Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just love American Thanksgiving. It's the "everybody" holiday, and come one and all to share in a bountiful feast and give thanks. No one is left out, everyone welcome. And while we're at it, let's give thanks for what we have and take a moment to share with others.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a warm fun family time. Maybe share a family story or some fascinating bit of trivia about the ancestors. Eat hearty. See you back here after the turkey has worn off!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stories Mom Told Me: Part 3, Pots and pans

Here's what I'm doing with this little project, copied from the longer explanation on the Part 1 post:
I'll share some more stories Mom told me. You see I call Mom almost every morning and we do go on about family history. I keep notes on what she tells me in spiral notebooks. Now I have three fat ones brimming over with what Mom knows. Sometimes it's just a detail about our ancestors, a small event, or a note about what happened to whom and when. It's the kind of stuff that can easily get lost if a person doesn't write it down then and there.

So today's story is about pots and pans. This is a rather short one but it gave me a different picture into a time past so I'd like to share it with you.

Pots and pans

One fine morning back in June of this year I was talking to Mom by phone and the subject was cooking and kitchen stuff. I think that after our all-time favorite subject of family history, our second most favorite subject is food. You see, Mom always did love to cook and I think that we were possibly the only family in our suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, that ate French food even though we were far from French.

Mom was fearless in the kitchen and her favorite person, possibly of all times, was Julia Child, and when I look at Mom's cook book shelves, her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" is the most worn by far. As a matter of fact, I spent a goodly portion of my first grown-up pay check buying Mom "Larousse Gastronomique," that unparalleled resource for French cooking.

So if Mom was so high minded about her cooking, did she use some of the oldest pots and pans I've even seen?! Now, Mom, you know I love you, but really? Where did you get those really old pots and pans? I didn't know, so back in June I asked her.

During WWII, metal was used for the war effort. During this time, if you were setting up house as my parents were, the best you could do was to beg some cookery from relatives. New pots and pans were just not available. Too bad, you newly weds!

Just at the end of the war all manner of stuff became available again. The boys were back and they all wanted and needed jobs too, so that their wives could buy those things that were so scarce during the war. The new post-war economy was being born.

Dad's brother, Bernie, had met and married a lovely Boston lass right at the end of the war. Ruth Mullaney came from an Irish family too so she fit right into the madness that was the Kelly family and all six siblings. The commotion in Grandma Kelly's kitchen didn't phase her one bit. She was a beauty too, and everyone loved her right off.

Ruth and Mom became fast friends: two young brides making homes after the war. Ruth had a brother, Bill. After he left the service at the end of the war, and for a period of time, he sold pots and pans, sort of door to door. Both Ruth and Mom bought a full set from Bill, of course.

There were three pots and two skillets and lids for each. The set cost $40 and that was a lot of money then. But they were brand new! A treasure.

Bottom line, Mom still has them and uses them all the time, and has done so for the last 70 years! How many family meals have been cooked on them, I can't even begin to calculate. But it has averaged out to 57 cents a year:) Good bargain, Mom!


Two of the three brothers, off to war:
John Delbert Kelly (1920-2013), Dad, Francis Patrick Kelly (1916-2007), and Bernard Michael Kelly (1918-2007). Dad stayed home because of physical issues.

Bernie on leave after basic training.
Mom and Bernie contribute to the War effort.

Mom must have taken this picture because she's the one missing! Back row: Dad, Grandma and Grandpop Kelly, Bernie and Ruth who was expecting Cousin Cynthia.
Cousin Mike and I ham it up for the camera.
Holiday fun: Bernie, Ruth, Aunt Louise, and Uncle Harry.
Can you tell this is one of those old Polaroid pictures?!

Stories Mom Told Me: Part 2, Their first car and my coal miner grandpop

Here's what I'm doing with this little project, copied from the longer explanation on yesterday's post:
I'll share some more stories Mom told me. You see I call Mom almost every morning and we do go on about family history. I keep notes on what she tells me in spiral notebooks. Now I have three fat ones brimming over with what Mom knows. Sometimes it's just a detail about our ancestors, a small event, or a note about what happened to whom and when. It's the kind of stuff that can easily get lost if a person doesn't write it down then and there.

That will serve as an introduction to each of these posts so you don't have to repeat read it all:) Then we can get right down to business. Today's story is about Mom and Dad's first car and some of the many things they did with it.

Their first car and my coal miner Grandpop.

This morning when I chatted with Mom by phone it was 14 degrees and there was snow on the ground... and it's only November. Just what you might expect of a place named Frostburg (although the naming was for a citizen named Frost) located in the mountains of Western Maryland. It gets cold in winter and can stay that way for weeks on end. I remember just a couple of years ago when a snow and ice storm blew through and everyone lost power for ten days. Folks plan ahead for such emergencies and stock up on staples that can be cooked on a gas stove. As you drive around and look at back porches, they invariably contain a BBQ grill fueled by a propane tank that can be used when electrical service goes out due to an ice storm that takes down power lines. So too might you find that a lot of homes have wood burning fireplaces or furnaces that are relied on in just such an eventuality. Heck, Aunty Betty's house has three (yes, you read that right) furnaces: an old coal furnace, and an oil and an electric furnace... just in case. These people know what they are dealing with!

So, all that by way of saying that winters can get very nasty in Frostburg. It's just a fact of life. I know this and when I read Mom's stories - which were posted here recently - and she talks about walking everywhere, I remember how cold it gets and what it means to walk the three miles or so from her parent's home down to Eckhart Flats to go dancing. Brrr!

Now I do know for a fact that Grandpop Kelly (Dad's father) hated the cold. I know that it's not quite PC today to use the "h" word, but I have to tell you, he HATED the cold! He was a thin man and had health issues and could never seem to get warm. In the 1950s Mom and Dad sent him to Miami on the train to spend time with his sister Edith and her family. He loved that trip and when he returned he told Grandma that they were going to sell the house and move down with Edith. It was only then that Grandma - who hated the heat - told him that the house her father, Gus Zeller (1858 - 1927), left to her when he died was only in HER name! Mom thinks Grandpop didn't speak to Grandma for like a month! They did finally make peace and returned to being the love birds they always were.

Well, long about 1940, Dad bought a car. A 1930-something Chevy with a rumble seat. I don't have a photo of it but here's an image from Wikimedia Commons of a 1931 Ford with a rumble seat, just so that all you kids who aren't familiar with such a thing can see it. Looks comfortable, doesn't it? Or not! Especially in ice and snow.

File:1931 Ford Model A roadster rumble seat.JPG

Grandpop Kelly worked in the coal mines during those years, and there were many in and around the Frostburg area. Grandpop had been a brakeman on the electric railroad or trolley in the 1910 US Census, when he was 18 and still living with his parents, Frank Kelly (1854-1923), then a conductor on the same electric railroad, and Cristiana (Eckhart) Kelly (1861-1932), then residing in Eckhart, Maryland. His brother Frank Jr. was already working in the coal mines. He married Grandma, Helen (Zeller) Kelly (1894-1985) on 30 September 1913.

By time of the 1920 census they were living at 230 Mechanic Street in Frostburg proper, and Grandpop was working as an electrician in the coal mines. Dad was just three years old then and his young brother Bernie was a bit over two years old.

The 1930 US Census finds the Kelly family living at 93 N. Union Street (the old name for West Main Street... yeah, confusing, right) next door to the Zeller matriarch, Moretta, who lived at 95. Her house was worth $5500 and Grandpop was paying $15 a month rent to live in the house next door that she owned. Now he's working as a motorman in the coal mine.

The 1940 US Census finds them living at 89 West Main Street (which was remaned and renumbered from Union Street) and Grandpop is simply listed as a "laborer" in the coal mine. Dad is working at the "silk mill", or the Celanese fibers company. It was his first real job. So it's just about this time that Dad bought his first car. (And, you should know, he was living with his parents and Mom was living with hers and no one knew they were married.)

So I'm chatting with Mom and she mentions that when they got their first car they would pick up Grandpop from the coal mine and drive him home. She also says he worked at a mine locally called "Shaft".

I am guessing here, but after consulting the coal fields map online,  here, and based on what Mom said, that he must have worked at a mine near Frostburg, about 5 or 6 miles away called "Shaft". I find Borden Shaft and that's too far away to be the one he worked in, but no other named shaft mines, per se. But you see that can be confusing because most of the coal mines in the area were slope or drift mines, in other words the mine tunnel was built on a slant into the hillside. Shaft mines were dug straight down with tunnels off to the side, were not the norm, so if the typical shaft tunnel mine was dug it got called "shaft."

Well the point of this story is not the various coal mines in the area and how they were worked but about the difficulty of the work itself. Mom said that Grandpop walked the 5 or 6 miles to work in the morning and then walked those same 5 or 6 miles back at night, rain or snow. Yeah, think about that: rain or snow... even in 14 degree weather. He'd get home soaked to the skin or practically frozen. And all after working in the coal mine all day.

In 1940 he was 48 years of age, and still working those long hours, feeling lucky I suppose, to have the work. The Great Depression years were very hard on this area and work was scarce, but Grandpop and his boys always found worked. And none of his sons ended up working in the mines. They went on to better things.

Because he had been a brakeman on the electric railroad, it's not too large a leap to him working as an electrician for a shaft mine operation where electricians were needed to keep the lifts running. Then in 1930 he's listed as a motorman. That sounds OK to me too because I've found that electricians and motormen earned a per hour wage whereas the laborers who dug the mines were paid by the ton of coal they dug, and that was hard dirty work. I'm a bit concerned for him when I read him listed as a "laborer" in the 1940 census. What did that mean? Was the enumerator simply following some guidelines that weren't very specific? Or was he a common laborer digging coal in the mine? That would have been the hardest work of all.

So when Dad got his first car one of the first things he did with it was go pick his father up after work at the coal mines. Nice.

Grandpop Kelly, John Lee Kelly, about 1913, with his family.
Probably a wedding portrait.

Grandpop Kelly with his kids, about 1920.
With daughter Louise, about 1930.
1942: Family pictures before the boys leave for WWII.
Grandpop is on the right.
On the Miami trip, mid 1950s.\
Also on the Miami trip.

1956, with my brother, Cleveland Ohio.

In Frostburg, about 1960.

The URL for this post is:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stories Mom Told Me: Part 1, Pepper is a Whetstones thing

Mom has written up some memories and we've put them together in a book form, with a lot of photos, to make sharing easy. She wrote them years ago in those stenographer's notebooks that she took to libraries and court houses when she went to do genealogy research in years past. She was a good note taker and we've been able to piece together sources for almost every bit of information we looked at in her files. You see, she only did her genealogy for herself and never intended to share it, so sources were recorded on the fly just to help her find her way back to where she first saw a thing. But I digress.

When Mom had a memory of her life and was in a writing mood she'd grab one of those steno books and write it down on blank pages in the back. I noticed the steno books last spring on a visit to see Mom and she read me a couple of stories. I knew then that they should be shared. Over the last ten days I've posted them to this blog.

That done, I think I'll share some more stories Mom told me. You see I call Mom almost every morning and we do go on about family history! I keep notes on what she tells me in spiral notebooks. Now I have three fat ones brimming over with what Mom knows. Sometimes it's just a detail about our ancestors, a small event, or a note about what happened to whom and when. It's the kind of stuff that can easily get lost if a person doesn't write it down then and there.

So here goes, and in no particular order. I'll just work my way back through my "Conversations with Mom" notebooks in a first attempt to get it down in writing, or rather typing. Might be said that it's going to be just a wild basket of kittens!

Stories Mom Told Me: Part 1, Pepper loving Whetstones

I was standing in the kitchen here in our home in San Diego, California, on a cold and rainy winter day a while back. It was a soup or stew day, for sure. We love how a good soup makes the house smell like a home, don't you? When I first got married Mom gave me some tips about cooking and marriage. Men like meat. When you start any cooking that's not a cake, begin with sautéing onions and garlic because it makes the house smell wonderful. Over the years and through all of the vagaries of life, there has been one constant: every savory meal is likely to start with onions and garlic!

As my soup (or stew, I forget) got going and was into the seasoning stage about 45 minutes before it landed on the table, I grabbed for the pepper. Lots of pepper. Love it. I put pepper on everything. So does Mom. We love pepper. I've been criticized for adding too much of it to salads, roasts, and soups. Every beef dish turns into Steak au poivre! It just seems right.

Just as I made this observation, I reached out and grabbed for the phone: let's call Mom and find out about why we love pepper! She said immediately, "That's a Whetstone thing. My grandfather Whetstone put pepper on everything, and lots of it too. So did my Mama. We all love pepper."

What about the Kellys? Do they like pepper like that, I inquired about Dad's side of the family. I wanted to know this because my Grandma Kelly was a wonderful cook and an exceptional baker of sweets. Her wilted spring greens would have made a New York City chef weep! Sauté up some bacon to crispy, remove from the iron skillet (you know the ones, all black) add some vinegar and a dash of sugar swirl in the hot pan and let come to a small boil, then add the greens. The greens wilt immediately, but cover the skillet and take off the heat. The objective is to wilt not cook them, and that's a delicate matter. If overcooked those fresh spring greens can turn bitter and that's no good at all.

Nope, said Mom, pepper is a Whetstone thing. Even a cousin of mine through the Whetstone line says she loves pepper! I wonder how many Whetstone descendants are out there today grabbing for the pepper instead of the salt?

I wondered if there were health benefits associated with black pepper and sure enough, there are. You can see one write-up here and another one here. From the looks of it, pepper, and that's common black pepper that we usually have on the table or in a pepper grinder, is full of antioxidants, and promotes digestion and absorption. Piperine is a substance in it that is known to be a little powerhouse of an item that often works synergistically (especially with turmeric, which I'm willing to bet the Whetstones din not use) to enhance anti-inflammatory properties of other good nutritious foods.

Now I'm wondering if this use of pepper isn't adaptive and old Joseph E Whetstone (1816-1897) and even his father, Jacob Whetstone Junior (1776 - 1889) used pepper to protect from strange intestinal troubles out on the frontier of Western Maryland?  And as an added bonus, it kept arthritis and other inflammatory type ailments at bay? Pretty smart, those Whetstones!

Me on right with cousins, sons of Mom's sister: all pepper lovers.

Mom: possibly the biggest pepper lover of us all!

Mom's mother, Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams (1897 - 1956) with her brothers, pepper lovers, all!
Pepper lover:
Mom's grandfather Whetstone and her mother's father, Joseph H. Whetstone (1858 - 1939), on the right in his Frostburg Fire Department uniform. Recent news from the FFD historian indicates that his hat says "Assistant Chief."

Joseph H's father, Joseph E Whetstone (1816-1897.)
Another pepper lover? I'm willing to bet.

The URL for this post is:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stories from Mom: My thoughts

Well, you've been reading stories by my Mom, Virginia W. Kelly. I hope that you enjoyed them. Of course we in the family think she's wonderful and know that we're so very lucky to have her stories. But we're even luckier to have her!

As I posted each section and read it once more, I noticed details that I'd previously missed, and I'd like to share my thoughts about them with you now.


Mom, Easter, 1942.

Part 1
Spittoon: Mom says that she remembers her grandfather Williams using a spittoon. Does anyone use those anymore? I don't know, but one rarely sees them now except in old movies! It's little details of daily life like this that tickle my fancy.
Kidney failure: Grandfather Williams died of kidney failure. I wonder if he could have been helped by dialysis? So many modern medical advances save us all the time and extend life or outright save it. We are lucky to be living now... or are we? Did we give up anything for it?
The awful uncles: How interesting to read about the awful uncles working jointly to make Mom's young life a torture. I think it hit her so hard because they were much older and simply having a good time but meanwhile they were not protecting her. Uncle Tuck, Mom's admitted favorite, was one of the three. Funny how things work out.
People kept chickens and used them for eggs, meat, feathers and killed them, all at home! I live in Dan Diego, California, and quite recently here the city ordinances about keeping chicken at home changed to allow modest and small urban chicken keeping at home. No roosters! Everyone kept chickens back then and when prosperity and modernization came everyone got rid of smelly, messy chickens and went to the store to buy what they needed.
Distemper and the hunting dog: If a dog got distemper or rabies they had to be shot. Everyone then kept a gun and most still do in those parts. Shooting a sick or lame animal was the most merciful solution.
Sister Evelyn dies of diphtheria: Diphtheria is another disease of yesteryear. Had to ask Mom what diphtheria was. She also mentioned that all the kids had it, at least in her family and that she remembers having it too.
Aunt Edna dies of tuberculosis: Mom loved her Aunt Edna. Edna was a young almost woman when Mom was a little girl and it's a wonder that Mom didn't contract TB too. As Mom mentioned, Edna gave her lovely paper dolls that Mom still has. Nice.

Part 2
Christmas and oranges, crowd of adults and kids. What? They gave out oranges? Why? Well, because scurvy which comes from a lack of vitamin C and often happened during winter time, was a problem then. Do you ever see very old people with severely bowed legs? That might have been scurvy.
Lived with grandparents when little: Mom writes that they lived with her Whetstone grandparents when she was little and then moved to a rented house when she was about six years old. That was very common then in Western Maryland and is still done. When Mom and Dad got married they just kept it a secret until they could move out and into an apartment which was quite a trick because it was during WWII when housing was scarce.
No inside plumbing: Even I remember a couple of outhouses and back yard water pumps in Frostburg and that was probably in the 1950s. Now it's hard to imaging awakening in the middle of the night to make a cold trip to a frozen outhouse!
Street name changes: Loo Street to College Avenue. Yeah, they did that then. You ever have a problem with street names, or even town names, changing? Can make us crazy!
Congregational Church:  Also called the Welsh Congregational Church. Still going strong after all these years, and now in a new brick building. Nice to see this sort of continuity.
Paved over cobblestones: I noted that when Mom was a kid they were then paving over the cobblestone streets. Interesting because her grandfather Whetstone was a stonemason who helped lay those cobblestone street in Frostburg!
Mr. Byer's horse drawn home delivery meat wagon and free samples: Seriously envious! What wouldn't you give to have some good old fashioned home delivery of fresh meats? And I can't even begin to describe the deliciousness of good old Frostburg "baloney", also called Engle's Balogna! It's legendary.

Part 3
Mom loves to read and always did: Mom loves to read, her mother loved to read and I like to read. Going back through the generations, the Whetstone line were all readers and we have testament to that from the 1860s due to a letter written by Mom's 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Wooten Waggoner Yeast Durst (1818-1870). That was a time when women in Western Maryland were not usually literate. Even our literacy has a pedigree;)
Playing games in the middle of the road: I do remember when it was safe in Frostburg to play or ride a sled in the streets. You wouldn't want to do that now!!
Being poor and sharing skates: One of the things I like best about Mom's stories is the flavor of neighborliness and friendship that runs through them. I do know that not all of Mom's extended family feel this way because I've emailed a cousin who was a kid with Mom and remembers it differently as not the best of times. I guess it just depends on your family and how they handled hard times. Mom often says, we were real poor but we didn't even know it because everyone had the same and everyone shared what they had no matter how little it was. I guess shared joy and pain is just easier to bear.

Part 4
Mushrooms. Seriously, it's a wonder that Mom didn't die! But Uncle Tuck knew what he was doing and many of Mom's male relatives were superb woodsmen.
Scavenging for food. People did and still do scavenge the woods for rare food stuffs and delicacies in Western Maryland. Black walnuts from wild trees are still around but much more rare than even 20 years ago due to a blight, but people know were they are and take them. Wild greens in the spring are very tasty too. Wild berries are small but wonderfully delicious as Mom writes about in Part 8, and Mom even has a small patch in her yard now.

Part 5
School closing:  When I was a kid we listened to first the radio and later the television for school closings, but Mom and her family and friends didn't have that technology until later. So what did they do? Used their best judgment, conferred with friends, and then decided if they could make it. "Best judgment"... does anyone even have that anymore??

Part 6
The old haunts: Gus Harris, the Duchess, the Princess, the movie theatre. Well some of these are gone now. It's rather disturbing when you revisit an old haunt and it's not there anymore, isn't it? Gus Harris and the Duchess are now gone and a part of Frostburg history, but the Princess Restaurant carries on. If you have a moment click on the link for the Princess and you'll see the history there. President Truman and Bess stopped there on a road trip they made in 1953. A plaque marks the cozy booth (with jukebox) where they dined. By the time they finished their meal, most of the town had gathered outside to welcome them, or so I hear. Just noticed on their web site that they now have Wi-Fi!
The movie theatre has opened and closed so many times I've lost count. Mostly it's kept the name Palace Theatre. Now it plays second run movies, hosts local theatre and civic group presentations and whatever else the town needs and wants.
And "some place in Eckhart Flats":  You see, Eckhart Flats was at the very bottom of town and Mom and her friends walked everywhere and they loved walking as she often mentions in her stories. Winter or summer, they all walked to where they wanted to go. Maybe that's why Mom has always had such great legs...?
WWII losses:  Yeah, guys didn't come back from war, and still don't. I remember when we first moved to Cleveland in 1952 and coming back to Frostburg, we visited a woman who had lost her husband in the war. Sad. Mom doesn't remember this so maybe it was one of Dad's friends.
Mr Davis farm in town: What I would give to see that! A cow right in a back yard and a pig too.

Part 7
Taking care of neighbors: This is a constant theme of Mom's stories, taking care of each other. She recognized this quality in those around her and how generously everyone shared what they had as well as their skills. You knew your neighbors and their family and friends. Heck, they were all friends. Those who lived near you, your own relatives, their relatives, and of course the church members: all close as close could be.
FSU expansion: Sometime I'll have to write about Frostburg State University, it's history and its relationship with the town and town folk. While "the College" as locals call it, has not always been the best of neighbors, it has offered employment, education and cultural activities to this small mountain town. Full time residents now number about 5,000 and FSU has at times close to 10,000 students. It wasn't always this way. Back about 1900 the College was tiny and the community around Frostburg and adjacent villages numbered 15,000 residents. The history of the thing traces a path of gobbling up people's homes.
Grandma Chaney's stories of life on the farm: Stories of long age farm life fascinate me. By the time Grandma Chaney was telling Mom her farm life stories that way of life was all but gone.

Part 8
Walking and strawberries: I just love the way Mom can enjoying the small and good things in life that make a sweet memory and then calling on them later. I think this story is one of my favorites for that very reason. This is a treasure for me:
Often now when I get chilled I put myself back to another time and place when that little girl was at peace with the world and ‘oh so warm and happy.’ I can then become as that little girl and once again be ‘oh so warm and happy’.

Part 9
Brady's Creek is no more: I remember Brady's Creek and when I attended FSU, one spring afternoon, I wandered it just as Mom had as a girl. It was small and was one of the prettiest little mountain streams you'd ever want to see. It's gone underground, under the new housing at FSU.

Part 10
Nothing really needs be said about Mom's story of camping on the Potomac River ... for three generations. Peaches are still excellent, big, and super sweet if you get them at the right time, and yes, they were so delicious you'd think at the first bite you could eat the entire bushel yourself. Corn too.
The river still floods but people got smarter over the years and went from tents to stilt cabins, to RVs.
Outhouses are still a feature, if they don't get washed out by spring floods.
And I'm willing to bet that crafty teens and pre-teens are still trying smoking on summer nights.
And yes, we all still love the River!

Now, Mom didn't make a big deal of it and you might have even missed it but let me draw your attention to an index she compiled of all the tombstones in St Michael's Cemetery. Over many months she faithfully walked there, notebook in hand, and made a complete inventory of the tombstones and what information they provided. She typed it up and took it to the printers and had it printed and bound. The she offered it for sale at cost to any genealogist who needed it. This was of course long before the personal computer, the internet, and our dear friend and constant companion, Find A Grave. That's my Mom!

You can read Mom's stories here:
Part 1: Those were the days my friend, we though they'd never end
Part 2: Center Street
Part 3: Summertime on Center Street
Part 4: Mushrooms!
Part 5: Fall and Winter on Center Street
Part 6: Growing up
Part 7: Friends and neighbors, life and death on Center Street
Part 8: Walking and strawberries
Part 9: Brady's Creek.
Part 10: The Potomac River

Mom and Dad in Ireland, 1987.

Mom in Wales.

Mom, recently, on a spring ride in Western Maryland.

The URL for this post is:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stories from Mom: Epilogue

By Virginia Williams Kelly

I fell when I was 87 and broke my pelvis and that ended my walking days. I should have and could have continued, but I became lazy and it was much easier to drive so drive I did. But walking was a great time to contemplate on life, yours or someone else’s. It is also a good time to plan and dream.
On one of those walking days I walked thru the Catholic Cemetery in Frostburg and remembered that I had great grandparents buried there with no stone to mark their grave so I decided to put in book form the stones that were there. It took me over 2 years of nice weather to finish my project and publish it. I only live a half mile from my home to the cemetery so I always walked there and back and really enjoyed those days.

But I enjoy my days right now. I hope that you too enjoy every day because each one is a blessing.

November, 2013

Those were the days my friend

I thought they’d never end!

That's me on the left, Mama, my sister Dot, and our brother Camey. I guess Dad was taking the photo.

Dot on the left, me, my best friend then and now Ollie Coleman, and Mama.

Me, my grandmother and my mother's mother Catherine Elizabeth (House) Whetstone (1865 - 1947), Mama, and my sister Dot.

Me, 1938.

You can read more of Mom's stories here:
Part 1: Those were the days my friend, we though they'd never end
Part 2: Center Street
Part 3: Summertime on Center Street
Part 4: Mushrooms!
Part 5: Fall and Winter on Center Street
Part 6: Growing up
Part 7: Friends and neighbors, life and death on Center Street
Part 8: Walking and strawberries
Part 9: Brady's Creek.
Part 10: The Potomac River

The URL for this post is:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stories from Mom: Part 10, The Potomac River

The Potomac River.
This photo was taken by my nephew, JC Williams in the spring of 2012.
The location is right in the area where we liked to camp.

By Virginia Williams Kelly

I have had a lifetime love affair with the Potomac River. The happiest childhood memories, by far, are the summer vacations we spent on the Potomac River. Each year around the middle of July our family took a week’s vacation and it was always spent on the river. Dad had an old Ford with a running board and as we left Frostburg we were loaded down with all the essentials needed for a week of camping on the river. One summer we had an unfortunate thing happen to us. We had a flat tire and since a lot of our stuff was on the running board, including our extra tire my Dad had to unload everything to get to the tire and it made for a very uncomfortable time for a while.

We had tents that were set up on the river banks and as soon as we got there and as the tents were up we were allowed to go into them and get into our bathing suits and head for the river. Oh how happy we were as the river met our bodies and even though it was cold we never realized it because we were that happy to be there. After we stayed in the river until we were really cold we headed for the tents and what a blessed feeling it was to enter that ever so hot tent and let it warm ourselves. Just lying on our towels was ‘heaven on earth’.

In the meantime Dad was fishing for our dinner and since he was an expert at fishing we always had a nice fish dinner in the evening. Sometimes he would go ‘gigging’ for frogs and then we would have a nice mess of frog legs for our dinner. I know that this does not seem very appetizing to many today but to us it was a veritable feast.

Since it was summer and they had many orchards in West Virginia our parents always bought us a bushel of ripe peaches and we always thought they were the largest most juicy peaches ever.

Since we were allowed to eat as many of them as we wanted I think the families had a few children complaining of a stomach ache. We also had our fill of fresh corn on the cob and we could buy fresh country butter for it, which was always a great treat since we could not afford it at home. There we only had margarine which we called Oleo, and we had to color it with a yellow dye which always came with it. You worked it in the margarine with your hands, and that was a mess, I always thought. I hated that job and I disliked it with a passion.

We always went with another family, the Conrad’s, namely Pete, Elsie his wife and Max, Mae, Betty and Harold. Harold was my sister’s one and only love and they were married later on and lived a very happy life with their two sons Harold Jr. called Butch and Stephan. These two families got along very well and spent many years together on vacations. 

One episode I can remember I call the “cigarette caper” was when the girls, all early teen-agers, decided to smoke a cigarette. Because Pete was the only smoker we raided his pack of Lucky Strikes and tried our luck at smoking. We were four girls all about the same age, give a year or two apart. We walked up the road a little way from the camp and lit up our cigarette with each trying to take a puff or two. No one got sick because we didn’t inhale. We finally put it out and then got the bright idea of saving it until next year so we buried the stub in some leaves and walked home. Talk about naïve, stupid young girls: that was us.

We also had inner tubes from old cars which we inflated and we would walk with them up the river as far as we could go and then float down the river and do this exercise many times a day. Oh, how great it was to drift along, with not a care in the world and dream, dream, dream. At least that is what I did.
We vacationed along that river for many, many years and as our families grew and we got married we had another generation to introduce to the river and they fell in love with it as much as we did. My sister Dot and Harold and their family bought a cottage on the river and that is where my children spent their vacations. We lived in Cleveland, Ohio and it was great to have the river to go to each year with our children and they all learned to love it. My son had bad allergies and he also loved to sit around the camp fire at night but the night air was very conducive to bringing on the worst of his allergies. Since he was only two years old, the only way we could get him to bed was to put him in the car and drive him around until he fell asleep, so that is what my sister and I did each night.

Our older three children were all close in age, cousins, and they were teen agers together. There was a very large rock on the other side of the river where it was very deep so they would swim over to it climb up the back side of it and sun themselves and then when they got too warm dive into the river to cool off. They spent many, many hours on that rock. Today they still talk about what a wonderful time they had there.
But as time has a way of moving on the children grew up, married and had families of their own. And then we had several storms so severe that the cottage was washed away, never to be built again.
Today we still go to the river and still see the old rock and watch the people that now camp where we used to. They have mobile campers so that when the rains come they can move their homes away from the storms until it gets nice again.

There's Dad fishing. We all loved to fish!
Cambria "Camey" Williams (1897-1960).
That's me fishing. My brother took this picture. I was about 18.
 That's Dad and the truck that took us to the river. The running boards were always loaded.
Here's another photo taken by JC of the river near where we camped. 
And here's the big rock everyone lounged on and dove off.
That's Mama on the left with me and Dot. Possibly Elsie Conrad on the right.
Here's our family with the Fuller family sitting on the big rock. That's Mama on the upper left and me sitting just to her right, with my brother Camey below. Next to me and to the right is my sister Dot. That's Mrs. Fuller (Helen) on the upper right and Dick hanging on her neck. Sitting in front is Helen's daughter.
That's me, the tallest one on the left, with my sister Dot and our little brother Camey. Some other kid, possibly one of the Fullers, is holding the fish up. That's Dad's truck in the background.

The URL for this post is:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stories from Mom: Part 9, Brady's Creek

Frostburg, Maryland. Where I grew up.

By Virginia Williams Kelly

Brady’s Creek in that same area was another favorite spot of mine. Since spring and summer were two of my favorite times, I always waited for the first thaw when the ground was still hard but the ice on the little creek was breaking up and we had lots of water flowing in the creek. It was then, on Saturday, that I love to put on my boots and head for the creek. All I really did was walk for miles jumping back and forth from one rock to another across the creek. Sometimes I even made it across without the rocks. Now this creek was not very large but then neither was I so we fit together very well, the creek and I. Today, much of the creek has gone and been put underground into pipes. Such is progress. But the memories linger and cannot be erased as the creek was by time.


You can read previous post of Mom's stories here:
Part 1: Those were the days my friend, we though they'd never end
Part 2: Center Street
Part 3: Summertime on Center Street
Part 4: Mushrooms!
Part 5: Fall and Winter on Center Street
Part 6: Growing up
Part 7: Friends and neighbors, life and death on Center Street
Part 8: Walking and strawberries

The URL for this post is:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stories from Mom: Part 8, Walking and strawberries

By Virginia Williams Kelly

I always loved to walk not for my health but just because I enjoy it so much. Walking is a good time to contemplate on life, mine, yours, ours or someone else’s. It is also a time to plan and dream.

I'm 95 years old now and don't walk as much I did. I always loved to walk thru the Catholic Cemetery and I have one particular grave that I visited often and that is Father Montgomery, our late pastor of St. Michael’s Church and a dear friend. I always stopped to say “hello, and how are you?” telling him what a wonderful day it is and to "take care". That’s all. I don’t know whether that message ever gets to him but it certainly makes me feel better. I continued down to McDonald’s where I met a friend and have coffee with her and then leave to walk home, all together about 3 miles every day and I really enjoyed that time.

Many memories came back to me as I walk. I remember being 7 years old and "skinny" as the relatives all said. It was an extremely beautiful summer day, not a cloud in the sky and the birds and flowers abounded. I decided to take a walk thru the fields in back of my grandfather’s house to the stream, but I didn’t get very far. The field called to me and I plopped right down in the middle of it and lay on my back for what seemed a long time. I can even today feel that sun warming my bones and what a delicious feeling that was. A few clouds finally wended their way across the sky and once in a while a bird flew overhead but I heard not a sound from anywhere else. It was as if I were suspended in time in some nether land. Often now when I get chilled I put myself back to another time and place when that little girl was at peace with the world and ‘oh so warm and happy.’ I can then become as that little girl and once again be ‘oh so warm and happy’.

Small things like seeing the first ripe strawberry in the market in late spring can set off a nice memory. We lived near the old Braddock Trail in Western Maryland, now long gone, but at the end of my Grandfather’s property someone had erected a stone commemorating Braddock’s March. At the time I first found it, the wildflowers and meadow grass were abundant.

One day as I was inspecting it I found the most delicious strawberries at the base of that stone. To my young eyes they were every bit as large as the ones we see in the market today. Of course I know that I like to savor that dream of yesteryear. 

For many years after, I looked forward to a fine feast of strawberries every spring. But as time has a habit of doing, things change, the house my grandfather built and lived in for many years is now occupied by Pullen School at Frostburg State University, and Braddock’s Stone occupies a prominent place at the Frostburg Museum. But I know that no one else has such a good memory of that stone and the land surrounding it.

St. Michael's Cemetery in Frostburg Maryland.
This is my husband's great grandfather's stone.
John Patrick Kelly was born in 1829 in Shannonbridge Ireland and died in 1891 in Eckhart, Maryland.

The photos below are of the old Braddock Stone, now residing at the Frostburg Museum.

You can read previous post of Mom's stories here:

Part 6: Growing up
Part 7: Friends and neighbors, life and death on Center Street

The URL for this post is: