Paw Prints in the Pie

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is where food is prepared to nourish the family, where kids do their homework, and where family congregates to share the happenings of the day. It is where memories of everyday life and holidays past and present reside. And so it was with the Lane family kitchen.

 Our little family lived in a four room house until I was eight years old. The house, most likely the servant’s quarters for the large house at the front of the property, consisted of the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bath. There was no basement or foundation. It was small but cozy.

The kitchen table is where we congregated waiting for mom to finish cooking dinner, where we ate, and where we did our homework. After dinner mom and dad would move to the living room and listen to the radio. When we were older they watched the television . My brother Bill and I would sit at the kitchen table and finish our homework, or color in our coloring books. Some evenings, we knew when we heard the words, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow Knows,” that it was time to go to bed. First the radio program, and then the television program, scared the life out of me.

Even though we lived modestly, we were fortunate to have a television. Television has a strong influence on kids. One of the times when I got into big trouble was when I helped myself to a large dollop of lard to create the Alfalfa look in my hair. Anyone who grew up on Our Gang and the Little Rascals knows that Alfalfa had a spike of hair that stood up straight on the top of his head. It worked for him; not so much for me.

When I was eight my parents purchased their first home. It was larger but still modest with two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bath. It also had a much needed basement. My parents converted the dining room into their bedroom so my brother and I could have our own bedrooms.

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That little kitchen is full of memories. I remember the glass shelves in the window with my mother’s collection of souvenir cups and saucers. The refrigerator sat in a cubby hole. Above the refrigerator was a cabinet where the Christmas presents were hidden each year. The room was so small, that while we were eating dinner, I had to move if someone needed something out of the refrigerator. I can still hear my mother tell me when I washed dishes to slow down, do it right the first time so I wouldn’t have to do it again.

black toy poodle puppiesIn the summer of my fourteenth year my little brother Dennis was born. Shortly after his birth, my mother received a phone call from my Aunt Goldie. She lived in Indianapolis and was going to be coming to St. Louis for a visit. Her full-bred, miniature poodle had given birth to puppies and she wanted to know if we wanted one. I’m not sure what my mother was thinking when she agreed to take one of the puppies while having a newborn in the house. The puppy’s was named FiFi. This black little fuzz ball was cute as can be but chewed her fair share of shoes or anything that was left on the floor. That Christmas, as she did every holiday, my mother baked a pumpkin pie the day before. Refrigerator space was at a premium so the pumpkin pie was covered with a dish cloth and placed on the kitchen table. The next morning, after we opened presents, I went into the kitchen where I discovered paw prints in the pie. Somehow FiFi had climbed onto the table and had walked on the pie forcing the dish cloth into the pie leaving little indentations. Her goal was the full bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and the pie was inconveniently in the way. She ate every peanut butter cup, paper included. FiFi survived the chocolate, but I’m sure she was one sick little puppy for awhile. And by the way, we didn’t let that pie go to waste.

green-tomatoesMom liked to garden. The summer, when Dennis was three or four, she grew tomatoes. Hearing her pitching a fit, I went into the kitchen where I saw perhaps twenty or thirty little green tomatoes piled upon Dennis’ high chair tray. He had “helped” her by picking all of the tomatoes off the vines. He was a handful so we kept an eye on him. How he got all of those tomatoes off the vine without anyone noticing is still a mystery. A little later that day we couldn’t find him. Eventually I found him in my brother’s bedroom squeezed between the wall and the chest of drawers. When I asked him what he was doing he said, “I’m hiding from the police. They are coming to get me.” We all had a good laugh.

That little kitchen has so many memories for me; the turkeys, the pies, the meat and potatoes, my mom getting up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast for my dad before he left for work, and so many more. The kitchen is where memories are made, where generations come together and share traditions; it is where love resides. I hope my children and grandchildren have fond memories of time spent in our kitchen. How about you? What are your memories?

 

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Happy Birthday Dave Ferguson

ferguson-david-8th-grade-1960-61Happy birthday to David…the boy I first saw when I was thirteen and he was twelve. He stood at the top of the long wooden stairs that went from the first floor to the second floor of our junior high school in Maplewood, Missouri. He was a hall monitor. His job was to literally keep us pre-teens in line as we ascended or descended the stairs. He was funny and would tease me as I went by. He walked me home from school one day, but I was madly in love with someone else.  

Happy Birthday to David…he smoked cigarettes, and sat on the stone wall that separated the high school property from that of the municipal swimming pool. He sat there with the “hoods.” He didn’t fit their profile of sleeked-back hair, T-shirts, and jeans. He wore button down shirts and khaki pants and he smoked. He teased me as I passed the wall on my way home from school. 

Happy birthday to David…he sat across the aisle from me in our geometry class during our sophomore year in high school. He called me rabbi because someone had carved the Star of David on the wooden top of my school desk. One day, the boy who sat at the desk in front of me kept talking during class. The teacher warned him to be quiet, but he kept talking. Without warning the teacher hurled the chalk-board eraser at him. He ducked, and as I looked up, the eraser hit me square in the face leaving a cloud of dust all over me. The class laughed and David laughed. The teacher apologized. He probably would have been fired had he done that today.

ferguson-david-and-tonya-in-coatsHappy birthday to David…the boy who asked me to go on our first date to the Thurtene Carnival at Washington University in April; we were seniors in high school. That day I had my ears pierced by a mid-wife, who had to have been at least eighty years old. She lived over a sausage factory on the “Hill,” the Italian community in St. Louis. The mid-wife deadened my ears with ice, and with a long darning needle and a piece of thin twine, pierced both ears with shaking hands. She tied off the twine and told me to move the twine through my ears so the holes wouldn’t heal over and to clean my ears with Fels Naptha soap. Ouch! Those were the days before one was able to get their ears pierced at the mall. Needless to say I wasn’t feeling very well that night, and tried to hide the twine behind my ears. True to form he teased me about the rope in my ears. He was such a good sport!

Happy birthday to David…the boy who didn’t ask me to the Senior Prom or graduation; I waited and waited. To this day I’ve never quite forgiven him.

Happy birthday to David…the young man who saved his money to buy a foreign car; he bought a diamond ring instead. He eventually bought a convertible Triumph Spitfire. It was a powder-blue beauty. He married me and became a father when he was twenty years of age. Two’s a party but three’s a crowd so the Triumph was sold. 

Ferguson, Darin and Dad, About 6 weeks old.jpgHappy birthday to David…the young father who quit smoking in his twenties. Non-smoking ads were prevalent on TV. When our oldest son asked him to quit smoking he quit cold-turkey and has never smoked a cigarette since then. Cigars yes…cigarettes no. Talk about willpower.

Happy birthday to David…the father who never missed a game, scouting event, concert for his boys. He was a tough disciplinarian, but a rock. He is the husband, father, and grandfather who has been a steady force in our lives. He is the boy who had perfect attendance all through his school years and never missed a day of work until he had knee surgery in his late fifty’s. You can’t ask for a better role model for a boy.  

Happy birthday to David…the man who celebrates his birthday on Veterans Day. He got off on his birthday every year because it is a national holiday. No fair. My birthday is on Cinco de Mayo but I never got off on my birthday.

Happy birthday to David…the man I’ve known for fifty-five years and with whom I’ve lived the last forty-eight years. He still teases me, amuses me, and drives me crazy sometimes, well much of the time. We’ve weathered good times and bad, but mostly good.

As Cesare Pavese said, “We do not remember days, we remember our moments.” Happy Birthday Dave, we’ve had a lot of good moments. I pray we have many more.

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Maw’s Purse

The pursuit of my family history has been a wonderful journey. Not only have I found new cousins, but have reconnected with cousins I haven’t seen for many years. My cousin Carla is one of those cousins. She is the daughter of my father’s sister Helen. Carla was closer to my age than other cousins so it was natural for us to play together. Not too long ago I visited Carla. We had not seen each other for many years. I had anticipated that Carla might have pictures that I didn’t have and I had pictures to share with her. Unbeknownst to me, she had a treasure in her possession, maw’s purse.

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Maw’s Purse

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Ruberta, my paternal grandmother, she was not a warm and fuzzy person. In fact she came across as a cold. I really didn’t know her and, in the half-dozen times we visited her, I was never to know why she was unable to show the slightest bit of warmth to me or my brother. It is only through talking to my cousins, and finding records about her, that I have come to understand her better.

Maw knew heartache. She lost her father, Aub Hood, about the age of fourteen. Not too long after that she married John Wayson, a man who was forty-one years of age. By today’s standards it’s hard to understand how her mother could allow her marry someone twenty-seven years her senior. The family was poor so perhaps marrying her off provided one less mouth to feed. The marriage didn’t last as Ruberta was back with the family in 1910.

On March 12, 1913, Maw was married to my grandfather William Everett Lane. Between 1914 and 1924 six children were born to the couple. Life was difficult. The great depression was going strong, beginning in 1924 and ending in 1939. Jobs were difficult to come by. Grandpa Lane was a carpenter and through the years the children picked cotton to supplement the family income.

The life of the family changed on June 4, 1939 when Will was instantly killed when his car was struck by a Greyhound bus. There was a settlement with the bus company that provided some relief to Maw, but I’m sure she would have given anything to have Will back with the family.

Tragedy struck again when my uncle Vernon was killed aboard a ship that was hit by a Kamikaze plane in the Pacific Ocean close to the end of the war. Maw had lost her husband and her son in the span of six years.

When Carla brought out Maw’s purse, I was amazed at the discoveries waiting for me. The purse was stuffed, and I do mean stuffed, with what appeared to be every receipt that Maw received during her lifetime. There was a receipt for a car that Grandpa Lane purchased in 1922; an Overland automobile that was already fifteen years old at the time he purchased it.

There were receipts for lumber, windows, doors, nails, and other items for use in the building of houses. There were insurance receipts, a delayed marriage certificate, grandpa’s social security card, mortgage papers; receipts that obviously meant something to Maw.

And the most poignant treasures in the purse were four letters from Vernon written to Maw while he was at sea in the Pacific Ocean. Written two weeks before he died close to the end of the war, he was responding to the fact that Maw had visited his wife Evelyn and two sons recently. In his letter he said, “Did you think the boys had growed [sic] very much? I would give anything in the world to see them but I guess it will be some time yet before I get to see them.”

He told Maw there was nothing to worry about. Was he trying to reassure himself that he would be fine as he wrote those letters to comfort her? We will never know. The saddest of all was the telegram advising Maw of his death at sea; the words so black and final upon that piece of paper.

The letters have been reunited with Vernon’s sons. My cousin Dick, who was a baby when Vernon died, told me after reading the letters he felt, for the first time, he was hearing his father’s words.

Perhaps Maw had so much loss in her life that she kept herself at arm’s length from people to insulate herself from extreme loss again. Did the receipts from her life somehow give her a feeling of closeness to the events that represented her life and the loved ones she had lost? Whatever the reasons, the contents in Maw’s purse assured me that she was a feeling woman, just not one to wear her heart upon her sleeve.

July is Blackberry Picking in the Midwest

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The extreme heat of this July has resurrected memories of blackberry picking of my childhood. Long before I ever picked my first berry my mother had spent many a summer in the county of her birth picking the deep purple, luscious fruit with her mother and siblings. Most likely out of need, the Schwegler family would travel to Maries County, Missouri where they would visit with family. In July, when the fruit ripened, they would don their “picking” outfits and go to their favorite thicket of bushes and spend several hours filling their buckets to the brim. Long-sleeved shirts and pants were called for or long, angry scratches were the result of reaching into the brambles for those plum morsels of blackberry goodness. After the trek, hours were spent in the kitchen brewing jars of blackberry jams and jellies that would last into the next year.

 My family spent many summer weekends traveling to Osage County where my grandfather, Wright Schwegler, had a clubhouse on the Gasconade River. My mother continued the tradition of picking blackberries. And oh how I hated that tradition. I can’t think of anything worse than putting on long sleeves and pants and hiking in the heat of July. Our picking crew consisted of my mom, my brother Bill, and me. My dad would drive us to the same location every year since my mom didn’t drive. We would hike up a long hill to a massive thicket of Blackberry brambles hiding their jewels among their thorns. By the time we would get there, I would be soaked in sweat; not a comfortable feeling for a city-bred, teen-aged girl. No matter how hard I tried I still wound up with long slivers of red scratches on my arms, despite the long-sleeves, and my hands were covered with wounds from the long thorns of the bushes. I don’t ever recall my mother making jams or jellies so we must have eaten the fruit over the course of the next few days.

 Some of my best memories of those days at the clubhouse include warm salads made with fresh greens and tomatoes picked from my grandfather’s garden smothered in Viva Italian dressing. A short walk up the road would result in fresh ears of corn to be boiled and slathered with butter. And best of all, catfish tails from the fish caught on the trotlines from the night before were covered in corn-meal and deep-fried to golden perfection. My brother and I weren’t allowed to eat the other meat of the fish; it had to be the tails since my mother was afraid we would choke on the bones from the other parts of the fish. There were many things we weren’t able to do, which is a testament to my mother’s will to see us safely through our childhood.

 Unfortunately, the tradition of blackberry picking wasn’t passed on to my sons. Today, if one wants, you can have blackberries on the menu most days as they are grown all over the world and shipped to the United States for consumption. I’m not sure the blackberries we get today are as good as those picked straight from the source, but they sure are easier to come by. And despite being uncomfortable, I still have fond memories of those days so many years ago spent with my family in pursuit of blackberries ripened in July.  

 

Finding Edgar Lane and Doing the DNA Happy Dance

Edgar Lane lived a short life. And he was my great-grandfather. He was born to John C. and Marietta (Vaughn) Lane about 1878 or 1879 most likely in Dyer County, Tennessee.

I searched for Edgar in census records for a long time. And finally I found him in 1880 living in Crockett County, Tennessee in the home of George Vaughn, enumerated as G. W. Maugham¹. Edgar was between the age of one and two years of age. His brother Isaac was four months old. Their mother, Marietta, had died before the census was taken leaving their father John with two very young children.

Like all good genealogists I questioned many times whether I had the correct person; there were so few documents for Edgar. One day, while looking for Lane’s and Vaughn’s in Crockett County on the GenWeb.com website, I found a link to people who were listed as contacts for surnames. This led me to Jean, my genealogy angel. She was listed as a contact for the Vaughn family surname. I took a chance and emailed her. And lucky me, she replied back. In the beginning we shared family stories, and the more we communicated, the more we felt that there was a family connection. A year later I sent my DNA to FamilyTree and eagerly awaited the results. The happy dance commenced when I found that Jean was listed as one of my matches. I was on the right track.

TonyaandJean

Tonya (left) with genealogy angel and cousin, Jean in Crockett County, Tennessee.

Edgar married Minnie Mae Perry on 19 July 1894 in Crockett County.² He was about fifteen, which seems very young to be married. A year later, my grandfather, William Everett Lane, was born. Why did he marry at an early age? Perhaps his age was incorrectly enumerated, perhaps he was a wild child, or people just got married at a young age back then. We may never know.

A relative told me that Edgar liked to gamble and disappeared one day. Speculation was that he owed someone money and wound up in the river as fish-food; a gruesome thought. Or it’s possible he was one of those men who shirked their responsibility by leaving their families and taking up a new identity somewhere else in the United States.

Life went on for Minnie Mae and their son William Everett. She married Sam Cosey in 1901. In a probate document recorded in June 1906, after the death of George Vaughn, was the sentence “Due on settlement to be equally divided between Minton Vaughn and the Lane minor heir of Edgar Lane deceased.”³  All of the clues, plus the DNA, have confirmed to me that indeed John and Marietta Lane and George Vaughn are my ancestors.

I was fortunate to meet my genealogy angel, and cousin, Jean  last year when she and her husband Jim met me in Crockett County. They took me to the location where the Vaughn homestead once stood and to Lebanon Church Cemetery where Richard Vaughn, my gggg-grandfather, and other Vaughn family members are buried. She has been so kind in sharing her well-researched genealogy with me.

And recently I enjoyed another happy dance. I located a cousin, via DNA and Ancestry.com that connects me to John Lane. Life is good!

If anyone has information about this cast of characters that are my ancestors please contact me. I would love to hear from you.

My Lane genealogy line is:

Great, Great-Grandfather, John Lane b. abt. 1859, d. abt. 1898
married Marietta Vaughn b. 1860, d. abt. 1880

Great-Grandfather, Edgar Lane b. abt. 1879, d. abt. 1898
married Minnie Mae Perry b. 26 Feb 1875, d. 13 Dec 1863

Grandfather, William Everett Lane b. 13 Jun 1895, d. 5 Jun 1939
married Ruberta Hood b. 14 Oct 1894, d. 5 Feb 1969

Father, Talmadge Hollis Lane b. 21 Nov 1914, d. 22 Jan 1993
married Bonnie Lee Schwegler b. 25 Mar 1927, d. 29 Jun 2002

 

 


¹1880 U.S. census, Crockett County, Tennessee, population schedule, Maury City, enumeration district (ED) 007, sheet 240-C, dwelling 121, family 121, George Maugham (Vaughn) household, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 Mar 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1249.

²Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002, indexed database and digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 Jun 2015), Crockett, 1894, image 3 of 4 : Edgar Lane to Minnie Mae Perry.

³Crockett, Tennessee, Tennessee, Probate Court Books, 1795-1927, 3: 235, George W. Vaughn; FHL film 179819001, Image 415 of 524, Settlement record for George Vaughn.

 

Sam Had His Fifteen Minutes of Fame

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” [I]

Andy Warhol

Sam had his fifteen minutes of fame. He was ahead of the times. Sam was a duck, my duck. He was one of those Easter presents given to children back in the 1950s. My brother Bill was given a duck too. I’m sure the gifts were the result of Bill and me begging for the ducks. There probably was very little expectation on the part of our parents that our ducks would survive. Bill’s duck died within a short period of time, but Sam survived and thrived. The practice of giving ducks and chicks to kids is frowned upon today for good reason.

Baby Pekin Duck

By Jimpingmaniac – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7780714

I was about twelve when Sam was given to me. Sam was a creamy, white domesticated male duck, a Pekin Duck. Full grown he was about two and a half feet tall. We kept Sam in an area between our house and the fence of our next door neighbor. Anyone who knows about ducks and chickens know that they are not the cleanest animals. Being a child of twelve I never thought of the implications of keeping a duck penned so closely to our neighbors; they were saints. And most likely my dad was the one who kept the pen clean, because I didn’t.

Toward the end of the 50s and the 60s, several St. Louis-based TV shows geared toward children were being aired; shows like Cookie and the Captain, Captain 11, and Texas Bruce. One of these programs, unfortunately I can’t remember which one, featured pets. You could send in a picture of your pet, and if they chose yours, you could take your pet onto the program. Dogs, cats, turtles, and a host of other pets were paraded across the TV set with the camera following close behind. I was so in love with Sam that, with the help of my parents, I sent off a picture to the TV station with hopes they would find Sam so alluring that they would invite me to the program to show him off.

Lane, Talmadge and Sam the Duck - 2

My dad, Tom Lane and Sam. Not the best picture.

I recall coming home from school one day to the news that my duck had been chosen to appear on the show. The day arrived. I was so excited. My dad prepared a box, with holes, to transport Sam to the station. I’m sure my mom did her best to make me as pretty as I could be. So off we went me, my dad, and Sam in his box. The first thing we did when we got to the station was to take Sam out of his box for the television staff to preview. Sam quacked, waddled around; he was so cute. But unfortunately he left a “present” on the floor. The immediate decision was made that Sam had to stay in his box when he and I went on air. Sam had his debut, but no one could see the full glory of this fellow viewed from above looking down on him. Where other kids could parade their pets around my pet had to stay in his box. Talk about being disappointed.

We kept Sam for about two years. He had a tendency to bite me. If you have ever been bitten by a duck you know it hurts. I don’t know if my dad got tired of cleaning out Sam’s pen or the fact that he was beginning to be aggressive, but the decision was made that Sam had to go. One Saturday morning my dad put him in the car and took him to a “farm.” I always had my suspicions that he was being taken somewhere to be someone’s dinner, but my parents assured me he would be happy in a farm setting with other ducks.

So you see, my duck had his fifteen minutes of fame long before Andy Warhol penned the phrase. He surely was a duck ahead of the times.

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[i] 15 minutes of fame. (2016, April 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:08, May 16, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=15_minutes_of_ fame&oldid=714389059

 

 

 

Remembering Lola and Hattie Pope on Mother’s Day

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Hattie and Lola Pope were sisters who grew up on the edge of the prairie near Fort Scott, Kansas. Born nine years apart, their father and mother were William David Pope and Elizabeth Ellen Smith. Down the road from them lived two brothers, Walter and Thomas Ferguson. Their parents were Thomas Bunn Ferguson and Mary Elizabeth Baker. The two families were destined to be intertwined when Lola married Tom and Hattie married Walter.

Lola, the younger sister, married early at the age of eighteen. Hattie married at the age of thirty-two. They were both tiny women. In a time when babies were born at home, Lola delivered six children; one died in infancy. Hattie delivered three children; all died. We don’t know if the children died at birth or in infancy, but how sad for Hattie. And while her children thrived, it must have been sad for Lola to see her sister lose one child after another.

Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914 and by the mid-1920s people were wearing red or white carnations to honor or remember their mothers. On Mother’s Day, Lola’s children wore a red carnation to church to honor her and a white one to remember her in later years after she was gone. While Hattie was loved by her husband and extended family, no children would wear a red or white flower for her. Was Hattie sad to know there would be no child to remember her when she was gone? Perhaps she was, or perhaps she accepted what life gave her.

Today people are more likely to send their mothers flowers for Mother’s Day or get together as a family to honor Mom. Hattie and Lola are gone, as are my mother Bonnie and my mother-in-law Betty. So Happy Mother’s Day. We love and miss you everyday. And this white rose is a symbol of our remembrance, especially for you Hattie, you are not forgotten.