Friday, August 30, 2019

52 Ancestors - AT WORK: Entrepreneur

Daddy believed in the American Dream: anyone can achieve their version of success by working hard, taking risks, and sacrificing. For him, success meant being in charge of his own destiny. The best way to do that would be to own a business, but that goal took many years to achieve.

The entrepreneurial spirit must have been genetic. Daddy’s father owned a taxi cab business in Portsmouth, Virginia and then later in Burlington, North Carolina. However, Daddy seemed to have no interest in following his father’s footsteps in that line of business.

One venture he explored, at least briefly, was radio electronics. I was surprised to find this diploma among his things. The 1945 date suggests he studied electronics by correspondence following his graduation from high school. Honestly, I can’t imagine Daddy doing anything remotely mechanical. If anything needed fixing in our house, Momma did it, including repairing the fill valve in the back of the toilet. Apparently Daddy couldn’t imagine it either and joined the Coast Guard instead.
The diploma is too wide for my flat bed scanner.
This was a correspondence school begun in 1899
and still in existence.
When I was growing up, Daddy worked briefly as an insurance salesman and then as a merchandise manager for Sears & Roebuck. That is the job I most associate with my father – he worked for Sears.
When Daddy was manager of the Infants Wear department,
he dressed as Winnie the Pooh to introduce Sears' new line
of infant clothing under the Winnie the Pooh label.
Working for a big company certainly offered stability while my sister and I were growing up. Once we were grown and out of the house, though, he was free to go after that American Dream to be his own boss.

The first plan was to form a family real estate company. Before I knew it, Momma, Daddy, my husband and I were enrolled in real estate classes at the community college and then the licensing exam prep course. I swore I would never let my license lapse after that, but it did not take long to figure out I was no salesman. Daddy, on the other hand, quickly advanced to the head of the class being named “Rookie of the Year” by the local Board of Realtors.
Wait - what? Handball champion?
Dealing with homeowners and buyers was not his niche, however. He set his sights on the big deals brokering land for development. He also created a concrete company that installed curb and guttering for the neighborhoods and industrial parks he brokered.
Entrance to Long Point, a neighborhood Daddy
helped develop in the Churchland area of Portsmouth, VA
Daddy’s ventures were not the financial success he probably envisioned. Heck, he was on the verge of bankruptcy several times before miraculously saving himself. As one of his business friends said, “Fred had too much heart for the business he was in.” He was not a hard son-of-a-gun, apparently a necessary trait for a long business life.
My nephews saved parts of Daddy's real estate signs.
This one hangs in a home office.
But Daddy was happy in his work which he continued to do right to his dying day at the age of 80.

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.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Another Blogiversary

Last year at this time when I was celebrating 7 years of blogging bliss, I was beating myself up for being such a slacker while vowing to do better. I’m happy to report I AM blogging more regularly. My goal for 2019 has been to blog twice a week following the prompts for Sepia Saturday and for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I threw in the A-Z April Challenge at the last minute for the heck of it and completed it as usual.

I confess that Sepia Saturday has been a more difficult challenge than I expected. I used never to miss a week providing a good photo accompanied by a fairly good story. This year, I just don’t know. When I miss, usually it is because I have used the photos previously or told the story previously. Other times I have been vacationing or busy assisting women with researching an ancestor for an application to DAR. As a result of the latter, my own research has fallen to the end of my list of priorities. I must correct that because there is so much more to learn about my various family lines.

For fun, let’s look at the worst and best of Year 8 at Jollett Etc based on the number of page views.

With 43 page views, the best of the worst is a tie between

With 41 page views

With ONLY 40 page views, the worst of the worst is a tie between


Lesson to be learned – Page views go WAY up when Amy Johnson Crow features your blog on her weekly recap.

I wonder what year 9 will bring.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

52 Ancestors - TRAGEDY: The Roberts Kids

No doubt we have all heard that the worst thing that can happen to parents is having to bury a child. I am forever grateful that I have not had that experience, but unfortunately, I have witnessed such heartache among friends and family. I have written about several children who died far too soon by fire, by drowning, and even by murder. There is at least one more tragic story to tell: the story of the children of Edith Jollett Roberts. (Edith was my mother’s second cousin making her children my third cousins.)

It must have been a lovely day in the little community of Meltons in Louisa County, Virginia that 30th day of April in 1943. Edith, like so many young mothers in those days, allowed the children to play in the yard while she likely was doing laundry, dusting, cooking, or performing other domestic chores that occupied a housewife’s day.

Lewis was just two months shy of his third birthday; Jeanne was not yet two. Their yard was sizable, plenty of room for toddlers to explore. Sadly, 40 yards away lay a temptation that proved tragic for toddlers too young to know better.
Richmond Times Dispatch
1 May 1943
If this whole tale were not horrible enough for Edith and Teddy Roberts, Lewis and Jeanne were not the only children they buried. Four years earlier they lost Theodore Jr when he was just five months old, his little life cut short by a brain tumor.

I swear, I don’t know how people keep going after that.

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.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

52 Ancestors - COMEDY: My Funny Daddy

I grew up in a house of laughter. Jokes, gentle teasing, retelling of funny events and puns were part of our everyday conversation. Running a string of puns with each one built on the previous one was an Olympic sport. The one who wore the laurel crown the best was my dad. Funniest man ever.

Fred Slade
I wish I could recall the best of the best, but I fear many would require too much back story, or worse, be one of those stories in which you just had to be there. So here are 3 stories to give you a taste of the comic genius of Fred Slade, Jr.

Skit Writer
Fred Slade
Fred Slade as Winnie the Pooh
For many years my dad was a department manager for Sears Roebuck in Norfolk, Virginia. He rotated through several departments building up the sales force and increasing sales. He was also very much involved in training all employees about any changes in store policies and products. At every in-service training, the employees looked forward to the skits Daddy wrote because they were usually so funny. When the topless bathing suit was making the news in the 1960s, his skit was about the topless bathing suit that Sears would be selling in the upcoming season. Wanting the sales people to get a preview, he planned a fashion show with live models. Maybe you have already guessed where this is going. Out came the hairiest men he could round up to parade around in swim trunks. That was very risqué comedy in the 60s. He brought the house down with that one. 

Welcome the Hunter
Fred Slade

I met my future husband in college. I was a city girl. He was a country boy. When our relationship was at the point that I needed to have him meet my parents, I was both nervous and excited about his upcoming visit. At dinner one night, my dad started the drill asking all the questions parents ask. Finally Daddy asked, “So, what does he like to do?” I replied, “Well, he likes hunting.” Daddy’s quick response was, “Wonderful. We’ll all hide and he can hunt for us.”

Fred Slade
Fred and Mary E Slade

Here is a conversation between Momma and Daddy:
Daddy: This is the worst underwear.
Momma: They’re new. I just bought them. What’s wrong with ‘em?
Daddy: They’re so wrinkly.
Momma: They’re Fruit of the Loom.
Daddy: Well, I must be wearing the prunes.

Thanks for the laughs, Daddy!

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.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

52 Ancestors - SISTER: Such Devoted Sisters

Hearing the word “Sisters” immediately sets me to singing the like-titled song performed by “the Haynes Sisters” in White Christmas.

Sisters, sisters
There were never such devoted sisters
Never had to have a chaperon, no sir
I'm here to keep my eye on her
Caring, sharing
Every little thing that we are wearing
When a certain gentleman arrives from Rome
She wore the dress and i stayed home
All kinds of weather
We stick together
The same in the rain or sun
Two different faces
But in tight places
We think and we act as one... uh-huh
Those who've seen us
Know that not a thing could come between us
Many men have tried to split us up but no one can
Lord help the mister
Who comes between me and my sister
And lord help the sister who comes between me and my man

~ by Irving Berlin

The line “There were never such devoted sisters” could easily apply to probably every set of sisters that I have ever written about. Lots of families have their squabbles, and some of them never recover. I have not seen that in my family. The sister bond seems to be very strong.

Violetta and Velma

Violetta was the older one.

My grandfather's sisters were always "Violetta and Velma," never "Velma and Violetta." We said it like it was one word.

Velma and Violetta some time in the 1940s, I guess.
I don't know why they were dressed alike. They didn't usually.

Mary Frances and sisters Emma, Laura, Leanna, Sallie, and Vic
My great-grandmother and her sisters 
My favorite picture of the sisters - complete with watermelon!
Lined up from youngest to oldest:
Vic, Sallie, Mary Frances, Leanna, Laura, Emma

Julia with Lillie, Mae, Margaret, Helen, Cat, and Tate
My granny Julia and her sisters Catherine (Cat) and Teresa (Tate) were HALF sisters with Lillie, Mae, Margaret, and Helen. No one ever made a distinction about that "half" business.
Walsh girls - Cat, Tate, and Julia
The Killeen girls 
Lillie Killeen, Helen K. Parker,
Mae K. Holland, Julia W. Slade

Lucille and Rosalind
My grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis
and older sister Rosalind Basham
Oops - maybe there was a squabble here. That last line tells it all:
And lord help the sister who comes between me and my man!

Wendy and Mary Jollette
Wendy and Mary Jollette
1962 maybe?
Wendy and Mary Jollette
We did not intend to dress alike. It just happened. Seriously.
Hmm, now let's see. What line fits us?
I'm here to keep my eye on her
Know that not a thing could come between us

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.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.