Tuesday, May 21, 2019

52 Ancestors - MILITARY: The Neptune Party

You’ve heard of “Throwback Thursday.” Consider this “Throwback Month.” While on vacation, it is impossible to do new research and post fresh stories, so for now, please enjoy a “throwback” from 2013.

When my maternal grandmother’s brother Ray Rucker died, he left behind a puzzling collection of photos from his time in the Navy. Every time one of them came into my field of vision, I wondered what these sailors in the most powerful Navy in the world -- the defenders of freedom -- were doing in those crazy costumes.

Neptune Party: The Royal Family
So, it turns out these were some of the main characters in a naval tradition that dates back over 400 years in the western seafaring world:  the line crossing ceremony. Which line? Why, the equator, of course.

Whether a test of a sailor’s ability to withstand a long and rough voyage or merely a way to boost morale, the tradition of the Neptune Party has been a rite of passage for many a sailor transforming from a “Slimy Pollywog” (a sailor who has never crossed the equator) to a “Trusty” or “Honorable” Shellback. 

Ray was a sailor onboard the USS Colorado when this particular ceremony took place, but his photos do not clearly reveal whether he was among the experienced Shellbacks or if he was being initiated into the “mysteries of the deep.”

The festivities varied from ship to ship, but no doubt Ray experienced the standard features of the Order of Neptune.

1. Typically the ceremony began with King Neptune, the mythical god of the sea, coming aboard to exercise his authority over the seas and the ship. With a trident in hand, he served as judge ruling on charges that the Pollywogs were not real sailors at all, and that furthermore they had not shown proper respect to the god of the sea. King Neptune was often portrayed by the ship’s commander or other high ranking officer.

The Royal Police
The most experienced Shellbacks dressed in costume as members of King Neptune’s Royal Court. Usually the characters included King Neptune, Amphitrite (Neptune’s wife), Davey Jones, the Royal Baby, and the Royal Barber. 

Other appropriate characters could be included as well. Some Shellbacks might have dressed as pirates as part of the Royal Police.


2. Pollywogs entertained the Royal Court with a talent show or even a beauty contest with sailors dressed as women. 

3. Davey Jones presented subpoenas to the Pollywogs to appear before the Royal Court and answer charges lodged by the Shellbacks.

4. Court was held after breakfast which had been rendered inedible by the addition of hot sauce or other spices. King Neptune assigned punishments that included wearing clothes inside out or backwards, crawling on hands and knees through garbage, being swatted with pieces of fire hose, being pelted with rotting fruit, and being treated with “truth serum” (hot sauce rubbed on the face following a shave). The Royal Barber used hand clippers to cut the Pollywogs’ hair in various directions – never intending the results to be worthy of a tip.

The Royal Baby
5. Next the Pollywogs knelt before King Neptune to kiss the Royal Baby’s belly which was covered with grease. Often the Baby grabbed the Pollywog’s hair and rubbed his face all over his belly to make sure the sailor was duly covered. In some cases, the Baby flung mustard in the Pollywog’s face. The “honor” of being the Royal Baby was usually given to the ugliest guy on the ship. Some honor!

6. The final step in the transformation to Shellback was a royal bath in sea water often contained in a canvas pool on deck, a “baptism” of sorts. The new Shellbacks received a certificate, and the event was recognized in their service records with date, time, latitude, and longitude.
The Pollywogs go head-first into the Royal bath.
The caption on the photo is hard to read but it says
USS Colorado Neptune Party

The latest crop of "Shellbacks" in the "royal bath"
The Neptune Party was a fun time, according to many sailors. In recent years, however, there have been reports of unspeakable abuse. In the early 1920s when Ray was a Pollywog, the ceremony likely was a highlight in a sailor’s memories of life at sea.

Sources:
“Line-Crossing Ceremony.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Moore, David. “Pollywog or Shellback: The Navy’s Line Crossing Ceremony Revealed.” Veterans United Network. Veteransunited.com.

“Pollywog to Shellback.” Destroyer Escort Sailors Association. DESA.org. 2011.

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.

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Sepia Saturday: High and Dry


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

With apologies to my fellow Homo-Sepians, I am preparing for a big trip and will be gone for several weeks, so my participation in Sepia Saturday will be minimal at best. I just hope I remember to link my post!


This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt depicts a ship launching sideways. My photo likewise depicts a ship in a precarious position: run aground.
 
USS Swallow Sep 1920 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
USS Swallow Ketchikan, Alaska 12 Sep 1920
The photo was in the collection of photos belonging to my grandmother’s brother Ray Rucker from when he was in the Navy.

On the back of the photo he wrote: U.S.S. Swallow Ship wrecked and dashed high and dry on the rocks near Ketchikan Alaska Sept 12 – 1920.

News of the Swallow’s troubles reached newspapers across the country. Here is just one:
 
from the Santa Ana Register 15 Sep 1920
Newspaperarchive.com

Don’t be left high and dry - make your way to SepiaSaturday to see what other great stories have been launched.

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

52 Ancestors - NATURE: Up a Creek with the Terrible Five


You’ve heard of “Throwback Thursday.” Consider this “Throwback Month.” While on vacation, it is impossible to do new research and post fresh stories, so for now, please enjoy a combined but slightly revised “throwback” from 2013 and 2017.

When I knew my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker as “an old lady,” I never pictured her as a spirited young girl with lots of friends who enjoyed getting together for beach weekends and camping trips in the great outdoors like her photos portray.

Pictures from a camping trip along a river or lake puzzled me for a long time.


I wonder if they brought the boat with them or if it was a rental. If so, what kind of place was this?

Since Helen apparently liked taking pictures but not journaling about them, the reason for the trip was a mystery. Family reunion? Summer vacation with cousins? A getaway-weekend with friends and coworkers? I did not know. The presence of a rather grizzly older woman and a child made me think this was an outing with extended family rather than the 1919 equivalent of the senior class trip.


Maybe the older woman was simply the chief cook and bottle-washer. With all the activities Helen and her friends had planned, they surely didn’t have time to cook. 


They were too busy boating,





































fishing and hunting,
 























boxing??,


listening to music,
Aunt Helen with the Victrola
and maybe just getting to know one another better.


Then I found among a small collection of greeting cards a folded cardboard on which was glued a poem. It explained everything in humorous detail.




** A triangle of paper is missing. Words in brackets represent a logical guess based on the syntax of the sentence. If no logical guess could be made with any certainty, I inserted dashes inside the brackets.











The Memorable Camping Trip

The third of July dawned bright and clear
We all left home with merry good cheer.
Going away on a camping trip
To have a good time, sure you can bet.
Lots of dancing, and things to eat
Nice place to swim, good place to sleep.
Nothing to worry about in the care of the “Terrible Five,”
Now we are lucky to be alive.

Landed at Northwest, Va., about eleven o’clock
Tired, sore and hungry, it sure was a shock.
The roads were something awful, bump, bump, bump all the way
Gee, it’s a wonder our hair didn’t turn gray.
We went in bathing to rest our poor bones
But the water [was] full of snakes, mud and stones.
About that [time] someone called,
“Dinner is [ready], come one and all.”
Everyone [ - - ] for they were starved it seemed
But what [did they] get to eat, but beans, beans, beans.

The [ - - ] under two big trees
And [ - - ] down and ate what they pleased.
After dinner we loafed around awhile, and went out in the canoe
For there really wasn’t anything else that we could do.
Then someone started the Victrola,
So we started to dance, and as we danced,
Someone said the country people were in a trance.
And if we did not stop, they would have us put in jail
And we would have to get someone to go our bail.

So we decided at last, to go to bed
But soon discovered there was no place to lay our weary heads.
So we stretched out on the ground under a tent
Then the wild animals their weird sounds sent.
They screeched and howelled and cooed
And scared us so bad we couldn’t move.
Somehow the night passed over
And Sunday came and went.
And we welcomed Monday, as some great event.
We left Northwest about half past two
And got bump after bump, until we nearly turned blue.
Arrived home about seven or that way
Only to discover that red bugs had come home with us to stay.
So I tell you dear friends, if you want to die
Just go on a Camping trip, with the “Terrible Five.”


The moniker “Terrible Five” must have been part of a running joke among the friends who seemed to enjoy getting together often whether at a riverside camp or at Ocean View. Perhaps the poem was written – AND preserved for presentation – to be read at some other gathering of “The Gang.”
Helen captioned this "The Gang" at Ocean View, Virginia
about 1919-1921
Here are "The Terrible Five" at Ocean View

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.”

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Sepia Saturday: Awkward Family Photos


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

With apologies to my fellow Homo-Sepians, I am preparing for a big trip and will be gone for several weeks, so my participation in Sepia Saturday will be minimal at best. I just hope I remember to link my post!


This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is probably much like a photo that every family historian has in his or her collection: the stern patriarch and matriarch, not particularly good-looking, just staring into the camera. We wonder if they experienced any joy in their lives. We wonder if they had teeth.

James Crawford and Rebecca Davis

Davis and Shiflett
Layton Early and Elizabeth Eppard
Jenetta Dovel and Philip Pendleton Shiflett/Shiplett

Like the couple in the prompt, my 2X great-grandfather had a cane.
James Franklin Jollett
and Eliza Jane Coleman Jollett

If you had a good laugh over these photos, then you’ll really enjoy seeing what others came up with at Sepia Saturday.

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

52 Ancestors - NURTURE: Violetta Davis Ryan


You’ve heard of “Throwback Thursday.” Consider this “Throwback Month.” While on vacation, it is impossible to do new research and post fresh stories, so for now, please enjoy a “throwback” from 2013.

Coming from a family of teachers, I’ve always disliked the old expression, “Those who can, Do.  Those that can’t, Teach.” However, I was happy when some smart person added, “And those who can’t teach, teach teachers.” OH YES! – you have to have sat through education courses and dealt with administrators to appreciate that part. 

I have written HERE and HERE about my great aunt Violetta Davis Ryan, mostly about her education at the Harrisonburg Normal School (now James Madison University – Go Dukes!).  So today, it’s about Violetta, the teacher.

Faculty photos
Likely following her graduation from college, she lived at home in Shenandoah, Virginia and taught at a nearby elementary school. However, in 1930 she began a long teaching career at Pleasant Hill School in Harrisonburg, Rockingham County. 

Originally the school was a typical one-room frame building used for community meetings, but in 1875 local citizens decided to convert it into a school. Fifteen years later they added a second room and then a third room in 1907. By 1916, the school population had grown such that a new building was necessary.

The original Pleasant Hill School
photo courtesy Rockingham County Public Schools
Land was purchased across the street for the construction of a fine brick building. The Pleasant Hill School operated from 1917 until 1963, and Violetta spent 28 years there.
Pleasant Hill School
photo courtesy of Rockingham County Public Schools
The school was used as a training facility for education majors at Madison College (formerly the Normal School and now James Madison University – Go Dukes!). As a result, Violetta not only nurtured the countless students who passed through her classroom, but also she supervised many student teachers. Because of that role, she was considered part of the faculty at the college. Her official title was Supervisor of Junior High. 
Violetta is second from the left with husband Dick Ryan
and two of her graduating student teachers
In 2004, I received a lovely email from one of Violetta’s former students:

Just wanted you to know that your Great Aunt Mrs. Ryan was the Principal and my 7th Grade Teacher at the old Pleasant Hill Elementary School in the years of 1943-44. I started there in the 2nd Grade and remember her well.

Further, she used to give me jobs cleaning her house back when I was young, since our family lived on the farm east of Harrisonburg, now the home of the new James Madison University! 

Just thought I would let you know!

(Name withheld for privacy)
Harrisonburg, VA

Sixty years later and he still had fond memories of his seventh grade teacher.  

And that is why those who can, TEACH – the hope of making a difference. 


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.

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Sepia Saturday: Sisters


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

With apologies to my fellow Homo-Sepians, I am preparing for a big trip and will be gone for several weeks, so my participation in Sepia Saturday will be minimal at best. I just hope I remember to link my post!


This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt has me thinking about my 1st cousin twice removed, Sadie Byrnes. She was the only daughter of my great-grandmother’s sister Elizabeth Sheehan and her husband Patrick Byrnes.
 
Julia Walsh and Sadie Byrnes https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
My grandmother Julie Walsh (left)
and Sadie Byrnes (right)
In 1928, at the age of 21, Sadie entered the convent of St. Dominic in Blauvelt, New York. Her religious name was Sister Vincent Carmel. I often wonder what Sadie’s life was like as a child. What was it about her upbringing that fostered the passion for service and set her toward her chosen path?
The Convent St. Dominic in Blauvelt
photo from Twitter

Sadie may have been drawn to the Dominican Order because of its presence where she lived in Manhattan. In fact, it is likely the school she attended was operated by Dominican sisters. The Dominican Order of Preachers was originally a cloistered group living a life of contemplation and prayer. Eventually the sisters felt called to serve the poor. They are known for their work in hospitals, schools, and orphanages.

The convent at Blauvelt, which is about 25 miles from Manhattan, has a history of providing teachers in various parts of New York City, not just Manhattan, but also the Bronx and Yonkers. They even sent teachers to Florida, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Illinois. Some taught the blind. Other Dominicans worked in hospitals, particularly with cancer patients. Still others served as house mothers in orphanages.

Sadie herself taught math and English in the parochial schools in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Yonkers. She served as principal and mother superior as well. Sadie was the principal at St. Catherine’s in Blauvelt when she made a visit to Virginia in 1969. She was in the company of at least two other Dominican sisters, but she made time to visit her cousins.
Sadie Byrnes 1969
Sr. Vincent Carmel
At the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia
Two Dominican sisters and my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker
Sadie must have taken this bad photo.

And look - St. Dominic at Blauvelt has a Twitter page. I wonder what Sadie would think of that.

As Hamlet said, “Get thee to a nunnery” and if not there, then to Sepia Saturday.

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A to Z April Challenge: Z is for Zilch


This is a continuation of LAST APRIL’s challenge about HEIRLOOMS. When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!)



is for Zilch which means a quantity of no importance.

I suppose this girdle box would be considered something of no importance. Of course, a girdle itself would have been very important to some women in years past. Even if they didn’t need help keeping their stomach flat, they needed the hooks to hold their hose up.



You might think that when I "inherited" the girdle box, I got zilch. However, what was inside the girdle box was and IS important: diplomas.

Yes, my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan had rolled up her 3 college diplomas and inserted them into the box which just so happened to be the exact size she needed.

Just this past year I donated two of her diplomas to James Madison University. She was an alumna of the early years when JMU was the Normal School and State Teachers College. Read the story HERE if you are so inclined.

I survived the challenge. Now gimme that badge!

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

52 Ancestors - ROAD TRIP: Jolletts in the Northwest


image from Pixabay
Westward expansion defined 19th century America. Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803 nearly doubled the size of the country. He believed that the health of the country depended on independent citizens who owned their own land and farmed their own farms. By 1840, nearly 40% of Americans lived west of the Appalachian Mountains and east of the Mississippi River. They had left their homes in the East in search of economic opportunity. Like Jefferson, they associated land ownership with freedom.

At least three of my Jollett families were among those who left Virginia to build a new life in the Northwest, the part of the country now known as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Clarissa Ann Jollett, daughter of James and Nancy Walker Jollett, was born in Orange County, Virginia about 1793. When she was 20, she married John Sampson. The Sampsons were a prosperous family in Virginia, all well established with very large farms.

So why did they leave Virginia in 1836? It seems they had already achieved economic independence. John and Clarissa were hardly a young couple starting out. They were nearly 50 years old. But they did it anyway with 8 children in tow. Maybe the move was to ensure more opportunities for the children.

Clarissa’s unmarried brother James accompanied them.

While I don’t know the exact route they took, it is likely they went north to Maryland to pick up the National Road.
 
from Google Images
This was the first major improved highway funded by the United States government. It was truly the gateway to the west for travelers and pioneers alike. 

Columbus, Ohio was their first significant stop where they spent the winter. A granddaughter was born there. Then in the spring of 1837, the Sampson gang arrived in Wayne County, Indiana, where they farmed for several years. In a book honoring the early pioneers of Indiana, several of the Sampsons were featured. John and Clarissa’s son John recalled that there were deer and turkeys roaming the woods near their farm and that they always had plenty of food on the table as a result. 

Two years later they moved on into Clay County. There in Dick Johnson Township, John and Clarissa purchased about 80 acres of land. Over the years they added to the parcel, developing quite a valuable farm.

Clarissa's brother Simeon and his family may have traveled with them as well, but clearly they did not stay together for long.

In 1840, Simeon Jollett was in Jefferson, Ohio, enumerated as Simeon Jolly. Clarissa’s family had already moved on to Indiana.

MALES

1 under 5
Robert
1 5-9
?
1 10-14
Henry
1 40-49
Simeon
FEMALES

1 5-9
Elizabeth
1 30-39
Nancy

In 1850, Simeon, aka Simon Jolley, was in Harrison Township, Indiana with his wife Nancy, and three children Robert, Elizabeth, and G.W. (George). I’m confident this is the same family from the 1840 census; plus, now I can see Simeon and Nancy were from Virginia. Henry had married and moved his family to Fayette, Ohio. Still no sign of the daughter Catherine who supposedly had married one J.J. Hunter. Simeon was working as a shoemaker.
 
1850 Harrison Twp, IN census
By 1860, Simeon and Nancy Jolly “no -e” had hit the road once again, this time to Tippecanoe, Indiana. Only George was still at home. As for the whereabouts of Robert and Elizabeth, I have no clue. Vanished.  There is no shortage of Robert Jolly’s and Robert Jolley’s in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana, so he could be any one of them. Meanwhile, Henry and his family were in Randolph, Illinois.
 
1860 Tippecanoe, IN census
Between 1860 and 1870, Nancy died. In 1870, Simeon lived with his son Henry and family in Lexington, Illinois. Catherine’s son Charles was there too, enumerated as Henry’s nephew. Now Simeon’s son George was among the missing. 
 
1870 Lexington, IL census
John Sampson died on his farm in Clay County, Indiana, at age 73. In 1875, Clarissa died at the home of her son Sanford. The two are buried in the Stunkard Cemetery in Brazil, Clay County, Indiana. Other members of their family are buried nearby as well.
 
Tombstone of John and Clarissa Sampson
James Jollett's name is inscribed on the top
When and where Simeon Jolly/Jollett died is another mystery that might require a road trip of my own to solve.


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.”

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A to Z April Challenge: Y is for Yellow Pyrex


This is a continuation of LAST APRIL’s challenge about HEIRLOOMS. When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!)


is for Yellow Pyrex.

A square bowl, a small casserole dish, and 4 small bowls comprise my little collection of vintage Pyrex. As far as I know, these pieces were originally my mother’s although they certainly could have belonged to my grandmother and I have just forgotten.

The casserole dish is small, so it is perfect for the two of us but not so much for company. Baked beans or a meatloaf typically get baked in this dish. A salad, coleslaw, or cubes of watermelon fit nicely in the square bowl.



I must confess that I usually think of Pyrex as just ordinary, everyday kitchenware, rather low-end. But it cleans up easily and performs like a champ. No wonder many households today probably have some old Pyrex in the cupboard. The fact that it holds up so well and lasts so long makes it easy to find in thrift stores and antique shops.

The history of Pyrex is quite interesting beginning as glass for railroad lanterns. Who knew? The development of colored opal glass grew out of a need for strong crack-proof cookware for soldiers in World War II.

Pyrex came only in clear glass for many years until the 1940s when color was introduced. Apparently Pyrex collectors pay close attention to the color because the various shades of blue or yellow or green are clues to the age and collection.

I thought my yellows were all the same, but clearly the soup/cereal/ice cream bowls are a much lighter shade while the square bowl and casserole are bright.

Wendy
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.