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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Al and Arthur

I have been married to the same man for nearly 42 years and have always been a firm believer in monogamous marriage. I have heard that as a woman ages it becomes harder to keep other men out of her life. I found out this winter that we don't always have a choice.
The first unsolicited suitor moved in this winter. His name is Al Lergey. Leroy is the one who always had allergies, not me. But I have had a stuffy nose all winter and a shot of Dristin nasal spray opens the airways. So, like it or not, I guess I'm stuck with Al Lergey.
Then the other week Arthur Itis kicked down the door, came in, and has been taking me with him from joint to joint. If this keeps up, I'll soon be like the 86-year-old lady who wrote in a letter to her pastor:

Dear Pastor,
Don't ever forget about us old folks. We are worth a fortune. We have Silver in our hair, Gold in our teeth, Stones in our kidneys, Lead in our feet and Gas in our stomachs.
I myself have become quite a frivolous old gal since I wrote you last. As a matter of fact, I'm seeing five different gentleman everyday. When I get up in the morning, Will Power gets me out of bed. Then I immediately go see John. A few minutes later, Charley Horse comes along. When he leaves, I spend the day with Arthur-itis. Finally I'm so tired, I go to bed with Ben Gay.
As you can see, we all need your prayers.....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Toy Collection

"You can tell the difference between men and boys by the size of their toys." Or is that "toy collections?"
Leroy has been wanting to visit a man in the neighborhood who has a large collection of tractors (real and toy) and other toys. Today he finally got there. Here is a sampling of the things this guy has. All kinds of pedal tractors---the usual and unusual.
There are some things, like this one, which were specially made and not found elsewhere.

This replica of a produce wagon takes my eye.

Leroy spent a couple hours looking at this toy collection. The guy told him to come back another time to look at his collection of real tractors. He came home amazed at the collection and not a whit jealous. He can enjoy looking at them without the expense of buying and storing them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sneak Preview

Here is the picture which will be on the cover of the April issue of the Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage magazine. This is the inside of Eli Powl's garage in the city of Lancaster in 1924. Eli Powl is one of the people in my article on the Powells which will appear in this issue. Eli and his father, Isaac, ran a top-notch livery in Lancaster for many years but Eli upgraded to cars when they began to overtake the livery business. He rented cars to people for weddings and funerals. This was an up-to-date place in 1924. I wonder what all those old cars would be worth today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Persistance Pays

My day got off to a great start when I picked up my email and found the answer to a question I have been chasing for years. William & Lavina (Powell) Griffith are buried in the Edgar Cemetery at Paris, Illinois. Lavina was a sister to my gr-gr-grandfather, Josiah Powl. (He changed the spelling of his name.) I had traced all six of his siblings to their burial places--except Lavina--in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois.
William and Lavina moved to Ohio, then to Edgar County, Illinois, and finally to Terre Haute, Indiana. I had found information saying William died in Terre Haute in February 1874. The last trace I could find of Lavina was in the 1880 Terre Haute census where she is shown as widowed and living with her daughter, Sarah.
I searched every online Indiana source I could find for Lavina's death date for years without success. Last week I got a tip that made me suspicious they may have been taken back to Paris, Illinois for burial. Terre Haute and Paris are only twenty miles apart, but I have been searching for them in the wrong state.
I had located an old Griffith family history which said William and Lavina "were pillars in the First Baptist Church in Paris, Illinois." I found an email address for the church on Sunday and sent a message asking if their church has a cemetery. This morning I received the answer I have searched for so long. The Baptist church does not have a cemetery but the record for the Edgar Cemetery on the edge of town lists a Willim B. Griffith, buried February 8, 1874 and Lavina Griffith buried June 2, 1884. Bingo!
We're going out there the end of May. I was prepared to spend several days rooting through the courthouse and library in Terre Haute to find this information. Thanks to the dear lady who answered my question, I have been saved several days work. At last, I can complete the family record for Josiah Powl's family. Persistence pays!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Two Hands

What a blessing it is to have two hands! I take them for granted until something happens to make one of them useless. I have had a double reminder the last two weeks to be thankful for both hands. Last Thursday my right wrist was sore and my hand swelled up (for some still unexplained reason). I made do with the left hand a couple days until the swelling went down. It was back to normal by Sunday.
On Tuesday this week I spring cleaned our bedroom. Pushing furniture and flipping the mattress proved to be too much for my pippy little bicep. By evening my left arm was sore but I ignored it and continued to use it on Wednesday. Wrong move! I had to spend Wednesday night on the recliner with the arm propped on a pillow. I've been keeping it in a sling since then and some rest is doing the trick. This morning I can lift it high enough to reach the keyboard again and comb my hair without agony.
I hope this is the end of the right-left maneuvers and next week I can return to the full use of both hands. It is terribly inconvenient to try to function with only one hand, but I'd be up the crick if I only had one to start with. There are just some things that take two hands to accomplish. In addition to being thankful for two good hands, I was reminded to be thankful that I married a spare pair of hands that can help out when one of mine is on the blink. Having someone put on your socks (or unmentionables) isn't the same as doing it yourself but it sure is the best option when you've only got one hand.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Preserved in Writing

In two weeks I am doing a workshop entitled Researching and Writing History at a Writer's Conference in Virginia. I am planning to spend most of the time talking about how to do research but will wind up with the importance of preserving the past in writing. Oral history is often distorted but what is written does not change.
This afternoon I came upon a wonderful example of some written family history which has been hiding among the box of assorted things I inherited from my mother way back in 1993. If I ever saw this before, the signifigance of the piece did not register. It is a little booklet which I believe was written by my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Witmer. It is not my grandmother's handwriting and from the age of the family record I think it is safe to say it was written by her mother about her Witmer family.
The little booklet begins with my 3xgreat-grandfather, Martin Witmer who was born October 9, 1801. His son, Levi, (my great-great-grandfather) born in 1834, was the father of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Witmer. She lists all of Martin Witmer's family and all of Levi's family, including all the deaths that occurred up to Martin's death in 1907.
This little booklet covers a little over 100 years of family history and the latest recorded death is over 100 years ago. It has been well preserved and the writing is still easy to read. The next time I go to the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, I want to take this little booklet along and check if they have all the information it contains. I can't believe I've had this valuable little booklet for 15 years and did not know it!
Here is the first page. What it says has not changed in 100 years and is a pointed reminder of the value of preserving your history in writing!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Home Improvements

I have not had time to post anything lately because I've been running to and fro upon the face of the earth. Today I am staying home and sitting in one spot long enough to let the dust settle.
We spent the weekend in Ohio with Cheryl and her family. They began an ambitious remodel and addition project in July 2008 which has dragged on and on. When we were there in October they were living in the basement. The main living area had been gutted and was framed. A lot has happened since then. They lived in the basement four months and moved into the first finished room on New Year. They have moved into a room or two at a time as they were finished and then tackled remodeling the existing bedrooms. Last Saturday the children moved into their new rooms.
Cheryl finished the painting this past week and they were all set to finish the project this weekend by having the carpet installed in the spare bedroom, hall, and living room. Unfortunately, when the installer rolled out the living room carpet he found a serious flaw in it. So it has to be sent back to the manufacturer for a replacement and the living room could not be finished. He did install the carpet in the spare bedroom, so that is one more room to call finished.
Here is the new kitchen. You will only fully comprehend the improvement if you remember seeing the old kitchen. They are eating at the bar, but the dining room table will soon be in place under the hanging light in the foreground. The french doors on the right open into the office. The next door down the hall is the laundry. Both of these rooms were previously in the basement.

This is the view from the kitchen looking through the dining room and still-empty living room. The custom-made hutch will be moved to the left wall and house Cheryl's china. The door on the right goes to the basement where the remains of "moving" are resting.
Although the dirt and mess of the construction is finally coming to and end, there is still a lot of work to be done. Some things, such as the food in pantry, still has not moved upstairs. After the living room furniture is moved back in there are curtains to hang, the clutter in the basement to deal with etc. It's been a long, hard hill to climb but the end is in sight and the improvements will last a lot longer than the year it took to accomplish this great transformation. It is very nice!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pa's Fiddle

Remember how Pa's fiddle brightened the lives of the Ingalls family in all the places they lived? The fiddle is now stored in the museum of Ingalls artifacts at the home of Almanzo and Laura (Ingalls) Wilder in Mansfield, Missouri. We saw it when we were there in 1990. Once a year they bring the fiddle out and play it. This recording was made in September 2008. It's too bad they didn't have a bearded man who looked like Pa to play it. But if you close your eyes and just listen to the music you can imagine you're lying in bed falling asleep to the sound of Pa's fiddle.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Winter Projects

Spring is approaching and the time to accomplish my winter projects is fast coming to an end. Two things still not crossed off my winter to-do list on March 1 were scrapbooking my 2008 pictures and making 14 pillowtops. On Monday I finished the scrapbooking and the pillow project is coming along. I ran out of lace and fabric for the ruffles and will get more tomorrow, but it will probably be next week before I can make the last two. Here are a few of those I finished yesterday and today. (Some duplicates of these are on the finished pile.)

When my mother died in 1993, I inherited a large bag of her everyday dresses because I am about the same size she was. After the dresses sat here for 15 years, I knew I would never wear all of them because I have enough everyday dresses of my own. With my frugal German genes (inherited from Mom) I hated to throw the dresses away, so I decided to cut them into patches and make a pillowtop for each of Mom's daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters. To do that, I needed to make 14. Piecing quilt patches is out of my league so my sister-in-law did that part. I've been quilting the tops "in between" other things this winter with the goal of having them finished by our Burkholder dinner at Easter.

The plain pink was the color of the uniforms Mom wore to work in the laundry of a motel, the red is from a dress Daddy bought for her . . . Every patch reminds me of Mom and brings back precious memories. I think she would approve of her dresses being used this way. And it's a good feeling for me to see this project finally being finished.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


If you are unemployed, I know where you can find a great job. You can be hired before you even apply and the benefits are out of this world.
Yesterday was my second day working as a volunteer at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. Before I left I was given an application to fill out. It is mostly for contact information and in case of an emergency, but I thought it was sort of amusing that I worked two days before I applied for the job.
So far I have been given a variety of jobs and enjoyed all of them. Well, yesterday it was kind of frustrating trying to type some labels on a typewriter. First, I had to get the feel of a typewriter, and then the ribbon jammed. I was relieved when I learned the problem had been building up for a couple days and it was nothing I had done.
Next week I will be "promoted" to a regular job so that whenever I get there I will know where to go and what to do without asking. I will be helping to catalog photographs which are stored in the Archives. There are many, many things in the Archives which need to be cataloged so this is just a drop in the bucket, but it's better than no drop. I did not hesitate when Steve asked if I'd be interested in this kind of work. In fact, it is exactly what I was thinking needs to be done at that place. The Archives is sort of the "Mennonite Attic." People bring things in faster than they can be cataloged. What good is it to have things if they are lost in the pile? But they do not have the resources to hire enough people to do the job.
I know my lifetime will not be long enough to catalog everything in the Archives, but I'll do what I can. So if you are out of work, the historical society can use lots of volunteers to help catalog the archives. You won't get a big paycheck but the sense of satisfaction is the best compensation you can receive.