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Annabelle Nabors Buchanan
Chapter 2
: Life with Grandma: 1928 to 1938

 

Grandma kept her promise about taking me back to visit my little brother at the Home. We took a big ball for him. By that time, he was walking. He did not seem to remember me, but played with the ball. We left and he did not seem to mind that. I felt so sad, and cried because he had forgotten me.

Mamma came to visit once in a while at Grandma's, but never stayed very long. She was always in a hurry. I overheard Grandma say that she feared she was on drugs.

We later learned her fears were well founded. She was arrested for stealing a car, and drove it into a showcase window at a department store. She ran from the scene and was picked up on a streetcar. She was placed in a mental hospital, which was the method back then for drug users. She remained there for six months. I never visited her, but my sister Ruth did. I heard the stories from her and my mother later about the hospital. Ruth had said she saw Mamma in line on the grounds dressed all in black with black stockings and black shoes. For some reason this affected Ruth.

Mamma said they had placed her in a tub with electric lights directly on her. This caused her to perspire until she was very weak. Once when she returned to her bed, a mental patient attempted to pour scalding tea on her. It sounded horrible to me.

When she was discharged, she came to live with us. She was once again the picture of health and seemed very happy.

1932. She had been home only a short time, when tragedy struck. I was in the fourth grade at the time. The teacher in school called me to her desk and asked if! had a little brother. My answer of course was "yes." She said for me to go home. Her tone was unusually kind. I ran home to find my Uncle Althea, my father's brother in the kitchen with Grandma and Mamma. They were all so sad and crying.

When I came in they explained to me that my little brother had been killed by a truck. My heart was broken. I had not seen him for quite a while because he had been adopted. The adoption had not been finalized. It seems he was playing with some children and the others ran across a busy highway. He followed without looking. The driver tried to avoid hitting him, but could not. I guess the driver was in a state of shock afterwards.

We all went to the funeral. My father was there also. He and Mamma consoled each other. I remember the feelings of anger and resentment to them. I felt that I had been the parent, and they had no place there. My brother was four years old. He looked so small dressed in white laying in the casket. Someone clipped some hair from his head and gave it to me. I kept it for many years in a small envelope.

I did not see my father for a long time after that. Mamma returned home with us. She stayed there for a while and really tried to settle down. However, she did not ever get on drugs again, but turned to alcohol.

I slipped back into my happy life, but never forgot my brother.

I loved to go in the parlor after an afternoon of outdoor play. I would rock in the chair, play all the records on the Victrola and sing along with them. Then take the hymnals and sing each and every one I knew. I wanted to sing like Mamma. She had a beautiful contralto voice and could really sing the blues.

From the first grade on, boys were a fascination to me. My first boyfriend in second grade was Billy Straun. His father owned a roadside inn, and had a candy store as part of the establishment. I would have nothing to do with him, if he did not bring me a bag of candy.

Harlan Werner was another favorite. His home was so beautiful. It was just down the road. Many times, I went there to play. I thought his mother was so lovely. She was a dark beauty with her hair braided around her head. She was always so kind to us.

There was a playhouse in the rear of the yard where all the neighborhood kids came to play. Once when I went into the house, his parents were laying on the couch with a blanket over them. It was a picture of love that had quite an impact on me. My grandmother and Sam never had that kind of actions in my presence. I am sure I stood and stared because the memory had remained
all these years.

Just recently I visited that house on a trip back East.

Harlan still lives in the house with his wife. My husband and I were fortunate to see him and talk. He said they had five children and the house has been maintained to look much the same.

When I went home from school for lunch, I would heat the curling iron on the big coal stove in the kitchen. Then I would proceed to use it on my hair. Of course, I could not see the back, so it was just the front that I curled. It must have looked funny, but I thought it was pretty.

My Uncle Bob lived about one mile up the road from us. His home was closer to the mountain. On warm summer days, Grandma would pack a lunch for me and I was allowed to visit my cousins. Both Uncle Bob and his wife were at work.

Hattie was just a year older than me, and there was Billy and Harry younger than me. Since we were on our own, we explored all the woods and climbed high on the mountain. There were rocks as large as a house. We jumped from one to the other being careful not to fall in the crevices between. On one occasion, there was a large snake in a tree. It dropped right beside me as I ran. Another time there was a Copperhead snake stretched out alongside a log. Both times I simply kept on going. Fear was a stranger to me in those days. When I returned home I was very tired.

Time passed, and my grandparents grew older. Sam died when I was about 12 years of age. Life did not change for us much, except Mam.ma came more often. Some of the time it was a joy to have her. She loved Paul Whitman's dance band. She taught me to do the Fox-trot dance step, for which I have always been glad. I adored my mother when she was happy.

 

Annabelle's great-
grandfather, Andrew Minerd

My grandmother had a wealth of knowledge about all the family. She told me much of the history of her background. Her father had been a blacksmith. Her sons used to go to the shop as children and watch the horses being shoed. Her parents were very religious. The bible was strictly adhered to. There was no cooking on Sundays. There were six children in her family. In the evening, they would sit in a circle while her father read the bible.

Two of her brothers had been to our house. Their names were David and Huston Minerd. David was an old-fashioned preacher. It was said he could move the congregation to tears during an emotional sermon. Huston, on the other hand was fond of his liquor and a good time. His personality was much the same as my grandmother, good humor and happy.

Grandma also told me the stories of her seven children.

Uncle George was Grandma's oldest son. He was not more than 5' 7", and I always remember his small feet. He was my favorite. He was warm, and a sentimentalist. He cared very much about all the family.

He was a coal miner. I remember in my early years going to their house with Grandma, and he would come in with his face all covered with coal soot, and the hat they wore in the mines.

His life had certainly had the sad parts. He had been married three times.

Grandma said his first wife was a real wholesome beauty by the name of Minnie. He loved her so dearly. She became pregnant and in the latter months met with tragedy.

One-night Grandma was seated by the fire, brushing her long hair. Suddenly, Uncle George burst in and told her they needed her. She went with him in a buggy. He drove with speed and whipped the horses so hard, they reared on their hind legs. He drove through cemeteries, and took all the short cuts he could. Minnie had fallen down cement steps to the basement, and went into convulsions. She died soon after.


He later married another girl named Alice. She was also very pretty with dark hair. They had a child, a little girl. Grandma said they were happy. Then Alice became ill with tuberculosis. She died when the child was very small. Alice's parents took the little girl and raised her.

He declared that when he married again, it would be to the ugliest woman he could find. So, later he married Sadie. She was a large woman and very homely. It was not a very romantic match, but they were married for the rest of his life.

Uncle George and Sadie had a roadster with a rumble seat. They would take my sisters and me for rides. Sadie would fight him all the way to go slow, while we would sit in the rumble seat yelling “Faster, Uncle George.” Ruth and I had the most fun. Lottie was always so serious, and would get disgusted at us for being silly.

Uncle George and Sadie came to Grandma’s often. It was customary for me to sing for company. Relatives thought my voice was special. Uncle George always asked me to sing his favorite song, “The One Rose.” It was a sad song, and always a tear would come to his eyes. Of course, I really put feeling into the song. Grandma said the song reminded him of Minnie.

 

The One Rose
You're just as sweet as the red rose in June, dear I love you, adore you, I do
Each night through love land, we wander, sweetheart Telling love's stories anew
Out of the blue sky a dark cloud came rolling Breaking my poor heart in two
Don't leave me alone, I love only you You're the one rose that's left in my heart

 

Uncle Bob was the next oldest son. He had been the most handsome as a young man. Grandma said he had great pride, and dressed with good taste. He would pay his sister 50¢ to press his pants, and if they were not good enough, she would be in for a real tongue lashing.

His first marriage had been to a well-known actress. He came home from work one day, to find his wife in bed with another fellow. That ended the marriage. He later married again to a girl named Helen. They were happy together and had four children; Buddy, Dick Althea Belle and Hattie.

When Hattie was two years old, his wife Helen died from diabetes. He was left with four children. Shortly, after her death, another tragedy hit. Buddy died from Meningitis. Uncle Bob was devastated by the two tragedies.

He still had three children. Then a lady by the name of Annie came into his life. He was still very handsome, and she fell in love with him. She brought the children gifts and won the family. They married and then there were two boys named Billy and Hany.

The older children left at an early age. Hattie was reared with the younger boys. Uncle Bob had two main interests. They were listening to opera records and hunting with his Dalmatian dogs.

I always felt he was the most-quiet of Grandma's children and a bit reserved. Both he and Uncle George experienced sadness in their lives.

I realize now that some of Grandma's children resented her having me as a responsibility at her age. That would be a natural reaction. I say this because he gave me the feeling that he was not too fond of me being there. Children sense these things. Of course, it was during the great depression, and it must have been more difficult financially to have a child to support. I never thought about those things, of course. I do remember one Christmas getting only a coloring book and crayons. Another time, I had to walk along with other children several miles to get free shoes. When I received them, they were boys’ shoes, and the soles were hard as a board.

Uncle Bill, the next in line, was a jovial man with a love for liquor. He had married a girl from Georgia after World War I. They had no children, and he was a flirt with the women. He always came to Grandma's in a happy mood. He called Grandma Becky. When she was in later years confined to a wheel chair, he would wheel her fast through the house, with her laughing and saying “STOP!"

I really stayed away from him as I grew older because of one experience my cousin Hattie and I had with him. Today it would be considered child molesting. I have thought about it in recent years since there are so many educational articles on that subject. I was only about six years and she about seven at the time. He fondled us, and told us to not tell anyone.

I always liked his wife, Annie. She was sort of a timid lady, and always dressed so neat. She would help me with the dishes and it was fascinating to watch her speed in drying dishes.

Grandma would take me to their apartment in town sometimes. It always seemed dark and unattractive. Grandma said she was from the South and did not know how to keep house.

Uncle Dave, the youngest son lived in Cleveland, Ohio. He very seldom visited us. He did come when the soldiers of World War I received their bonuses. He had been in the Navy. He brought gifts for everyone. He was a very mild-mannered man and seemed so kind. He brought me a Mickey Mouse watch. I fell in love with him immediately. He gave me small change and I went to the store and purchased a hot dog. Hot dogs and bananas were my favorite foods, and I seldom had the opportunity of buying the I do not remember him coming again until Grandma's funeral.

Aunt Carrie was the oldest of the family, and in my opinion, the most beautiful. She had the black hair, fair skin, and violet blue eyes. She had a tiny nose and round face. She was about 5’ 11" and had a perfect figure.

She married very young, and it ended in divorce. She had two children to her first husband. In order to keep the children, she moved to Pittsburgh and worked in the Episcopal Children’s Home.

When she was working there, she met Hany Schurecht. He was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. He was ten years younger than she, and therefore, she did not tell him about her children. He and she fell in love, and were married. They moved to Columbus, Ohio when he graduated. She left Helen and Paul in the Home.

Grandma told me that Aunt Carrie was gone ten years. During that time, Paul and Helen grew up and spent a lot of time at Grandma's house and Nanny's houses. In fact, Paul somehow got tuberculosis. Nanny care for him until he died. They sent messages on the radio and tried to locate Aunt Carrie, all to no avail.

After ten years, she told Uncle Harry about her children, and they returned to Pennsylvania. When she learned about her son dying, she went to the cemetery and threw herself on his grave and cried. It remained with her the rest of her life, I am sure. It must have been a terrible guilt to canny. I know she and Uncle Harry were very good to Helen and her family all their lives.

They were very special guests at Grandma’s when I lived there. They lived in Washington, D.C., when I was small. He worked for the Bureau of Standards.

When they came to visit, they brought all kinds of food and there would be a big feast. She would always ask me what I would like when she took me shopping. Of course, my immediate answer was a ring. That wish was always granted along with new clothes.

Aunt Annie, or Nanny as we all called her, was the middle daughter. Her beauty came from within. She, too, had the black hair, blue eyes and fair skin, but was more on the plump side. As a young girl, she went to Greensburg, Pennsylvania and there she met Wilfred Mahoney and they were wed. They were married sixteen years without children, and after they took my sister Ruth to raise, they had their son. That was a big family event.

Nanny brought the children often to our house for weekends. Ruth and I played and had a good time. I was so fond of my little cousin, Fred. I would rock and sing to him. I think it reminded me of my brother.

In the summer when Woe had vacation, he would also come and they would stay for a week. He drove a maroon Chevy. We thought it was beautiful. He was a handsome Irish fellow and had the biggest brown eyes. He looked like James Mason, the movie star.

Ruth and I would be so happy to see each other, but soon we were fighting. She was a big tease, and I had a serious side that was always vulnerable. Then when the visit ended, we would cry as we said good-bye.

Next door to Grandma, there lived a widow lady named Frazer, and her son Hubert. Their house was built of stone and was very old. Hubert was a huge fellow and always a target for ornery boys who teased him. Poor fellow was retarded. Mrs. Frazer was a tiny lady with white hair and she always wore a shawl. Since my grandmother was kind to everyone, Mrs. Frazer would come to visit and tell her troubles. I was always fascinated because Mrs. Frazer used snuff.

All of us children were afraid of Hubert. One time when Ruth was visiting, we decided to sneak into the Frazer yard. I was to climb the cherry tree, and Ruth was to be the lookout for Hubert. She saw him coming, but failed to yell at me. She ran off and left me stranded. Somehow, I managed to escape with him trying to run after me.

As the years passed, I was permitted to take the street car from Uniontown to Greensburg and visit Nanny. What a great joy it was for me. They lived in a big modem house. Nanny was so understanding and loving, a lot like Grandma. Uncle Wilfred worked for the railroad in Pittsburgh. He always had the night shift at the station there. Nanny had to fix his big meal at noon, and it was usually pot roast with potatoes. I cannot remember him having anything but boiled dinners.

At night Nanny gave us children anything we liked; spaghetti, hot dogs or casseroles.

In the afternoons we were all bathed and dressed up to walk downtown. She always took us to the ice cream parlor for treats. If it was Saturday, the dime store was a big meeting place where we ran into many of her friends.

Sometimes, we went to visit Woe's brother Timmy's house. Mary Mahoney, Nanny's sister in law fascinated me. She was very dark and had been a good-looking woman. There was always a baby and the smell of diapers and aroma of many children. She had seven boys and one girl, a good Catholic family.

Charlie Mahoney, Uncle Woe's other brother was also married to a woman named Mary. She was very different from Timmy's Mary. She had faded red hair and fewer children. We did not visit them as often.

Other times we went to Kate Houston's house. Kate, her husband, their one daughter, Dolly and Kate's sister Jesse all lived together. They had an old-fashioned radio with the horn on top, and we always listened to jazz. Ruth and I loved Dolly. She polished our fingernails and made over us. They were all such a happy family.

Jesse was a very close friend of Nanny. She was a jolly, snappy lady. She always seemed to be chewing gum. She came to Nanny's house a lot, too. If Ruth and I were fighting, she would take the two of us and pull our hair, and say "You two be good to Annie." We straightened up for a while. We always loved her because most of the time she was so full of fun, and also, we knew we needed correction.

I made friends with neighborhood kids. One was Mary Agnes Yost. She and I were both boy crazy. At night under the street lights, we played "Truth or Consequences" and of course the boys got to kiss us. Mary Agnes and I tried to get away from Ruth because we always had secrets, but she usually had something to tell on me, so we had to let her play.

My sister Lottie would come down sometimes, but was much more serious, and never stayed very long.

When I was about twelve or thirteen, I was allowed to go down at Christmas. That was wonderful, too. I always remember the snow glistening on the ground, as I walked to their home. I would first stand on the back porch and look in the backdoor window at nanny cooking in the kitchen. It was a beautiful sight. Uncle Wilfred always had the train fixed around the tree, and he had as much fun as the rest of us. It was a heartbreaker to leave.

As I continue to write, flashbacks of the memories in early years keep coming to mind. One such memory is that of the hot summery evenings, I would catch lightening bugs. Holes were punched in the lid of a glass jar. Pursuit was easy because of the complete darkness. I must have been seven or eight years at that time.

Also, there was the memory of going to the very old cemetery with Grandma. We would push a lawnmower down the road and up a hill that had red dog, as it was called. It was sort of red gravel. Her parents and one little sister of hers that had died were buried there. The tombstones were very old; the upright kind. Some were leaning from time making the ground give under their weight. There was no care given in those days, as now. So, it was our job to pull the weeds and mow the grass. It was a beautiful peaceful place. I would play and do my share of pulling weeds.

There was no Lotto back then, however, there were number games. Grandma would send me to the A & P grocery store with a note and a quarter to play her chosen numbers. As I said in the beginning, history repeats itself Now, I take my numbers to the small grocery and play my Lotto numbers.

As I continue, I am sure there will be many more memories come to mind that I had forgotten long ago.

 

 

Return to Table of Contents - Next: Chapter III: Grandma Nabors and Lottie

 

Copyright 1984 Annabelle Nabors Buchanan

Republished on Minerd.com with permission.  Reproduction forbidden without written consent of Minerd.com.