After their marriage, mother and dad had a short honeymoon in Niagra Falls. Life for them was not easy, as they were married and had my brother and I during the recession years. But she really knew how to make all kinds of soups – from ham bones, chicken, beef, even hamburger. Her corn soup was my favorite. She baked all our bread, rolls, and buns, and made the most delicious pies, (luscious lemon merinque, sky-high apple pie, graham cracker pie,) cream puffs, cookies and cakes, jams from berries we gathered, and through the years canned (and later froze) innumerable fruits and vegetables – even meat. She didn’t have a clothes dryer for many years, so hung things out to dry in our back yard. On a mangle, she ironed sheet tops and pillowcases. They always smelled so fresh and good, but how tired she must have been when Monday night got there.
There have been many blessed mothers throughout history, but none can compare to my mother who is just with us now in our memories. She was named Dolly by her parents, as she was just a wee, tiny baby, no bigger than a little girl’s doll baby. At birth in her parents home, she was not crying – even breathing. The doctor who delivered her just wrapped her in a newspaper and made no effort to get her breathing started. But her father and grandmother refused to give up on her survival, unwrapping her and gently tossing her back and forth between them. And then, suddenly she caught her breath and began to cry. Wow! Her life began. I guess if they had given up, my brother, sister and I would never have come into this world.
Even though they named her Dolly at the time, she came to be known as Dorothy, and didn’t discover her real name until she needed to find her birth records when she married my dad on June 16th, 1933. Her childhood years were not happy ones. When she was in the fourth grade at Fourth Street School in Salem, her mother became very ill and passed away. She continued living with her father who was quite a nature lover. He took her fishing and also on turtle-hunting expeditions where she held burlap bags to hold the snappers when he pulled them from their hiding places along the banks of the creeks. Turtles scrambled every direction, but she got them into her bag. Turtle soup was enjoyed quite often along with fried potatoes from their old coal cooking stove. (I remember how Grandpa Ritchey, even when I was young, still kept turtles in an old wooden barrel filled with mud and water, so that he could enjoy turtle soup whenever he wanted it.)
Those were happy days, but he would also take her on the trolley which ran along Route 62 into Salem, where he drank and she would have to find her way back home alone on the trolley. When he did return home he would be uncontrollable, and broke her mother’s dishes. She was able to save her mother’s most valued carnival glass bowl which had come to her from the Chicago World’s Fair. This bowl meant so much to mother, and was displayed in our china cabinet. Not knowing the value of the bowl, we once took fruit to her when she was in the hospital. She was so alarmed when we walked into her room carrying this prize possession of hers filled with fruit. She cherished even more the above photo of her with her mother. If a terrible thunder storm warning was given, she took her little dog, Benji, and her picture of her and her mother to the basement with her – never fail. We have no other photos of her mother.
Due to such episodes when her father drank, she went to live with her older sister, Essie, her husband, Ross, and her rather large family in Georgetown, OH. Those years brought unhappy memories for she lived in harsh, unclean conditions and was treated badly by the children of the family.
She was then taken in by the Harry and Lottie Haberland family in Beloit, Oh., who loved and cared for her like their own daughters. Their three girls, Edna, Anabelle, and Mary became like sisters to her. They had a lifetime friendship. She lived with them until she was married in their garden. They had a greenhouse and had horses. She had one harrowing ride in a cart behind one of the ponies on their farm, but loved riding their big work horses. That’s where she developed such a love for horses and flowers.
She never went beyond junior high since there was never enough money for books she would have to buy, but she was a good reader and one would never guess she was not highly educated. She did have some knowledge of hair care which she learned from another kind lady in her life. Francis McBride taught her a lot in her beauty shop, especially how to do finger waving of the hair.
She loved music, and had learned to play the piano (by ear). She used to tell us how much she wanted to take piano lessons when she lived at her sister’s house. The girls there had a teacher who came to their house to teach them piano, but all she could do was listen to what they did, so she never learned to read music, but was able to play ‘by ear’. One of her favorite songs to play was ‘When the Clouds Roll By’. She was determined that her children would somehow get music lessons and, somehow, found the money to give me piano lessons which lasted from my first grade year through highschool. She loved to hear me practice, and insisted that she should do the dishes after dinner so that I could practice my piano. My sister, Bonnie, took some piano lessons, but excelled in voice, so she started her on voice lessons. My brother had drums, but gave that up – also played the ‘jews harp’, and loved to dance to the hip hop music of the 50’s. So, her love of music came into our lives and remained with us.
Yes, she also did embroidery and crochet, and was a seamstress. Most of our clothes she made. Suits and dresses always for Easter, and maybe a Spring coat. I can’t remember an Easter Sunday when she hadn’t stayed up all night to put finishing touches on our Easter outfits. There was always something new at Christmas that she had found time to make for us. I only had one doll in my early years, but it got a new outfit every Christmas – even the Christmas when she was confined to bed with rheumatic fever, so she stitched it all by hand. I still have that doll and that dress. Art work? Yes, that, too. She often pulled a big roll of drawings out of the hall closet. There were sheets of drawings she had done of Snow White characters. None of them ever got into a frame, and somehow they were lost over the years. But her art ability lives on in my brother and I. She always found something for us to draw on, even if it was an old book of wallpaper samples. We drew on the back of those. She made glue out of flour and water, and kept a drawer with crayons and pencils for us to use.
She nursed us with the best of care, became a gray lady at the Salem Community Hospital when we got older, and eventually cared for my father until he passed away. At 71, she decided to join her church choir (Salem First United Methodist Church), still not able to read music very well, but it was such a joy for her. She also taught one of the adult Sunday School classes as long as she was able to do so.
We never had a lot of money, but somehow, as we got older, mother always had a little bit saved for buying that prom or special occasion dress and a new pair of shoes to match. I’m sure she was reliving the years when she had nothing, and was doing all in her power to give us the things she had to do without. She was amazing. The memories go on and on, and I will probably add to this post as time goes on for my children and grandchildren so they will not forget her. I will also add the poem I wrote for her memorial service when she had gone to live in heaven.