished her undergraduate degree she went on to a masters in anthropology.  She earned her spending money working at Kinko’s, where she learned everything to be known about graphic design.  This lead to a part time marketing job at a major manufacturing company.  Eventually she replaced her boss.  She says it was because she could never teach him how to use a roller ball mouse.  Mouse design was rather fluid in the early days of computer.

I was quite satisfied, this morning, with what I’d accomplished at work, and driving home my mind flicked over job satisfaction.  Mine, Beth’s with her restaurant, Shelly the nurse.  Long way from hungry weekends at college, I thought.  Well, that was pretty mundane stuff Shelly and I did in college.  Then I burst out laughing remembering Beth, the van of inner city children, and all those W-2’s. 

 I drove Beth’s Grumbelly to the junk yard on his last gear, with no brakes.  Mom followed, to bring me home if I arrived safely.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Civil War story

I’m piecing together a little more of my dad’s childhood by going through the family tree work done both by my cousin, Kathleen, and my daughter, Shelly.

I find those family trees deadly boring.  Real tooth gritters to sort through.  Sadly, I am barely interested in the branches; I love the people and their stories.  I found my Grandfather Rolf’s World War I and World War II draft registration cards out on  I threw them into something called my Shoebox, to go over later.  I have several neat finds in that Shoebox, out there in the clouds.

Going through Kathleen’s work I realized I have a place to fit one of my Dad’s stories.  I can take it out of my mental shoebox and give it a good look.

Dad was born in Coalmont, Pennsylvania in August of 1907; the grandfather for whom he was named had died in April of that year.  Dad lived in Coalmont with his mother and father, brother and two sisters until his mother moved them back to Akron about 1914.  I surmise they lived with his widowed grandmother, or very close by.  I have Aunt Laura’s recollection of living at the grandmother’s house.  Other male relatives in or about the house were Dad’s two uncles, Horace and Blanchard (Uncle Pete).

The Civil War story is one of the few stories where my dad referenced himself, so that I knew it was about his family. I only heard it one time. It was about two uncles in the Civil War.  The story had some daring and a little swashbuckling, and I absorbed the details, but in thinking it over years later just couldn’t square the dates, any uncles he had being the same generation as his father and too late for the Civil War.

Flipping those tree pages of Kathleen’s back and forth, I think I pieced together a real story.  Dad’s grandfather, who he never knew as he died in the spring before Dad was born in the summer, was a Civil War veteran.  A private in Co. D, 5th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry and a sergeant, Co. H, 125th Regiment, wounded at Antietam and discharged in 1863.  John William, the grandfather also had three brothers, all of whom were younger, and all of whom could have served during the war. One died in May, 1864, during the war and aged 25.  I need to look into this to see how he died..

Dad may have heard the story from these great uncles themselves; or it may have been passed along by his uncles who heard the story from their uncles.  As Dad heard the story before he was seven, sorting all those uncles wasn’t a priority.  It was a wide-eyed story.  Here it is – at last.

Dad had two uncles in the Civil War.  They were from Pennsylvania, they fought for the Union, and they were spies!  Not the sort of spies who skulk about under cover looking for secrets.  They went about their business in broad daylight, in full view of the enemy.  They were photographers who posed as itinerant photographers.  They packed their equipment on mules and went among Rebel camps in Virginia, making pictures for soldiers to give to their sweet hearts and mothers.   Information gathering was easy, chatting up the men they were photographing,  and to get important documentation they would pose their subjects in front of ammunition dumps or gun batteries. 

I imagine a small boy would be all ears for a story like that, no matter which uncle told it.  I have no idea how the information went back to “headquarters”, but we know that could be done. 

We can hope these fellows went home to their mothers, their wives and their sweethearts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Genealogy research moves even more slowly than government

I can say that with authority, as I am deep in both. 

Way last year I wrote about my father and his brother and sisters in the Childrens’ Home, and included my Aunt Laura’s magnificent Chronicles.  I thought it a poignant story of events that happened more than a hundred years ago.  I had comments from several readers who had similar childhood experiences, or had listened to relative’s stories.

When the Childrens’ Home (now called Children Services) responded to my request with their records of my father’s stay at the Home, it was a scanty type written page transcript of records they had recalled from deep storage in another state.  The records were returned before I had opportunity to see them.  I did ask for and received a copy of the one record they identified in the transcript, a letter from Peebles County in Colorado notifying the Home that George Lytle, my father’s father, had died there.  But this avenue was quite the dead end.  The woman in the “Client Rights Office” was prompt to tell me these were not public records I was requesting and they had no legal mandate to help me, but she was doing as much as she could, short staffed and all.  Or, don’t bother her any more.

I took one nugget of the Home's information and ran with it.  “Our records indicate Mr. Lytle left the family in 1918.  He was located in Coalmont, Pennsylvania but did not appear in Court in Pennsylvania.”  Bingo.  Why was my grandfather required to appear in court?

I trolled the internet to see if I could find court records for an obscure hamlet in Pennsylvania.  I came across the historical society of Huntingdon County, where Coalmont is located and sent them an email asking if they could tell me what court to approach.  They replied with several suggestions, and concluded by saying that for a forty dollar donation they would go look for me.  You can believe that went in the next outgoing mail.

Within two weeks I had a packet from a genealogical researcher with copies of court records concerning George Lytle’s order of extradition to be turned over to the State of Ohio.  And an offer of further help, if requested.  I sent another forty dollar donation, the cost of the return tank of gas.  What a bargain.

I have written to the Summit County Clerk of Courts to learn what courts were in operation at the time of the order of extradition.  That has been two weeks; I may have to get another historical society involved.  I’ve pieced enough together, though, to have an interesting story to post tomorrow.

The sun is melting all the snow and seducing the cat. Jan quoted me the song Good Morning, Mr. Sunshine.