Saturday, March 8, 2014

Prompt 28 - Parents

This is an uncomfortable subject for me and still one of great joy. My father Henry Rawlings was a child molester. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s before we talked about him openly. He died in 1968, but my sisters and I continued to keep the secret. I was the only one that had any hint from Henry that he had been molesting the others. I was the youngest and he actually told me at one point that he would teach me about men and women as he had with the others. I was so confused. The school had sent a book home when I was in 5th grade that most of the kids had speculated had information about sex. My parents never had “the talk” with me. Henry had begun touching and fondling me at the age of 8. I was not subjected to much contact because Henry was diagnosed with cancer when I was 12. I finally began talking to my therapist about the molestation when I was in my late 20’s. I joined a therapy group for incest survivors. After several months with this group, I decided to talk to my mother to see if she had any suspicion of what was happening in our home. As I expected she did not know anything. She was forced to begin supporting the family when I was 6 years old. My sisters and I had worked so hard at keeping my father’s secret that I was the only one that suspected I was not the only victim. One sister did not want to talk about it, but it has brought my oldest sister and I closer by dropping the veil of the secret. I am even closer to my brother.
My mother was born Margaret Helen Hughes, but she hated the name Margaret. She adopted the nickname Peg and there were many people that never knew that it was not her given name. She was born in Ohio and grew up there. When she was a teenager she would swim across the Ohio River to the West Virginia side and back. She continued this until the day she came face-to-face with her father upon her return to the Ohio side. That put an end to her river swimming.
My parents met on a party boat on the Ohio River. These trips usually occurred on Saturday nights with a live band. Henry was 26 years old and my mother Peg was only 14. I heard my father once tell a cousin that he knew they were meant to be together and so he waited through her short marriage to another man when she was 17. By the time she was 22 my mother was divorced and had a 3-year old daughter (my sister Barbara). Peg and Henry married in 1947 and added 3 more children to the family.
After my father died in 1968 a very dear friend of my mother’s invited her to meet his brother. My mother fell in love very quickly. She and I even moved about 30 north to be closer to Fred. Fred had been married once and had been divorced for several years. Their courtship lasted 4 years. My siblings and I had become very attached to Fred and kept cheering them on. In 1972 during my Christmas break from college, I helped them get prepared and then attended a very lovely wedding of my mother Peg to her new love Fred.  When I refer to my “dad” I am talking about Fred. He is the only grandfather that my son and his cousins have known. He is now great-grandfather to my grandchildren.

Fred and my nephew Joe before the wedding 

Fred's mother, my new grandmother Ferol

The wedding party
Cal Fulgham, Fred, Peg, Cal's wife Janet

My parents Fred and Peg at the beginning of their 32 year marriage

In 2013 my dad Fred with my sister Barb, her husband Sam, Fred's granddaughter Melissa, Melissa's husband Les and Fred's great-granddaughters Sydney and Samantha

Monday, December 23, 2013

Prompt 16 - Message In A Bottle

I worked with a woman who did find a message in a bottle once. It was from a person who lived in Australia and they had launched their message during a cruise. My acquaintance had found the bottle while walking on the beach in Florida. She wrote to the author of the message and they were able to meet in person. It is something that I have thought about and considered what I would put into such a message.

I think I would give a very short description of my life and provide my address, both physical and email. I would love to be able to launch my message in the Ohio River where it passes my hometown of Wellsville, Ohio. I would hope that my message would be found by someone that would read it and respond in kind. What I would hope for is to begin a dialog by mail or email that would last for many years. 

Prompt 17: Toys and Games

The earliest toy I remember having is a rubber doll whose arms and legs did not even move. It had a squeaker in it and was very similar to toys that my dog plays with. It was fine for a little girl to cuddle and it kept me company at night. I do actually have memories young enough to have still been sleeping in a crib. For someone that describes themselves as not being a “girlie girl” I loved dolls. I had a Tiny Tears doll that would drink from a bottle, cry tears and blow bubbles with a bubble pipe. Later I moved on to Barbie and Tressie dolls. I gave my dolls away to the daughters of one of my mother’s friends. I am sorry that I did so and wish I still had my dolls to pass along to my granddaughter.
My early playmates were my brother and sisters. Later I would play with neighborhood children, some of whom were my cousins. We did not play board games very often. When we did we usually played Monopoly or card games like Fish, Old Maid and War.

The fun part of being a grandmother is having children who will allow me to play with them. I have a new set of games that are ready for visits.
Marta with Christmas loot 1956

Monday, December 16, 2013

Prompt 9: Halloween

The events I remember on Halloween when I was a child were the two nights that we would trick-or-treat in Wellsville Ohio. That’s right I said two nights. We don’t know how that came into existence but we children made the best of each night. There was a citywide costume contest each year but I only attended that once. For those two nights of trick-or-treat we would pass the word to each other where the best candy could be found and who was passing out apples. One house you had to be sure to visit and the other house you had to bypass.
The earliest costume I can remember was a nurse’s uniform that my mother made for me. I was 5 years old and my big brother accompanied me. He was dressed as a hillbilly wearing my father’s old work overalls and carrying a moonshine jug. In later years I would take my mother’s friends’ children out for trick-or-treat. The most memorable night was the one when I ran into a rural mailbox face-first while accompanying my young charges. I was wearing two black eyes the next day and didn’t have a decent story to go with them.
We went by the rules that if there was no porch light on that meant that the house was to be bypassed. It was possible the owner did not celebrate Halloween, or they simply didn’t want to be bothered or they had run out of candy.
There were some who did take advantage of Halloween in a negative fashion by going out to steal bags from smaller children. We kept an eye out for those ruffians and tried to protect each other from them. You could always tell the serious trick-or-treators were the ones with a pillow case instead of a shopping bag to collect the candy.
Over the last 30 years I have missed Halloween. My house was set 300 feet from the street down a very dark driveway. It was the perfect atmosphere for Halloween, but no one seemed to want to risk the trip.
My son Sean getting his make-up for Halloween

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Prompt 7 - Grandparents

I thought I knew a lot about my grandparents before I started doing my genealogical research. Since starting I have learned quite a bit, but I have also added to that knowledge through a Facebook group that contains memories of those of us that grew up in the village of Wellsville Ohio. I’ve learned more about the history of the village from others that grew there and because of it I realized how it was that my grandparents came to live in that area.
Joseph Hughes, dating in 1923
My paternal grandmother Mary Gillespie emigrated from Ireland at the age of three with her mother, her twin sister Rose and her brother Lawrence. Her uncles Thomas and James had come to this country several years previously to earn money as coal miners. They had purchased farm property. When my great-grandmother and her children arrived there was a farm in place. I don’t know if my grandmother’s brother Lawrence went to work in the mines straightaway or if he worked the farm for a couple of years first. But I do remember my grandmother telling me stories of her mother clearing rocks from the fields in her apron. I do know from stories my grandmother told that their home was near the railroad and I have since been able to find maps that showed they are holding and where the railroad ran. My grandmother got to know the schedule of the trains that went by, so she would be out hanging up laundry or doing other types of womanly work around the farm when the locomotive my grandfather was driving went by. She would wave to him because she thought he had beautiful curly hair. I learned later from my cousin that he would write notes to my grandmother and wrap them around rocks and toss them out of the cab of the locomotive as he’d go by and now way they were able to keep in touch with each other. I don’t know how they actually did meet in person but they did and were married in 1912. My grandfather had grown up on a farm in southwestern Ohio and I don’t know what it was exactly that drew him to Eastern Ohio, but it was most likely the railroad. After all young man needs to work a few years before he reaches the status of being an engineer on the locomotive.
Katharyn Muessig, dating in 1923

My maternal grandmother was born in Brooklyn and led a rather sheltered life as a young woman. Fortunately for her parents did send her to secretarial school so that she was able to earn a living, but of course was never allowed to move out of her parents’ home. Her sisters left home simply because one of them had gotten married and another sister had gone into the convent. My grandfather was born in Wheeling West Virginia and his father became very active in establishing the Operative Potters Union in Eastern Ohio. My grandmother knew both of my grandfather’s sisters Catherine and Eva. They had decided their brother was old enough that he should be married after all he was in his 30s. They played matchmaker and introduced their brother to their friend Katharyn and the two married in 1924.

Joseph H. and Mary Rawlings wedding picture 1911

Prompt 6: Journals and Diaries

During stressful times of my life, I do keep a journal. I use them to be able to handle my feelings. I kept a journal while my sister Zoe was terminally ill. It was a time of conflicting feelings. Writing helped me to at least get my feeling on paper. There were many nights that I was able to sleep only after writing in my journal.
I keep all of my journals. Sometimes I do go back and read them, especially if things are rough. I am not keeping a journal right now, but I probably will if I find myself under stress again. I don’t think I would ever destroy them. They are not something that you write intending for other people to read. If my son reads them after I pass away, he may find them to be of value or they may be junk. I will leave that to him to handle in the future.
I handwrite my journals in pen (gel pen is easier when one has arthritis in their hands) and just use small size spiral-bound notebooks. They aren’t pretty, but they help me get through the days and weeks.

Prompt 5 - Your Childhood Home

When I think about my childhood home, there is not a specific building that comes to mind but there is a village that is a very big part of my memories. Wellsville, Ohio is approximately 50 miles west of Pittsburgh, PA. The village is on the Ohio River. The location is due in part to the railroad. When trains where still pulled by steam locomotives, they needed a refill of water every 50 miles. My grandfather Joseph Henry Rawlings had moved from the southwestern corner of Ohio to Wellsville to work on the railroad. He became an engineer on the steam locomotives. Having a fairly well paid profession my grandfather was able to buy a house for the family in 1912. That house was my grandmother’s home until she went to assisted living in 1983.

Wellsville, Ohio still feels like home, even though I moved away when I was 13. During the last couple of years a group was formed on Facebook for residents of Wellsville and former residents to “get together” and remember our childhoods. Since the group was formed I have learned more about the history of the village than I learned when I lived in Wellsville.

The first residence I remember was a 3rd floor apartment. My parents would put my playpen on the roof outside the kitchen so that my mother could watch me through the window. They would put the family parakeets outside with me in their cage. When I was 4 we moved into a house next door to my grandmother’s house. I never realized then that we were living next door to my father’s boyhood home. Eventually my parents bought a house. It had been converted to a duplex, so the first thing we needed to do was to convert it back into a single family house. We lived there for 5 years. When my father passed away, my mother sold the house and we moved away from Wellsville.

Even though I have not lived in Wellsville since 1968, it will always be home to me.

Grandma Mary with me behind her house
Marta on the roof with the parakeets
Sisters Barb & Zoe next door to Grandma Mary's house
Christmas in the only house my parents bought
Zoe & Marta playing in the snow