Friday, March 30, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Rice Is Not Nice

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt drew my attention to the suitcase. When I graduated from high school, my grandmother gave me a full set of American Tourister luggage. It was the same luggage I took on my honeymoon. Upon opening the suitcase at our hotel, I found a surprise.

Suitcase full of rice
Suitcase full of rice

I had become the victim of a wedding prank that was popular in the early 1970s. My friends had dumped a bag of rice into the suitcase all over my clothes. Why did we think that was funny? I don’t know, but we did. We laughed too because it was proof that our friends loved us. Right?

Barry emptying the suitcase
How to get rid of a suitcase full of rice
Just a couple years before, I had been party to a similar prank in which the bridesmaids and groomsmen sneaked into our friends’ new apartment to spread rice between the sheets on their bed. Oh yeah, hilarious.

Rice Tree wedding 1973
Rice tree at our wedding

As if rice wasn’t already cheap and plentiful, brides in the ‘70s were enablers to such shenanigans. The rice bag tree was on trend. I remember crafting little tulle bags of rice for my wedding, counting them repeatedly to make sure there was enough for each guest to have one. It was tradition. Tossing rice was meant to symbolize prosperity, fertility, and good fortune. What could be more perfect?

Being pelted with rice is actually no fun. That stuff hurts!
The Big Send Off 1973-style
Guests throwing rice at Barry and me
In later years, tossing rice was no longer an acceptable practice. Animal rights activists warned that rice could harm unsuspecting birds. Furthermore, churches did not want rice littering the sidewalks either, especially when a hard rain caused the rice to puff up and become a gummy mess. Pretty little rice bags were soon replaced with pretty little bags of bird seed. After a time bird seed was not welcome either as nobody wanted to attract birds and their accompanying bodily functions.

The next idea for a big send-off for the happy couple was BUBBLES. But even bubbles have developed a bad reputation for staining guests’ clothes.

One daughter wanted sparklers for her wedding, but in our city any kind of FIRE was not allowed. Instead she and her sister both settled for wedding wands.
Zoe and Jason wedding 2013
The Big Send Off 2013-style
Waving wands at Zoe and Jason
Jordan and Rob wedding 2013
The Big Send Off 2013-style
Waving wands at Jordan and Rob and the girls

 “Give waves of good wishes to the new Mr. & Mrs.!”

Yes, I think I would much rather be slapped by ribbons than pelted by rice.

Pack your bags and head over to Sepia Saturday for more stories and surprises.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A to Z April Challenge Theme Reveal

After five straight years of daily blogging during the A to Z April Challenge, I took a break in 2017. After covering “People in My Family Tree,” “Women With Unusual Names in My Family,” “In-Laws and Outlaws,” “Who Was at the Funeral,” and “All About Me,” I was out of ideas. But I am back for 2018.

My theme this year will be Heirlooms. Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s the wisdom of Marian Burk Wood’s book Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past that has made me think again about all the beautiful sets of crystal, silver, china, and even furniture that have been passed down to me.

Several years ago I started photographing the various THINGS I have inherited so that my children would know what is valuable, what has sentimental value, and what is basically trash. The April Challenge will force me inspire me to get their stories written. The plan is to record whatever story I know about the item - maybe something about the owner and how she used it, maybe how I came to have it; if there is some history to the item, I can research that.

Creativity will be applied to some of the letters as I do not own any heirloom xylophones or zithers.

If you are up for the challenge of blogging every day for one month - except on Sundays - you have until April 1 to register.

©2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Friend Bait

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

The scalloped hem of the dress in this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt reminds me of a dress that I once owned.

Wendy Slade at Melissa Stewart's party
That's MOI - first on the left
I don’t remember this dress. I don’t remember the party. Heck, I don’t even remember the balloon.

The photo is not mine. In fact, this is really a photo of a photo, but the story of how I came to have it is telling of the times in which we live.

In July 2015, my response to the prompt photo of unsmiling students was a post entitled Friends Side By Side in which I featured two newspaper clippings: one of my dad standing between two of his friends and one of me standing beside my friend for a kindergarten graduation photo. The “cute” connection between the newspaper articles is that my dad’s friend Jimmy Stewart is my friend Melissa’s father.

Several readers asked whether Melissa and I are still friends, whether we keep in touch. My response was this:
No, I don't know Melissa anymore. I don't know if she moved away or just lived in a different school district. I guess my parents and her parents drifted apart too, so after a time, I didn't see them.

Now fast forward to April 2016. I received this Private Message request on Facebook:
Dear Wendy, if you are Wendy Slade of Cradock … we knew each other as kids! I went to Mrs. Newton’s kindergarten. My Dad is Jimmy Stewart, we lived in Brentwood. Am I on the right track? …. I hope this is you, so cool! Melissa

How did Melissa find me? Well, Facebook, of course! A mutual friend LIKED this shared photo:
Anne Allen Hughes, Mary Allen McFadden, Peggy Allen Coker, Wendy Slade Mathias
The Allen girls and me 1961
Melissa recognized the girls and neighborhood. Curiosity drove her to my website where she even read OUR story and apologized for the part she played in breaking my nose. (It was an accident – no apology necessary!)

A flurry of PMs followed along with promises to get together over lunch. (She lives about 5-minutes from me!) But a different reunion opportunity presented itself. In his younger years, Melissa’s dad Jimmy had been the golf pro at Bide-a-Wee. As part of the golf course’s 60th anniversary celebration, Jimmy was invited to perform the golf equivalent of throwing out the first pitch: a tee shot or putt.

Jimmy Stewart, Wendy Slade Mathias, Melissa Stewart Miano April 2016
Jimmy, MOI, Melissa

So on a crisp morning in April 2016, Bide-a-Wee witnessed two major events: Jimmy’s celebratory putt and a reunion of friends (ok, so that second one wasn’t really major to most people). Melissa and I were both only children when we were childhood friends. Now she has five brothers and sisters! What a difference %&# years can make.

Oh, and that dress? I wore it to Melissa’s birthday party. She and I can’t agree on how old we were. Too bad she doesn’t have a picture of her cake with candles. Who knows - maybe someone else at the party has a photo. IDEA: we should post this on Facebook!

From the left: Me standing next to Melissa
How is it I'm the only one with a balloon? 

You’re invited to a reunion of blogging friends every week at Sepia Saturday.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sepia Saturday: The Bank's Special

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

One of the most emphasized safety lessons of our youth is that the police are our friends, but I wonder if Japanese-American and Japanese-Canadian families thought so after being ushered off to internment camps during World War II. This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt made me wonder if there were any friendly police in my family tree.

Good news - I have one.

Bad news - I have no photo.

John Nagle married my great-grandmother’s sister Margaret Sheehan in 1901. Both were born in Ireland but met in New York where they lived the rest of their lives. According to the 1900 census, John was son of Richard Nagle and Mary Singleton, and he was one of eight children, four of whom were still living at home.

The family apparently could not remember when they arrived in America. Whenever an enumerator asked when they arrived, their answers varied from 1885 to 1888 to 1890. The truth is, it was 1880.
John Nagle had been a resident for almost 15 years before Margaret arrived.

When John and Margaret married, he worked as a laborer. However, by 1910, he was employed as a “Bank Attendant.” The title changed with each census: Special Policeman in 1920. 

Floorman in 1930. 

Special Officer in 1940. 

In other words, security guard. One census even reported that John was employed at Savings Bank. Unfortunately, WHICH Savings Bank was not stated.

It turns out that there were many banks in Brooklyn with “Savings Banks” as part of their name.
from The Brooklyn Eagle
The newspapers are filled with stories of bank robberies in the various Savings Banks in Brooklyn. If John Nagle exhibited any heroic actions during a robbery, his name did not make the papers. Probably he was just an ordinary man doing what men do - work hard and provide for the family.

John and Margaret raised 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. They rented the same house at 123 Van Sicklen Avenue from before 1920 to after 1930. By 1940 they were the owners.
121 and 123 Van Sicklen Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
image from Google Maps
An interesting-to-me bit of genealogy trivia is that right next door at 121 Van Sicklen Avenue was the family of John P. Mulvihill, likewise a “Special Policeman” for Savings Bank. Did he own both houses and rent the one to the Nagles? Did he help John get on with the Bank?

Or is this just co-inky-dinky?

To see who else is standing guard at Sepia Saturday, follow the links. You may remain silent.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Captain Dick

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows a man speaking into a large megaphone. Four years ago, I was ahead of myself AND Sepia Saturday when I mistook a megaphone for a telescope. In response to the prompt photo which featured a telescope, I used this photo:
Ordnance Office Pig Point
Ordnance Office Pig Point
Oops. Anyway, I told the story of how my grandaunt Helen’s husband Herbert Parker had been a clerk at the Pig Point Ordnance Office in Suffolk, Virginia during World War I. Since then I have learned a little more about Uncle Herbert and his family.

Sometime ago, my dad’s sister gave me a suitcase full of pictures, letters, and cards that she saved when she cleaned out our Aunt Helen Killeen Parker’s home. Some of those letters were love letters full of news of the day’s events, always ending tenderly hoping to hear back soon. In one letter, Aunt Helen mentioned “Captain Dick”:
Captain Dick said he wanted me to be around real early in the
morning so I could feed the dogs. I told him I would be there.

There is a photo of Captain Dick too in Aunt Helen’s scrapbook.

Ephraim Champion Parker

But who was he?

Helen’s mother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh even knew Captain Dick. In a letter to Helen, she wrote:
.... Sonny was to do something at the league and Ebby
was going for him. hope Miss May is feeling well also
Cpt. Dick Herbert & yourself. Tate joins me in
fondest love to all from Mother
When I asked my aunt whether she had ever heard Aunt Helen talk about a “Captain Dick,” she recalled hearing that name but could not remember who he was.

Then the genealogy fairy showed up. A distant relative sent an old photo to my aunt thinking she was the proper person to have it.  

Ephraim Champion Parker and Herbert

On the back was written “Ephraim Dick Parker and Herbert.” That is when my aunt remembered - Aunt Helen always called her father-in-law “Captain Dick.” Why? We have no idea. Herbert’s father wasn’t even named Richard. He was Ephraim Champion Parker.

Herbert was the only child born to “Captain Dick” and his wife Margaret Williams. They lived at 1616 Atlanta Avenue. That is where Herbert brought his bride in 1927. He and Helen lived downstairs; Herbert’s parents lived upstairs. That arrangement probably worked well for Helen since Herbert traveled frequently in his job with the railroad.

Herbert Webb Parker
Herbert Parker in his home office

Even though Herbert was living in my lifetime, I have no memory of him. However, I have vivid memories of his office. It was a pine paneled room just off the living room. French doors were always open, but I imagine Herbert might have closed them when he was concentrating on work. 

Econolite train motion lamp
Lamps like this sell on eBay
anywhere from $35-$350.

On a side table stood an Econolite train motion lamp. It always seemed like a toy to me, but knowing Herbert used to work for the railroad makes the lamp make sense to me now.

Having seen the photo identifying Captain Dick and Herbert as a little boy, I believe the identity of this previously unknown boy in this photo is coming through loud and clear. 

Possibly Herbert Parker about 1910

It looks like Herbert to me.

To see what others made of this week’s prompt, please follow the links at Sepia Saturday. I SAID PLEASE GO TO SEPIA SATURDAY!

© 2018, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Chimneys Remain

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring a man surrounded by children inspired me to take another look at this photo:

Henry Timber Frazier with grandchildren and cousins Greene County, VA about 1920
photo courtesy John and Janet Thompson
Back: Thomas Shiflett, Henry Timber Frazier, Mickelberry Roach, Nora Roach, Della Frazier
Center: Maggie Shiflett in the white hat
Front: Lewis Frazier, Delmus Frazier, Alex Frazier, Unknown, Mary Shiflett, Elzie McCauley, Othel Frazier

Not only is the man surrounded by children, they are all wearing hats too, save the little girl atop the fence.

This is Henry Timber Frazier - my first cousin four times removed - with some of his grandchildren and the grandchildren of some of his brothers. Henry Timber was the third of eight children born to Miley Frazier and Virenda Jane Shiflett in 1849.

At the age of 24, Miley married Eliza Lawson, 19, of Rockingham County. Together they raised about 14 or 15 children. Built-in farmhands, you might say. And they needed every hand. Henry Timber and his father Miley amassed over 1000 acres of farm and mountain land along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Albemarle and Greene counties.

Obviously the day this photo was taken was a happy day for the Frazier clan. It was probably about 1920, roughly ten years before the fall of the American economy, roughly ten years before the government put people to work in programs like WPA and CCC, roughly ten years before the Fraziers and their neighbors were forced off their land by the government to make way for the creation of Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive.

Some families to this day are still bitter about the way their grandparents were treated by the government. Others have found a way to honor them. The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is a grass-roots effort to develop a monument in each county where land was acquired to create the park. Through the monuments, living history presentations, exhibits, and demonstrations, volunteers hope to educate visitors about the lives and culture of those who lived in the mountains before the park.

Chimney from the former Haney
farm in Greene County, VA
The monument is in the form of a chimney. Anyone who has driven in the country has no doubt spied a lone chimney in a field, or maybe even opposing chimneys. When houses burn or fall to decay, chimneys remain. Chimneys - where fireplaces once provided warmth and a place to prepare the family meal. Chimneys - the hearth and heart of the home. Chimneys remain as reminders that people once lived.

In each of the 8 counties, families have donated stones from old chimneys of homes that once stood on their property. In Greene County, most of the stones are from an old Haney farm.

Stanardsville, Greene Co, VA Chimney
This is the monument in Stanardsville,
Greene county. The quilt covered the
plaque prior to the dedication ceremony.

In Rockingham County the stone comes from the home of Peter Wyant, my 4g grandfather, whose family lived in the Beldor community just outside Shenandoah National Park. A visit to this chimney will be especially meaningful for my family.

Wyant cabin Beldor, VA
photo courtesy of Jan Hensley
The Peter Wyant cabin in Beldor, VA

Wyant stone on chimney in Rockingham Co, VA
Chimney under construction using Wyant stone
Elkton, Rockingham County, VA
To bring this story full circle, Henry Timber Frazier had a distant connection to the Wyants. His wife’s aunt Elizabeth Lawson was married to David Wyant, son of Peter Wyant.

Names of families displaced from the mountain will be remembered forever because they are engraved on brass plaques attached to the front of each chimney. But the Frazier name is also memorialized in another way: The Frazier Discovery Trail. A short trail along the Skyline Drive takes hikers along the pastures that once belonged to Henry Timber Frazier and his father Miley.

Grab the kids and hike on over to Sepia Saturday. Don’t forget your hat!

© 2018, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.