Heirlooms

Today’s blog theme is ‘heirloom’. It’s been a busy day so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

My Treasures


Mam’s vase that goes with the wash stand.

This is a water pitcher that goes with a wash stand and basin. The wash stand has a mirror and two candles- one at each side of the mirror. One of the candle/stand sets needs to be repaired. I’m not sure how I was so fortunate to end up with the set but I love it. Yellow is my favorite color. I think of Mam every time I look at it. I wish I had a photo of it when it was sitting in her house.


Granny’s plate.

This is a small plate that Granny had on a wall shelf in her bathroom. My bathroom was done in purples and flowers like Granny’s so when Granny passed away I asked for this trinket. (I doubt anyone has a photo of it in her house but if you do, I’d love to have it.) I keep the plate in a curio cabinet that belonged to Bart’s grandmother- Esther WOLF. Behind the plate you’ll see a set of brown glasses. Derek died on a “homemade Christmas” year. My mother had finished this set of glasses for him early in the day on the day Derek passed away. She gave them to me to keep. On the other side you’ll see a cup that my kids made for me one year for Christmas. In front of the homemade cup is a glass coaster that my great uncle and aunt- Carl and Barb LARKIN- brought back to me from Germany. On top of that coaster is a Christmas ornament one of my kids made for Bart and I when they were little.

I love all these treasures. I would love to see pictures of the heirlooms you have and cherish.

Until next time,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

Black Blizzards- The Second Dust Bowl, Abilene, Texas, 1954-1957

The Dust Bowl has always captured my attention and I especially love a well written novel set in that era such as Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust. My ancestors seem to have (thankfully) missed the “black blizzards” (huge, black dust clouds) that rolled across the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.


Photograph courtesy of http://www.fs.fed.us/greatestgood/images/gallery/depression-CCC/DepressiontheCCC/photos/photo11.shtml.

When the black blizzards rolled through it blocked out everything – even the sun. This photo was taken at 3:00 in the afternoon on Black Sunday in 1935:


Photograph courtesy of http://discovermagazine.com/.

You can see a video recreation of black blizzards at http://www.history.com/.

In the 1930’s President Roosevelt ordered the Civilian Conservation Corps to plant a “belt of more than 200 million trees from Canada to Abilene Texas, to break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil itself in place.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl) This did not stop the black blizzards from returning in the 1950’s although it did lessen their intensity. (https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hda01).

My grandparents- Eugene and Audrey DRAKE- and their children lived in Abilene, Texas during the mid-1950’s when the area had a revival of dust storms reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl storms. My dad was very young at that time. However, he can recall the black blizzards rolling through. He said when they hit, you couldn’t see anything around you. Everyone rushed into their homes and began stuffing wet rags into every crack and crevice possible to keep the dust out. If a crack was missed, dust poured into the home. Even with the wet rags in place, the dust was still a problem. It was like a black wall rolling toward you when the black blizzards rolled in.

1950’s Abilene, Texas

In the 1950’s, Abilene was a dry city so there would not have been any bars there. The Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra gave it’s first concert in 1950 and fine arts groups were active there during this time period. The city boasted a professional baseball team- The Blue Sox- which was associated with the Brooklyn Dodgers and operated in Abilene until 1957. Major employers in the area included the railroad and the military bases. In 1953, Abilene schools were still segregated. (https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hda01) This was the environment in which my dad lived and attended school in Abilene from 1954-1957. He went to school there between his 5th and 8th grade years. He does not remember the elementary school he attended. He said at that time the family lived on North 11th Street in Abilene and they were close enough to the school that he walked to school. I was unable to tell by looking online (especially being unfamiliar with the area) which elementary school he might have attended. He does remember attending North Junior High.

In addition to living on North 11th Street, the family also lived on Burger Street in Abilene.

He was very self-conscious and felt out of place being from the country and now attending school in a city. However, he said he was well-liked and remembers being invited, accepted, and involved in school social and academic pursuits while he was there. Financially, life was very difficult. One of his prized possessions was the 1957 school yearbook his mom saved up to buy for him.

Here he is in 7th grade, 1956-57 at North Junior High:

He was in Mrs. Boyland’s Homeroom 4. Here is Mrs. Boyland in the 1956-57 school year:

The Principal that year was J. M. Anthony. He struck fear in students at North Junior High.

Dad’s favorite teacher that year was the pretty Miss Cole, English teacher:

Outside of North Junior High, the drought raged on in Texas. In regard to the drought, one farmer had these things to say, “…the biggest difference was that in the `30s, it broke people financially. But the 1950s broke them spiritually.” Water arrived in town periodically in tanks on the back of trucks and people rushed to get it. One state official wrote a letter to his peer in July 1950 saying that residents in Abilene were accusing the government officials of being communists, presumably in response to the water shortage issues and other drought-related problems. 1951, 1954, and 1956 were in the top 10 of driest years on record in Texas. Crops wouldn’t grow, ponds dried up, and the ground was so dry it had 6-inch open cracks. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/14/texas-drought-dry-spell-1950_n_926703.html)

In the 1954-56 time period, San Angelo newspapers reported up to 70 mile per hour wind gusts causing horrible dust storms which killed people, uprooted trees, damaged property and crops, and killed livestock; wind spreading fires that destroyed buildings; wind gusts that blew down walls; and, horrific vehicle accidents caused by low visibility due to the dust in the air. At points there was zero visibility due to the dust blizzards. Instead of finding rain in their rain gauges, residents found inches of dust. The storms were often very fast moving leaving little time to take cover.
(http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/rick-smith-where-did-all-the-dust-storms-go) The drought finally broke early in 1957. That was also the year Gene and Audrey and their family moved out of Texas for the final time.

In researching my family’s stay in Abilene, I found two reasons why my grandparents chose Abilene as a residence. My father told me they went there to try and get better jobs and have a better financial situation. In addition to that information, I found a newspaper article on Ancestry.com that helped explain what drew my family specifically to Abilene versus another city. Audrey’s brother, Ralph, moved to that area in 1953 with his wife. Their brother, Carl, was also living there. It’s quite possible that the deciding factor in favor of Abilene was that there were close family members there. You can read about the article I found in my blog post at Days of Our Lives: Close to Home, Close to the Heart, Part 2 beginning at the section heading, “Carolyn Bennett”.

I’m glad my family had that time with other family members but I’m very thankful they moved back here to Oklahoma where my parents married and created my family. Life could easily have turned out so differently. I try to be thankful for every turn mine has taken.

Remember this coming week to treasure family and love each other. For more genealogy goodness, click on over to my Sister-In-Law’s blog at Down in the Root Cellar where she is participating in the same genealogy blog challenge I’m doing this year.

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

Close to Home, Close to the Heart- Part 2

There were a couple of late entries for stories about Uncle David so I thought I would do a mid-week post. Included in this post is an article I recently found that mentioned my Aunt Carol so I thought I would include it as well.

After publishing the previous blog post, my cousin said he remembered the long drives from Iowa back to Oklahoma that his family made when his dad wanted to go fishing with David. He remembers his dad and David shooting at snakes while the kids swam. Troy and David would sit on the bank fishing while the kids swam and they would shoot at the occasional snake they saw in the water.

Memory is a strange and unpredictable thing. After reading the previous blog post, David’s sister Kay commented that she must have been wrong about David enlisting at such a young age. David was actually 17 years old when he enlisted.

David’s brother-in-law, Roy, remembers going noodling with David over in the Disney-Tiajuana, Oklahoma (Delaware/Mayes County), area when they closed the spillways on the dam. They took a gunny sack to put the fish in. Roy caught some fish and put them in the gunny sack but David made him take them back out and throw them back because David said they were too small. Afterward, David regretted that because they didn’t get too many fish that day. Roy commented that David always knew when they were going to close the spillways and he could go fishing. Overall, everyone commented how much David loved fishing. Here is a photo from the GRDA website showing the Pensacola spillway gates:


Photo found at http://www.grda.com/

Carolyn BENNETT
My Aunt Carolyn passed away a few years ago. Yesterday I was doing genealogical research on Ancestry.com and came across a newspaper article that mentioned her. The article was from the morning edition of the Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas- Taylor and Jones Counties) dated 14 October 1954. Below is a transcription of the relevant portions of the article:

Tuscola Residents Visits in Missouri
“TUSCOLA, October 13 (RNS)- Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Larkin and children, and his brother, Carl Larkin, visited in Southwest, Mo. with Mrs. Gene Drake, sister of Ralph and Carl, and her family. They were accompanied home by Mrs. Drake and her daughter, Carolyn, who visited the Larkins and the N. J. MINITRA family.”

The Ralph LARKIN mentioned here is not our great-grandfather but rather his and Bess’ son, Ralph LARKIN, JR.. Ralph, Carl, and Audrey were siblings. I have no idea what connection the MINITRA family had to ours.

I love that old newspapers include gossip sections like this. They hold interesting information on our ancestor’s lives that can help us place them in a certain location at a certain time. This article also helps explain why Gene and Audrey moved back and forth between McDonanld County, Missouri, and Abilene, Texas, several times between 1954 and 1957. An article similar to this one that was published in 1953 helped explain why Ralph LARKIN, JR. moved to Abilene, Texas. It stated that his then-wife was a long-time resident of the area and her family still lived there.

Until this weekend,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives