Grandmothers We Remember

Nellie Harriet Parker

Nellie (Sly/Mason Parker

Nellie (Sly/Mason) Parker

Like my maternal grandmother, my paternal grandmother, Nellie Harriet (Sly/Mason) Parker (NHP) also lost her husband at mid-voyage in life (click here). She also rose to the occasion, moving from Minnesota to live with her parents in Eugene, Oregon. She found work as a secretary to the president at the University of Oregon. Later, she remarried and managed to see two children (from her first marriage) through college. She was an intelligent, studious person and a devout follower of Mary Baker Eddy.

Nellie was married shortly after graduation from high school. She married her teacher, who considered her his best student. One story, my daughter reminds me, was Nellie’s mother Carrie Amelia (Dykins) Sly grumbling because first she had to make Nellie a graduation dress and then in short order make her a wedding dress.

Nellie Harriet Parker

Nellie Harriet Parker

When my sister and I were small she lived in Stockton, California. When her husband retired they moved to Boulder Creek, California and upon his death she moved to a trailer park in Soquel, California. So, for a good portion of the time we were growing up, she was near at hand. Finally, toward the end of her life, she moved to Lafayette, Indiana to live with her daughter, Beatrice Amanda (Mason) Yearian, known to us as “Aunt Bee.” “Grandma Parker” passed away at age 88.

NHP was a painter (oils) and she was pretty good. Included are samples of her work:

NHP Landscape

NHP Landscape

(click on images for larger view)

NHP Still Life

NHP Still Life

NHP Still Life II

NHP Still Life II

NHP Floral

NHP Floral

I visited NHP just before she moved back to Indiana. It was a kind of a farewell visit, she was busy going through her things and pruning her excess belongings. She was quite deaf by then. It’s a curse that seems to have descended from the Sly family line, and my sister and I are the latest to feel its effects. Rather than shout, I wrote NHP notes and she seemed to like that procedure. Then she brought something to show me. I couldn’t have been more surprised. It was a very small pistol — a .22 single shot Derringer. It was so small it fit in the palm of my hand. I looked at her with a question on my face. She said it had belonged to her grandmother. She then got a bemused look on her face which turned into a wide smile and said, “My grandmother was quite a woman. She was married four times and one of her husbands was a Mississippi River boat captain.” The gun was the kind an attractive woman might carry if she circulated in dicey environs and Emma would still have been a young woman at the time of the Civil War. I wouldn’t consider it deadly, but it was probably more effective than a hat pin.

My grandmother (NHP) was a serious, straight-laced person. There was absolutely nothing about her that was flamboyant or risque. It is hard to imagine that she was descended from a person who might have had those characteristics.

A search of records turns up Emma Lydia (Harvey/Buchanan/Dykins/Branch) Newell. Nellie is descended from her second husband. I’ll bet Emma’s story would make an interesting post to my Family Stories category, but that story is probably lost, which is another good reason to write these things down.

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Saturday, May 15th, 2010 Nellie Harriet Parker No Comments

Miriam Phoebe Kidd

MPK age 27

MPK age 27

MPK age 36

MPK age 36

As mentioned in a previous post of this category, My uncle ,George Edwin “Ted” Kidd (GEK), wrote a history of the Kidd family centered around my grandfather William George Kidd (WGK). This is the traditional way of writing a family history in a patriarchal society and he did an excellent job. However, to my way of thinking, the real and central strength of the Kidd family resided in my grandmother Miriam Phoebe (Williams) Kidd (MPK). To use a nautical analogy, she was the one who stepped up to the helm when the Captain died (click here) in the middle of a long voyage and she brought the ship safely into port in excellent fashion. As WGK advised on his death bed, she immigrated to the New World with three children in tow, put them all through college and lived to the ripe old age of ninety-five. All this while blind in one eye since WWI. She traveled extensively in the latter part of her life and drove a car until she was ninety. Since she lived to be more than twice the age of her husband when he died there is much to cover, and if I were to go into the same level of detail as did GEK it simply would not fit into a blog format. In addition, my other uncle, Herbert Arthur Wilson “Bert” Kidd (HAWK), has already produced a detailed piece based on MPK’s own records together with his recollections. Consequently, I will simply add some of my own recollections, as well as those of my sister Irene Joyce (Mason) Jenkins (IJJ) and others who knew her well.

My sister and I probably had more in-depth exposure to MPK than anyone else of our generation in the Kidd family. Primarily because MPK lived within forty miles of us while we were growing up. She was a frequent visitor to our home and we were frequent visitors to hers. Often in the summer when school was out one of us would be deposited in Santa Cruz to spend up to a week with “Grandma Kidd.” It was on these occassions that we often heard stories of her life, and what an interesting life it was.

Miriam Phoebe Kidd at mid-life

Miriam Phoebe Kidd at mid-life

One story that I don’t find covered by either of my uncles is how she lost the sight of her left eye. It happened during WWI when MPK and my mother, Miriam Josephine “Jo” (Kidd) Mason (MJM), lived at No. 1 Crooked Billet, Wimbledon Common, London, England. One night when a blackout was in force MPK  was returning home with some items purchased at a local grocer. Jo answered the knock on the apartment door and unlocked it to find MPK with blood gushing from a severe cut on her forehead and streaming down her face and front. Needless to say, this made quite an impression on my mother who was nine or ten at the time. According to MPK she had run into a lamp post or pole of some kind because of the darkness. I still don’t understand how, but because of this blow she lost the sight of her left eye. Much later in life, that eye gave her more trouble and it was replaced with a glass eye. So, despite the fact that GEK gives much space to things military in his memoirs, i.e. the  Boer War and WWI, “Mum” seems to be the only one of the family to have actually suffered a casualty as the result of war and that fact goes unmentioned. Losing the sight of  her left eye was just one of many hardships that MPK worked through, and in spite of it she drove a 1937 Plymouth until she and the car were both quite elderly.

MPK in her 80's

MPK in her 80's

The burdens of responsibility fell very early on the young MPK. As HAWK points out: “MPK’s mother had rheumatic fever in her youth and was never a strong person. She died in 1892 when MPK was sixteen. . . MPK’s father employed a maid and a washerwomen (laundress). Neverthelesss, MPK carried a great deal of the responsibility for the four children from about 12 to 4 years old. She did much of the shopping for food. . . She left school when she was 14 because of her mother’s steadily deteriorating health. Her mother taught her how to cook and care for a household. Her father who was very hot-tempered had little patience with MPK’s mistakes. . . MPK kept house for her father for eight years after her mother died.” Because of this early experience MPK seems to have been almost “trained” for events that overtook her later in life.

"When I was 'mother'"  MPK at 18 ran the home. The others are her siblings

"When I was 'mother'" MPK at 18 ran the home. The others are her siblings

MPK was formally trained as a nurse and she worked at this profession at various times during her life. She also worked in retail sales from time to time, but her specialty was running boarding houses for paying guests. This is something she did on numerous occassions widely separated in time an place. From all that I have heard, she did this with a fair amount of success and a lot of hard work.

Much much later in life, after MPK’s children were all schooled, employed and married MPK settled in Santa Cruz, California and her life began to level out to “smooth sailing.” She quite enjoyed independent living and traveling. I remember her saying, some time in her eighties, that she felt that the last twenty years of her life must have been a reward for all the hard work she had done earlier. During that time she had many friends and socialized a great deal. To read about something that happened on one such occasion, click here.

Here are some memories at random:

I remember once as a small boy who had recently learned of the pilgrims coming to America, asking my Grandma if she had come over on the MAYFLOWER. That brought a hearty laugh and she said, “No but you can tell your friends that I once came over on the QUEEN MARY.” Many years later I attended a convention of port authorities aboard the QUEEN MARY which by then was permanently docked at the Port of Long Beach. I wandered about the old ship wondering how many times my path crossed tracks made by MPK many years ago.

My friend (and ex-wife) Lynne Dotson recently reminded me that: MPK used to keep a pot of stew on her stove,”in case someone should stop by.” Every day she would add something to it and bring it to a boil. It didn’t look very good but it was always quite tasty.

Even at a fairly advanced age MPK was a walker. She could hike long distances without seeming to tire. Once when I was staying at her place she suggested we go for a walk. We ended up hiking all the way to Capitola and back, a distance of perhaps eight miles round trip. At the end I, an early teenager, was completely bushed and she was still going strong.

Here is a memory from sister Irene: “I frequently tell the story of she and I going to a movie in Palo Alto shortly after she got her glass eye. She rubbed her eye and the glass eye fell on the floor and we couldn’t find it.  I had to go for a usher and asked to borrow his flash light because my Grandmother had lost “something“.  It was early teen or pre teen embarasment.  Luckily she found it before I got back with the usher.”

Here is a contribution by my cousin Phil Kidd: “One time when we were living in Ridgewood, Ted hung up chuckling after talking to Grandmother. Being curious, I asked him what’s so funny? He laughingly said your Grandmother was telling me how she had to scold her neighbors. She said the ‘old biddies’ were out in the wind without shawls or anything on their heads. Ted had asked her: ‘Do you wear a shawl or anything when it’s windy?’ She indignantly replied: ‘Of course not, I am not that old.’

Not seeing the point, I asked: ‘What’s so funny about that?’ Ted smiling looked at me and said: ‘Phil, your Grandmother is in her 80s and at least 10 years older than those ‘old biddies’ I always took that as an indication of Grandmother’s youthful outlook on life and her indomitable spirit.”

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Sunday, May 2nd, 2010 Miriam Phoebe Kidd 1 Comment
 

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