Mullin Family Reminiscence
Daniel G. Mullin and Ada Orilla Washburn were married on July 19, 1920. They lived and raised their family on farms in the towns of Rossie and Macomb, St. Lawrence County, New York. Their children in the order of their birth were:
B 1922 - D 1987
B 1924 - D 1952
Helen Elizabeth (Johnston)
Frances Jean (Cady)
Marie Patricia (Beagle)
B 1935 - D 1973
In the summer of 1999 four of those children sat down with other family members to reminisce about their parents and growing up in a farm family of eight kids during the 30s and 40s. They were Carl Mullin, Helen Mullin Johnston, Frances Mullin Cady, and John Mullin. Also participating were Carl's wife Peg (Margaret) Mullin and Fran's husband and daughter, Joe and Anne Cady. The following is a transcript of their conversation.
Fran: For the record, we are sitting around Helen's dining room table eating cheese curd & cherries & other stuff. The date is July 24, 1999. Helen is here, Carl & Peg, John, Joe & Anne and me (Fran). We are here to talk about the things that happened when we were growing up. I made some notes to remind us of things. Anne is going to record our conversation so nobody has to take notes.
Just to put things into context a little bit, Mom & Dad were married on July 19, 1920-79 years ago. Dad was 40 years old and Mom was 24. I still remember when some people who hadn't seen Dad in a long time would come by and say "the last time I saw you, you were a bachelor, and here you are with all these kids!" The year 1920 is kind of interesting in the records because Dad's brother John, Jr. died in June, which was the month before they were married, and then his father died just six months after. When Dad and Mom were married they went back to the homestead in Rossie where his father lived with Grace and Nellie (the retarded sister whom Grace took care of). John, Jr. did live there, but died the month before they were married. I don't know exactly how long Mom and Dad lived there, but I have the sense that Dorothy was born there, and that the rest of us were born after they moved down to the Brasie Corners - Rossie Road. In the records Anne and I found in Canton it looked as though Dad's father's will left him a farm in the town of Macomb of 200 acres, and then Dad bought another 116 acres in the towns of Macomb and Rossie, so altogether that would have been about 316. We always said we had three hundred some acres.
John: 365. We always used to say we had 365 acres.
Fran: Well, I was trying to figure out where that land came from. The homestead farm in Rossie was left to Grace and Grace was required to take care of Nellie. That was in exchange for her being left the farm, apparently.
Carl: What was the Kane lot all about? The one down by the lake.
Fran: Is that the one Dad gave to the orphanage?
Carl: Part of it. Remember the road we used to travel back & forth to Brasie Corners on, the land that faced the highway there. We used to call it the young cattle pasture. I used to trap in the creek there.
Fran: That's right! And you checked your traps before you went to school. I had forgotten that.
Anne: So if you found something in the traps, you just took it to school?? (Laughter).
John: We trapped muskrats in the creeks and swamps in the spring. Raymond was the big trapper in our family. He used to set his traps in a swamp that Uncle Jim Mullin owned on Black Lake. Sometimes he would bring home 15 or 20 muskrats in a day.
Fran: I remember they used to skin them and stretch the fur pelts inside out on boards that were tapered at one end. Then they would hang them in the cellar to dry. Who did they sell them to?
John: The fur traders would come by to buy the pelts. They were used to make fur coats. Sometimes Raymond would get $2 or $3 apiece for them. That was really big money in those days.
Fran: Getting back to the Kane property where Carl trapped, there are quite a lot of deeds down at the Canton courthouse that Anne and I came across. We will take a look for that one and see if we can find out where it came from and where it went. Did they still have that by the time we moved over to the South Woods Road?
Anne: In the courthouse they have all the records for each 50-year span broken into separate volumes. You just look it up by last names of deedee or deedor, all of them hand-written.
Carl: That land adjoined the old Manson farm. You know Bobby.
John: I know that back in the thirties Dad had quite a bit of shoreline on Pleasant Lake. I had never seen anything on it in writing, but I had talked about it verbally with Dad.
Fran: Dad's father John bought several pieces of land. There are quite a few deeds in his name.
John: Like you say, there was an orphanage there. A lot of people don't even remember it was there.
Fran: The only reason I remember the orphanage is they had an open house or old home day or something in the summer and we were always invited, probably because Dad had donated the land where they built it. It was like a camp for the kids. They were only there in the summer-not year round. So the orphans didn't go to the local schools. I think they were based in Ogdensburg.
John: Remember a camp right next to the orphanage by the name of Scotts? There was a Helen Scott that Raymond had dated. There was a Buddy Scott and I ran into him when I first went into the Air Force. I was at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi going to radio school and I went over to the club one night for a glass of beer with some guys and this guy was tending bar. He said "John Mullin!", and it was Buddy Scott. I just about fell over. They were from Elmira or someplace like that, but they came up for the summers. There were a lot of cottages on both sides of the lake.
Fran: Does anybody ever remember hearing how Mom and Dad met? You know, she was from Pierces Corners and her family was Methodist. He was from Rossie and his family was all Catholic. Most of the social activities were church-related. I am curious how they ever got together.
Helen: I don't ever remember hearing.
John: Or their courtship or anything else. I don't recall that I ever heard anybody mention it.
Anne: In all their pictures at the wedding the adopted Alfred Adams was always present. If he was adopted by the Mullins, he was probably Catholic too, but I wonder if he crossed churches or anything. Ada quite often has her arm around him in the pictures. He seems to be closer to her age.
Fran: They were married in the church parsonage, and I can't remember whether it was Brasie Corners or Pierces (Anne thinks Brasie Corners)-the parsonage of that church-and it was just Mom & Dad and Aunt Edna (Mom's sister) and Alfred Adams Mullin. You will remember that he was the adopted one in the Mullin family that we talked to Elwood Simons about the night we went to see him in Rossie. Apparently Grace had promised that if Alfred stayed and worked the farm, he would be left the farm. But when she died he was not left the farm. Grace died in 1926, I think, Grace and Nellie both.
Anne: Yes. Grace died first. I always wondered what happened to Nellie after that. She probably had to go into a home, because she died a couple months later. That's the order they went.
Fran: I don't know what happened to the land from Grace.
Anne: I think I tried to look and I couldn't figure that out. I thought it would have automatically gone back to your father, because I thought he had part ownership in it.
Fran: I don't think so. I think it was left to Grace. I was curious why, and then when we read the will over at the courthouse it said that Grace was required, and had agreed to, keep Nellie in exchange for being left the farm.
Anne: Did you have any sense that your father was still close to his family, or did his marrying and leaving the church cause any ill will? I came across James Mullin's will, his brother, who left $100 to St. Patrick's Church in Rossie for prayers for Rose Gillen Phalen. The rest went to William, and nothing to Daniel.
Fran: I don't think there was any problem. Dad used to go visit Uncle Jim almost every evening.
Anne: Maybe it was just that your father was better off and and Jim thought William needed the money. Was William the one that they kind of held the money for? No, that was Leo.
John: William lived in Gouverneur. Leo lived in Rossie. Leo never had anything.
Anne: I think in one of the wills, John was to hold money for Leo.
Fran: Wasn't Leo's wife the "telephone central"? What was her name?
Fran: So if you needed to make a call out of the area, you would call her and she would have to plug you in. But the folks who were on the line all had their own ring, like two shorts and a long, or whatever. Of course, anybody could pick up and listen.
John: Aunt Eve was the central for Rossie, but the central office for us was in the store at Brasie Corners. You couldn't call long distance after nine o'clock at night. If your house was on fire or something, he would get up because you had to go through a plug-in switchboard. George Sitts was the central, but it was in the Brasie Corners store.
Fran: Was George Sitts related to John Sitts?
John: I think he was. On the South Woods Road we had an 18-party line. If you made a call you could count the clicks for how many people picked up to listen. Everybody heard everybody else's ring, so they always knew when a call was being made.
Peg: The phone number there was 4Y22.
Fran: Wasn't there some kind of a signal for everybody, like if something was happening that they wanted everybody to know? It seems to me that it was one long, or one short, or something, and that meant it was a community message that everybody was supposed to listen to.
John: There might have been. That doesn't ring a bell with me.
Fran: Grandparents. The Washburns are the only ones I remember. I never knew Dad's family at all except his brothers Jim and Will and Leo. Mom's parents lived in Pierces. Is their house still there?
Anne: Is it that one right by the dirt road up to the cemetery? There is a little house there that somebody thought might have been where they had lived. It is right across from where the other road T's in.
John: It was where Ruby Downing used to have her store. That was where Grandma & Grandpa lived. Just past it there is a road to the left that takes you to Popes Mills. That's the house.
Fran: The only thing I remember about that house, and I was only six when Grandma died, I think, was that upstairs in one of the rooms there was a quilting frame. It took up almost the entire room and it was set up so the women would sit around it and do their quilting while they visited. Does anybody else remember anything about that house?
Helen: I can remember being down there quite a bit. We used to go down and stay in the summer time with them. We picked berries in those little metal pails with the handles.
Anne: Was this after the grandparents moved off the old homestead? Because the homestead went to Alvin Washburn. His family grew up there. (Yes)
Helen: I don't remember too much about the upstairs of that house, but I remember going up those stairs to bed at night. The house wasn't really very big.
Fran: Did they have electricity?
Helen: Oh yeah. Aunt Ida was the one who didn't have any electricity. She lived on the same road to Pierces Corners.
Anne: Aunt Ida. Who is Aunt Ida?
Fran: She's not really an aunt. Ida Chase was a friend of Mom's and we just called her "Aunt".
Anne: Thank you! I thought I knew them all.
Fran: Talking about electricity, at our house we didn't have electricity that came in from the main system. We had this Delco system where we produced our own electricity and stored it in big batteries.
John: 32 volts. That was what everything operated on. We had a 32 volt radio.
Fran: You couldn't buy a regular appliance that you could use with it. Somebody eventually got a radio that you could use with that voltage. They would store the power in these big batteries that were connected in a row and when the stored power would get low enough, the generators would come on and you would hear them run.
John: There was a gentleman in Gouverneur who died five or six years ago by the name of John Storie. He is the one who put that original 32 volt radio in our house down there and put the aerial on the barn. We often discussed it. He was the historian for Gouverneur. His father worked on the ferry that ran from Rossie to Ogdensburg, on Black Lake. He had pictures he showed me. At the time I was talking with him he was 70 years old. The pictures were taken when he was 13 or 14 years old and was a deck hand on the ferry.
Fran: Was there any electricity in that little one-room elementary school we went to?
John: No, there was not. At least not in the early years. There was a wood stove for heat and in the winter time one of the older boys had to go to school early to get the fire started.
Fran: I remember there was an out house in the back. Sometimes we used to climb up on top of the out house and eat our lunch up there. (Laughter & comments). That picture that was in Grandpa's album of all the kids on the school house steps. There were what, six of us, and four of them were Mullins. I guess Ray & Carl-you (John) weren't there yet-and Helen & I, Bobbie Lee and Freda & Carl Parrow. So that was seven of us, and that was the entire school. Bob Lee's daughter, Catherine, taught school there for a couple of years anyway.
Anne: Bob Lee was the postmaster, wasn't he?
Helen: He was the mail deliverer.
John: There was a Betty Baldwin who was a teacher.
Helen: I don't remember any of those teachers.
Fran: Mom seemed to be the Superintendent. She paid the teachers and she bought the school supplies.
Helen: Lots of times the teachers lived with us during the school year. I can remember that. If they couldn't find anyplace else, Mom would always take them in.
John: Betty Baldwin boarded at Lee's.
Fran: That's the way Mom started you know, when she was teaching. She taught in the Morristown School District before she was married, and she had to live with a family in the school district. That's the way those district teachers did. How would you like to go teach and live with a family, probably the parents of one of your students? Would they expect you to work in the house, who knows?
Anne: In those days, if you didn't get married at 18, a lot of the women became teachers. Edna was also a teacher.
Fran: Speaking of Aunt Edna, according to her marriage certificate which we found in the records at Canton, she was 32 and Uncle Alvin Young was 61 when they were married. I always knew he was older, but that's a lot!
Neighbors. I remember Sam and Louise Perry across the road. They had a couple of boys and at least one daughter who was grown and married (Zelda). Katie Gibson was the daughter of their daughter, and when her mother died, Katie came to live with her grandparents.
Anne: Was this on the Brasie Corners Road? I don't remember a house across from your house. I know your house is still standing and is in pretty good condition with people still living in it.
Helen: Yeah, that's why we stopped that day.
John: The Perry house is still there.
Fran: Did Sam run that farm by himself? Were the boys still there?
Helen: The boys were probably helping him. I can remember them being over there a lot.
John: In fact, that's where Charlie stayed when he drove the school bus to Brier Hill.
Helen: I used to see Leonard in Governeur even as recently as when I was working in Kinneys. I think they are both dead now.
John: The farm was pretty much run by Sam, himself.
Fran: Louise was cranky, I remember.
Helen: Sam was a heavy drinker. So she had good reason.
Fran: I know Katie was our age and she went to school with us. She was just there with her grandparents and she was not allowed to do hardly anything. They had very strict rules. I don't think it was a very happy childhood for her. She wasn't in that picture, so it must have been after that was taken that Katie came there. They started doing a church school one afternoon a week and we would all go from school to some kind of a service somewhere, and she wasn't allowed to do that. She wasn't allowed to go on field trips or anything special. She had a brother, but he didn't get the same fate that Katie did.
Helen: Alton and Alger, two brothers.
John: There was a Joyce, an older sister.
Fran: I don't know what happened to their mother. She died young.
Peg: Their mother lived in back of us on Parker Street when she died. She lived with Nellie Venton.
Anne: Is that the Nellie Venton, wife of James and William? (Yes)
Fran: The other neighbors I especially remember were the Lees. Bob and Veta Lee. They had three daughters, Catherine, Leona and Bobbie (Roberta). He brought the mail on that rural route. He apparently did that for his whole career, didn't he?
John: In the late thirties he had a motorized snowmobile with a big white trunk on it.
Anne: I bet that would be worth something now!
John: Oh, good grief! That was the first time I knew what an actual snowmobile was.
Anne: Did he have to supply it himself, or did the post office provide it?
John: Oh no, it was his. When we lived down on the South Woods Road sometimes we might go, in a bad storm in the winter time, for at least 8 or 9 days when I couldn't even get to grade school. But the snowmobile had the big tracks on it and he could deliver the mail.
Fran: I remember one time when he got a car, he got one with a right-hand drive because the mail boxes were all on the right-hand side of the road. So he got a car like they were using in Britain at that time. Apparently you could order a car with a right-hand drive. He could sit on the right side where he could reach the mailboxes as he went along.
Anne: Their house is still there, the Lee house. It is right where you go around a bend if you are coming from Rossie.
Fran: And then there was a big dip and then you came back up another hill to our house. We used to take our sleds and slide down one hill and half-way up the other. And then we would walk to the top of that one and do it in reverse.
Helen: Sometimes we would take out the old cutter and we'd slide down those hills in that. We occasionally had sliding parties or skating parties with the neighbors. There were lots of places to skate.
John: Do you ever recall the name Bill Hawn? He was the hired man up at Lees. He is still alive in Gouverneur. He is probably 75-78-close to 80 now.
Fran: I am almost 70! I will be next year.
John: Oh, good grief! Are you that old?? (Laughter)
Fran: We always had a piano at home, an old upright, and Mom loved to play-mostly the old Methodist hymns. We would have great songfests around that old piano.
John: She liked to play in the evening. It was her relaxation.
Fran: I still have Mom's favorite hymnal. It is called "Hymns of Praise", published in 1938. It is very worn with a lot of loose pages from all those years of use. But it has all the old gospel hymns you don't hear any more like "True Hearted, Whole Hearted" and "Sweeter As The Years Go By". We sang that stuff so much I still have all the verses stuck in my brain.
Helen: We were often called on to sing at special functions. Mom liked to show us off.
Fran: I remember singing at some function when I was so small Mom had me standing on a chair next to her piano.
When you look back on how people lived in those days, do you think anybody really made a decent living? I mean, how did we manage? How many cows did we have to produce the milk we sold for income?
John: Not very many. Probably only 16 or 17. But if you didn't know any different, you thought everybody in the world was the same as you were.
Peg: Everybody was in the same boat.
Fran: I have the sense we grew up in abject poverty, but we just didn't realize it. When you look back on it, we didn't go to the dentist, you had to about die to go to the doctor. We had hand-me-down clothes. We even got clothes from the minister's family and usually they go the other way around. We got the missionary barrels at our house because there was always somebody there who could wear whatever it was.
The milk that we did produce went to a plant in Gouverneur-a Borden's plant as I remember. Was the milk used for cheese or ice cream, or was it sold as bulk milk?
John: Well, it was owned by the Borden Company so it went into ice cream and stuff like that. None of it was ever produced locally. The milk was always sent to other areas in New York State.
Fran: So they just measured what milk they took in from the farmers and sent them a check?
John: Yes, at the end of every month. The man who picked up our milk when we lived on the Brasie Corners - Rossie Road was Claude Hutton.
Fran: Oh, he drove the school bus for a while, didn't he?
John: No, that was Robbie Hutton. Claude is the one who had the milk route. When we were over on the South Woods Road, Buster Wainwright had it for a while and then one of the Robinson boys, Doug Robinson. Jess Robinson owned the Rossie Chateau. When we got to Gouverneur, I took the milk to the plant.
Fran: How much income do you suppose that our parents had in a month, or a year in those days? Back in about the mid-thirties, for example?
Carl: Just about what we ate, I guess.
Fran: Well, we ate potatoes and cabbage a lot.
John: We had our own eggs. We had to get flour. We cut our own ice in the winter up in Rossie and stored it in our ice house and then used it in our refrigerator, which took a big block of ice every day.
Fran: I remember we used to play in the ice house in the summer time because it was so cool in there. We never had shoes on. The ice was packed in sawdust to keep it from melting completely over the summer. You had to rinse the sawdust off the block of ice before putting it in the refrigerator.
Remember the farmers' strike one time? Were they striking against Bordens?
John: Yes, they were tipping over trucks and everything right at the milk plant. So that's why we had the cream separator and butter churn and we made our own butter. You couldn't get butter during World War II, so our father sold butter for $1 a pound.
Joe: Wasn't that during the time when oleo came into use and you had to buy it white and squeeze the yellow color in? (Everybody: Yes)
John: But as to their income, I would have no idea. I could come up with a close figure if I knew what they got paid for a hundred-weight of milk.
Fran: But we would only put out maybe two station cans of milk per milking, wouldn't we, or maybe three?
John: Sometimes I can remember putting out 4 or 5, but it was tough to survive even on that. That wasn't much to get by on.
Fran: I'd sure hate to raise eight kids on that kind of a living, let me tell you. Usually there was a hired man to feed too.
Helen: But you want to remember that there was never a time that the larder was bare in our house, because in the summer time Mom canned everything she could get her hands on. They pickled stuff, made crabapple jelly, and they packed carrots and potatoes in sawdust in those barrels in the cellar. And we had all the meat and milk. Mom raised chickens and turkeys, and she baked bread. Then Dad would go to Oswego or someplace in the fall and get apples and they would last us almost all winter.
Fran: I remember loving those apples. My father told me one time that I could only eat four before I went to bed-that was enough. (Laughter)
John: When they went to Oswego for apples all those years ago, they went in a 1926 Buick truck that we had. The cab was about 8 feet in the air-oddest looking thing you ever saw-but they always went to Oswego in that.
Fran: We had to cut our own wood because we had a wood furnace to feed all the time. I remember the wood shed in the fall when they brought the wood in. They would take the window out and back the wagon up to the opening and throw the wood through the window, and somebody inside then had to stack it all. Didn't they have a big power saw that went from place to place?
John: Yes. You had your sawyers. The person who owned the rig was Ernie Gardiner from Rossie.
Fran: But they would go to one farm and then the next day they'd go to the next one, kind of like the threshers, because there was only one threshing machine that you put your oats in to take them off the stem.
John: Right. Albert Stanley Raven had the threshing machine. He is now about 90 years old and is just as sharp as he ever was.
Fran: And there were people that followed those things for the day's work. Like there would be maybe a dozen men come to our house on threshing day. Mom would marshal all the girls and we had to work in the house that day. It was a matter of honor that you served a better dinner to these people than the neighbors did. So she would bake pies, and bread, and all this stuff. Our job was to go around and ask everybody what they wanted to drink. We were not allowed to eat anything until they had all been fed and gone back out to the field. Then we could eat from whatever food was left. It would have been dishonorable to our father if his wife had not put on this big production dinner, and she wasn't about to let him down. For days and days ahead we would be preparing food for this one dinner.
Both of the houses where we lived on the Brasie Corners - Rossie Road and on the South Woods Road had outhouses. We didn't have an indoor bathroom until we got to the Natural Dam Road. There was an outside john at the school. Anne and I stopped by the church in Brasie Corners last summer and they still have outside johns. It was at the back, inside the building proper, but it was an outhouse. It really surprised me that they didn't have a flush toilet yet, somehow. I guess there's no plumbing under that building.
John: Is that where we are going tomorrow? Everybody be sure to go to the bathroom before you leave. (Laughter). Don't ask me why this stays in my mind, but I can remember Fran and Helen & I were there once, and some woman stopped by and she wanted to know where the bathroom was. We had no idea what she was talking about because we only knew it as a toilet.
Helen: She called it a water closet. That's what they call it in Europe.
Fran: Remember that big cement elevated place on the south side of the house where we lived and there was a great big bell mounted out there. If you rang it, it meant everybody come, so it had to be like the house was on fire or dinner was ready or something. I don't remember using it very much.
Helen: Don't you think, in the summer time especially when they were in the fields haying, they'd ring that bell at mealtime. You could hear it a long way off.
Fran: I remember one time Mom was way back somewhere in the fields and we needed her for something. We decided if we rang the bell she would come, and sure enough, she did.
Dad had a Buick pickup and also that Buick sedan. Remember the sedan with the little bud vases in the back?
Helen: That was a lot of fun. Dad would give us a few miles ride in that on Sunday evenings.
John: That was a 1928 Buick-the car. The truck was a 1926. The car had those fuzzy curtains that you could pull down like a shade.
Joe: That was standard for luxury cars of that time.
Helen: Whatever happened to it?
John: I think he turned it in (I'm not sure if it was the car or the truck) when he bought a truck in 1939 from Seaker-Graves-a brand new Chevy pickup truck from Mark Graves for $916.
Anne: I'm impressed!
Helen: On that old Buick truck we had, the door would swing right back and fasten. Dad used to let us, one at a time, sit in that doorway while he drove 10, 15, 20 miles an hour. I remember one time, we used to take the chance of jumping out just about the time we got in front of the yard. And I somehow got under the truck. I don't remember anything until I came to on the bed. And Mom was standing there when I opened my eyes. We all knew that ended it right there. I don't suppose we were ever allowed to do that again. So you see, that's what's been wrong with me all these years! (Laughter & comments).
Fran: Dad used to take that truck up to Rossie in the evening. I am not sure it was every evening, but it was often-several times a week.
John: You see, the mail came in every night. He was waiting for the mail to come in. That's why he was always up to Uncle Jim's, because he was the postmaster. The mail came in from Hammond and it got there around 8 o'clock at night.
Fran: I always assumed he went up there just to visit. But we would ride up in the back of the truck and run around town while they sat around and visited.
Anne: There was a town at the time?
Fran: Well, the town of Rossie. There was a hotel and several stores. And there were kids that we played with. One of the little girls had polio, remember, and she had a withered arm.
John: Frances Gibson was her name.
Helen: Do you remember going up there with the horse and cutter when the roads would get slippery? Dad would take a couple of us kids with him and we would have those big buffalo robes that we would cover up with, and we would go to Rossie after the mail in the horse and cutter. Oh, I just loved that. I'll never forget that as long as I live.
Fran: If we got mail that Bob Lee brought around, how come we had to go to Rossie for the mail? I just thought we went to Rossie because Dad wanted to visit with Uncle Jim.
John: The mail didn't come in until about 8 o'clock every night in Rossie. It came in from Hammond. When Bob Lee was delivering, he would have picked it up there, but the local residents usually got it there at the post office. Dad liked to go up there and visit with his brother. But he didn't have to get the mail there. Bob would have brought it on the mail route the next day.
Fran: Does anybody remember Rossie Field Days where there was some kind of a parade and the bicycles would have crepe paper strips wound through the spokes. The boys used to decorate their bikes and take them up there for the parade. It was out on the river somewhere, wasn't it?
John: It was out about a mile and a half from Rossie towards Oxbow. That's where they had the field days. There was an old school out there. There were contests going on all day long.
Fran: It seemed like it was big. I don't know who organized it. But there were booths where you could buy things. I remember somebody comparing the price of bread at this field day and it was up to a dime, or something, and they were horrified. I don't remember a meal. Were there just bicycles in the parade?
Helen: They would decorate their wagons and horses and stuff and they would all be in it.
John: About two weeks ago they had an Old Home Day at Rossie and they had these historians come in to give you the history about Rossie you weren't even aware of.
Anne: It's nice they are doing that now that Elwood Simons isn't around any more. He is still listed as the historian for the town. Nobody has replaced him.
John: There is a gal there that is doing all that. She was in a Tribune Press interview about Old Home Day.
Fran: Elwood always used to put something in the Tribune Press. In fact, the evening we went to his house last year, he sent something back with us that needed to go in the paper so we could drop it off and save him a trip. I was looking forward to getting back up to see him, because we had done quite a bit of research. I wanted to go back and show him what we had done and compare notes on some of the stuff. But he died before I got back.
Does anybody remember what books we had at home? I remember a glass-front bookcase in the living room. There was a picture bible that we had about worn out. And Uncle Judson's book "What Price Salvation" was in there. He wrote that after be became a Methodist minister.
Helen: We had copies of "Little Women" and "Little Men". "The Secret Garden" and "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" were both in there. I remember bringing a book home from school one time and Grandpa read it before I did. We didn't have very many books.
Fran: What about movies? I remember Mom taking us to see "Heidi", but movies were pretty rare. We went to the old Gralyn Theatre on Main Street in Gouverneur.
Helen: The first one she took us to was "Little Lord Fauntleroy". During the movie Mom had to take John to the bathroom and while she was gone someone else took their seats, so she sat behind Fran and I. Fran got scared and started to cry so Mom lifted her back to sit with them. Then I was scared because I was all alone.
John: I would sometimes go into town with Dad when I was older and he'd let me go to a Saturday afternoon movie by myself. They were ten cents at that time. When the war started they added a 10% tax, so I had to get another penny from Dad. He used up all his pennies that day on kids who came to the show with only a dime.
Fran: Remember the salesmen who would come around to the house where we lived? There was a Watkins man (spices) who would come and call at every house. And sometimes there would be a salesman who would stop by and eat with us. He would eat whatever we were eating, and he always left a little bit of change under his plate.
John: Do you remember Oscar Love? He had a store and he went around to all the rural farms and had all these dry goods and trinkets in the back seat of his old car, I think it was a Hudson he drove. I can remember that from '36 or '37. He had a hunch back.
Helen: I remember one day when he came along and there wasn't anybody home but me. Maybe the boys were off in the fields or something. He stopped anyway and he offered me a can of spaghetti. He said this is something they've just started. They look like little worms. I ate that whole can of spaghetti, and my gosh, I thought I was in heaven. I wasn't very old, but I remember it.
Anne: You didn't share it with the whole family? NO!
Fran: When you grow up in such a big family, you don't have anything that is yours. There is nothing that belongs just to you, you know. It is all community property. So when you get something of your own it's pretty special.
Peg: Your mother probably didn't buy many canned goods. There wasn't money for that stuff.
Fran: Even our clothes were homemade. Most of them Mom made, or our grandmother made, or they were hand-me-downs. You just didn't go out to a store and buy clothes. Mom even made me a coat. We must have had to buy socks, although Mom made all the mittens.
Helen: We used to wear those long brown stockings and long underwear.
Fran: Yeah, and the underwear was always wrinkled under those stockings. You just couldn't get those stockings on over the underwear without all these wrinkles. We always had lumpy legs!
Dad liked to go to Gouverneur often by himself some afternoons and when he came back he always had a brown paper bag with candy in it. Always, never fail. And when you heard him coming...of course, somebody driving by was a rarity. If you heard a car you'd all run to see who it was...whoever heard him coming and got to the truck first got to have ownership over that bag of candy. You got to dispense it. You had to share it with everybody, but it was yours to hand out and be in charge of.
Helen: Most of the time it was those chocolate drops, wasn't it? They were about this high and about this big around and they tapered up. They were called Oxhart chocolates, I think.
Fran: There was always enough for all of us. But we would run like a son-of-a-gun when we heard him coming, because whoever got to that bag of candy was in charge. If he ever came without a bag of candy, I wonder what we would have done.
Helen: There might have been a few times when he would come home with a red nose and we knew he had had a beer with somebody. He never drank much, but every once in a while, like with old Marsh Stratton. Dad was an old, old friend of Marsh Stratton and there were several other men and they would go in that bar room that was right there on the main street, the St. Lawrence Grill. He wouldn't drink much, but you could always tell because his nose would be red.
Fran: Mom always knew when he had had a drink because she would say, "you had a beer with the boys, didn't you?" At home he didn't have any alcohol except when he had a cold, he had that pint bottle of Four Roses in the pantry and he would pour it on sugar in a cup and eat it with a spoon. It soothed his throat.
John: Sam Perry used to get in the sauce when he was up town. I used to like to see him there because he'd take me into Kinneys and buy me a new mouth organ. I guess when he was drinking he felt generous.
Fran: Dad used to take anyone who wanted to go to Pleasant Lake in the back of that truck in the summer time. Katie Young still talks about getting in the back of Uncle Dan's truck and riding to Pleasant Lake.
John: We'd go have our baths that way every night after working all day.
Fran: Yeah. And by the time everybody got home from there, you not only were tired, you were clean and you just went right into bed.
Peg: Where was the orphanage situated on Pleasant Lake?
Fran: It was on the opposite side from most of the camps and it was in a kind of a swampy area, not as nice as some of the other locations. I can't remember how you got to it.
John: There was a road off the main road to the lake, as you were coming from the Rossie Road, maybe a hundred feet before the main one bore left. You took a right on it and that took you back there where the orphanage was.
Fran: There wasn't much else back in there.
John: Not at that time. Now there is.
Helen: Isn't that where Katie Young's family had their camp? Yes
Fran: The orphanage probably isn't still there, is it? (No) Was it a Catholic orphanage?
Helen: Yes. I can remember the nuns being there. I can even remember them trying to get Dad to adopt children when we would go down there.
Fran: Just what we needed was more kids!
The church at Brasie Corners seemed to be central to our lives when we were growing up. It was called the Brasie Corners First Methodist Episcopal Church at that time, although it is now affiliated with the Presbyterian church.
Helen: Mom played the piano for all the services. She always arranged the special programs like Christmas pageants, children's day programs, and that sort of thing. I remember a program at Popes Mills where she had all the kids perform in a kind of a drill formation to music.
Fran: I remember ice cream socials in the summer where the tables were set up on the lawn in front of the parsonage. Jean Bogardus sent me a copy of a history of the church that was put together on its 110th anniversary in 1998. It reprinted the program for the 50th anniversary service which was held in 1938. Both Mom and Dorothy sang in special musical numbers on that program.
John: Remember the Housers? He was the minister there in the early 40s.
Fran: The Mangs were the early ones at the church. He had been the minister there a long time. They had two daughters, Olive and Adelaide. They were a little bit older than Helen and I and we got all their clothes that they outgrew.
John: The Housers were very instrumental in getting softball games started. And, good grief, there would be 150 people down at Brasie Corners for a ballgame. They were really popular.
Anne: Baseball was very big in the earlier generation. There are a bunch of pictures in your grandfather Sylvester's old photo album of teams labeled "Macomb" and things like that.
Fran: The only pet I can remember having was Jiggs.
Anne: What the heck was a jiggs?
Helen: That was our dog. We always had a dog, but that one was special. That dog stood up for us kids and nobody dared even look at us or that dog was right at them. Any stranger stopped in, and she would be right in front of the kids, every time. Just a beautiful dog. When she died, I'll tell you, we all cried.
John: You were mentioning Frances Gibson (Rossie) that had polio. Her daughter is married to a guy by the name of Pete Bogardus who is related to Jean Bogardus that you made contact with in the town of Macomb.
Fran: There is no store up in Rossie anymore. There used to be two stores and the Gibsons ran one of the stores. They lived up over the store.
John: They had a son, Stanley Gibson, who lives in Oxbow. I'm not sure where Frances went.
Leon Burtis had the other store early on. After that there was a Len or Bob Brown in there. Elmer Sprague had the sawmill.
Fran: Do you ever remember having a doctor when you were a kid?
John: No. We had a school doctor who came and examined us.
Fran: I don't remember a school doctor.
Helen: I can remember one time. But I don't remember being in a doctor's office.
Fran: We had to go get shots in some kind of a clinic in Rossie. It was before polio shots, so it must have been for diphtheria. We had to line up to get shots, I remember and we were all pretty scared.
Helen: Carl was horsing around once with a cork gun and he stuck the end of the gun in the ashes barrel and when he pulled the trigger those ashes hit me right in the eyes. He was just playing around. But Mom and Dad had to take me to the doctor for that. For a couple of days I had to wear a blindfold and wash my eyes out with something. It was just the lye, or whatever is in ashes.
Fran: Remember the older kids had scarlet fever one time and we were quarantined for a while. It's a strep infection, scarlet fever. Of course it was before antibiotics. The three oldest ones-Dorothy, Marge & Ray-got it. They tried to isolate them from the rest of us. I don't know how Mom managed to avoid it, but she did.
John: Didn't we stay up at Lees for a while? I know we stayed up there when Grandma died. It seems as though we were quarantined from our own house for a few days there.
Helen: Dad was quarantined. He couldn't even come in the house. He had to live in Rossie while the kids had scarlet fever because we were sending milk to the milk plant. And we weren't allowed in the barn, any of us. The three oldest ones didn't come down with it all at the same time. They were staggered so it stretched out for a long time.
Peg: The quarantine period was three weeks for a person with scarlet fever.
Helen: For each one. It was like a hospital with Mom taking care of everybody.
Anne: I wonder if she had it as a child. Is it something you only get once? You really would have thought she would have gotten it too.
Peg: I had it.
Helen: I can remember we all had the chicken pox at the same time, and I'll tell you Mom didn't do anything but just give us baths. That poor woman, it was awful! I remember I was plastered from head to toe.
Fran: What do we remember about holidays? Like, the fourth of July we always had firecrackers. Dad always supervised it. We didn't just do it by ourselves because he was afraid somebody would get hurt. Carl lit a Roman candle one time and the flame came out the wrong end or something?
Helen: I don't remember anybody else ever getting hurt though.
Fran: Well of course we never had any shoes on. You could really get burned, especially with the flame coming out the wrong end. Did you get burned, Carl?
Carl: Oh yeah, my arm did. My coat sleeve was on fire.
Fran: Christmas. I remember a Christmas tree that had real candles on it-lit candles!
John: I remember something we did one Christmas. Raymond and Carl and I got up at three o'clock in the morning, went down to the barn, and got the milking all done. When Dad got up at five o'clock and came out, we had the milking finished, the manure was taken out and spread and everything else by five o'clock in the morning! Merry Christmas, Dad.
Helen: The door was always closed to the living room and we couldn't go anyplace but the kitchen when we came down on Christmas morning. So we were always busy in the kitchen until the guys got in from the barn and then we would have breakfast. We had to have breakfast because Dad was starving by that time.
John: He had to have his oatmeal.
Helen Right. So then they would open the door to the living room and we would march in. The youngest would always go first. And Mom and Dad would bring up the rear. And I'll tell you it was a sight to behold! Where they ever scraped up money enough to get things for us, I don't know. You know, it wasn't a lot. Now kids would probably think it was a terrible thing if that was all they got.
John: We always got one thing that was useful, like a mackinaw or a pair of boots, and then something like a BB gun. Hey, I was on cloud 9! It could be 20 degrees below zero and I would be out there the rest of the day after big game with my new gun.
Helen: When we got old enough, remember, Dad and Mom used to spend one day shopping for us together. When we got to a certain age, Dad bought each of the girls a present too, and it was almost always a small bottle of perfume of some kind. That was the first time I ever smelled Evening in Paris perfume, because he got me a bottle of that.
Anne: Where would they go shopping for this stuff?
Fran: Gouverneur. That was the shopping center. We also used catalogs sometimes. We always had catalogs from Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery Wards.
Helen: I remember one time Mom let Fran and I pick out new snowsuits from the catalog. It was the first time I had ever had a snowsuit with a hood, and I could pick the color and everything.
Fran: One time when Marie was really little Raymond had saved enough money to buy a watch from the catalog. The day that watch came in the mail, Marie ran and got the catalog to see if the watch was gone!
During the war, things were quite different. We had rationing and I remember we all had these coupon books. Mom kept the coupon books and you would have to tear out all these coupons to buy sugar and things. Sugar I remember especially because we never had enough sugar and she never could bake anything. That's why she started raising honey bees so we could bake something with honey. And then finally she latched onto the notion of rationing at home. The sugar always got used on cereal. So she got these screw-top jars and she put our names on them. So everybody got his ration of sugar with his name on it. And then you could find out who ran out in the middle of the month and who still had some left over. At the end of the month usually she would have enough, if she poured what was left together, to make a cake! But before that we always ran out of sugar before the month was up.
John: If you wanted to put all your sugar at once on one bowl of cereal, you were finished.
Fran: That was it. You didn't get any more. Tea was rationed, and detergent, remember?
Helen: I remember there was a while you couldn't even get green tea. Well Dad just thought he wasn't going to make it! He drank green tea every day of his life.
Carl: Was your family like this, Joe?
Joe: No way. I was an only child. One mother, one son, and two grandparents.
Fran: We had some blackouts during the war. I don't remember how we knew about it. Was it every night we had to blackout all the light, or just sometimes?
John: I do remember going into the basement of the church and we sat through, even as young as I was, the plane spotting training. They built those air raid places.
Fran: We went through training to identify all those German planes. And there was a schedule when we were assigned to the air raid spotting place. When I was assigned there after school and I would get off the bus in Brasie Corners. You were supposed to be able to identify and report any foreign planes. If I saw a German plane flying over Brasie Corners, I probably would have had a heart attack.
John: I can imagine some of those reports that went in.
Fran: And you were supposed to report anything you heard even, and try to identify which direction the sound was coming from. I called in when I heard a plane one time, and they just ignored me, I think.
Joe: The schools, at least in Syracuse, had students make in shop those identification models. But you did it for the air force. You built your plane and painted it black, and then the instructor checked it against all the criteria, and it got sent off to the air raid people and the military. They hung in all the air bases here and overseas. Sometimes you heard back from some commander someplace where they went. That was a big deal.
Fran: Remember the farm auctions when they had price controls during the war, and you couldn't sell equipment for what it was worth because of the price controls? You couldn't buy new equipment during the war, so the used equipment got to be more and more valuable. So they would put up some other silly thing, and say you have got to buy this in order to get that? Like you have got to buy this doll in order to get this tractor for $250, or whatever its price was controlled at. And they would bid the doll up in order to get the tractor. I don't know that anybody ever got picked up on that, but they got around the price controls that way.
Auctions are a big deal in the west, farm auctions. People go to them for fun. And they do really buy a lot of their equipment that way. Harlan is forever sending Kelley to an auction and she is supposed to bid on something. She bought a combine for $2500. Afterwards, the owner said, "you stole that, little lady". They are still using it.
John: There are some big auctions here in Gouverneur. People from all over the eastern seaboard have their equipment shipped in and people come from all over to bid on it. Some of the big tractors and stuff now can go for a hundred grand.
Fran: As far as I know, Dad only had like a third or fourth-grade education. He wasn't a well educated person. But he read the "Watertown Times" every day, I remember. He was a life-long democrat, or always thought he was. He liked FDR.
Helen: He and Sam Perry used to get into some pretty heated discussions. Sam must not have been a democrat.
John: No, I knew that. Dad only went to the third grade, he was a strong democrat, and he really liked FDR.
Fran: They must not have had compulsory education when his generation was growing up.
Peg: Probably the whole family had to work.
Fran: I remember when they had the dedication of the international bridge over on the St. Lawrence. Because FDR was going to be there, Dad wanted to go. I don't know who went with him, but he did go, and the traffic was so horrendous when he got over there that apparently he got into some kind of a traffic jam, and he told a cop that if he could get him out of there he would go home and save one space. So the cop got him out and Dad came back home. He never did see FDR. He used to listen to the radio sometimes and he liked Luigi, the little Italian immigrant. He used to sit there and laugh at that show. Dad was kind of a sociable person, a kind of man's friend, and he used to go out with the boys sometimes. I wonder if he ever felt like he had married somebody who was more educated than he was. (Mom was certainly more educated) I never thought he was self-conscious or resentful. She never put him down at all.
John: Like if they had to order something out of a catalog, I can remember this over at the Young farm. He wanted me to get on the phone and call your mother, because they needed to order something out of a catalog.
Fran: She always had to do that kind of thing. She did the income taxes, after they had to file income taxes. She went somewhere and learned how to do that.
Anne: In the census records in those days, when the kids got to be 10 or 11 they could read, but typically they couldn't write.
Fran: But he was as honest as the day is long. I remember when they were trying to get the referendum for the centralized schools, and they were going around and visiting with people and getting them to sign up. Dad didn't like signing petitions. But he said, "you have my word, and my word is my bond". And that's all they needed. He never went back on his word as far as I know. It was just a matter of honor with him. If he told you he would do something, he would do it.
I remember another story that Dotty used to tell. During the calving season when the farmers would get a calf, especially a male calf that you can't raise, they would go out and peddle him. I don't know where all they would go, but it is a social occasion when they would go around and dicker with each other and buy and sell these calves between them. Dotty said that one day he came back at the end of the day with $5 and the same calf he had started with. (Laughter)
Helen: That was a big pastime for them.
John: The people from Empire Sales used to come around to the barns to buy calves. When they started Empire Sales Emory Tyler, who is the one who built it, came over and begged our father to get rid of that farm and he said "I will make a millionaire out of you because of what you know about cows". He offered to go in on halves with Dad on the Empire Sales auction barns. Our dad gave it a lot of thought, but then he just backed out.
Fran: Well, if you can't write, you must feel like you can be taken advantage of. Dad could read at some level, but he had to depend on somebody else for most things. If an agreement needed to be signed, he would have Mom look at it first. You've got to feel handicapped.
Helen: He was a good farmer though and he raised a big family.
Fran: Mom dropped out of high school but then she went back after a year or two, and then went to what they called Normal School. She taught at a rural school at Morristown.
Anne: She was teaching at Morristown at the time they got married. That's what her wedding announcement in the paper said.
Fran: We didn't copy that. We should have. We have got to find that again. The old Gouverneur papers are reproduced on microfilm at the Gouverneur Library and we found the article of Mom & Dad's wedding announcement. It described where she had been a teacher in the Morristown school system and in the Macomb system somewhere.
Anne: And that they were going to Niagara Falls on their honeymoon.
Fran: I remember Mom telling us about their riding the "Maid of the Mist" on their honeymoon and that was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. Joe and I finally did that last week.
John: I remember the name of a Mr. Fortune. He lived in Morristown and had something to do with the schools. He seemed to be a supervisor in charge of all those rural schools and I can remember when I was six or seven he would come around and visit the schools.
Fran: Mom was the superintendent of our school district, I think. She hired the teachers and paid them. She probably had to report to him and account for the school funds.
Anne: Were they good teachers? Did you kids learn at a fairly young age how to read and write?
Fran: Oh, they weren't very good. You know we didn't have books, or not enough books. We didn't really have very much. I remember one time when I was just little, we were studying science and the difference between gravity on the moon and the gravity on earth. If on earth you could jump two feet in the air, on the moon you could jump four feet. So if you could jump three feet on earth, how far could you jump on the moon? And the teacher added two feet again, and I said that wasn't right, it's got to be twice as much. I was just a little kid, but I knew she wasn't right. Looking back on it, I think it is a wonder we learned anything. But we did seem to learn the basics.
John: Remember the Christmas programs we used to put on at that little schoolhouse? The neighborhood would come. I think there was Sam & Louise and Bob & Veta Lee and Mom and Dad, and that was it. That's all there was.
Fran: After Dad died in the mid-fifties, Mom took some bookkeeping courses and she worked as a bookkeeper for Mercer's Dairy and made her living that way. She sold the farm on the Natural Dam Road, but I don't imagine she got that much for it.
Helen: She kept her own books exactly the same way. She knew right down to the last penny what she had spent when she went shopping.
Anne: (to Fran) That's where you get it!
Fran: Dorothy and Marge were more remote to me growing up. They were enough older than I was that I don't remember a lot about them as kids.
Helen: I can remember Dorothy best, especially that summer that Mom went away. She was like our second mother. She was wonderful to us.
Fran: That's right. The doctor told Mom she had to have a rest, and she went and visited Uncle Jud and was gone for several weeks.
Helen: Dorothy went through hell with all those kids. She wasn't old enough to be doing that kind of stuff, especially when there was a brother who would get out of hand real often (Ray). But she handled it.
Fran: Ray loved pranks. I remember he shot off a shotgun one time when I was taking Marie to the outhouse after dark. I thought I would die! He was shooting in the air, but she screamed, it scared her so bad. Of course he thought it was funny!
Helen: That was a lot of responsibility for a girl that age. But Dorothy did it.
Fran: Helen and John and I, before Marie, were always known as "we three little kids", I remember that. It was always, "Mom, can we three little kids do" (whatever it was)? I don't know how come Carl was not included, but it was always we three little kids. And then Marie came enough later that she wasn't part of that group either.
Helen: I remember when Marie was little. She was so sweet that everybody loved her.
Carl: Wasn't her birthday on December 31st? (Yes)
John: Helen brought up about those Oxhart chocolates. Your brother here (Carl), at one of those field days in Rossie, he and a guy by the name of Kenny Nelson got a bag of those chocolates and they stuffed ex-lax in them through the bottoms so nobody would know the difference, and then handed them out. (Laughter)
Helen: Remember those two food bins that Mom used to have in the pantry at the house down on the Rossie Road? She kept food in there and canned goods. They always bought flour and sugar in big bags and those would be in there too. Every once in a while, she would have stuff in there that she had planned on having three or four days down the road. I don't know how many times I heard her scolding the boys because they would come home from someplace after everybody was in bed and they would eat all that stuff that was in there. When she would go to get it the next day, it was gone.
Fran: Well, imagine feeding a crowd like that. Teenagers are hungry all the time. We didn't buy boxed cereal, I guess. We just had oatmeal, didn't we?
Helen: We'd have cornflakes sometimes and puffed rice.
Fran: Does anybody remember when we moved over to the South Woods Road? It seems to me it was early 1942.
John: Either 1941 or early 1942. It was right after the war started.
Fran: I think at Pearl Harbor we were still on the old place. That was December 1941. John, did you and Marie go to school in Brasie Corners for a while? (Yes). Helen and I never did. We were ready to go on the bus to Gouverneur by the time we got to the South Woods Road. You (Carl) must have gone on the bus too.
We bought the old place that was Alvin and Edna Young's. I don't remember why we happened to buy that. I guess Alvin was finally leaving it. The kids had been gone for some time and Aunt Edna had been committed to the state hospital.
Helen: Financially they were in dire straights.
John: Our father bought that whole farm for about $3200.
Fran: And then Ray and Mary took over the farm over on the Rossie - Brasie Corners Road.
John: When we moved to the Natural Dam Road farm in '47 or '48 Dad sold the Young farm to the Emrich's. The machinery and herd of cattle went with it and he sold it for $18,000 - $19,000. So they made a pretty good profit.
Fran: How did they happen to buy it? Did it go up for auction?
John: I think so. It was done at the bank. Probably unpaid taxes. But I remember it cost my father $3200 for 300 acres.
Fran: By then the kids, Katie & Martha & Ruby, had gone to live with the Huttons (Robbie & Helen) who took care of them as foster parents.
Anne: Was Alvin still alive then?
Helen: Yes, but he was pretty old. We used to go down to Huttons to visit after the girls had moved down there. Mom would always play the piano and we would all sing. Martha had a beautiful voice.
Fran: After we moved to the Young Farm in 1942, Helen and John and I got involved in the 4-H club that was led by Joyce and Morris Lee, our neighbors on the South Woods Road. Looking back on it, they made a tremendous contribution to the Macomb youngsters growing up at that time. There wasn't much for kids to do, and Morris and Joyce organized a lot of group activities that we really enjoyed. We also learned a lot from them.
John: That club was called the "Macomb Sunshine 4-H Club". I remember a special weekend we all spent at the Lee's camp on Black Lake. We had a great time.
Helen: The 4-H club included kids from all over, like the Putmans, Drummonds, Paul Fishel, and a lot I can't remember. They were mostly farm kids. We used to show animals and crafts at the St. Lawrence County Fair every summer.
Anne: What do you remember about your grandparents, Sylvester and Sarah Washburn? They lived in your house for a while, didn't they?
Helen: I think they came there when Grandma was really sick. She died there in 1938 and Grandpa stayed on after that.
Anne: Was he kind of quiet then? When you look at the pictures, he seems to be the center of every picture taken.
Helen: He was crippled then. He was walking with crutches. He used to take the brush clippers and go up and down the sides of the road and clip all the brush that was growing wild. He always kept busy.
Fran: He was kind of depressed after Grandma died. I remember Mom was going to buy him some new overalls, and he said he didn't believe he was going to need that. When I'd get something new I'd run in to show him and say "Grandpa, look what I got" and he'd say "I wonder how long it will be before you break it", or something like that.
Helen: I remember one time, though, when Dad was taking us to Canada. It was a big treat to go across on the ferry. We would go to Ogdensburg and go across. And he gave each one of us a quarter to spend.
Fran: Really! He had a heart after all.
Helen: He wasn't bad. Do you remember how he died?
Fran: Yeah, he bumped his head going to the outside john and then he got blood poisoning. I remember you could see the red streaks going out from the bruise. They didn't have any antibiotics then, and he only lived 3 or 4 days. I don't remember what Grandma died of, but she was in bed for a long time.
Helen: She was so funny when she was sick. She was out of her mind part of the time. I can remember Mom fighting so hard not to laugh at the things Grandma would say. Mom would go in with her food and Grandma would start rambling off about some member of the family, how she started life with just a chair and a chicken coop or something like that, and Mom would come out of there just howling. But we all waited on her. If Grandma needed her teeth cleaned, whoever happened to be there was handed the cup and you cleaned the teeth. She was in Mom and Dad's room downstairs in that old brass bed. Those were busy, busy days for Mom. It was after Grandma died, I think, or was it after Grandpa died, that she almost had a nervous breakdown and had to take some time away?
Fran: I don't have that pegged in time very well, except that Marie was so young that when Mom came back she didn't remember her. She lifted her foot to Mom and said "see my new shoes".
Anne: That had to be after they both died, I think. Sylvester died in 1939 and Marie was born at the end of 1935.
Fran: Does anybody remember the Washburn reunions we went to in Pierces Corners?
Helen: Oh, yes. I used to love those.
Fran: That was Grandpa Washburn's family, wasn't it? Aunt Tin (Cynthia) Downing, Grandpa's sister, was always there in her wheel chair. I don't remember a lot about them. Were there organized games there, or was it just getting together? We ate in some kind of a big building that we called the Pavilion.
Helen: The Pavilion was right beside the church. That was the best part of the whole thing. There was just all kinds of food. Everybody brought just tons of food.
John: The Bates family was always there. I am not sure what their connection was.
Anne: The Bates's confuse me because, as near as I can tell, Martha Bates was Sylvester Washburn's sister and she had only one child, Robert L. Bates. In 1910 they were both still living together in Gouverneur. He was not married. She was listed in the census for that year as a widow with him as her only son. We have some pictures that Mom remembered as possibly being a Ray Bates.
Helen: No it is Rob (or Robbie) Bates.
John: I remember the name of Hob Tann.
Anne: That would be Hobart Tann. He married into the Downing family, but he is also related back on the Washburn side. He married Myrtle Downing, I think.
Fran: The Washburn reunion was a pretty big affair. There must have been 200 people there.
John: They had so many pies there that I would eat pies all day long.
Helen: You could just go in there and get anything to eat any time of the day you wanted. Everybody knew everybody else.
Anne: The main names besides Washburn would be his other sisters, Downing, Bates, Sarah Venton (they had a whole slew of kids), and then there was Calista. I am not totally sure about her because she is listed as being another sister of Sylvester but, according to the records, she was born 2-1/2 years after their father died. So figure that one out. She married Edgar Wilson, so she became Calista Wilson. She is also buried up at Pierces Corners.
John: They had two or three horse-shoe pits there at the reunion and the men all played horse shoes.
Helen: There were all kinds of things to do. But then there was a big family meeting that was held. I don't know whether Grandpa always led the meeting but he usually did. And we never ended up one of those Washburn reunions that we didn't sing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again". Mom always played the piano.
Fran: Well, if nobody can think of anything else, I guess that's it. This was fun! We seem to remember a rich childhood, not rich in money certainly, but rich in the experiences and the just plain fun of growing up in a big family. I think Mom and Dad would be pleased that we all remember it so fondly. Thanks, everybody.