My Mother’s Day Tribute – 2015

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Mother's Day 1969

Mother’s Day 1969

Wishing all in my blogoshere a Happy Mother’s Day!

This photo was taken on Mother’s Day 1969. I know the year so well because . . . there’s a reason I’m wearing that empire dress. Yes, that’s my firstborn hidden yet in plain view. Oooh and he loved my Momma! My “Baby Boy” did, too. I have memories of her (at age 70) down on the floor playing with him.

Momma was so sweet, gentle, and kind. She loved us so; and her dimunitive frame did not stop her from protecting those she loved. I loved to hear the story of how she and her sisters were ready to jump into the ring to gang up on the baby boy’s opponent during a Golden Gloves boxing match. Smh. Those MABLE girls were a force to be reckoned with.

I had the fortune of spending a lot of one-on-one time with her throughout the day because I attended the elementary school where she was head secretary. My first grade class was right next door to her office. But that was cool; because I loved learning “readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic.” Then, I got to be Secretary’s Assistant at the end of the day.

Even in adulthood, she didn’t hesitate to correct me. I remember during her first visit to Houston, as soon as we returned from a shopping trip I pointed to the set of dishes we had selected and said to my husband, “Look what Momma bought me.” As quick as a flash, she said,; “No. Look what Momma bought us I was just used to being “the Baby.” I think it will always be a part of my persona. But I do my best to abide by these types of motherly influence.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. I couldn’t forget this woman if I tried — for she looks back at me from every mirror. I’ve been deprived of her physical presence for 25 years; but her spirit and memories remain. This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Here are some of my posts that either focus on her or talk about the many ways she influenced my life. I love you, Momma.

The featured image for this Mother's Day 2015 post is a composite that represents two influences Momma made on my life: creativity and the love of reading.  The background photo of the yarn represents the spirit of creativity that was birthed in both my Mother and me.  Around the house, if she was sitting, she was doing some type of needlework.  The inset photo represents the love of reading my mother shared with me.  In addition to a bookcase filled with reference books and literature, there were always plenty of current issues of various magazines at our house.  Both creativity and reading have proven to be constants throughout my life.

The featured image for this Mother’s Day 2015 post is a composite that represents two influences Momma made on my life: creativity and the love of reading. The background photo of the yarn represents the spirit of creativity that was birthed in both my Mother and me. Around the house, if she was sitting, she was doing some type of needlework. The inset photo represents the love of reading my mother shared with me. In addition to a bookcase filled with reference books and literature, there were always plenty of current issues of various magazines at our house. Both creativity and reading have proven to be constants throughout my life.

In Remembrance of Violet Marie PALMER

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Created in loving memory of my older sister, Violet Marie PALMER.  (1937 - 1938)

Created in loving memory of my older sister, Violet Marie PALMER. (1937 – 1938)

On Wednesday, I utilized the “Ask a Librarian” link on the Lake County Public Library website to inquire about locating my older sister’s obituary. Violet Marie PALMER was the first-born of my siblings. We always knew that she died at the age of 11 months from pneumonia — two years before the 1940 birth of my second oldest sibling, Billy.  So none of us had the privilege of knowing her. 

During those days doctors made house calls; and her doctor delayed his visit to Violet because he had tickets to a Golden Gloves event. I never asked if he came afterwards.  I remember his name and I share it when recounting the event to my family members; but I will not disclose it here. The important thing is that I have also remembered his name in prayer.

It’s unfortunate that the only evidence of Violet’s existence is encapsulated in the 3″ x 3″ patch of text displayed below and the only known portrait of her. But I am truly grateful to now have at least this obituary to add to: (1) a copy of the portrait, that I’m waiting to lay eyes on again when my relative scans it and sends it to me; (2) an increasingly foggy memory of her headstone, at Fern Oaks Cemetery, which includes a small photo of the portrait embedded under glass in the upper-right corner. No. (3) is just something somebody said that’s stuck in my head. I think this was an extended relative or family friend: “People said that baby was just too pretty to live.” She was a pretty baby; but I’ve always regarded this statement as someone’s honest attempt at sharing a sentiment. There are just some things I remember from childhood. I was truly astonished with how quickly my issue was resolved. After my futile searches of newspaper indexes for Violet’s obituary, the LCPL responded to my inquiry within a matter of a few hours with a scan of it. I immediately thanked Sharon for her awesome detective work and for responding to my inquiry so quickly. Even though the text is clearly legible now, I’ve transcribed it for all posterity.

Violet Marie PALMER obituary, Gary Post Tribune, Gary, Indiana, 21 September 1938, page 6, column 2.  Courtesy of Lake County Public Library.

Violet Marie PALMER obituary, Gary Post Tribune, Gary, Indiana, 21 September 1938, page 6, column 2. Courtesy of Lake County Public Library.

Violet Marie Palmer, age 11 months, died last night in her home at 1933 Adams as a result of pneumonia. She is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Palmer. Funeral services will be held in St. Paul’s Baptist church at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning with Rev. W. F. Lovelace officiating. Burial will be in Fern Oaks cemetery. The body was taken to Cresswell’s funeral home.

My first reaction to reading the obituary was that I distinctly remember living at the address listed as my family’s residence: 1933 Adams — especially from the age of about 3 years. So, from 1936 (the year they were married) until about 1953 (my last memory of living in this building) 1933 Adams was my family’s home. This was an apartment building that housed three families. I remember there was a basement with an exterior entrance. I don’t recall who lived there. Our family lived on the main floor; and Mrs. Lila Allen (my Godmother, affectionately called “IE”) lived on the second floor. I plan to include “IE” in the family history aspect of my genealogy because she played an integral part in my early upbringing.

  • I even have photos of my parents standing in front of 1933 and one of my second sister (Patricia Anne PALMER) and me playing (I was riding my tricycle) on the sidewalk outside.
  • I remember IE standing on the sidewalk with me and coaxing me to run and meet my mother one day as she returned home from work.
  • I have a photo of my paternal grandfather (Will E. PALMER) sitting outside of 1933.  The copy in my possession needs to be cleaned up.
  • I remember one of my Dad’s co-workers threatening to cut my ears off if I was nursing a bottle the next time he came over. (I ran and hid behind one of my parents — don’t remember if it was Momma or Daddy.)

So, you see, I do know the building.

The next thing I focused on was the church where the funeral was held. It was directly across the street. This dark brick structure looms in the backdrop of my memories of 19th & Adams. My only memories of St. Paul are attending Vacation Bible School in the summers. Rev. L.K. Jackson was the pastor; but I also remember there was a blind preacher named Rev. Russell who presided over the VBS. During our late adult years, my brother, Rev. Charles PALMER, told me we once belonged to St. Paul. That explains why Violet’s funeral was held there.  That building has been demolished. 1933 was one of the last buildings on that block to meet that fate. St. Paul is now located on 23rd & Grant.

Find A Grave, image (Fern Oaks Cemetery : accessed 2 May 2015), entrance gate post, Griffith, Lake County, Indiana; the accompanying photograph by  Warrick L. Barnett  is materially informative, and does not reference a specific headstone.

Find A Grave, image (Fern Oaks Cemetery : accessed 2 May 2015), entrance gate post, Griffith, Lake County, Indiana; the accompanying photograph by Warrick L. Barnett is materially informative, and does not reference a specific headstone.

The mortician, Cresswell’s Funeral Home, closed its doors about 30 years ago. I did make a few phone calls in an effort to locate the records. Despite learning that funeral homes are only required by law to maintain records for seven (7) years, I’m still going to make a concentrated effort to find out what happened to Cresswell’s records. Now that I have a date of death, my death certificate inquiry will be mailed on Monday; and I’ll also draft a follow-up letter to Fern Oaks to back up the phone message I left for them on Thursday.

With the genealogical tasks underway, and after I got over the excitement of finally seeing the details of my parents’ accounts in print, I began to notice the articles surrounding the obituary. They were not all obituaries. There were two others. But directly above Violet’s was a short write-up about a matinee dance. To the direct left was an article about a club’s activities. To the right was an ad for a pimple ointment and another ad below it that turned out to be an earlier location of the butcher that Momma purchased meats from. What was this? I didn’t think a whole lot about it. But I did return to the LCPL site to ask the Librarian if I could get a scan of the entire page — first, so I could document the obituary for my blog post; and secondly, because I just love nostalgia.

At this juncture, I have to thank Kathy Wienrank and all the other members of the Indiana Genealogy! Just Ask! facebook group. Were it not for their experience and willingness to help, I would not have found Violet. What an awesome group. Thanks guys!

As in all genealogy research, from every new development three additional questions will emerge. The librarian’s reply included a brief description of the page where Violet’s obituary was located. It was on Page 6 of the Wednesday, September 21, 1938 edition of The Gary Post Tribune. My first observation was that it was not in the Obituary section. It was in column 2 of the page and the section entitled, “News of Gary’s Negro Citizens.” Was there an obituary section on this date? If yes, why were Negroes excluded from it? If no, when was the first run of an obituary column? And was it always a part of the Classified section as it is today? Just below the header and byline, there’s a phone number to call in items to be included. I’m thankful to whoever called Violet’s obituary in.

There’s all kinds of stuff on Page 6. To be continued . . .

William Emmet PALMER, Sr

William “Bill” E Palmer Sr (31 July 1911 – 14 August 1970) was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He was the youngest of four (4) children born to Willie PALMER and Mary JOHNSON PALMER. William’s mother died of typhoid fever in 1916 when he was only five years old. I have an adorable photo of him when he was around this age. Actually, he looks like he would have been about seven. He’s wearing a white shirt, a necktie and knickers. He looks so solemn and reflective in the pose, I’ve wondered if it was taken after Mary’s funeral. But he really looks older than five. It’s such a cute picture though. I’ll post it after I get it marked.

William E Palmer Sr
I would love to find information on his elementary education. But he, along with my mother, was a member of the first graduating class (1931) of Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana. He was a member of the football team. I think he also took the Woodshop Class that was offered to many of the male students during that era. After graduating, he worked in the Merchant Mill at US Steel Corporation in Gary.

He served on the Senior Usher Board (several years as President) at St Timothy Community Church. And he was noticeably moved by the hymn, “Peace in the Valley.”

He and his wife, Floretta Violet MABLE PALMER, were well-known and respected throughout the community of Gary. They gave birth to five (5) children: Violet, William, Jr., Charles, Patricia, and Donna Jeanne. (Yes, I’m the only one who was called by first and middle name.) (Link to post)

Daddy kept a very handy pocket knife on him at all times. He had so many uses for that knife. If I was doing homework or a crossword puzzle and my pencil lead got dull, he would flip that knife open and whittle until my lead was sharp again. When the watermelon truck came; and he wanted to “plug” a melon to check for sweetness, out came the knife. I smile as I think of the many apples he peeled for me with that same knife that he had used for who knows what. After he finished with whatever the task was, he just swiped each side of the blade once on his pants leg, flicked it closed and dropped it back in his pocket. Even today, when I peel an apple, I try to keep the peel in one long strip as he sometimes managed to do. Just that simple action would cause me the greatest delight.

Daddy started early preparing my brothers for manhood. Both Billy and Charles, had paper routes for as long as I could remember. Even doing his shift-work at the Mill, he made sure they were up bright and early to complete their routes before school. The papers came flat; and they folded them into thirds in such a way that they would stay folded when they pitched them onto the porches of their customers. They kept the folded papers in these heavy canvas bags that they slung cross-body over one shoulder. I remember Daddy helping them with all that. And Thursday was “collection day.” I didn’t think much about why Daddy accompanied them to collect payments from their customers. I did have the reasoning ability to think he was making sure customers paid. In retrospect, there may have been a “peer element” he was protecting them from as well. My Daddy . . .

I’ve given him the term, “plaid-collar worker” because he wore plaid shirts to work. Not the flannel kind — the cotton kind. I knew he changed into work clothes (maybe a long-sleeved jumpsuit) and showered before changing back into his street clothes to come home. He got dirty at work; but he came home clean. To this day, I have the highest regard for a man in some dirty work clothes. And I consider his wife and kids blessed. He wore a sweatband on his forehead that was no more than a yellow sponge with a thick rubber band woven through it. Today, I would be like, “Dude, you gotta be kiddin’. I don’t know WHERE he bought those things.

Of course, he cherished my sister and me. But he was overprotective with me — “the baby” — and, somehow both he and my mother managed to spoil me rotten. I guess this is as good a platform as any to share the poem I wrote about him at the age of 26 — six years after his passing at the age of 59. I’ve held on to this poem for almost 40 years and can still recite it verbatim. But, since I’m a little on the obsessive side, I can’t just throw the poem out there. I have to pretty it up, which I’ll try to do this weekend. (I’m actually headed for the library right now.) I only had my Daddy for 20 years. But you can see the lasting impression he made on me.

For the benefit of my descendants, updates to this page will be made throughout my research.

Floretta Violet MABLE PALMER

Floretta was born on August 20, 1915 in Mound City, Illinois. She was the oldest of eight (8) children born to William MABLE of Cobb County, Georgia and Essie WILLIAMS of Pulaski County, Illinois. She lived with her family at 210 Pearl Street in Mound City. Pedigree_MABLE_Floretta_V copy

I’ll have to to find information on her elementary education. But, at age 16, she was a member of the first official graduating class (1931) of Roosevelt High School (Link) in Gary, Indiana. (There was one graduate in 1930 who waited to march with the Class of ’31.) After graduating, Momma worked as a Secretary in the School City of Gary and as a Medical Transcriptionist at the University of Chicago and at Gary’s the Methodist Hospital.

In addition to her full-time employment, she volunteered as Secretary of St Timothy Community Church for several years. We had an extra room where she kept her typewriter and memeograph machine. On Thursday evenings she prepared the stencils; and on Saturday evenings, she ran off the copies. Each family member took part in the folding of the programs on Saturday night as we watched Lawrence Welk on TV. Then on Sunday mornings, she took down the names of new members and presented them to the Pastor and the church body. Momma also played piano and sang with the Senior Choir.

She and her husband, William E PALMER, Sr., were well-known and respected throughout the community of Gary. They gave birth to five (5) children: Violet, William, Jr., Charles, Patricia, and Donna Jeanne. (Yes, I’m the only one who was called by first and middle name.) (Link to post)

I hung out with Momma every day because I attended Carver Elementary where she was Head Secretary. After school ended, if I didn’t go to my friend’s Paulette’s house, I stayed in the office with Momma. I truly believe my studying that supply closet is the reason I’m so obsessed with pens and journals. There were shelves and shelves of supplies; and I like hanging around in there so I could bring out what she or one of the other secretaries asked me to.

Momma’s hobbies were crocheting and working word puzzles. She was an avid reader; and she loved a good crime novel. She encouraged me to read to my heart’s content by buying ANY book I asked for. During our adult years, my sister and I received her yearly updates to our Reader’s Digest subscriptions.

For the benefit of my descendants, updates to this page will be made throughout my research.

Sepia Saturday 269: The Violet Polka

It’s Sepia Saturday; and this week’s vintage photograph call connects with the theme image and encompasses music, dance, polkas, violets ….

Palmer Singers (1979)_for_web copy This post will touch on each of those things.

Music was always in our house. Momma and Charles played piano. Pat took voice lessons. And we all (except Daddy) sang. Everybody read music and played an instrument except for me (and Daddy). To this day, I can only surmise that the reasons were financial. (Because Daddy’s health problems began just as I was entering jr high (middle) school.) But that didn’t hinder my natural singing ability.

Gospel, show tunes, Chicago_Bandstand_Posterand R&B were the main genres we enjoyed. I remember the time Billy and Pat went to Chicago Bandstand. Our family gathered around the television, watched  and squealed with delight when we got a brief glimpse of them among the teenagers on the dance floor.

Our family loved music; and it was one of the things that bridged our ages. I was the youngest; and while they did teenager things together, I enjoyed one-on-one time with Momma and Daddy. They all attended school together (walking a few city blocks). But I rode across town with Momma to attend grades 1 through 6 at the school where she was the secretary. My parents were pleasantly surprised when, at the age of 10, I debuted with “The Palmer Trio” — expanding our gospel group to be called, “The Palmer Family Singers.”

No one in our house danced the polka; but we tuned in every Saturday night to watch it being performed on The Lawrence Welk Show. The smiling conductor’s trademark gesture was, rather than the traditional baton tap on the music stand, the queuing up his band with his famous, “a-1-annn-a-2-annn-a . . .” Book_Music_with_lavender_roses_resized copy The Violet is my dear mother: Floretta Violet MABLE PALMER who had a beautiful choir voice and accompanied our gospel group on piano. Sheet music was a staple in our home. I clearly recall their planned trips to the music shop (for show tunes) or the Bible Book Store (for gospel renderings). I’m working on a scrapbooking page which includes a scan of Momma’s “Gospel Pearls” hymnal — turned to her favorite, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” And Daddy did have a favorite hymn: “Peace in the Valley.” Hearing reasonable renderings of either of these songs — or even reading the lyrics — evokes a heart tug and a cloudy eye.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my older sister who was named Violet Marie PALMER. None of us ever knew her because she died of pneumonia at the age of 11 months. The only photo I’ve ever seen of her tells that she was an extremely beautiful baby. Our parents kept her memory alive within our family structure. And I’ll rejoice to meet her “on the other shore.” Books_of_Faith_resized copy And don’t you just love Alan’s image for this week’s theme? I couldn’t help but notice that, in addition to having the word, “Violet” in the name, it also includes the word, “Flora” (close enough to, “Floretta” for me). My genealogist eyes notice things like that. I can’t wait to see what other Sepians have prepared for this week’s theme. Sep_Sat_2015_0307

Born on this Day in 1844 Thacker MABLE

Birthday_Tribute_Thacker_500 copy

Thacker's past is a fragmented jumble. This mosaic of the image I use to represent him alludes to the pieces I've gathered thus far.

Thacker’s past is a fragmented jumble. This mosaic of the image I use to represent him alludes to the pieces I’ve gathered thus far.

This is the first installment of my Finding Thacker series. Thacker Mable is my great-grandfather. I only heard his name mentioned a few times growing up. Actually, it was my grandfather’s name (William Edgar Thacker MABLE) that put me on track to even find “Thack.” I will fashion the fragments I gather about him into future installments of this new series.

Granpa “Thack”. We know you were once a slave on the Mable Plantation — and that your carpentry skills made a direct contribution to the building of the ancestral Mable House in Marietta. We know that your and Grandma “Seuk’s” remains were buried at the Mable House Cemetery. This diligent Daughter is working to gather all the fragments to know more about our MABLEs.

You’re my link to this, Thacker. How did the AYCOCKs acquire your lineage? Is Frances your mother? What family is Seuk from? I get the feeling she’s right under my nose.

Follow the series:

Seeking Thacker 2: 1867

The background of the Featured Image for this series is attributed to Gary Doster’s submission to the Georgia GenWeb Project.

Sepia Saturday: Valentine’s Day

Scrap_Page_Mom_Dad_Valentines2. copy

My Sepia Saturday post for this week is about the couple who demonstrated everything I needed to know about love and marriage. My boyfriends had to be assertive yet still need my input. The man I married reminded me so much of my father . . . at first — stern, loving, soft-spoken. Anyway, it was my mother’s example I followed to care for him during his lengthy illness.

Three_Hearts copy

He called her, Sugar — sometimes, Momma. She called him, Daddy. I heard other adults address my parents as, Bill and Floretta (pronounced, “Florita”) or Flo. But I can’t recall one time when they called one another by their names around us. I wonder if it was to demonstrate to us what we were to call them?

My Daddy was a steelworker — working “swing shifts” at US Steel. When he worked midnights, we had to be extra quiet because he slept during the day. He wore plaid shirts and, for some reason, a belt and suspenders. And, as the photo shows — that man could wear a hat! Dobbs felt in the winter, straw in the summer. I even have a high school photo of him with a lettermen’s sweater and a “Big Apple” cocked ever so slightly to one side. Yeah, my Daddy was a “Dapper Dan.”

Momma was a school secretary, then a medical transcriptionist. She still managed to put full meals on the table every evening and listen to our bedtime prayers. Then we were up and out the next morning; and she always looked like she’d just stepped out of a McCall’s magazine ad. From an early age, I’ve been constantly reminded about how much I favor her. Our facial resemblance is unbelievable. And she was neat, petite, and sweeter than sweet.

While we found our parents’ spontaneous lip or cheek pecks entertaining, we were also being taught how to appropriately display affection. And there was nothing weird about it. They just loved one another and weren’t ashamed to show it. They both served as usher and choir member, respectively, at St. Timothy Community Church. And they brought us up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. My parents were married for 34 years before my father’s untimely death at age 59. I was only 20 years old. Momma remained with us for 20 years after; and did not remarry.

We used to love leafing though those photo albums with the heavy black pages and their high school yearbook. That’s where these pictures are from. I don’t have the albums — just a few pictures from them. I, obviously, have much more to share about my parents. But I tried to keep the focus on “love” for this week’s post. When I get into their individual bios, you’ll get to know them better. Happy Valentine’s Day!

See how other Sepians have been inspired.

See how other Sepians have been inspired.

Wilhelmina MABLE was born on February 1, 1917

Wilhelmina MABLE
Born: February 1, 1917
Mound City, Pulaski County, IL
Age at Death: 68 Years

Standing:  Wilhelmina MABLE Seated:  Floretta MABLE Gary, IN  (c) 1937

Standing: Wilhelmina MABLE  — Seated: Floretta MABLE  —  Gary, IN (c) 1937

Aintee was my mother’s first sister out of four. She moved from Gary, IN to Cleveland, OH where she was employed as Head Nurse at a local hospital. She and my Aunt Dorothy were the only two out of the five girls who didn’t have children. My mother visited her just about every year; and I accompanied her a couple of times. Even though I’m the spitting image of my mother, a few have said I look like Wilhelmina.

Whenever Aintee and her husband, William SMITH (who called her, “Wilhelm” — with a hard “H”), came to Gary, they brought their humongous albino Boxer, “Duke.” That was their “child”; and we all loved him — just had to jump out of the way when he started doing what boxers do — slobberin’. Momma, Daddy, Aintee, and Uncle William played bridge while us kids munched goodies, played board games, and tried to stay out of Duke’s way. Houses were small then; and he almost took up the whole room.  He would just lay there and let us step on or over him.  Every year, I’d ride with Daddy when he took Momma to the bus station for her trip to Cleveland. One year, we drove her all the way and stayed the night before dropping her off for her two-week visit.

My bond with Aintee grew stronger when my son’s father moved to Cleveland and my son spent a couple of summers there. She made sure to spend time with him and made it her business to get to know his father as well.

My Mother and Aintee were more solemn than their younger sisters. As I advanced through my teen years, our fun conversations continued; but the topics took on a more thoughtful nature; and her tone changed to a more serious one. In retrospect, I can see she was engaging me to think. The five sisters had a very strong bond. But, Wilhelmina’s closest sister was Dorothy. Those two were thick as thieves.  I truly believe Aintee died of a broken heart two months after Aunt Dorothy’s unexpected death.

This photo of  my mother (Floretta) and Wilhelmina appears to have been taken during their early career years. Aren’t they a lovely pair? Grandmomma had two more like them and three boys, too! We called my other aunts, “Aint Dorothy”, “Aint Ella Mae”, and “Aint Bobbie.”   But there was only one, “Aintee.”

She shares her birthday with Harlem Renaissance Poet Langston Hughes, Actor Sherman Hemsley, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Actor Clark Gable, and Comedian Garrett Morris.