Thursday, September 15, 2016

Carrie M. Howell Johnson (Babe)

She really is lovely and
looks nothing like my
great-grandmother, her sister.
The last time I wrote about my great-great grandfather, and this time I want to write about my great-grandmother’s sister. To put this in perspective, this great-grandmother was GW Netts’ daughter-in-law Mabel Howell Netts, so this is not a “blood” story. (At least to him)

Carrie M. Howell was Mabel’s sister, but I don’t have her birthdate. She was called Babe. Common sense tells me that she was younger than Great-Grandma Mabel, but I don’t know.

Babe married a preacher and on her wedding night climbed out the window of the bathroom and ran away over to her sister and brother-in-law’s. This would have been her first marriage.  She divorced her husband because he smoked. (I guess people didn’t know each other well in those days!) This would have had to be about 1898. I do know my Great-Grandma Mabel Netts was married in 1900 for what that is worth. 

Babe’s and Mabel's father, (my) GG Grandpa Benjamin Frederick Howell, set up in her own flower shop which is now called Netts’ Floral, still in existence, so she would have a livelihood.

She was ahead of her time. Her nephew told stories that she wore pants (jodhpurs) when no woman wore them and swore like a sailor.

Later she married John Wilson and died in childbirth (the baby was 13 lbs.) where we could have saved them both today. At that time my Great-Grandmother Mabel Howell Netts took over the florist shop, thus the name change of the shop. Two of her sons worked in it (until my Grandpa went to work for the Springfield Sun in the 40s), then her grandson and his wife, and today their daughter (who is my second cousin).

From the story about GW Netts, it sounds like he helped get the flower shop started for his daughter-in-law.

I am missing some pieces in this story as to time, but I write this so that the readers would know that at the turn of the 20th century, there WERE women who didn’t put up with anything they didn’t like in a husband, even if he was a minister!

She was a woman who didn’t mind wearing pants when no one else did, maybe it was because of running a greenhouse. As to the swearing, I guess she and her first husband wouldn’t have gotten along well anyway! Babe was 20 years ahead of her time in manners, custom and dress.

She must have been a character!

Friday, September 9, 2016

George Washington Netts

Credit: Heritage Center of Clark County
My great-great grandfather was born in 1847 to first generation immigrant German parents. His name was George Washington Netts, and I always thought he was born in Germany; but it doesn’t make sense that two German people would name their son after the former president of the USA. It does make sense that they would name their first child born in America after George Washington. I know he did have siblings, and I do know he was born in Springfield, Ohio.

What is interesting about him is that he journaled his life from 1868 until fewer entries in 1933, the year he died. I do not have the original journals, although I have personally seen them and they showed his declining health by his handwriting.

As a family, we donated the journals to the Clark County Historical Society. They were delighted to receive them, because as a unit, they tell much about a life at a particular time. If you “like” the historical society on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, they put an excerpt from the diary on Mondays using the hashtag #GeoNettsDiary.

What the diaries tell me:

He began these diaries the year he turned 21. One day seems like another until you come to April 15, 1868, where it says, “This is the third anniversary of A. Lincoln’s death.” WHOA! That tells you that you have entered another world.

George spent his youth making windmills. Many of them were in the area, but he did travel out of state. Even today, when I see one, I wonder if he made it. His travels were interesting. He traveled with other men (workers) and they didn’t stay in Holiday Inns. They made do in many situations. Men slept together back then and no one thought a thing. I don’t remember all of the places he went, but it included the Midwest and went all the way to Chetopa, Kansas; where he met his future wife.

He built furniture and returned to Springfield a couple of times. It does not appear that he was “going steady” with Lizzie, as he had many friends in Springfield. He received letters from her. On June 10, 1974, they were married and she left her home and came to Springfield, Ohio. (Although the diaries do mention trips back to Chetopa). Their first child, my great-grandfather Charles was born in September of 1875.

By this time, George was making furniture in Springfield. He had social interests with the Masonic Lodge, the Universalist Church (as well as Lutheran) and the YMCA. He played cards and had discussions with other people. He and his wife (and child) socialized also, spending much time with his sister, who lived about four or five blocks away. These residences no longer exist, but I’m able to figure out where they were.

In normal succession, another baby, Robert followed and a few years later, Benjamin. Then a little girl was born in 1983 and another in 1886. Tragically, the little girls, 6 and 3, succumbed to diphtheria, three weeks apart in early 1889. This was probably the saddest part of his life, losing his two little angels. He doesn’t elaborate on his sorrow though—I’ve always said that I would like to read Grandma’s diary. Women didn’t have time to write with seven children.

Two more male children followed, James and Stanley, who was born in 1893. He was only 8 years older than my grandfather Benjamin Charles, the first grandchild, who was born in February of 1901.

For most of his life, George was a furniture maker, but he did odd jobs here and there also. There was a period of time where they ran a store and lived above it. There was a time when he was “appointed” (this was a political appointment) the superintendent of City Hospital. The short of it is that hospitals were NOT what they are today! That could be a book all by itself! GG-Grandmother did all the laundry and cleaning! This only lasted two years, so I guess they didn’t do so well. Some of his other activities are documented in the picture I have used. The credit for that layout belongs to the Heritage Center of Clark County.

What I find interesting in this whole scene is that there was no Social Security in those days, but he was a planner. He managed to get on the Board of the Merchants and Mechanics Savings Association, where he was able to secure loans at an “employee” discount. He built several homes and rented them out, so that the rent would pay the loan and by the time he couldn’t work anymore, the loans would be paid off and that would be his income. 

He lived in at least two of these houses. Actually, for someone who lived in the same town, within a few blocks, they moved quite a bit. I’m going to guess (without looking all of this up) seven. They certainly didn’t accumulate much. Great-Great-Grandma Lizzie died 11 years before George did, and he was 8 years older than she was. She was only 68 and he lived to be 86. She died June 9, 1921, the day before their 47th wedding anniversary.

George never went home after the funeral; he went to his son James’ home. There were things to “settle” as with any death, but he never slept in their house again. He claimed that was the worst day of his life.

His last eleven years were much of a daily routine. He had his interests and his son and daughter-in-law had theirs. In 1925 he became a great-grandfather for the first time with my aunt. On our branch of the family, he lived to mark the births of five great-grandchildren. His second son did not have children, and I am unsure of the others. Stanley, the youngest went out west and was not heard from again. My mother tells me that he did have two children at some point.

The last two years of his life were slower and he complained of tiredness and spending much of his time in bed or laying down. He marked the deaths of friends and companions. His last entry was August 11, 1933. He died August 26, 1933.

My mother would have not been quite two years old.

Firsts that George Washington Netts would have seen or heard:
  • The first lawnmower (push lawnmower).
  • The first automobile.
  • The first airplane.
  • The first telephone.
  • Indoor plumbing as it came to the middle class. (They did have an outhouse, and he went to the YMCA to bathe).
  • Incandescent lighting as it came to the middle class, along with electricity.
  • Radio (wireless).
  • Silent films (although he doesn’t mention this as a form of entertainment). The first “talkie” was The Jazz Singer in 1927. I doubt, at 81, he went to see it.

What he did not live to see or hear:
  • Movies as we think of them, even the early ones. “Gone with the Wind” came out in 1939.
  • Television.
  • All electrical appliances that we think of.

Although he died during the Depression, I don’t think it affected him much. He lived with his son and still collected rents from his houses. Eighty-six was a long life back then. He is buried with his wife and two daughters in Ferncliff Cemetery.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Remembering Where We Came From

We aren’t recording our family history anymore. Oh, a few of us join up for and some have gotten their DNA analyzed, which is VERY interesting, but do our kids know what their grandfather’s profession was? Or maybe great-grandfather?

I’m going to try and record some funny stories and not so funny stories and just plain how it was back in the day. My kids may never be interested, but maybe a grandchild or great-grandchild will be. I have already posted some interesting stories and here they are for easy reference. Many were complete accidents and some were intentional.

As you can see from the links, I have already written much on family history. I think it’s a good thing to have them all in one place. But as we head forward, I’m going to concentrate on history that’s a little bit older. I think it will be interesting, at least some day.

The three blogs on settling estates were requested, but I think there were many people that got something from them:

And the gut-wrenching Settling Estates: Part Three

Then there are other entries which just tell a story set in a certain time period, or are about something specific.

So if you’ve looked at even SOME of these, they are history. They are stories. But next time, I am going to focus on my Great, Great Grandfather. I never knew this man, yet I did. You’ll see why next time.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Never Stop Learning: What I do in Retirement!

If I were in college, I would be carrying a full load this year.

History: I am hoping to become more involved with my hometown historical society. They have just celebrated their Bicentennial.

Civics/Government: I want to do what I can to get a levy passed, after a design for new schools is presented, in the community that I reside in, and that educated my children. I likely will have no grandchildren in this system, but it’s important to educate the children anyway.

Music: Continuation in my involvement with the Symphony Chorale. Rehearsals every week after Christmas. We perform in March.

Literature (and history): Shifting my focus of my blog to encompass family stories and history. This will involve some research.

Theology: Instead of a “Bible Study” this year, I plan to study the Reformation, as October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I want to make the most of it. There is MUCH information online. I do not plan to have two shelves of books on this.

Art: This is something new. I am not an artist and right now I don’t claim to draw people. However, I have begun a new “hobby” of illustrating my Bible. This goes along with my daily readings. I learn more every day about how I would like to do this. I can draw a mean burning bush, but when we get to the Nativity, I am in trouble. However, some of this illustrating is “what I learn” or “what I am meditating on that day” and not the story itself.

Architecture (which technically falls under Art): Taking more “day trips” with my newfound friends that are interested, as I am, in kit homes. We attempt to locate homes that were mostly built between 1908 and 1940 by not only Sears, but Montgomery Ward (Wardway), Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin and some other companies.

Physical Education: Get these knees fixed. Then get back into the swing of things. Grateful for the workout room in the condo. It has what I need.

Home Room:  Keep up the Class of 1971 web site.

My social calendar will not suffer, neither will my “grandmothering” and being a good wife, mother, daughter, neighbor, etc. I have lunch once a month with high school pals, we do a dinner once a month with our Homeowners Association and I have one day a week dedicated to visiting my mother in a town about an hour away.

If I accomplish all of this, I won't be bored!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Medway Bicentennial

When you split the years that you grew up between two towns, almost equally in half, which one do you consider your hometown?

Sometimes, many people identify with the town they graduated from high school, and that is a very important time in life, as you make decisions that affect the rest of your life during those years.

Alternatively, as I get older, I seem to go back further, to my FIRST hometown, where I lived from the time I was 2 until the time I was 11. This is the place where my husband and I have purchased cemetery plots. It’s the home of my father’s family going back at least three generations.

So when said hometown was going to celebrate its Bicentennial, I knew I had to be among the faithful. I will not live long enough to celebrate my other hometown’s centennial, so I wasn’t going to miss this!

I have written before about the historical society and visiting with the family who was our neighbors in our youngest childhood memories. I have been in touch with the individual putting together the historical exhibit for months. I didn’t really help much, but it was amazing once completed. Actually, I hesitantly use that word completed, because history is an ongoing pursuit.

I went to the historical society and although I have not joined yet, I plan to. I think they all know that I’m going to. I volunteered to man the Historical Society booth.

The night before, my “old neighborhood” and some of their friends and classmates met at the pizza place. I saw people I hadn’t seen in over 50 years, and met some new people. We had a great time! Even though I hadn’t seen these people in years, I could follow along with the jokes and general merriment. The woman whose folks bought my parents’ home showed up too. I don’t know when I saw her last!

My childhood sisters.
On the morning of the Bicentennial itself, I was there early to help in the history room in the library. That is my love, to work on preserving the history. Then I went out for the Opening Ceremonies, where I found the women that I lived two doors from in my childhood. I’m a little older than they are, but I remember the day(s) that they were born. We enjoyed spending time together, and then went back to the library where the exhibit was.

I agreed to man the Historical Society information table from 2-4 and ended up there until 5. One of my classmates had two cars at the Cruise-In so we visited awhile. He lives less than a football field from my childhood home.

I met many new people and got reacquainted with some others. This was one of those times when the question is “Who’s your Daddy?” was appropriate. My married name meant nothing.

Standing before the exhibit
of my family.
Also inside the school was a craft show in the multipurpose room. Outside, there was an assortment of food trucks. There was entertainment, in addition to the Cruise-In, with a magician, the high school marching band, and two local bands. There was a bounce house in the playground area for the children and face painting indoors. You could have your picture taken in one of those painted “scenes” and I forgot to do that.

After my stint at the info table, I went back inside, and I had a portrait to take home. If we ever have a permanent place for the historical stuff, I’ll take it back.

I don’t think anyone counted the attendance, but that library was packed all day, showing us that there really is interest in the history of the community.

It is my hope and dream that we can find a permanent home for these items and build toward the future, beyond our lives. These items are too precious not to treat with utmost respect and find them a permanent home. They tell stories of the people in the town.

It was a great day in small town America.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What is a Successful Reunion?

The Friday Night Gang
One asks “What makes a Reunion a Success?” If it were about attendance numbers; we know that the “off” years are going to be lower, the key is trying to estimate what number we are working with and budgeting accordingly.

I was worried. The registrations were not coming in per MY expectations and I know there’s a big bill to pay the hotel putting on this thing. Now, we have a reserve fund, and fundamentally that is for starting the next Reunion, but we CAN dip into it if needed. I didn’t lose sleep over that.

I never know how to buy food so I always take someone else with me. That doesn’t mean either one of us know what we’re doing, so we do rely on the pros. There was enough food, and I heard it was very good. I’ll be honest, I do not like buffalo wings, but someone ate mine for themselves and I ate their egg rolls!

A very personal blessing for me was renting a room at the hotel. That means I am not running around as much and can spend more time resting. This I will do again.

The attendance WAS down, but people came in at the last minute and as always, people who plan to come only Friday, come Saturday also. It always happens. You can count on it; you just can’t count how many! Anyway, we had enough.

What happens with fewer people attending is you have better quality conversations. I remember specifically the 25th Reunion. I had time to actually have good conversations, not just work a room. The same thing happened at the 35th although that attendance was down quite a bit, and the same thing happened this time.

So, is success defined by numbers or money in the bank? Is it defined by some spectacular program or fabulous door prizes and decorations? As a committee, we have to weigh what all these things cost vs. keeping the ticket (there really are no tickets) prices low so more people can attend. Most classmates are NOT well-to-do and many have to travel, adding to the cost for them.

In the end, we ended up with a surplus so that we have money to start preparing for the 50th Reunion, which we hope to be MUCH larger! And, as I announced, it will be the last reunion for three of us on the committee. I asked for more help and had several people reply affirmatively, but someone is going to have to take this over if it is to continue in 5 year increments! Otherwise, we’ll have luncheons, dinners and maybe a Riverboat Cruise (which everyone who went loved!)

As I watched others interact, and looked at the pictures later, I consider it a success in that people REALLY talked. People who didn’t know each other well in high school talked. At least they had their pictures taken as if they were. I consider that a success.

People said it over and over. There were no cliques at this reunion. THAT is what I consider success!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Last Minute Blues

When I am about to go crazy.

I don’t know why I expect this year to be any different. We try to estimate how many people will come to a reunion, based on conversations and examples of the classes before us. Sometimes I think this is ridiculous, because we are a unique group, as are all other groups. It’s our “job” to find that balance. I doubt we will ever really succeed.

We were on the right path for this “off year” reunion, when we reserved a venue and were planning only one “paid” event. The night before, we would go to a large restaurant and would be on our own, and then we would have a buffet at a local “fraternal organization.” Well, the organization has had to put their building up for sale (they don’t lose their charter, but will have to meet in a church room or something), and we went with another venue.

It’s a local hotel and they are doing a lot for us, but we had to sign on for two nights. So what we have now is (1) some people coming in for both nights, because they have to travel and (2) the locals, which I define as up to 50 miles, coming either one night or the other. It’s like a church with a 9:00 service and a 11:00 service and there are virtually two congregations. I am worried that many people will not see many other people. But, I can do nothing about that now.

So, for about six weeks I have been worried to death, and I am NOT calling and begging people. We are all adults at this stage. I do understand things happen, in the last week I have learned of four deaths. It is never convenient.

But NOW, at T-minus 11 days, I am starting to hear from people. LOTS of them! Now, we are getting close to numbers that I hoped for. We can pay the bills easily.

I don’t think people realize how I take this personally. Though I’ve never had to, I would consider myself financially responsible if necessary (I also know that I could throw out a call for donations and they would come in!)

I still have much to do, but I can do it with a relaxed heart and mind.

The only thing keeping me up at night is the carpal tunnel syndrome. Must get that fixed!