Monday, October 10, 2011
My mother-in-law celebrated her 93rd birthday last week. Thanks to modern technology she connected with many of her relatives. Mom was thrilled to see and talk to grandchildren, great grandchildren and her daughter Pat.
Mom told me some stories during our recent visit to Florida. She does not talk about her past very often, so I really enjoyed hearing these. To avoid confusion I will refer to her as Eleanor as I retell her stories. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Eleanor worked in a department store called Shone-McCallister. Her mother Hazel worked on the floor as a sales person. Eleanor’s first job was to fix price tags. She eventually worked her way up to being a sales lady, also. Times were tough in those days – just as they are now. Eleanor left school early to take this job.
At some point the family spent summers near Elkhorn, Wisconsin at Aunt Gertrude’s cabin in the woods. Eleanor’s father Harry spent the weekdays working near Chicago, but commuted to the cabin on the weekends. At the beginning of the summer, the family took lots of supplies. One year Harry drove the Model T up the hill, but Eleanor, her sister Helen and her mother pulled the supplies up the hill. Evidently, it was too much for the car. The three heard loud horn honking. Hazel said, “ If he thinks we can go any faster, he’s got another thing coming.” But Harry was trying to warn his family that cows were coming down the road directly in their path. When Hazel saw the animals she screamed at the girls to get to the side of the road. Eleanor collided with a barbed wire fence that left a hug gash in her leg. Harry and Hazel rushed their daughter to the nearest town that had a doctor. The wound required multiple stitches. Eleanor said she still remembers the pain when the doctor poured iodine on her leg. Eleanor showed me the long scar on her leg after she told me this story.
Eleanor talked about her father Harry. He had very deformed hands and feet. However, he had beautiful handwriting. He kept books for various businesses in the Chicago area. When Eleanor or Helen would misbehave, Harry took his hand and rolled it around in their hair. It must have hurt, because Eleanor winced when she said it. She ended that story by saying he could not have known how much it hurt.
Eleanor also talked about her grandparents Charles and Lillian Crowe. He was a carpenter and built the house in Riverside that I saw this past summer. He must have had wonderful skills as a carpenter. I still remember the beautiful woodwork inside. Charles Crowe's take on Riverside was that a drunk designed the area. These days it is considered to be a unique planned community.
On Christmas day Eleanor and her family would visit the grandparents in Riverside. During the afternoon Grandma Lillian would excuse herself on the pretense of going to the store. Shortly after, Mrs. Santa Claus made an appearance much to the delight of the children. Eleanor said her heart was broken the year she spied a piece of her grandmother’s dress through the costume. The magic spell broke, but the happy memory of Mrs. Claus remains.