Posts Tagged ‘Preserve Memories’

Some of my customers don’t know where to start. They open their closet doors and view the disorganization of the photos and videos and then close the door again. It seems overwhelming. But they want to experience again the memories that these photos hold – to see them displayed on their computers during the day, to share with family members, or to archive them for future generations.

Call Picture This! to help you get organized

Actually organizing and labeling the photos isn’t that difficult. Here is a step-by-step guide to get things in order so that Picture This! can scan in your photos or slides for you. We offer consulting services to help you with this task, but it is one easily done by you if you have the time.

  1. Get several cardboard file folder boxes, some hanging files and individual file folders. This works well if you have varying sizes of photos, or perhaps some mementos as well. If all of your photos are 4 x 6 inches, then archival photo boxes work well. You will need a permanent marker to write on the file folders or the index cards in the archival boxes. Some small Stickie notes might also come in handy.
  2. Find a working space that can be used for about 2 -3 weeks in your leisure time. A dining room table or large desk works well. Pull out all of the photos and photo albums. Don’t forget all the treasured photos that are in frames on the walls.
  3. You have to decide on one of two methods to organize your photos; either by year that the photo was taken, or by person or family that is in the photo itself.
    1. If most of your photos are in albums, they might be more easily organized by date and event (example: 1964 – Kate & Bill wedding).
    2. If your photos are loose or in envelopes as they were returned from the photo developer, then sorting them by person might be the easiest.
  4. Mark each folder or archival box for each person or year. An example list of folders for Kate & Bill Bolten’s family, which includes their 3 children Eddie, James, & Susan might be:
    • Young Kate with Temple Family (Kate’s maiden name)
    • Kate’s ancestors
    • Young Bill with Bolton Family
    • Bill’s ancestors
    • Kate & Bill together (dating and wedding)
    • Eddie’s childhood
    • James’s childhood
    • Susan’s childhood
    • Family group photos of young family
    • Holidays
    • Eddie & Karen (Eddie when grown and wife Karen with their children)
    • James & Jenny (James and wife Jenny)
    • James & Linda (James and second wife Linda with children)
    • Susan & Larry (Susan and husband Larry)
    • Miscellaneous
    • Large group family photos of extended families
    • Pets
    • Family Friends

    OR just label each by year that the photo was taken if you have that information.

  5. Place the files into the file folder box or open the archival boxes. Open the first envelope of photos and pull out the photos. As you take out each photo, place it in the appropriate file or envelope. If you are using archival boxes, then mark the index cards in the boxes with these categories and place the photos behind the appropriate index card separators. Take a few moments to reminisce, but try to be expedient about sorting the photos. After they are scanned, you will have much time to enjoy the images and memories. If there isn’t an existing folder or index card, label a new one and continue.
  6. If there are loose photos that you don’t want scanned, you can indicate this by keeping them in a separate box or by giving us direction about avoiding bad photos, all photos that don’t have people in them, or duplicate or similar photos.
  7. If photos are in an album, label each album with the year or event so they can be placed in folders on the DVD after they are scanned. There is no need to remove the photos from these albums – Picture This! can remove them and replace the photos for most photo albums. If there are some photos that you don’t want scanned, place a small Stickie note on these photos so that we know to skip them.
  8. Mark framed photos with a sticky note so that they can place in the appropriate folder on the DVD.
  9. Slides are usually in trays or boxes. Leave these slides in the box or tray and label each box or tray if they are not labeled. It is harder to sort out slides that you don’t want unless you have a slide viewer. Most of our customers give us direction about scanning in slides (see note 6 above).

Picture This! will return your photos to you in the boxes or folders as you sorted them. The color optimized scanned images are given to you on a DVD by folder of person or year for you to place on your computer, share with family, and archive for safe-keeping.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

* VHS or reels to DVD
* Scan your photos or slides
* Preserve your Memories.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.


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I recognize fun. In the transition between a person’s thought and the first inkling that something spontaneous is about to happen, I am on full alert to participate. I’m drawn to it like a magnet. And if anyone else has that predisposition for fun, I can tell it in the first minute of meeting them. It’s an exclusive club and instead of a secret handshake, we greet each other with a twinkle in our eye. It’s one of the gifts that I inherited from my Dad.

My Daddy was a play-on-the-floor kind of Dad (See: Sharing our Family’s Memories: Knock-Knock ). He was my pony ride, my chariot, or super sports car –  or whatever I chose for the day. They say if you put two gifted kids together, the result of their work or play is greater than the sum of the parts. My Dad and I could create worlds of fun that didn’t make sense to most people, but to us it did. I might ask for a pony ride, but by the end of our time of play, we traveled to Oz, fooled the trolls by the side of the road, and shot predators along our way. All we had to do was open ourselves up to whatever situation presented itself.

Photo Scanning Austin

My Dad and I

Music seemed to provide the platform for most of our antics. My Dad and I couldn’t stand it if Lawrence Welk was on TV, and we weren’t moving to the music. I learned to dance standing on his toes. He was the zoot-suit-wearing jitterbug king and I was his flying-through-the-air partner. On the morning of my wedding, he played the song “Going to the Chapel” and we line-danced to the lyrics. He walked me down the aisle that day in the traditional way, but we both knew that at any moment, it could end up being a very impromptu dance to the front of the church instead. We smiled at the mere image of it.

Photo Scan Austin

My Dad playing guitar

My teen-age cousin visited from Indiana once and my Dad pulled out an electric guitar he was learning to play, grabbed my cousin’s long black Cher-like wig from her head, placed it on his head, and played his newest boogie. We were his back-up  and the best doo-op singers ever. What fun we had. I had two choices: I could shake my head at the ridiculous-ness of it all or join in. I did both, but joining in was the better choice.

My Dad died 28 years ago. He made an impact on me that transcends our short time together on this earth. He made sure that I would recognize this ability to have fun in other people. E.E. Cummings said, “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” My Dad is my star. I live my life twinkle by twinkle.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

* VHS or reels to DVD
* Scan your photos or slides
* Preserve your Memories.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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My Mother told some stories that were just a bit difficult to believe. Now, I’m not saying that she was fibbing or anything. They are, certainly, her stories and her history. I’m just saying that they seemed a bit far-fetched. Several years before my mother died, my sisters and I persuaded our mother to travel with us to Tennessee. We wanted to hear the stories that she told in the environment that she grew up in. We wanted her to point out where her houses used to be, where her father’s schoolhouse was located, and mostly we wanted to re-live her childhood years with her. What an adventure for us all.

The Creek

The House by the Creek

We had always heard about the creek that ran behind my mother’s house when she was growing up. We knew my Mom was terrified of  bodies of  water. She reasoned to us that when she was 4-5 years old, the creek behind her house flooded.   Her Dad couldn’t swim and her brothers Warren and Bill had to break the pigs out of their pen.   The next morning, the water ran very swift between their house and their neighbor Nan’s.   Warren swam across the swift water, got Nan’s horse, and rode everyone across to eat. It was necessary to get to Nan’s house since she fed the family after my Mom’s mother took off with another man and robbed a train (See: Living on the Edge ). They would have a big breakfast at Nan’s and then she would pack their lunches — sandwich of cold biscuit and cold meat or pinto beans and cornbread.

When we traveled to the site of this infamous story with my mother, my 3 sisters and I could see where her house had stood and couldn’t see a creek or river of any sort. We questioned our mother about her version of the story and perhaps the creek was only a few inches deep (but probably seemed deep to a 4 year old), it started to rain. The rain  flashed off the mountain and filled the ditch behind the homestead in a hurry. Perhaps there was merit to her story after all.


The SchoolHouse

While we were standing there at her old home site, she pointed up the road where the one-room schoolhouse used to be where her father taught (See: Campbell Mountain). It was a gravel road and the road was named “Campbell Road” after her father in honor of  his years of teaching at this school. My mother started relaying the story about going to school with her father when she was four years old. There wasn’t any childcare at her home since her mother moved out. The desks in the schoolhouse were 2-person desks but she had her own desk and her own schoolwork to do. That is, unless one of the older students misbehaved. In that case, the misbehaving student was moved to the empty seat at my mother’s desk. Rufus, it seemed, occupied her desk as often as he did his own. And when Rufus was at my mother’s desk, he tormented her relentlessly. My mother got in trouble then for the commotion that was caused.

She told us this story and she was getting intense in the re-telling. Her arms were flailing as she was standing on the side of the road with us. And as she spoke, an old model Ford – perhaps a 1955 – drove slowly down the mountain on the stone road. This car slowed down and peered cautiously at this group of women  – my sisters, Mom, and I – by the side of the road. He said, “Mary?”. My mother remarked back, “Rufus?”. We couldn’t believe that Rufus, the tormentor was there in person. It must have been a set-up, we thought. Again, she proved that this story indeed was historically correct.

Wearing Bibbed Overalls

Mary Jean in a Skirt

My mother was the youngest child in her family, with 4 older brothers. During the Depression, she told the story about never having a dress to wear. Instead, she wore hand-me-down bibbed overalls from her 4 older brothers. According to her tales, she was 13 before she owned a dress. The week that mother died, her older brother came to spend some time with her and with us. As my mother slept, I asked my Uncle about this particular story. He said that it wasn’t the same memory that he had. My mother had twin cousins who were 2 years older than she was and they had some money in their family. They donated their dresses to my mother throughout her childhood. He said that my mother was a tomboy and that she refused to wear the dresses that were given to her. I later found a photo of my mother when she was 8 years old. And she was wearing a dress and leggings.

As Frank Delaney says in Tipperary “Memory is a canvas – stretched, primed, and ready for painting on. We love the ’story’ part of the word ‘history,’ and we love it trimmed out with color and drama, ribbons, and bows. We always decorate our essence.” My Mom was entitled to the ‘story’ part her family ‘history’.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

  • VHS or reels to DVD
  • Scan your photos or slides
  • Preserve your Memories.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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So You’re the Family Archivist

It isn’t easy being the family archivist and in charge of database of the family stories, documents, photos, and videos. It takes years to research, collect, and verify the family stories, photos, and videos. It also is a mammoth effort to organize this information with a timeline and familial relationships to  give to generations of family members. Where do you start and how do you get a handle on this task? Take a look at these tools that will help you as you take on the role of family historian.

Gathering The Information

Scan photo


Start by asking around the family for stories and photos. Interview your older relatives. Let them know that you are starting the project of gathering and archiving the family story. My Aunt Bert passed along letters that my Dad had written her in World War II when he was just 19. And the only color photograph of me as a child was given to me by my aunt after my parents died. If your relatives don’t remember what might be in that memory box in the closet, ask them to look. Or sit down with them as they go through the box and ask them detailed questions about those photos, making notes as you discuss or set up a video camera to record the details of the conversation.

Look online. The internet is a haven of great information. Cyndi’s List of Genealogy sites has a plethora of links that will help you in your search to find the missing information and also tools to help you organize it. Genealogy Bank is the largest database of historical newspapers from around the country. I found an article from 1897 about my grandfather as a teenager. I also found about 25 articles about my father growing up. It is not a free database, but they do have short-term subscriptions.

Article from Newspaper Archive

Some software packages enable accessing online databases, such as census information. Here is a review of the features of the Top Ten genealogy software packages for a PC and here is a spreadsheet with a listing and features for the Top Ten genealogy software packages for a Mac. Don’t forget about the Ancestry.com as well. It is probably the best known aid in online searches for information. They have discussion groups that allow access to family members only.

Get your kids involved. The Unwritten – Saving your photo Stories for the Future is a website that focuses on children. This website has excellent tips and teaching components for children.

If family members live around the country, set up Google Docs, which is a sharing site where all family members can access the same document. Use this document to write about your ancestors and family and encourage others to add to it. Emphasize that no one is right or wrong about the information – that each entry is just a piece of the puzzle. Everyone thinks differently and has a separate point of view because of his life experience. Pose questions and allow all to answer. Some software programs also allow private forums or discussions that will allow the same sharing among family members.

Organizing It All And Share It With Others

Tell your Story and archive your photos

Picture This! is a company in Austin, Texas that provides a professional service that helps you sort through your heritage photographs. Picture This! digitizes and restores your photos with extreme gentle care. After Picture This! completes the scanning, they return a DVD  with folders of organized heirloom photographs. Often family members add a .pdf document to the folder of photos to complement the photos with the family story.

Videos – reels and tapes – are also digitized by Picture This! for archival purposes and to share with family members. DVD slideshows DVD slideshows and Memory Books are also great options and gifts for family members.

Blogs are great way to pair the family story with photos. It might be cumbersome to write a book, but taking each family story, one at a time, and presenting it in a blog to share with family members is manageable for the writer and for the reader. Picture This! has a blog called Sharing Your Family’s Memories dedicated to telling the family story. Other examples and helpful tips for writing a blog is found at Writing Your Memories and Genealogy Wise. Triggers for writing about family stories is found in a booklet called “Memoring my Memories” by Emily Aulicino. WordPress and Blogger are both free online blogging software sites.

iPhoto is a Mac photo software package that enhances photo organization with facial recognition and editable metadata. This software organizes photos by album, by event, or by person.

Memory Miners goes one step further and uses genealogy software to integrate heirloom photos into the timelines and family tree. There are people views and map views and it creates a GEDCOM family tree complete with photos. Add audio and video recordings with text annotations to complete the family story.

Story Corps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening. They collect stories across the country. They have a list of questions to use when getting started with your interview, and they have a mobile bus that travels from city to city with equipment to make a recording of your family story.

LifeStories Alive makes personal history videos for families using their heritage. They create family heirloom in video – digitally mastered records of life stories with personal accounts, photos, and mementos of family history.

Tell me Your Story is another company that preserves your family history. Located in Austin, Texas, this company produces a book from oral interviews that are audio taped. Photos and documents complete the pertinent story. An embossed hardback book on archival paper is the finished product. Contact them directly to get more information.

Back It All Up

After doing all the research and organization, don’t forget the last step. Put this information on reliable media and have it stored in more than one place. Archival DVDs  last 100 years if stored properly. Make sure to back up any information that you have online. Make duplicate copies of photos and videos to a DVD or hard drive. Send this second copy to a place outside your house (sister’s house or safe deposit box) in case of fire. Don’t rely on photo sharing websites for  your backup. The images stored online are usually small and not large enough for archival purposes.

Generations from now, our children and grandchildren will not tiptoe into our closets and retrieve “the box” of photos and documents that tell our story. With a bit of concentrated effort and some guidance from these resources, our stories will be richer and more accessable for those who are seeking their family story.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

Picture This! http://www.picturethisaustin.com

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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When I was a child, New Year’s Eve was the second best day of the year. Christmas day comes first, of course.  We anticipated New Year’s Eve with almost as much enthusiasm. My parents were married on New Year’s Eve, and every December 31st we celebrated their anniversary as a family.

Scan Photo Slides

Mom and Dad on their wedding day - December 31

Beginning in the morning of the last day of each year, my father would start by telling his version of their courting years and the day they got married. My mother had her version of stories as well and it seemed like the only story they had in common about that day was that it was very cold outside. As they waited outside the Justice of the Peace’s office in Valpraiso, Indiana, a snowstorm blew through and my father offered his coat to my mother and then wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm.

My Mom had a son before my parents were married. They dropped him off at a sitter’s house and then drove to Indiana to get married. There was no waiting period for a marriage license there. My father was a man who pinched pennies and it occurred to him that if he married my mother the last day of the year, he could get a great tax deduction. Because my mother had a child, it was a double bonus for that tax year. He did not marry my Mom because of the savings, but he did marry her the 31st of December instead of in January to take advantage of the tax situation. It was a running joke throughout their marriage about my father’s great deal.

Preserve Family History

Family Photo after Wedding

My parents were 33 and 32 when they married. They met at a diner where my Mom was a waitress. She worked there during an economic slump at the factory (see: Living on the Edge ). My father would come into the restaurant to eat, but after a while he dropped by just to see my Mom. During their courtship, Dad would go to her house after she got off work and visit with her and her son. Later, because my Mom had a child and couldn’t afford a sitter, my Dad would leave and go out on the town with his friends. It bothered my Mom that he left her to go out with his friends – instead of staying for the whole evening. They argued about it and when he left, she told him “not to let the doorknob hit him in the a**”.  After she refused to see him unless he fully committed to their relationship, a few weeks later they decided to elope.  And my father adopted my mother’s 4 year-old son. My father re-told the story about the doorknob throughout the years. He admired my Mom’s spunk and his eyes twinkled when he told this story.

New Year’s Eve was the only day of the year that our family went out to dinner. It was quite a gift from my father to agree to the extra expense. (see: My Dad – the Original Organic Gardener ) His treat for my mother to spare her one day a year from cooking dinner. We usually went to a restaurant called FAYLI. It was a diner that was near a highway in town and was often frequented by truckers. We found out later that it stood for “Food As You Like It.”  They had a large booth in the corner and all 7 of us could fit in there. We were allowed to order what we wanted. Every year, my mother ordered chopped beef  with mashed potatoes and gravy. I remember that each of us kids would order a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake. My Dad would order whatever they had on the special menu varying from liver and onions to corned beef and cabbage. He interacted with the waitress, telling her the reason for our dinner and we would often get extra cherries in our milkshakes or a free dessert. My mother was unusually giddy at these dinners and I remember much laughter and more courtship stories coming from our corner booth.

Preserve Family Story

My parents on their 25th Anniversary

After dinner, we would return to our house and my Mom and Dad would have a cocktail – usually Seagrams and Pepsi. My parents never drank and it fascinated us to see them drink alcoholic beverages on New Year’s Eve. We also never had soft drinks at our house, let alone potato chips and other snacks. This one time a year though, they splurged and we had our chips with homemade potato chip dip, and  as many soft drinks as we wanted. They brought out the Tupperware tall plastic glasses that were used only when company came and we put ice and Pepsi in them. I still enjoy a soft drink out of a Tupperware glass as it brings back memories for me. Sometimes their friends would come over to our house and they played pinochle at the dining room table while the kids watched TV or listened to our records on the turntable. Other times, when their friends didn’t come, we would play our favorite marble game called Aggravation with all of the kids old enough to play.  Because my Mom only drank once a year, she would often fall asleep on the sofa for a short time during the evening after her two cocktails. I don’t remember watching the ball drop on Times Square on TV, but I do remember watching my parents kiss at midnight. They weren’t usually publically affectionate, so any physical interaction was memorable.

New Year’s Eve was a special day at our house. When I think about details about that day in my family, it reminds me of an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” which always had a happy ending. I love that my parents celebrated this day with us and took the time – and money – to make it so special for all of us. I play my own black-and-white memory video in my mind of my happy childhood and episode one is a typical New Year’s Eve day with my family.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

Picture This! http://www.picturethisaustin.com

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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My Dad was a bunch of fun. He was the middle of 14 children (see Being a Middle Child, #7 of 14) and simply craved attention. At family reunions, he held court with his brothers and sisters. He was a favorite uncle to his 50 nieces and nephews – he would get on the floor and play with them. He could pull quarters out of their ear, and he also convinced them that one  of his arms was longer than the other. He would pull his sleeve down over his wrist and pull one arm to make it longer. It was convincing. During the Dukes of Hazzard County years, he became “Luke Duke” and his grandson was  “Bo Tie”, making their get-away in my father’s recliner chair turned “The General Lee”, their imaginary  1969 Dodge Charger . I think my father enjoyed the play-acting more than my nephew did.

Photo scanning

Dad goofing around "playing" the guitar

He was the fun parent too. We didn’t have much money in our family, but it didn’t take money to have laughter in my house. Dad was entertainment director. I learned to dance – standing on his feet while he danced during the Lawrence Welk and Grand Ole Opry shows. He comically would move around the family room floor as long as the music played. He bent over, pushed his rear-end out, and taught us all how to jitter-bug.

When I brought my boyfriend over to our house at age 16, he told Paul that he liked his football team moustache. When Paul asked what he meant, my father quipped, “There are 11 on each side.” Paul laughed while I left the room completely mortified. The morning of my wedding, Dad choreographed a line dance to “Going to the Chapel”. Later that day, he walked me down the aisle, and before giving my arm to my groom, he took a minute to ask him for 5 dollars. Of course he wasn’t serious – he was just making a joke. It didn’t matter to him that it was the middle of my wedding ceremony.

He told the corniest jokes. He died 27 years ago, but I still remember most of those jokes. Maybe because he told them so many times. Certainly not because the jokes were funny.

“Judge, I want a divorce.”
“Do you have grounds for a divorce?”
“Yes, I have 7 acres.”
“No, what I mean is do you have a grudge?”
“Yes, I have 3-car grudge.”
“Sir, what is the foundation of this divorce?”
“Our foundation is concrete, but what does that have to do with a divorce?”
“One final questions: Does your wife beat you up?”
“No, I’m always up before she is.”
“Case closed”.

He told these same jokes to our family, to strangers, and around my friends in high school. My friends loved him. He was the life of my slumber parties. I thought my girlfriends and I would stay in the basement all night as I had games planned for the evening. But they clamored to be around my dad. He held court.

“My favorite salad is a honeymoon salad”.
“What is a honeymoon salad?”
“Just lettuce alone.”
“Second favorite salad is a Little Boy Salad.”
“What is a Little Boy Salad?”
“Lettuce, turnip and pea.”

“What’s a paradox?”
“Two of them.”

“They hired a new coach from China. His name is win-one-soon.”

“How do you call a headless dog?”
“I don’t know”.
“You wouldn’t want to call him anyways, he couldn’t hear you.”

“What’s the difference between a quarter and a henway?”
“What’s a henway?”
“Oh, about two and a half pounds!”

“You have friendly hair, it’s waving at me.”

Photo Scan

My Mom and Dad Visiting

Two months before my Dad died, he came to visit us in our new home in Houston. He came with my Mom to be present when my first baby was to be born. My Dad had suffered a heart attack at his job two weeks earlier, but it was undiagnosed. He must have felt poorly, but he still spent part of his two weeks at my new house putting in a new backyard. He asked me how would I grade it, meaning was it level and would it drain properly? I told him, I would give it a B+. He appreciated my attempt at humor.

We toured the Houston zoo during that week and watched the monkeys groom their babies, pulling off fleas and slicking down their hair.  He teased me and asked me to watch the mother monkeys so I’d know how to take care of my baby. Mom and Dad had to leave before my son was born – I was 2 1/2 weeks late to deliver him. It was the last time I saw my Dad. He suffered a massive heart attack and died before I could get back to my home town.

When I arrived home, my mother was busy planning the funeral. She fussed over her new grandson for a short while, and then returned to making plans. She pondered what to have my father wear. He had two suits, one very formal that he rarely wore and another than was his favorite, a nice brown and blue plaid. She mused out loud that “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid Suits.” It was comic relief for me and my siblings as we roared in laughter that my mother’s comment coincided with Steve Martin’s new movie “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” that came out that week. My father would have loved the humor.

We read the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote at his funeral. It says, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

“Knock Knock
“Who’s there?”
“little old lady…”
“little old lady who?”
Hey! I didn’t know you could yodle…!”

Thanks for keeping us laughing, Dad.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

  • VHS or reels to DVD
  • Scan your photos or slides
  • Preserve your Memories.


Copyright 2009, All rights reserved.

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My mother

My mother

My mother grew up on the edge. It was the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, but it was in reality it was the edge of society. She was the youngest of 4 children in a one-parent family. Her father was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and her mother spent a few years in prison for robbing a train (See Archive the Photo AND Tell the Story:Ruby ).

As much as my mother told us what her life was growing up in poverty, I don’t think we ever fully grasped what her day-to-day tasks were like. There was no electricity and no inside plumbing. She washed the family clothing down at the spring. Her brothers made a fire in the stove in the kitchen every evening before my mother cooked dinner for the family. They all ate beans and cornbread every day for dinner. My mother reportedly never owned a dress, instead dressing in her brothers’ hand-me-downs. And these hardships were before the Depression started.

But even though there was extreme poverty in may parts of the Appalachian  Mountains, my mother’s family was set apart from the others in the area. They were children from a divorced family and their mother had been in prison. My mother and her siblings were seen as outcasts by some.

My grandmother came back to town when my mother was 5 years old. She was trying to get some of her children back to live with her and her future husband. My mother heard from her father that her mother was going to marry a “half-wit”. My mother sobbed for hours that night. When her father persisted to find out what was wrong. She admitted that she didn’t want her name changed to “Mary Half-Wit”. She told the story in a humorous way, but we could feel the pain of her childhood trying to come to grips with this situation.

Campbell0011 - Version 4My mother told us the story about going to church when she was about 13 years old. She attended with a girlfriend, even though she didn’t have the appropriate clothing. She felt scorned because of this. At some part of the service, all the women from the church gathered around her and prayed over my mother. It may have been a religious ceremony for young teenagers in her church. But in my mother’s eyes, she was being punished for her family’s situation and for her mother’s sins. She never returned to any church except for the few times her children were in Christmas pageants and when we got married. She didn’t belong.

My mother attended teacher’s college at the age of 16 and graduated the year after World War II started. She taught for a year and hated it. She tried different careers, and eventually in 1946 moved to Lima, Ohio where her brother and sister-in-law lived.

Lil - my mother's best friend

Lil - my mother's best friend

She didn’t try to fit in with society there. She worked in a factory and became friends with other women who were seen as “not proper”. She didn’t try to hide her differences and instead she and her friends created their own societal rules. (I later learned some amazing – even scandalous – stories about these women.) They became life-long friends, bound by their similar situations. With them she felt respected, valued and loved. When my mother was with them, she belonged and felt normal. When they were not around, she felt different from most.

They were with her when she gave birth to her first son, fathered by a railroad man who did not marry her. They were her family and part of our lives, becoming more like a grandmother to us than a family friend. Even with their support, I’m not sure my mother ever overcame this feeling of being on the outside looking in. She grew up in poverty without a mother. But with the help of her friends, she found a place to belong.


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