Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday Photo: Laura Sullivan

My great-grandmother’s sister Laura Etta Jollett Sullivan died 30 July 1947.

I love that Laura had a calling card in her single days.
Now I wonder if my great-grandmother had one too.

Laura and Will Sullivan on their 50th anniversary


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

52 Ancestors - HEALTH: Death by Epaulus

Ague. Dropsy. Consumption. Apoplexy. Biliousness. Child Bed Disease. Teething. Grippe. Whooping Cough. If you lived in the days before modern medicine, you could die from any one of these conditions. They are among the causes of death found in mortality schedules and death registers, many of which include the names of my ancestors.

1870 Mortality Schedule Page Co, VA

I found my 3X great-grandmother Mary Ann Armentrout Jollett in the 1870 Mortality Schedule for Page County, Virginia. She was 75 when she died from “Epaulus.”

Try as I might, I have been unable to find this word in a dictionary or in a list of historic medical terms. However, I found a word that appears to be pronounced the same: EPULIS. If this was Mary Ann’s disease, we can conclude the census taker did not know the correct spelling.


Epulis is basically a tumor in the gums. There are different kinds, none of which are very pleasant to read about, so I’m leaving it at “tumor.” Epulis can result from loss of teeth, trauma, or any kind of irritation in the mouth that allows bacteria to enter.


Congenital epulis (epulides in the plural) can grow so large as to obstruct breathing and impede eating. That sounds pretty awful.

Just as bad, and probably more likely in Mary Ann’s case, is that a tumor or lesion that bleeds or produces pus is a sure sign of infection. Any bacteria from the mouth which can travel through the blood can lead to other diseases like cardiovascular disease.


There was another condition with many syllables that maybe Mary Ann’s husband Fielding Jollett mispronounced resulting in the census taker recording “Epaulus”: Erysipelas. This was a TERRIBLE skin rash caused by hemolytic streptococcus bacteria which is associated with a number of diseases including strep throat, ear infections, tonsillitis, and meningitis. It can cause toxic shock syndrome and the death of skin tissue.

Erysipelas caused affected areas of the skin to turn bright red and to swell. Usually lesions formed on the face, scalp, hands, and legs. They were hot to the touch and the patient would be feverish. In Mary Ann’s day, erysipelas epidemics caused severe and often fatal infections. Today penicillin usually takes care of it.


Another term for “erysipelas” was St. Anthony’s Fire. If Mary Ann died from erysipelas, “St. Anthony’s Fire” would have been easier to pronounce AND to spell!




Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

On This Day - The Colemans

Back: Mattie and Johnny
Front: Jack Coleman holding Russell, Virginia,
Emma Jollett Coleman holding Reba

Andrew Jackson “Jack” Coleman, husband of Emma Jollett, was born on this day, 29 July 1858.

Thirty-eight years later, his twins were born on his birthday: Russell and Reba. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Light Up

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features Marlene Dietrich in a cigarette ad. As a child, I clearly remember the Surgeon General announcing that cancer was directly related to smoking, and I took his warning seriously. Although my parents and all my parents’ friends smoked, I was never tempted, not even in college when girls in my dorm experimented. I suppose it was while my mother was a student at Shenandoah College in Dayton, Virginia, that she and her friends decided it was time to do the adult thing and start smoking.

Momma, Christine Westbrook, and Betsy Ward about 1947
with cigarettes in hand

During summer break, Momma and her roomies wrote back and forth, sometimes weekly. Most of the letters are filled with gossip about who was dating whom, descriptions of weddings and parties they had attended, and playful anger about not getting letters from “that poot Mimi” or Joan or Paul or or or. Often they were planning to get together at Virginia Beach for a “gab fest,” to “sop a few beers” as they said, and of course, to smoke.

As I read the letters, I began to wonder what made people choose one brand over another, so I looked for cigarette ads from about 1948.

In one letter, Peggy Compher added in closing that she had switched from Luckies to Herbert Tareyton.

Luckies I knew, as that had been my uncle’s brand. “Lucky Strike” in 1948 claimed to be the first choice among tobacco men and independent experts. The slogan for as long as I can remember had always been “L. S. M. F. T. - Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.”


Boy, that brought back a memory. In high school, the other kids used to say, “L. S. M. F. T. Loose Straps Mean Floppy T - - - - - -.” (I hate that word – I hope you can figure it out.)


So Peggy gave up that fine tobacco for Herbert Tareyton. This brand featured a cork-tip that prevented the cigarette from sticking to the smoker’s lips. Who knew that was an issue? The Herbert Tareyton slogan “There’s something about them you’ll like” strikes me as ambiguous. I’m sure the “mad men” who developed the campaign meant that the many fine qualities would suit everyone, but I keep thinking the second half of the slogan could have been “but we can’t quite put our finger on what that something is.”


While I had never heard of HERBERT Tareyton, I clearly remember its variation Tareyton and the ads from the 1960s: “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.” Print ads featured people from all walks of life with a black smudge under one eye. Celebrities like Martha Stewart and Lyle Wagoner were pictured in the ads too. But the grammar! “Us” rather than “We” drove grammarians like my mother crazy. However, the campaign worked: there was nobody who hadn’t heard of Tareyton.


My mother was a Pall Mall girl. I don’t know if she smoked anything different before I came along, but until she gave up smoking (was it in the 80s? 90s? I can’t remember) there was always the iconic red cigarette package lying around somewhere. Pall Mall promoted itself as being a LONG cigarette, the length contributing to a better mix of air and smoke ensuring more pleasure and better taste. I do not know all the various ways Pall Mall advertised itself, but this one ad in which the Ritz Carlton claimed to prefer Pall Mall probably spoke to my mother. She was always drawn to the better things in life.

Jeanne Bailey, Momma’s college friend from Connecticut, started her smoking career with Life cigarettes. In 1948, it was the new thing offering a non-mentholated millecel filter, the latest “ultra high filtration” that would surely alleviate any health concerns cigarettes might pose. Here is what Jeanne had to say about Life in October of 1948:

I bought a pack of “Life” cigarettes yesterday. They aren’t bad. If they live up to their advertisement they’ll be okay. “Not too short, not too long, not too thin, just right.” You’d look a long time to find anything that good I think.


In March of 1949, Jeanne was done smoking, for a while at least:


News Flash  - I gave up smoking for Lent – just to test my will power – it’s really testing it!! Right now, I’m dying for a smoke but I’m too stubborn to change my resolve. I chew gum instead. I think I have three hunks in my mouth now.


Oh Jeanne, you are so funny.

Please visit my smokin’ hot friends at Sepia Saturday.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Photo Friday - Swimmer

Here is another unidentified photo perfect for this hot July summer.

The photo belonged to my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan, so I assume it is of a friend, possibly at the Blue Hole at Naked Creek in Rockingham and Page counties. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

52 Ancestors - FASHION: Over and Under

In the world of fashion, fur never goes out of style. Of course, attitudes about wearing animal skin swing from year to year and from person to person. Historically, fur was a practical reality, both convenient and warm. More recently the wearing of fur has been viewed as barbaric and cruel. “Fur” sure, it is not a neutral topic.

But those who appreciate fur wear it proudly for its warmth, its beauty, and its prestige. Nothing says “luxury” like a fur, 

whether it’s a full coat

Grandaunt and Granduncle - Herbert and Helen Killen Parker 
Grand Canyon 1927

Grandaunt Lillie Killeen 1931

A jacket or stole

Helen Killeen Parker at the bank 

A collar or cuff

Grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker
and Friends 1940s

Mary Neville Peluso Jollett and
Lewis Lloyd Jollett
(my maternal grandfather's cousin)

A hat

Grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis
and her sister-in-law
Janice Foltz Rucker

Or a mink, fox or ermine complete with head and feet dangling around one’s neck.

Grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan about 1936

Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh
before 1939

When my mother was in college, she and her roommates were not in the position to purchase fur. Besides, they were preoccupied with other matters, mainly boys and parties and their hair. A couple of letters from her roomies Peggy and Jeanne alerted me to something that was new among the co-eds: girdles. The latex girdle was introduced in 1940, but production ceased during World War II since the bombing of Pearl Harbor and invasion of Japan cut off supplies of latex. In 1946 the Playtex company was launched along with “the Living Girdle.”

Playtex girdle ad 1940s

In the summer of 1948, Peggy wrote to my mother:

Are you wearing a pla-tex panty girdle? Only $3.95. Pla-tex girdles slim you. (Announcement on the raiator, nice, huh?

In January of 1949, Jeanne wrote about her experience with the girdle:

I wish you could see me getting into the new girdle I bought, or rather see me squirming into it. I bought it on sale so it can't be exchanged. It's size 25 (my waist measurement) but tight --oh brother! It took me twenty minutes to get it on and fifteen to get it off. It's fine once it's over my hips --but on those hips. My hips are actually black and blue from tugging it on. I probably never would have gotten it on but I had had a couple of short ones with my girl friend right before I tried it on so I had a little artificial energy to help me. I have it stretching over a chair back now.
Now that I have told you the interesting history of "the girdle and my hips" I'll let you rest in peace.
Love, Jeanne

What a funny story. But I wonder if looking 5-lbs thinner in a girdle was negated by wearing a fur that added 10 lbs to the figure.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

On This Day - Mary Theresa

6 Jan 1869 - 18 July 1939

My father’s maternal grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh passed away on this day 18 July 1939. Daddy was 11. She was a major influence in his life and he missed her. In his later years, he was STILL talking about what a wonderful person she was. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.