Monday, December 23, 2013

Stories Mom Told Me: Aunt Marg and her fashion sense

Mom loved Aunt Marg, I can tell from the way she talks about her. You see, Aunt Marg was Mom's mother's sister, Margaret Ann (Whetstone) Wilson Brown (1902-1996). She was born in that little mountain town I write about all the time where our ancestors lived for so many generations, in Allegany County, Maryland. It must have been quite a change of environment for her when she moved from Western Maryland to Akron.

Mom says that Aunt Marg moved there and lived with her sister Aunt Grace, Grace Elizabeth (Whetstone) Knowles (1893-1959) near her brother and Mom's Uncle Tad. (The last post was about Uncle Tad and Aunt Rena.) Even Mom went to stay for a while with Aunt Grace, just before she met Dad, but that's another story for another time. Aunt Grace and Uncle Frank had two children, Charles and Jean.

Aunt Marg got a job at O'Neils's department store in women's fashions in downtown Akron. It was the start of the great age of downtown department stores and the ladies fashion department must have seemed almost heaven for Aunt Marg who dearly love high style.

Mom doesn't know exactly what happened but at some point, Aunt Marg split from her first husband, who she met and married in Akron, Frank Brown (1898-1996). They had two children, David and Doris. Mom said that David died young but Doris grew up, got married (perhaps to someone named Clarence and that's yet to investigate), and moved to California and worked in a candy store. It was after that Aunt Marg married "Uncle Cec" (pronounced like cease, and I really don't know how else to spell it), Cecil Wilson.

Looking at the 1920 US Census for Marg and Frank Brown is fascinating. They are living at 40 S. 14th Street in a house with two other couples, aged 49, 49, 28, and 28. Marg is 18 and Frank is 20 and it says that he was born in Scotland to a Scottish father and Irish mother. When I review the others living at this residence (and none are listed as borders) the only other person who has the Scottish/Irish parents is Amelia Craig, 49, listed as "mother-in-law. It's a jumble to me, and if I had infinite time I might try to unravel this ball of yarn. Maybe sometime, but not today. By the way, Frank is working at the rubber plant as are the two other men in the residence, and you might remember that Uncle Tad moved to Akron to work in the rubber plant.

Well, whatever happened between Aunt Marg and Frank happened, and they split.  She then married Uncle Cecil Wilson and they resided in Akron. Mom remembers that he sold sewing machines. His hands were meticulously kept and that interested Mom because she could see that he didn't work with them as other of her male relatives did. He was a classy man, Mom said.

Eventually Marg and Cecil moved to Indianapolis to take better advantage of his work.  Marg worked in a big department store there too. Aunt Marg was by then a "city lady", very sophisticated, and knew about the latest fashions and dressed in them, always in the best of taste.

During her high school years, Mom received the benefits of boxes of clothing sent by Aunt Marg to her sister and Mom's mother, Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams (1897-1956). People did that then, and still do. A bunch of our neighbors who have small and growing children exchange boxes and bags of clothing regularly. By the time of Mom's high school years which happened during the Great Depression, those boxes of clothing gained enormous value. Mom and her sister Dot looked forward to the mysterious treasures that might arrive by parcel post!

Emma taught Mom and Dot how to sew, as all the mothers of all the town's girls did. If you wanted a new outfit you were most likely going to sew it yourself. And if you got a hand-me-down from an older relative or close friend, it probably needed altering to your own measurements. Sewing was a "must have" skill for young girls in Frostburg where Mom and her family lived.

In one of those boxes from Aunt Marg was a fabulous pair of brown suede high heeled shoes. Mom loved those shoes and thought of them as the height of sophistication. She wore those shoes in sun, rain and snow. Probably dried them out in the open oven as people did then. Wore them right out and through the sole. No worries! Mom cut up the cardboard that came in the shredded wheat box that  separated the biscuits... and wore them some more.

When Mom graduated high school in 1936, she rode on the bus to spend two weeks with Aunt Marg and Uncle Cec in Indianapolis. Maybe it was more than two weeks as Mom is 95 and can't quite remember. It was quite an adventure. I'm thinking that the time spent with Aunt Marg was a sort of finishing school for Mom and was instrumental in developing her fashion sense. Even to this day, Mom remarks how stylish Aunt Marg was and how well she knew clothes and hair and how to wear them!

Aunt Marg came to visit when Mom and her sister Dot were young women, wearing a fur coat. It was a total sensation! Aunt Marg kindly let the girls borrow it so that they could walk up and down Main Street in Frostburg, taking turns in it. All the boys, Mom said, asked and asked where they got such a treasure. They shrugged and walked on.

Aunt Marg died in Indianapolis at the age of 91. I almost feel that I knew her because of Mom sharing memories. I think that I would have liked her very, very much.

Back says, "October 23, 1939, Lafayette, Indiana.
Daddy Cec, David Leroy Mathew, Mumie Wilson."
Maybe it was written by daughter Doris?
This photo is confusing!

Aunt Marg and Uncle Brownie with new baby, probably David. No date.

Just found this one: Aunt Grace, Uncle Tad and Mom's Grandmother Whetstone.
Grace Elizabeth (Whetstone) Knowles (1893-1959), "Tad", Clarence Hampton Whetstone (1891-1976), and their mother "Kate" Catherine Elizabeth (House) Whetstone (1865 - 1947).

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