Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Melons

More evidence of my family's penchant for watermelon. I found this photo in one of my Great Aunt Fay's old photo albums.
Aunt Fay is the 3rd person from the right. I think the man on the far right may be my grandfather Horace Hodge, but I'm not 100% sure. It could be Aunt Fay's husband to be Tryon Branton, but I think he is more probably one of the men in dark pants. On the far left, I suspect that may be my great-grandmother Cora Hodge. No ideas on anybody else, so if anyone out there has a guess, let me know.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Heritage Photos of the Week

Awhile back on Woolgathering, I posted a photo of little brother and myself pigging out on one of my grandfather's homegrown watermelons. I mentioned how there was always a stack of yummy watermelons under the tree just a few steps from the house.

Today I rediscovered a couple of photos that shows the watermelon pile under the tree and my mother in the act of enjoying one of them.

Before, and


And they were free if you knew the right people. Every one of those would cost you at least $4.99 nowadays.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 22, 1953

This Sunday will mark the 56th anniversary of the date of my parents' marriage. They were two young people with very little money and they came from families who had very little money, so there was no 3-ring circus of a wedding like the bridezillas of today insist is their right. It was a modest ceremony in a small mission church in far north Austin where a preacher friend of my father's united them in marriage. I have two photos from that day. The first shows the happy couple.

Buddy & Nettie

The second shows the best man and the maid of honor.

Emmitte & Ruth Nell

No professional photographer attended to ensure there were pictures of the bride and groom with their parents. I feel lucky that someone took these two snapshots that day, or there would be no photographic record at all.

For years Mother's wedding dress, white with navy piping, hung in the closet. I don't think I ever tried it on, though I played dress up in the other dresses she kept in the dim recesses of her closet. I don't know when she disposed of it, but I guess she got tired of moving it from parsonage to parsonage and donated it to some clothing drive. The only heirlooms I have from that day are their wedding rings and the memory book with the registry of guests.

The wedding register is practically a family census. Aunts and cousins, brothers and sisters, old family friends and church friends.

About 14 months later, I came along.


Friday, February 13, 2009

A Centennial Plus 10 Memorial

My Grandfather Wilcoxen was a more shadowy presence in my childhood. We did not see as much of him since they lived in East Texas and we were in Central Texas. We would make the trip to see my paternal grandparents two or three times a year, a drive of 6 to 7 hours each way. Most of my memories of those trips involve holiday festivities or antiquing forays around the area. My grandmother is ever present in the memories of those years, but I can't remember my grandfather taking an active part. He was there in the background, watching television or reading the paper, or tinkering with his latest building project.

I regret that I never got to know Grandpa Wilcoxen well. Even after an extended visit to their home when I was 9 years old and stayed with them for 6 weeks that summer, I returned home with very little additional knowledge of the man. He was a quiet man, with not much to say. Even when my brother went through a toy soldier phase and had left his troops strung across the floor and my grandfather stepped barefooted on their little plastic bodies, a pained grunt was his only comment. I never heard him raise his voice.

My grandparents in their courtin' days, in the mid 1920s.

The Arthur Wilcoxen family, in the early 1940s.

Arthur worked in the oil fields, an employee of Superior Oil Company. When his children were little, the family lived in Tomball, and in 1949 his job took him to Gladewater where he lived the remainder of his life.

Arthur in his "Hoss" hat.

The opportunity to get to know him better was lost, thanks to a stroke he suffered when I was in my teens. He was to live several years afterwards, but the stroke had damaged his body and his mind irreparably. He remembered me, but as a little girl. The chance to know me as a woman was not to be.

Me and Grandpa, about 1955.

I think my grandfather was a good person. He was kind to me, soft-spoken, went to church faithfully, and if he had a red-head's temper I never saw evidence of it. He is responsible for my "Yankee" half. Born in Perrysville, Indiana, 110 years ago yesterday, he moved to Texas with his parents when he was a young man.

Grandpa, I hardly knew you. But I miss you.

Arthur John Wilcoxen
February 12, 1899 - January 2, 1976


Two Grandpas

Yesterday's memorial to my Grandfather Hodge should have been a double memorial to both my grandfathers. I was thinking that my Grandfather Wilcoxen's birthday was later in the month, but it was actually yesterday. February 12th marked the 110th anniversary of the birth of Arthur John Wilcoxen. I will rectify that slip up later today.

Until then, here are my grandfathers in a rare pose of the two of them together.

Arthur John Wilcoxen on the left
and Horace Greeley Hodge on the right.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Centennial Memorial

Much was made today of it being the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birthday.

It suddenly occurred to me that there was a 100th anniversary to remember and that means much more to me.

Tomorrow, February 13th, marks 100 years since my grandfather was born.

Horace Hodge in his prime

To my mind he was just as fine a man as Lincoln. He was self-educated for the most part, just like Lincoln. He was honest to a fault, just like Lincoln.

He was a good father.

The Horace Hodge family, 1954

He worked long, hard hours in the fields, raising wonderful watermelons and peanuts. In my earliest years, I would see him mostly at meal times. This picture of him at the supper table represents my memories of him then.

In his later years, he was plagued by health problems and was usually in his chair reading, but always generous with a smile and full of gentle teasing of his citified granddaughter.

Horace Greeley Hodge
February 13, 1909 - April 25, 1981
One of the finest men it has ever been my privilege to know.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Doubling Up to Catch Up

I'm still running behind thanks to the nasty head cold of 2009. Time to get back in the blogging saddle!

This post will serve as both Heritage Photo of the Week and Heirloom of the Week. I have spent a good deal of the past week dragging old photo albums out of the closets and drawers and re-inspecting their contents for interesting photos I have missed in previous explorations. It never fails that I will find pictures that interest me very much now when I totally overlooked them in the past.

Case in point. This photo was titled "Susie". Susie was undoubtedly a favored milk cow owned by my grandparents. From the photos that share the album page with this shot, I'm guessing this dates to the late 1940s. I've never paid much attention to this photo, but this week it suddenly leaped out and grabbed my attention.

To the right of Susie, sitting back against the fence, is a white jug. This time when I glanced at the photo, I saw the jug in the background. That same white jug now sits in my living room.

Mother had told me this white jug sat in the cowpens for a long time. At some point when I was much younger, she began to worry that it would get kicked by one of the cows and that would be the end of it, so she rescued it and brought it home. It was a wise move, because the lip of the jug already had two large chips and it was probably only a matter of time before it would have been further damaged.

There is no doubt that this jug was a product of the McDade Pottery Shop. It bears the distinctive stamped number to indicate its size, this one being a 5 gallon jug. Much of the McDade pottery bears this kind of stamp in a size that is unique to the output from that pottery shop.

Even back when Mother rescued the jug, McDade Pottery was already becoming collectible. She got to feeling guilty about having made off with the big white jug and returned it to her parents' home. Shortly afterwards, my uncle took possession and it resided with him for many years.

In one of those peculiar turns of event, a few years back my uncle and his second wife separated. She was concerned that some of the items remaining in her possession might be family heirlooms and invited me to come take a look and reclaim anything with attached family history. My aunt and I made the trip to her house and the first thing I saw when we arrived was the white jug I had heard so much about and that Mother had grieved for when she had returned it to the farm.

So the big white jug came home with me, to Mother's great delight. It now sits proudly in my living room, along with other pieces of McDade pottery, including the ugly brown crock in the photo. My family has a special connection to the McDade Pottery Shop, which I will explain in a future post. Every piece of McDade pottery I own is a treasured heirloom.

The big white jug is back home where it belongs. And the photo is one of those rare finds that proves the provenance. It did indeed sit in the cowpens, just as Mother told me.