Friday, June 16, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Where Were You?

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt depicting a young boy watering his garden left me discouraged. That is because three years ago I shared my only story of a watering can and children tending their garden. But I did not worry long. After all, I have photos of rock walls.

Friends of Violetta Davis Ryan 29 June 1919

Unfortunately, I have no story to go with them. They are just simple photos of my grandaunt Violetta Davis (later Ryan), a cousin I recognize, and men that I don’t.

Friends of Violetta Davis Ryan 29 June 1919

While Violetta did not extend me the courtesy of labeling names or location, she did include the date on every single one of these photos: June 29, 1919. Amazing - just a couple weeks shy of 98 years ago that Violetta and her friends went wherever they went to do whatever they did.

It was a Sunday. What was going on in the world?

The Treaty of Versailles was signed the day before, bringing “the Great War” to an end. Big news day! Throughout the United States, newspaper headlines read much like the one in the New York Times.

In other cities, the peace treaty took second billing to news that the liquor ban would not be lifted.

In Leavenworth, Kansas, reports about the signing, the German outrage, and the liquor issue took equal billing along with stories about a drunk driver and about a prisoner who made a daring escape from the Leavenworth jail disguised as a soldier.

The forging of world peace was not the only headline-grabber that day. Still above the fold was the announcement of states voting to ratify the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. It would be another year before the required 2/3 majority of states ratifying was achieved.

Those were exciting times. And on that day, my grandaunt was just standing by a rock wall. 

Violetta Davis Ryan and maybe Leota Sullivan 29 June 1919
Violetta (left) and possibly her cousin Leota Sullivan
29 June 1919 

Knowing my grandaunt Violetta the way that I did, I am positive no one was more excited about being able to vote than she was even though she was only 16 when the amendment was ratified. Violetta was a liberated woman long before women burned their bras. She preached the importance of girls getting an education and being able to make their way in the world without having to rely on a man for money.
Violetta Davis Ryan 1922 Harrisonburg Teachers College now James Madison University
Violetta as a student 1922
Harrisonburg Teachers College

Don’t just stand there. There is more to read above the fold at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sepia Saturday: A Miserable Man

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

The miserable man in this week’s Sepia Saturday photo surely was never as miserable as the ex-husband of my great-grandaunt Sallie Jollett Clift. I have written several times about George Clift. Suffice it to say, the man’s story fascinates me as much as it infuriates me.
George Clift and Sallie Jollett Clift with Vernon and Daisey about 1895
George and Sallie Jollett Clift
Vernon and Daisey
about 1895

If you don’t care to read all the details HERE, HERE, and HERE, the Cliff Notes version (or CLIFT Notes, har har yeah I kill me) is this: George and Sallie had five children. The first two died as youngsters from injuries in a house fire well before the other three came along. Over the years George enjoyed several affairs while at home he became verbally and physically abusive, even threatening Sallie and their little girl Alda with a gun. In 1914, Sallie found George’s love letters to various women and used them to obtain a divorce and a modest monthly check for child support. To make ends meet, Sallie rented out some rooms, mostly to men who worked for the railroad there in Shenandoah. A cloud of suspicion arose about poor Sallie with neighbors whispering that she was running a bawdy house. Not so, but there it is.

It must have been that gun incident that landed George in jail in Luray, Virginia in 1914, where he became reflective about his life. There he wrote this poem that at times makes me pity him because he obviously loved and missed those sweet children lost in the fire; in other verses the same ol’ mean and miserable man raises his ugly head. I can only shake mine and roll my eyes.

A Song of Reflection
Writen in the Luray Jail By G. T. Clift

Kid I am sad and lonely
Since from me you ran away
And I feel you would forgive me
If you could see me here today.

And now I set and wonder
If you think this is right
I no if you could see me
That it would change your plight.

Twenty two long years dear Wifey
Since we came to old luray
And today my hart is sadist
While I was happy on that day.

It seems you have forsaken me
For someone else to roam
While I set here in prison
You are happy in my home.

I no you feel delighted
To have me in a prison cell
And I fear when you reach heaven
They send you Back to hell.

Some day you will die
You don’t know when that will be
And as the angels do come in
I think you will send for me.

It was right here in this town
In eighteen ninety two
That I forgot my sweetheart
And went and married you.

You promist you would love me
And all my words obey
And Friday you had me arrested
And I am in Jail today.

Today it brings me sorrow
And Some Kind of regret
I have two children up in heaven
And three on earth as yet.

It was on that fatal day
In eighteen ninety seven
My darling Boy he left me
And went on up to heaven.

Then there was little daisy
The pride of my life
Was all I had to love me
Except a scolding wife.

But the angels allso loved her
And I suppose they thought it Best
For Just seventeen years today
Since she went to heaven to rest.

Shore is nothing in this world
For Whitch I need to care
But I know up in heaven
I have two darlings there.

Vernon was a sweet treasure
And dear Daisey was the same
How I loved & cherished Both
Till that death angel came.

Today they are Both in heaven
A singin around the throne
Wondering why Dear Papa
Was driven from his home.

But while in this lonely prison
George Thomas Clift
George Thomas Clift
I sometimes think I see
Those two dear darling angels
A hovering over me.

I love those five dear children
Both the living & the dead
While I am here in prison
The scandals on your head.

But now I have grown old
My limbs are getting frail
A railroad man is in my home
And old Geo. Clift in jail.

Good by. Write soon.

Write soon?! What was he thinking?

George couldn’t spell worth a lick, but he sure could crank out a rhyme.

Don’t let this story leave you miserable because there are many fun stories from my friends at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sepia Saturday: The Slade Family Tree

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

For every family historian and genealogist, this week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a tree is the iconic symbol of “the family tree” with its roots to the past holding firm, its numerous branches spreading out in all directions, and its individual leaves added anew every year. The title of this post might then make you think you’re in for a snoozefest through the Slade lineage. Not so.

Here is the only photo I have of my father’s paternal grandmother, Mary Morrison Slade. She is standing in front of a Weeping Willow tree in the front yard of my grandparents’ home in the community called Cradock in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Mary Morris Slade Portsmouth, Virginia
Great Grandmother Mary Morrison Slade mid-1940s
Portsmouth, Virginia
Even though she died when I was 8, I have no memory of her. She was probably extremely debilitated by dementia and therefore my parents kept me from her. Apparently she had been that way for many years. My dad said that even as a young man he often had to break a date to go look for his grandmother when she wandered and got lost. 

Mary Morrison Slade was widowed at the age of 49 in 1928, the same year my dad was born. Often I have wondered how widows managed in the days before it was common for women to work and have their own income. In 1930, Grandma Slade was the head of household in a house she rented on Henry Street. One son, two daughters and one son-in-law were there too. The only one with a job was the son-in-law.  

In 1940 Mary was living at 416 Randolph Street. According to the 1940 census, this was the same house where she lived in 1935, which tells me she had moved there between 1930 and 1935. Maybe the move was driven by finances because the house she rented in 1930, just a street away, was $20 a month. The “new” house, which she rented for $11 a month, was next door to her sister Effie and her husband Henry Hanrahan. 
from Wikimedia Commons
This is NOT where Mary Slade worked, but it is a typical 
sewing project factory or workroom.
Grandma Slade, born in Tennessee, had completed 5 years of school. During her married life, she was always the wife of a farmer, but now she was a working woman employed in the government-sponsored WPA sewing project. The specific job appears to be “Iron lady,” but the handwriting in the 1940 census is unclear. Her statement that she was unemployed for 65 weeks prior to March 1940 contradicts the statement that she worked 52 weeks in 1939 earning $780. She claimed no other source of income.

The Work Project Administration (WPA) was part of the New Deal effort to put people to work. The sewing project was specifically designed for women who were considered unemployed heads of household either because they were widowed, abandoned, or disabled. The sewing project was the lowest paid position, but women received training in using sewing machines. They made clothing, bedding, and supplies for hospitals and orphanages. Grandma Slade is the first ancestor I’ve found who was employed under the New Deal. 

I do not know where Grandma Slade was living when she posed in front of the tree in my grandparents’ yard. The Weeping Willow certainly made a nice backdrop for photos though. On the evening of my Aunt Betty’s music recital, she and her friend Jackie posed there too.

Beverly Slade and Jackie Shearidan Portsmouth, Virginia 1940s
Jackie and Betty

Don’t weep. There are many more stories and old photos of trees at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sepia Saturday: A Flea in the Bed

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a baseball player is the perfect prompt for a story about my granduncle Woody Woodring. Unfortunately for me, I already wrote that story. However, when I told Woody’s story in 2012, I thought his last season as a professional baseball player was in 1929. I have since discovered that is not so. While his career lasted only another 5 years, he did enough to earn him his very own baseball card.
Woody Woodring 1925 baseball card Portland Beavers
Arthur "Woody" Woodring
1925 Portland Beavers

Reading “Portland” on the card confused me at first because my research had revealed only his time with the Martinsburg Blue Sox, part of the Blue Ridge League, and with the team representing the Shops of the Norfolk & Western Railroad. A clip in the Portland Oregonian dated January 1925 revealed there was much more to Woody’s story, attesting to his strength as a catcher.
News article Portland Oregonian January 1925
from the Portland Oregonian January 1925
A month later, the story was quite different. The sports reporter for the Portland Oregonian praised Woody for his arm. In his last year with the Blue Sox, Woody’s fielding percentage was .994 in 72 games, the best fielding record ever by a catcher in the Blue Ridge league. He was credited with 46 assists in 359 chances and was charged with only 2 errors. Impressive.

News article Portland Oregonian February 15, 1925
from Portland Oregonian, Feb 15, 1925
But then the reporter went on to caution, “There’s always a flea in the bed somewhere.” 

That “flea” was Woody’s batting average. He predicted Woody would never be the starting catcher, no matter how good he was at it, if he couldn’t hit, run, score.

Woody played in the minor leagues about the time many of the teams started aligning with the big boys. The Portland Beavers were part of the Philadelphia Athletics organization. Despite boasting a roster of players who later achieved Hall of Fame status, the Beavers repeatedly finished in the bottom half of the league. How long Woody remained with the team is not known. However, a news article from 1930 indicates that at some point he had returned home to Martinsburg, West Virginia and was back with the Blue Sox.
News article about Woody Woodring being traded Apr 11, 1930
from Morning Herald Hagerstown, MD Apr 11, 1930

For some reason he was released but quickly grabbed up by the Cumberland Colts in Maryland. After that, there is another gap in Woody’s career. As before, he made his way back to Martinsburg. In 1934, a news article reported he decided to resign as manager of the Blue Sox because the time commitment interfered with his business interests.

Woody's resignation as manager of Blue Sox 1934
from Evening Sun Hanover, PA May 31, 1934

Those “business interests” were not likely any fancy investments or wheeling and dealing. On the contrary, it is more likely he needed a “real job” that paid better than minor league baseball. In 1932, he was a driver for Standard Oil. 

Then at least before 1939 he became a salesman for Corkran Hill & Company, a distributor of meat, cheese, and margarine. What a bonus to get a company car! 

Corkran Hill & Co car
Woody's car
Corkran Hill & Co.

That was his career until the day he died at the ripe ol’ age of 47 (!) in January 1951.

Arthur Woody Woodring and Velma Davis Woodring 1949 Martinsburg, WV
Woody and my grandaunt Velma 1949

Don’t get caught looking. Run the bases to Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Snakes Alive! or Heavens to Betty!

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is one I can hardly look at without getting chills. Snakes – hate ‘em, even the supposedly “good” ones. My aunt Betty (my father’s sister) shares my fear. Actually, she exceeds it. The day she started hating snakes is permanently etched in her mind.

This picture was taken on that very day.
Beverly Slade Anderson 1939
Beverly Ann Slade about 5 years old 1939

Aunt Betty had been sent to live with Richetta Moss, a family friend, since her mother (my grandmother) was in no emotional or physical shape to take care of a baby due to alcoholism. Mrs. Moss’s family owned a beach cottage at Ocean View. On that fateful day in 1939, the family was constructing a walkway from the cottage to the road using bricks that were piled up in the back yard.

As anyone who has ever done a major home project knows, keeping the youngins busy and out of trouble is key to making progress. Assigning Betty and Jackie (another child in Mrs. Moss’s care) the job of gathering bricks and hauling them in their little wagon was the logical thing to do. Surely it was both work and fun for two little girls to fill the wagon and pull with all their might through the bumpy yard.

However, on one trip with the wagon, Betty picked up a brick, unaware that danger lurked beneath. But there it was – a snake. As if just seeing it were not bad enough, she accidentally stepped on the thing. With that, she dropped the brick and just ran.

When it comes to those limbless reptiles, Aunt Betty has been running ever since.

Be like Aunt Betty and run, run, run to Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sepia Saturday: You Say Tomato - I Say McDonald

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows a number of people focusing their attention on one dapper gentleman with hat and cane in hand. His expression is seemingly one of annoyance. But isn’t he well-dressed? Among my old photos is one of my maternal grandfather’s cousin Lee McDonald dressed similarly in light pants and dark sport coat.

Lee McDaniel or McDonald 1891-1973
Lee Roy McDaniel or McDonald
15 Nov 1871 Virginia - 30 Jan 1973 Indiana

The timing of the prompt photo inspired me to go ahead and update Lee’s line in the “Genealogy Do-Over” way, complete with proper citations and all that. Unfortunately, this Do-Over is Not-Done, thanks to absence in census records, conflicting records, and confusing names. In the state of Virginia, the family was known as McDaniel. Lee’s parents were Grattan McDaniel and Melvina Davis, sister of my great-grandfather Walter Davis. In both 1880 and 1900, they were McDaniel. But in 1920 Indiana, they were the McDonalds. Why, I don’t know. And why Indiana, I don’t know. But all the living children had relocated to Indiana as early as 1907, judging by a marriage record for Lee’s brother Thomas.

As adults, three of the McDaniel brothers – er, uh McDonald brothers – were professional painters: Lee, Grover, and Bernard. Lee was employed at the Polk Sanitary Milk Company. (Sanitary? Isn't all milk "sanitary"? I didn't know a company needed to make a point of saying it.)

Polk Sanitary Milk Company
The Polk Sanitary Milk Company 1925
courtesy Indiana Historical Society
I don’t know how a milk company kept a full-time painter busy unless they needed those oversized milk bottles kept clean with fresh paint. The company was a large enterprise, frequently expanding, so there’s that too. 

Lee retired from Polk’s in 1956, right about the time the company fell on hard times and closed. No use in crying over  - well, you know. 
(posted on Findagrave)

To see how others were inspired by hats and canes and well-dressed folk, please visit Sepia Saturday

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Dollar Steaks, Kilroy, and Love

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

Valley Diner 1940s menu Toms Brook VA

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring a vintage menu from Milan & Dan’s CafĂ© in San Francisco brings to mind an old menu that was among my mother’s possessions. Dating from about the early to mid-1940s, the menu came from the Valley Diner. This menu has all the earmarks of a low-budget operation. Two plastic pockets allow the proprietor to swap out a list of offerings without having to order all new menus. The name of the restaurant is even handwritten on the cover. 

Valley Diner 1940s menu spread Toms Brook VA

The day’s specials filled a page that was painstakingly handwritten and inserted over the regular menu page. It appears to be original, and since this menu predated quick copy services like Kinkos and Office Max, it is likely someone wrote a page for every menu at the Valley Diner. And now because someone in my family apparently took a menu as a souvenir, an employee had one less menu to fill.

Valley Diner 1940s menu Specials Toms Brook VA
Valley Diner 1940s menu under the Specials Toms Brook VA

Valley Diner 1940s menu Toms Brook VA

With a common name like “Valley Diner,” one would expect to find a number of same-named restaurants throughout the valley of Virginia, but there was only one “Valley Diner.” It was located near Toms Brook, a very small town of about 250 people in Shenandoah County. Its location along route 11 made it a popular eatery for travelers heading north toward Washington DC and Maryland or south toward Harrisonburg and Roanoke. That is the same road my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring would have taken from Martinsburg, West Virginia to visit her family in Harrisonburg and Shenandoah. Maybe she was the culprit who stole the menu!
Valley Diner Toms Brook VA 1960s postcard
1960s postcard of the Valley Diner, Toms Brook, VA
(from Shenandoah Co Library Archives)
Whatever was so special about the Valley Diner to make a person walk off with a menu has been lost to time. Maybe it was a special occasion to be celebrated with a $1.00 steak or oyster plate. Or maybe it was just a convenient lunch spot offering a hamburger for 15 cents and crab meat sandwich for 40. Most sandwiches were under 45 cents, so the $1.00 “Kilroy Was Here” sandwich must have come with everything on it.
What was on this sandwich to make it so expensive?
Valley Diner Toms Brook VA 1960s postcard
1960s postcard of the Valley Diner, Toms Brook, VA
(from Shenandoah Co Library Archives)

I was hoping to make THAT the story, but I could find no references to such a thing, only a song “Kilroy Was Here” by the Leather Sandwich band of Australia. So I went looking for the history of the diner. The National Park Service published a document in 1995 about diners in Virginia. According to the NPS, the Valley Diner was a wood-frame building with a barrel-vault roof built sometime between 1925 and 1930. The exterior walls have been covered with stucco. A glass block counter and knotty pine paneling were added in the 1940s and 1950s updates. The diner operated under the name “Bud & Yanks” throughout the 1930s.

An obituary – yes, an obituary, of all things – told more of the story. When Mary Sue Rakes graduated from high school in Franklin County, Virginia, she worked for Naomi and Eddie Wilkerson and then followed them to the Valley where they opened the Valley Diner in the mid-1940s. (I wonder if Naomi is the one who wrote the menu.) But that is not the end. The Valley Diner is where Mary Sue found love. Yes, love. Eugene Hottle Crabill worked at the Woodstock Locker Plant (a frozen food locker) and delivered meats to the Valley Diner. I suppose he was the one carrying those delicious dollar steaks and oysters. He and Mary Sue married in 1952 and together they opened a retail meat business, Crabill’s Meats, which is still going strong.

Valley Diner Toms Brook VA today
The Valley Diner today
(from Flickr)
In the late 1960s when I-81 was constructed bypassing small towns, Valley Diner took a hit, as did many businesses. Today the Valley Diner is just an empty shell, a decaying relic of days gone by when Mom ‘n’ Pops could make a good living along a main corridor. Nevertheless, the building is listed in the survey of historic resources of Shenandoah County.

Valley Diner Toms Brook VA today
The Valley Diner 2011
(used by permission of Diner Hunter Spencer Stewart)

Valley Diner Toms Brook VA interior today
The interior of the Valley Diner 2011
shot through a window
(used by permission of Diner Hunter Spencer Stewart)

It looks like this five-finger discounted menu holds some historic significance after all.

To see what others are serving up, check the Today’s Specials at Sepia Saturday. Tell them Kilroy sent you.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.