Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stories Mom Told Me: Part 5, Aunt Rena and Uncle Tad

Mom and I were chatting the other morning and I mentioned how much I liked going to see Aunt Rena and Uncle Tad when I was a kid. We lived in various suburbs of Cleveland and they lived in Akron so a Sunday drive to see them was a reasonable thing to do and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Uncle Tad was Mom's mother's brother, and his proper name was Clarence Hampton Whetstone (1891-1976). Seems like all the boys in that family had given names along with the names they were always called... just to make genealogists crazy. Uncle Tad had married Tessie Hall, Mom said, who was born in Scotland. They had Alex, or Red, and Thelma before Tessie died in 1925 in Akron. It was then that he married Aunt Rena.  The 1930 US Census shows Uncle Tad and Red and Thelma living on Harrison Street with his then housekeeper, Rena Gralion, if I read that surname correctly. He's 38 and she's 25. He married her some time after that. I don't think Mom or I have ever looked into Rena's heritage and suspect that she's been overlooked because they had no children, or maybe because she was born in Scotland? That goes on the list of stuff to do.

Marring the housekeeper is kind of a pattern in our families, and maybe other families too. He did it and so did his father: first wife dies, hire a housekeeper and then marry her. Sometimes the kids don't fit in with the new family so well and get moved off, usually to grandparents who smother them in affection. Did your ancestors ever do that?

While checking records for this post, his WWI draft record was found online and he was already living in Akron in 1917 and working at a rubber plant. Interestingly, at least for me, in the 1920 US Census, he and Tessie are living with his in laws, Tessie's parents, James and Janet Hall who are 68 and 64. He's listed as "Clint", but we never heard him called that. Their first child, Alex, is listed as Alexander. I can not find this family in the 1940 US Census, but now I have Tad, Clint, and Clarence to search so maybe I didn't do a very thorough job of it.

You see, Tad had moved his family from Frostburg, Allegany, in Western Maryland to Akron to work in one of the rubber plants. He started work in that industry at the Kelly Springfield rubber and tire plant near Cumberland, Maryland. He was one of many young men who made the move north and slightly west to Cleveland or Akron. That was a northern migration pattern for many families in this area as industry dried up or simply expanded to other regions. Other families associated with the Celanese company, also near Cumberland, moved to the Carolinas when the big plant was built there. Knowing these two facts can help a wayward genealogist trying to track ancestors from this region.

I remember the house Aunt Rena and Uncle Tad lived in. It was a solid looking two story white and brick structure, sort of in the Craftsman style, with a screened in front porch. It was built on the corner of a double lot and there was a somewhat lavish garden in back with vegetables and flowers, and plantings on the side of the house. It looked very well-kept and prosperous in the middle-class neighborhood in which it was situated. We often played croquet in the ample yard on a warm summer day, and ate meals picnic style there too.

Mom and I both have a very distinct memory of Aunt Rena frying up mushrooms in a big cast iron skillet... in the basement. Yes, in the basement. I have no recollection of ever eating in any other place except the basement or the yard. Hmmm. Mom thought for a minute and then speculated: maybe Aunt Rena was a neat freak? A sweet and totally lovable neat freak. I do remember one time when I wandered into her dining room where the window was full of magical and tiny African violets, and she quickly came to supervise and warn me against touching. And I don't once remember her cooking in the actual kitchen or us eating inside, especially in the dining room. That said, I might have this all wrong! But Mom thinks Aunt Rena might have been a very, very fastidious housekeeper. We love her memory just the same and she's still family, even though the rest of us are tidy but certainly not freakishly neat:) And both Mom and I can still to this very day remember the smell of those delicious mushrooms being fried up by Aunt Rena. Yum!

Not a very good picture at all of Mom's mother, Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams, her brother Tad, Clarence Hampton Whetstone (1891-1976), and his second wife, our sweet Aunt Rena.

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