“We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name.” ~ Maya Angelou
Sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s I stopped by to visit my paternal grandmother, Erma, and she took me down into her basement saying that she had something that she wanted to give to me. I must have been around 21, because I didn’t have a car or my license to drive until then because I either walked everywhere that I wanted to go or hopped on a city bus during inclement weather. I was surprised and touched when she pulled out some old quilt tops that she had made and asked me if I wanted them because I was the only granddaughter that she knew of that sewed.
And I did love to sew. I spent time when I was young with the Mary-Martha Fellowship at the Mennonite Church that I went to and with my favorite Sunday School teacher, Martha King, learning stitches and embroidering. My maternal grandmother taught me to basic knitting and crocheting and I remember knitting lots of headbands with variegated yarn. Because I was a kid in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s it was a time when fashions were changing and kids were splitting open the seams of blue jeans and inserting calico material to make bellbottoms. I did this, too, and also did a lot of embroidery on my jeans. At that time, embroidery was my favorite thing to do (besides reading) and I used to take whatever I was working on to church with me and work on it while sitting in the pew during services. And…I majored in Home Economics in high school along with music, art, and English – all those things that absolutely would not help me to get a job later in life. But I certainly can entertain myself!
I believe that my grandmother told me that she had made those quilt tops during The Depression but had never gotten around to actually finishing them up. So she wanted me to have them because she didn’t think that she ever would. So I stored them away in tissue paper to keep them safe and have hauled them around with me wherever I have lived. In the small town where I raised my children, there was a house over on the next block that, for whatever reason, was selling off the contents of the house in yard sales for several weeks. Because it was a small town, we could walk most everywhere that we wanted to go and walked by this house often. One day my daughter and I were walking by and noticed that there was one lone item standing in the front yard that had a sign on it that said “FREE” and then I noticed that it was an old, handmade quilting frame. Yes! Perfect! My daughter and I picked it up and carried it down the alley.
A couple of years ago, I got the quilt tops out and made some minor repairs where the thread had come loose from dry rot and then packed them away again. Soon, though, as soon as time permits, I will start to work on them since I have the space to spread out and get busy. I cherish these quilt tops as being a part of the family that has been entrusted to me and I’ll give one to each of my children as I finish them up.
One of the reasons why I adore these quilt tops is because they showed me a different side of my dad’s mother. I never suspected that she sewed. It seemed at the time like a small bond between us. My two grandmothers lived for a time right across the alley from each other, which is, of course, how my parents met. When I was in 2nd grade, my maternal grandmother went to live with her cousin and we moved into Grandma’s house, so for a while, we lived right behind my dad’s mom and my dad’s sister lived a couple of houses away. Two of my cousins and an aunt lived with Grandma, two more cousins lived nearby, and we were mostly pretty close to the same age. My grandmother’s house had a parlor-ish front room with covers on the furniture that we, as kids, were not allowed to enter. What I remember the most about my grandmother at this time was that she had housework duties scheduled. Although I don’t really recall what that schedule was, I’m pretty sure that she did laundry on Monday (sometimes we got to help sprinkle the clothes, roll them up, put them in a plastic bag and into the refrigerator), because Tuesday was ironing day.
She had a big metal glider on her front porch and petunias in flower boxes on the banister. In her back yard was a big bed of peonies that we kids were supposed to stay away from. That was something that we always kept in mind while playing games of “Mother May I”, “Witch in the Well”, “Colored Eggs”, “Red Light – Green Light”, and “Freeze Tag”. The fence surrounding the backyard was bordered with marigolds and zinnias (with which my Aunt Dorothy taught me how to save seeds) and there were irises surrounding the house (with which Aunt Dorothy taught me how to divide). Also in the backyard was a huge cherry tree with sour cherries that were not so good for eating, but great (I hear) for making pies. Just outside her fenced in backyard was a handful of apple trees that produced very sour green apples (Which I didn’t like, but some of the neighborhood kids did.)
I’ve not been able to find much of a paper trail for this grandmother, but there are some things that I do know through various documents. Erma R. Minnie Pittman was born 06 August 1907 in Flushing, Belmont County, Ohio to Jeremiah Mason Pittman and Sarah “Lena” Pool. She was the seventh of eight daughters and also had two younger brothers. So far, I have not found any actual birth document for her, but I have with her siblings.
Those siblings were:
Lottie Esther, born 11 October 1893, married William Dennis Gatten
Francis Estelle, born 10 February 1898, married James “Matthew” Brandon
Esther Mae, born 29 September 1899, married Carl Victor Medley
Eva Louella, born 24 October 1901, married John Orville Piatt
Lillie Van Vesse, born 05 January 1904, married Raymond Clarence McWilliams
Elma Jane, born 21 April 1906
Celesta Ann, born 21 November 1910, married Walter S. Burkhart
Raymond Mancel, born 12 June 1913, married Esther Ickes
Thurmond “George”, married Dorothy B. Unknown
In the 1930 census, we find Erma living with her husband Lloyd Albert Schrader in North Industry in Canton Township, Stark County, Ohio along with his two young sons from a former marriage, Junior and Wayne, and their infant son.
In 1940, the family is living in Plain Township, Stark County with their growing family, which now includes my father, George. Lloyd and Erma would have nine children, one of whom died as an infant. The youngest, Melvin, passed away a couple of years ago, otherwise, all of my paternal aunts and uncles are living today (with the exception of my dad’s two half brothers from Lloyd’s first marriage who have also passed away). In January of 1943, Lloyd would die leaving Erma with a house full of young children. Erma passed away 25 May 1994 and is buried at Sunset Hills Burial Park, the same cemetery as my maternal grandmother, Elsie, in essence, making them neighbors one final time.
This is my Week #24 post for Amy Johnson Crow’s
52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge.
The optional theme for week 24 was “Heirloom”.
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by Tim Nichols
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