Friday, June 29, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Tennis anyone?

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows Dinah Shore and Burt Bacharach playing tennis. This is an especially fitting theme since Wimbledon, the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, is underway. 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, my family used to have Breakfast at Wimbledon. We didn’t always have strawberries and cream as is the tradition at REAL Wimbledon, but we’d make a party of it and gather around the television to watch the games. Of course, we had to cheer for Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Billie Jean King, and little Chris Evert.  The most enthusiastic cheerleader was always my dad.

Daddy was an avid tennis player and very GOOD at it. He played every Sunday morning no matter what.  Sometimes he played with men his own age but more often than not he was giving the boys on the tennis team at my high school a real workout. 

Cradock High School Tennis Team 1968
scanned from the yearbook
All of them knew my dad. Most of them played with him and against him in a Sunday morning pick-up game at some point in their high school tennis career. 

Daddy liked to play back. Sometimes it looked like he was standing still making everyone else run to answer a lob in the corner or scramble to fight a wicked backhand shot in the face. And undoubtedly the boys were confronted with his sarcasm and trash talk. Unfortunately, that did nothing for my social life. (And there were some cute guys on that team!)

from Google Images
When Daddy’s matches were done for the day, he stopped by the 7-11 and brought Slurpees home for my sister and me.  When they first came on the market in the mid 1960s, we couldn’t get enough of that sweet cherry goodness.  

One time Daddy had to stop by the grocery store on the way home.  When he arrived with all the items on the list, Momma noticed he wasn’t wearing his favorite floppy tennis hat.  “Where’s your hat?” 

“JESUS!” he exclaimed.  (He was very religious.)  “I must’ve lost it in the store.”

So Daddy retraced his steps and, sure enough, there was his tennis hat lying in the frozen food case. In the days before the stand-up freezers, you had to bend over to reach that box of peas. Apparently the hat slipped right off without his noticing.    

Not THE hat of the frozen food story -
probably a new and improved version
given as part of a Christmas gift

I don’t know if Daddy’s head was just too big for the hat or if the hat had shrunk in the wash. But it’s a good chance the hat shrank. Daddy always washed his own tennis clothes. He’d throw just about anything together and call it a load. Even red wrist bands. In with tennis whites. In no time Daddy had a full supply of pink shorts and pink v-neck shirts for his Sunday match. And he wore ‘em too. (Maybe that’s why the boys on the tennis team took no interest in me. Yeah, that had to be it.)

You’d think Daddy would have appreciated receiving a nice pair of Rod Laver tennis shorts or a simple Wilson shirt for his birthday or Father’s Day. No. He never wanted to look too good. And he didn't. But a fresh can of yellow Penn or Dunlop tennis balls was always greeted with a big smile.  Then open the can. PSSSHHHHH.  Now sniff.

Daddy continued to play well into his 70s. 

Norm Kozak, Griff Edwards, and
Daddy (Fred Slade).  Jerry Shackleford probably took the picture.

Go to Sepia Saturday to see what everyone else is serving up.  Be careful not to step on the white line.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Those Places Thursday: The School Song

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

This is the fifth in a series based on my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring’s scrapbook that she kept during her freshman year at Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University). 

Scattered throughout Velma’s scrapbook are funny little poems and songs.  The “School Song” perfectly captures college freshman angst.

        School Song
17 days of starvation
Then we go to the station
Back to civilization.
The train will carry us there.
Seventeen days of vacation
Then we go to the station
Back to ____ and ____
The train will carry us there.

(I wonder how the girls of HTC filled in the blanks.)

This unidentified friend of Velma might be longing for a ride to Richmond, but I’m longing to know whose fingers are hanging onto the sign and feet are dangling below. 

Velma’s friend Bill Porter (yeah, she’s a girl - the one on the right) and an unidentified friend wait at the train station on campus.  They probably did not really travel home dressed like this.  They might have been going to Massanutten Mountain for a hike.  Still, that must have been where Velma stood to catch the train to Shenandoah for 17 days of vacation in civilization.

Between train trips home, college freshmen probably wrote a lot of letters about the terrible food, the difficult tests, and unreasonable professors.

This March 26, 1925 picture is captioned "Tommy."  I don't know what's up with all these girls with boys' names.  I do not see any girl in Velma's yearbook with this name.  Maybe it's a nickname for her last name -- maybe she's Somebody Thomas or Thompson.  

The train and mailbox provided an important lifeline to those college freshmen longing for home.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Who's minding the store?

Workday Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that encourages family historians to document their ancestors’ occupations (they weren’t all farmers) through photos and stories of ancestors at work.

Twenty-nine men and one woman in my family tree could sing “I’ve been working on the railroad” and mean it. 

Most of their jobs are what you’d expect:  conductor, engineer, brakeman, mechanic.  But storekeeper?

My maternal grandfather’s brother Millard Davis was an assistant storekeeper for Norfolk & Western Railroad and later THE storekeeper for N&W in Shenandoah, Virginia. I amused myself imagining that my great-uncle Millard was selling toy train whistles, beer koozies and “I heart trains” t-shirts in a company store.  Then I got serious.

N&W Railroad Yards and Main Street
photo of a photo in Shenandoah: A History of Our Town
and Its People
The Shenandoah Division was one of the longest divisions on the N&W railroad, considered quite important as the midway point between Hagerstown, Maryland to the north and Roanoke, Virginia to the south.  Shenandoah averaged 18,000 - 20,000 freight cars per month with significant tonnage. 

Besides the car and engine repair shops, the Shenandoah yard had a 30’ coal tipple, a 253’ concrete stack, power house, storehouse, a 50-thousand gallon water tank, and office building.  Over 400 employees would “rise up so early in the morn” to clock in at the railroad yards off Main Street.  Another 100 worked at points along the line.

The coal tipple and water tank
photo of a photo in Shenandoah: A History of Our Town
and Its People

Then during World War II train traffic more than tripled as materials were shipped between Roanoke and Hagerstown.  By 1943, the volume of freight was six times that of pre-war years.  Four freights a day plus four passenger runs plus troop trains made Shenandoah a busy place to live and work and visit.

Millard Davis
And Millard was in the middle of that busy-ness as storekeeper.  He likely performed a number of duties including issuing parts and tools to other workers, receiving materials from carriers, unloading and inspecting shipments. He probably prepared materials for shipment along with the required documentation. Inventory control probably was also part of his job description.

In pictures I’ve seen of Millard, he was always a sharp dresser. This makes me think his job did not require him to get very dirty at the railroad working “all the live-long day.” 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Census Sunday: Fred and Julia Slade

I found my great-grandparents in the 1940 census, so it’s time to look at the grandparents.  First up is my father’s family. 

Daddy never talked much about his childhood, leaving me with the impression that it was not always a good one.  He laughed about having lived on almost every street in the Newtown vicinity at one time or another, always one street ahead of the creditors.  The 1940 census lends some truth to that. 

Click to enlarge

Fred and Julia Slade were among the first to be enumerated in district 116-8 of Portsmouth, Virginia, page 1A, on April 3, 1940. My granny Julia (age 32) was the informant.  She and my granddaddy Fred Robert Slade (38) were renting either an apartment or one side of a duplex for $22 a month at 403 Crawford Street in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Their house probably sat in what is now a parking lot.

Corner of Crawford and Queen Streets
from Google Maps
click to enlarge

They lived in Portsmouth in 1935, but not at this address, suggesting they were indeed on the move, just as Daddy had said.  In 1930 they were living with Granny’s mother Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh.

But she died in 1939, taking with her the only real stability my dad had known.  Granny became an alcoholic early on in life, but she was adored by my granddaddy.  Unfortunately work must have been difficult to come by at the time.  According to the census he had been unemployed 20 weeks, but had earned $500 in 1939 for working 32 weeks.  Listed as a taxi cab driver, he had not worked at all the last week of March 1940. 

Refurbished Catholic school turned into offices
Daddy was 11 and had completed 6 years of school at St. Joseph’s Academy, which was run by the Daughters of Charity.  The building was at the corner of Washington and London Streets, a fairly easy walk from his home on Crawford.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Up in the air

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a popular carnival ride:  the swings.  It happens to be my favorite because for this Big Chicken it offers the maximum stomach-dropping thrill.  No roller coaster for me, thank-you. 

And no roller coaster or swinging carousel for my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring and her friends either.  They found a different thrill, a different way to test gravity. Velma’s college scrapbook does not elaborate on the summer of 1924 when she and her chums climbed onto some structure, perhaps a bridge, and posed for pictures.  

High up?
Bill Porter
Unknown and Velma Davis
Up in the air?
Bill Porter
Virginia Cole

The captions with question marks make me wonder if Velma was teasing.  Were they really high up?  Or was there some trick photography designed to fool the eye?  Maybe they were not as high in the sky as it appears. It looks pretty dangerous though.

Swing on over to Sepia Saturday for more high flying adventures.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Into the pool

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

This is the fourth in a series based on my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring’s scrapbook that she kept during her freshman year at Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University). 

In the early 1920s, HTC President Samuel Duke had been concerned about discipline of students living away from campus, and the student government had been concerned about maintaining loyalty to the school, especially in the summer.  When Velma began college in 1924, summer programs were in their infancy.  For the first time, an outdoor swimming pool was provided, completed just in time for Velma and her classmates.

Velma is the girl in front on the right.

Cleveland Cottage
scanned from Madison College: The First 50 Years
by Raymond C. Dingledine, Jr.
It was built in a swell behind Cleveland Cottage, a farmhouse that came with the property which had been purchased specifically for the development of a women’s college.  The Cottage in the early years housed the infirmary and classrooms, and later it provided housing for a few faculty and students. 

The swimming pool was financed through Summer School fees.

Unknown, Bill Porter, Velma Davis

Games and competitions during summer were part of the plan to maintain discipline and build school spirit.  The swimming pool got a big workout toward that end, as did the hockey field, tennis courts, basketball and volleyball courts, and golf course.

Velma is third from the left

In 1927, an indoor pool was officially opened in the newly constructed Reed Hall, later renamed Keezell Hall.  This is the same pool where I took Beginning Swimming in 1971.  When I was a student, 4 physical education credits were required for graduation: 1 swimming, 1 dance, 1 beginning level sport, and 1 intermediate level sport.  To give you an idea of the close quarters of this brick tiled pool room, here is the best photo I can find scanned from my yearbook:

Keezell Hall pool
scanned from the 1970 Bluestone

I remember counting the lights overhead with each required lap while doing the back stroke or frog-kicks. 

Thank-you Lord Baby Jesus that I took my swimming class in the Keezell pool before Godwin Hall was ready with its Olympic-size pool and stadium seating for 800.

Savage Natatorium
named for Dorothy Savage, a popular
physical education professor
who never got in the water.

That was one intimidating swimming pool that has come a long way from the little outdoor pool in the swell.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Us and No More

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

From left to right:
Thelma Hockman, Leta LeVow, Velma Davis
This building looks a lot like Hillcrest, home
to the school president, but it might also
have been Cleveland Cottage.

This photo appears in my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring’s scrapbook that she kept 1924-25 as a freshman in Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University).  It is dated March 1925.  The caption below the picture is “Us and no more.”  Leta LeVow and Velma were definitely roommates. I wonder if Thelma was the third roommate.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Stephen and Mary

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers which asks bloggers to create a post including an image of a gravestone of one or more ancestors; it may also include a brief description of the image or the ancestor.

My great-grandparents Stephen F. Slade and Mary Effie Morrison Slade are buried in the Olive Branch Cemetery in Portsmouth, Virginia.

photo by Steve Poole

Stephen F. Slade
Feb 1871 (Florida) - 4 Oct 1928 (Portsmouth, VA)

Mary Morrison Slade
1878 (Tennessee) - 1959 (Portsmouth, VA)

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Census Sunday: Mary Morrison Slade

This week I looked for my father’s paternal grandmother Mary Morrison Slade in the 1940 Census.  Even though she died when I was 8, I have no memory of her.  She was probably extremely debilitated by dementia and therefore my parents kept me from her.  My dad told that even as a young man he often had to break a date to go look for his grandmother when she wandered and got lost. 

In 1940 Mary Effie Morrison Slade, a widow aged 61, was living at 416 Randolph Street 
near downtown Portsmouth, Virginia.  This was the same house where she lived in 1935, which tells me she had moved there between 1930 and 1935. Maybe the move was driven by finances because the house she rented in 1930, just a street away, was $20 a month. The “new” house, which rented for $11 a month, was next door to her sister Effie and her husband Henry Hanrahan.  Isn’t it funny that she and her sister both had the name “Effie”?

Click to enlarge

Grandma Slade, born in Tennessee, had completed 5 years of school.  During her married life, she was always the wife of a farmer, but now she was a working woman employed in the government-sponsored WPA sewing project.  The specific job appears to be “Iron lady,” but the handwriting is unclear.  Her statement that she was unemployed for 65 weeks prior to March 1940 contradicts the statement that she worked 52 weeks in 1939 earning $780. She claimed no other source of income.

from New Deal Network
This is NOT where Mary Slade worked, but it is a typical
sewing project factory or workroom.

The Work Project Administration (WPA) was part of the New Deal effort to put people to work.  The sewing project was specifically designed for women who were considered unemployed heads of household either because they were widowed, abandoned, or disabled.  The sewing project was the lowest paid position, but women received training in using sewing machines.  They made clothing, bedding, and supplies for hospitals and orphanages.  Grandma Slade is the first ancestor I’ve found who was employed under the New Deal. 

Living with my great-grandmother were her 2 daughters, Margaret (32) and Mary (30).  Margaret is listed as married with a correction indicating she was divorced or in the process, but she is listed as Slade, not Turner, her married name.  She worked as a cuffer for a hosiery mill, earning $312 in 26 weeks in 1939.  Mary was not working nor was she seeking work; instead, she was taking care of the house.  Mary completed 7 years of school while Margaret completed one year of high school. 
Click to enlarge
The 1940 census has told me more about my great-grandmother than I ever knew before.  We have no pictures of anyone from that side of the family beyond my grandparents.  Pity.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Happy Father's Day

Those Winter Sundays
      by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Great Grandfathers

John Walsh
Stephen Slade
Joe Rucker
Walter Davis

Walter Davis


Orvin Davis
Fred Slade


Fred Slade Jr.


©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Embraceable You or Prelude to a Kiss

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features a cat crossing between a couple embracing.  Ah – sweet love.  And nowhere is the romance of lovers and those wanting to be in love more alive than in the poems and songs recorded in a college girl’s scrapbook. 

My great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring kept a scrapbook during her freshman year of college.  Here and there in white ink on black paper are school songs, love songs, and poems.  Some are humorous.  Some are sweet.  Some are possibly original, but others are words from popular songs of the day.  They form the perfect backdrop for some of my photos that speak for themselves.

      June Nite

Just give me a June nite
The moonlight and you
In my arms with all your charms
‘Neath stars above and we’ll find love
I hold you enfold you
Then dreams will come true.
So give me a June Nite
The Moonlight and you.
Violetta Davis and Dick Ryan

Farewell Vain World

My sweetie is a college queen
With too much knowledge in her bean;
A kiss, she argues, carries germs.
Thus my contention she confirms.
For if there’s microbes in a kiss
Then ignorance indeed is bliss.
For when I hold her hand in mine
She quite forgets her learned mind
And when the proper time occurs
She gets mi-crobes and I get hers.

My in-laws Ervin and Helen.
Watch it, you 2, or
you'll end up with 8 kids!

                                                                              Definition of a Kiss 
A kiss is a pronoun because it stands for something.
It is masculine and feminine gender, therefore it is common.
It is a conjunction because it connects.
It is a verb because it signifies an act.
It is usually in apposition with a hug; at least one is sure to follow.
                                                                                 A kiss may be conjugated but never declined.         

My mother with some guy
who is not my dad!
My mother with 2 guys
who are also not my dad

More hugs and kisses and kitty cats are waiting for you at Sepia Saturday .

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.