Friday, October 20, 2017

Sepia Saturday: A Penchant for Poetry

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

The dark colored dress on the young lady in this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt made me think of a photo of my maternal grandfather’s cousin, Alda Beatrice Clift.
Alda Beatrice Clift
Alda - year unknown
but she appears to be 8 to 12 years old
so about 1913-1917
The photo always gives me a start. I gasp at the sight of what appears to be an amputated arm. However, because I have seen photos of her in later years with two healthy arms, I know she was standing with her arm behind her back.  

Alda was the fifth and last child of Sallie Jollett Clift and George Clift. What a beautiful baby she was. 
Alda Beatrice Clift
Alda Clift
Look at that sweet bracelet!
1905 or 1906
Her brothers Leonard and Raymond were hard-working and respectable young men. 
Leonard and Raymond Clift
Leonard and Raymond Clift

They deserved a better childhood than the one they experienced. At the ages of 14, 13, and 8, respectively, the Clift children testified against their father in their parents’ divorce case.

The shocking details of Sallie and George’s marriage have been the subject of this blog several times. If you are new to the party, you can read accounts HERE and HERE.

The testimony of 8-year old Alda is heart-wrenching.
Testimony of Alda Clift in Sallie Clift vs George Clift
Testimony of Alda Clift
Divorce Case of Sallie Clift v George T. Clift
Chancery Cause 1913-07
Lawyer: Just tell me what happened when your father came to the house.
Alda:  When he come in, Mama said she was not expecting him home, and he said I come home when you are not expecting me.  Mama asked him if he wanted his supper and he said yesem, and he said what do you have for meals, and Mama said 25 cents, and he gave her 25 cents and she laid it up on the shelf.  Mama cooked his supper and he set down and he eat and he pulled out a pass out of his pocket and said Sallie I got a pass for Luray.  I am going to Luray and get me a divorce, and Mama went into the kitchen to wash the dishes and he got up and came out there, and Mama came back in the dining room and Papa pulled out his gun and held it up that away, and said I am going to kill you, and then me and Mama commenced to scream and I said Papa put your gun back in your pocket and then me and Mama went out doors, and he followed us out and when we got out to the gate he got his gun out again and then he said I dare you to come back in here, I will shoot your G__ D__ brains out; you or any other man.  Me and Mama went on down street and then we went hunting for Mr. Whiteside, and Eddie Bricker come to me and Mama first, and we found Mr. Whiteside and he went on up home.
Lawyer:  Where did you and your Mama stay that night?
Alda: Down to Aunt Vick’s (meaning Mrs. Decatur Breeden)
Lawyer:  Do you want to stay with your mother or would you rather go live with your father?
Alda:  I want to stay with my Mama.
Lawyer:  Why would you not want to live with your father?
Alda:  Because he is too mean to me.

No doubt Alda had to grow up fast, which might explain why she married at age 15 to Leon Dewey Monger. Two daughters and ten years later, they divorced. Three days after the divorce was final, Alda married Wilson Suite, a barber from Washington D.C. Fortunately, they lived happily ever after until Wilson’s death in 1960. Alda outlived him by 22 years.

If I ever met Alda, I do not remember. What I know of her is from public records - census, marriage, divorce, chancery lawsuits - and from photos. Like her Jollett relatives, she was ever-present at reunions. 
Cousins at Jollett Reunion 1919
Alda is 4th from left on back row standing between her
cousins Russell Coleman and Violetta Davis
1919 - Alda was 14

1934 Reunion Lewis Lloyd Jollett, Sallie Clift, Alda Clift, Wilson Suite
1934 Reunion
Lewis Lloyd Jollett (nephew of Sallie Clift), Sallie Clift,
Alda Clift Monger Suite and Wilson Suite
She was obviously loved by her cousins.
Violetta Davis Ryan and Alda Clift Suite and Alda's daughter
Violetta Davis Ryan with Alda Clift Suite
That's Alda's daughter in the middle,
but is it Janice or Gwen?

What amuses me, however, is the Clift penchant for poetry. Her father George penned 18 stanzas while incarcerated for that gun incident of 1914 that Alda described. Her mother Sallie published a poem in memory of her brother-in-law Walter Davis.
The newspaper clipping of this poem
is glued to the inside back cover
of Mary Frances Jollett Davis's photo album.
When Sallie died, Alda wrote a poem about her dear mother and best friend and had it published in the local newspaper. Her daughters likewise wrote poems expressing their love for their grandmother Sallie.

Alda wrote another poem on her mother's birthday.

The Clift poems are not polished. They are sappy and sentimental. The rhyme and rhythm are often uneven. Yet, they succeed in showing heart, devotion, gratitude, loyalty, admiration, regret - qualities lacking in those public records.

I like to think Alda carried on the tradition of writing poems in her mother’s memory; however, I have not found any others. I wonder if daughters Gwen and Janice wrote poems at Alda’s death in 1982.

To read more stories of girls in dark dresses, open the gate to Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Girls in White Dresses

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo is of a young girl in a white dress writing at a desk. My great grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh dressed her own little girls in dresses like that. It was the style in the early 1900s. 

Killeen and Walsh sisters about 1914
Helen Killeen Parker captioned this photo "The Royal Four."
The photo dates about 1914.
Killeen and Walsh sisters but am not sure who is who - -
Three standing left to right LOOK like Catherine Walsh,
Helen Killeen, and Julia Walsh.
The one seated would have to be Lillie, Mae, or Margaret. ??
But white dresses were not just for little girls. When white gauze, eyelet, voile, tulle, and lace came together, a delicate tea dress was born.

Lillie Killeen 1919
Lillie 1919
I can almost feel the dress my grandaunt Lillie Killeen wore in 1919, likely on Easter Sunday and throughout the summer.

Lillie Killeen 1960s-1970s
Aunt Lil late 1960s-early 1970s

When I knew Aunt Lil, she was already old. She was the only one of the seven girls in her family not to marry. At family gatherings at the home of her younger sister Helen Killeen Parker, Aunt Lil busied herself in the kitchen or orbited the dining room table offering second and third helpings of ham.

Aunt Lil always looked rather frail, almost demanding to be pitied. She rented an apartment and lived what seemed to be a meager life. We used to chuckle over stories of Lillie and her sisters shopping together at the grocery store. My cousin Jennifer as a child sometimes went with them. Her role was to run up and down the aisles fetching whatever the aunts needed to save them time and steps. Aunt Helen and Aunt Mae would reward her with coins and candy. Not Lillie. She never gave Jennifer a thing.

Killeen and Walsh sisters 1970s
The Grocery Store Crew
Lillie Killeen, Helen Killeen Parker,
Mae Killeen Holland, and Julia Walsh Slade (my granny)
My impression of Aunt Lil as a penny-pinching spinster dissipated though following a recent visit with one of Aunt Mae’s granddaughters. She recounted stories told to her by her father that revealed a different side to my prim and proper Aunt Lil.

Aunt Lil used to say that SHE was the lucky one, that her sisters were actually jealous of her. Why? Because she was SINGLE. These are not her exact words, but in essence Lillie boasted, “When I come home from work, I do not have to cook for anyone. I do not have to change diapers. I can do whatever I want, when I want.”

What Lillie enjoyed most was her free weekends of dining and dancing. (Who knew?) I was surprised to learn that there used to be a ferry or some kind of ship that sailed from Norfolk to Baltimore and back on weekends, leaving Friday night and returning Sunday. Live music and dancing and food all night and all day! Passengers could rent a room on the boat. It was small and not a bit luxurious, but Lillie did not care. After all, she was there for the dancing.

Lillie Killeen 1930s
Lillie Killeen 1930s  https://jollettetc.blogspot.comAnother reason Aunt Lil’s sisters were supposedly jealous was that her money was her own to do with as she wanted. By all accounts, she dressed very well.

Lillie must have made good money working for a doctor. I used to think she was a nurse. After all, she dressed like a nurse. 

However, she was actually the bookkeeper. She was asked to wear a nurse uniform so that she could join the doctor in the examining room when he had a female patient. 

Lillie Killeen at work
Lillie at work - judging by the
shoes and hose, a uniform is
under that coat

Lillie became a valuable and trusted employee as she colluded with the doctor in other ways, too. She kept two sets of books (read into that what you will) and two calendars. Why two calendars? The good doctor had several women on the side, it seems, and the calendars helped cover his tracks. I have to wonder how Lillie felt about that because the doctor’s wife gave Lillie lovely gifts at Christmas and on her birthday. Oh, the guilt Aunt Lil must have felt, being the good Catholic that she was.

Lillie did find love. She dated one fellow a long time but saw no future with him. “He drank too much,” she said. She had seen too much alcoholism in the Killeen and Walsh families to put up with one more alcoholic.

Lillie Killeen and boyfriend 1944
Lillie and boyfriend 1944
Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Lillie was not the sad little creature that I saw from the viewpoint of a child. In a time when women were expected to marry and raise families, she chose to go it alone. She chose to be free and to dance.

Note to self: Dance on over to Sepia Saturday for more stories of girls in white dresses.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Book is IN but the Jury is OUT

My new book
8" x 10"     174 pages

I kept dragging my feet, but I finally completed my second book which I have titled Jollett Family Reunion. Having received a copy of the finished product, I am glad that I took Blurb’s advice to order JUST ONE copy. It would have been embarrassing to send out so many goofs. 

So what did I do wrong?

First problem - the Cover
I like the layout, but I see small problems that I did not detect on the screen. The title is not truly centered, so I have shoved it slightly to the right so that the “i” in “Reunion” is centered over Vic’s head.

Next, James Franklin Jollett’s portrait did not fully fill the photo box resulting in the gap between the photo and the white frame. That might also explain why the white band seems to be sliding over the frame and under the portrait.


Second problem - Conflicting information
As I was reading my book, I noticed that I did not include some details in the family charts giving the impression I did not know the information when, in fact, the information was provided elsewhere in the book. For example, I listed only a year for the birth and death of James Henry Jollett, yet a photo of his tombstone gives complete dates. There was no marriage date for Lewis Jollett and Mary Neville Peluso, but a news article provides the full account. Sloppy! 


Third problem - Inconsistency in style
In most of the family charts, I spelled out the states in capital and lower case letters. However, here and there I found MD or VA or VIRGINIA.

A few minor misses in proofreading suddenly stood out: too much or not enough spacing between paragraphs; a letter cut off a word. Sloppy!


Fourth problem - Misidentification    

I had looked at the photo a thousand times. In my grandaunt Velma’s photo album, it was labeled “The Three.” I assumed it was Mary Frances Jollett Davis and two of her sisters, Laura Sullivan and Sallie Clift, but as I was going through the finished copy of the book, I suddenly noticed the dress on the woman I had identified as Sallie.

Why wouldn’t I think it was Sallie? After all, in numerous photos she stood with her head cocked. But that dress. That same dress was in another photo, but the woman wearing it was NOT Sallie. It was Sadie Lam Jollett, sister-in-law of Mary Frances and Laura. 

Close up from the photo
with Mary Frances and Laura
Sadie wearing that same dress
at a Jollett reunion

The irony is that I had used that dress to identify Sadie in another reunion photo.

I was not sure who this lady was
until I noticed that detail in the dress.


Fifth problem - Citations
I noticed some of my citations were incomplete or missing altogether.


Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate my book. There are several features I am very proud of:
  • As with my first book, I did not upgrade the paper or end sheets. The standard looks and feels good.
  • I was able to use many stories from my blog.
  • The format is good beginning with the story of James Franklin Jollett, followed by biographies of his two wives, and then biographies and photos of their children.
  • I was not sure I would like the green that I selected for the cover and for the graphic elements, but it looks good. It’s a good green, not limey, not too forest-y. The green chapter tags and photo frames add a little umph to the pages.
  • There are lots of photos and newspaper clippings.

  • Headers will help readers find a particular chapter easily.
  • I am proud of being able to identify so many people in a reunion photo. The corresponding image - faded and numbered - makes me look like I know what I'm doing. HA!
  • The index was a pain to create, but I imagine future readers will be glad it is there. You’re welcome.

Blurb is not cheap. Even as author, I wait for a good sale. The next time Blurb offers a 50% sale, I will order copies of the new and improved version for my family, libraries and historical societies in the counties where my Jolletts once resided.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.