Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Story 4: Leaving Home and Starting Out

Baby Grandma graduated from high school and then went with her step-sister Olive to work at the telephone company in Springfield.  Friend, Alberta Knapp, also accompanied them.

According to the 1930 federal census, Baby Grandma lived with the Stubbe family on Plum Street. Alberta lived with the Nicholl family on Limestone Street.  Olive had married in 1928 to a man from Springfield.

Not too far from both Baby Grandma and Alberta lived the Bowser brothers, Clint and Clyde ("Ed"), who were living on W. North Street.  They were living with their mother at that time.  Clint was a barber and Ed was working at a grocery store.  He actually was a part owner of the store.

Ed was tall and thin.  I think he was quite good looking.  Ed had been raised in an alcoholic home during his young years.  He was one of the nine children born to George Henry Bowser and Lillie Amanda West.  His father George was a mean drunk. He was known to beat the kids.  Because Ed was one of the younger ones, he may not have suffered from the hand of his father as much as the older children.

Ed's mother left her husband when Ed was about 5 or 6 years old.  There is a story that has been passed down about how Grandpa's mother would hide her little children from her drunken husband. First, she would send the older boys out to the woods and tell them not to come back for awhile.  That way, their father would be passed out and they wouldn't be hurt.  But for the little ones, she would hide them in the bottom of a cupboard where she would make bread.  She would stand in front of the cupboard and pretend to knead bread. Her big skirts would hide the little ones concealed there.

Lillie A. Bowser with her children, ca. 1917.  Clyde "Ed" Bowser is the boy farthest to the left in the front row.

Anyway, back to Baby Grandma and Grandpa's story.  They had been dating for awhile.  Baby Grandma's friend Alberta had married Ed's brother Clint in November of 1933.

Baby Grandma and Grandpa had gone to Kentucky on a trip with some friends in December of 1933. It was on that trip that I guess they decided "Why not!?" and were married there in Kenton County, Kentucky on 4 Dec 1933.

Ed and Iness, ca. 1933

Their life was never easy it seemed.  They had of course married right during the Great Depression. Grandpa had a grocery store for awhile, but soon his drinking caused him to lose his part of the store. I believe it was after the loss of the grocery store that they moved in with Baby Grandma's brother, Harvey, and his wife.  I have never been told straight out that their living there was a problem, but a few stories led me to believe that Ed's drinking did not sit well with Harvey.

They finally left there and moved to Thackery, a tiny little village near St. Paris.  There, a third child Nancy, was born.

Sometime in 1941, the family moved to Fletcher and rented a farm on Casstown-Sidney and Snodgrass Rd.  The old farmhouse was their home for many years.  Baby Grandma had two more children while living there, one of which was her youngest, my father Arthur.

Five children in all.  Florene was the oldest, then Eldon, Nancy, Judy, and Art.

The Bowser Family - Left to right, Iness, Eldon, Art, Judy, Florene, Nancy, and Ed.

They were poor, very poor.  Baby Grandma worked hard.  She held down jobs, worked in the garden and sold her vegetables, sewed, and canned.  She never had a drivers license, so Grandpa would take her to and from work in Piqua, about 12 miles one way.  She worked at the BVD underwear company and also Terry's Cafeteria.

Grandpa was a tenant farmer during those years in Fletcher.  Aunt Nancy remembers that even though he would work the fields all day, he helped Baby Grandma with her canning and would break the green beans.  They didn't talk much to each other, but I guess if you were working that hard you might not want to talk much either!

Ed helping break the beans before Baby Grandma canned them.  Picture was taken at Fletcher farmhouse.

Ed's drinking continued to worsen while at the farm, but Baby Grandma never left him.  Aunt Nancy believes it was because she loved him and also because she needed him and he needed her.

Grandpa was never abusive to any of them in a physical way.  In fact, one might say he was neglectful, not abusive.  The only time he talked much was when he was drunk.  As my Dad said, having a conversation with a drunk is not really like having much of a conversation at all.  I believe he was a very tormented man.  His children remember that he had many nightmares and would scream out in the night.

There are just a few stories I have been told that share a more happy side of Grandpa Bowser.  Like the time, he scared the dickens out of my Dad and his friend.  The boys were in the barn and Grandpa was outside.  He decided it would be funny to make growling and scratching noises to scare them, and it worked!  It's funny, but even to this day, my Dad laughs till he cries when he scares one of us with a good-natured scare!  He recreated his childhood once by waiting until my sisters, Mandie and Andrea, were in the barn alone.  He went to the outside wall and made growling noises and scratches and they were so scared, they were afraid to leave the barn!  They thought the coyotes were sure to eat them!  You might be thinking, "What a horrible trick to play on two little girls!"...but this would have been when Mandie was nearly 30 years old!
Baby Grandma in what she wore to go berry picking.

Even though the Bowser family didn't have much, Baby Grandma was considered a great cook and a talented seamstress.  She made raisin cookies (my Dad's favorite) and jam from the berries found along the fence row. She canned so much jam that it would last through the entire winter!

Like I have said before, I considered Baby Grandma to not be very loving or affectionate. Recently, my husband has been reading The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman.  It talks of how different people interpret and share love in one of five ways. While writing this story, I thought about that book.  Perhaps she felt it was "enough" to simply provide for her children's basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing.  Neither she nor Grandpa had a secure or delightful childhood.  I suppose they did the best they knew how.

Tomorrow will likely be the last blog for the Baby Grandma Series.  I want to leave a few days to dedicate some fun stories I am calling the "Art's Airport Adventures"!  You are going to love these!

1 comment:

  1. Love it - you really get to know her through these posts.


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