Friday, June 9, 2017

Born in the House On the Hill

It's my dad's birthday. I still miss him greatly. 

I've decided to post a little about his birth from Great Gramma Lu's memoirs:

It was 1935, and times were tough.  Gramma Naomi tells the story of how, when Donnie was due, she would fill the house with lilacs for the doctor, every day.  And every day, Donnie didn't show up.  Of course, as the lilac season waned, and Gramma got tired of doing it, that's the day my father made his appearance. (He was never late again in his life.)

Born in The House On The Hill

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

In the vicinity where we lived everyone was poor and I do mean poor. In East Homestead, the farmers were more prosperous and owned more stately homes, becuase the land was more fertile, and most of the families had inherited property from pioneer parents. But in West Homestead -- well, to tell the plain truth, nearly everyone was getting his monthly allotment of unperishable foods from the "welfare." 

We were no exception, although Orville's in-laws would not ask for aid themselves. They were perfectly willing that Orville would get all he could on account of having small children and pass any surplus on to them. Orville, however balked on this subterfuge and got very little form the walfare himself. A few sacks of flour at the most.

The Eastman's son (this would be Frank, I believe) went every time and brought home his share of rice, hominy, raisins, prunes, cornmeal, canned foods, etc., and was not ashamed to do so.  He had four children and felt he and they were entitled to all the help they could get and had quite a surplus on hand sometimes.

Some complained they were sated with prunes and rice etc, but if they could get it from Uncle Sam, might just as well take it and be thankful. For a time I passed our surplus prunes and raisins etc on to Orville's family. His wife was glad to get that addition to their meager stores and I could see no wrong in giving them what we couldn't use, as they were now expecting a fourth child.

But when Orville learned of my contributions, he put a stop to it. I thought sometimes he had more pride than sense, but I was too well aware where he had inherited that pride.  I always felt a little ashamed when we went after our dole, but at that was glad our government realized that the people needed help as work was like hen's teeth.

I told Orville once, "Orville, you must not let your pride keep your children from having what they need.  Many around here get blankets, quilts, underwear and pajamas for kids and clothing for their families, and you must not let your youngsters go cold.  It is nothing to be ashamed of. If they need underwear or anything and you haven't the money, you get it from the poor chest. You are entitled to it as much as anyone around here."

And he promised me that he would not let them suffer for food or clothes. I don't believe he ever applied for anything like that, however. He had soon gotten a job with the co-op and even had an extra job of book keeping for another firm.  But when he found that he was not supposed to hold down two jobs, but let some other man have one of them, he gave up the bookkeeping job.  The woman at the head of the welfare said, "Orville would bend over backwards to be honest," and she was not far wrong.

I believe I've mentioned that Orville and Naomi were looking for their fourth child to be born the first of May or there abouts. We sort of hoped he be born on Alice Louise's birthday - the 10th of May.   She and Sonny were growing and both attending school now.

Fortunately they were situated very close to the school on the Hill. They had purchased a home finally -- a large, unfinished house on the highest building spot in Benzonia. The house itself is on a level ground, but it has for its back yard some of the steepest little hills I ever climbed, a deep valley leading down, down to Lover's Lane, a trail through the woods which are at the rear of the home. A picturesque spot if there ever was one. From where the house stands one has a view of the surrounding country for miles around.  The town of Beulah below them, hills and forests and the beautiful Crystal Lake (though not much of that) and way out into Homestead township, where our little cottage was, was in the far distance, the road to Honor, Eden.

An ideal location especially in summer, but in winter the snow gets to be waist deep sometimes and the country around is one solid glare of ice at times after thaws. But the people there love it and wouldn't live anywhere else but on "Piety Knob" or Rainwater Hill, as it used to be called in the days when so many people had only cisterns as their only water supply. The town boasts a church and a community hall where people seem to be swarming at all times. It ahs a fine library within.  As we drive about the country, it is a comical fact that the home of the Orville LaGuires can be seen from miles and miles away, where it sits on its hilly acres and stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. No doubt this pleases them a lot as they were then so poor but so proud!

Every day we were expecting  news of the new baby and as we got no news, I'd have Virgil drive me up there two or three times a week to see how Naomi felt.

The boy arrived on June 9 -- a month late -- just an error in calculating, I guess. We had worried some as Naomi's grandmother had given birth to Siamese Twins at one time (They didn't live, however ) and the thought had come to Orville and to me, "What if that is the reason for delay? What if Naomi was to have siamese twins, and coudl she withstand the ordeal?"  We did not mention it to Naomi, nor to each other, till afterwards, as we did not want to worry anyone.

Donald Keith proved to be a nice plump blue-eyed boy with a husky pair of lungs, a really rolly polly baby, as all her babies were. I think they were a little disappointed that it was a boy, as they (especially Alice Louise) had hoped for a girl. Now they had three boys. Everything going fine, but her nurse (a rather famous Mrs Brooks) had to leave her to go to another case before Naomi could be up, and they asked me if I could come for a few days to look after the children till she could herself supervise them.

So I packed my necessaries and Fred too me up there. He and Virgil could look after themselves as they had many times before. Orville go his own breakfast and Naomi said she did not want me to do any more than was actually needed to be done. But I found that pretty difficult. I tried to keep the house as neat as possible and one day got on my knees and washed the kitchen linoleum.  My arms ached and I found a task like that almost impossible. My arms hurt all night and I went to see the resident doctor there. He gave me some pills and a sort of linament which did not help at all.  Not even placing a hot water bag on them at night. I was hardly fair to the doctor, I guess, as I did not tell him what was really the cause of my trouble. It was the result of that awful blow I'd gotten on the leg, when my back had given me such a fright that time.  I felt that I was losing the use of my arms entirely, and after being with Orville's family about five days, I sent word to Fred to come after me, as I was not able to work. Virgil came up and took me home, and I went to bed and rested for a day. Then made up my mind to go to a Chiropractor as I'd been to them before and knew they did wonders.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Basketball and the Great Girls' Strike

In honor of March Madness, here is a little more of Gramma Lu's memoirs, where she talks about her daughters and basketball, including an incident where six of the high school girls went on strike. (Actually, both incidents are sort of about the girls going on strike)

The family was living in Sutton's Bay at the time. She doesn't say exactly when this story takes place, but it seems to be in line with events of 1920 or so, when they were living in a place in town, near the hotel and the convent.

Basketball and the Great Girls' Strike

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

There was once that I was in the wrong and Fred was right, I must confess.

We all know how basketball teams go to other towns in persuance of their interests and up there it was a real hazzard and sometimes as they might start out with a lovely even in prospect, a storm came up and they would have a serious time getting home, with all getting out to shovel snow.  And one time they couldn't make it and had to stay at farm houses by the way.

It worked out alright and was a great experience to the youngsters, but I worried a great deal if my girls were in the crowd, as naturally they were sometimes. So one night when I wanted them to brave the snowstorm and go about two blocks after our milk, they balked and said they couldn't in such a storm, etc. 

I said, "You go right along girls. This is no worse than the blizzards you go to basketball games in."

"We can't, Ma, we're afraid," said they.

"I can't help it," said I. "You go get the milk," and made as if to push them out into the storm.

They said, "Ma, we won't go," and their father said, "You don't have to go, girls, if you don't want to."

So they came back into the house, and I was glad that was settled for the once. They could get my point alright and didn't go many times to basketball games in other towns.  I often think if girls who wear themselves out going to parties, dances and all kinds of sports were asked to work half as hard to help their parents, how they'd think they were misused and abused no doubt.

My girls were good workers.  There is no cause for complaint there.

However, I always get a chuckle out of the time the high school girls "struck."  There were Grace, Berna, two of LeRoy's sisters, Ella and Helen,  "Honey" Mideline, and Dorothy Nelson.  It all came about on acct of basketball too. This all happened before Grace graduated, of course.  It seems the girls had plenty of cause for complaint as I don't know all the ins and outs of the game, I can't explain, but this had been festering for some time, and at last had come to a head.

(Note several of these girls -- Grace, Honey and maybe Dorothy -- appear in a photo in the archives of the Leelanau Historical Society - 8th Grade Girls, Suttons Bay.)

I looked out the window one sunny afternoon and what to my wondering eyes should appear but six high school girls during school hours, tramping over the rutted road that lead to our house, past the hotel.

"What now?" I thought. "I can't imagine."

The girls looked grim as they stalked into our middle room, when I asked what the matter was, they all talked at once. It was this and that and the other thing going wrong at school. 

One complaint I remember was that the girls had all the work to do when a visiting team came. They must make all plans, prepare the refreshments, and serve them and when it came to the dance, after all this and playing basketball too, these poor girls were just too exhausted to enjoy anything. That was complaint enough, but there were others and they surely blew off steam, with me a willing listener. They were a little scared at their brave move, but were quite determined to see it through. They really didn't know what the professor  might do or say.

Well, they had quieted down and were just sitting there wondering whether to go back to school or not, I guess, when we saw Prof Chapin coming. Now he was a little man, not much taller than my girls. The girls all liked him, I believe, and he was not formidable.  He'd been sick and was very pale. When the girls saw him approaching, some of the more timid ones got up and were headed for the parlor.

I said, "Now, girls, stand your ground. I'll back you up. Come on out, face him."

I don't think Grace had left her seat at all.  She always did love a good battle!

When I opened the door to the Prof, he looked red white and blue, as I told an interested friend later. His illness had left him white, his face was blue where his beard was trying to put in an appearance, and his cheeks were quite red from exertion and determination.

"Did the girls come here?" he asked. He knew well enough where they would head for.

They chorused, "Yes, we are here, Mr. Chapin. Come in."

I offered him a chair and let the girls state their cases, which they did very well and he discussed not only basketball, but many other things about school. He could see the girls had a real grievance. 

I remember he asked Grace as they discussed the subject of cheating "What percent of the students would you say off hand, Grace, cheat in the exams."

And she answered without hesitation "One hundred percent."

He was flabberghasted. She had included herself -- though I don't belive it was necessary for her to snitch answers hardly ever.  She was the oldest of the girls, having missed a lot of school earlier, and was usually at the head of class. She acted as spokeswoman mostly, the others backing up all she said.

After an hour or so Prof. C. arose and said he must get back to his classes. I could see he was feeling much better than when he came and I know the girls had gotten a load off their chests.  As he was leaving he said, "I can't make you girls come back to school, of course, unless you want to, but I'd like to see you all there in the a.m.  We will straighten out these snarls and see that the boys do their share hereafter."

Well, that was that. They were all in school the next day and the school mechanism ran more smoothly thereafter.

But the six girls had a time living down the fact that they had "run away from school."  It was a standing joke in town. They accomplished what they intended just the same. I have never thought of that time without laughing to myself since.

"School days! Dear old golden school days!"