Family photos sometimes form the only memory we have of times and places we’ve been. Seems obvious. Yet, looking through some family photos taken before I was born, I saw a past that never existed for me. It is an odd place to be!
Her name was Mary. The little girl in the photo, the older of my two sisters, is Marijean, whose name is a combination of this grandmother’s first name and “Jean”, our mother’s first name. I got my paternal grandfather’s name for my middle name: “George”. This photo has to be from the WWII era, and the house appears to be one on Sweetwater Avenue, one of many where my father’s family lived before my grandparents retired to Englewood, Colorado, where I met. them.
They were from Missouri. Salem, Missouri, to be specific, which is in the southeast part of that state. It was where they met. Their families both farmed.
At some point, a sister encouraged my grandfather to come to Nebraska. Cambridge, Nebraska, in the south central part to the state, on the Republican River. Her husband owned and ran the “The Kaleidoscope” newspaper, a man of substance. My grandfather lived with them for a time and got a job helping build the railroads of Nebraska west. That was how he and the family ended up in Deadwood, Newcastle, and Alliance, where the photo was taken.
Mom’s mother was a hoot! If our Gram in Englewood was serious and spoke with a soft southern accent, as I remember her, our maternal grandmother was known to take off to Denver to visit her sister Margaret (“Aunt Maggie”), who lived in a mansion on High Street. Aunt Margaret was a hoot, too! She’d get Gram to drink mixed drinks, convincing her they were not alcoholic. At least that was what we were lead to believe. The two were best buddies!
I remember Aunt Margaret’s parrot Polly, who ate tea, egg, and toast from a spoon it held in it’s claw. Pretty exotic as pets go, and one of the treats of visiting Gram’s sister. The other was an endless supply of Seven-Up pop, a treat in those days, a luxury we rarely had at home. She didn’t have a pronounced accent, but our grandmother had a thick Scottish brogue.
My brother can duplicate that accent pretty well, I think, because he’s a clever fellow! Myself, I remember words she used, or how words she used sounded to me. “Girl” sounded like “gettle”. “Candy” sounded like “gundy”, and she had a terribly insatiable sweet tooth. I was in my 40s before it struck me, that I had an epiphany and finally realized what my Church of Scotland-proper maternal grandmother was speaking of when she referred to “wee fairts” (“children”, usually meaning my siblings and me…) was “little farts”! Grandmother…! For shame!
My poor sister Marijean got this grandmother’s first name as her middle name, with a small spelling change.
The photo was taken in the mid-1940s. Our grandfather died of cancer in 1940, so only one of us has much sense of what he was like. He was a master carpenter on the railroad. My brother got his first name for his middle name: Murdoch! My mother’s family, too, moved around to many of the same places my father’s family did during those early days of the 20th Century when area railroads built up.
That’s Laddie, my maternal grandmother’s dog. He and I both were born in the same year. His mother had papers, and his father had his nerve, the mutt! The puppies, consequently, weren’t suitable for sale. Nonetheless, Laddie was a loyal and relentless guard of the baby in the buggy. He was a good dog! When I got my dog Peanuts in 1959, he and Laddie had issues. They never did become buddies, which disappointed me. Though I don’t remember this scene in my grandmother’s backyard, I have this photo. It makes me happy!