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My grandfather took this picture of friend, Mary Lou Sowers, at the gravestone of Anna B Sheild, wife of W.H. Sheild. It was at the family cemetery at Moore House, Yorktown, Virginia. Even though the surname is familiar – these are not the Shield’s who married into my Johnson family. I believe one of the reasons this photo was taken is because of the incorrect date etched into the gravestone of February 30 – the last time I checked, February never had 30 days!

For more information about Moore House, please refer to Moore House – Yorktown National Battlefield (or just google it!).

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I never got to meet my mom’s older sister. She passed away three and a half years before I was born. Genevieve Vesta Johnson was born on June 9, 1920 in Anderson, Indiana. She married John F. Steffen in May 1942. My aunt was a nurse – a profession that her granddaughter and great-granddaughter also chose – women she never got to meet. Aunt Genevieve died on Friday, May 2, 1958 in Dayton, Ohio. Her funeral was held at St. Anthony’s in Dayton. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Kettering, Ohio. She was survived by her two young daughters and son as well as her husband, her parents, a brother (my Uncle Glen) and her sister (my mom) along with two nieces and two nephews. She was always remembered and spoken of very often.

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Many (many!) years ago during one of my visits to my hometown, my mom pulled out a couple of small boxes of photos and told me I could take them. She and I went through them, picture by picture, in order for her to tell me who, what, when, where, etc. – because NO ONE WROTE IT DOWN! So I brought the boxes home and as the case may be – I acquired more small boxes of photos as the years progressed. After my brother passed away, his son gave me a lot of photos and memorabilia because he didn’t want it (due to an estrangement at the time of my brother’s death). Then, after my mother passed away three years ago, I ended up with what she still had.

Through the years I have scanned this photo and that. Written about this photo or that. I’ve scanned documents and letters and taken digital photos of “stuff”. In order to really see what I have, all of the papers, photos, documents, and ephemera need to be filed and cataloged. I started with just one small box of photos the other day. What I didn’t already have a digital copy of, I made one. What I had, was tagged with the who, what, when, and where (or as much as I knew!).

For the next several Thursday’s (and other days for other blog posts), I will be writing about items that were in a box. The first item is a picture of George Welch.

The caption on the front of the photo reads:

George went on a fishing trip last Sunday. There was 17 went they caught 43 fish which weighed about 600 lbs. 

This is a photo postcard and on the back it reads:

We took some pictures of the baby if they are any good we will send you some. Good Bye Your Children.

When I first read all of that, I had to figure out who George was. The postcard is addressed to Mr. F Clawson.  That would be Frank Clawson – my great-grandmother’s (Martha Stern Wilt) second husband. (He had previously been married to Martha’s sister, Margaret Ellen Stern. After Ellen died and after Martha and her husband, Joe Wilt (my great-grandfather), divorced, Frank married Martha. Frank and Ellen’s daughter, Nancy Jane Clawson, married George Welch in Anderson, Indiana on November 29, 1905 (Source – Title: Marion County, Index to Marriage Record 1866 – 1870 Inclusive Vol, Original Record Located: County Clerk’s Office Ind; Book: 165). The couple ended up in California with two daughters – Dorothy Ellen and Lenore.

What strikes me about the photo is that George is pretty dressed up – at least to our contemporary way of thinking – to go fishing. He sure is a well dressed, handsome young man!  George was born on March 24, 1885 in Plainfield, Indiana (Title: Marion County, Index to Marriage Record 1866 – 1870 Inclusive Vol, Original Record Located: County Clerk’s Office Ind; Book: 165). 

Below is a photo of Nancy as a young girl with her parents, Frank and Ellen Clawson.

Nancy would be by first cousin twice removed. (Our common ancestor would be her grandparents – Emanuel and Nancy Stern – they were my 2nd great-grandparents.)  Nancy and my maternal grandmother – Vesta Wilt Johnson – were first cousins because their mothers were sisters.

So stay tuned for the next segment of Items from a Box! I never know what I’m going to find!

 

 

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So sorry that there has been a bit of a lag between Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. This should be the final chapter of what I call “My Trip Out West” – or as the title suggests – “Over the Rainbow.”  After all, I was only four years old – almost five. So everything about this trek from Ohio to the Pacific Ocean and back was magical!

In the last installment, Mom, Dad, and I were finishing up our time at Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Marine Land in California. From there we drove to Victorville, California which sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert in San Bernadino County.

We spent September 21 and 22 at the home of Captain and Mrs. H.B. Alexander, friends of my parents. September 21 was my mother’s birthday. I thoroughly believed my mom was 29 because as is common, once she passed a “certain” birthday milestone, she always said she was only 29. Wow – imagine my surprise a couple of years later when I realized that she was much older than 29!  I was also confused when I realized my grandparents were also in the area!  They were on a tour of the western United States as well and it was probably by design that they were able to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.

     

Leaving the Alexander home, we traveled to the Grand Canyon. Breathtaking, beautiful, scenic, awesome are only a few words to describe what a magnificent wonder it is. When we had left California, the temperature was over 100 but as we got to the rim of the Canyon, the temperature had a drop of over 40 degrees. I remember wearing a sweater as we stood gazing out over such a majestic sight.

Leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove northeast toward Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy. We stayed with the R.G. Schuster family and toured the Academy.

  

While there we saw 1800 cadets marching in formation and the beautiful Chapel. It is one building I will never forget being inside. On September 26 our western trip was complete and we began the drive back to Ohio, arriving on September 28.

There are many things I remember very well about the trip – items that weren’t part of a tour or a national park or a wonder of the world. Mom had packed a hot plate because even though we were able to stay in the homes of so many family and friends, we were also in a lot of motels!  The hot plate enabled her to heat up oatmeal for breakfast or a can of soup for lunch.

A lot of my breakfasts (when not at a home or in a restaurant)   were Keebler Cinnamon Graham Crackers and milk (hey, I loved it and still eat it!!). I can remember restaurants we ate at or purchased food to go from: Jerry’s (I think it was like Denny’s), Kentucky Fried Chicken (before it went by it’s initials!), and Howard Johnson’s (which is a hotel chain but we’d eat at the restaurant). I remember laundry mats – and oh goodness, there were many laundry mats that Mom and I were at washing clothes. Well, she washed and dried, and I sat and watched. I believe a lot of them were a dime. Mom would always need dimes. I remember lying across the backseat of the Pontiac either sleeping or trying not to give in to my car sickness. Every once in awhile, Dad would rouse me so I could “see the sights” – something he knew that I just had to see!  Except for the accident. I don’t know where it was but we were bumper to bumper on the road.  As we got closer, and my parents saw the ambulance (back then, they looked like a hearse) and the emergency vehicles, my Dad realized that whatever it was – was very, very bad. He told me to keep lying down and not to look.  I think later after I was older, Mom told me that it was a fatality and there was lots of blood. I also remember the little Wet Naps we always got – especially at KFC. And guess what I thought those little sudsy napkins were for? Cleaning the car windows!!  That was a big mistake!  Those windows I so carefully “cleaned” were loaded with streaks and probably were dirtier than when I started!

Oh – and going over the rainbow? Yes, I feel as if I certainly did!  At one point, after my mother could not stand to listen to me asking if we were in Kansas and where was Dorothy’s house, she pointed to a run down farm house and said – “That’s Dorothy’s house!” I spent many years believing that I saw the actual house!  (Ok, then I thought that maybe it was the “actual” house from the film until Mom told me she just could not stand to hear me ask that question one more time!)  So I don’t know if we were in Kansas (which would have been on the way back to Ohio – so I think we were probably in Montana or Idaho when she did that!).  I was young enough to see Disneyland as a child would but old enough to be able to remember quite a bit about that trip. And I have tons of pictures to help me remember!

I hope you have enjoyed my Travel Thursday series of Over the Rainbow!  I hope to begin a new series soon!

Sources: 

Personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.

Wikipedia Article online for “Victorville California”, 27 July 2012.

Photo of Cinnamon Graham Crackers: Keebler.com, 2012. Kellogg.

Photo of Rainbow: Rainbow in the sky by Jonathon Coombes (Public Domain)

All Other Photos taken by Gene or Mary Amore, digital or original slide/print owned by Wendy J Littrell, address for private use. 

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog

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On May 1, 2009 I lost my mother. Each year my sister and I have a beautiful silk arrangement placed in the vase on her grave. Since we are in Texas and the grave is in Ohio, I have to rely on the cemetery office to pick out the correct silk arrangement (made especially for the types of vases on the headstones) and make sure they are placed in the vase. I’ve requested a photo be taken and emailed to me so that I know it has been done. It’s also a way for me to see her grave since I’m so far away.

Mom was not a “pink” person – her signature color was red. So when I order the silk flowers, I make sure to stress that the flowers not be any shade of pink. They have to be mainly red.  I think she’d appreciate this arrangement that was placed in April.  These flowers will remain there until mid-November when the cemetery removes all flowers in the vases and puts the vases upside down so that way they don’t get water in them and freeze in the Ohio winter.

(Photo taken by staff at Glen Haven Cemetery, New Carlisle, Ohio on May 3, 2012 and emailed to Wendy Littrell, address held for private use).

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In case you are just now joining this series and need to catch up, you can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Go ahead and read – I’ll wait.

Okey, Dokey – all done and ready for the 4th installment now? Good!  Any questions so far?

We have just left Northern California and are headed toward DISNEYLAND!!! To put everything into perspective, Disneyland (the original in Anaheim, California) opened its gates in July 1955 (Source: Wikipedia). A few months before we arrived in the fall of 1966, New Orleans Square had opened at Disneyland. Little did I realize as a child of not quite five, that Main Street U.S.A. was inspired from Walt Disney’s childhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri.  And even less did I realize that after I was all grown up, I would marry a man who grew up not too far from Marceline and would drive me through the town when we visited his folks just down the road in Mendon, Missouri. (As Walt would say, “It’s a small world, after all”!!!)

I’m jumping way ahead of myself. We arrived late in the evening and checked into our motel just beyond the parking lot. We would traverse that lot the next morning to begin our day. Just as we entered the gates, this is what happened:

I got a big hug from Pluto! 

And then we saw:

this!

And this (below):

Pirate Restaurant, teacup ride of the Mad Tea Party, and the Skyway ride over the park.

In Fantasyland, we rode in the teacups, Dumbo, and rode in the boats through Storybrook Land (see below). We went on the Small World and Peter Pan ride and much more!

We saw attractions in Frontierland, Adventureland (see below) and Tomorrowland.  BUT – the rocketship to the moon was not there or open. I remember a big hole with a lot of dirt. So to keep from being too disappointed, I told my parents that the rocket must have already taken off and maybe it would be back the next day.  We did go on the Submarine adventure – I was so excited thinking that we were really going deep into a big ocean. 

The next day we returned to Disneyland for part of the day.  Below you will see a picture of Mom and I sitting outside a shop.

All too soon our “Disney Adventure” was ending. It was time to move on to other attractions in the area.  At Knotts Berry Farm, we saw the train.

Met an “old west” type man.

I also saw a shoot out that left me crying and very frightened for my dad.  As we were getting ready to board the train, two men started “shooting” at each other. One was “killed” and the other loaded the “dead” man up into a wheelbarrow and hauled him off. I was so scared that my dad was going to get shot and killed while we were waiting on the train. I cried for a long time but finally my parents made me realize that it was all pretend and my dad was going to be ok. It was just like being in a movie! Everything was pretend!  Even the “snow” (below) . . .

It was really flakes of soap. My mother hated that!  For many, many years, she would talk about how hard it was getting all those particles of soap out of my hair. It wasn’t as easy as just washing it out. And my hair was naturally curly to boot!

We saw a “burlesque” show – remember this is a family park so it wasn’t too risque!  Lots of old buildings and fun activities to participate in.

Another day it was off to Marine Land!  We saw Flipper (if you do not know who or what that is, go google “Flipper TV show”)!  We saw big whales, trained dolphins, fish, and penguins.



We also went to Universal City (it was nothing like it is today!). I got to see the set of “The Munsters” (go ahead, google it, it’s ok!)

And I even got to “meet” Herman Munster (above)! (disclaimer: this was not the actor who portrayed Herman Munster, it was someone who wore a mask and just did the PR pictures with tourists and guests! But I didn’t care!)

Stay tuned for more of the Journey!

Sources: personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966. Also: yesterland.com

Photos: Photographer on all photos – Gene Amore; all photos – print, slide, digital in the possession of Wendy Littrell to be used as needed.  No reprints without permission.

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog.

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This is the third installment on my “Travel Thursday” series of “Over the Rainbow” and our journey from Ohio to California and back in 1966. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

It was mid-September, and Mom, Dad, and I had just finished visiting their friends, the Manning family, and my great-aunt, Nellie Lilly, in Washington state. We were on our way south toward California. Next stop was Crater Lake National Park in Klamath County, Oregon.  The lake was formed from a massive volcanic eruption about 5700 B.C. (according to Wikipedia). We arrived just before the snow covered everything, and the view was breathtaking . . . 

. . . even to a four year old child.

       

We checked out the view, took lots of photos, and encountered local wildlife. It seemed the chipmunks had no fear – especially if they were fed – and the deer was injured, but didn’t get too close to us.

As we drove through Oregon toward California, we encountered logging operations.

On toward Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. According to the newspaper article, trees at Sequoia were over 3500 years old with the General Sherman being the tallest at a little over 270 feet high with a circumference of a little over 100 feet.

     

   

We were in awe at the size of those trees!  One hollowed out tree was on its side, and I thought it was really neat how people walked into the tree without having to duck! It was that big around!

And as we traveled on toward southern California, we saw these sights:

Olive trees and citrus trees – along with trucks taking fruit to wherever they needed to go in order to be processed and shipped.  We saw grapes going to wineries.  Some of this I remember and some I don’t.  Mainly we saw long stretches of highway!

But the journey is only beginning for me – soon we will be “Over the Rainbow”! Stay tuned for the next installment!

Sources: personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.

Photos: Photographer on all photos – Gene Amore; all photos – print, slide, digital in the possession of Wendy Littrell to be used as needed.  No reprints without permission.

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog.

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(Original Photo and Digital Print held in possession of Wendy J Littrell. Do not copy without permission.)

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When I was a young girl, my mom mentioned something in passing about my Grandad’s brother.  What? A brother? I thought my grandfather was an only child. So I pressed her for some elaboration. The story she told (which had to have come from her dad or his parents) was that Letis Johnson was 13 years older than my grandfather, and that he was “crazy”.  My grandparents had to commit him several times to the Insane Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Sometimes Letis would come home for visits. One time he threw a brick through the chicken coop.  Another time he was so engraged he tried to cut off my grandfather’s ear. Grandad carried the scar the rest of his life.  Mom also mentioned that it was believed Letis had falled at some point in his infancy or early childhood, and it was thought the fall had caused some sort of brain problem.

As a young girl and teen, this story was fascinating. A loony great-uncle who died at the age of 28.  As a budding family historian over ten years ago, this was the type of information that needed to be delved into.  But as a mother – it was heartbreaking.  I wrote about this in Katie’s Story.

On the Friends of Allen County website (Friends of Allen County), I found information that showed that Letis had been admitted to the Fort Wayne State School (Home for Feeble Minded Youths) due to epilepsy (probably caused by the fall), and he died from pneumonia.  What makes this story even sadder, is that it happened decades before there were medicines to help with epileptic seizures. Today, Letis could be a functioning member of society.  I don’t know if he attended enough school to be considered educated.  I don’t know if he ever felt romantic love for someone.  I don’t know if he felt all alone when he was far away from his family.  And until two years ago, I didn’t even know what he looked like.  Then I found the pictures.  Suddenly I had a face to go with the name.

So the question I still go back to – was Letis really “mad” or just suffering from a medical condition?  Epileptic seizures have ocurred in many people throughout history – from Biblical times until now – sports figures, celebrities, and normal people trying to live their lives. How debilitating one must feel when a seizure strikes – especially in a time when others wondered what the person had “done” to be cursed with this illness. Did Katie and John (my great-grandparents) blame their son for having epilepsy? Themselves? The universe? Or did they just feel helpless?  They weren’t wealthy enough to travel to a “big” city to have a fancy medical doctor treat Letis – if there even was a treatment then.  All they could do to protect themselves, their younger son, and their home was to send him to a place where he would be treated, cared for, and kept from hurting himself or others.  My heart goes out to my great-grandparents because that type of decision must not have been made lightly.

So the Great-Uncle I didn’t know much about, has aided me in the way I look at the other members of his family.

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My mom, Mary H (nee) Johnson, attended Bath Consolidated School in Bath Twp, a part of Greene County, Ohio, in what had been at one time two cities – Fairfield and Osborn. Those two cities merged to form Fairborn, Ohio. She graduated in 1939, and during her high school years, Mom was active in sports. Her game of choice was basketball. She was part of the high school girls’ team.

Mom is at the lower right.  My aunt (Mom’s older sister), Genevieve, is in the 2nd row from the bottom, 2nd from the right.  Their future sister-in-law, Mary Van Tuyl (who would marry their older brother, Glen Johnson) is at the top row 2nd from left.

Mom told me that when her school played in Beavercreek (the town where I graduated from), they would play at the high school – which today is Main Elementary.  It didn’t have a gym so the game would be played on the stage in the auditorium.  Every time I was in a theater production in high school, we would use that stage to perform, and I used to imagine my mom as a young high school girl running to and fro shooting hoops several feet above the floor.  Someone could have fallen off the stage and been injured. 

While Mom was on the basketball team, she fell one day (not while they were playing on the stage) and another player stepped on her foot which crushed several bones in her toes. She ended up having three toes fused together to the foot bone.  That was a reminder throughout her life of her time in sports. 

  Mom also loved to play golf – even if that meant playing Putt-Putt with me when I was young.  She followed college football all of her life (especially Ohio State), college basketball, all the Golf tournaments, and the Cincinnati Reds.  She knew stats better than a lot of people.  I think if she hadn’t married young, she might have gone on to golf professionally – or at least given it a good try.

  When I was young, she bowled weekly.  She and Dad would always take their bowling balls wherever we went – just in case they found a bowling alley.  And Mom was a left-handed bowler (even though she did most things right-handed)! 

  Mom was proud of her letter that she earned playing basketball in high school.  We displayed it on the table at her memorial service.

But one thing I will never forget – every time I pass Main Elementary in Beavercreek, I think about Mom dribbling a ball on the same stage that I performed on. 

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