Sunday, July 31, 2011

Aunt Eleanor's Journal, November 29, 1981

I only knew my Aunt Eleanor as a white-haired, old woman. She was my grandmother's sister. I never knew my grandmother as she died when my mother was six years old. Aunt Eleanor's granddaughter, Patti, asked her to write her autobiography. Aunt Eleanor began to write about her early life after her great-granddaughter gave her a journal in 1981. Not only did I learn more about Aunt Eleanor but I also learned more about my grandmother.

Aunt Eleanor was 81 years old when she made her first entry. I first saw the journal in 2001 and made a photocopy of it. Her handwriting was difficult to read so I decided to transcribe it and share the transcription with my sister. Over the years, I have reread the journal many times and have come to realize that Aunt Eleanor's journal is not only a story of her life but also a record of life in the first half of the twentieth century.

I typed what I saw and that included spelling errors and lack of puncuation. In a few instances, I added notes for clarification and enclosed them in braces {}.

Nov. 29, 1981

Dear Patti, You asked me to write my autobiography just for you. On Thanksgiving day Nov. 26, 1981 Micki gave me this notebook and it made me think of your request. So now I am sitting here by myself (you and Jo Jo left a few minutes ago after bringing me home) and I decided I would start writing. Goodness knows when I’ll finish. Eighty-one years to report on will take a while.
My earliest memories are my home in Martell Wis. where I was born, the fifth child in the family. There Grace, Emma, Ferdinand, and Bernice were and I’m sure they all were glad to welcome a little black haired, big eyed, pug nosed sister (me). I was two years, one month and seven days old when I had the chance to welcome my sister Leola. I could not say Leola so she was always Yola. Later on she was called Ole. We were very close, but I remember I did recent (sic) her being the baby and when she talked baby talk I used to give her a swat. One day after she was big enough to walk, her buggy was outside on the sidewalk which slanted a little towards the garden. There were a couple of steps down to the garden, anyway I had crawled into the buggy and Leola gave it a little push, down the buggy went over the stone wall with me in it and of course it tipped over and I got a cut under my chin. I thot I would surely die because everything I would eat would come right out of that hole. But I lived thru it.

My sister Bernice was three years, three months and 20 days older than I was. A very blond and delicate girl who liked to tease me and I’m afraid she got the worst of it when I would fight with her. Ora Ruud would take her home with him because he thot I was too rough.

Brother Ferd was always pulling tricks on us, Sister Emma was so gentle, I always wanted to be her girl when we played house as we called it. I also preferred to have her comb my hair and dress me. Sister Grace I thot was too bossy and she pulled my hair too much.

We did have a happy childhood a close knit family. My father was so very patient with us and always joining in with us when we played games. I dearly loved my father. Mother by the time I came along had enough to do taking care of all of us and couldn’t spend time playing games with us. She cooked, baked, sewed, washed clothes, ironed and mended. Sometimes she would fix meals for us that we could eat in our playhouse. That was great fun.

When I was five years and about five months old we moved to Swanburg Minnesota. We left our freinds and relatives in Martell. I missed my cousins there, Erwin and Lorenzo Anderson were twins just my age and we lived close enough that we no doubt saw each other everyday so it was rather sad to have to say good bye, but my childhood pal Nora Peterson whom I had played with in Martell was living in Swanburg and we had a great time getting reacquainted.

There were two or three families living in Swanburg when we arrived the Petersons, Steins and a family by the name of Askins. The latter family didn’t stay long so I can hardly remember them, but the Petersons had a hotel and a store also the Post Office besides a herd of cattle. The Steins had a black smith shop and cattle. Mr Stein also was the mail carrier. My father had a sawmill and a small herd of cattle that got bigger each year.

The sawmill was our biggest attraction and many an hour was spent on the carriage that carried the big logs past the big circular saw that cut the log into lumber. There we would sit and ride back and forth while the pitchy saw dust would fly into our hair, faces and clothes. No wonder I would hate to have my hair combed, it was no doubt so full of pitch one could hardly get a comb thru it. I think most of the lumber was pine as at that time there was very little if any hardwood in that part of Minnesota. That’s the reason we were so pitchy. Another great fun was to crawl up the chute that carried the sawdust away from the mill, and then we would jump into the fresh warm sawdust pile. This would be at the close of the day when the mill was closed down. My sister Leola and friend Nora and I would play in the lumber yard crawling up on the piles of lumber and jumping off seeing who could jump the farthest. Oh! Yes it was great fun. Later on I tried my hand at working at the mill taking the lumber away from the saw and rolling it down on the rollers to the next man but on day I got my hand too close to the saw and got my finger badly cut, that was the end of my sawmill career. My father said no more. We all went to school in a little white school house in Swanburg that holds many happy memories.

In 1909 another baby was welcomed into our family it was my brother Glen. He truly was a much loved addition. Full of mischief he was but such a dear. Then in the spring of 1913 our sister Bertha joined our gang. She was also so very welcome and of course by that time we were old enough to help take care of her and we did spoil her. Poor Glen suffered most from that cause all Bertha had to do was open her mouth and bawl and some one would yell at Glen to let her have whatever she wanted, he always had to given in. He had one champion tho me. I was always on his side.

The summer I was eight years old {that’s the year Glen was born} my father moved the mill to the shores of Little Whitefish Lake there he built some buildings and we moved down there for the summer. It was a great summer. Swimming in the lake everyday and kind of camping all summer, it must have been hard on Mother but we children had a great time. It took several men to run the mill and mother had to cook for them besides her own family. Grace had married by this time so she a home of her own, but Emma, Ferd, Bernice, myself, Leola, and Glen were there.

It was five miles up to the little white school house where we had Sunday School in the summer and I dearly loved going to Sunday School. That summer I won a prize for perfect attendance at Sunday School and I had to walk every Sunday, there were no cars or any other transportation at that time. I really enjoyed it. One or two of the others always had to go along with me.

I have tried to give you an idea of my childhood, I couldn’t recall every incident, there wouldn’t room for everything but I just want to say it was a happy childhood and as long as I can remember I have known my God, prayed to Him, and tho I sometimes strayed His Spirit always nodged me and brought me back. And this is the last Thanksgiving I gave thanks for just that and much more. Now I’ll quit writing and continue this at a later date.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Life at Berkeley Forty Years Ago

Periodically, I am made aware that I am a part of history. Such was the case recently while I was on my vacation. Although I still am getting over the fact that the period in which I was in college is now taught as history at high schools and colleges, I am glad that I can tell my story through my blog.

I was spending time in the arts and crafts building at Bruin Woods when one of the arts and crafts counselors asked if I minded if she sat near me as she was interested in what I was making. It was a delight to talk with her. She would be starting her sophomore year at UCLA in the fall.

We talked about college life. I happened to mention that my mother-in-law had contemplated enrolling at UCLA and moving into the dorms because she would be close to the medical center, have meals provided, and be able to attended concerts and visit museums. The fact that only freshmen and sophomores are offered dorm rooms was not on my mother-in-law's radar. She has a master's degree already. Kelsey thought that having a 91-year-old living in the dorms might be fun.

Albeit, I thought about the time I was in college and how dorm rooms were available throughout all four years of ones time at Berkeley. When I tried to secure a dorm room, everything was taken so I ended up in a female living group that was approved by the University. Two years later, no one wanted to be in a dorm.

So much has changed since I was in college. The age of majority was 21 and, as a female, my parents had control of my life for the first 3 years of college. When I enrolled at Berkeley, my parents were asked to sign a document in which they gave or denied me permission to date or be out at night and establish a curfew on weekdays and weekends.

I was a freshman when I went out on a double-date with one of the women in my house. We did not get home until after midnight. I had to appear before the Judicial Committe on campus to explain myself. I was not penalized because the committee felt that I had been unduly influenced by my housemate who was a senior.

I had begun my freshman year after the Free Speech Movement began at Berkeley. Several of my classes focused on civil disobedience. I remember that I had to study about civil disobedience in the past. The year that I was at Berkeley was a relatively quiet year but my mother was still unnerved about my being there.

My mother wanted me to transfer to UC Irvine. If I did that, she would expect me to live at home. My father interceded and convinced my mother that I could come home on weekends if I was at UCLA. I transferred to UCLA but not because I wanted to transfer. I learned that I could graduate from UCLA under the Berkeley Catalog so I selected my classes based on the 1965 catalog with the intention of transferring back to Berkeley when I turned 21.

In preparation for my transfer, I learned about an emancipated minor. I had myself declared an emancipated minor about the time I met my husband to be. So it seems that the best laid plans were derailed by love.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review - Tierck Clafsen DeWitt and Descendants of His Son Luycas DeWitt

I am always interested in reading books that have a connection to my family. I recently found a book entitled, "Tierck Clafsen DeWitt and Descendants of His Son Luycas DeWitt," written by Vona DeWitt Smith. The book was published in 2004 in Victoria, Canada

I was so disappointed in the book as I found many errors in this book. The first error that I noted was in the title of the book. The author apparently does not know about the short or descending s. Clafsen should read Classen. Clas is a diminutive of the name Nicolaes and is often written as Claes. Tjerck/Tierck was the son of Nicolaes (Claes).

I found several errors in the locations of events, such as, Clinton, MI when the location was actually in Clinton, IL. I also found errors in dates. Birth, death and marriage registers, social security death index, draft registration and census records often conflicted with the dates presented in this book. And in some cases, the given name or surname in the book could not be found in an Internet search or in a search at many of the genealogical services to which I subscribe. However, I did find hits when I made some simple modifications to the spelling like changing the letter u to the letter a or adding a consonant.

Some of the errors should have been caught by proofreader. When a child's birthdate is within a few years of the birthdate of the parents, a proofreader would have caught that.

The book is available on Amazon but I would caution you to take whatever information is provided with a grain of salt and look for other records and documents to support your findings.