Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Dorothy!" called Polly Parrot

Aunt Lois reminded me of this story she had told me some time ago. She does remember visited her mean grandmother Claudia in Erie. Aunt Lois never remembers her grandmother smiling or happy, but she does remember that Claudia had a "Polly Parrot" who would wake them up in the morning calling "Dorothy" from a low to high pitch that sounded like Grandma Claudia's angry voice. She who was Dorothy? Well the parrot was call to Dorothy Ball, daughter of Claudia and Frank, and Grandma Redmond's half-sister. Born 13 January 1924, 5 years after Ethel and almost 2 years after Hazel, her nieces. Dorothy, born when Claudia was 44, would have been called a "change-of-life baby" at that time, but by today's standards it would be down right fashionable! Dorothy married and lived in Erie. She died in November 1982, just a couple months after Ethel died.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two Family Birthdays on December 29th

"Two?" you say. Why yes, two. Of course 29 December [2009] was Betsy's birthday--certainly a milestone birthday, but I was taught never to divulge a woman's age--at least not for the living... but the other, also a woman, would have been 130 years old on the 29th--and she is certainly not living. But first, a very happy, slightly belated, birthday to you Aunt Betsy; hope you had a great day and have a wonderful new year.

So who was the other woman in our family who was born 130 years ago and shares a birthday with Betsy? Attached is a photo of her as a young girl, probably taken about 1890, and another from later in her life, probably 1940. Any guesses? One clue is that Ethel was even going to name Betsy after her. If she had, Betsy's name would be Claudia. Probably a good thing that Betsy wasn't named after her as Claudia was described as the meanest woman to ever live--or something to that affect. So who was she? Why she was Grandma Redmond's mother, of course--Claudia Ann (Winters) Thomas. So do any of you (Terry, Roger, Bobbie, Sharyn, Dale, Todd, or Betsy) remember your great-grandmother? Some of you should as she died in 1952--which is the same year that Bob's mother died and Terry and Bobbie certainly remember her. I would love to know if any of you remember Claudia! I am fascinated by the fact that she does not seem to be remembered by her family, family that should have at least been aware of her. And it can't be the case that she was alienated from her family. She continued to visit with her sisters Aunt Jessie Crooks and Aunt Clara Bessler in Oil City and Grandpa Redmond was the one who signed Claudia's death certificate.

What I know about Claudia is that she was born 29 December 1879 in Petroleum Center (which would have been a oil boom town in decline and called the wickedest place in the world at the time, but now a ghost town, literally), the daughter of John Winters, an immigrant to the oil regions from England, and his wife Catherine Baney, a local girl from Cherrytree area. Claudia married at the age of 18 or so to Samuel Thomas who was from the Dempseytown/Rocky Grove area. After their marriage Samuel and Claudia lived in and around the Petroleum Center area for a number of years where Samuel worked as a pumper in the oil fields. Around 1909, they moved to Volant near New Castle, PA, lived in a rented house and Sam continued to work as a oil well pumper. Living in Volant is where Grandma Redmond would meet and marry Grandpa Redmond.

So how many children did Claudia and Sam have? Well, some of you may remember Grandma Redmond's brother Clyde who lived in Erie (his children and grandchildren still live there) and you may remember a mention of another brother Carl, but there where others. The oldest child was Charles Hunter Thomas who died at the age of 19 in November of 1918 of the Spanish Influenza which killed millions worldwide. Until recently that was all I knew about, but it appears that there were at least two others who died young, a son Ralph and a daughter Viola, both younger than Grandma Redmond. Chances are they also died of the Spanish Flu, but don't know for sure.

So I bet you are still wondering about the comment that she was called the meanest woman in the world. That comment is attributed to her very own husband Sam Thomas and may explain why Grandma Redmond married when she was 14 or 15 years old (which contrary to myth marrying that young was not the norm). I don't know any specifics of why Sam said that about his dear wife, but I do know that they were divorced in September of 1922 and two days later, Claudia remarried a guy by the name of Frank Ball in Tionesta, PA (Sam also remarried, but that is a story for another time). I don't know much about Frank. I have heard references to him being anything from an "evangelist" to a "drinker" which might explain why Claudia wasn't around very much. But what I do know is that Frank worked in a boiler factory in Erie, PA which is where Claudia and Frank lived and died, Claudia in 1952 at the age of 72.

Whew! I certainly didn't mean to go on so long, but who would have known that Grandma Redmond's family was such a soap opera. But just wait until to you hear about Grandpa Redmond's family--talk about drama and intrigue!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ghost of Christmas at Rocky Grove

Well, it has been quite a jouney, from Grandma Redmond's house on Grandview Road; Grandma Redmond's silver Christmas Tree on Park Avenue; opening presents at Grandma Reese's house in Seneca; the family gathering in 1979 at Bobbie's in Seneca which began the tradition of the neighborhood open house on Christmas Day. But that is not where is ended. Our family Christmas gatherings continued when Bobbie moved to Rocky Grove and it was there that we ushered in the next generation of our family. And while the 4th picture was not technically taken on Christmas Day--it was Christmas time as evidenced by the tree in the background.

Our family has come along way and while many are no longer with us, those memories remain, and we now have the hope of a new generation. So Merry Christmas Eve to all of you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ghost of Christmas at Bobbie's Open House

After the family Christmas gathering at Bobbie's in 1979, a new tradition started with the annual open house at Bobbie's on Christmas Day. In addition to family, the Seneca neighbors and friends were added to the mix--Kennemuths, Conns, Keefers, and the wide variety of friends that came into our lives over the years. The food was amazing; the fellowship unsurpassed; and how can we take about those open houses without giving a nod to the live entertainment from Denny. So what song do you think those guys are singing? Note the picture of Grandma Reese and my Grandma Melat who were serving up a very runny blackberry pie.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ghost of Christmas at Bobbie's in Seneca

In 1979, the family Christmas celebration transitioned to Bobbie's house. That Christmas, the three Redmond sisters and their husband were together, possibly for the last time. We started the day opening presents at Grandma Reese's house and then later in the day reconvened at Bobbie's for a meal and a great time together. In the first picture, back, left to right, Ethel, Bob, Lois, and Dick; front, Hazel and Paul.

The other three pictures are snap shots of the family throughout the day. Note that Grandpa Green was there.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ghost of Christmas in Seneca

Bob and Ethel moved to Main Street, Seneca in 1942. A lot of Christmas' where celebrated in that house over the years. So many memories. One of my favorite Christmas pictures is the one of Bob, Betsy, Todd, Bobbie, and Terry at the Christmas Tree, taken around 1956.

Jumping to a Christmas which I guess was in 1973 with Grandpa and Grandma Redmond. Around the table from left to right, Bob, Dick, Lois, Ethel, Betsy, Todd, Grandma Redmond (Grandpa Redmond must have taken the picture). The second picture is of Grandpa Redmond, Todd, Ethel and Grandma Redmond.

Next we move ahead to about 1977 (based on how old Kory was); it was the advent of the artificial Christmas tree with the gold silk ornaments; remember the silver velour couch and love seat (although it looks gold in the picture); the "cherry picker" picker lamps that Grandma Reese made; and the fire place which had the changing season's picture above it--although it looks like Grandpa didn't change to the winter scene that year; and Betsy's dog Buffy and Todd's dog--what was his name? Was it Dusty--not to be confused with Dukie, that black dog of Todd's which as I remember it only snared at us kids...

Ah, memories...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ghost of Christmas on Park Avenue

In the 1950's Al and Myrtle built a new house on Park Avenue in Oil City. That house always held a great deal of interest for me, from the pink flamengos in the bathroom; the lake scene with the girl in the bikini in Grandpa's bedroom; the great basement with the pine paneling, and the ping pong table; the satin pillows on the back of the gold sofa in the living room; and at Christmas the amazing silver Christmas Tree with the rotating multi-color spot light! It is funny that I have seen those silver trees for sale in stores this year. Like bell-bottoms, I never thought I would see those come back into style! But the sight of them brought back very fond memories of Grandpa and Grandma Redmond!

The pictures of the Christmas meal at Grandpa and Grandma Redmond's house probably took place in the early 60s after Terry and Bobbie were married. Going around the table from left to right, Grandma Redmond, Ethel, Todd, Sharyn, Betsy, Dale, Lois, Dick, Grandpa Redmond or Bob.

This wouldn't be complete without pictures of Grandma and Grandpa Redmond's silver Christmas Tree.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ghost of Christmas Past

You will be visited by the spirits of Christmas Past over the next several days (he said for dramatic affect). For some, these will bring back memories of Christmas' past; and for others, these pictures will give us snapshots back in time of how our family has celebrated Christmas' over the years. From Christmas' at Grandma and Grandpa Redmond's houses in Oil City; to Bob and Ethel's in Seneca; to the Open Houses at Bobbie's, it is truly a journey through time. So touch the hem on my sleeve (ok, enough with the Dickens references), and we go to Grandma and Grandpa Redmond's house behind the shop on Grandview Road in Oil City, well, at least I think that is where these pictures were taken (some may have been taken at Bob and Ethel's house in Seneca). The first picture (one of my favorites) is of Al and Bob, perhaps playing with the kid's toys--note the Sno-Master sled and the television in the background; the second picture a very smiley Grandma Redmond in from of the Christmas tree--wonder who the present was for; and the third picture is of Bobbie and Todd decorating the Christmas tree with Grandpa Redmond.