Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Violetta and Velma



Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring a portrait of two little girls reminds me of the unmistakable sister bond that has revealed itself in so many generations and in so many lines in my family.  The close connection my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis shared with her five sisters spilled over into the life-long friendship between her daughters Violetta Lorane Davis Ryan and Velma Hilda Davis Woodring.

“Violetta and Velma” – that’s how we always said it, never “Velma and Violetta,” and rarely just one name at a time.  That’s how close they were.

Violetta and Velma Davis about 1910
Violetta and Velma Davis
About 1910
Violetta and Velma Davis about 1914
Violetta and Velma Davis
About 1914

























Davis sisters at home 411 Sixth Street, Shenandoah, Virginia
I love how Velma captioned the picture:  Sis - September 1928


When Violetta went to college, she and Velma no doubt wrote many letters to one another, most of which went into the “round file.”  However, for some strange reason this little gem was spared.  It shows a sweet relationship in which 14-year old Velma asks a favor and spreads a little gossip. 


Shenandoah, Virginia
November 14, 1922

Dearest Violetta,
I guess you will be surprised when you read this to see who it is from.  Don’t look at the mistakes as I am writing this in a hurry.

Whew, we have no exemptions from exams this year.  I think it is terrible don’t you.  I think they are going to be uniform.  The teachers are not sure.  I hope our own teachers make them out tho’.

Mother said to tell you to get you a dress and hat.  She said to get something that would wear good.



There is not much news around this joint now.  Everything is dead.  Mama let me play basketball.  I play on the 2nd team as this is my first year.

Violetta would you mind getting me something.  I need a pair shoes real bad.  I want grey oxfords with black trimmings if you can get them, size 5 ½ kindly wide.  Or get something pretty I can wear some grey stockings with.  Getting something you think is pretty.  And send them to me if you aren’t coming home soon.

And can you get me a Matthews music book Grade 2 and send it at the same time.




I started taking music from Mrs. Olliver last week.  I like her real well for a teacher.  She sure did give me a hard lesson.  I take it this eve.

I don’t know how you would get the things we send you if it wasn’t for Mr. Foltz do you.  He certainly is nice.

I think the scabs over at Hockman’s come down and talk to Thelma and Mrs. Hockman right often.  I saw one down there last night talking to them.   I know Claude S was embarrassed yesterday.  He was talking and said, “There are going to fire Paul [Thelma’s brother] and Edward and some others just as soon as they can and put some of the other men


back to work.”  Then someone pointed Thelma out to him and he looked real funny.

As I don’t know anything else I won’t tell you anymore.

Lovingly,
Velma




Hmm, I imagine Violetta winced at some of those grammar errors.  And at the "scabs" visiting their good neighbors.





As much friends as sisters, Violetta and Velma just had fun together.

Picnic with Dick and Violetta Ryan, Velma Woodring, Mary Frances Davis
Dick and Violetta Ryan, Velma Woodring
Mary Frances Jollett Davis on a picnic
I guess Woody took the picture.


Velma Davis Woodring and Violetta Davis Ryan
Velma and Violetta about 1947 or 1948
I don’t know why they are dressed alike here. 
Such was not their habit, as far as I know.


It is generally believed that Velma took a job teaching in Korea because she did not approve of one particular fellow and his low-class wife that Violetta not only befriended but also defended and supported.  (Scabs!)  The truth is, nobody in the family approved, but we couldn’t all go to Korea!  

Even then, their love and friendship remained strong. When Velma became ill with cancer, she returned from Korea, sold her home in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and moved into one of Violetta’s apartments so that Violetta could help take care of her. 

That’s what sisters do.


Check Sepia Saturday for Girls, Girls, and more Girls.

EDITORIAL NOTE:  Because of the many comments regarding the "scabs" mentioned in Velma's letter, I did the due diligence and looked into the possibility of a labor strike.  You can read the follow-up HERE.

45 comments:

  1. Wonderful story of sisterly love and support even when they disagree. That is what families are all about.

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  2. If we all had to go to Korea every time we disagreed with family, the rest of the world would be quite the empty place!

    Wendy, when I read the section referring to scabs, I was thinking of the term used for temporary employees who cross picket lines to take jobs vacated by striking union members. Did the Hockmans operate a family business?

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    1. Oh, good thought. I took it as "gross people." Mr. Hockman was a coal dealer. I'm not sure what that business looked like, whether it involved a union.

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  3. Lovely sisters. Their bond was a true one of love and friendship, not many families have that.

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    1. They were devoted to one another, despite the squabble over Violetta's friends. That didn't stop the love.

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  4. The Korea part of your post really puzzled me! That was quite a reaction and one wonders what the true reason was for Velma's move to Korea. And if it really was because of Violetta's friends, she must have been a very sensitive woman.

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    1. I don't think Velma was THAT sensitive. She had no real reason to stay here - widowed, no children. I think the job in Korea was an adventure. She did like to travel. Violetta's association with that family was always a major embarrassment to our family. She lost many friends as a result, sad to say.

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  5. A beautiful story of such close sisters with lovely photographs.

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  6. Oh, and I must say a BIG thank you for not having that infuriating Word Verification in place! Every other Sepia Saturday blogger I've visited this morning, seems t5o be enamored of it! LOL
    You have done a great post here.

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    1. I've never used Word Verification and never had a problem. Blogger so far has caught just about all the spam posts.

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    1. I knew them in their "old lady" days, so it's always fun for me to imagine them as little girls and teens.

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  8. Some great photos and a letter that really adds to their story.

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    1. Velma's instructions to overlook the errors made me laugh. Yep, evidently Violetta was ever the teacher and perfectionist even from her younger days.

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  9. I love watching them age in the photos -- from little kids to adult women! The letter is priceless, too; shows a lot about their relationship. Loved this post!

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  10. Great photos of two loving sisters. My husband has some relatives who also used "V" to name their daughters.

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  11. i do like a tale of sisterly love and real friendship. The photos of them when young are charming but the less posed and more 'natural' shots let that easy relationship shine through.

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    1. I like the one on the bridge, even though Violetta would be mortified that the top of her stockings shows.

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  12. Two lovely and loving sisters! I assumed that scab referred to someone who broke the picket line of striking workers as well. To move to Korea would have been quite an adventure at that time, I would think.

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    1. Maybe so. I'm still looking into that angle, but I don't think I have enough information to go on.

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  13. You have some nice sister photos. I wonder why she was asking her sister to get her shoes instead of her parents.

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    1. Violetta was in college in Harrisonburg, "the CITY." I'm guessing there was more shopping opportunity there than in the little town of Shenandoah.

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  14. I just love their matching outfits in the last photo! Not too many girls do that today! You are so lucky and rich to have such devoted close relationships you can draw from within your own family What a treasure you have for a rich and rewarding life! Great photos all of them Wendy.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I am indeed lucky and grateful.

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  15. I love Violetta's letter. It really gives us a glimpse into life in 1922. I wonder if she ever got the shoes and music book she was asking for.

    Do you know how old Velma was when she moved to Korea and what year she moved there? And do you know if Violetta ever traveled there for a visit? Also, how long was Velma in Korea? That must really have been quite an adventure for Velma.

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    1. I can answer all those questions with 3 little words: I don't know. So much for "Family Historian." I'm trying to remember when "that family" wasn't a part of our every family gathering, probably late 50s-early 60s, which puts Velma in Korea about then. I really can't remember Velma NOT being in Korea, and I'm pretty sure Violetta never made that trek. Don't get me wrong - they remained on good terms despite Velma's disgust with Violetta's friends.

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  16. The letter and what you subsequently said creates an immense interest and a whole new dimension. As my knowledge of inter-war US history was a little skimpy, I did a little research. It seems that the letter focuses on a particularly volatile period in American history, when hysteria and fear of Bolshevism was rampant and the full might of the press and state were used to trample Labout disputes and stamp out any left thinking. Velma appears to have some sympathy for Paul and the other strikers, or was it just youthfulness. Given what had happened in the West Virginian coal-mines, the persecution of striking miners and the battle of Blair Mountain, her views were quite brave unless her family was part of the mining community.

    Her sojourn to Korea to teach may suggest she held strong views. When did she go before or after to Korean war? She would have been in her mid forties when the war ended.

    She seems to have been quite a girl with a lot of "Bottle", some one I think I would have like to have met. I think she is worthy of more research. Look forward to reading it.

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    1. Velma went to South Korea (Seoul) well after the war. As for the mining industry, Velma's family was in the grocery store business. The Hockmans were coal dealers, and Shenandoah was a big railroad town, so coal was important. I guess that means Mr. Hockman was buying and selling coal with Norfolk & Western RR as his main customer - my guess, mind you. If there was union trouble, I don't know what it was. I'm looking for info on it now.

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  17. Such a wonderful relationship those two had. And to think how amazing that it came full circle.
    I also thought the "scabs" referred to a labor dispute of some kind. That letter is a real treasure.
    Nancy

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    1. Why is everyone smarter than me?? I promise -- I'm looking into the union-angle right now!

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  18. Oh gosh, I need to read all the comments before I go off on a scavenger hunt. As a former union boss (musicians union) I read "scabs" and understood it to be about some labor strife, so I've spent the last half hour looking for history of coal strikes in Virginia. But I won't pester you about looking into that :-)

    You have recreated the personalities of Velma and Violetta so well, Wendy, that your readers become involved in their characters and the photos as if they were our family too. That's what makes your blog so entertaining.

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    1. Oh go ahead - pester away! I've posted a follow-up about that "scabs" remark. It turns out there really was a strike.

      What a nice compliment, but now the pressure is on to remain deserving.

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  19. Charming portraits. I like the various ways the photographer used to make them more equal and yet not quite on the same level - the little one sitting on a high stool in the first pic, and the older girl sitting down in the second.
    Thanks for visiting my blog Greetings from the Past.

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    1. The childhood photos are great, aren't they! And thanks for visiting!

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  20. That letter surely IS a gem! I'm a bit confused about the nature of "scabs". What was the definition at the time?

    Just think; the letter is almost 90 years old to the day!

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  21. Wendy, what a wonderful bond they had and I loved the letter, mistakes an' all. I thought the word "scabs" would relate to industrial action of some kind :-) Jo

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  22. Oh, Wendy, another wonderful post from you! What a newsy letter, and all of those great pictures throughout the years. I guess that Velma showed her, moving all that way to avoid those friends of Violetta. I loved the ending, "Because that's what sisters do."

    Perfect.

    Kathy M.

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  23. Wendy - I doubt very much if anyone here is any smarter than you. Well - speaking for myself anyway! The "scab" reference hit home with me because lots of my people were coal miners in Iowa (and England before they got over here) and there was a paper among my grandparents' things that is an angry diatribe against "scabs". I plan to post it some time, but haven't been able to find out anything yet about the author (not a relative) and haven't done enough research yet about the labor strikes in the area. Anyway - I had heard the term used in this way before, but it might not have jumped out at me if I didn't have this paper. Good luck finding out about those scabs in Shenandoah!

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  24. I was in fear you were going to post our horrible picture from Olen Mills! LOL

    Great post, and I do love Velma's letter to Violetta. Violetta was the perfect one to select the shoes-she had such good taste.

    I miss them to this day.

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  25. It seems a little extreme in my opinion to move to Korea to make a point... Korea wouldn't be the first thing that would come to MY mind, you know?!?...
    ;)~
    HUGZ

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