Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday--William Christian Olesen


Known as Bill Olesen, he was the son of Christian Invart Olesen and Ferdinande Weiss. He was born in West Hartlepool, Durham County, England on March 18, 1880. Bill’s name seems to have gone through a series of variations over the years. His birth certificate reads Christian W. Olesen, early census reports list his as Wilhelm C. Olesen and on ship manifests and in the states it becomes William Christian Olesen.

Bill arrived at Ellis Island on August 7, 1910 from Liverpool, England on the ship, Celtic. He was traveling with his sister and my great grandmother, Elizabeth Olesen Hughes. My great grandmother Hughes had already been in the US for four years and had traveled back to West Hartlepool to visit family and to accompany her younger brother across the pond. Bill lived with the Hughes family once he arrived in the US.

During the summer of 1920, Bill returned to West Hartlepool. On the voyage back he was accompanied by his mother, Ferdinande Weiss Olesen and his sister, Emily Olesen Richards. They arrived at Ellis Island on July 24, 1920 on the S.S. Aquitania. Emily was detained for several days upon arrival as she was sick. The family stayed in on Long Island with the Ernest Olesen family and once Emily was released from the infirmary, Emily, her husband Rowland Richards, Bill and Ferdinande Olesen traveled to Woodlawn, Pennsylvania. Bill and Ferdinande lived with my great grandparents, John and Elizabeth Olesen Hughes. Emily and Rowland found a home in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

Bill was employed by Jones & Laughlin Steel Company. On the 1901 United Kingdom census and the 1920 ship manifest he is listed as a sawyer and on the 1910 ship manifest he is listed as a machinist,. An obituary in the Evening Times, Monaca, Pennsylvania dated December 3, 1946, mentions that Bill was retired from the Aliquippa & Southern railroad which was owned and operated by Jones & Laughlin Steel Company. It was an internal railroad that moved steel components between the various steel plants.

I have no photos of my great grand uncle Bill. I do have some accounts of him from my aunt and father. He was a quiet and gentle man who enjoyed having a hug from his grandniece. He smoked a pipe and enjoyed sitting on the porch. There is a story that Bill left England because he had "stirred up trouble" at his work with the workers against the employer. Perhaps an early striker! My aunt said, "Bill was a fire brand...an organizer for union.”


Bill Olesen died in Monaca, Beaver County, Pennsylvania on December 01, 1946. He is buried in the Hughes family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Carnival of Genealogy--George Ornan Willet


The topic for the 71st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: Local History! As genealogists, we are used to tracing our ancestors and the history of the places they lived. But not all of us live where our ancestors did - do we take the time to see the history all around us? Use some of your investigative skills to research the house, street, or town/city where YOU live. Write about an interesting person, place, or event of local history. This edition of the COG will be hosted by Donna at What's Past is Prologue.

This has turned out to be of the more interesting topics to date.

To the best of my knowledge, I am the first of my family to have lived in North Olmsted, Ohio, so I have done little to no research in my own community. I have gone over to Butternut Ridge Cemetery to do a search for someone and did take a couple of photos. There are two older cemeteries in our community and like many towns; the tombstones are marked with the names of many familiar streets.

To find a topic for my blog I began by googling North Olmsted history and found several informative sites with old pioneer names. I chose one and began my research. I was uninspired. This family just wasn’t “doing it” for me!

I went to work and on my way home an idea popped into my head. Since many streets are named for pioneers, former landowners or important people, I wondered why my street was called Willet Circle. My cul d’sac was built about 1978 in a subdivision that dates back to the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. The older streets are named for trees. Is Willet a tree that I have never heard of? Back to google---a willet is a bird!

Next stop: out to ancestry and the census reports. I plugged the surname Willet into the 1910 Ohio Federal Census and “what to my wondering eyes should appear” but George O. Willet, a lawyer, living in North Olmsted. EUREKA!!!! My blog idea was born.

George Ornan Willet, the son of William and Christina Sheckler Willet1 was born on April 6, 1863 in Shiloh, Richland County, Ohio2. On September 14, 1899 he married Bertha B. Hunter at Maytown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania3.

George graduated from the National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio with a B.S. and an A.B. degree in 1888. In 1892 he graduated from the Cincinnati, Ohio Law School and was admitted to the Ohio bar on May 28, 18924. Shortly after he was admitted to the bar, he formed a partnership called Olds & Willet and in 1908 became a member of the firm Willet & Pennell. Both were located in Cleveland, Ohio5.

George and Bertha did not have any children. The 1900 Ohio census shows them living in Cleveland, Ohio at 142 Arlington Street. Before 1909 the Willet’s moved to Lorain Road in North Olmsted. North Olmsted became a village in 1909 and George Ornan Willet was the first mayor. The date of the election was December 8, 19086. He served four terms from 1909-19157. I was somewhat surprised at the lack of information in the North Olmsted Library on George. I was only able to find a sentence here and there about his election and serving as mayor.

George died at his home in North Olmsted, Ohio on November 18, 19258. Of interest to me was that his listed address was Stop 18 Lorain Road. The Cleveland Southwestern System Interurban and electric railway once ran down Lorain Road, connecting Cleveland to Wellington, Ohio and passing through North Olmsted. I was able to find a few photos in one book at the library that listed various stops on the interurban. I would venture a guess that the Willet’s lived around the current day intersection of Columbia Road and Lorain.

George was buried in Plymouth, Richland County, Ohio. The name of the cemetery is not on the death certificate. I might have to take a day trip to Plymouth to satisfy my curiosity.

This has been fun.

The Willet Family from the photo files of D. Dewey Allen


Notes

1. Willet Bible Records, The Pathfinder, Quarterly Newsletter of the Richland County Chapter, Ohio Genealogical Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, September 1985, page 28.

2. Willett Bible Records.

3. Willett Bible Records.

4. Hon. William B. Neff, editor, History of Bench and Bar of Northern Ohio History & Biography, The Historical Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio, 1921, page 721.

5. History of Bench and Bar of Northern Ohio History & Biography.
6. Walter F. Holzworth, Historical Story of Olmsted Township, Self Printing, 1966, page 131

7. Dale Thomas, Images of America North Olmsted, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008, page 89.

8. State of Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics Death Certificate, File Number 61768.

9. State of Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics Death Certificate.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Linda's Rite of Spring


Decent weather doesn’t come to the north coast of Ohio until my birthday, which happens to be this week—May 1. There was the one year, not too many years ago, when it snowed on my birthday, so I don’t always count on May 1 to be the marker.

My annual rite of spring is being able to sit on my deck and eat a plate of pancakes and enjoy the warmth of the morning and hear the birds. Today was that day.

I love the outdoors. I am an avid gardener, arthritis and all. Perennials are my specialty. When we purchased this house over 20 years ago, the backyard was almost totally dark…..so many huge trees and the canopy of leaves kept sun and rain from the soil. Then I was a shade gardener! Over the years I have removed the smaller and dirtier trees, which has given me the opportunity to try some partial sun and full sun varieties of perennials.


As I eat my pancakes and survey the garden work which lies ahead, I shake my head in disbelief. So many plants did not survive the drought of last August and the cut logs of four trees that were removed last summer are still piled up near the shed. What a mess!!!


Still, I see the beginnings of the early spring risers….those perennials that open in the early spring, but don’t stay around too long...
Bloodroot, Virginia Bluebells, Dutchman’s Breeches and Tiger Lily.

This year I have plans to rework a large area where the trees were taken down. I’m still not certain what I am going to do, but I know a plan will form as I am clearing out the pachysandra ground cover that died in August.

I can’t wait!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Night Genealogy with Randy Seaver


This Saturday I have time to indulge in the latest of Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Here's the challenge: 1) Open your genealogy software program and search for a "Date Calculator." You could go exploring in your Tools or Options menu, or you could use the Help menu to find it.2) Open the "Date Calculator" and put in a death date for one of your ancestors and put in an age at death (use the one you know, or just make one up - we're just testing this feature today). Do the same thing by entering a birth date and a death date in the "Date Calculator" and see how old someone was when they died.3) Tell us what software you're using and where you found the "Date Calculator." Tell us the information you found out from using the "Date Calculator."

I have never tried the date calculator and didn’t know that my Family Tree Maker program had one. The date calculator is found in the Tools section. I also have not kept up with the more recent FTM programs and was surprised when I realized that mine is Family Tree Maker 2005. Probably time to update!

The first family member I tried was my paternal gggg grandmother,
Elizabeth McElroy, from this past week’s Tombstone Tuesday. I put in her death date of January 8, 1848 and the tombstone reading that her age at death was 89 years and 11 months. The date calculator told me that her date of birth was Wednesday, February 08, 1758 and that the actual day of her death was Saturday. Knowing the day of the week is fun.


Next I tried my paternal ggg grandmother and daughter of Elizabeth McElroy, Sarah McElroy VanGilder. Her date of birth from the tombstone listing is June 11, 1797 and the date of death February 08, 1881. The date calculator added that she was born on a Sunday and died on a Tuesday and her age at death was 83 years 7 months 28 days.

THANKS RANDY for showing me this valuable tool on my FTM that I didn’t even know I had!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday--Elisabeth McElroy

Eizabeth McElroy is my paternal gggg great grandmother. I am constantly amazed at the clarity of the stone every time I see it.

Elisabeth was born February 1758 in Ireland. She married Thomas McElroy. To date I do not know if they married in Ireland or in Maryland. The McElroys lived in the Cheat Lake area outside Morgantown, West Virginia. From census reports and other records they had 8 children.

Elisabeth died on January 8, 1848 and is buried in East Oak Grove Cemetery, Morgantown, West Virginia. There is a hill of old pioneer tombstones at East Oak Grove on the right hand side of the cemetery. These tombstones were removed from a cemetery in Morgantown. As the town began to expand, the remains of these pioneer folks were moved.

I have not located Thomas McElroy's tombstone. He could have been buried in the Cheat Lake area or be one of the tombstones at East Oak Grove that are illegible.


ELISABETH
Consort of T. McKelroy
Died Jan 8th 1848
Aged 89 Years 11 Mo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Carnival of Genealogy: Uncle Uncle

The topic for the 70th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: Uncle, Uncle! This edition is all about our uncles. Have you got a favorite or interesting uncle?






Meet Alfred Walter Stark, my Mom’s paternal uncle and my grand uncle. I never met Walter Stark, but have heard countless tales. Years back, when I was interviewing my mother for my genealogy files, I can remember her saying, “I wonder what ever happened to Uncle Walter?”

Alfred Walter, known as A. Walter or simply Walter, was the son of Charles Stark and Wilhelmine Catherine Schwarz Stark. He was born on May 15, 1884 in Allegheny City, known today as the North Side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Employed as a freelance photographer, Walter took the school photos for numerous Pittsburgh area school systems. I have photos he took for my mother’s Avalon, Pennsylvania elementary school, church plays and the one of my mother that appeared in a magazine.

Mom told me that family members felt that Uncle Walter must have played the ponies or indulged in some other form of gambling as his lifestyle was more than a photographer’s salary could provide. They would see him when he had money and then he would be gone for awhile. Walter had a nice car back in the 1920’s, a large home, went on nice vacations and he and his wife, Frances always dressed well. He liked to have fun, enjoyed a good drink and the Ziegfeld Follies. Walter and Frances did not have any children, so they were free to go and do whatever they wanted. Family members knew that Walter would sneak his mother an alcoholic beverage whenever he visited.

The death of their mother caused a division between my Grandfather Stark and his brother Walter. My grandfather decided to bury Wilhelmine in the same cemetery as her husband, Uniondale Cemetery, located on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Walter felt that his mother deserved a better burial place. The two brothers never spoke again; however, Walter did attend his brother’s funeral in Avalon, Pennsylvania when he died on January 24, 1945.


After his mother’s death, Walter and Frances moved to Hot Springs (I don’t know which state they were located in). Frances suffered from severe arthritis and it was felt that the waters would help her pain. After Frances died, Walter moved to Miami, Florida, where he died in October 1962.

Walter kept in touch with two of his nieces after her moved away from the Pittsburgh area—Billie and Dorothy. Dorothy was contacted when he died in Miami to help pay for his burial as there was no estate. My mother last saw her Uncle Walter at Dorothy’s wedding in 1946.

Since my mother’s death and with my membership to ancestry.com, I have found out a few additional pieces of information about her Uncle Walter, but nothing as colorful as the stories she would tell about him.




Sunday, April 12, 2009

HAPPY EASTER

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL MY FELLOW GENABLOGGERS AND FOLLOWERS OF MY BLOG

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bound for Mom: Milepost #4--The World is Not Flat



The final in a series of blogs about our mothers. Bound for Mom: Milepost #4—The World is Not Flat. Many Moms love to travel and take off to parts unknown once the nest is empty. Did you Mom visit some great destinations? Or were there places she always wanted to visit? Build a travelogue based on Mom’s trips or perhaps places you’ve visited that Mom always wanted to.




We traveled a lot. When we kids were growing up, there was always a two week summer vacation in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. That name conjures up so many happy memories for me and I know my two brothers share the same sentiment. I believe that Springer’s Ice Cream is still in operation there. Way back in the late 1950’s, Ruthie Arthur and I would walk in town with a quarter in our pockets and end up at Springer’s. At a nickel a scoop, we could build some really fine ice cream cones!!!

Our dog, Hansel, the daschund, would come with the family on vacations. I can’t even imagine how we all survived the actual drive. No air conditioning and three kids and a small dog in the back seat. No wonder we were always asking that favorite kid’s question…”Are we there yet?”


We made trips to St. Petersburg, Florida when my grandparents retired there in 1962. We also took in the history of St. Augustine, Six Gun Territory and Weeki Wachi. I will admit here that I was a pretty decent swimmer and dreamed of becoming a Weeki Wachi mermaid as my teenage job.

Washington D.C. Trip


Dad would always try to tie in educational stops during the vacation—Luray Caverns, Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Quebec, and on and on.

Mom was a good sport when the years of the Civil War battlefields became short vacations. My Dad was a Civil War fanatic. Fortunately, I was in college by that time and stayed home and worked.


I'm going to get called out on this photo. Although it looks tropical and exotic (which it is) it was taken at Tiki Gardens in Florida. I couldn't find any photos of Mom in England or the Caribbean.

Once the kids were married or in college, Mom and Dad began to take more exotic trips. One’s I can remember before their divorce were England and to an island in the Caribbean.

After the divorce, Mom moved to Ohio near me. Then she took day trips with various women’s groups.

















I imagine the outstanding trip of her Ohio years was when we all went to Duck, North Carolina. We rented a house on the beach. The group included my two brothers, Mom, my family and a friend of my oldest son.

I’m sure there were places on this earth that Mom would have enjoyed visiting, but she was content just living in her own place overlooking Lake Erie in Lakewood, Ohio.

After her death, as I was going through her condo, packing up her things, I came across her old yellow travel bag. I opened it and found this note: “I have been long retired, but I have great sentimental value as I have been all over the U.S. Now I get to go to Duck!!!!”


Weeki Wachi on YouTube

Other blogs in this series:

Bound For Mom #1—A Journey of Firsts

Bound For Mom #2—Roadside CafĂ©

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Smile for the Camera--George Ethelbert VanGilder

The word prompt for the 12th Edition of Smile For The Camera is A Noble Life. Show us a photograph of an ancestor, relative, or friend that is the embodiment of A Noble Life. A life that is worthy of those who came before and those who follow after. A Life filled with small but courageous acts; filled with love and honor. A simple life, an ordinary life, A Noble Life. Bring them to the carnival and share with us how you've honored them.



My paternal great grandfather, George Ethelbert VanGilder complete with a coat, tie, pocket watch and hat. He certainly looks noble, doesn’t he! This cabinet card photograph was taken in Morgantown, West Virginia.

George, son of John Oliphant VanGilder and Mary Louise Hill was born on January 27, 1861 in Morgantown, West Virginia1. He died at age 43 on May 24, 1904 at his home in Morgantown, West Virginia2. He left his wife,
Jessie Pool VanGilder and four little daughters.

He was a dedicated public servant throughout his, all too short, life. Public school teacher3, secretary of the Morgantown school board4, enumerator of the 1900 West Virginia Federal Census in Morgantown5, and elected town official6, were several of his civic activities. There is a cross street,
George & VanGilder Streets, in
Morgantown named in his honor.

I think a line from his obituary says it all….”He was possessed of a kindly, quiet disposition that made friends of all with whom he came in contact.”7


Notes

1. "Morgantown Weekly Post," Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia, May 24, 1904, page 7.

2. “Morgantown Weekly Post,” page 7.

3. George Ethelbert VanGilder, George Ethelbert VanGilder Autograph Album, Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia, 1888-1887.

4. Samuel T. Willey, History of Monongalia County, West Virginia, From Its First Settlements to the Present Time, Preston Publishing Company, Kingwood, West Virginia, 1883, 657.

5. 1900 West Virginia Federal Census, Morgantown, Morgan District, Seneca, Monongalia County, ED 83, Sheet 15A.

6. Earl L. Core, The Monongalia Story A Bicentennial History: IV Industrialization, (McClain Printing Company, Parsons, West Virginia, 1982), Chapter 122: 1898, page 227.

7. “Morgantown Weekly Post,” page 7.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Springtime in Cleveland
"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may....." Robert Herrick
or more accurately, "Gather ye hyacinths while ye may..."
The plus side, I live on the west side of town, the east side was globbered!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday--John Oliphant VanGilder and Mary Louise Hill VanGilder


I thought I would post John Oliphant VanGilder’s tombstone since my April Fool’s Day offering was about him. John and Mary VanGilder are my paternal great great grandparents who both deserve individual blogs, which will be forthcoming at a later date.

John and Mary are buried at Mt. Union Cemetery, north of Morgantown, West Virginia on Route 119 in the Union District of Monongalia County.1

John was the son of Jacob and Sarah R. McElroy VanGilder.2 He was born in Monongalia County on February 22, 1929.3 He died at home on February 14, 1904 from a stroke.4

Mary was the daughter of Joseph Davidson and Sarah Houston Hill.5 She was also born in Monongalia County, probably in Morgantown (or Morgan’s Town as it was known then) on November 21, 19326 and died at home on January 4, 1908.7

The VanGilders raised 11 children in their home on Stewartstown Road north of Morgantown, West Virginia.


Notes

1. Mt. Union Cemetery, Route 119, Monongalia County, West Virginia, personal visit.

2. John Oliphant VanGilder Family genealogy chart, copied by George Ethelbert VanGilder, 1897.*

3. "Morgantown Weekly Post," Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia, February 18, 1904, page 10.

4. “Morgantown Weekly Post”, page 10.

5. "Joseph Davidson Hill Family Bible," page 1.*

6. "The New Dominion Post," Morgantown, West Virginia, Friday, January 25, 1908, page 1.

7. “The New Dominion Post”, page 1.


* Both cited references were copied in 1897 by George Ethelbert VanGilder from VanGilder and Hill Bibles and other sources for family reference and in particular, for the use of several of the women to join the DAR.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Name Game—The Guys

I had to give the men equal billing, although there don’t seem to be as many names and nicknames listed by Emily Anne Croom in her book, Unpuzzling Your Past1.

FYI—I am using this blog to test drive the use of a footnote on blogger, thanks to Thomas at
Bootcamp for GeneaBloggers. Check it out.....it worked!!!!

Henry
Hank, Harry, Hal, Hen

Richard
Dick, Rick, Ricky, Rich, Richy

Robert
Rob, Bob, Robby, Bobby, Dobbin, Robin, Robbie

John
Johnny, Johnnie, Jack, Jackie, Jock

James
Jamie, Jim, Jimmy, Jem

Theodore/Theodorick
Ted, Tad, Teddy, Theo, The, Dode, Dory

Ed(die)
Edgar, Edmund, Edward, Edwin, Edwina

Sam(my)
Samuel, Samson

Common Male Abreviations

Daniel = Dan

Samuel= Sam

Jonathan = Jno

Richard = Rich

Thomas = Thos

James = Jas

Nathaniel = Nat

Christopher = X

Alexander = Alex

Notes:

1. Emily Ann Croom, Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy, Second Edition, Betterway Publications Inc., White Hall, Virginia, 1989, page 23-27.

Name Game—The Gals

Last week I had an e-mail from someone who was questioning one of my posts on findagrave. She felt that I had the first name incorrect. I had listed it as Sarah and she told me that the first name on the death certificate was Sally. She continued by telling me that a relation of hers had done research on the family and that there were two sisters in the family, one named Sarah and one named Sally.

I am also related to the family in question and have done my own research and also have work done by a family member, a history professor, who spent time in courthouses, pouring over documents and records from the mid to late 1800’s, and he listed the woman’s name a Sarah.

I went back and looked at the census reports from 1850-1930. When the woman was a girl and living with her parents, she was listed as Sarah. As an older adult, from 1900-1930, Sarah lived with her brother and then with another relations and she is enumerated as Sallie. The death certificate lists Sally. The birth year is the same for both which leads me to believe that Sarah and Sally are the same person.

As I explained to the woman who e-mailed me, Sally is a common nickname for Sarah. My own grandmother was named Sarah and was called Sally and Sal by my grandfather.

Often, when I see older census reports, parents do not use the proper name, but a nickname. Like most folks doing genealogy, we want to enter the proper name into our database, but might not know how to translate the nickname to the proper name.

Back when I first began working on my roots, I found an excellent resource book by Emily Ann Croom1 for sale at the genealogical library where I was working. There is a good chapter on names and I am going to copy some of them here in case there are other researchers out there that might like to know how to translate nickname to proper name. I'm certain there are probably more than what is listed below--but it's a beginning!
Mary
Mamie, Molly, Mollie, May, Masie, Polly, Minnie, Moll

Margaret
Maggie, Peg, Peggy, Meg, Midge, Madge, Daisy, Maisie, Meta, Greta

Martha
Marty, Martie, Mattie, Patty, Patsy

Elizabeth
Beth, Eliza, Liz, Lisa, Lizzie, Lisa, Lise, Elsie, Betty, Betsy, Bitsy, Bess, Bessie, Libby

Eleanor
Ella, Ellie, Nell, Nellie, Nelly, Nora

Sarah--Sallie, Sal, Sadie

Frances--Fran, Frankie, Fannie

Anne(e)
Annie, Nan, Nannie, Nina, Nancy

Katherine
Kathy, Kate, Katie, Kat, Katy, Kay, Kitty, Kit

Susan—Sukie, Suchy

Tillie—Matilda, Mathilda

Euphemia—Effie, Effy

Temperance—Tempy

Millie—Amelia, Mildred, Millicent

Lettie—Letitia

Hettie—Esther, Henrietta, Hester

Ollie—Olive, Olivia

Winnie—Winnefred

Hallie—Henrietta, Harriet

Patty--Patricia, Patience, Martha, Matilda

Lena, Lena
Eveline, Emeline, Carolina, Angelia, Selina, Selena, Helena, Paulina, Magdelena

Bell(e)--Arabella, Anabelle,Isabel, Rosabel

Nora--Honora, Honoria, Leonara, Eleanor

Dora--Theodora, Eudora, Dorothy

Nell--Ellen, Helen, Eleanor

Delia--Cordelia, Adelia, Ledelia, Adele

Jenny
Jane, Virginia, Janet, Jennette, Jennifer

Allie--Alice, Aline, Alene, Aletha

Cindy--Lucinda, Cynthia

Notes

1. Emily Ann Croom, Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy, Second Edition, Betterway Publications Inc., White Hall, Virginia, 1989, page 23-27.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bound for Mom Milepost #2: Roadside Cafe

Number 2 in a miniseries of posts at Genabloggers. Topic of this blog--was your Mom a great or inventive cook? Or perhaps cooking wasn’t her forte. No matter, gather up tales of food in your family and how Mom turned out great meals . . . or how she was an expert at dinner reservations!

I am somewhat reluctant to blog about this topic!! Not to cast aspersions on my Mother’s culinary expertise, but simply said….my memories of my Mom do not include her kitchen skills!!! Granted we always had good healthy meals….pretty much meat, potatoes and vegetables until later in her life, when casseroles seemed to become her special friend. This blog has been fun as I have had some assistance in the memories from my brother, Jeff and son, Aric.

What I do remember, with some fondness, were Saturday night dinners on Washington Drive. My parents had a large group of friends. Back in the 50’s there was the ever popular cocktail party…..resplendent with the fabulous named cocktails, cocktail dresses and rhinestone jewelry for the women. My folks seemed to be at cocktail parties most Saturdays, so there was no time for making dinner. It was also before McDonalds and fast food/carry out restaurants. Fast food in the 50’s meant packaged Chef Boyardee spaghetti, canned Chung King Chop Suey, Spam, etc. I guess the Saturday excitement was not so much the food as watching Mom get ready for the evening; however we did become accustomed to spaghetti and chop suey and came to expect it on Saturday night. I’m sure my good friend, Anne, over at Tastes of Henry, is laughing to know that I cut my early culinary chops with these family foods!

Then there was my packed school lunch. I think everyday in elementary school I carried a PB & J sandwich and either a Hostess Twinkee or Cupcake. Many a day in the lunch room, when I spied someone with a piece of homemade cake or pie, I wished it was in my lunch box. Later I came to learn that those same friends wished they had my Hostess treat!!!

There were also new food items not yet on the market for general consumption that ended up on our table. My father was a physician and way back in the early 50’s he was concerned about fat intake and cholesterol. I can remember when we stopped using butter and used a new fangled spread called margarine that came in a can---one that looked like today’s Crisco can. It didn’t taste great….certainly wasn’t butter, but was better for our hearts. At the same time, Mom stopped saving the fat from fried bacon. There was always a can of hard rendered bacon fat in the refrigerator. It was used to fry eggs or as a lubricant in the pan for any frying. Bacon fat became verboten!

As I telling my son, Mom’s grandson, about this food blog, he reminded me of Grandma’s Cheesy Cauliflower, which has become a staple of our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Cheesy cauliflower was actually a mistake. Mom overcooked the cauliflower until it was mush, added some cheese whiz, and the cheesy cauliflower holiday tradition was born.


My brother, Jeff, sent along these memories of Mom’s meals. There was "Mother's delicious potato pancakes"--though I just remember the phrase and us laughing uproariously, I can't remember the story behind it. Another memory - she loved the "After Work Cookbook" because the recipes were all simple. Lots of casseroles with cans of soup as the base. I bought it myself when I went to school and used it for years (probably still have it somewhere). I think because the casseroles were her favorite, they became my favorite -- they still are. That makes Mom the guru of holistic and "green" nutrition before her time - no slab of meat each night with a veggie on the side. [This memory is different from mine as Mom began the casserole cooking after I had married and left home.] Also, when she no longer had to cook for us, she pretty much never cooked again - except for eggs and a few other simple things.

As it turned out, my Dad emerged as the gourmet cook in my “modern day” family, especially in his later years and in retirement. Probably genetics as his Mom and great grandmother were great cooks.

My Mom did love to eat out. After my parents divorce, luncheons out were common and anytime she could snag a dinner companion, she would take advantage of an evening meal out.

In the end, the cooking didn’t matter because my Mother was an expert at conversation, so all meals taken with her were special. She always seemed at ease with guests or family and was able to keep a good, lively conversation going. Folks were often entertained at our house. I am certain they accepted the invitation, not for the food, but to enjoy my Mother’s warm personality and ever present smile.

P.S. She did do a dynamite pecan pie!!!!


Chef Boyardee commercial circa 1950's

Other blogs in this series:

Bound For Mom #1—A Journey of Firsts