Monthly Archives: May 2014
About the time my sister, Cheryl turned 12 and went to junior high school, things started to change around our house. We had always danced in some form in the house, but not much of the dancing that went along with rock music. That year marked the end of the immature child’s play for Cheryl, and the introduction of the teenage world for the rest of us. Cheryl and her friends practiced dancing in our living room every chance they got, and the rest of us tried to follow along. As with most people, there were those of us who had a natural rhythm, and those of us who…just didn’t. Unfortunately, I found myself in the latter category. Maybe I was just in those awkward pre-teen years, or something, I don’t really know, but for whatever reason, I was more the bull in the china closet type of dancer. It wasn’t that I hit anything, but more that my moves were really klutzy and I couldn’t seem to hear the beat or find any semblance of rhythm. I suppose that in time and with a lot of practice, I could have figured it out, but I simply decided that I was probably never going to be much of a dancer, and for many years, I danced only with my sisters in the living room, because I figured that if they laughed at my moves, I could live with that, but if my friends did so, it would be the most humiliating thing that could ever possibly happen, and something I chose not to risk.
I don’t recall just how good my little sisters were, but I remember that Alena has always been a pretty good dancer. She was a lot like Cheryl in that way…just a natural talent for it. Caryl, does real well these days too, and has even taken dancing lessons, so she can do some of the really cool dances from days gone by…like the ballroom type of dancing. I don’t remember just how good Allyn was, but then she was only three years old when we started dancing in the living room, so I’m sure she was uninhibited and we all thought she did just fine…and she seems to do just fine these days too. In a way, my younger sisters might have been given a great advantage with those early dancing days, because they weren’t in the awkward years of growth, and they weren’t self conscious either.
Even though I felt self conscious in those days, I still stuck it out, because it was fun to hang out with Cheryl’s older friends and my sisters, doing something totally goofy…at least in my mind. I don’t remember if Cheryl ever hated having all her younger sisters hanging out in the same space as she and her friends were, but my guess is that she probably did, because having all your little sisters hanging with your friends is always tough when you are a tween or teen. Nevertheless, she was stuck with us…at least for those dance sessions, and it was probably ok with her if we danced with her when her friends weren’t there. Whatever the case may be, I learned pretty much all of the little bit I know of dancing right there in my parents living room, with my sisters, and I learned that dancing isn’t exactly my forte.
There is something about naming a child after yourself, or your parent, that appeals to a lot of people. My dad was named after his dad, and my Uncle Bill Spencer was named after his grandfather. Sometimes it’s the first name that came from the parent, sometimes it’s the middle name, or sometimes it’s both. For my Uncle George Hushman, who didn’t know his own family until much later in life, life presented him with a perfect plan for a namesake. When Uncle George married my Aunt Evelyn Byer, he became the second George in the family, because his father-in-law, my Grandpa George Byer was the first George. Since Uncle George didn’t know his family at the time he married my Aunt Evelyn, he pretty much adopted her family as his family.
I don’t know if their first son, George was named after Uncle George or Grandpa George, or if it was both, but I kind of think it might have been both. Then, when he had a son, my cousin George, named his son George. Suddenly there were four Georges in the family. Of course, with the four Georges came the need for nicknames to distinguish between the three and then the four of them. My cousin George became Bub, and his son, my cousin once removed, George became Hush. It seems like anytime a child is named after a parent, nicknames are inevitable, but the parent truly still has a namesake. I’m sure that my grandfather felt honored to have so many named after him, even if he shared that with Uncle George, and I think they both liked the whole thing enough to want a picture of the four Georges as a keepsake. And now, there is a fifth George, with the addition of Tuff.
My husband, Bob was named after his grandfather, Bob Knox, and so my Bob became Bobby to his family…but that was not allowed by his wife, mind you. I can’t say as I blame him, really, I mean it is a little juvenile when you think about it. My nephew, Rob was also named after his dad, and we all called him Robbie, but his wife, Dustie was not allow to use that either…again, too juvenile. Naming a child after someone else can be a little problematic for the one being named, when they grow up and the name seems far too young for them.
For my Uncle Bill, being named after his grandfather was the greatest honor that could have been bestowed on him. He wore the name with pride…often mentioning the connection in the family history along with his signature, as a way of honoring his grandfather. I think that is what having or being a namesake is all about. It is a show of love for the person who had the name first, as well as for the child named after someone very dear to their parents. Maybe it began as a tradition, but even then, it is a show of honor, love, and great respect, and it is a cool thing to do.
Funerals so often become a type of sad family reunion. Family and friends, who have drifted apart, now come together to say goodbye to a loved one or friend, and wish there had been a just a bit more time to reconnect, before the passing of their loved ones. Everyone lives a busy life, so time always seems to slip away, and before they know it, someone they cared about very much is gone. No one ever means to let the time between visits slip away, and yet I can name two grandfathers right now, who moved away from the state their parents lived in, and it ended up being the last time they saw their fathers alive. In those days, there were more situations in which the children moved away, never to see their family again. The distances were just too far to travel back and forth, like we do these days. Those parting goodbyes were much more sad, because they were real goodbyes.
When my great grandfather, William Malrose Spencer left Iowa with his family to move to Wisconsin, he had no idea that it would be the last time he saw his dad, Allen Spencer. Obviously, anytime we leave a person’s presence, it could be the last time we see them, but it is far less common when living in the same town than living several states away.
It looks to me like my great grandmother my great grandmother, Henriette Hensel, went back to Germany only once after she immigrated to America with her sister and her brother-in-law. Her husband, my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher went back to visit, but taking the entire family again would have been quite costly, so he went alone. I’m sure they were very happy to see him and hear about their life, but it was nevertheless, most likely the last time. I’m sure my great grandmother was sorry she couldn’t go, but by then she has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and travel was difficult.
Even in this day and age, of easy travel, a move far away could prove to be the last time a family gets to see the departing loved one, but thankfully with things like the telephone, Skype, FaceTime, email, and Facebook, staying connected isn’t as difficult as it used to be. It doesn’t replace the reunions, because one on one time spent with loved ones is so important, but it is better than the way things used to be. Somehow, a letter from home is not quite the same as being able to see them in person, or at least via Skype or FaceTime.
Recently, I received an email on my Ancestry account. It was from a woman named Laura Weber. Through her husband’s DNA, she was able to connect him to the Spencer side of our family, and this brings the family connections to another fork in the road. It seems that Laura’s husband, Nicholas is a descendent of Clifford Spencer, who is the son of William Spencer and Viola Fuller, and is my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer’s younger brother. Clifford first married a woman named Annie, and they had a daughter named Ethyl Pearl. They were divorced, and he married a woman named Hanna, and they had three children, Loraine, Clifford, and Wanda.
Ethyl Pearl always felt very much alone after her dad left, and while she grew up around her mother’s family, she never really got over losing her dad. She married a man named Claude Coleman, and they had six children, Joyce, Duane, Laura, Claude Jr, Alfred, and Lois. Her husband was not the staying kind either, and in the end, I think it might have been for the best, or at least as far as my Uncle Bill was concerned. For part of their your life, the Coleman children lived with my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer, and the children went to school and helped out on the farm. It was a good life, but like their mother, they missed their dad…no matter what the circumstances of his departure.
Ethyl’s daughter, Lois married a man named Weber. He and Lois had three biological sons, and one adopted daughter. One son, Peter passed away in 1981, and their adopted daughter, Terry passed away in 2008. The sons who are still alive are Mark and Joe. Mark married a woman named Margaret Mason. They had Nicholas (Nick), and then divorced. It is Nick’s wife, Laura, who made the connection with me, and we are both very excited about this new connection.
It is so amazing to me to be able to connect with yet another branch of the family. I hope to have some pictures of Lois in the future, as well as possible introduce the Weber’s to the rest of the family. I have been so excited about the family members I have found through the DNA I sent in to Ancestry. It has opened so many new doors, and there will be more in the future.
In years gone by, the choices for recreational activities were pretty limited. There weren’t any radio stations to play music for dances all the time, things like television and computers were still in the future. So, what did people do to entertain themselves. Of course, there were things like the occasional barn dance, and the county fair, but in reality, there were not a lot of choices. The saloons wee an option for the men, but not for the nice women…in fact they were embarrassed if anyone knew that their men were in the saloon at all. Not that the men were very influenced by how the women felt about it. If they wanted to go in there, they did, and that was it.
The saloon was where the men could get a drink and socialize with friends, or they could play poker. The other things that happened in the saloon, such as the womanizing and fighting, were not talked about in good moral company. That didn’t mean that all men engaged in such immoral activities, but I’m sure some did. Of course, just having those dance hall girls in the place, is enough to make most women suspect.
Poker was pretty much the card game of choice in the saloons, but maybe some of the men played it elsewhere. Back then, I doubt if the women would be caught dead playing poker, because it was probably considered a sin. These days, playing poker is considered simply a fun activity, and it is played in homes, casinos, and even bowling alleys. Lots of people play, and have a great time doing it. Times were just different back then, and sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t a better thing. There seemed to be an innocence then that we don’t even have in our grade school years in school now.
Nevertheless, I don’t think there is anything wrong with playing cards, or even poker for that matter. I play a little poker at the bowling, alley, which is much different than regular poker, in that you just draw the cards when you get a strike or spare. Personally I’d rather play, Cribbage or Spades, over poker in most situations, but in all reality, I’m not much on playing cards anymore. I suppose that is because there is too many other activities to occupy the mind these days. I have to think I like that better than I would have the days when cards were the main entertainment.
My dear granddaughter, Shai, it seems like just yesterday that we were so excited about having a Leap Day Baby. Little did we know then, that our little Leap Day Girl would also be our only granddaughter. Time has flown by so quickly, and I can’t believe that at 4½ years of age, you are going to be graduating from high school. Like most kids, it seems like just yesterday that you were born, but while time has indeed flown by, you have managed to age much slower than most kids…not a bad thing for a girl, because as we all know, women want to fight age with everything they have.
All kidding aside, we are so proud of all you have accomplished. You have reached a milestone today…one that will change you forever. High school graduation is the real completion of your childhood. You are no longer a little girl, but rather a woman he has earned the right to make her own decisions and plans, and set her own goals. I can’t believe that this day is really here. You really should be just a little teeny girl…a real 4 year old, and yet here you are…a grown woman. You talked with me about your plans, and when I listen to you, I hear a wise woman. You may not know exactly where you want your life to go, but you know where you don’t want it to go, and sometimes that is as wise as knowing the destination. Your journey will take you step by step toward the woman you want to be, and as long as you let God lead you, you will have great success.
Though your plans are keeping you close to home right now, I still feel a loneliness in my heart, because in my memory files, I can still see the little girl you were, and I miss her. You had a way of ruling the roost when it came to your brother and your cousins, Chris and Josh…when you were little anyway. They have become much more your allies now…and your friends, not just your brother and cousins. I remember the times…not so long ago, when we painted your tiny little fingernails, and you felt so grown up, then you told me that mine were “a meth and I better fixth them” if they were chipped. You were a born shopper. As a little girl, you could not see the problem with that. You told your mom to “just sharge it!!” That was a statement that always brought us a laugh. You were the type of little girl who simply never saw the problem with things. In your mind there was always a clear solution…except when other people didn’t agree with your solution. Then, oh my gosh…we met the Drama Queen.
Now, suddenly…right before our eyes, the Drama Queen is drifting away. We almost never see her anymore, and in her place stands a beautiful woman, who is ready to take on the world with style and grace. You have such new found confidence, and with your take charge personality, I know that you will be successful at whatever you do. I want all your dreams to come true, but for the selfish part of me, I hope that your dreams won’t take you far away, because I would miss my girl terribly. We are so proud of the woman you have become. Words can’t fully express just how proud. We love you so much. Congratulations on your high school graduation my dear granddaughter, Shai!! Way to go!!
My Dear Grandson, Chris, today your life will change forever. Today you have reached a milestone. You now have your high school diploma…the first degree of your adult life. You have met all the requirements to receive your diploma, and that means the end of your high school career. You are an adult now, with the right to make your own decisions. You are really a whole new person. That is hard for the rest of us to accept, because while we know your age, and your schooling level, we can still see very clearly the baby and little boy you once were. We see him in every room you have been in…whether it is your parents house, or one of your grandparent’s homes. That little boy isn’t really gone now, but rather will live in our memory files, peeking out on occasion to run across the floor, in our memory anyway, giggling all the way. That little boy will always be there in my mind, but I am so proud of the man that little boy has grown into.
Graduation from high school is probably the most special graduation you will have, because it has taken so long to get there. In many cases it is the longest time you will spend in school. I can’t believe you are really at this point already, because like you, we thought the time from birth to graduation was about 18 years, but in reality, it flies by in the twinkling of an eye.
So much of life is ahead of you now. You are embarking on an exciting adventure as you spread your wings and fly a little ways away, to chase your dreams. I’m glad you won’t be too far away, but my heart misses my first grandchild already…and you haven’t even left yet. When you return to us next summer, you will be different…independent. You will have had the experience of living on your own, setting your own rules, and being your own boss. I have to wonder if we will even know you, when you return to us. Of course, I don’t really think you will change in such a total way, but my heart doesn’t always think straight when it comes to my babies. I have seen my nieces and nephews return home from college or living in another city, and there is a definite difference in them…one that was ok for my nieces and nephews, but this is my grandbaby now, and I don’t like this new idea very much.
Of course, for you…I want the moon. I want your plans and dreams to be exactly what you had in mind. I want everything to go your way, and I want you to have great success, but I don’t want you to forget where you came from, the good moral upbringing you received, and I don’t want you to forget your way home, because we are still here, and we will miss you terribly. I know that you have your next three years well planned, and you will do amazingly well in school. I can’t wait to hear about all you are learning, so don’t forget to call your grandparents from time to time. We are so proud of all you have accomplished and of the man you have become. Words cannot fully express just how proud. We love you so much. Congratulations on your high school graduation, my dear grandson, Chris!! Way to go!!
My dad, Aunt Laura, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Ruth had a half brother, of whom I was barely aware until recent years. I think I had heard about him, but somehow it really didn’t register in my mind, but rather seemed like someone who was somehow connected to someone else. While going through my dad’s pictures, we came across a picture of a man named Norman. We were pretty sure this was Dad’s half brother, and then when I was looking through my Uncle Bill’s family history books, our suspicions were confirmed. He looks like a very nice man, and I became very curious about him. I began researching him on Ancestry.com, and found that there was relatively little information, or at least that I could be sure of by documentation. I knew that he was born on May 25, 1906 in Flambeau, Wisconsin, and that he passed away on October 26, 1977 in Richmond, Virginia. Since his birthday was coming up, I decided that I wanted to showcase him for his birthday…but, it was looking like it was going to be a very short story. I decided to ask some of the people on the Spencer Historical and Genealogical Society’s Facebook page to see if they could help. What an amazing idea that turned out to be. I quickly got a response from David Lawrence, and he had a wealth of information to give me.
He told me that Norman was married to a woman named Elizabeth, but it didn’t appear that they ever had children. He mentioned that he had been stationed in Oahu, Hawaii in World War II. Then he said that he had worked for the Virginia State Police as a radio technician in 1850. I had found Uncle Norman’s grave on FindaGrave.com a while back, and a reference to Elizabeth that I couldn’t confirm on Ancestry.com. This all gave me new motivation to find out more. I first went to FindaGrave.com and found Elizabeth’s grave, but all it said was Elizabeth H…no last name, and called her, simply his wife. I found that a bit odd, but then I started thinking about the Virginia State Police, and decided that maybe I could get more information by calling them. This also turned out to be an amazing idea. I was quickly connected to the Human Resource Records Department, and within just a few minutes they read me all of the information on my uncle’s employment card…and there was more that just his employments history. His parents names, which I already knew, were listed, but also Elizabeth’s last name, which was Hoover. They had his service years, August 25, 1925 to March 31, 1950, when he retired at the rank of captain. They also had, of course, his employment years, August 17, 1953 to June 1, 1971, when he retired at the age of 65. I couldn’t believe all this information had come my way, by simply reaching out to two key sources. It was an exciting day indeed.
I was curious as to what Uncle Norman might have done as a radio technician, so I did some research on that occupation and found that they design, set up, operate and maintain equipment and radios used for transmitting. This tells me that he probably worked on systems for broadcasting information to and from the police officers of the Virginia State Police. I’m quite sure that the equipment he worked on back then would almost seem like a home built ham radio these days, compared to the equipment the police departments use today, and in todays world, his job might be a mix of those old radio technicians, and the work my cousin, Tim Fredrick, who is a half grand nephew of Uncle Norman’s, if I have my terminology right. I’ll bet he saw a lot of changes in that industry over his years of being involved in it. I wish I could have talked to him about it, but that was not to be. Today would have been my Uncle Norman’s 108th birthday. I’m really sorry I never got to know him, but happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Norman.
Yesterday’s rare tornado on Casper Mountain while not scary, because I didn’t know about it until it was over, did take me back a in time a bit, however. A number of years ago, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim Wolfe were at my mom’s house visiting, we were under a tornado watch. No one was worried about it because it was only a watch, and we didn’t expect anything to come of it. I think we were under the mistaken assumption that we would never have a tornado here…at least I think I was. I’m sure the adults knew that a tornado could happen anywhere, but I was a kid, and I still wanted that cushion of protection. It’s a lot more comfortable to a child to think that these bad things can never come here, and you don’t want your dream world shattered. All too soon you reach an age where you know that storms like these are possible anywhere, and you become watchful, just like my Aunt Ruth was.
As we were visiting, no one was really paying attention to the weather. Suddenly, my Aunt Ruth jumped up and ran to the back door. She looked out the window and said, “There is a tornado somewhere!!” I remember thinking, “No way!! We don’t get those here!!” She insisted that there had been one, but with no way to confirm it right then, they went back to their conversation. I, on the other hand felt a little apprehensive for the rest of the evening. I kept thinking, “Tornados don’t happen here, do they…or do they? Is it save to be here? Should we be going somewhere to hide r something?” Still the adults didn’t seem too concerned, so I went back to what I was doing too, but the memory of that moment has really never left me. I can still vividly see my Aunt Ruth standing at the back door, looking at the sky for clues as to the location of the tornado. I can still hear her voice, clearly saying that there was a tornado somewhere. She was so sure of it
Later that night, as we were watching the news, the weather man said that there had been a tornado on the mountain. I was a little shaken up by that report. The memory of that moment has lived in my memory files for all those years. I don’t know exactly how she knew it that day, but she did. I think I was a little bit in awe of her knowledge of storm systems. I suppose that was because she had been right about it. Now, of course we have things like radar, and rotation patterns to tell us ahead of time that something is coming, but I am here to tell you that those systems don’t always do exactly what they are supposed to do. Yesterday’s tornado on Casper Mountain did not set of any of the warning systems. I wondered how that could be, until I found out that the tornado was called a Land Spout Tornado, and apparently those don’t show a rotation pattern that can be picked up by radar. So even with all the warning systems we have, no system is fool proof, and there can be the rogue storm the goes against everything known to man concerning storms. Still, they happen. I suppose that then the only warning system is a person to can feel the weather, like Aunt Ruth.
As the school year comes to a close, the students start thinking of their long awaited and well earned summer break. While the school year ends on different days for different schools, for different grades, and in different states, the end of the school year pretty much means the same thing to the kids…play day. Whether it is the grade school kids running through the fire hose or the high schoolers watching movies, the last day of school or even the last week of school is often very counterproductive. Often the grades have to be turned in before school is even out, so there is simply nothing more to do on the last day of school, finding creative ways to entertain the children until the school day is over.
The last day of school in years gone by was a bit different in some aspects, since movies didn’t exist, nor did the type of fire trucks we have today. Nevertheless, the day was usually spent outside, having a picnic, playing games, or just visiting with friends and making plans for their summer. Other things were different back then too. Often the schools were very small, and all the grades were together with one teacher. That could have been a challenge, no only in class time, but on the play day activities too. Nevertheless, kids will find things to do. The biggest problem the teacher faces is keeping track of everyone on these outdoor events, especially if they took a field trip, but then teachers have been handling that job for many years.
For the most part, kids don’t care very much what play day activities there are, as long as they aren’t required to sit indoors studying on such a beautiful day. I can’t blame them. There will be plenty of time to work year round, raise a family, and do all the other things that go along with being an adult. For today, they get to be kids looking forward to the warm, carefree days of summer that are coming. Really, the teachers might just as well not plan any lessons, because which kid would be into that anyway…none, not even the straight A student. They all have their minds on sleeping in, swimming, hanging out with friends, camping, fishing, bike riding, skateboarding…you know just having fun. Play day marks the final day of school for the year, so let the good times of summer begin!!