Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Virgil Goes To War

I haven't got to the 1940s in my transcription of Gramma Lu's memoirs, but I often look ahead to see if I can nail down dates and events to index.

I couldn't find any mention of Pearl Harbor, but she did talk about the day Virgil enlisted. Then later on, when she talked about the day he actually left for war, I found her summary of the buildup to war, and Pearl Harbor!  So here is the post, a little late. 

At this time Virgil had been out of jail for a few years (after his drunk driving manslaughter incident -- to be posted later).  I believe the family was still living in Homestead, though they did spend some time in Thompsonville around then too.  I should note that Gramma Lu herself suffered from depression during this period, and her difficult relationship with Fred was at its worst then.  It is no wonder that Virgil was morose....

Virgil at training camp - we have no idea which one is him

Virgil Goes To War (Spring 1942)

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

Virgil had become more and more morose and stayed at home and avoided other people more and more. I worried about him as there seemed no prospect of his marrying, though there was a girl who would have been glad to have him, living not too far away, a friend of ours. So he was more of a problem than I could cope with. I prayed and prayed night after night for them all.  Then on e day he came home and announced,

"Well, I belong to Uncle Sam now!"

There was a new spring in his step, a new light in his eyes. He was 1A!

The time came that Virgil had to leave to go to camp!  We knew he must go, as all other parents knew it.  He drove with me to Frankfort the day before he left and when we were through at the doctors, he drove to the end of a street that ends on a bluff beside some grand residences. The waves were dashing high. We just sat there and watched as the spray from those mighty breakers soared high above the lighthouse, great white caps rode the crest of each wave and ever and anon they would sweep to their utmost height then swirl back to be chased by another and higher wall of water!

The sight was magnificent and inspiring! I don't know what Virgil thought as we sat and looked at good and Great old Lake Michigan!  I thought of the ocean he would probably have to cross and no doubt his thoughts were a good deal like mine.  We drove home after a while.

The following day, dad and me accompanied him to Beulah, where several recruits waited for a bus to carry them on the first lap of that most unforgettable journey. It was a cold, rather cheerless day. The boys from our vicinity waited in a bus beside the lake for another busload to join them.

There was no fanfare. The day was cold.  Later when other boys went, the High School band gave them a little serenade before they left. But not for this bunch of men. No one thought of it, I guess. Just another crowd of our young men (17 to 40 about) going to give their all for our country if need be!  Just a few relatives (parents mostly) and friends came to see them off. We stood around stamping our feet to keep them warm, saying goodbyes and making joking remarks.

The first bus lumbered up. The fellows got aboard and waited, trying to look unconcerned. Parents trying to look cheerful.  "Don't forget to write! We'll be thinking of you. God bless you, we'll pray that you'll be all right."  "Bring me a necklace of Japanese ears," said some youngster. "Don't let those French girls rope you in," etc.  Just to pass those last tense moments, shaking hands again.  "Good bye. Good bye -- I'll write often."

Then another bus load of men came and our boys left us, waving their hands as long as we could see them.

Our last child had gone out into the great world and to war.  Strangely, I had worried that my three oldest, Orville, Stanley and Dudley, would have to fight in World War I, and perhaps never return!  That Virgil would go to war never occurred to me then. The three oldest never saw fighting, as it developed, although Orville did go into service.

And now Virgil was going to another beastly war.  In only one generation -- 2 wars!  Fred and I drove home silently. There was nothing to say. When at home again, Fred put more fuel on the fires to warm our chilled frames. We wondered if the boys would have a cold ride.

I sat down by the fire and wept silently.  The futility of it all.  Raising sons only to fight these cruel battles, to kill and be killed!  What good did it do to get up petitions, to write the president and our governors and representatives?  To talk peace and negotiations? There were women's clubs banded together for the purpose of promoting peace and out-loving war!  How far did they get?

First we heard the rumbles in the distance, "We'll be in another  war before we know it. It's coming, we can't stop it Everything points to war."

 Then one grim and awful night, Pearl Harbor with its terrible results and aftermath! We were at war!  No alternative, it seemed, young men begged for a chance to retaliate this fearful attack. They were given a chance and many many went who would rather have stayed with their families.

As I think of it later, there were no girls congregated about when this first contingent left. The boys were not in uniform then! What a difference that makes!  I saw many in uniform later, and heart breaking scenes at the depots. To many it was like tearing the very heart out to watch them go bravely away to foreign lands.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Spanish Flu in Suttons Bay

Jumping ahead again in Gramma Lu's memoirs. The train wreck happened in late winter/early spring of 1918. This was a very very busy year in the life of the family.  The youngest, Virgil, had his tonsils out (behind his father's back, because Fred thought all doctors were crooks.)  The oldest son, Orville, had gone off to war in March.  Fred got a job in Suttons Bay, and Lula finally prevailed upon him to get a house and bring the family there. The hardships of city life in Traverse City, combined with the hardships of the war, were almost too much for the family to handle.

Suttons Bay was heaven on earth as far as Lula was concerned -- however, that first year they were still in poverty.  Grace didn't want to live there, didn't want to go to school there. Fred had to go down to Muskegon to find war work in a factory -- taking second son Ralph's savings with him for expenses. By winter the family ended up settled in a huge barn of a house that was only partly finished.  Lula was having a hard time even clothing the children. And she was beginning to suspect she was pregnant again.

Then the flu epidemic kicked in....

The Winter of Flu (1918-1919)

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

That was the winter the influenza was so rampant everywhere.  It finally hit Suttons Bay.  Many were down with it. Muskegon was peppered with it. Maud LaGuire lost her second husband with it there in Muskegon.  She now had seven children. 
Fred came home.  He was sick with a fever and a cold, he called it. Before we knew what was happening, some of the children came down with it. When I sent for the doctor, he came and asked Fred, "How long have you had it?" 

Fred said, "I haven't got it not the flu. Just a cold."

There he sat, a bright fever spot on each cheek, and running eyes and nose. He would not go to bed in daytime, but sat up all day and coughed and sneezed and cussed.

A nun  at the convent died, and was burried the same night, as they all tried to keep this killer from spreading. Mama wrote and told of a whole family who had lived on a farm. When neighbors noticed there was no stir about there for several days, they investigated.  They found the entire family of seven dead, but one boy -- almost dead -- and the cattle and horses starving in the barn.  That is just an idea of how that dreadful disease was playing havoc.

It was not long till four of the children and I were in bed with "flu" as it is called.  Ralph has heard of something called naptha, I believe, to take to ward off the influenza. We kept it in one of the coldrooms upstairs as he was told to keep it away from fires, and each day we'd go up and take a few drops of the stuff on a spoonful of sugar. It was like liquid fire, whatever it was.  But we swallowed it bravely, and perhaps it helped keep the flu in a rather mild state when we did get it.

Before long we were in quarantine. Fred, the three boys, two girls and me.  Fred got better, fortunately, and Ralph did not get the disease, but they had their hands full caring for the girls and I and the two boys upstairs. It was quite a task I knew, but we were real ill for a few days with sore throat, headache, back ache, and fever. 

The doctor left some tablets for us to take and a bottle of whisky. Naturally I, being a teetotler, got none of that, nor did the girls, but the boys and Fred had "slings" made of it. I think Fred was glad of my total abstainance then.

We had no baths, and were lucky if we got our faces and hands washed once a day. Ralph and dad did keep us warm, and feed us pretty well when we were able to eat.

One pain-wracked day followed another. The doctor was so very busy with so many cases, he couldn't come often.  Often all the sleep he got was in his car or sleigh, while his driver took him to another case.

Eventually we all began to improve and in a couple of weeks were up again.  I made chest protectors from old blankets for all the youngsters to wear and soon we were let out of quarantine. The health officer told us to spread our bed clothes out well on chairs, etc., and we all parked around that good kitchen stove while the officers fumed something upstairs.  I think it was the next day we all stayed upstairs while they fumigated below.  They did a thorough job, but it has been proven since that fumigation does no good. 

Schools were shut down. No one went to the stores unless necessary, and could not congregate about public places.

There was a back room upstairs with a cook stove in it, that some school children had had to cook on at one time, and we'd build a fire there and gather round and read, sew, crochet or play games. Sometimes make tea and toast or a light lunch. This we designated the "Cozy Room," and that just defines it. How we all enjoyed it. I'd advise everyone with a family to have a cozy room way upstairs someplace.

We'd found a large pile of ladies magazines in the house and they helped pass many an hour that would otherwise have been lonely and monotonous. We'd read the stories and recipes and sometimes try them out in the kitchen downstairs.  We'd save crochet patterns and copy some.  The girls and I did quite a lot of this pastime that winter. Only draw back, we couldn't afford much thread for that purpose.

When Fritz was well enough, he and Ralph got work in a camp farther north. So we were eating well again at least. But one night they came home and took baths and Fritz put his dirty shirt on again unnecessarily -- and came to bed with me and told me they had acquired bugs while working at camp!  Ye gods! What next?  I then had to fight body lice for several weeks before we could be rid of them.  And to make life more interseting, Dudley got a relapsed flu, and we were quarantined again!

After about a week of that, he was better -- able to get up and the health officer came to take down the sign. I said, "Mr. H., you might as well leave it up, as two more are sick again." He did. Queenie and Virgil were down again with flu!

Well, carrying their meals up to them in my condition, weakened by the flu myself, caring for them best I could and fighting gray backs was pretty exhausting but I kept at it. I don't know how.  Glad that we were all alive; that was a lot to be thankful for.

We had to get permission from headquarters for Orville to send home part of his army pay to help out at home.  He was perfectly willing to do this, I believe, and I'm sure I do not know how we would have gotten through that winter otherwise.

I knew by now the new baby was not going to be welcome. Grace had said, "If there's a nother baby born here, I'll leave home." Which she did not mean. Orville had written to Ralph that he didn't see why a man that couldn't support the ones he had wanted to keep on having more, etc. 

There was a lot of friction, a good deal of coziness and companionship and quite a lot of worry and fear that winter!  Would the flu epidemic never end? Would Orville have to go across to fight?!!

No, that was decided. He would not have to go overseas! We were told the war was over.  The armistice had been signed, had it not?  Orville had been sent to Newport News, VA.  Worked there in an office during the year, taking his training in Signal Corps.  He was a good soldier. 

Ralph had wanted so much to go, but being in the accident, and having one poor eye, he was denied that priviledge. And he smarted under the result. He wanted to be in uniform as many other boys were.  He made every effort to get in and finally was issued his questionaire. This elated him very much, but then came the Armistice and again he was disappointed. But at least he had received his questionaire.

I was very well aware that we could not keep up payments on the piano under present conditions, and called the music house up and told them so, so the children were deprived of their piano as well as their organ, much as I hated this.  Another week of relapses and the doctor came. Queenie was still in bed. 

"Isn't she up yet?" he asked. 

"No," I said, "she isn't able to be up."

"Well," he said, "let her sit up an hour or so, we can say she's up. We want to open up the schools and can't as long as we have any flu patients."

I said, "OK, she'll sit up tomorrow."

And he offered "There are tricks in all trades, you know."

Virgil was up, but doctor had said his appendix was in bad condition. I strongly suspect that the youngsters did not have the food they properly needed, though I always cooked food well and baked our own bread.  But one quart milk a day for eight! 

Queenie improved from then on and children were soon answering the call of the school bell again. The flu was on the decline. It had been a very mild winter, with only a few real cold days. Such a winter usually brings on a great deal of sickness.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ralph's Trainwreck - 1918

This week I skip ahead a little in time from the Gramma Lu's Babies memoir. This is from a bigger memoir she wrote, which I have been slowly scanning -- over 500 pages of densely written script. I don't want to handle the musty original paper too much, so I haven't read it, but I see bits and pieces as I go.  It's hard to read her handwriting, but now and then a little bit will intrigue me, and I'll sit down and keep reading...discovering a new bit of family history as I go.

It was mid-March of 1918, and the family may have been living in Traverse City at the time.

Postcard showing a snow plow from the Grand Travers area circa 1915.

The Train Wreck

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

Orville had not gone to war yet, but came home to stay a while to take shots for boils, etc., before he could answer his country's call. Virgil's tonsils were bothering him more, and he was getting really deaf in one ear. What to do! I did not know. There had never at that time been an operation in our family, and they were considered at that time dangerous. Something comparatively new. Fred surely didn't approve and I surely was worried about my little boy.  He didn't take any interest in school, nor play.

One afternoon, Orville was home waiting for his call and all at once it seemed that I lost interest in my work -- which was very unusual -- it just seemed that the world was stopping in its rotation or something was radically wrong.  Such a feeling I had I couldn't explain.  Orville was very restless and soon started pacing the floor; finally said, "I feel awful. I don't know what is the matter. I can't sit still a minute. Just like something was wrong."

I said, "I feel funny too.  I can't settle down to anything." 

However, I had to get supper for us all. The children came home and ate and went about their several activities, while we waited for the ax to fall, as it were.

It did.  As I've said, Fred and Ralph were working in Suttons Bay on the railroad.  Winter had arrived in earnest and they were having their annual struggle to get thru to the rest of the world. Though we did not know about this at that time. After supper, a small boy came with a note saying that Fred wanted me to meet the train when it came in.

Well, it just happened that I was at the store to buy a few groceries when it came, and the children did not know where I'd gone, and when I returned to the house, Orville was nearly distracted.

But we set out at once to go to the depot, where the TCL&M came in, about a mile or more.  I remember it was very cold and I was not dressed for such cold weather.  My coat then was one that had been given to me, and was wholly inadequate for such severe weather. I don't suppose Orville was warm either, as none of us had clothes enough.

As we sped along as fast as we could walk, I wondered what could be wrong.  I believe the note said Ralph was hurt.  We should have gotten it in the early p.m., but here it was after six.  I don't know why the delay. When we got there, the train had been in and gone for hours. 

The whole town had been excited about the snow plow wreck on the TCL&M, and it appeared we were the only ones who had not known about it.  I was told afterwards that about half the town had been there to meet it when it arrived, bringing the dead and wounded of the wreck.  No wonder Orlo and I had felt so vacant and as if catastrophe was imminent. Don't tell me there's nothing to telepathy!  I thought on the way coming pehraps Ralph had broken his leg in getting off the train.  He had broken his leg indeed!  Such a thing as a wreck had not entered my mind. We went into the deserted depot then to the freight depot to see if there was anyone there.  The man there told us the conductor was on the couch outside. We went to him.

Orville said, "They told us my brother was hurt. Where is he?"

The conductor was almost weeping, he was so overwrought.  It seems he was on the train wreck but not hurt.

He said, "His father's with im," as Orville and I stood gaping. "He's in the hospital. He has a broken leg."  I began twisting my hands together, and the poor man finished.  "There was a wreck!"

Then he turned and fled, could say no more, I guess. While Orville and I looked at each other in horror and consternation.  How badly was Ralphie hurt?  Was dad hurt too, how bad was the wreck? Where?  When? etc.

Orville said, "Ma, what'll we do?"

"We better go to the hospital, I think," I said between chattering teeth.

I'd never been in one of those dreaded institutions as a patient. They meant suffering, homesickness, and death to me.  But we must go! 

Orville said, "We'll get a cab, ma. It's too far to walk out there.  We'll go home first and tell the youngsters."

So we walked the mile or more back home, where we told the bad news -- what we knew of it -- to the children.  We felt hungry and ate a little while waiting for a taxi. The meal consisted of bean soup as I recall. I was almost ready to collapse, but knew I must keep up. The children were silent, scared, almost out of their wits, I think, though they said nothing.

We arrived at hospital. Everything seemed confusion and excitement.  That remote hospital didn't have a whole mass of wrecked folks to care for often in those days.

Doctors were hustling here and there with bloody white aprons and nurses, frightened but efficient, went silently here and there.  Fred met us almost a wreck himself -- and he told us Ralph had a badly broken limb. Two men had been killed, one outright, another died as soon as they brought him to the hospital. Four other young men were in the same condition that Ralph was. Eight men had been injured when the engine had plowed through the snow plow. One fellow had been able to be taken home.

Finally they let us in to where Ralph was a helpless child, badly shaken. I went up and kissed him. It was all I could do. Several Drs. and nurses came to care for him at last. Fred and I stayed in the room.

One doctor said to me, "Are you a relative?"

I said, "I'm his mother."

We thought we'd stay in there while they attended him, but Fred got ill at his stomach and had to leave the room, so I went too. Guess the doctors were glad we went out. I felt relieved that Ralph's hurt was no worse. Though a compound fracture is plenty bad. We went to a little waiting room where Fred nearly fainted. A kind nurse brought us each a cup of coffee. I believe Fred had not eaten that p.m. 

I got the gruesome tale afterwards, how Ralph had been hung up by his broken leg for three hours on the head light of the engine before they could cut him loose. The men had taken turns holding him up so his weight would not be all dependant on that injured leg! A gruelling task for these men and a terrible ordeal for Ralph. They gave him some whisky, which I suppose helped him to endure.

At long last, he was resting, his leg set, and as we could do nothing for him, we went home. Orville had gone home earlier to be with the other kids. 

Fred asked a man, a father of one of the other injured boys, to stay with us that night. So I fixed him up a bed best I could on a cot. Bedding was not too plentiful at our house, I am free to admit. 

In later years, when auto accidents are as frequent as can be, we have sort of trained ourselves to expect something of that kind almost anytime.  But when and if they come, the shock is probably just as great. What made this trial harder to bear for me was the fact that I had scolded Ralph the last time he was home and given him a good slapping on his back -- he was then just 18 --for something he had done that he should not have done.  I don't remember what his offense was, but probably cursing, as he was getting to be a good imitator of his father in that respect. However, if he had been killed in this snow plow wreck, I never would have forgiven myself for reprimanding him.

The way we are, I guess. We punish because we think we must, then are filled with remorse when something happens.

The poor boy was in the hospital over two months. I walked out to see him as often as I could. He suffered intensly, and when he was better, made a great hit with the nurses. Have I mentioned that he had grown up to a very handsome young man, even though his one eye was crossed?  I thought nothing of walking the mile and a half to see him.

The wreck made the papers, and even though those issues are missing from the archive for the Traverse City Record Eagle, small versions of the story appeared in the Lansing State Journal, and this article below in the Port Huron Times.

It doesn't mention the names of most of the men, only the first killed.  But now we can add at least two names of the men involved: Ralph Stanley LaGuire and Fred LaGuire.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Gramma Lu's Babies - 4

This week we come to the era of the picture I've been using for illustration -- with baby Gracie being born.

Just a note about names: when Lula wrote her memoirs (and so far I've found over 500 pages of it, densely handwritten) she generally changed the names slightly.  "Dougie" of course, is Dudley.  She generally called Gracie "Greta." And her husband Fred was usually called "Fritz."  In this memoir she didn't go further: surnames are the same, and I have found many of the people she mentions in the census for 1900 or 1910.  However, in her much longer memoir that covers her whole life, she changes much more. Still obvious if you know the real names, though, (LaGuire becomes LaGrawn, Wanamaker becomes Shoemaker, etc.)

(Previous chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3)

The Babies God Gave Me

Handwritten manuscript by Lula J. Wanamaker LaGuire 

Chapter 4

An Adventist Church stood between our house (one belonging to the Wynkoops) and the store.  And when  I could get ready, the children and I attended church services.  The Adventists proved to be real friends.

When I discovered I was to have another child, I was just plain angry, it seemed to me that I needed a little respite. I had more than I could do to keep up my work, and was far from well.  It just did not seem fair to me nor my babies I already had, and it surely kept Fred's nose on the grindstone!

I did not cry as I did before my second one, but became rather cross at night when I lay on my back and tried to turn over. It felt as if my back was spiked to the bed and I was tearing myself loose.  The ordeal of turning over was fierce!  But I had to do it. I didn't even see a doctor.  None was handy and I supposed this was just another facet of pregnancy.

So I endured.  My lungs felt compressed and I knew I needed more fresh air and that's when I sent for a remedy to sell.  Mother's Salve and other remedies.  And when Fred could stay with our little boys an hour or so, I went  out peddling.  I did not make much money but I did get a release from baby tending and earned a few prizes.

I was very strict with my boys, too much so. But when I told one to do or not do something I expected immediate obedience -- if not they got what "paddy gone the drum".  I guess I was getting to be a scold, and one day one of those nice Advent women told  me, as I was telling how hard it was to make the youngsters mind -- how they would run away and what a great worry it all was to me -- she said gently but firmly,

"You can be too severe with children."

I said, "One has to make them obey."

And she repeated: "You can be too severe with children."

Perhaps she'd heard me yelling at them.

Well, I considered what she said and it helped me to be more lenient. I was obsessed with the idea that if I didn't exact implicit obedience they would get into a great deal of trouble as temptations and dangers were everywhere.  The best way I knew was to demand obedience. I know I was too strict, but I really didn't know any other way.  I prayed that God would help me to rule my children with love rather than a rod.

But each day brought more cares and burdens, it seemed.

Fred got a man to build a small coop and I thought I'd raise chickens and help that way, although we got quite a number of eggs, my chicken venture petered out eventually.

Fortunately Mrs. Noris was a midwife and we engaged her to care for my three, in my next confinement.  We all wanted a girl this time, and had to have a hired girl for a while.  Fred hired a horse and cutter and went about six miles and brought her back. she was a pretty dark-haired young woman but crippled as she had a dislocated hip. She was a good worker.  Her name was Ada, and little Dougie, who was talking now, liked her.  That was a help.

He called her Lady, as he thought that was what we meant when we said "Ada."  Some would have said the name Lady didn't fit her, as she was rather wild when she went to dances and even got drunk sometimes.

She behaved while at our house however. Even when Fred offered her a drink once, she refused it. I sure appreciated that. Though I certainly was angry at Fred for offering her a drink and tempting her.  But I guess she knew her limits.

Mrs. Noris came on the coldest night in that very cold winter of 1904 and delivered a lovely baby girl for me.  A good neighbor, Mrs. Crane cared for -- washed and dressed -- our first girl.

I was awfully sick for a while, but it didn't last too long, and Mrs.  Noris was competent.

We were all glad we had a girl.  How little Ralph hopped over to the store and Post Office the next day and announced gaily and happily:

"We've got a sister!"

He used to jump like a little kangaroo when he wanted to tell good news. Orvie did his share of informing neighbors, tho I suppose the news had gotten around before our little men were awake.

I know I made little Gracie Genevieve's clothes, but it is a strange fact that I can only remember one little dress of percale, with narrow stripes and beads in a delicate blue that my mother had sent cloth for.  Though I'm sure she wore the white launsdale cambric ones I had made for Orvie, and all three boys had worn. Baby dresses were still long, but not as long as formerly, thank goodness.

How we did used to swaddle our poor kids up in long skirts, dressed and pinning blankets. And when baby wet, unless it was well padded with two or three diapers, all it's clothes were wet!

Rubber pants had not come into use at that time -- what a boon they have been since.  Altho I think it is cruel to keep them on babies all the time, when one travels with an infant -- these rubber diapers are a blessing.  I never had any for my youngsters.  Nor any such thing as a rubber sheet. We got along as best we could in those days and if I did not have conveniences like play pens and high cribs, plastic bottles and many modern helps, neither did my friends and neighbors. But mothers could keep their babies clean and sweet smelling if they really cared, and many did too.

Orvie had reached the manly age of six and he was a manly little fellow too.  He had a playmate that altho he was only about eight years old, he smoked a pipe.  Had been taught to by his father and uncles. He would not let my boys have any of his tobacco, but Orvie thought that if he could smoke, why couldn't he!  Fred was an inveterate smoker. Tobacco was always around the house.  I really don't know where Orvie obtained the weed, but as I missed him and started looking for him one day, I discovered him out behind the chicken coop.  He was leaning against it as he could hardly stand and was sick as any little boy ever was who tried his first smoke.

I believe he thought he was dying!  When he was thru vomiting he came to the house and for a wonder his mother had sense enough not to spank him.  I knew  he had been punished a great plenty.  I think he didn't try again for many years.
He has learned to smoke and broken off many times since, but at this writing he does not use the filthy weed.

I wish I could remember more of my children's smart or cute sayings. But only  a few still linger in my memory.

When Ralphie learned that his brother Dougie had his father's middle name and Orvie had his daddy's first name as his middle name, he felt sort of slighted -- so I told him about the Great explorer, Henry M. Stanley, and he was pleased, little Ralph, as his first name is "Stanley."

Looking elated he said, "Well, I'm glad someone is named after me!"

At one time when the two boys were yet little, a window by the head of the bed where dad and Orvie slept became broken, letting in too much fresh air.  As we couldn't get a glass at once to repair it, Orvie and his daddy turned and slept with their heads at the foot of the bed for a night or two.  When I asked them if they would be warm enough that way, Orvie, about 2 1/2 then, spoke up and said:

"I'll be alright, won't I papa, if I leep with my head to yours and my heels -- wrong side out!"

No doubt thinking he had made a very good choice of words.

As I recall other cute things I'll try to record them.

Our girl had dark hair and big  blue eyes, as all the boys had at first.  Orvie was now a real light-haired blond while Ralphie's hair was slightly darker, almost a red -- not quite.  Dougie also was a golden haired blond -- Greta's hair always remained dark.  All beautiful children and not just to my eyes, either! 

If I had only had time to play with them and talk to them, I would have enjoyed them more.  But with a very demanding husband and three meals to get on time, and four little huskies to care for, I did not seem to have time for my children as I should have had.  Between worrying about my work which never seemed to be caught up and Fred's queer ways and the boys running off every chance they got, I was in a fair way to lose my mind, I thought.

Once said to a neighbor that I was almost frantic with so many worries and health not half good.

She said, "You can be thankful they are little and you can keep track of them most of the time. When they are grown up and you don't know where they are or what they are doing then, you will know what worry really is."

It did not seem possible to me that I could have any more troubles than at the time I was carrying, and I must say after many years that woman was mistaken as far as my youngsters were concerned, altho I have found many different kinds of hectic situations with their many and varied heart aches and suspense.  My children did not cause me more worries when they became young men and women. They were thoughtful, smart and quite well-behaved, not even committing the minimum of depredations. Tho, of course they did some things that I did not approve of, being natural human beings.

So perhaps those spankings did some good after all.  However I would be more satisfied and at peace with my conscience if I had skipped the whippings.  A good spank on the place where it did the most good on their little bottoms, was permissible and did help to keep them tractable, and the act of crying keeps things clear, nad perhaps moms are excusable.

I hope so anyway.  

Continue Reading - Chapter 5 (Next week)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Gramma Lu's Babies - 3

This chapter takes place around 1902, when Stanley was a baby.   I've been researching some of the places and people and things she mentions, and hope to incorporate them into the book. A few data points: Dr. Shelladay, and the Wyncoop family appear in the censuses for Lake Ann and Cedar Run.  There are Norris familys, but none of them quite match up to her description - this may be due to the fact that Lula's family wasn't the only one that moved and changed from year to year, or it might be due to bad transcription. (Often a name like Noris would be listed as Lovia or something.) I'm checking through manually to see if anything was missed.

As we begin the next chapter, the family is getting ready to move away from Fountain, Mi, to Lake Ann, in Benzie County. The first of many many moves.

(Start with Chapter 1, Chapter 2)

The Babies God Gave Me

Handwritten manuscript by Lula J. Wanamaker LaGuire 

Chapter 3

Fred went north to get work on another railroad. He put some of our furnitue in a grocery store as colateral so I could get groceries, and to offset what we owed there, and sold my large dresser so I had money to go to Lake Ann. I knew we would need the furniture to keep house with so asked the store keeper -- an old school mate of mine -- if he had any objection to my taking it with me.  He said he had not..

Cap and Maude and their little Nina had moved in with me and my youngsters, and it was a good thing as Cap crated my sewing machine, (which I could hardly get along without) and helped me get goods to the depot.  Also, we didn't have to go into different quarters while I got three babies and me ready to move. 

Brother Scott here was a great help as he went with us to Lake Ann. This would have been a trial to me otherwise as we had to change trains and wait at a depot a long time.  He even held the baby while I went to the restroom, and that was something as he was bashful and not used to babies.  How I have wished, I had more time to help him overcome his shyness, and he find a nice girl to go with! 

But with three babies it seemed my hands were full. And the little fellows started running off almost as soon as we were settled.  The railroad was not far away and lovely Lake Ann was just south of the city of Lake Ann.  Not to mention the threat of getting lost; the one that scared me the most.  Of course, now it was harder to chase after the little fellows and leave a tiny baby alone.

We had a rather good looking house for those times, which had been newly papered.  I bought cloth and made a large door curtain etc., and soon had it looking cozy and homelike. Fred got a job as section foreman and our credit was good again, so we started running in debt again as we always did.  He did not want it any other way and laughed at me to scorn if I even mentioned paying cash for what we bought.

Lake Ann had been a thriving city at the time but about four years before we landed there, it had been ravaged by a terrible fire that took about half the town.  The people had not recovered fully from the shock, but were barely trying to make a come back. A new school house perched on a high hill looked good and one day Orvie and a little neighbor girl thought they would go to school.  There was quite a scare in our neighborhood until they were discvoered and brought home.  My days were filled with sewing, cooking, washing, ironing, tending baby and running after those two little runaways.  I bought cloth and made many pieces of clothing for us all. The house where we lived when winter came was not warm at all and we moved to the other side of the town in a warmer, more compact house.

Our stay in Lake Ann lasted only about a year and Fred was ordered to go to Cedar Run, a city so small it needed a round up to get it together.

When spring arrived in Lake Ann, Fred was working at Platte River where he had been sent for a while and one day it was so lovely out, son shining, rivulets tickling everywhere. I bundled the two boys up and let them play out doors.  That night poor Raphie cried fretfully with an earache. Orvie developed bronchitis and the littlest got such a cough it seemed he would tear his tender lungs out coughting. I was alone with them and did everything I could think of, like glazing Orvie with turpentine and lard, putting warm poultices on Ralph's ear, etc. 

I worked over them almost all night, but still the baby coughed frightfully, Ralphie moaned with his ear, and Orvie though more quiet was really sick.  The snow was deep -- over my knees between our place and the next neighbors, but I knew I must get a doctor, so I wrapped up and waded over to the neighbors and finally wakened them and asked if he could go for a doctor for my kids. H was willing and did just that and by daylight one came -- They had a doctor in Lake Ann.

Well he left and I and the youngsters were soon resting but they were ill quite a while. The neighbors came and helped some and I sent for their father and he came home.

I couldn't figure out how the little boys got so bad a cold just in one day -- they must have been coming down with it before the nice day when I let them play out. My sister Grace came to visit us that spring and her boy had a very bad case of croup while there.  Again, we had Dr. Shelladay and he came out OK.  But sister didn't enjoy her stay very much and soon left for her home in Kalkaska - I believe that is where they lived then.

I had to hire my washing done and an elderly man about 75 and his young wife did it for us. This was a great help and I finally got my ironing caught up.  One day the boys were playing on some logs that had been skidded there and Ralphie caught his leg between two logs.  The washer man's little son ran and called his father and the old fellow ran like a dear and went and pushed the log enough to release Ralphie's leg. This is one time he escaped injury.  These people were real friends.

It was after that that we went to Cedar Run.  Fred had been boarding with a woman name of Mrs Noris for a few days and our first glimpse of that sprawling "city" was at her home just under a steep high hill I had my three little fellows dressed as cute as possible. By doing my own sewing I could have prettier clothes for them than as if I bought them ready made.  Even then we couldn't afford to buy an awful lot of material.  Ralphie was in kilts.  Orvie was in knee pants, and Dougie in short dresses.  Yes, boys wore dresses then, but not as general as a few years earlier. 

At table were, besides our family, the young depot agent, Mrs. Noris and her brother John, a queer old gray-headed sort of hunch back who was under her thumb.  We all ate heartily and enjoyed a pleasant meal and Ralphie made everyone laugh by asking for "one of them things with a stem on," when he wanted a pickled crab apple. 

After lunch we went to see our new home.  It was not beautiful, I can assure you -- only a low, long, log house of two rooms, not a porch nor a shade tree and one acre of land.  We soon were settled in it with only the necessary furniture. It did not take long to arrange our few belongings; two beds side by side in one room and cook stove, table and chairs, and cupboard in the other.  At that time we didn't care too much about what we lived in as long as we all could be together.

I began to get acquainted with our neighbors a few at a time.  Good, friendly, homey folks. We learned to like them all. Fred plowed up some ground and we had a garden -- seems I can still hear him cursing that team as he drove them, so loudly that all the neighbors could hear and be regaled by his profanity. I felt sorry for those horses, of course.  They didn't understand.

I don't remember much about the garden, only one day I picked a mess of peas in the hot sun with my head aching fit to kill.

The store was a quarter mile from there and I'd put two babies in the buggy and push them over while the oldest walked and we would do our trading.

Mrs. Wynkoop had lovely cloth and embroidery, etc. and it was a temptation for me to buy and I made two lovely blouses for the older boys with tucked fronts and embroidered collars, and a lovely white dress for the baby, all tucks insertion and embroidery. Yes and even blue ribbon drawn thru the insertion.  My next two or three babies helped wear it out.  But I knew I must not buy too heavily -- but did get what we needed.

Mrs. Wynkoop was a pretty woman and her man had three sons and ran the store and the town you might say. 

We did not stay in the log shack very long as it was a little isolated, but sold it and moved over near the store where they sold dry goods, groceries, meats, clothing and shoes.  We even bought our milk and coal from them.  Well, it was nice to have everything handy -- and when Fred drew his check, we either, he or I,  would make it over and turn it over to Mrs. Wynkoop. Sometimes we had a little change coming back. If not I'd ask her if I could keep back dollars, as we needed it for  a doctor or something.

There was no doctor  there  and we had no money for doctor bills any way, but of course teeth must be cared for, at least to some extent, and I had to have a new winter coat.  I got one in Traverse City for $2; a 3/4 coat and real good for  that price.

Well we lived from hand to mouth and managed to get by.  Most of the young folks and children had a contagious disease I called Cuban itch.  It consisted of painful sores on hands and feet.  My boys got it naturally. And every day I bathed their sores in water with carbolic acid in it and sewed clean bandages over the sores. When the puss was cleaned away it left trenches in the flesh, an offensive sight. But when taken care of of they soon healed and the disease disappeared. 

(From Wikipedia: Alastrim, also known as variola minor, is the milder strain of the variola virus that causes smallpox. ... Other names for alastrim include: white pox, kaffir pox, Cuban itch, West Indian pox, milk pox, and pseudovariola.)

Little Tommy Wynkoop about Orvie's age, ran about with raw sores uncovered.  He played at will around Cedar Run Creek and had little care.  But when someone asked Mrs. Wynkoop if she was not afraid something would happen to him, she remarked, "Oh, the devil takes care of his own."

Her older boy and Tommy were not exactly normal and the middle boy who was real good, loving, smart, broke his nose playing ball and spoiled his good looks!  Some children grow up to amount to something even in spite of careless parents.  People had a lot to say about Mrs. W. and I guess she thought she might as well give them something to talk about. She was a rather good neighbor.

Continue reading - CHAPTER 4 .

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gramma Lu's Babies - 2

Here's the second section of Gramma Lula Wanamaker LaGuire's memoirs about the birth and raising of her children in northwestern lower Michigan at the beginning of the last century.  This chapter takes place between the birth of Ralph Stanley  in 1899, and the birth of  Dudley Linwood at the end of 1901.  (Chapter 1 appears here.)

The Babies God Gave Me

Handwritten manuscript by Lula J. Wanamaker LaGuire


The two little boys were company for each other, and when I nursed Ralphie to sleep, as I rocked him, I also held Orvie on my other arm and he went to sleep too.  Then I would walk to the bed with them both in my arms and drop the older one on the bed and then I had both arms free so I could lay the littlest one down carefully and they both would have a good nap while I dove into my work with a vengence, fairly flying from one job to another to get all Icould done before they awaken -- no play pens then. 

We did have a second-hand buggy and crib however.  About the only protection they had was a two foot high board across the door to keep them from falling out. This board I had to step over whenever I went thru the door. Talk about exercise!

There were so many reasons to step outdoors for I those days; to throw out the dish water and the potato peelings if we did not have a pig, to bring in wood and hang out clothes, diapers.  Seven times a day more or less one must step over that board. A convenience we could not have gotten along without.

When the boys overcame that hurdle they began to run away and that kept mama running ever and anon.  One could look out doors most any time a day to see a mother chasing an adventerous little tot.  We'd get them home and spank them, very likely, and they'd light out the next chance they had.

When the 2 little fellows both were able to trot off they went to the store about a block away. They had gone with me to get groceries. They bought cookies and raisins and the man charged them of course -- thinking I had sent the boys.  When I started out to hunt for them they were on their way home, but coming thru the neighbor's gate instead of our own as, no doubt, Orvie had a feeling he was doing wrong.

I met them and had to laugh at their audacity and that time they escaped a spanking.  But I adminished them they must not do that again.  Orvie at least uderstood.

In those days we bought our flour in cotton 25# sacks -- or larger -- those sacks were a boon to busy mothers.  We made many things from them, such as pillow cases, children's clothes, diapers, etc.  My nearest neighbor intented to make a quilt lining from some. She had saved over the months. She had a tub of rain water on her front porch which was seldom used, and had put several sacks to soak the letters out before dying them for comfort covers.

When Orvie was about 15 months old, I missed him one day and started frantically searching for him. I knew he was not far away as I'd seen him a few minutes before in our yard.  I called and ran around our house and then the next one... and there was that industrious little tyke sitting in with Mrs.C's flour sacks, having the time of his life splashing sacks and water all over the porch!  I gave them their baths in a tub and he figured no doubt that was what that tub of water was for with somany pretty wash clothes in it!

I got him home and into dry clothes as quickly as possible and really had a good laugh at his antics.

This running after youngsters interfered with my work a good deal and sometimes I became desperate and the boys got a good "tanning."  If one thinks this is not exasperating -- leaving what ever one is doing  and lighting out at a trot every few hours -- let them try it. 

We had a fence but not adequate to keeping youngsters inclosed.  I know now I did not use the right tactics at all. But it seemed then I didn't have time to play with them and take walks, etc.  I took them with me everywhere I went however; once I took some boards (this was before No. 2 could walk) and made a fence for him to play in, two boards high, but it was separate from our house.

When other children were there to play with him he was OK, but alone it did not work.  He would just stand and howl at the top of his voice until I took him into the house.  If I had connected it with the house so he could come in and out at will I believe it would have accomplished its purpose.  But as I didn't have foresight enough to do that, I just went and tore the fence down and piled up the boards. 

Once little Ralphie went and took a long walk away and I went after him and when I caught up with him I switched his little legs with a small switch I picked up.  He ran screaming for the house and I after him. (Poor little fellow, I caught him again upstairs and gave him a little more switching.  This was cruel and not warranted but I was desperate at the way those boys ran away at every chance.) The child cried pitifully and as far as I know didn't run away again for a long time.

I will state here that we (my brothers and sisters and I) received our whippings when we were growing up and plenty of them -- but my parents had nine children.  They were spread out perhaps, so none of us girls, at least, got too many, so as I was brought up, so I reared my own. 

Years have taught me that I was wrong.  People used to say "Spare the rod and spoil the child," quoting from the Bible, so most Christians and many others beat their offspring for all wrongdoing and some things that were not wrong.  I inherited my father's disposition, so was very much like him when younger. 

If I told my husband, "I don't kow what I shall do with these kids. They run away all the time," he would reply:

"Knock hell out of them," and think he had done h is duty.

One woman told me take a little switch and whip them all the way back home and that's what I tried to do with little R. But I have never forgiven myself and never will.  The only good I can see in spanking and thrashing is that the child cries a great deal and that clears out his lungs.  But usually a child finds plenty to cry about without his parents beating upon him.

Fred took a hand at it now and then also.  When I think of what these two had to endure and many others also, I wish that folks would interpret that scripture as meaning, "Be sparing of the rod and spoil the child a little." 

I have asked  God many times to forgive me for whipping my youngsers and I hope he does for I can never forgive myself and Ralphie has suffered so severely since -- why did I have to add to his suffering?  And the others also.
They have all grown up to be fine however. 

When Orvie was about 3 years old, I missed him one day and ran out to hunt for him. I was expecting my third at that time.  When about half way to Fred's brother Jim's home, I could see little Helen about half way up to the peak of the very steep roof of that house, an as I saw 2 older girls emerge from the front door I called,

"Run in the house and tell your mother that Helen is up on the roof!"

They disappeared like a shot into the house and then I saw Nora and Jim come runing out a side door. Helen had reached the very peak by then and was looking over the other side as unconcerned as you please.

And my little son was as high as the eaves at the top of a ladder.  He was afraid, or thought it best not to go farther.  When I arrived all out of breath and said Orvie come down here this instant, he climbed down slowly, and when Helen's mama yelled at her she climbed down backwards on some slats that were nailed to the roof as if she had been in the habit of doing it every day.  I bet she remembered the spanking her mama gave her all her life. I think Orvie escaped with a good scolding that time.  I was so glad they were down and safe.  I took him home where I'd left little Ralphie.

A year before this we were living in my brother-in-law's home as my sister was in hospital for mental cases and my mother was caring for her two little girls, so we went there to see how it would work out.  My brother-in-law lived in the kitchen and cooked his own meals, while we had our kitchen in the diningroom. 

This arrangement was okay but we finally tired of it. While there my brother Scott came to take me and my two out to Mother's and Father's place a couple of miles out, and while on the way brother crossed a level field on on the snow -- we were in a cutter -- instead of using the road, I don't know why. 

But as there were no tracks acros the field the cutter tipped over, throwing little Orvie out on the ground.  I held on to the littlest one, then about a year old and we fell out together while Scott held the reins and quieted the horse.

I was frightened a lot as I thought the sleigh had tipped over on Orvie, as I couldn't see him anywhere.  He had fallen out behind and was alright.  We finished our ride, and it was a pleasant one after that.  Mother had a nice dinner for us and Scott took us home later.

But the scare and tumble had accomplished their work!  The next day I had a miscarriage.  We had a doctor and when I asked "will the baby come away?" he answered not if we an help it.

But it did and I didn't seem any worse for the experience. Believe it or not I was glad -- and I am not a heartless person and I love my babies very much.  I felt as if God had intervened.  We were homeless as Fred had sold our own home so there would be no likelihood of his dieing and leaving it to me.  He was ill quite often with bronchitis, rheumatism, etc., so he nearly gave the house away.  We lived whereever we could get a footing.  His work was then intermittent so why in the named all that is sacred should we want another one! 

I escaped that time but soon was "expecting" again. We were living at this time in Fred's brother Pete's home as they were away working (Pete and Emeline) -- we had lived in four different places since selling our home and living in it and paying rent for a while.  The incident of being corralled by a bull I have written elsewhere. That was when we lived on the Charley Thompkins place.

Now we were looking forward to our own third child and hoped, naturally, this one would be a girl.  As I now had a good Singer machine I proceeded to make some rather nice baby things.  I recall at this late date; three kimonos buttoning up front and feathers, stitched a small square blanket with pink crochets and silk lace about two inches wide which faded out after a few washings...

Which was as well as our third was also a boy!

I knitted three pair stockings -- white, pink and blue -- one white skirt hand crochet lace about two inches wide, and plenty other things which I don't recall now.

On the 10th of Dec, we got word to Mother that she was needed again.  Poor Mother! Between my brother Elmer's wife, Bertha, and myself, we certainly did run her ragged. Then Fred called the doctor from Freesoil and proceeded to get sister-in-law Nora again, and as if that was not enough he went and called our next door neighbor Mrs. Cap.  He considered it a sort of festival I think.  He was always glad when another arrived not thinking how we were going to care for it.
Well, thank God!  I was not in labor very long, altho I had been having small pains all day, but kept at my work as long as I could which was good for me.  Mother was competant as always.

After three real hard pains the baby came!  I remember saying I'm so glad it wasn't any longer.  I hoped it wouldn't be long, but I didn't dare to hope.

Fred, of course, went out to lay in the boys bed in the kitchen and cried.  He would with all those women to witness it. That sounds like a heartless remark but I know Fred.

The boy was a nice healthy-appearing little bundle.  The doctor came late as he had at Ralphie's birth; made examinations and took his leave and $3.00. He left some morphine pills for me as I was having hard after pains -- they lasted most of the night and mother put cloths wrung out of hot water on my abdomen. 

We were doing well and three days afterwards the new baby had scarletina and we thought it was measles. Orvie was quite ill. No, I am getting this wrong.  Ralphie did not have scarletina.  Only Orvie was ill and we learned later that the children three houses away had it. That's where he had gotten it.  Several years later the children again had scarlet fever and as Ralph had it this time -- I knew that was what Orvie and little Dudley Linwood had had. 

You see we did not get a doctor for every thing in those day, as he was so far away, we did not like to call him unless really necessary.  All came thru with flying colors and as I went to hang out clothes when deep snow covered the ground -- I got rheumetism in my knees.  (I used to think clothes must be hung outdoors to dry, even in freezing weather and a thousand times I have hung them on the line when they would freeze during the process then go in and plunge my hands into cold water to take the frost out of them so they would not ache so terribly.) 

Well some red flannel drawers overcame the rheumatism.  I remember what a time the boys had trying to remember the baby's name. They thought hard a while then came up with "Woody Study."  (Dudley Linwood.)

Continue Reading with CHAPTER 3

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gramma Lu's Babies - 1

I got too busy to write up some of my findings from Great's branch of the family, but a cousin just gave me a huge box of handwritten (and some typed) manuscripts of my father's other grandmother -- Gramma Lu. 

I didn't know Gramma Lu. Her son Orville (my grandfather) didn't talk as much about his family as his wife did, but luckily, she was a writer.  I don't know that she ever got published, though the rejection slips in the box of manuscripts give testimony that she did try.  But she wrote and wrote and wrote.  Most of it top-to-bottom, border-to-border handwritten in pen.

There would be no way to use OCR on this, so I am transcribing it by hand... and as I type, I have come to realize I have to publish at least some of it.  I'll be putting some chapters here so I can give links to relatives to read. (This is a better place than Facebook for long long texts....)

To save paper, Gramma Lu used almost no paragraph breaks.  She also put in abbreviations and such, and when writing by hand, she often left out punctuation altogether. I have added in paragraphs and commas and some semicolons, and spelled things out when the abbreviation was unclear. All the exclamation marks, though, are hers...

Ralphie, Grace,  Gramma Lu, Stanley, Orvie, 1904

The Babies God Gave Me

Handwritten manuscript by Lula J. Wanamaker LaGuire

Chapter 1

I have never written, nor seldom talked about my babies' births so will now try to put my thoughts and reactions on paper.

When a girl, I used to say, hatefully "I'll never had any kids."  Well, there was a reason back of this, as I knew of so many people who had many children and were so very poor -- poverty stricken.  My own parents were of that kind.  Baby after baby came but we did not get any richer altho I've heard my father say after the birth of a new child, "We are a thousand dollars richer now."

He may have felt richer but that kind of riches didn't help buy food and clothing and schooling for the bunch of us.

Tho father was a very hard worker he was a poor manager and was always moving from town to town in hopes of getting relief from his consumption which tortured him most of his life.  Most of us went to work out while very young, before we were really able, in order to have proper food and clothing.  Certainly I did not want to repeat my parents lives which is what I eventually did.

When I was 19 1/2 yrs old, under pressure from all sides, I married.  I hoped I wouldn't start too soon having babies as we, my husband and I, were poor also.  He had a job but only got $1.05 per day at first. This was raised to $1.10 after a while.  He was very tickled -- that meant $1.30 per month more.

Our home was very cold in winter as it was far from finished: thickness of boards and one of building paper.  I caught cold the first week, so that meant a doctor bill.  Tho I will say doctors didn't  get half enough either in those days.  I lived thru that illness and became pregnant, altho that is a word we seldom used then. We used to say "in the family way" -- or she's expecting and raise our eye brows so older ones would understand and little ones would not.

My first son was born 1 yr, 1 mo, 1 wk. after we were married.  I had hoped I would have children of course as that is the primary reason for marriage as I saw it.  I looked forward to his birth with pleasure and sewed very much as I made all his little garments by hand, excepting diapers which I hemmed on Nora's machine. Dresses and skirts were long then, just took 2 yds. to make a dress. We always made pinning blankets and belly bands too, tho now they are considered useless, and probably are.  I used outing flannel or tennis flannel as we then called it.  Imade 9 little dresses, 6 outing skirts, 3 long white skirts, about 4 pinning blankets, a few outing nities shirts and bands. Many didies.

In those days poor mothers at least, did not see a doctor before hand to know if everything was alright.  We went there the gestation period and the birth. If we lived OK, if not we just died.  Of course I thot all women had to suffer a lot, some more some less, and I knew that some died but that didn't worry me. Looking forward to the event seemed to make life worth living.

The time came and I felt pains at intervals early in the morning about 4 o'clock.  I informed my man and we got up and had breakfast and as the pains were not close together he went to work about 6:30.

I had taken with him a long walk the evening before or I would not have had my baby at this time.  We didn't believe in talking long walks or going out where people could see us; at least they certainly did not in my mother's time, but at this time a few of the wiser ones were talking walks each day.  If I only had been that smart!

Somehow I got my mother to come and my sister-in-law Nora.  I don't remember how as we had no phones and Mother lived a mile away.  My brother brot her with the team.  My sister Grace was staying with us a few days I believe and she called help.

Mother asked if I wanted Fred called and I told her "no."  I knew what a bother he could be when I was ill, learned when I had the bad cold, always asking if I felt better and wanting me me to eat more than I wanted or needed.  I thot if he did that and I was very ill, I could not "take it" as we say nowdays.  I knew I'd be better off with him absent. Mom wanted to know if Iwanted a doctor. 

I said, "If you think I need one don't hesitate to call him."

There was only a retired doctor in town then.  As I was becoming worse by noon Mom called him in.  They wanted me to walk but the pains were so very severe I couldn't, so I just lay there and endured for 4 more hours.  Pains getting worse and worse all the time till I couldn't even yell, which would have been a relief as I was extremely constipated and had piles and they kept tearing me by degrees; my agonies were terrible severe.  I couldn't eat of course and could only have a tablespoon of water now and then. 

I recall as I lay there with my life blood ebbing away, I thought, "If there is a God, why does he let a woman suffer so to bring a new life into the world?!"  I don't recall if I prayed or not tho I was a Christian.  All I could do was groan and bear it.  I knew I couldn't last much longer, and finally Old Doctor Eaton said;

"Well, she can't stand much more of this strain. I'll have to use my instruments."

And I said, with an effort, "Do something quick!"

I was in such agony I couldn't even speak correctly.  He could see I was almost spent and hunted around and soon brot my first-born into existance.  The relief from suffering was so great I felt that I was in heaven altho I was too weak to speak aloud.  It must have been a great relief to Mother too, as she'd told me later she couldn't stand it to see me suffer so.  I didn't realize then what a terrible ordeal this can be to a mother, to see her daughter go thru such prolonged agony. 

Aunt Nora took care of the baby, which seemed to be a healthy youngster and really beautiful to me. I lived and finally became able to get up and go at my work.  We couldn't keep sister there long; it cost too much.  Mother did what she could to care for me till I was able to be about.

We were made to stay in bed ten days after child birth at that date.  Dr. told me to give baby oat meal water which was good for him, since how my breasts eaked and I used camphor on them and dried up my milk, and baby nursed and nursed but didn't get enough, so finally his father said we'd by some milk for him.  He thrived on the bottle, but had bronchitis quite a lot as his dad did.

He was a fat cute boy, and when he was about three months old I discovered I was pregnant again!

When I discovered this I was terrified!  I thought I could never live thru such an ordeal again. After the first one came, I said to my man,

"Oh! Fred it was awful."  I always shuddered when I remembered it.

And my husband replied, "That's what they all say.  Oh! I had the worst time anyone ever had!" mockingly.

If I'd gottten a little sympathy from him it would have helped a lot.  He thought I could go through it or quilwheel -- his word for dying -- as many others had.  I feared I would die and leave two babies in this unsympathetic world. This worried me exceedingly!

I loved my little Orville Fred with all a mother's love and to think of leaving him motherless at so tender and age filled me with alarm and sorrow and grief!  The agony and terror I had gone thru filled me with dread and I felt as if a sword was hanging by a thread over my head, as the saying goes.  I never seemed to be free of that haunting horror and I have often cried when some young girl got married and would think, "Oh! she don't know what she is getting into!"

I was far from well, as I'd not had the care I should have had with my first baby, and I worked very hard, as Fred took a job and hired men to board and stay at our place. He had fixed up a home near his work, part log and part frame.  Comfortable enough; the men slept up stairs on straw ticks on the floor over the living room, where Fred and I and the baby slept with a heating stove in the same room.

With four men to cook for and a heavy baby to care for and all my work to do, I was not idle a minute the whole day and evening, as I did what sewing I needed by hand.

Enough to state that the men very soon got tired of this arrangement, and left one by one.  I don't blame them one bit, and in a month about we were back in our own house in town, and what a relief to get back, tho the house was cold and not fit for a baby to be creeping about in. 

He grew tho and was very cute and could do several "tricks" when only 7 or 8 months old.  He would make a noise like snoring when we would say "Orrie snore," and bite his big toe if asked to and several other cute antics.  He learned to creep but not as most babies do.  He would lie flat on the floor and drag himself along with his arms and push with his toes.  One can imagine the condition of his dress after a few revolutions of this.

He loved to pull all the tin dishes out of the large cupboard without doors and hear them slam onto the floor.  It was the first place he always made for if we had been away from home awhile.  Some would say I was a careless mother but we couldn't afford toys and this was a very satisfactory substitute. 

Well, I was busy now making baby clothes and cried a great deal every time I thought of dying and leaving my two babies motherless.  I had inherited TB, as most of my brothers and sisters did but didn't know it then.  It was perhaps one reason why I was so depressed most of the time.

I said to Fred once, "Fred if I die, I wish you would give one of the babies to my mother and to your sister Isabell."

He heaved and hawed and said, "I guess I'm not giving away my kids."

Well, as expenses were coming up and money was not more plentiful, we took in a few boarders. Three men at $3.75 each per week.  Think of getting board for that!  I managed to do my work and cook for them for a time. Then Nora, Bless her, told them she would board them for 50 cents less a week, so they went to board at her house. A good thing! as my second son was born a day or two later.

It was on Sunday and my Mother came also Fred's sister-in-law Emeline, and Fred lit out to walk to Freesoil, a town six miles away to get a doctor. They rode back together. My pains were plenty severe enough and rather close together and I became very nervous, and would have thought I was awfully sick if I had not been thru that awful other ordeal before.  I at least could have strength enough to holler a little and the baby arrived before the doctor and his daddy did.  I thot he was a 7 month child but the doctor said not.  He was fully developed.

I got thru, at least, but I don't know if safely or not; this doctor took several stitches where I had been lacerated when the fisrt was born and thot it queer I had been left in such a condition.  One thing was that I had had plenty exercise before little Ralphie was born.  Even tho it had been too strenuous.  He was not a healthy child from the first and one eye was defective, so he looked cross-eyed. He was pale and frail looking and most people thot he was a girl.

Orvie could not yet walk when his brother arrived, but learned to in 2 weeks. I think little as he was he felt he had a responsibility.  He was always a very thoughtful little fellow. Orvie was a blue-eyed blond now having lost his dark baby hair, and Ralphie had a nice head of black hair and blue eyes of course as all my babies did.  Two very cunning little fellows.

Fred had a laugh on me. He told people, "She thought she was going to die! But see she got through fine!"

Orvie had bronchitis several times while going thru childhood and Raphie, tho frail, seemed to be rather strong.

There was a year and two weeks between the two babies and I said to people, to make believe I liked the setup;

"I am going to have one every year for the next 20 years."  Tho I most sincerely hoped this would ot occur.

I had been told that one of Fred's sisters had had 13 babies then died, and it fairly made me sick. Think what a reward for going thru all that agony and then having to die and leave them all!  I couldn't think of anything more terrible.

A good thing mothers are advised to go to a good doctor for prematernity advice!

(The above is approximately 6 handwritten pages out of 98 that I have.  Gramma Lu had 7-8 children, though only 6 lived to adulthood.  The 98 pages she wrote about them ends with a comma, but I have hundreds of other pages of writing from her, so perhaps there is more than those 98 pages to be typed up.)

Continue reading CHAPTER 2