Monday, February 25, 2013

Five Life Lessons

Lynn, our fearless leader of the Family History Writing Challenge this month, and owner of The Armchair Genealogist,  gave us a challenge today that I readily accept.

"Write about these 5 life lessons that you have identified in, your family history research."

Sitting on a stranger's tombstone in Old St. Joseph's Cemetery, looking up
a date on my laptop.  

1.  First, Above all, Never Give Up.  

I've learned that I can achieve a lot more than I thought, including some things I thought were impossible,  if  I  just stick with it.   

2.  Procrastination is Not an Option.  

I've made myself be accountable, and that's been hard for this wanna-be Scarlet O'Hara, "I'll think about it tomorrow."

3.  Don't Judge Anyone Whose Path You've Never Walked.  

My ancestors who appear from the documented facts to have done things I might not approve of did what they had to do, what they needed to do, or chose to do, at the time.  My family is not perfect.  Whose is?

4.  I am a Descendant of Strong and Brave People.

My ancestors definitely got out of their comfort zones to make a better life  for themselves and their families.  The made the hard choices.  They took chances.  The explored new paths.  Have I done that in my own life?  Yes, I have.  Maybe it's because of those whose blood I share.  That makes me proud.

5.  Gratitude.
What You Don't Like Sometimes Makes You Stronger.  There was a time when I blamed my family for my less-than-perfect childhood.  As I've gone back over these early memories, the hurts, the insecurities, the scary things, the unfairness, I realize I survived.  I was loved.  I was blessed to have people who took care of me when the times were tough.  

I had some Awesome Role Models! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Thousand Miles Away

From the Mt. Auburn Years

A Thousand Miles Away

After we’d sold our house on Sander Street to the University, we moved to Mt. Auburn, 123 Inwood Place, about a mile from our old house.

In 1957, the little white houses on Inwood Place stood neat and proud down the left side of the narrow street. On the right side, was the Children’s Convalescent Home with its jail-like metal fence to keep the pale, sickly kids from escaping onto our street.

Several years ago, Gary and I drove to Inwood Place  to get a photo for my albums, and this is what we saw.

123 Inwood Place, over 40 years later

I was shocked that the street and its houses had deteriorated to this degree.  Driving to the end of the street toward Inwood Park, the place began appearing like a war-torn foreign village.

When we’d first moved here, I remember thinking of one of my favorite fifties’ tunes “A Thousand Miles Away,” and that’s how I felt, so far away from my old home and my childhood friends, all the kids in my class at St. George School.

I was still a child when we moved. It didn’t take long for me to turn into a street-savvy teenager here in this new neighborhood.

I remember having the daylights scared out of me on one of my first walks through the park on my way home from school when a tall boy with a blond crewcut, looking about 18, stepped out in front of me on the path and put his hand on my shoulder.

The path through the park led down from Hollister Street into a hollow and then back up to the baseball field and steps leading up to Inwood Place.  My attacker must have been lurking in some of the bushes.

It didn’t take me but a second to do what I’d been taught: I screamed at the top of my lungs, aimed my knee toward his groin, and took off running for all I was worth.

As I was sprinting up the hill, a troop of Brownies with their leader were walking down the path. I didn’t pause to explain why I’d just screamed. I never slowed down one bit. I just flew by them and ran across the baseball field and up the steps and didn’t stop until I was inside my front door.

I wasn’t the only one who’d gotten in trouble crossing through the park. My new friend, Jackie, up the street from us on Inwood Place, had a man expose himself to her as she was walking the path. Even my father got jumped late one night in the same spot and came home minus his wallet and with a bloody nose.

Life had moved up a notch on the danger scale with our move from Sander Street.

Nice as our little street looked, one street over, behind our back yards, was Glencoe Place and tenement houses occupied by poor families, and a little grocery store where my mother shopped on credit.

Rats come up from there, through our back yards. One big one made its way into our kitchen bread drawer, and when my mom went to open it one morning to make toast, the ugly rodent jumped out.

Mom made my father nail the drawer shut, never to be opened again, the entire time we lived there.

My new teenage friends in Mt. Auburn hung out at Dunbar’s Drugstore, across the street from Christ Hospital.  We drank cherry Cokes and real chocolate malts at the soda fountain and hung out on the corner by the mailbox.  The guys in the crowd had their own hot rod club, the “Dragon Wagons.” We girls were the “Dragonettes.” I am not kidding.

Yes, the boys wore black leather jackets and sported duck-tail hair styles. The girls wore jeans and big, white, man-size shirts  Girls were still required to wear dresses or skirts in school and at church, but we lived in Levi’s at all other times.

One Saturday afternoon my friend Jackie and I were drinking our Cokes at Dunbar’s, when two little girls came in, one older than the other. The biggest girl looked to be about 9 or 10, the little one about 5 or 6. The oldest girl helped the small one onto a red leather stool, ordered her a chocolate malt and pushed a quarter across the counter.

The small girl nearly inhaled the malt, and the older girl helped her down, took her hand and started to leave.  Then the older girl fell to the floor.

Jackie and I and the clerk rushed to the fainted girl, and before we could do anything, she opened her eyes and began to sit up.

In spite of our trying to keep her from moving, she said she and her sister had to get home, and she tried to stand up. Obviously she was still weak, and Jackie, a robust girl, well developed for her age, scooped the girl off the floor, and I took the smaller girl’s hand. The older girl directed us to one of the narrow, red-brick tenement houses on Glencoe Place.

When we arrived at their apartment, there no one was home. The place was shocking. Bare mattresses on the floor, an empty whiskey bottle on the stove and a pizza box dangerously close to the stove’s burners. Trash overflowing from a garbage bin onto the floor.

Jackie asked where the girls’ mother was, and the older girl said she didn’t know, nor had her mother been home in several days. Pretty soon we learned the girls had not eaten since they finished the pizza their mother left for them.  The older girl  held onto a quarter for an emergency and finally took her little sister to get the malt.  Jackie and I later cried, but not then.  Not in front of this amazing big sister.

We didn’t want to leave these girls, but we weren't sure what we should do.

Then Jackie said, “I know what to do. Come on.”

We told the girls to stay put, and we’d be back.

Then we ran to Jackie’s house and told her father, but he would not allow us to go back. He said it was a dangerous situation, and someone might come home and find us there and cause trouble. Instead, he went himself, after making a phone call to someone, probably the police or some public agency.

He made sure the girls were taken somewhere to be cared for.

We never saw them again, but I’ve never forgotten them, or the horrible conditions they’d been living in, with no food and no supervision. It was the first time I’d seen that side of life. We were poor, but we lived like rich people compared to how some of the people on the next street lived.

Glencoe Place in 2008, after a remodel.   Inwood Place started where the street sign is posted on the right and then curves to the left and runs behind the tenement houses. =

The fall after we moved to Sander Street, on October 4, 1957, the Russians sent Sputnik up into the earth’s orbit.  A bitter pill for America to swallow.   I turned 15 and had my first date and my first broken heart.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

West 8th Street Years

Me and cousin Terry, obviously collecting beer bottles,
 while  I played tight-rope walker!  Not sure whose house
this was, not Sander Street.  Likely Aunt Clara's or
Aunt Dot's on West 8th.

While things could be crazy at my house when I was a kid, I was and still am thankful for my Dad's family, the Deans, who always picked up the pieces and put my life back together and gave me some wonderful memories.    I remember both of my aunts living on West 8th Street during most of my childhood, one on one side and the other right across the street. 

Aunt Clara and Uncle Ray's house on the left
Aunt Dot and Uncle Bill's on the right

I stayed a while at one house and then carried my bag across the street to spend time at the other house.  Aunt Dot taught me how to cook and iron shirts.  Uncle Bill wore white dress shirts to work every day, and they had to be ironed, so she set the ironing board up in the living room and I got to getting those white shirts ironed and hung on hangers.  I didn't realize it was work.

Then across the street at Aunt Clara's I also cooked.  She taught me how to make chili for the first time.  She sewed on the old treadle sewing machine she inherited from Grandma, and she liked to take in her own clothes to fit me.  She taught me how to apply make up and style my hair.  

I played with my younger cousins and did some junior babysitting too.

Aunt Clara with baby Tommy, her first child.

A few years later, Tommy on the far right.  From left, Billy, Ruthie, and Marylou.
Billy and Marylou were Aunt Dot's first two children.  Ruthie was Tommy's
younger sister.

1950s Dean Cousins:  
From Left:  Cathy, Marylou, Susan, Ruthie with arm around little sister Jeanie, Linda, and Billy.
Cathy and Linda are Uncle Norb's children, and so is Terry, pictured above with me
Aunt Dot's Susan is new to this photo

An early photo of Uncle Ray, Aunt Clara's husband
with Grandma in the background

Aunt Dot holding Susan, to right Marylou and Billy
Party at our house on Sander Street
My First Communion -- Uncle Ray in foreground with
hand on my sister Donna's head

Especially fun in my Dean family were the parties.  Oh, how the Deans liked to party.  Besides celebrating every Catholic traditional milestone with table loads of food and buckets of cold soft drinks, commercial sized cans of potato chips and pretzels, and the ever popular beer, they also celebrated New Years in grand style.

This is an early photo of a Dean Party.  From left: Uncle Ray and Aunt Clara,
Aunt Janice and Uncle "Junior," either dating or newlyweds, Aunt Dot
holding baby-pobably Billy, Grandma with my laid-back father's arm around her and
his other hand on his beer.  Foreground left Marylou, right looks like Ruthie?

This had to be taken in Grandma's attic apartment on McMillan Avenue.  Look at the tiny windows.
And I think Uncle Junior is wearing his army shirt.  I can barely see a patch on one arm.  If so, he
and Aunt Janice are still dating.

 Someone said something funny!  Grandma with Marylou and Ruthie on lap,
Aunt Dot with probably baby Billy, Aunt Clara and Uncle Ray laughing,
Uncle Junior and Aunt Janice, definitely still dating, and Tommy in front.

And I love this one!
Grandma, Aunt Clara, Uncle Ray, and Aunt Dot!

How to Write Interesting Family Histories

Found this gem a while back and pinned it to my Pinterest "Family History" board .  Decided to take a closer look at it today, and, as my Dad used to say, "Katie, bar the door."

Meaning, this is an awesome find!

Just reading the sample gave me more information on structuring my book, and then how to make it a lot more interesting to read, than almost anything I've read to date...and I've read more books than I can count.

Click on the book to go to the site where you can download a to download the HTML sample, as it is longer than the Kindle, though I purchased the book as a Kindle.

I have to holler when I find something that makes me happy, or something that's just plain good and affordable.  So here it is.

Now back to writing my, now, more "interesting" family history.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Selling Sander Street

St. George and surrounding area (collection of Kevin Grace, Archives and Rare Books) University of Cincinnati.  Used with Permission

Our house was in the block behind the church

In November 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower won re-election against Democrat challenger Adlai Stevenson. The following spring, I was walking a mile farther back and forth to school at St. George because we had moved to Mt. Auburn.

The 1950s saw a lot of changes, and one of those was our street being sold to the University of Cincinnati for construction of a new female dormitory, Sander Hall.

I haven’t been able to find the exact dates of the transactions that caused Sander Street to be sold and demolished, but it was in the mid-’50s. 

In a weird twist of fate, after building the 27-story dormitory, it was demolished in recent years, making national news for being one of the newest buildings in American history to be imploded. It was like Sander Street disappearing all over again.  

You can watch it fall here

I wish I knew how much Dad and Uncle Norb, and the other residents on our street were paid for their homes, but I don’t remember ever hearing the figures.
The city directory tells me that Uncle Norb and Aunt Vera had moved by 1956 to Glendora Street. I don’t remember them moving, which surprises me. I’ve remembered so much. Why wouldn’t I recall my cousins and Aunt and Uncle moving out of the Sander Street House?
I really don’t remember us moving either, just that it was in 1957, because I remember walking from our new home at 123 Inwood Place, through Inwood Park, crossing Vine Street, walking up Hollister Street to McMillan Avenue, and then on up to Calhoun Street, to St. George when I was in the eighth grade, which would have been 1957.  The weather was warm, so it would have been spring.
I also remember missing my Sander Street friends, especially Joanie Leminck, who obviously had to move as well, but I always imagined them still living on the old street long after we’d moved.
Leaving the home we had lived in the longest at that point marked the change from child to young adult for me. It signaled my coming of age, and rather quickly at that. Inwood Place was no Sander Street.

I’d lived on a street that, in the 1950s, children played outside until dark and were safe, few people owned cars and you could skate or ride your bike in middle of the street.
The neighbors all knew each other and congregated outside on the stoops in the evenings. You danced and played outside in your bathing suit in the summer rain. The church and school were a block away as was the corner grocery, the “dime store” (think today’s dollar stores), the local saloon, the library, and the “show,” the neighborhood theater, which is now Bogart's, on Short Vine.

A time where boredom was practically unheard of for kids.

I walked to my Grandma's apartment from Sander Street, and learned to take the city bus downtown by myself.  One year I decided to take ballet classes and rode the bus downtown to the Harris Rosedale School of Dance on Fifth Street.  

I can’t say my childhood was all bad, though some parts were. 

At some point, a kid has to grow up and begin counting the good things and chalking the bad things up as experiences that make you who are today: My experiences made me strong and capable, with a motto that everyone makes mistakes, including our parents. You just have to realize they always did the best they could, and then you have to go out and make a good life for yourself.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Korea. People Didn't Care

Been reading up on the Korean War and the communism fear of the 1950s, because my Uncle Frank "Junior" was in that war.  I've been told it was one of the most bloody wars yet.  Hard to imagine, remembering Vietnam.  But I just read that nearly 5 million people died, more than half of them civilians.

Also noted on  that the "... rate of civilian casualties was higher than World War II’s and Vietnam’s. Almost 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded."

Corporal Frank E. Dean, U.S. Army, Korea

Uncle "Junior" was Grandma's youngest, and I remember her worrying about him, just like she worried about her two older sons, my Dad and Uncle Norb, when they served in WWII.  

I was worried about Uncle Junior.  I was also worried about "the bomb" the adults kept talking about coming for us from Russia.  It was a scary time for a kid who didn't understand everything on the nightly news.  

I watched a YouTube today by a Korean War vet describing the Homecoming, who said when he came home, people in the U.S. really weren't interested in hearing about the war.  It was five years since WWII, and Korea was a different war that didn't get all the same publicity or interest.  

I found that sad.

But then, I find war sad, period.  Still, I'm proud of my Dean family heritage of helping protect our country.  And I thank God they all returned home in one piece.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Grandma's Sewing Machine

 By the time I was old enough to observe a sewing machine in Grandma's apartment, or even know what one was, Grandma had given her Domestic treadle machine to her youngest daughter, my Aunt Clara, the one who sewed.

I do remember the machine at Aunt Clara's house, because she took in some of her own clothes, widening the seams and shortening the hems, to fit me.  I was about 10 at the time.

I remember one summer she sewed one of her bathing suits to fit me.  She was a pretty talented seamstress.

When I was 14 and  taking "sewing" class in Catholic high school, Aunt Clara and Uncle Ray brought the old Domestic to our house in Mt. Auburn and placed it in my room, a narrow, walled-in, unheated back porch that I'd claimed for myself.  I was the oldest, and we only had one bedroom in the house for a family of eight.  A hot water bottle froze solid in that back-porch room in the winter, but it was my own private retreat, for reading, writing, listening to '50s rock 'n roll music on my transistor radio,  and sewing.

When I wasn't sewing, I'd keep the top lid closed, and it became my dressing table, with a round mirror that swiveled on its base from normal to magnifying, a pretty doily, and my makeup and hair brush.

Aunt Clara taught me how to make the treadle work that night when she delivered the machine to me.  We used electric machines in school, but I got the treadle's rhythm going and figured the rest out by next morning, and I began making my own clothes.

I was a small girl, so a half-yard of fabric could make me a pretty skirt, and a whole yard was more than enough for a slim dress.  Eventually I could make a dress in one day to wear to a dance or party that night.  When I switched to public high school, I could make a dress the night before to wear the next day.

I did have one mishap that almost lost me my machine.  I was racing down a long seam one evening faster than I should have been going, when suddenly the needle stopped with a metallic thud sound and a prolonged HUM-M-M.  Dad happened to be in the next room and heard it, came in and stared at the thick needle embedded in my right index finger, a breath away from the nail.

He picked up my finger with the broken needle sticking in it and took me downstairs to the dining room and plunged the finger into a bowl of peroxide.  My mother's face went white and she had to sit down before she fainted.

Dad said, "I told you not to run your finger so close to the needle.  Now look what you've done."
I kept silently repeating in my head, "Don't take my machine away, don't take it away, don't..."

He didn't take it away.  And he couldn't watch me sew anymore.  Neither could Mom.  I never ran the needle into a finger again.  I had a scar to remind me for a long time.

We moved to Klotter Avenue, Over-the-Rhine, in 1961 and the Domestic went into the room I was to share with my three sisters.  I left shortly thereafter to move in with girlfriends.  I did not take my sewing machine with me.  I wasn't sewing anymore.

I came back home for a short time before I got married in 1963, when I moved out permanently.  I forgot about my sewing machine until 1987.  I'd bought an electric machine when my daughters were small so I could make dresses for them.

In 1987, however, when I was living in Tennessee, I visited my parents and Dad made the comment, "I have something of yours in my room."  This was by the time he had a room crammed full of stuff upstairs that nobody was allowed to enter.

I thought for a few minutes, and then I remembered.  Grandma's sewing machine?  He confirmed that he had it.  And I suddenly wanted it.

He said, "I've been keeping it all these years.  It's the only thing of my mother's I have."

My eyes got tears.  Serious eyes looked at me, "Do you promise you'll keep it, take care of it?"

"Yes," I said, "I'll keep it forever."

"You won't spill any more paint on it?"  He grinned.  Referring to the time I painted my back-porch room a light mint green and failed to cover my sewing machine.

I said, "That paint is still on it?"  He replied he kept it just like it was when I left it.

I wondered if the green paint held a memory for him.  You never knew with my father.  He didn't say a lot of things he felt.

People have asked me if I planned to ever refinish the machine, but I haven't and I won't.  Green back-porch bedroom paint will always be a memory.

And it's the only thing I have of my father's mother.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Challenge Writing!

Today, February 1st, starts the month-long Family History Writing Challenge and I've been taking a critical look at my outline, the one I started last February and have edited and changed more times than I can count.

I changed it, hopefully, one last time yesterday.  I'm mostly in the rewrite stage, which will take me most of the way through the month.  Then the last edit (I hope).

Then comes the publishing, which I'm doing through CreateSpace and Amazon.

I haven't been letting myself think too much about the publishing and having a book on Amazon, but now those thoughts are starting to creep in at all hours of the day and night.  I tell them to go away, because I still have much to do.

Over the past couple of years, I've had lots of ups and downs with this book.  On top of the world one day over discovering some fact or person that had stayed hidden from me for so long.  And then a few days later telling myself to just quit because the project was too big, it would take me the rest of my life.  And I'm sure not getting any younger.

What kept me going was telling myself to just keep writing.  Don't think.  Just keep writing.  Keep putting words on the page and don't worry if they make sense.

Then I found out about The Family History Blog-to-Book, and the writing got easier.  Just write a short story, I'd tell myself.  Just one story.

And here I am at the next challenge, almost not believing I've come this far.

I have two more books on the shelf ready to dive into when this one is published, bound, and sitting on the "Finished Shelf."    Life is good.  Today it is.