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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Entries in Letters (2)

Thursday
Mar212013

Sweet Genevieve

It's been way too long since I've checked/updated my blog, a lot has happened in the past 8 months! I now have two sweet daughters- Georgiana Marie and Genevieve Louise. Identical twin girls born in late July 2012. (lots of pictures and stories to come, just trying to catch up here!)

My Genevieve Louise was named after her father's paternal grandmother, known as "Maw". I was just checking comments from past posts and a comment on my post about Maw Burchett (the original Genevieve Louise Burchett) left me speechless. My brother-in-law, Joe, had transcribed a beautiful letter Maw had written to him.

Genevieve Louise Woodard Burchett (age 101) with her great granddaughters Georgiana Marie and Genevieve Louise (6 weeks old). September 2013, St. Albans, WV. Maw passed away just 5 days after this picture was taken. We are so blessed to have had this visit. 

Maw's letter to her grandson Joe:

March 29, 2001

Dear Joseph,

I am your paternal grandmother Genevieve Louise Burchett, nee Woodard born August 19, 1911 in Huntington, WV.

I never knew any of my grandparents as they all died when I was very young or before I was born.

My mother’s name was Lula Maud Richardson. She had a sister, Susan and a brother Samuel. They were left orphans at an early age and were separated for life. My mother was raised by an aunt, Emma, and uncle, Will Davis - but they never adopted her. They lived in Guyandotte, WV and were the only “grandparents” I ever knew. Many of my summers were spent there. They had a cow and chickens and an outdoor toilet. I thought that was fun – especially when grandpa would take us for a ride in his Buick touring car. It had high seats and a top that was convertible. Grandma fussed at him for driving too fast – which was probably 15 or 25 miles per hour – if that fast!

My father, James Calvin Woodard, was the oldest son of John William and Laura Jane Messersmith Woodard. His siblings were Carl, Benton, Floyd, Clay, Stella and Nina. I loved my aunts and uncles and spent many hours visiting them – especially Uncle Sam and Carl and Aunt Nina. When my grandmother Woodard died, my dad left home. He took a variety of jobs, ending up as a Freight Conductor on the C&O Railroad out of Huntington, WV. He met my mother when he was eating at a boarding house in Guyandotte – run by Mrs. Emma Davis. He fell in love with her and when he could he attended the Methodist Church where she sang in the choir. Mrs. Davis was against his courtship – so while she and her husband were on vacation they eloped to Wayne, WV and were married by the Justice of Peace.

They lived in Huntington and there my oldest brother William Waldorf and I were born. When I was two we moved to St. Albans, WV and lived in a little house on Railroad Ave. as it was called then because the trains ran along it. Every time a train ran past we would race outside to wave to the conductor and engineer. Sometimes dad would be on that particular train and he would always be on the caboose to wave to us and we loved that.

I remember when the troop trains carrying world war one soldiers would come there – they always waved to us and would throw “hard tack” crackers which we would race to pick up. They were hard as rocks but we thought they were a treat.

One evening we all walked up to the depot (about 1-1/2 blocks) – President Wilson was on the end car of a train and he came out and waved to everyone. He had a nice smile.

I loved living there in that little house. It’s still there and when I had my car I would drive by it – remembering how it used to be. It had a big barn and a smoke house used for smoking hams. We played in the barn – dad made us a rope swing in the doorway. I remember swinging and singing at the top of my voice. That’s what I was doing the day my brother was throwing rocks. One hit me on the forehead and I still have the scar.

By now I had another sister, Laura Elizabeth and two brothers – James Arthur and Lewis Webster. Our little house was getting crowded.

When I was six I started school at the old Central School Building on 6th Avenue. I had to walk across a scary (to me) trestle bridge as that was the shortest route. My older brother was supposed to stay with me but he never did after the first few days.

The first thing that happened I got head lice. Because my hair was long and red like his mother’s my dad wouldn’t let it be cut. My mother worked and I would cry – getting rid of those pests was quite a battle. The other memorable thing that happened I had to stand in the corner for whispering to someone. That was very humiliating.

I was twelve before I got my first haircut. I had to plead and cry before my dad would consent. He took me to his own barber and when all that long red hair was laying on the floor all he said was, “I hope you’re satisfied.”

My dad was a very handsome man with black wavy hair. He was very strict with me and my older brothers but by the time there was nine of us he lightened up a lot. He always wanted a car but I heard him tell a neighbor that there was no way he’d fight with all of us over car keys!

My mother was about 5’-6” with long straight dark hair that came below her waist. She never cut it in deference to Dad. She worked so hard doing for all of us and looking back I can see how little we helped her. She was much more lenient with us than Dad. When he was gone we could play ping pong on the dining room table, play “Puss in the Corner” in the house and about every other game we wanted to play. I guess she realized that growing children needed to let off steam. When Dad was home all was quiet. I was not allowed to read “paperback trash” – so I would hide my current novel in my big geography school book and pretend to be studying. Sneaky, huh?

When I was 7 or 8 we moved into our new house at 511 6th Ave. It seemed very spacious to us – Mom and Dad went up first – then Waldorf, Arthur, Laura and I – we pushed baby Webster in his stroller.

We had gas lights which meant no jumping in the house lest we shatter net mantles that sheltered the flame.

I remember when the Armistice was signed and World War I was over. The churches and school bells began to ring and whistles blew. I was frightened and ran inside – I found my mother down on her knees and crying. My dad had two brothers overseas and in the war but they were not hurt. I gave your dad the empty brass shell casing that Uncle Ben brought back from France.

I remember when I was 9 or 10 I was late getting home from school as I had loitered to talk and giggle with one of my friends. I thought I was in for it but when I got there I found everyone in a state of great excitement. Our house was flooded with electric light. It seemed so bright to us. Now we could have a refrigerator instead of the old wooden ice box on the back porch. The pan under it had to be emptied periodically or the floor would be flooded. Still, we missed Mr. Burdette and his ice wagon. We would run after it hoping for a chunk of ice. Dad also bought an electric washing machine. We had been using one that ran on manpower - that is by turning the cylinder with a piece of a broom handle. We kids had to take turns doing this. My brother and Dad’s younger brother Clay would do the timing and I’m sure I came out the loser. Uncle Clay lived with us after his father died. I don’t remember how long he stayed but I do remember he got small pox and we were all lined up buy old Dr. Thompkins and vaccinated. Uncle Clay was isolated in the attic and his sister Aunt Nina came and took care of him. We carried their meals to the foot of the attic stairs and Aunt Nina would be wearing a long coat and hood and that would scare us. It must have been a big added hardship on Mom but I never heard her complain. I wish you could have known my mother, Joe. Looking back I realize what a truly remarkable woman she was with nine children, a husband who was more than likely to be called to work in the middle of the night – which meant getting out of bed, baking biscuits, frying eggs and apples (which was the only thing acceptable to my father), packing his lunch bucket and falling back in bed for 2 or 3 hours. Then up to work without ceasing until our bedtime.

She had such a pretty singing voice and she taught us all “Now I lay me”. When she had a little time to read, it was her bible. I wish I had helped her more and told her I loved her. When I was twelve years old there was a Revival held in a big canvas tent in the field next to our house. Then was the time I gave my heart to Jesus and was baptized by sprinkling – I didn’t always remember my vows but now I realize that my mother with her prayers kept us all in line – not a stray in the bunch.

Dad died in 1957 in November of pancreatic cancer. Mom died in May of 1968 of congestive heart failure. They are buried in a Hurricane, WV cemetery along with Dad’s parents and brothers.

Dad couldn’t afford to give anyone music lessons but we always had access to music. We even had an Edison that played round wax cylinders. It had a big black metal horn for an amplifier with roses painted on the inside. After it was relegated to the attic we kids used the horn to yell out the windows at passersby til we were ordered to stop. Then we got the Silvertone Victrola and we loved that – although we had a record “Sweet Genevieve” that my brothers would play just to aggravate me. Then came the radio and on to T.V.

listen to "Sweet Genevieve"

We had a lot of fun in our pre-teen years. We played softball and in the long summer evenings there was “hide and seek”, “King of the Hill,” and several others. The girls jumped rope, played with Jacks, cut out paper dolls, and marbles were big – needless to say we didn’t have much grass in our back yard. I don’t believe kids have a childhood today. They are constantly going to structured activities or in the house watching T.V.

When fall came Dad always bought a barrel of red apples which he put in the basement. It was my pleasure to come home from school, get me an apple, sit by the fire grate (Gas) and read. Every Saturday we kids had to go thru that barrel of apples and pick out the ones starting to go bad so mom could cook them. We didn’t enjoy that very much.

When May 12th came, no earlier or later we could take our “long Johns” off and go barefooted and boy did that feel good!

When our aunts came to visit in the summertime and would bring our cousins that was fun. Mom would make us pallets of blankets and quilts downstairs for us to sleep on. We would tell stories and jokes and rough house until loud hushes were heard from upstairs.

Then in the Fall it was apple butter making time. We would take turns on the apple peelers but were not allowed to stir the apples in the big copper kettle. It stood over a fire outside. I’m sure it was not much fun for the grown-ups. Dad always tossed in a silver fifty cent piece to keep it from sticking and whoever got it when apple butter was served was allowed to keep it. Riches indeed!

I graduated from High School and Berea College School of Nursing. I went to Peabody Teachers College in Nashville, TN, but when the money ran out I left school to take a job in Prestonsburg, KY. I had planned to go back to school but I met your grandfather in May and we were married in November 1938.

We raised and educated (with their help) four children – your Aunts Sue, Linda and Janice and your father Robert Calvin. They all married and then the grandchildren began to come. You, my dear Joseph, were the last one that your grandfather knew. He was so thankful for a grandson to carry on his name. He died Oct. 29, 1974 of a heart attack...

 

 

Friday
Oct142011

Friday Love Letters: September 24, 1920

I am so lucky to have a series of letters from my great grandfather Wentworth Middleton to my great grandmother Edith Shaw Middleton. This collection of letters is one of my most treasured family heirlooms. These simple pieces of paper have been passed down and saved for almost 100 years. More on this collection and how to preserve.

Sept. 23. 1920- 91 years ago.

A letter from my great grandfather Wentworth Middleton to his wife Edith. Wentworth is working in a NJ steel mill while Edith and their daughter Marjorie are down the (jersey!) shore with friends. It seems like he planned to go down to meet them on Friday- but because of work he has to delay his trip. I love the nicknames he had for my grandmother, "kiddo". In other letters he refers to her as "chickie".

Dear Edie,

I was going to call you up but did not think about there not being any phone. You certainly are having fine weather and I wish that I could be down there with you, but it does not seem to be possible just now. Am sure that the Kiddo must be much better by now, as she was improving very much (pg.2) last Sunday and Monday.

I called up your Mother and she said that they had sent you a letter to the old place but were sending you a postal to tell you about so you must have that by now. She also said that Anna was feeling very bad again. I said that it would be very nice if she could go down to the shore it would do her good. But she said (pg.3) it would be impossible for her to get down there.

Matt sent some eggs yesterday and I will bring some or all of them when I come down. You better call me up Saturday morning at 9 o’clock. I am afraid it will be impossible for me to come down Friday A.M. I will tell you then what time I will be down (pg.4) on Saturday. I will probably be able to stay Monday and maybe Tuesday.

Tell Mort if you see him that he can play at Deal by paying the greens fee.

Am using a fountain pen and the ink has run out. I hope you are feeling fine and do not worry about things too much. (pg.5) Give lots of love and kisses to Marg and also yourself tell her I will see her soon. Give my love to the Middleton’s and lots more to yourself and the kiddo.

                                                                                    Daddy

When I read these letters I feel like I'm really getting to know them. I can't imagine any other way I could tap into their personal thoughts the way these letters do.

Do you send/save letters and cards? Do we still value the handwritten word? Inspired?

Write your sweetheart or friend a letter today!