Friday, September 24, 2010

Clare Jones, A Life Story

Mom wrote this informal bio on January 18, 2005. I think it was prepared for Nikki as part of one her school classes. Judging by the way she organized her memories, it would appear that she was answering questions from a questionnaire. Since we don't have the questions, however, I rearranged the short dialogues in a chronological manner for better reading:

My first memory was being in a large crib in a room off the kitchen. My Mother and her sisters were sitting in the kitchen visiting and I was amused with their chatter. I was standing up in the crib with my hands on the rail looking and listening through an open door.

Another memory was at 5 years old when I had my first death experience. I spent a lot of time at my Grandma’s house in my young years, mainly because I was one of the children who resembled the Myers family. My sister Betty looked like the Irish Morans, so she wasn’t welcome in the English Grandmother’s house. The English and Irish did not get along well in those days. My Father’s sister, Aunt Loretta, gave me special attention when I was in the house. I remember standing on the kitchen chair while she fussed with my pretty dress and fixed my hair. One day when I was 5, I was in the kitchen of Grandma’s house with other people when the Doctor came down the steps and announced that Aunt Loretta died. Her casket was in the parlor in front of the windows. The men gathered on the front porch and the women were inside. The Funeral Director put a black wreath on the front door.

My Father’s Mother came from Gloustershire, England in 1889 when she was 15. I remember that she had a strange accent ‑ cockney it was called. She pronounced eggs, “heggs”, and hammer and house were “ammer and ouse.”

We lived in a small coal mining town when I was growing up. My Mother took me to Scranton on my first bus ride when I was about 10 or 12. On the way back home the bus driver had to stop a couple times to let me out to vomit. That was my first experience of car sickness. There were no black people in our town, and I was surprised to see so many on the streets of Scranton. Around those same years my Grandfather Moran took me on a special trip to Gettysburg. We went on the train to Wilkes Barre, and rode the bus to Gettysburg. We ate lunch in a cafĂ©. The battlefield was huge and it seemed we were the only ones visiting. I still don’t know why Grandpa chose me out of all the other grandchildren living in town, but it was a very special time. Those were the days of the steam engines, and by the time we arrived at our destination we were covered with soot.

I don’t remember having any fears while growing up, we lived a peaceful and happy life even though we didn’t have much. I’m sure my parents had fears because my Father did not have steady work and we had to move frequently because the landlords didn’t like noisy kids or they raised the rent, which my Father couldn’t afford. I hated washing the dishes after supper. When it was my turn I left the pots and pans soaking. My Mother never complained and in the morning everything was washed clean.

My Mother gave us chores according to our age and gender. The boys filled the coal pails, emptied ashes out of the coal stove and furnace. My sisters took the smaller kids out for carriage rides so Mother could get the supper ready. I used to sweep the porches and sidewalks and sometimes scrubbed the porches with a pail of soapy water and the broom. We had a parade for every holiday and I was always excited when I saw one. It wasn’t much, lots of fire engines and some horses and bands and special marchers like the VFW and American Legion members.

My Mother was probably the one who had the most influence in my life. I watched her as she struggled to raise my siblings and me. She never complained even though she had to bake bread 3 times a week, drag the washer out to wash clothes 3 times a week, can fruits and vegetables all summer. She was a wise person, knowing how to deal with each child and his/her needs.

We always had a table radio and sat around the dining room table listening to special programs, but only after the homework was done. Some of the programs were The Inner Sanctum (that was scary); Little Orphan Annie; Jack Armstrong; The Lone Ranger; and Fibber McGee and Molly. On Saturday night The Hit Parade was popular, playing the top ten songs of the week.

In fourth grade some times I would be the first one in the classroom and the Sister brought out a big bowl of hot oatmeal and milk that was left over in the kitchen.

I think the best gift I ever received was my first book; a 25 cent Christmas gift from my brother Joe when I was 12. It was Little Women. I must have read it three times. He gave me other books for other occasions: Black Beauty, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. That began my love for reading that has lasted all of my life.

When Franklin Roosevelt became President he began the WPA (Work Projects Association). That’s how I got some of my clothes that I wore to school in the early grades. I called the dresses my WPA dresses: red and white checked, brown and white checked and black and white checked.

I used to play the piano until I was in High School, but lost interest, as I got older. I really don’t know what my strongest asset is, maybe the gift of understanding and intuition.

When I was dating I remember going to a movie, swimming at a lake, and double dating with my sister and her date. One day we went to a fancy restaurant called O’Brien’s outside of Endicott, NY. We ordered fried chicken. When the plate arrived I was shocked, thinking to myself, how do I eat this? It was my first time eating fried chicken. I did my best to cut it off the bones and did a fair job. I think the most extravagant thing I ever did was buy clothes with my first paycheck. It was a wonderful feeling.

My family was Democratic. When I turned 21 my Father marched me down to City Hall to register to vote. The first President I voted for was Eisenhower. (even though he was Republican, he was remembered as a great General).

When I was in the Air Force my sister and I were stationed in Etain, France, with temporary duty in Bitburg, Germany and Madrid, Spain. It was the most memorable time of our lives. We met our husbands in the Air Force, and we were able to travel in many countries and enjoy different cultures. Over the years I have collected some interesting coins from countries other than the U.S. Someday the collection will go to a Grandchild.

I always loved to travel, and that bug is still with me. I want to go to the land of my ancestors, to Ireland, England, and now Wales.
On my Wedding Day, the Mass was scheduled for 10 a.m. My brothers insisted on driving me through town tooting the horn, consequently I was about 20 minutes late and the Priest and groom were up at the altar waiting.

In my early days of marriage I did some amusing things. Bob worked at Bethlehem Steel in Seattle, on the open hearth. One day I put jello in his lunch pail and he came home laughing and showed me the liquid jello. Another time we had a couple visit us for the first time in our apartment and I made a huge bowl of dip. I must have used a pound of cream cheese. Well, we all laughed about that and had dip forever.

Bob and I had 9 children (2 of which were adopted). There are 7 living scattered throughout the country. Being a young parent was difficult at times, but I credit my Nurse training and experiences to its success. We rocked the kids until they were too big for the laps. Most of the time, Bob had one on his lap and one on each handle of the rocker.

My profession was Nursing, and if I had to do it over again I would still choose that work. It was very satisfying and rewarding. As a young adult I remember meeting many more friends, especially after we married and moved to Seattle.

I am satisfied living here in Phoenix, and would never want to move again. Our living arrangements are satisfactory; I find it easier to live on one floor where everything is handy. My husband is still working so we feel we don’t have to adjust to another way of living right now. There is someone in my life with whom I have a warm relationship. She is the young lady who calls me just to chat and find out how I am doing. She’s the other daughter in my life who calls me “Mom”.

I try to stay healthy by eating well, taking vitamin supplements, and exercising at Slender Lady. We have 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. Our children call us frequently, especially daughter Mary, who calls every day. The older grandchildren are not good about calling or visiting, but we see the younger ones more often. I’m the one who keeps in touch with other family members, getting and giving news. Maybe I do that because I’m the family historian. We aren’t alone much with the young grandchildren. When they visit with the parents, and the parents aren’t watching them and they get into mischief, all I do is lift them up and carry them to a safer place, or just snap my fingers and when they look at me I shake my finger, no, and they walk away. I have learned that Grandma doesn’t have to say a word.

I am very proud of all of my children and their successes, but most proud of the family history book that I put together three years ago. I feel that my grandchildren will know where they came from someday.

I love my main hobby, genealogy. It’s a never ending job. I have traced my English ancestors to 1709, and the Irish ancestors to 1809.

The most important rule I lived by was don’t offend God, don’t hurt my parents, and don’t hurt myself. With those three things in mind I was able to face all temptations in life, and I felt better mentally. It showed that a person doesn’t have to follow the crowd to be popular. My best advise for today’s youth is do good in school, enjoy your job, travel as much as you can, and remember that learning doesn’t end when you get that diploma.


Michael Jones said...

Very nice. I hope you have more of these.

Mae West said...

I loved reading these stories that your mother wrote! Thank you for posting them!