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FIVE: ACH DU LIEBER LUDEKE
"ALLS" stands for Ada Louise Ludeke Smith: Ada Ick in childhood, Ick at college, Icky to her husband, Mom to her daughters, Louise to her in-laws, Momine or Grandma or Goppy to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and Smitty as a senior citizen (as per below).
Internet sources are indicated by tildes (e.g. ~internet). A complete list can be found on the Sources page. Due to the transient nature of Internet entries, only a few hyperlinks will be provided to outside webpages; such as ~a (www.ancestry.com), ~f (www.familysearch.org), ~g (www.findagrave.com), and ~w (www.worldvitalrecords.com). The United States Federal Census records for 1850 through 1940 cited below are available at ~a (except for 1890's, which was badly damaged in a 1921 fire and later quietly destroyed).
● Call Me Smitty
Never fond of the name Ada, ALLS preferred to be addressed as "Smitty" in her senior years. After moving back to Kansas City MO in 1986 after fifteen years in Blue Springs, she greatly enjoyed the creative writing classes at Shepherd's Center (5200 Oak St., KCMO 64110: "born from the concept of older adults caring for each other... through learning opportunities, a focus on wellness and services to help people remain in their homes"). The memoir-essays below and in earlier "L" chapters were the result of this program.
Family Forest, the original version of Fine Lineage, was founded on Smitty's 1983-84 letters to the present author. They faithfully reflected her vibrant speaking style, and—like Miss Climpson's missives in the Sayers novel Unnatural Death—were "ornamented with such a variety of underlinings and exclamation points as to look like an exercise in musical notation."± (Each letter would be accompanied by magazine and newspaper clippings, some so tiny that opening the envelope was like pulling a confetti cracker.)
Her Shepherd's Center memoir-essays were, by design, less conversational and more contemplative. Some would be carefully rewritten into collections presented to family members: Happy Memories (1989) and Leaves, Twigs, and Branches from Our Family Tree: Memories Then and Now! (1990-92). The later "Sketches of Family Members" (SFMs in earlier "L" chapters) were undated and slightly less finished, with mention that earlier efforts could be found "elsewhere in the two other notebooks." There was also a set of late uncollected essays, some dating from after her move to the Shalom Plaza Geriatric Center in 1996. With hands increasingly plagued by "Arthur" (as she abbreviated rheumatoid arthritis), ALLS had to cease all writing in 2004: a profound frustration during the final decade of her life.
I have combined the two memoir-collections with the late essays, often incorporating elements from variant drafts, and arranging the order of presentation to suit their contents. Many redundant commas have been weeded out and paragraph breaks reduced to better suit hypertext format, but Smitty's capitalization is largely preserved. Some of the late essays required a degree of editing for coherence. Most of the post-1918 Memoirs have been purloined for Chapters L-5 and L-6.
It should be noted that while ALLS consistently states that she was four years old when her mother died on Apr. 20, 1912, she had in fact just turned five. In Happy Memories she wrote, "My Grandma Schneider lived next door and she checked on me off and on... My Grandma took me to the privy when necessary." However, Christine Schneider had died in 1909 (as ALLS had noted elsewhere). In the later Leaves, Twigs, and Branches retelling, "the Schneider family lived next door and they checked on me occasionally.. a relative took care of my lunch," which is adopted below. By the time of her capsule Autobiography, the Schneiders had vanished from the picture: "I think my Mother had relatives living nearby, but I can't remember ever seeing any."
● Leaves, Twigs, and Branches from Our Family Tree
"The Young Winner"
My first recollection of anything in my first home on Vine St. in Hamilton, Ohio was on Christmas Eve in 1910. There was a German custom for Kris Kringle to visit the homes where children lived, and deliver toys. I remember this tall man dressed in a long black robe and peaked cap coming into my house, asking if little Ada Ludeke lived here. I was led into the room by my parents, and quivering with fear, I hid behind my father. A booming voice asked, "Were you a good little girl all year?" I just nodded my head meaning "yes," but the creature said, "No, I heard you were a bad girl, so you don't deserve any toys." He reached into one of his two large bags, and pulled out a small bundle of switches and put them into my hand. I dissolved into tears and ran from the room. In later years I learned Kris Kringle was a neighbor dressed up, but what a cruel trick to play on a three year old child.
Next I remember being alone most of the day because my father worked six days a week. There was a woman in bed in the dark bedroom, but I was not allowed to go in there. My Dad said it was my Mother and that she was very sick, and not to bother her. The Schneider family lived next door and they checked on me occasionally. There was a fence around the front yard, so I was permitted to go out there, but no fence in the back prevented me the use of that area, other than going to the privy when necessary. My Dad would prepare our breakfasts and dinners, and a relative took care of the lunches. The dishes were washed and dried and then put into my small wagon, so I could pull that into our pantry and put everything on the shelves. I felt better helping in a small way.
My dog was my best friend and only companion, a beautiful collie bought by my Dad the same week that I was born. His kennel name was "Prompta" but I couldn't pronounce it, so I just called him "Boy." He was my shadow, with me day and night, helping me cope with my lonely existence. My Mother lingered on with tuberculosis completely bedfast for one year [sic], then slipped away one night while I was asleep, so I didn't even realize she had died. The funeral in our home was a nightmare for me. So many visitors insisted on lifting me up to look into her casket to say "Goodbye." That was bad enough, but also I could hear people say, "Poor child, whatever will become of her?" I remember running from the house sobbing hysterically, to hide in the privy where my Dad found me later on and promised I would be well taken care of.
That promise was kept and it changed my life entirely. My Dad moved from our house and back to his old home where the Ludeke family lived. A happy German group, my Grandma, two aunts and two uncles. For the first time I felt loved and secure. I could go outside to play anytime I wanted, and I was given a pair of skates, so using them I felt free as a bird. I enjoyed delicious food, heard much laughter, and was a permanent part of a family at last.
My Dad remarried one year later, but I was not forced to live with them. Truthfully, I did not miss him, because I had not been with him enough to feel that bond of a father-daughter relationship. Later in life, I realized I had been denied both parents, which is tragic in one way, but living with the happy Ludeke family gave me all the love and necessities of life that any child deserved. I was truly blessed, and am very grateful for everything my Grandma Ludeke and relatives gave me.
"'Stütz Kopf' (Stubborn Head)"
Have you ever had the dubious honor of curbing a young child's temper? If not, let me assure you it is not an easy task. This story is about one wise Grandmother who had the remarkable ability to surmount a seemingly impossible situation.
After this child's Mother had died, her father had taken her to her paternal Grandmother's home to be cared for. Now that I am a Grandmother also, I can realize the questionable situation immediately. Raising children of one generation presents problems, but trying to cope with a gap of two generations can present more than the usual difficulties. This four [sic] year old child arrived with several faults, the worst being stubbornness. Being alone so long, she lived as she preferred without any objections from anyone, and seldom anyone to disagree. Children learn early in life that there are methods to obtain their wants. If the child did not choose to do what she was asked to do, she found out quite soon that by being stubborn, eventually she would not have to obey the request. This was an easy habit to acquire and she used it often, knowing it always worked.
So after moving to her Grandmother's home, she behaved in the same manner that she had been accustomed to in her own home. The Grandmother realized the first important thing was to make the child feel welcome in her different environment, and present a happy home life to ease the pain of her loss through death. After these were accomplished, then the bad habits were approached. Advice and threats did not seem to help in the fight against stubbornness. But having raised seven children of her own, this particular Grandmother had solved far more serious problems than stubbornness, so she did not give up hope.
After months of defeat, at last one particular night she succeeded and became victorious. On this night, about ten o'clock Grandmother announced that it was bed time, and she did her usual chores such as locking the windows and doors, putting out the dog, and also the empty milk bottles with a note inside requesting the amount of milk needed for the next day. At this point the child announced that she was not ready to go to bed just then, and she preferred to stay in the living room playing with her dolls. Her Grandmother readily agreed that it was alright with her, so she said good night, put out all the lights downstairs, and went upstairs to bed. Now one must remember at that time, gas was used for lighting the house, so it was impossible for the child to climb up onto a chair, light a match and relight the gas fixture hanging from the ceiling. She had not reckoned with sitting in the dark to play with her dolls, so what to do to gain attention? Of course, crying; it always worked before. Sitting in the dark she cried loudly, feeling very sorry for herself, but unfortunately all she received in response was silence. So she moved from the living room to the bottom of the stairway, certain her Grandmother would hear her from this location, and come to her. But believe it or not, that vantage point did not work either. Not to be daunted, she moved several steps up, so now she was sure her whimperings would be heard. But only silence in the dark quiet stairwell was her reward. So she moved up to the very top, placing herself closer to her Grandmother's bedroom, feeling certain from this position she would be heard at last. So she wrung out her last bit of tears, accompanied with very loud pitiful wails, feeling confident that now her Grandmother would get out of bed and come to her and, just maybe, apologize for not coming to her rescue earlier. But again, silence only. So she stumbled off to her bed, and cried herself to sleep.
In the morning, the child realized one important lesson in life had been learned. You don't always get your own way. You may try many tactics, even stubbornness, but nothing works if someone older and wiser is able to teach you well. A lesson the child never forgot, and she still hasn't forgotten, because you see, I was that child.
"My Grandmother's Health Plan"
My Grandma practiced medicine without a license, but not without philosophy. Her reverence for good health in life impressed me always. I received tender loving care from her, long before pediatricians and psychologists and the modern health plans were invented. Her care plan was standard procedures, such as a mustard plaster on the chest for congestion from colds, and a hot salt water gargle for a sore throat. The asafetida bag worn like a necklace of warning, strong enough to kill all germs—I was gratefully spared this horror. Any recipe that made one perspire was good; a fever was tested by Grandma's hand on my forehead, and if warm, a cool washcloth was used to help me chase away the fever.
The bottle of "Lydia Pinkham" was always a fascination to me, but my question asking my Grandma what problems it cured was never answered. (One day a maiden Aunt told me, "When you grow up into a woman, you will know!" Which did not solve my curiosity, then.) For constipation the great healer was castor oil, but if it was used in my home, I was spared that. However, a delightful sweet concoction was "Castoria," and my first experience taking it caused me to be dedicated to it for a long time. Probably it caused the beginning of my constipation problems also.
All aches and pains were soothed with Sloan's Liniment, the odor strong enough to clear sinuses. Toothache was helped with an ice pack; nosebleed with a cold compress to my nose or a cold silver knife held to the back of my neck. Baby teeth were left to dangle until loose enough to fall out. Tar could be chewed for cleaning teeth, and baking soda was also very effective. I don't remember dentist visits until much later in life, when back molars were damaged and needed to be extracted. Grandma had a magic salve, bought from a door-to-door salesman regularly, which cured many healing problems for me and our entire family. It also cured mange for my dog, a seasonal occurrence.
From the success of these home remedies, my health as a youngster was superb. I had croup every winter, the three day measles, and many bloody knees and elbows from my physical activities, but I missed only three days from my elementary school attendance in six years. I think keeping my tonsils and adenoids helped; these were put in our body to stop bacteria from going any further. I have happy memories of Grandma's health plan, it was certainly without all visits to doctors, also extra costs from prescriptions. Yes, a far cry from our modern health plans, but it worked great for our happy family.
"The Family Finances"
One thing that fascinated me each week was payday. My Dad, Uncle Bob, Uncle Ed, and Aunt Frieda all worked in different offices in the city, earning good salaries, and all were paid each week. This was in cash and placed in small paper envelopes. Each was brought home and given to my Grandma, without any questions or arguments. Grandma was the captain, and she ran a tight ship.
Being an excellent manager since her husband's death years before, she had worked out a perfect system to maintain the smooth living for our entire family. She had several small envelopes, each marked for the necessities of living, such as rent, taxes, food, insurance, medicine, clothing, and emergencies. She would then open each pay envelope and remove the salary from each, making a pile of money in the center of our dining room table. After she listed the salary of each in a notebook, she combined all of the money in a special box. From here on her secret system took charge, as she estimated the amount of money needed for each of the departments in the proper envelopes. The money that was left was divided evenly into four parts, this being the portions for my Dad, Uncles, and Aunt to use personally. They each thanked their Mother for this, and she in turn did not ask them how they planned to use it. Each night the men would leave our home, with only a goodbye. One time I asked Grandma, "Where do they go each night?" She replied, "I don't know, but I do know they are all good 'boys,' and would never get into trouble."
As for my Grandmother, she did not trust our city's two banks, so her money was put into a homemade small cloth bag and kept pinned to her clothing, always.
"A Special Room"
I had the privilege of being raised in my Grandmother's large eight-room house, built by her father. My favorite room was the old fashioned kitchen in the back of the downstairs, the source of interaction for the entire family, and where the planning, cooking, and eating of meals was done. My Grandmother was the director of all operations, with her Aunt Annie who could anticipate things to be done, also daughter Irma who could supply the extra legs to fetch needed food stored in the cellar, its entrance being on the outside of the house.
How well I remember the huge black iron stove with cavernous side ovens, a warming oven above, five gas plates for top cooking, the center one always holding a huge coffee pot and another a large teakettle for heating water. A big kitchen cabinet providing a small grocery, with staples of all descriptions. Next to it was a drop leaf table used for rolling out dough, mixing and kneading and preparing many other foods. Next stood a ceiling-to-floor built-in cabinet, eight shelves stocked with the necessary utensils and dishes, plus canned goods. The back wall held the ice box with a fifty-pound chunk of ice in the top part (to be replaced every other day by home delivery), three shelves inside held all perishable food. Under the box was the necessary large pan to catch the water from the melting ice.
A back door with glass panes led out to the wide porch. Above the door was a transom for extra ventilation when needed. Next to the door stood a small wash stand, holding a blue enamel basin, soap and a towel, to be used for a quick wash of hands before eating meals. The last wall held a small sink, with a hand pump on one end providing rain water, a cold water faucet over the sink, and a wooden drain board on the other end. Water had to be heated on the stove for use in washing dishes etc. Chairs were lined up along the remaining wall space. The center of the room held the oval shaped table, seating ten people comfortably, covered with bright colored oilcloth, and this provided space to serve all the meals. The floor was covered with linoleum, usually faded in certain parts from many scrubbings. The room was lighted with a simple gas fixture in the ceiling.
I remember this all so well, and adding the delicious smells of food preparation easily made this my very favorite room in the entire house.
"A Potpourri of Senses"
Being privileged to live in a German home gives me many memories from wonderful aromas. Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread and coffee cake, will be with me forever. My Grandma ground her coffee from the whole coffee beans, and this lovely fragrance permeated the entire kitchen. Later in the day, the sweet sour smell of sauerbraten made delaying eating the meal very difficult for a hungry child. In the cellar was stored a mixture of wonderful things. Sage drying in bunches suspended from hooks, sauerkraut in a barrel, mince meat in a stone crock, and freshly ground horseradish. At holiday time, I remember the real cedar odor from our Christmas tree in the parlor, and spicy fruit cakes baking in the coal heated oven.
Unfortunately, I also remember unpleasant odors. My visits to uptown forced me to pass two places, each full of pungent memories. One was the livery stable covered with foul straw from horses being shod there. The other place was a saloon, and each time the door opened, sour beer insulted my nostrils. But being very young I was able to run very fast, and could easily pass both of these locations so the unpleasantness was fleeting.
Do you remember the old butcher shops that sold beef, pork, and lamb? Later they may have had lard and gooey unhomogenized peanut butter, dispensed in white pasteboard boats with a piece of waxed paper slapped on top. Also, some shops had cases enclosed in glass of head cheese, minced ham, rings of homemade bologna, and always strings of smoked wieners and sausages. Once in awhile too, a bucket of fresh oysters. Inside the big walk-in refrigerator beside the meat, cooled with blocks of river ice, was a huge wheel of yellow cheese wrapped in paraffin and cheesecloth that had to be removed before eating.
The customer told the butcher what was needed, and he would hoist a hunk of meat onto the wooden block, and with a long knife and cleaver, custom cut each order. These neighborhood meat stores were owned by one man who usually did all of the work along, and always with a smile. His store was very clean with white painted walls, shiny glass, and sawdust covered floors. There was a big scale, a cash register, and a black iron table that held a roll of pink glazed paper used to wrap the meat. A wire case suspended from the ceiling held an enormous ball of string that was snapped off and used to tie the package.
When I was a child, my Grandma would send me to the German butcher shop once a week to buy twenty-five cents worth of steak (enough to feed a family of seven). My dog was more than willing to go with me because he remembered our friendly butcher, Mr. Waldo Rupp, would give him a big bone, and me a wiener. With the order filled and a thank you from me, I put the bone in my dog's mouth, and away he would run the block and a half to our back yard to enjoy his gift. I would follow slowly, eating my wiener and making it last as long as possible. I don't think today's modern meat counters can compete with the friendly neighborhood shops of long ago. Do you?
"My Proud Heritage"
Being born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio where the Germans made up the largest ethnic group in Ohio, I remember many of their customs and foods. I lived in an entirely German neighborhood where the language spoken was almost exclusively German, and we had our own little stores where we traded. Waldo Rupp the butcher, the Schultz bakery, Mr. Heinze who sold his homemade hominy, Mr. Göetsch who made pretzels in his home and sold them from a large basket on High Street, and the Pabst brewery.
Every Thursday and Saturday the Farmer's Market was held on the four streets around the Court House Square. The farmers would drive their horse drawn wagons full of produce to be sold. To help, a huge cement tank was built and put on the busiest corner of High and Second Streets. It was kept filled with clean water to be used by the horses, and humans also. This always fascinated me, but my Grandma told me to do my drinking at home. Temptation always won out however, and many times I would go uptown, and as soon as a horse would come to drink, I would take this tin cup provided and drink also. Such fun, with my nose and the horse's nose touching each other. No thoughts either of drinking germs.
My Grandmother bought fresh produce from the many farmers there each week, also live chickens. The food was plentiful and always delicious. My Grandmother baked her own bread, pies, cakes and stöllen (coffee cake). I remember her kartöffelsalat (potato salad), pfannkuchen (potato pancakes), wiener schnitzel (veal cutlet), many kinds of würsts (sausages), schmier kase (creamy cottage cheese), spaetzles (seasoned noodles), sauerbraten (beef cooked in vinegar and spices), and köhl sla (cabbage salad). These were only a few of the many delicious foods I ate with great pleasure.
Two customs I remember: the get-togethers of neighbor women each week to have their kaffeeklatsches and gemütlichkeit (good fellowship). This was a way of learning the recent news from each family, while enjoying good food at the same time. Hot coffee and some form of pastry was always served. The other custom was the one I particularly remember and also participated in each year. It was on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent began. Each German neighbor would bake fastnacht kuchens, which were delicious deep-fried square jelly doughnuts. All the children dressed up in costumes, and I always wanted to wear lederhosen, but my Grandmother refused my request. I wore a red skirt which was similar to a dirndl, white blouse, apron, and a lace cap. Taking a small basket, each child would visit homes in our neighborhood, knock on the front door, and when it was opened would say, "Küchle, Küchle" (little cakes) and was always given at least one to take home and eat. Just what we needed, more food.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity of being raised in this type of friendly and happy surroundings. Sometimes I am very sorry that my grandchildren are being exposed to the modern stress and many harmful conditions, but who knows, maybe the modern way of living is the best. I must bring this to a close before you fall asleep, and then I must say, "Schlaft Gesund" (sleep well).
"A Dialogue Between Two Friends"
Each night these two old friends and neighbors would meet in my Grandmother's front yard, and with rhythmical rocking in their individual chairs, this dialogue or a similar one would take place:
* "Güt evening Mrs. Ludeke, how's by you?"
* "Hello Mrs. Frech[t]ling, I'm just fine. How is your rheumatism today, and are you still using Sloan's Liniment?"
* "Ja, I am but it doesn't help me very much. How does your Frieda like her new job, so far away from home now?"
* "Oh, she enjoys it very much, and the walk home four times a day doesn't bother her. How's your Berta?"
* "My poor Berta seems worse each day, her shaking is so bad now she must hang onto me for support in walking."
* "I'll give you a glass of grape jelly I made today, I remember Berta likes that kind best."
* "Oh thank you my dear friend, she will appreciate it very much, and now I had best go home to check on her. Güt nacht, Mrs. Ludeke, I enjoyed our little visit as usual."
* "You're welcome, Mrs. Frech[t]ling, Schlaft Gesund, and come back again tomorrow night."
My Grandmother went on rocking back and forth, probably contemplating her next day's program.
There were tramps in our city who traveled the alleys seeking food, and every week at least one would appear at our back door. Grandma never refused, telling him to sit down on a step and wait. Sometimes she found a leftover in the ice box, but usually it was some food ready for her family to eat. I have seem her take a large pan full of meat loaf from the oven, cut off a big chunk, put this between two slices of buttered bread, and give this to the man to eat, plus a mug of hot coffee. My dog would sit beside him always. Grandma said, "Don't feed him, he eats plenty later on." But I saw the man share a bit, probably remembering his life in a better time when he had a dog.
While he ate, Grandma usually found clean sox and a shirt that one of her sons no longer needed, and gave them to the man, telling him he could go to the public rest room on the lower level of the Court House, and wash himself before putting on the clean things. The man thanked my Grandma many times, and my dog gave him a wet kiss. There must have been a reason for this person's sad state of affairs, but Grandma never asked any questions, only shared with him a part of Christianity she already had: the way we all should live.
"Why I Am Thankful"
As a young child, the word Thanksgiving brought visions of going to a Grandmother's home, riding in a horse drawn sleigh through white crisp snow. But since I lived with my Grandmother after my Mother's death, that picture gradually faded. We usually had snow, but living in a city the only horse I ever saw was the one pulling the milk wagon, and our entire family came to our house on foot for the Thanksgiving feast.
We usually had three meals every day, so eating plentifully was a daily affair. But they were eaten in the kitchen, on an old table covered with oilcloth, and dishes were used that had seen better days. So I was always impressed with the change in the daily routine on special occasions, for instance on Thanksgiving. On this day, the table in the dining room was used, and a white linen tablecloth with matching napkins were provided. All the silver was polished, and cut glass water glasses were washed to a shiny brilliance. Haviland china was carefully put at each place, and always the child was warned many times to be careful, and not to break anything. Two things I remember that fascinated me the most: the small individual cut glass salt containers, one at each place, and also in the middle of the table, a silver and glass caster that held containers for vinegar, oil, and assorted condiments. Wonderful smells from the kitchen wafted throughout the house, where at least four women family members were busily preparing the food. Soon the child with her dog were invited to go outside and play, to eliminate any accidents in the house.
At last every member of our family, at least ten, arrived and soon the prepared food was brought into the dining room and put on the table to be eaten. I still remember the many smiling faces around that table, with my Grandmother at the end, seated in a large chair, and I called it her throne. She said a beautiful prayer, the same each year, and I only wish I could remember it. Gradually the food disappeared, and I know everyone had eaten too much, but too, Grandmother would have been disappointed if her cooking was not accepted.
As usual, the men soon went into the living room, while the women had the task to remove everything from the table, take them into the kitchen, and wash all things that had been used. Later, the entire family gathered together, and the story of the first Thanksgiving was told, and I never did understand why we could not have Indians at our home also. We as a family shared much love, and being exposed to this type of living made me thankful for life in general, and those sweet memories lived with me always.
"A Gift That I Remember"
When my Father and I moved into my paternal Grandmother's home I owned a dog, a wooden doll, a set of blocks, and four books. My Grandmother made me a dressed rag doll, but after Uncle Ed named her "Big Ox" I wished for a prettier doll, with different dresses to wear.
Writing a letter to Kris Kringle, with adult help, was Christmas custom for children in my family, and the letter would be sent to him through the fireplace. As I watched my letter go up in flames, I knew in my heart that it would reach the North Pole where Kris Kringle lived, and after reading it, he would try to answer my Christmas hopes. I had asked for a pretty dressed doll with colored eyes that could close and open, also movable arms and legs. My family told me that this type of doll, made in Germany with a painted porcelain face and a wig of real hair, would be quite expensive. I knew my family had little money for unnecessary things, so my hopes were dim. I was promised a Christmas tree, a ribbon for my hair, and material for a new dress. But thoughts of the pretty doll still lingered with me.
My Uncle Bob left his office early on the afternoon of Dec. 24th and went to our local florist to buy holly and mistletoe to decorate our front parlor. I watched him drape the holly across the mantle over the fireplace, and hang a large bunch of mistletoe from an archway: a mystery to me. We owned an artificial tree and many decorations that were carefully saved each year. Especially several from Germany, that had decorated my Grandmother's first tree years ago. After the decorating ritual was completed, the double door was closed between the parlor and dining room, and our family went to the kitchen to eat our supper, which seemed to never end.
Our German neighborhood held the gift exchanging ceremony on Christmas Eve, so about seven o'clock the closed double doors were finally opened, and in some very mysterious manner Kris Kringle had quietly arrived with the gifts. I basked in the glow of the lighted white wax candles in holders clamped to branches of the cedar tree, with a star on top. Yards of silver tinsel were draped throughout the branches also. Many wrapped gifts in white tissue paper and tied with colored yarn were placed under the tree, but where was my hoped-for doll? After the gifts of black cotton stockings, material for a dress, and ribbon for my hair were opened (with very little enthusiasm) I finally saw my doll behind the tree, dressed in a beautiful lace trimmed pink dress, and matching sox and slippers. She wore a curly blonde wig and had brown eyes that could close. She was smiling, and her arms stretched out to me. I knelt down, hugged her, and whispered "Oh Helen, I love you, and I thank Kris Kringle for bringing you to me." I played with her until ten o'clock, and then reluctantly was dragged off to bed.
Christmas morning when I came downstairs, I found one of my clean black stockings sitting in a corner of a sofa. It held an orange in the toe, some walnuts, hard wrapped candy, and a tiny wooden Noah's Ark with animals: more surprises to enjoy also. Our large family later enjoyed a delicious meal, and I had never been happier in my entire life than at that moment. My first real Christmas!
The first year that I lived at my Grandmother's home, I was given a beautiful big doll for Christmas. I had never owned anything to compare with this, and I named her "Helen." She had been made in Germany, and you who are old enough can remember the exquisite face made of painted porcelain, and brown eyes that closed. She had a blonde curly wig, and was dressed beautifully. So when the following holiday season approached, I did not know what to ask for since I had already enjoyed playing with Helen all year, and I knew nothing I could ever receive would be better than this. But it was a custom in our home to write my letter to Kris Kringle, put it into the fireplace and watch it burn. Such faith a child possesses, never once did I doubt that my letter would reach its destination. I think I wrote, "Please send me anything you choose," giving me a feeling of anticipation. I usually received books and games, and always blue and white checked gingham to be made into a dress. Also, long black cotton stockings, and ribbon to be made into bows for my hair. Practical gifts to a child do not give much enjoyment.
So finally Christmas Eve arrived, and the sliding doors were opened into the front parlor, and there was the tree lighted with candles, and wrapped gifts were underneath it. But what I really saw was my Helen, wearing a lovely new dress, and also a new wig of long brown hair. A small open trunk was near her, filled with other clothing, and shoes and sox to match. I can still remember the excitement and joy that I felt, and even after many Christmases since then, that one year to me was my very best.
"A Favorite of Mine"
This is the first thing I remember Grandma reading to me:
A is for apple that hangs on the tree.
B is for bells that chime out in glee.
C is for candy to please boys and girls.
D is for Dolly with long flaxen curls.
E is for evergreen decking the room.
F is for flowers of sweetest perfume.
G is for gifts that bring us delight.
H is for holly with red berries bright.
I is for ice, so shining and clear.
J is the jingle of bells far and near.
K is Kris Kringle with fur cap and coat.
L is for letters the children all wrote.
M is for mistletoe, shining like wax.
N is for nuts which Grandma[ma] cracks.
O is for oranges yellow and sweet.
P is plum pudding, a holiday treat.
Q the quadrille in which each one must dance.
R for the reindeer that gallop and prance.
S is for snow that falls silently down.
T is for turkey, so tender and brown.
U is for uproar that goes on all day.
V is for voices that carol this day.
W is for wreaths hung up on the wall.
X is for Xmas with pleasures for all.
Y is for Yule-log that burns clear and bright.
Z is for zest shown from morning till night.
"A New Year's Day Custom"
As a child of six, I had just enjoyed a perfect Christmas holiday, and was looking forward to New Year's Day also. The day before, however, we were told that we were invited to go next door to my grandmother's sister's home for the noon meal. The men declined without excuses, but the rest of us accepted graciously. My Great Aunt Margaret Latterner was then widowed and alone, having moved from her palatial home in Middletown. Her son was grown and living in Lima, working as a successful architect. She hired a maiden Aunt [Annie Koeppendoerfer] to live with her and do all household chores. Aunt Margaret refused to join any of Grandma's dinners, so probably from a sense of duty only, my family was invited to her home for dinner on New Year's Day. From the first time on I dreaded this day, because she frightened me with her steel blue eyes and unsmiling face.
Each year before going my Grandmother would give me specific instructions to sit up straight at the table, keeping off my elbows, and never to drop anything. To make things more difficult for me, Aunt Margaret asked that we wear our best clothing. When we entered the dining room, I saw two candles burning on the table and I wondered why, since the sun was shining. Also a cut glass bowl was on the table, filled with crushed ice, and celery hearts were on top. Beautiful matched china was used, and the water was in cut glass glasses, which made them heavy, so fear took hold of me, thinking I would have some kind of accident. Looking at the table covered with white linen tablecloth, matching napkins, beautiful silverware, and fresh flowers in the center for an added elegance, only took away my appetite. My Grandmother and her daughters kept the conversation alive throughout the lavish meal, but I watched my Great Aunt Maggie so I would do the same as she did, and have no idea what was served by Tante Annie. I only remember the relief when the dessert was served and eaten, and the family went into the front parlor for their conversation.
I was told to sit on a stool in one corner and listen. I wished I had brought a book, and Aunt Margaret permitted me to sit next to her large bookcase and look at hers. The ones I wanted to look at, with illustrations, were on shelves too high for me to reach, so I just touched those on the lowest shelves. These were bound in black leather, except one, a lovely caramel suede, and that lovely softness just fascinated me. I have often wondered what the book was about.
Finally at 4 o'clock my Grandma would call to me that it was time to leave. I thanked Aunt Margaret for the meal and ran out of the back door, at last released from my personal prison. One time my dog suddenly barked on the back porch, and I was told to go out and quiet him. I ran outside and hugged my dog for helping me to get away. I went next door, changed clothes, put on my skates, and raced up and down, very happy again. About 5:30 Grandma called me in to eat our supper. I smelled delicious food on the kitchen table, covered with faded oil cloth. The china was all mismatched, and water was served in clean jelly glasses. The food tasted extra good, and I noticed my Grandma and two Aunts had on their comfortable calico dresses. I wondered if Aunt Maggie was still in her purple taffeta dress and wearing her diamond jewelry.
In later years after Aunt Margaret's death, Tante Annie lived on in the house, took in two male roomers to earn money, and was most happy. In the late 1910's my Uncle Bob bought the old family home, and our family lived there with Tante Annie an added member. Somehow later on I was given a beautiful set of Aunt Margaret's Majolica plates, and some odd pieces of her silverware, which I enjoyed using. Now in my advanced age I sympathize with Aunt Margaret, and realize that wealth does not necessarily bring happiness to all, and in her case a ruined life, except for a successful son. She did not have good health, and died lonely and unhappy. But I learned you could live comfortably with a limited income.
"The 1913 Ohio Flood"
In March of 1913, after days of rain, our local Miami River spilled out of its banks one cold morning and suddenly took charge of our lives. Mrs. Lida Charles, a friend of our family, called from a nearby corner suggesting that I go with her for protection, since I was only six years old. She lived seven blocks away, and thought it would stay dry there. Our home was very near the river and could be in danger. I looked behind me as we were leaving, and saw a giant wall of swirling muddy waters slamming into everything along its way. When we arrived seven blocks away, the water was trickling in the gutters. It rose quickly into the house, and we snatched up food and necessaries to take upstairs, while the water slowly followed us.
There was a small fireplace in the back bedroom, and this served us for warmth and cooking purposes. Mrs. Charles heated water for hot tea, and also we had bread and butter. We went to bed early, fully clothed except for shoes, cozy and warm. Later we were awakened by a man in a boat floating down the street yelling, "Thirty more feet of water is coming soon." Mrs. Charles appeared very calm saying, "How would you like to see my attic?" Since that was something I had wanted to do for a long time, I readily agreed. We went into the bathroom using a flashlight, and she climbed onto the stationary basin and pushed open a small wooden cover in the ceiling, telling me as soon as she crawled through the opening, I should climb onto the basin also. I gladly obeyed, and soon one arm appeared to pull me up into the attic also. I was surprised to find no floor in our hiding place, only beams with fragile material in between. So we huddled together for warmth and security, and she told me stories, and I had no fear. I fell asleep and have no idea how long we were there, only that I was later awakened by her voice telling me that we could leave, and go into our bedroom again.
Looking out of the windows that morning, we could see nothing but very high water everywhere, taking everything imaginable with it. The worst was a house with four people sitting on the roof screaming for help, hurdling through a huge wall of water, going past us through the side yard. This was my only fright during the entire horrible experience, and I cried for the first time. Fortunately the thirty feet of water did not arrive, so we both relaxed as much as possible, and waited as patiently as possible. Being warm did help, and having no knowledge of the seriousness of the flood's destruction helped us also.
Especially vivid in my memory is the day my Dad came for me, as soon as the water had subsided and he could get through the mountains of debris, wearing hip boots. Mrs. Charles's son Clifford had also arrived to stay with her, so we left soon after. What an exciting adventure for me, riding on my Dad's back as he clawed our way through seven blocks of everything imaginable, finally reaching our old well built brick house that had defied destruction. We had a glorious family reunion, and I laughed to see our back yard was filled with privies. On top of one was my large ragdoll named "Big Ox," soaked with water and bloated into a filthy mess. I was denied her rescue, so had my second crying session.
Fortunately, my Grandmother's cousin owned a hotel only a block away, and she invited our family to join her and live there until the monumental cleaning of our home could be finished. This also was a happy experience for me, never having had the privilege of staying in a hotel even overnight. This gave us the time to dig out bushels of mud, wash off what was usable of our possessions, and discard all that was destroyed. The digging out process was very difficult, and took many days to accomplish any finality. I was given a large wooden spoon to dig mud off of our antique sofa, a wise decision to keep a child busy for days.
The Red Cross truck came each day from Cincinnati, bringing nourishing food for us, and we ate outside sitting on whatever was cleaned off sufficiently. How all of my family hung onto our sanity I will never know, but I do realize their indomitable courage, and their endurance won out after days of backbreaking work in cold weather, to change a filthy jumble into a great livable home once more.
My first Easter at Grandma's home was a revelation to me, since I had never known about dyeing eggs. Early on Saturday morning before Easter, Grandma had hardboiled two dozen eggs and these were cooled in a bowl in the center of our newspaper covered kitchen table. My Aunt Irma had brought four old cups from the cellar, and these too were on the table. As far as I can remember, beet juice was put into one cup, leftover coffee in another, bluing in a third, and a mixture of beet juice and bluing in the fourth cup. Then boiling hot water was poured into each cup, and also a stick of kindling to stir the mixture into a lovely red, blue, brown, and purple. I was overjoyed to be permitted to put one egg carefully into each cup, and watch in amazement as lovely different-colored eggs appeared. Later, each egg was lifted out carefully and dried, then rubbed with a bit of cloth dipped in lard to make them shine.
The next day was Easter, and my Grandma had hidden the eggs very early in different places in our back yard. I was given a small basket, and had fun hunting for these. But sometimes my Uncle Ed would tease me and run ahead of me to find an egg. My family would be standing on our back porch, watching and cheering on the happy Easter egg hunt. After Sunday School and church, bowls of the colored eggs would be placed on our dinner table to be eaten, or just to be admired for a special decoration.
When I was seven years old, I heard about St. Patrick's Day. I was told it originated in Ireland, a country where the streets were paved in cobblestones, they danced the Jig, and if you found a four leaf shamrock you would be twice blessed. I asked my Grandmother if I could change my name to an Irish one, for instance Colleen. She laughed and told me somehow it did not fit Ludeke! She also told me to never forget that I was pure German, and many great people had been born in Germany to help the world in general. I did change my name to Smith when I married, but never did add Colleen to it. Also I found a four leaf clover in my own yard later on, and I have had my fair share of happiness.
I recently read a poem in a magazine that was published in Ireland, the title being "My Mother Dear":
There was a place in childhood that I remember well,
And there a voice of sweetest tone bright fairly tales did tell
And gentle words and fond embrace were given joy to me
When I was in that happy place upon my Mother's knee.
After reading the poem, I realized this was an experience that I never had, since my Mother died when I was only four [sic] years old. I cherished tales about her that were told to me after her death. I have no desire to be maudlin about my misfortune, because being raised by a wonderful Grandmother and her family gave me all the needed love and security in life. However, as a child, there was one day that I dreaded each year, and that was Mother's Day. For all of my friends this was a special, happy day, but to me it was just the opposite. In our community, it was the custom to wear a red flower if your Mother was alive, and a white flower otherwise. My Grandma informed me I would have to conform to that, and no amount of pleading from me changed her mind. I was terribly distressed going to Sunday School and being the only child wearing a white flower, and I usually fought tears during the special message given by the Minister.
But these early disappointments in life made me a stronger person, accepting substitutions for a Mother's love, and how to cope with tragedy. Also, after marriage I hope it gave me the knowledge and courage to be a better stepmother, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and great-grandmother. After the anodyne of time, it is possible to recapture happiness from sad beginnings occurring in the past.
"The Rites of Spring"
Spring was a deliciously happy time for me as a child because I could shed long winter underwear, flannel petticoats, heavy stockings, and high laced leather shoes. I had ridges on the front of my ankles from underwear lapped over to fit into stockings and laced-up shoes. Wool caps, scarves and mittens could be washed and put away in moth balls. I can still remember the dank odor of wet wool all winter. My rubber overshoes were tossed aside also. In school the offensive smell of asafetida bags (worn around some pupils's necks to protect them from germs) disappeared also, much to my relief. I am sure no germs came near these stinks. My sled and ice skates were stored in the cellar and my roller skates taken out of storage, usually needing rollers replaced.
I enjoyed watching my Grandma and two Aunts busily involved with spring housecleaning, especially since I was told to keep out of their way. Now I can realize what a monumental task it all involved. Beds were stripped and mattresses taken out into the back yard to be aired, while everything from the beds was washed by hand, dried outside, and ironed. All curtains were taken down, washed by hand, starched, dried, and ironed. The lace curtains had to be stretched on a large wooden frame in the sun. All windows were washed inside and outside before the clean curtains re-hung. Carpets were dragged to the back yard, hung over the clothes lines, and cleaned with a metal beater to remove all the dirt from a winter's accumulation. All floors and woodwork were scrubbed thoroughly, and if my family had enough money that season, paint was bought to have the clean woodwork repainted. Also, new wallpaper was put on the walls. The men in our family did these two jobs. All this difficult work resulted in our large house changing into a sparkling clean home, appreciated by the entire family.
Each spring a local amateur production was presented one night onstage in our movie house. One of my Uncles was always chosen to have a part in this, and I remember the excitement I felt just hearing him talk about the rehearsals. If it was a special costume play, my two Aunts created his attire. One especially I remember was a Russian production, and my Uncle had the leading part in this, even doing an authentic dance. When I saw him in his brightly colored costume, Cossack hat, and boots (rubber ones shined black with shoe polish) I was ecstatic because I had seen it all created in my home. I was so proud of him, and my Aunts also.
Another spring surprise was finding the lovely violets, lilies of the valley, and daffodils in my back yard. I made it my business to keep all animals and birds away from these. Sometimes I picked a few to put in water, with an empty jelly glass for a vase. These were mine to keep and enjoy in my bedroom. I have enjoyed many types of springs since then, but these child's memories are the sweetest.
"A Lovely Old Custom"
When I was a child of six years old and had lived in my Grandmother's home for only a year, I was introduced to a custom new to me. She explained to me that tomorrow would be Decoration Day, and since she was going to the cemetery she invited me to go with her. I gladly accepted. Next she cut many peonies from our back yard, and put them in cold water. Then she brought from the cellar two big market baskets and lined each with newspapers. Several large empty jars were arranged in the baskets; in three of the jars the peonies were placed, and the others with lids held cold water. She then prepared a slice of jelly bread, an apple, and a cookie, and put these into a paper sack, explaining if I was good this would be my reward.
About two o'clock we left home with the two filled baskets, to walk the ten blocks to the city cemetery. I carried the sack of "goodies" and the flowers, Grandma carried the heavier basket. I was surprised to see many other people already there when we arrived. Grandma went to the graves of her two children, her husband and parents, and soon was busy putting water into the jars, then the peonies, and finally placing the five filled jars, one on each grave. This new "spectacle" kept me quiet, so Grandma said, "You have been so good, you may eat now." I gladly found a clean tombstone to sit on and I ate, watching the fascinating scene all about me in that quiet place.
I asked no questions, and other than the explanation that Decoration Day was a day to honor the dead, I accepted it as a fact. I went with Grandma each year until the age of ten, but then I felt I had outgrown this, so undaunted Grandma continued going alone, doing her duty without any complaint. What a strong courageous woman she always was, and I was blessed to have had her influence for so many years.
"An Unusual Holiday"
In Hamilton, Ohio it was the custom to have a big parade every Fourth of July, marching down our High Street with several bands playing, and many other organizations making it all festive, especially to Veterans and children. Since I lived only one block from that location, my Grandmother permitted me to go and watch it by myself, even though I was only seven years old. Soon after leaving my home, I looked over my shoulder to find my dog was following me. I ordered him to go back, and tail between his legs, he did turn around. I ran on getting a good place along the curb to watch the parade. To my dismay, I was soon joined by my faithful dog companion. So giving up all hopes that he intended to go home, I made him lie down by my feet, and he was quiet with all of us, watching the many members of the parade pass by us.
The bands soon were heard, and a cheer went up from the curbside audience. Everyone enjoyed watching the uniformed men carrying flags, the decorated floats, and other organizations marching in formations. The three bands were playing patriotic songs, and all was going well. But as the parade was almost past, someone threw a firecracker and it exploded with a loud bang quite close to us. Dogs do have very sensitive ears, so my dog leaped up from the ground and made a wild dash right through the last part of the parade that was then passing. Unfortunately, it was a band. Amid the tangle of feet, that streak of fur caused the cymbals to crash to the street, and pandemonium took over.
I was terribly embarrassed and also afraid I would be arrested for causing the trouble, so I ran following my dog down the street to our house. My Grandmother was standing outside watching the parade, and she too was almost upset by the racing dog. Prompta whizzed past her into the house, up the steps to the second floor, and retreated into the first shelter he could find, a bedroom closet. I found him pressed against the back wall of this closet, and nothing could tempt him out from there, not a rattle of his food pan nor coaxing offers. Perfectly still he lay, rigid to my touch, so I left his food and a bowl of water on the floor, and closed the bedroom door for his reassurance. He was not a coward by nature, no fear of anything else was in him, but I cared for him deeply and it was difficult for me to see my friend overcome by this shuddering horror of loud noises.
After telling my story, I was assured that no one would blame me or my dog either. So I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the holiday. I learned a lesson that day, to always have my dog safely indoors before I left to watch any future parades.
One fond experience each year was being taken to the Butler County Fair, held in the Hamilton, Ohio fairgrounds. Being born and raised in a city, I had no idea what country life was like. Other than dogs and cats, I did see a few horses now and then. I had no idea that milk came from an animal, and how it ended up in a glass bottle was a mystery to me. The story of wool being sheared from sheep and eventually giving me a wool coat to wear, was equally puzzling. I recognized an ear of corn in the husk, but this initially growing in a field? Wheat and rye were just names to me.
Eventually in elementary school, I did learn about the process of turning different grains into edible products. Also, the fact that certain animals were raised solely for food was a shock to me. I never did understand the difference between hay and straw, and I doubted that eggs could come from chickens. In time, I believed all the data that was printed in our schoolbooks, but I never had any desire to move away from the city to the country life.
"Summer Fun, Age 11"
I enjoyed a wonderful summer vacation, and I remember one of the best days was being invited by a friend and her parents to go to Chester Park, a large amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio. We rode the electric tram to Cincinnati, just 25 miles from Hamilton, and then took a streetcar to the Park. Uncle Bob had given me fifty cents, and that stretched conveniently to ride the roller coaster, whip, Ferris wheel, and merry-go-round. We also visited the Fun House. I bought cotton candy, popcorn and taffy. There were many booths to watch games being played in each, and I was sorry when we had to leave and return home about 4 p.m.
Later I went to a small city park with my Sunday School class and teacher for a picnic. We played games and had fun exchanging food with other girls, that we had brought from home for lunch. However, the best day was doing to Coney Island, a huge amusement park with swimming facilities. A group of friends and three supervisors planned the affair, and invited me to join them. Again we rode the electric tram to Cincinnati, then rode a streetcar to the dock where the "Island Queen" was waiting on the Ohio River. This was a large three deck vessel which held many passengers, cruising slowly down the river to Coney Island. The first thing I noticed was a huge roller coaster, then the highest in the state of Ohio, and I was anxious to get off the boat and ride it not only once but twice. Uncle Bob had given me a dollar for this outing, and I rode on many contraptions, sampled different foods, and went to a Side Show to see "Dolly Dimples, The Fat Lady." We were there all day, and we returned by moonlight on the river. I think we were all half asleep the rest of the trip, but finally reached home tired and dirty but very happy.
Each day left of my vacation, I found fun things to do: roller skating, walking on stilts, playing marbles and jacks, and many times racing my dog down the street. During the quiet times, I read books borrowed from the city's library. My vacation passed hurriedly, and I was actually glad when school started again, with only one complaint: having to wear stiff leather shoes after days of comfortable sandals.
"Fondly Looking Back"
In Hamilton, Ohio I lived at Front Street and Magnolia Avenue, a very imposing address, except that Magnolia Avenue was a narrow paved alley one block long, and had six cheaply built houses on it. These were occupied by residents from the Kentucky mountain areas, all poor uneducated white people, who had moved there seeking employment in our city. The male figure, if working at all, was hired as unskilled labor, earning very little money, but on the whole the families were usually happy and kept their many children in school.
My Grandmother disapproved of me visiting this alley, but usually temptation won out, and I would walk through the area each day. I knew all by name, and was invited into their homes often. One in particular since a girl my age, Fanny Strong, lived there with her parents, two sisters and two brothers. Why was her weed covered yard and smelly cellar appealing to me?? I remember well sitting in her damp cellar: using orange crates for chairs and a large box for a table, we would have tea parties. The menu was weird, some sauerkraut from a nearby storage barrel, water sweetened with sugar for a drink, and whatever Fanny could smuggle from the family ice box at the top of the stairs. One thing I remember well, two cold leftover greasy fish cakes, very strong for our entree, and we ate them using our fingers, seated at our newspaper covered table and living in our own little dream world. At night, these people would sit outdoors in the summer, pluck their banjoes, and sing their old folksongs. I stood at our back fence and enjoyed the scenario.
Another alley was in back of our hospital, one block from my home, and this faced the emergency room. Every time the ambulance would scream past my home, I would race to the spot in the alley for an interesting view of all. Usually I was joined by a neighbor girl my age, Helen Stevenson, and we would kneel on the ground and peek in the window. This was utterly fascinating for a long time, until one night the Catholic surgical nun saw us and gave us a withering lecture, threatening to have us arrested if she caught us again. We retreated quickly, but I must confess I returned many times afterwards to watch the scenario, and I was lucky not to be caught.
Alley #3 was near the Beckett Paper Company four blocks from my home, and Helen Stevenson and I would visit this area on a weekly basis. We would go to the open back door and beg for leftover paper. Many times we were lucky, and would carry our loot to her home for storage since there were four children in her family, and her Mother never objected to anything we dragged in. This was the home also where I could enjoy all the things forbidden to me by my Grandmother: a bicycle, stilts, homemade scooters, backyard slide, and a pony.
My poor dear Grandmother, she had accepted responsibility for taking care of me, and even though she gladly did it, I felt she was overly protective of me. That was my reason for trying all forbidden adventures without her knowledge. How I escaped serious injuries from my many antics I shall never know, but I was fortunate, and now have nothing but the happiest memories from them all.
Soon after I was born, my Dad bought a pure bred black and white collie pup from our local kennel. His name was "Prompta," his dam was "Commotion," and his sire was "Commodore." He was a gift to me, and a better one I never had. The reunion [sic] seemed to be instant love, and from then on we were close companions, he becoming my shadow. I wasn't able to pronounce "Prompta" when very young, so I just called him "Boy." I was left alone most of the time, since my Mother was bedfast and terminally ill. My Dad was away from home working each day, but with "Boy" I could speak more words to him than to anyone.
After my Mother's death, he went with us when we moved to Grandma's home. We had great fun playing together outside, our favorite being hockey. Roller skating fast, I would hit a battered tin can with a large stick, and "Boy" would race after it and bring it back to me. This gave both of us much exercise. Another fun time was hitting a tennis ball against the side of a brick house, and if I could not hit the ball back with my racket, my dog would race after it, soon bringing it back to me. In the winter, running on icy surfaces, and then throwing down the sled and sliding "belly buster" was great also. My dog got absolutely hysterical with this game, one time even leaping on my back, so we both had a ride together. When I started to school the parting was very difficult, but my dog finally adjusted and realized it was only a temporary situation, even meeting me twice every day to "help" me in the three block journey home.
In later years, "Boy" would sleep more often, and I noticed he would yelp and twitch, no doubt remembering his younger more active years. As older humans become arthritic, dogs seem to also, so "Boy" was much slower in his walking at fifteen years of age. However his curiosity to prowl during the night remained, and one night in crossing our street, he was struck and killed by the Police Department ambulance, killing him instantly. Information was received from his collar, and in the morning Aunt Frieda answered the telephone to hear the news. She accepted the police offer to bury him, so that I would not have to see the body. His collar and dog tag were saved for me.
For all the love that life had given me, I felt lonelier then than anytime that I could remember. I grieved for a long time, and made a silent promise to myself never to own another pet. That promise was kept, but I have never forgotten my best friend, my confidant during rough times, and my faithful companion always.
"Wisdom Learned from Grandma"
* Always be polite, it doesn't cost a penny.
* Think before you speak.
* Elbows are not allowed at the eating table.
* Children should be seen, but not necessarily heard.
* Apologize immediately when necessary.
[This undated recapitulation was written later than the memoir-essays above]
For the first four years of my life, in Hamilton, Ohio, I have little or no memory. My Mother became ill with tuberculosis when I was three [sic] years old, so I can't even remember what she looked like. Treating tuberculosis then was keeping the patient in bed, in a very dark room, with all windows shut tight. My Dad worked five days a week in a nearby office (Niles Tool Works) so was able to come home at noon to check on my Mother, and prepare lunch for me and himself. So I saw him only briefly, with no real communication at all. I was left alone again until dinner time, my only companion being my dog "Prompta" (kennel name). He was a black and white collie, and I loved him dearly.
From instructions from my Dad, I was allowed in our front yard, with the fence enclosure, and in the unfenced back yard, to go to the privy only. I often had the urge to venture further, especially to a canal at the end of our half acre back lot. But at that time, children obeyed adult orders. I think my Mother had relatives living nearby, but I can't remember ever seeing any [sic]. Hence, I was denied knowing possibly maternal aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I do remember being very lonely, but I never cried, since I just thought I had no other choice. I usually sat on our front steps, watching the mailman and milkman making their deliveries. My faithful dog was always next to me, and I could talk to him about my problems. Sometimes it was very sad communication, and as a reward, I always received a wet kiss on my cheek from his tongue.
It may sound uncaring, but my Mother died when I was four [sic] years old, and I was taken to my paternal Grandmother's home, about eight blocks away, to live there. I remembered that place well, because every Saturday, my parents went to her home for an evening meal. I remembered the good food, plus laughter from a large group of people, so I was eager to leave my birthplace. For the first time in my young life, I felt I was welcome someplace. I was with people always. I heard interesting conversation, much laughter, and enjoyed delicious food three times a day. My dog was welcomed also. At last, I realized there was a different way of living, and for the first time, I knew what love was. I was given a pair of roller skates, and after many falls, I learned to use them. I enjoyed hours of pleasure outside skating on cement streets, at least two blocks from home, with my dog racing along with me, barking happily.
At last I was satisfied with living in a home with Grandma Ludeke, aunts, uncles, and my Dad, seven in all. Fear and sadness left my young body, happiness replaced them. But with this sudden freedom, I also felt brave enough to show some personal authority, and unfortunately I pushed my luck too far, resulting in stubbornness against accepting my Grandmother's way of living. She was so right in trying to guide me into proper habits, but I only felt resentment in having someone do that. But Grandma never gave up, and named me "Miss Stütz Kopf" (stubborn head) and listening to the rest of my family laughing at that name, I finally realized I had no one to take my part. After three months of struggling, my Grandmother won that battle, the first of many to follow.
My Dad remarried after a year living with us, and left again, so once more I did not feel close to him, but now I did not miss him, so I felt no loneliness. He married a pretty young woman, but she was very jealous of his family, and especially to [sic] me, a potential stepdaughter. I thought she was a "wicked witch" in many ways. But since I saw her only infrequently, that did not bother me.
After our evening meal at Grandma's, the kitchen was cleaned up, the men members would disappear, and the women would gather around the dining room table and chat, and get caught up on neighborhood news and other types also. They would listen to one member read news from the daily newspaper, while the rest would mend clothing, darn sox, tat, embroider doilies, etc. I was supposed to be doing homework (after I started going to school) but from these sessions also, I could hear news about my life in my first home, and my Mother's early life.
One Saturday night my Grandma said to me, "Tomorrow morning I will take you to Sunday school and church." That word, church, meant nothing to me; since my early childhood Sunday just meant my Dad would be home, doing household duties. I was then told by my Grandma that I had been christened Catholic, since that was my Mother's faith, but since I now lived in a German Lutheran home, I would join that church sometime later on. So early Sunday morning, I was given a new dress and new shoes to wear. The dress was a pretty white one, not my usual blue and white checked gingham type. The shoes were black patent leather, called "Mary Janes." Putting on these new things, Grandma and I left the house to another new adventure for me. I went to the adult Sunday school class first, then afterwards into the Sanctuary of the church, with stained glass windows, pipe organ, pulpit, and choir loft. I was absolutely entranced with all, especially the beautiful music. Afterwards, we were met and greeted by the Minister at the outside door, and he said to me, "I remember your Father being here when he was your age." My Dad in church? Another surprise to me.
When I was five years old, I went to a private kindergarten owned by a neighbor, Jean Dickerson. She took me with her each morning to attend the day session, and this was my very first experience being with children my own age, giving me another happy experience. Later, I attended George Washington Elementary School for six years, then a Junior High School for one year. After graduating from four years in high school, I left my home to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (fifteen miles away) for four years. I majored in Sociology, and two weeks after finishing four years in Miami, I was very fortunate to be hired as a full time social worker in Hamilton, Ohio. I could live at home while working, hence I could save money for future use. I was plunged into working during the time our country's Great Depression was going on, but I accepted the many challenges and enjoyed my work very much. Also, this gave me a living example of how the unfortunates had to cope with their lives, and this made me realize how very blessed I was.
As a Miami University student I used the library many times, and met the assistant librarian there, Mellie Smith. Later, she also became house mother of the dormitory in which I lived, and I became very friendly with her. Her Aunt [Alice Earsom] visited her often for weekends, and I eventually was introduced to her. This Aunt lived in Urbana, Ohio (forty miles from Oxford) and one weekend when Mellie Smith was planning to go there, she invited me to go with her. I enjoyed that visit very much, with another Aunt [Mamie Hedges] in the home. Also other relatives living in Urbana. This first visit led to many others in the future, so eventually I became aware that Mellie had a brother Francis, who lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri. He was a widower [sic] with two daughters, but after a divorce, they were living with relatives in Ohio.
A year later when this brother was visiting in Ohio, I met him, and enjoyed his company as a friend only. Six months later, we again met in Urbana, and I realized this was more than a friendship. So after three dates and much correspondence, we were married in January 1930 in Kansas City, MO. The following June, the two daughters joined us, and we lived in the Emerson Apartment Hotel on the corner of Linwood Boulevard and Garfield Street. Again, scarcely used to the role as a wife, I assumed the challenge of becoming a stepmother. But youth won out, and with the "trial and error" system, all of our problems were eventually solved. After another daughter was born in 1932, we moved to a house in the 39th and College area. Here we happily lived until the children were quite grown and living their own lives.
My husband and I moved again into a smaller house at Meyer Boulevard and College Avenue [sic]. We lived there until the great turnover in population, then moved to Blue Springs in 1971. This new apartment was home until 1973 when Francis died. I coped alone with life until 1986, when I moved to Twin Oaks Apartments in Kansas City. My forty-three years with a beautiful marriage, three daughters, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren were added to my family. Truly I was blessed.
Thus from an isolated, almost deprived early
childhood, with few social contacts, I finally came full circle after college to
a full life involved with contacts and concerns for other people, and to a
fulfilling family life.
● Snippets, Bits and Pieces
"Life Before 'Sadie' (Cane)"
When I was very young and foolish, I seldom refused a dare. Just let anyone say to me, "You can't do that," then without thinking I would say, "Oh yes, I can."
I was five years old when I went to my Grandmother's home to live after my Mother's death. The Dickinson family lived next to us, and Jean (a daughter) owned a private kindergarten. She asked Grandma permission to take me each weekday from 8:30 to 11:30, thus giving Grandma relief somewhat. Being with about ten children my age gave me happiness also. Next to the kindergarten a house had burned down, and after all the rubble was cleared away, nothing was left but a huge hole. Rains had filled it with muddy water, and some boys were leaping across the wide gap to work off their energy at recess one day. One boy said to me, "Girls are too scared to do this." My instant reply was, "I'm not afraid to do it." He said, "Oh yeah, then prove it." I gave myself room to run fast, and easily cleared the wide space. The boys were impressed, but unfortunately overconfident me had to repeat my victory. This time I fell short of the goal and splashed into the muddy mess below.
Someone called the teacher, and in her calm manner, she got the janitor. He brought out a long ladder and lowered it down to me, and I climbed up to the top, looking like the "Tar Baby." Laughter from the class did not help me one bit. Luckily clean clothing was in one room, donated by the general public previously. I was washed clean by Miss Dickinson and dressed in dry clothes, and with these plus bare feet, I was taken home later on. My filthy clothes were put into a paper sack and I gave this to Grandma, reporting my exciting experience. My dear Grandmother did not realize it then, that this was only the first of many many escapades I was to give her over the next ten years.
One time my friend Fanny [Strong] and I were walking to school on a bitter cold morning. The milk bottles had been delivered to front steps, and we saw the cream on each one standing above the rim of the bottle, with cardboard lids for hats. I called Fanny's attention to this, and being opposite to a house with this display close to us, she said, "I dare you to take the lid off that bottle and lick the cream." I readily agreed to do it, and tiptoed up to the target. Just as I picked up the bottle, and was sticking out my tongue to taste the frozen cream, the front door of the house opened and a woman suddenly appeared. To make matters worse, I recognized her as Mrs. Troxell, a friend of my Grandmother. I panicked but handed her the bottle, waiting for my punishment. She said, "Thank you, Ada, you do realize this is very wrong, don't you?" "Yes ma'am," I replied. She said, "Well I'll offer you a choice: if you promise never to do such a foolish thing again, I promise never to tell your family about it." I promised solemnly, fled to school in relief, and never did attempt that particular stunt again.
I must admit I couldn't resist taking in a dare in the future, hoping each time I wouldn't get caught. Our next door neighbors, the Schmidts, owned a motorcycle. I had a great desire to ride on it, but of course Grandma would not even discuss the issue: "No meant no." But one day Mr. Schmidt said to me, "I have to go to the hardware store near here, do you want to ride along?" Satan tempted and I gladly accepted, hopping up on the back seat of his motorcycle, and away we went. Oh, such fun it was sputtering along all of five miles an hour. The store was only two blocks away, but he took me an extra ride just for fun. When we arrived home and went to the back of his house to park the cycle, guess who was waiting? Yes, my Grandma, and walking me home she scolded all the way. My one experience riding on a motorcycle, but I can still remember the great joy it gave me.
We had a garage near to my home that not only sold cars in the front part, but stored cars from the general public behind this area, on two levels. The back part was reached from the street by a very steep wooden ramp. I decided that would be a perfect place for me to skate down from the top. So after weeks of planning, one afternoon after school I put on my skates and clomped to the second floor level's back entrance. Making sure no one was on the sidewalk below, or any cars in motion on the street, I skated down the bumpy incline and experienced sheer joy from that. After three times I had to go home for supper. But the next afternoon I repeated the stunt many times, and since all good things must end, after skating down again very fast I almost bumped into a woman, one of my Aunts. She grabbed me and shook me hard, saying, "Don't you realize how dangerous this is?" "No, I said, "I was just having fun, but please don't tell Grandma." My Aunt Frieda said, "I won't if you promise me that you won't do it again." "No never," I replied. But temptation won out many times, and that fast ride down from the second floor incline was one of the best experiences of youth, and none of my family ever caught me doing it either.
When I was young, residents in my city were permitted to keep animals on their home property. A friend of mine, Mary Ann, and her parents owned two ponies that were kept in a small stable in their back yard. The smaller black and white pony, named "Spot," was used by my friend's younger sister. The larger golden colored pony, named "Princess," was for my friend's use. I visited her home (three blocks from where I lived) quite often, and I was permitted to ride "Princess" around the area where she lived. One afternoon when I was riding "Princess," she became frightened by a barking dog and took off at a fast gallop. I had no control over her, but managed to stay on her back. I suddenly realized we were headed in the direction of my home and I couldn't turn her back, so as we galloped past my home, guess who was sweeping the front sidewalk? My Grandmother. She looked up, screaming, "Stop before you get killed." I could not of course, but reaching High Street several blocks away, I finally could get "Princess" turned around, and we headed for Mary Ann's home on a different street than mine. I was relieved to arrive safely, both myself and beast. But I was afraid to go home and face my Grandmother. Finally I trudged home to the inevitable, another scolding, and another promise from me that was never kept.
Living dangerously then gave me such a delicious feeling of happiness always, and I only wish now I could fulfill doing things of that type, tempting the inevitable, but giving satisfaction of accomplishment to me. But age takes its toll, and my stiff body parts to not respond quickly enough to save me from falls and serious injuries. So I shall content myself with happy memories from my past.
My Mother was Catholic, and when I was one week old I was christened. Had she lived I would have been raised in her faith also. She died when I was four [sic] years old, and I was taken to my paternal Grandmother's home to live. She and her family belonged to the German Lutheran church, and I went to the services with them every Sunday. When I was in High School, all of my friends went to the local Presbyterian church and asked me to join them. With Grandma's permission I did, and enjoyed Sunday School and church services there for many years. Attending the Presbyterian church while at Miami University for four years gave me the joy of singing in the choir, also!
After marriage in 1930 I lived in Kansas City, and we went to the Linwood Presbyterian church, where I also sang in the choir. Due to many reasons we moved to the southeast area, and decided to attend a church closer to us. We tried several, and finally chose Country Club Methodist. Years later we moved to Blue Springs [MO], and chose to attend the First Methodist church there. I moved to Kansas City in 1986, and enjoyed services at Central Methodist church for years. In 1996 I became a resident of Shalom Plaza Geriatric Center, and am still trying to adjust to the Jewish customs!
So here I am exposed to Catholic, German Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and Jewish, and I feel comfortable with this mixed background. After all, with this, and my faith in God, it is my desire to live the best way I can, not only helping myself but others also.
I have always enjoyed writing letters, which is in
essence composing stories... Our "Family Tree" has been completed with the
combined efforts of several family members, and each of us in the family now
owns a copy. I write for my pleasure only, and have no desire to try to
have anything published. I now have five notebooks full of potpourri,
since starting to attend Shepherd's Center creative writing class in 1987.
Since my family seems to have produced writers, just maybe I can take credit, if
inheriting genes means anything. Heredity is a splendid phenomenon that
relieves us of responsibilities for our shortcomings.
± Sayers, Dorothy L. Unnatural Death, New York: Avon Books, 1927 (1964 printing), page 111.
In Chapter L-4,
the Kris-Kringle-with-switches business was part of every Christmas:
"DUMB???" In "Happy Memories" the first-remembered incident took place in Dec. 1911;
this shifted back to Dec. 1910, when ALLS was three-going-on-four, in the later "Leaves, Twigs, and Branches."
● As per Wikipedia: Lydia E. Pinkham "was an iconic concocter and shrewd marketer of a commercially successful herbal-alcoholic 'women's tonic' meant to relieve menstrual and menopausal pains." Fletcher's Castoria, "an oral syrup containing a stimulant laxative and ingredients to soothe the stomach... was the subject of one of the most significant campaigns in early mass advertising." Sloan's Liniment was originally "applied to horses's shoulders when they stiffened from the spring ploughing." When it was found to also relieve human discomfort, it was advertised as "good for man or beast."
● The butcher Waldo Jacob Rupp (1891-1937), whose surname ALLS spelled with an umlaut, lived with his widowed mother Catherine Stemple Rupp at 135 Dayton Street in 1920. In 1923 he married Verna Elizabeth Dempsey (1895-1995), and they lived with her widowed mother Elizabeth Dempsey at 613 Hanover Street in 1930. (Vital dates courtesy of ~f.)
● The Rupp family was profiled in 1919's Memoirs of the Miami Valley (~rupp):
GEORGE STEMPLE RUPP. For three generations the Rupp family has conducted a large and flourishing meat and packing business in Hamilton, and each of the proprietors has displayed the same honorable methods and policies that have been so highly esteemed by the general public. The president of the company at this time is George Stemple Rupp, one of the leading business men of the younger generation at Hamilton. He was born at Hamilton, July 27, 1888, a son of George Jacob and Catherine (Stemple) Rupp, the former a native of Hamilton and the latter of Cleveland, Ohio. The family was founded in Butler county by the grandfather of George S. Rupp, who came as a pioneer business man to Hamilton, and during the Civil war engaged in the packing business, also taking part in that struggle as a wearer of the Union blue. He had two children: George Jacob and a Mrs. Seidensticker, now deceased. The business, originally founded on South A street, was continued after the founder's death by his son, on Sycamore street. George J. Rupp was an honorable business man, and a citizen of public spirit and constructive ideas. He and his wife were the parents of five children, of whom three grew to maturity: Mrs. William Mason; Waldo, who joined the U. S. Army as a second lieutenant in the Quartermaster's Department, and was sent from Jacksonville, Fla., to France, where he saw active service and was promoted to first lieutenant; and George Stemple. George Stemple Rupp attended the public schools of Hamilton and after graduating from the high school in 1907, entered the University of Chicago, where he took a commercial course. He then returned to Hamilton and entered business with his father, going into the retail meat department at 122 High street, one of the two stores of this company, of which he has been president since his father's demise...
WALDO RUPP, formerly secretary and treasurer of the Rupp Packing company, this company owning two stores in Hamilton, was sold August 5, 1919, to The Rupp Meat company, of which Waldo Rupp is the sole owner and manager and is doing a large retail and jobbing business. He has made rapid advancement of recent years in assuming a position of importance in business circles of Hamilton, where he has already gained the reputation of being an alert, progressive and energetic man of affairs. Born in 1891, at Hamilton, he is a son of George and Catherine Rupp, and belongs to a well-known and highly esteemed family of the city, a review of which will be found elsewhere in this work in the sketch of George Rupp. After graduating from the Hamilton High school in 1908, Waldo Rupp attended the University of Michigan for one year, and then spent a like period in Miami university. Returning to Hamilton he pursued a course in the Hamilton Business college, then entering the packing business with his father. In 1913 he assumed the duties of secretary and treasurer of The Geo. Rupp Packing company, positions he retained until the sale of the business, and in which he gained the entire confidence of his associates. When the United States entered the great World War, Mr. Rupp went to the Officers Training Camp, at Jacksonville, Fla., to prepare for the Quartermaster's Corps, and was commissioned second lieutenant July 31, 1918. Subsequently he was sent overseas and stationed at I-sur-Tiel, France, where in February, 1919, he was promoted first lieutenant. He remained until June, 1919, at which time he received his honorable discharge and returned to Hamilton to resume his duties with the then Rupp Packing company. Mr. Rupp is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and is a voter with independent tendencies. He is unmarried and resides at the home of his parents.
● In Hamilton OH's censuses for 1900 through 1920, the Frechtling family lives at 134 N. Front Street. Henry Frechtling Jr.
(1850-1912), proprietor of a grocery store, was married to Mary Elizabeth
Hartman (1854-1920); among their children was Bertha Elizabeth
Frechtling (1881-1934), who married Roscoe Bulger in 1907. Roscoe, a hotel keeper
born 1879 in Dadeville, Alabama, died in Tuscaloosa in 1913; and by 1920 Bertha
was back with her mother at 134 N. Front Street. A marginal note by ALLS
indicated Bertha suffered from "palsy or Parkinson's." (Vital dates and
other details courtesy of ~f.)
● The Sep. 2, 1892 Daily Republican mentioned a party "of little friends" attended by Carrie, Irma, Frieda, and Robert Ludeke, their cousin Etta Eisel—and Bertha Frechtling.
● In "A Dialogue Between Friends," ALLS spells the neighbor's name Frechling without a T. In Hamilton's 1880 census, August Ludeke's household is listed immediately after that of George W. Frechling (aka Freckling in other ~f databases). Immediately before his is that of jeweler A. (Alvin) Seidensticker, whose son Arthur was a friend and classmate of August Ludeke's daughter Carrie.
● ALLS dated her Easter essay 1913, but that was a rainy day (Mar. 23) quickly followed by the Great Flood (Mar. 25-26); so it's unclear when her first Easter egg hunt took place. (In 1912 Easter fell on Apr. 7, thirteen days before Addie Ludeke's death.)
● In a variant recollection, ALLS suggested "Bridget" as a new name. "Ach!" her grandmother reportedly exclaimed, "a Ludeke named BRIDGET??"
● The Mother's Day poem quoted by ALLS was published in the Apr. 6, 1839 New York Mirror (viewable at Google Books) as "The Son to His Mother" by Samuel Lover.
● Cincinnati's Chester Park opened in 1875 as a trotting horse racetrack. It was "a popular and handy attraction for Butler County residents." In 1885 John L. Sullivan defeated Dan McCaffrey at Chester Park in one of the first prizefights held under Marquis of Queensbury rules. Grand opera was presented in the park during the early 1900s; vaudeville musician Johnny S. Black, who later composed the hit song "Paper Doll," performed there in 1914-15. Chester Park was closed in 1932; its swimming pool and skating rink were abandoned in 1941. As an amusement park in the 1920s, Chester Park had competed with Coney Island on the north bank of the Ohio River, east of Cincinnati. Originally called Parker's Grove, it was advertised as The Coney Island of the West. In 1943 it was said to have the largest tiled recirculating-water swimming pool in the world, containing four million gallons of water. "For many patrons, the most memorable part of a Coney Island outing was the trip. 'Not the least of the many attractions is the boat ride on the Ohio River from the city and return aboard the oil-burning steamer, Island Queen'... The green-and-white steamer carried as many as 4,000 passengers at a time on its frequent 30-minute trips." An explosion and fire destroyed the Island Queen in 1947. Coney Island, susceptible to spring floods, closed in 1971 and was replaced the following year by Kings Island amusement park. (As per ~chester/coney.)
● Hamilton OH's 1920-30 censuses confirm that the Strong family, originally hailing from Kentucky, rented a house at 116 Magnolia. Charles Green Strong (1884-1965) worked as a chipper at an engine works in 1920 and a die setter at a can factory in 1930; his wife, née Emily Margaret Morris, was born c.1888. Besides daughter Fanny, her brothers Effort/Elfort and Roy/LeRoy and sisters Stella and Margaret, the 1920 Strong household included four Kentuckian boarders.
● Fanny Strong, born in Bettyville KY on Sep. 28, 1907, died in Hamilton on May 4, 1926. That day's Evening Journal announced "FANNIE STRONG IS CLAIMED BY DEATH. Miss Fannie Strong, 18... died at her home this morning following a long illness, during [which] Miss Strong maintained a bright and cheerful disposition. She was a member of Bethel church Sunday school and had endeared herself to a wide circle of friends." Fanny's mother Emily died less than seven months later, as per the Nov. 30, 1926 Evening Journal. (Some vital dates for this and the previous note were derived from ~f.)
● "Sadie" was Smitty's three-pronged geriatric cane.
● A Dickinson family lived at 432 East Avenue in Hamilton OH's 1900 census, and by 1910 had moved to 214(?) S. Second St. (where they "kept rooms"). There were five daughters, May, Lillian, Edith, Eleanor/Elenora, and Ruth—but no Jean. Nor have the motorcycle-owning Schmidt neighbors been identified.
● Some of the late Snippets, Bits and Pieces are silently incorporated into related Leaves, Twigs and Branches essays. "On Writing" was dated Oct. 13, 1994.
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