Friday, June 30, 2017

Sepia Saturday: That "Aww" Moment

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is the kind that makes you go “Awww” with that adorable puppy peeking out of a wicker basket. Outside the basket are a stuffed dog and hair brush. While there is no hairbrush in my photo, there is a stuffed dog and a sweet face that warrants an “Awww.”
Unknown baby boy with toys in collection from Lucille Rucker Davis and Orvin Davis
Baby boy with toy doll and stuffed dog
How would you date this photo?

Who this baby boy is or was is just another mystery in a long line of mysteries. Likely he was related to someone on my maternal grandparents’ side.

No story today. Aw shucks.

There will be plenty of “Aww” moments at Sepia Saturday.

© Wendy Mathias, 2017. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Ode to the Folding Chair

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a well-dressed couple camping prompted me to take a second look at the lowly folding chair. In particular, I remembered this one:

Unknown woman with folding chair probably an Eppard cousin

The woman is unknown, possibly one of my maternal grandmother’s cousins. It doesn’t matter. The point is the CHAIR. Much like the one in the prompt photo, it was wood with a canvas seat and back. Today such chairs are known as “Director’s Chairs.” Of course! In every movie about the making of a movie, the director is sitting in a chair with canvas seat and back.

I suppose lots of people fussed and complained about those wooden chairs getting loose and wobbly over time. Then the canvas wore out or ripped from dry rot. Enter Fredric Arnold. In 1947 he saved the day with his invention of an aluminum folding chair with fabric strapping for the seat and back. For years that chair has been the mainstay in most households across America.

Sunday picnics, family reunions, graduation parties, birthdays – if it is outside, there is a folding chair involved.
Lucille Davis and Sullivan sisters
Leota Sullivan Racy, Grandma Lucille Rucker Davis,
Pearl Sullivan Strole, Floral Sullivan Merica, and Elta Sullivan Farrar

In the mid-1960s, the Sullivan cousins came to town and gathered for a cook-out at the home of their sister Elta Farrar. Such an occasion called for LOTS of folding chairs.

About that same time, our family hosted SOMETHING in the backyard but I do not know what. We must have expected a crowd because my dad brought over the more substantial porch furniture from my grandmother’s house next door.

What a nice collection of classic aluminum chairs
with green and white webbing!
Our backyard on Gillis Rd, Portsmouth, VA
There's my grandmother and my sister.
Momma has her back to us. 

Wendy and Jordan Sep 1981 Lamaze reunion
Me in my Dorothy Hamill haircut
and Jordan just growing hers

September 1981 found members of my Lamaze class enjoying each other’s babies at a little reunion. We put those folding chairs through their paces reuniting for several years: our babies’ first birthday, second birthday, until well, those chairs were folded up for good as Lamaze reunions began to feel rather silly and everyone went their separate ways.

Sep 1981 Lamaze reunion
Folding chairs with traditional webbing and with the longer-lasting
wood slats. Low chairs were perfect for the beach.
Bottom right is a peek at the then-NEW lounge chair with vinyl straps.
We thought they were great but boy were they heavy and did they rust!

The folding chair may not be as charming as the wicker chair

Julia Walsh, Helen Killeen, Mae Holland and John Holland
Grandaunt Helen Killeen holding her nephew John Holland
Left and right: my grandmother Julia Walsh and
Mae Killeen Holland

or as comfortable as the Adirondack,

Steve and Catherine Walsh Barany
Steve and Cat Barany
at their home in Washington DC

but folding chairs have demonstrated their staying power when it comes to outdoor living.
Wendy and Barry at Smith Mountain Lake
Wendy and Barry on the dock
Smith Mountain Lake

Thank-you, Fredric Arnold!

Grab a chair and enjoy more fun reads at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Where Were You?

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt depicting a young boy watering his garden left me discouraged. That is because three years ago I shared my only story of a watering can and children tending their garden. But I did not worry long. After all, I have photos of rock walls.

Friends of Violetta Davis Ryan 29 June 1919

Unfortunately, I have no story to go with them. They are just simple photos of my grandaunt Violetta Davis (later Ryan), a cousin I recognize, and men that I don’t.

Friends of Violetta Davis Ryan 29 June 1919

While Violetta did not extend me the courtesy of labeling names or location, she did include the date on every single one of these photos: June 29, 1919. Amazing - just a couple weeks shy of 98 years ago that Violetta and her friends went wherever they went to do whatever they did.

It was a Sunday. What was going on in the world?

The Treaty of Versailles was signed the day before, bringing “the Great War” to an end. Big news day! Throughout the United States, newspaper headlines read much like the one in the New York Times.

In other cities, the peace treaty took second billing to news that the liquor ban would not be lifted.

In Leavenworth, Kansas, reports about the signing, the German outrage, and the liquor issue took equal billing along with stories about a drunk driver and about a prisoner who made a daring escape from the Leavenworth jail disguised as a soldier.

The forging of world peace was not the only headline-grabber that day. Still above the fold was the announcement of states voting to ratify the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. It would be another year before the required 2/3 majority of states ratifying was achieved.

Those were exciting times. And on that day, my grandaunt was just standing by a rock wall. 

Violetta Davis Ryan and maybe Leota Sullivan 29 June 1919
Violetta (left) and possibly her cousin Leota Sullivan
29 June 1919 

Knowing my grandaunt Violetta the way that I did, I am positive no one was more excited about being able to vote than she was even though she was only 16 when the amendment was ratified. Violetta was a liberated woman long before women burned their bras. She preached the importance of girls getting an education and being able to make their way in the world without having to rely on a man for money.
Violetta Davis Ryan 1922 Harrisonburg Teachers College now James Madison University
Violetta as a student 1922
Harrisonburg Teachers College

Don’t just stand there. There is more to read above the fold at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sepia Saturday: A Miserable Man

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

The miserable man in this week’s Sepia Saturday photo surely was never as miserable as the ex-husband of my great-grandaunt Sallie Jollett Clift. I have written several times about George Clift. Suffice it to say, the man’s story fascinates me as much as it infuriates me.
George Clift and Sallie Jollett Clift with Vernon and Daisey about 1895
George and Sallie Jollett Clift
Vernon and Daisey
about 1895

If you don’t care to read all the details HERE, HERE, and HERE, the Cliff Notes version (or CLIFT Notes, har har yeah I kill me) is this: George and Sallie had five children. The first two died as youngsters from injuries in a house fire well before the other three came along. Over the years George enjoyed several affairs while at home he became verbally and physically abusive, even threatening Sallie and their little girl Alda with a gun. In 1914, Sallie found George’s love letters to various women and used them to obtain a divorce and a modest monthly check for child support. To make ends meet, Sallie rented out some rooms, mostly to men who worked for the railroad there in Shenandoah. A cloud of suspicion arose about poor Sallie with neighbors whispering that she was running a bawdy house. Not so, but there it is.

It must have been that gun incident that landed George in jail in Luray, Virginia in 1914, where he became reflective about his life. There he wrote this poem that at times makes me pity him because he obviously loved and missed those sweet children lost in the fire; in other verses the same ol’ mean and miserable man raises his ugly head. I can only shake mine and roll my eyes.

A Song of Reflection
Writen in the Luray Jail By G. T. Clift

Kid I am sad and lonely
Since from me you ran away
And I feel you would forgive me
If you could see me here today.

And now I set and wonder
If you think this is right
I no if you could see me
That it would change your plight.

Twenty two long years dear Wifey
Since we came to old luray
And today my hart is sadist
While I was happy on that day.

It seems you have forsaken me
For someone else to roam
While I set here in prison
You are happy in my home.

I no you feel delighted
To have me in a prison cell
And I fear when you reach heaven
They send you Back to hell.

Some day you will die
You don’t know when that will be
And as the angels do come in
I think you will send for me.

It was right here in this town
In eighteen ninety two
That I forgot my sweetheart
And went and married you.

You promist you would love me
And all my words obey
And Friday you had me arrested
And I am in Jail today.

Today it brings me sorrow
And Some Kind of regret
I have two children up in heaven
And three on earth as yet.

It was on that fatal day
In eighteen ninety seven
My darling Boy he left me
And went on up to heaven.

Then there was little daisy
The pride of my life
Was all I had to love me
Except a scolding wife.

But the angels allso loved her
And I suppose they thought it Best
For Just seventeen years today
Since she went to heaven to rest.

Shore is nothing in this world
For Whitch I need to care
But I know up in heaven
I have two darlings there.

Vernon was a sweet treasure
And dear Daisey was the same
How I loved & cherished Both
Till that death angel came.

Today they are Both in heaven
A singin around the throne
Wondering why Dear Papa
Was driven from his home.

But while in this lonely prison
George Thomas Clift
George Thomas Clift
I sometimes think I see
Those two dear darling angels
A hovering over me.

I love those five dear children
Both the living & the dead
While I am here in prison
The scandals on your head.

But now I have grown old
My limbs are getting frail
A railroad man is in my home
And old Geo. Clift in jail.

Good by. Write soon.

Write soon?! What was he thinking?

George couldn’t spell worth a lick, but he sure could crank out a rhyme.

Don’t let this story leave you miserable because there are many fun stories from my friends at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sepia Saturday: The Slade Family Tree

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

For every family historian and genealogist, this week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a tree is the iconic symbol of “the family tree” with its roots to the past holding firm, its numerous branches spreading out in all directions, and its individual leaves added anew every year. The title of this post might then make you think you’re in for a snoozefest through the Slade lineage. Not so.

Here is the only photo I have of my father’s paternal grandmother, Mary Morrison Slade. She is standing in front of a Weeping Willow tree in the front yard of my grandparents’ home in the community called Cradock in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Mary Morris Slade Portsmouth, Virginia
Great Grandmother Mary Morrison Slade mid-1940s
Portsmouth, Virginia
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. Apparently she had been that way for many years. My dad said 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. 

Mary Morrison Slade was widowed at the age of 49 in 1928, the same year my dad was born. Often I have wondered how widows managed in the days before it was common for women to work and have their own income. In 1930, Grandma Slade was the head of household in a house she rented on Henry Street. One son, two daughters and one son-in-law were there too. The only one with a job was the son-in-law.  

In 1940 Mary was living at 416 Randolph Street. According to the 1940 census, 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 she rented for $11 a month, was next door to her sister Effie and her husband Henry Hanrahan. 
from Wikimedia Commons
This is NOT where Mary Slade worked, but it is a typical 
sewing project factory or workroom.
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 in the 1940 census 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.

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. 

I do not know where Grandma Slade was living when she posed in front of the tree in my grandparents’ yard. The Weeping Willow certainly made a nice backdrop for photos though. On the evening of my Aunt Betty’s music recital, she and her friend Jackie posed there too.

Beverly Slade and Jackie Shearidan Portsmouth, Virginia 1940s
Jackie and Betty

Don’t weep. There are many more stories and old photos of trees at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.