Boating Grandparents

Photo of my husband’s grand- parents.
A beautiful couple in a romantic setting.

Row boating – in a full suit and pearls…I’d like to know more about that, but it was another era. From the picture, you might think their lives were full of picnics and ease. But I doubt it.

This grandfather worked at the Celanese, a manufacturing plant set up during World War I to produce cheaper fabric for airplane manufacturing. On a historical note: they located the plant inland to protect against Zeppelin attacks! From 1924 it employed thousands of workers and produced a fabric intended as an alternative to silk. We now call that alternative acetate (which I associate with linings that melt easily if the iron is even a bit too hot).

It probably wasn’t the healthiest environment and when my mother-in-law was 15, he died of a blood disease. Now I don’t believe you can ever really know your parents, even if they live long. But if one of them dies when you’re young, you don’t have the chance for them to become a person removed from their parental role, a removal that makes them more your friend. I see it as a separation of sorts, different from leaving home and good. In any case, my mother-in-law has a gap in her heart from this death that I can feel even today.

The grandmother in the picture is the one whose cat we now own and who took my husband bowling. I knew her and she was as lively as she appears in this picture. I can only assume she chose a wonderful man to match her personality. From this distance and given the old photo, I note he is handsome and I think my husband inherited his nose.

So…sending father’s day greetings to those living and dead. We love and, in the latter case, miss you.

(to those who got this twice – the page seemed to have gone belly up. My apologies..)

English Family

My husband’s Great-Grandfather in England with his sisters. He’s on the right, quite dapper I think. Don’t you love the hats?

Although her father migrated from England and we don’t think she ever visited, his grandmother wrote to her English cousins throughout her life. Sadly, by the time we became interested in meeting that side of the family, his grandmother had died. We decided to travel to England to see if we could locate them. (It would have been cheaper but less fun to write to the address he had…)

Before the English trip, I went on a tour to China. Among the group were a couple of Brits and I mentioned that I was traveling to England soon. “Oh where?” “Just a tiny town. Hebdenbridge.” “My, we live just a few miles from there.” The story of why we were visting was told and the British women decided to help. We sent them the address and one Saturday we got a call. A very-out-of-breath voice said, “I just ran up the hill to a phone box. I’ve found them!”

The house had been sold but the people living there knew my husband’s relatives (the pleasures of small town living.) The upshot was a wonderful afternoon with many many cousins, eating, talking and learning various recipes for trifle. One of the cousins had just completed a family geneology, but had been unable to locate the U.S. relation. We completed her information which was displayed in a large family tree on the wall and there were namtags for everyone that identified relationships – daughter of Emma, and so on. The tags for the women who had made the reunion possible read “Go between.”

A result of this trip, besides some wonderful hours, was a confirmation of U.S. family gossip that that great-grandfather and his wife moved to the States because their first child was born “too soon.” The Brits said there were always whispers that stopped when they came into the room but they didn’t know why.

My indelible image of that afternoon, besides all the food and conversation, came when we were leaving. Ella, the oldest surviving relative stood at the top of the stairs and waved us off with a British flag, singing “Till we meet again.”

The Son of Magnus

The Son of Magnus
By Paul Harboe, first edition, 1902.

I kept this book because of the beautiful cover but to my astonishment, it has recently been reprinted as “Culturally important.”  It tells the story of some Norwegians and their struggles.  I haven’t read it yet, but perhaps I should!

It belonged to my grandfather who wrote his name on the front page; his hand is still childish.  I doubt he ever read it.  Or if he did, he was fiendishly careful.  Although he put great emphasis on school for his children, he only completed grade school.  He was gruff spoken and rugged; I remember cringing at his “whiskery kisses” when I was young.

The famous story about Granddaddy concerns a roof repair.  They lived in a small Kansas town and their house was on a corner close to downtown.  There was always a lot of foot traffic.  One Saturday he was up on the roof, fixing the shingles.  He lost his balance and fell, landing in the yard.

Several people saw the fall and concerned, they stopped.

Granddaddy got up, dusted himself off, and said to the gawkers, “You can git on your way.  I ain’t going to do it again.”