History

001e_editedMy Aunt Laura was born 10 years before the rest of her siblings, and so was an only child for those 10 years. I have often wondered about the historical changes that took place during those 10 years. She was born just a 4 months after the RMS Titanic sunk, and the world was still reeling from the devastating loss of life, and trying to figure out how to make sure such a tragedy never happened again. Travel by ship has changed immensely since that time, and a lot by 1922, when my Uncle Bill was born. No, that doesn’t mean that there are no ship wrecks, and that lives lost at sea have been reduced to zero, but the people on ships have a better chance of surviving, simply because the radios are never turned off. They are manned 24 hours a day, so that emergency calls can go out and be received. Had that been the case in 1912, the 1,502 lives lost might have been saved. No one was killed in the initial collision. A radio call could have changed everything, but the nearest ship…the SS Californian never heard the distress call, because the radio had been turned off for the night. The inadequate number of lifeboats on the RMS Titanic would have been enough to ferry all the passengers to safety, had the SS Californian heard the call. That loss changed much about ocean travel, and those changes took place during those 10 years when my Aunt Laura was an only child, and her younger siblings would not know a time without those safety regulations in place…not that they would affect them any.

In early 1912, just months before my Aunt Laura turned 2, New Mexico became the 47th state, on January 6, 1912, and Arizona became the 48th state, on February 14, 1912. Our nation would continue to have only 48 states until 1959, when on January 3rd, Alaska, and on August 21, Hawaii joined the Union. Aunt Laura probably didn’t remember a time when there were only 46 states, much like I, at 2 and then 3, don’t remember having only 48 states, but nevertheless, history tells us that we lived in a time when that was so. Aunt Laura’s siblings, like my own little sisters, except Caryl who lived when there were only 49 states for a few months, since she was 4 months old when Alaska became a state, lived in a time when there were more states than when their older siblings were born.

Just one week before my Aunt Laura’s 4th birthday, the United States would be drawn into World War I. The beginning of the war was probably something that didn’t make much difference to her, but by it’s official end, on November 11, 1918, she was old enough to know what it was all about, and may have even known someone who lost a loved one in the fighting. World War I was just another piece of history by the time my aunt’s younger siblings were born, and I’m sure hearing about it through the years had little effect on them, unlike their Aunt Laura & Uncle Billolder sister. World War II would be a very different matter for the younger siblings, as they would all be involved in that war in one way or another.

There were many things that my Aunt Laura experienced, that her younger siblings did not. Much of it was without her having any real knowledge of it, but looking back, she would always know it was so. Just like I find it very odd to know that during my lifetime, ships have sunk, wars have been fought, and states have been added to make us the 50 United States that we know today, I’m sure she sometimes marveled at the difference ten years can make.

Aunt Ella's house in Illinois editedDuring the Civil War, when so many of the young men were away fighting, the War Department made a call “to the Union-loving women of America on behalf of those noble fellows who have dedicated themselves to their country.” Many of the nation’s women quickly responded to the call, and the Ladies Aide Society was born. They held fund raising luncheons and suppers, where they accepted cash donations to purchase supplies for the hospitals where the soldiers were being treated. War wounds were only a part of the causes of death from the battles, in fact more than half of the men who died, were taken down by germs and unsanitary conditions. The efforts of the amazing women of the Ladies Aide Societies went a long way toward saving men who might otherwise have died.

Women had always been considered too weak and delicate to be exposed to the horrors of war, yet, they provided much of the supplies that gave the hospitals the ability to use fresh sanitary bandages and such to treat the men. Many of the women were not content to merely pine away for their men, fighting in the war, they wanted to do something to help out. Their contributions of supplies, food, clean clothes and nursing services fought disease. Something as simple as a new blanket sent from home could replace one that was infested with disease, possibly saving a life. Little did these women, or anyone else for that matter, know how important their efforts would be. What started with a few women, meeting in someone’s home trying to do something for their loved ones, grew into a nationwide effort, and in the end, no one doubted the ability of these women, who were thought to be far too delicate to see some of the things they saw.

Many young men didn’t come home from the war, because of the horrible injuries and the horrible conditions, but there were a lot more that came home than because of the efforts of these brave women who gave of themselves to make the conditions better for these soldiers. I seriously doubt if women were thought of as too delicate again after they showed just how strong they were in the Ladies Aide Societies of this nation.

Mary Margaret Nickell DeGoodSince the beginning of this country, its citizens have been moving. We are a nation of pioneers. We came from many other countries to start a new life in a new land, and we seldom settle down in the place where we started, although, some do. Some of the pioneers in this country seemed, almost out of place in their new surroundings. When I look at pictures of some of my family’s ancestors, such as Mary DeGood, my husband’s great great grandmother, I see a woman, who had the innocence of many people had who started out life in the eastern part of our country, and later a strength that comes from living in the west. Many pioneer women seemed to take on the roughness of the west when they moved in the mid to late 1800’s, and there is nothing Benjamin F DeGood & Mary Martha Nickell DeGood family Taken at Humansville, Missouri 1891wrong with that, because it took a tough woman to make it in the west, just like it took tough men to make it in the west. Many of the people who came out west, couldn’t make it. They didn’t have the strength of character, or the physical stamina to handle this rugged country. Those who weren’t tough enough, went back home.

Bob’s great great grandmother had those qualities, and many people seemed to realize it, because she was well known and respected in the town of Prosser, Washington. It isn’t often that a woman is considered a pioneer in a community, but she was. Mostly, it is the men we think of when we think of pioneers, but Mary-Margaret-Nickell-DeGood-Obituarywhere would those men have been without their wives. While they probably wouldn’t admit it to their wives and families. They were the main reason men headed out west…to find a better life for them and their families.

Still, it was a rare man who really made a good life in the west alone. They may have started out alone, but before long they knew they didn’t want to go on alone. That was a wise man for sure. Bob’s great great grandparents married and soon headed out west, finally settling in Prosser,Washington. The people of Prosser considered them to be pioneers of their town. They were respected and revered, and upon their passing, they were given a pioneer’s send off. A pioneer’s last call.

Oh Those HatsWhen Prince William married Kate Middleton, the world became enthralled with the hats that were being worn by the elite female guests. It was as if the hat was the only part of the outfit that mattered. I watched when Prince Charles married my distant cousin, Diana Spencer, but I don’t recall so much fuss over the hats the women wore. Maybe there was a big fuss, but it just wasn’t what stuck in my mind. This time, however, the hats were the most important part of the pre-ceremony coverage. I was never one to wear hats much, in fact pretty much never by choice, so I couldn’t see the draw they seemed to have on the people in England. I suppose if I lived in England, I might think differently, and I also suppose that some of my English relatives would think I was a bit on the rogue side, for not conforming to the style.

I would also suppose that my grandmother, on my dad’s side, might be inclined to agree with them, if she were still alive, because she came from the era that had American women dressing somewhat similar to the English women…right down to the hats. When I look and those hats, all I can think, is how in the world do they keep their heads from flopping over from the weight of the hat. Now, I know that some of the hats were very light weight, even though they were big, but there were still those hats that weighed quite a lot. And the styles…well, wow!! Some of those women carried half a garden’s worth of flowers on their heads. They adorned them with peacock feathers, fake birds, ribbons, and many other such items. You could tell a woman’s social status by the hats they wore. And both the men and the women looked at the hats the women wore, although the men probably looked at the hats less that the other women at the event.

It’s not that I don’t like the look of a fancy hat on a woman, and in fact, I think many are just beautiful. I just wouldn’t want to have to wear one of them, myself. However, on my grandmother, those hats had a way of looking stunning. I have always thought my grandmother was beautiful, and so petite. She had an elegance about her that made you stop and take a second look.You just knew that she and her sisters were women of class and style. They knew what was the latest style, and they knew how to look elegant in those styles. They wore stylish dresses, carried parasols, and oh, those hats.

There's always oneLittle boys are all pretty much the same. They are curious. They want to know about everything that is going on around them. I can’t say that I blame them. There are a lot of interesting things to see, do, and learn about, in this world. Now I’m not saying that girls aren’t curious, and this story could just as easily have been written about little girls, but today’s story is about boys…and one in particular.

When my mom was a little girl, school pictures were done differently than they are today, and even differently than when I was a little girl. I don’t know if they took any individual pictures, but so far, I haven’t come across any. The pictures were taken by class. While I have seen some with the whole class together, I have also seen some with just the girls and just the boys. That is something that wasn’t done when I was a little girl, and indeed later on, the class picture was just a grouping of the individual pictures, placed together on a 5 x 7 picture.

The funny thing about the curiosity of little boys is that there always seems to be one who is a bit of a lady’s man, and just loves hanging out with the girls. That same little boy probably wants to be right in the middle of everything. That little boy will somehow insert himself into situations where he just doesn’t belong, such as this little boy, who managed to be at the edge of, and leaning into the picture of the girls…just close enough to get into the picture. The cameras of yesteryear were unable to view the picture, and therefore, you really didn’t know what you had until the film was developed. The photographer probably never saw this little boy leaning into the picture until the film was developed, and they were stuck with it, because it cost more to retake.

Now, it is possible that the photographer, the teacher, and maybe even the parents were upset with this turn of events, but I, personally, find it very cute. I picture this little boy as the one who loved little girls a lot, and didn’t really care if anyone knew it. He was curious about them, and wanted to know all about them. He might have even had a girlfriend in that group…or maybe several. That is how a lady’s man is. Try as he might, he doesn’t just stick with one girl…at least until he finds that one girl who changes everything, and removes his lady’s man status. Until that day comes, he goes from girlfriend to girlfriend, and might even have more than one at a time. Whatever the case may be, I think that there is always one little boy like that in every class, and sometimes there are several. That is just the way little boys are.

Marion Chester LearyBob’s great grandfather was a single dad for much of his children’s young lives. He worked on the Northern Pacific Railroad as a yard clerk. It was a time in their lives when everyone had to pitch in. The kids, Bob’s grandmother, Vina, and her brother, Kirby had to get things done around the house, because their dad worked long hours at work. Those were different times. Kids at home doing their chores were much safer than they were in this day and age. The two of them knew that they needed to get the house cleaned and supper on the table by the time their dad got home…not because they were afraid of him…because they knew how tired he would be. Grandma spoke so highly of her dad, that I know she felt nothing but love and respect for him.

His occupation was a hard one, but it had its perks too. When his vacation time came around, their travel plans often included a train ride to somewhere. I can imagine how much fun that must have been. Not many kids in those days got to do a lot of traveling, and unless your dad worked on the railroad, or you had a lot of money, you probably didn’t get to ride on a train much either. I don’t know where all they got to go, but since I like riding trains myself, I can totally picture how excited they must have been every time they set out on a new adventure. I can imagine trips back east to visit family members who might have lived back there, or down south, maybe to see the Gulf of Mexico. So many places they might have gone…so many things they might have seen.

I have ridden a train for short distances, but never on a long trip. I can tell you that it is an exciting ride, and one I never get tired of, so I expect that Grandma and Kirby were thrilled every time they got on board. I think it would be so exciting to eat and sleep on the train…especially as young children, who already see life as one big adventure.

I wish I had been able to meet Great Grandpa Leary, but he was gone six years before I was born, and of course, years before I became a part of the family by marrying Bob, and so much too late to meet this man whose daughter always spoke so highly of him. I think he must have been quite a guy.

My Uncle Bill is the 2nd child of my dad’s parents, and at 91, he is the one who has lived the longest. He is the last one left. That is something that I find to be sad for those of us who have lost our parent from the Spencer side, and happy that Uncle Bill is still with us. Reaching the age of 90 was something Uncle Bill never expected, and now, he has gone beyond that, and as far as we know, he will still be here next year and the year after that. And that does make me glad, because I love him very much and really don’t want him to leave us yet. I’m happy that God has blessed him with long life.

His health is good, but I suspect he has forgotten more about the family history than most of us will ever know. Uncle Bill became interested in the family history as a young man, and he has kept extensive records. The records he has are more than remarkable, because it was mostly done without the help of computers. He received some help later in life that involved computers, but his research was not done that way. I have also done a lot of research on my family tree, and it was Uncle Bill who inspired me to do so. I must say, however, that I did use the computer a lot, so my research has come from the work of many other people too. Not as remarkable as Uncle Bill’s work, but effective just the same.

Uncle Bill’s life was based in many ways on his childhood experiences. From his love of guns and antiques, to his management skills, he watched those people he respected and sometimes even took on the same causes, as is the case with the aunt who got him started in genealogy. The guns came from his personal experience, and his love of antiques was what got his longest career going. He collected everything… guns, coins, stamps, and antique furniture. Then he decided to start a shop to buy, sell and trade those items. His shop was an amazing place, because you never knew what treasures were hidden there. Eventually, he started a mail order business, and sold his items all over the country, and probably the world.

Today is Uncle Bill’s 91st birthday, and I’m sure that if he were not retired, you would still find him working at his shop in Superior, Wisconsin, doing his very best to make that next sale, or sitting with one of the people that used to stop by just to visit, and  talk about old times. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! We love you very much and hope you have a wonderful day!!

A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law, Ron gave his dad, my father-in-law a calendar from 2012 that he had used at work…not for the calendar but for the pictures. They were all pictures of tractors through the years. We all took a look at that calendar, because it was interesting to see how much tractors had changed over the years, and the different makes for that matter. I remember seeing one that could have easily passed for a travel trailer, were it not for the tractor wheels. And there were makes that even my father-in-law hadn’t heard of, and having grown up on ranches, I would have expected that he would know them all.

Since the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1760 to somewhere between 1820 and 1840, when manufacturing transitioned from hand production to machines, technology never stops changing. There are always new ideas, and someone to invent them. I recalled seeing a couple of pictures among the old pictures I have been going through, that showed a couple of different tractors used by members of Bob’s and my families. Even though these pictures probably weren’t taken that far apart in years, the two tractors are very different from one another. I suppose that the tractors themselves could have been much different in age, since you often use a machine for many years before it wears out, and they could have been for different work, thereby requiring different designs, but I was struck, nevertheless, by the vast difference in their design. My father-in-law also told me that it could depend on the area of the country, as to what makes of tractor were available. That makes sense too, in that different climates, and growing seasons might require different types of wheels and designs. I suppose that humidity could play a part in how the engines ran as well, and so could affect what tractor make would work better in those areas.

Technology is changing so fast these days that tractors may one day be obsolete, you never know. I mean…who ever thought there would be a vacuum cleaner that cleaned by itself, and yet now we have them. I don’t mean to say that crops will ever harvest themselves, or that the ground will just stay plowed, but one day there might be a machine that does those jobs with just a little bit of programing. Then, like the Roomba, which is no longer called a vacuum, the tractor might change its name with the modern advancement of automation too.

There is so much controversy these days concerning guns and gun control, and while I don’t usually write about political events, this one hits close to home for me and my family. For many years, my Uncle Bill was a gun dealer. He and his family had always had guns. He became interested in antique guns at some point and began to collect, deal, and show the guns at gun shows all over the north central part of the United States, and possibly even in the north west part, as well. Uncle Bill and my dad, as well as their sisters were raised around guns, and yet not one of them ever killed someone.

My family and my husband’s family have been around guns all our lives too. Our parents have hunted, as have many of us children and our spouses. If you live in Wyoming, as in many other places, owning a gun is really not so unusual. It doesn’t, however, give any indication that the gun owners here, or anywhere else are likely to commit murder. And, while people who torture animals, often move on to killing people, hunters usually do not. Legal hunters have a respect for the animals they hunt. It is to provide food for their family, that the hunter hunts.

For centuries, people have owned guns, and during all those years, mass school shootings were unheard of…until recently. Christians, like myself, mostly agree that it is largely because we have kicked God out of our schools. That makes so many people angry, because they think we are talking about God being angry at the schools because He was kicked out, but that isn’t it at all. In my opinion, when we removed God from our schools, we stopped teaching morality. Generations of kids have grown up with a changed view of right and wrong. Then those same kids are out there making television shows, video games, writing books, creating pictures, and so many other things that our impressionable kids are viewing. Wrong has become right…if it seems right to the person doing the wrong. It has become a matter of “the devil made me do it” or simply a matter of not allowing anyone to step on our feelings. It has become a good thing to be bad, and a good show is called wicked.

I think, that is we want to change things in this nation, we need to change what we are teaching our kids in school, and in life. Guns don’t kill people…people kill people, and very often, guns are not the weapon of choice, in fact, guns are used the least amount of the time. We can’t remove every possible weapon for the hands of people, unless we want to live in a Nerf world, and even then, people will use their hands, or they will just use rocks. We have to start teaching our kids and our adults the value of human life, and to respect each person’s right to life. We have to realize that few people intentionally set out to hurt the feelings of others, and as with bullying, the ones who do need to be swiftly punished. We need to stop looking at others as less important than we are, and treat each person with respect, no matter how the look, talk, and no matter what their race, gender, or age is. Our ancestors carried guns for many centuries, and did not shoot up schools or other public places in order to make a point, possibly because of the values our nation started on. Maybe we need to work to make all people feel like they are a person of value, because it isn’t the gun that kills, it is the person bent on revenge who kills people.

Most of the time, when I think about the faces from my parents’ past, I think of ancestors, or school friends, or maybe even old flames. All of those people bring questions to mind, but most of them can be answered, and the relationship laid to rest, at least in the case of old friends or old flames, but some faces continue to run through my mind again and again. Such is the case with the men who served in the Army Air Force with my Dad at Great Ashfield Army Air Base, which is just North of Ipswich in Suffolk, England. I know these men were Dad’s good friends, because they were important enough to him to take their pictures to preserve their memory for the rest of his life, but for whatever reason, their names were not put on the pictures, so I don’t know who they were.

Dad never talked much about the war, something that, while common among people who have fought in such battles, I nevertheless find strange. I always knew that he was a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 Bomber during World War II, but much of that information came from my mom. I guess she didn’t really know why Dad wouldn’t tell his daughters about something that made her and us so very proud of him either. I guess it just wasn’t his style, or maybe the memories of what he had to do there were just too hard to talk much about. Dad has always been such a gentleman, and had such a gentle spirit, that I’m quite certain that killing, even from a plane with a bomb, and not having to look at the faces of those who died, was something that was hard to live with, even though it was necessary, and even though he felt strongly about the purpose for which he was fighting.

In his letters home to his mom and family, he mentioned some names of friends from home, or people he trained with, but they were so restricted on what they could write about during their time in England, and the people they were with, that few names were mentioned. It was only after Dad had passed away, and we were going through pictures from his past for his slide show, that we found these pictures of his friends from his military days…those faces from Dad’s past, that I wonder about now. It was too late to ask Dad who they were then, and I have always been sorry about that. My niece, Michelle asked him about some of his military days for a report she was doing, but she didn’t know about these pictures then, or she might have asked.

I will probably never know who these men were, or if they were members of Dad’s crew on the B-17 he assigned to, and I am sorry about that. I have been trying to find out more about his military days and the men he served with, and these pictures could have been a great source of valuable information. Sadly, I will probably always wonder about the faces from Dad’s past, and the impact they had on his life.

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