Sunday, May 22, 2016

Genealogy Journey's Podcast #10: World War II and Women

In honor of Memorial Day we are featuring some information about women in World War II.

We'd like to thank our friend and genealogist Sandra Bourassa for allowing us to tell her mother and aunt's story.

Thelma Marie Wright. Used with permission.

My Mother Thelma Marie Wright was born 30 Nov 1923 in Canton, Haywood Co, North Carolina.  She was the 11th child of Columbus Newton Wright and Narkie Alice Hamlett.  My Grandparents had a total of 13 children, 11 lived. The first 10 were boys, the next was my Aunt Helen Louise and the last was my Uncle George Wiley.

After high school sometime around 1942/43 my mom went to Asheville, North Carolina to interview for a job with the Signal Corps. Because of my mom's typing speed of about 100 words per minute and short hand (not sure of speed) she was hired and worked in Arlington, Virginia.

The one thing I know about her work career was every Monday morning she accompanied her boss to review news reals coming from various fronts in Europe and Africa. She told me she would ask her boss on Friday if he might not need her help for the review of films on Monday, but his answer as always the same, he needed her! Mom said these films had pictures of the fighting and bodies in various fronts, the worst was the concentration camps of Germany and Eastern Europe. Her boss decided what films were released and what was not released. Overall mom liked her job, but Monday was a very hard day.

One good thing was her cousin who worked in Washington DC and met a Naval Academy Midshipman on a bus bench. This Midshipman invited her to a party and told her to invite her friends. Lucky for me she did, because my Mom and Dad were in love at first sight! Her cousin got over the fact my Dad did not fall for her and did go to their wedding. My Dad was the Midshipman on the bus bench.
Helen Wright and her Womens Army Corp Unit. Used with permission. 

My Aunt Helen wanted to take flying lessons, but her father Columbus Newton Wright did not want to sign for her to fly. He knew she wanted to join the Air WACs. Her friend Joyce Mann, who was a year older than her, had crashed her plan and died. Helen had to go to Alabama as they did not enlist women in North Carolina. Helen dreamed of shuttled aircraft about, but she never became a pilot. I have a picture of her with her unit.  

Information from her U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 Record on states:
Name: Helen Wright Birth Year: 1922 Race: White, citizen Nativity State or Country: North Carolina State: Alabama County or City: Mobile Enlistment Date: 18 May 1944 Enlistment State: Alabama Enlistment City: Montgomery Branch: Womens Army Corps Branch Code: Womens Army Corps Grade: Private Grade Code: Private Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.

Helen worked in Paper Mills all her adult life.  She died of lung cancer in 1993. Canton is a Paper Mill town. She married, but ended in divorcee in Jacksonville Florida. She loved to ocean fish and I think she always wished she had learned to fly.

Jean spoke of her parent's lives during the War. Here's some of the ration books and other items.

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben.

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

Gena mentioned some WWII recipes from  a cookbook she owns. If you're brave enough, here are some to consider:

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Resources mentioned in this podcast include:

The Great War 1914-1918. The Story Behind the Remembrance Poppy 

Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. General John a Logan's Memorial Day Order 

Wikipedia. Memorial Day 

CBS News. We Called it Decoration Day

Time. 7 Things You didn't Know About Memorial Day

Lane Memorial Library. General John A Logan's Memorial Day Order.

History. Memorial Day.

Encyclopedia of Chicago. Manhattan Project 

The National WWII Museum. Women in WWII At A Glance

American Red Cross. World War II and the American Red Cross

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Time is Running Out! Southern California Jamboree Registration

Clock by graur razvan ionut/Courtesy of

Going to the Southern California Jamboree in June? Advanced registration ends tomorrow May 22nd at midnight! While SCGS is closed on Sunday, members of the Jamboree Registration Team will be manning the phones during the day.

Learn more on their blog.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mother's Day Podcast: The Female Ancestors of JaLeen Bultman-Deardurff

Remember our Mother's Day podcast? We wanted to share some of the stories from that podcast. So today we learn more about the female ancestors of JaLeen Bultman-Deardurff.

5 generations. Used with permission

My training to be a grandmother began when I was a child. I knew both of my grandmothers and three of my great-grandmothers – five women who influenced me in their own unique way.

Mildred Bultman and granddaughters. Used with permission.

Grandma Bultman was a little woman standing barely 5'2" , but for someone so little she worked from sunrise to sunset. For her, cleaning house was more than sweeping, mopping, and dusting. She ironed every article of clothing, sheets, pillowcases, and handkerchiefs that she had washed and dried. She scrubbed windows and floors until you could see your reflection and she hauled mattresses and pillows outside to air. She was small in stature, but if you made her mad she could throw you into next week -- and if she was still mad when she caught up with you, she’d throw you again. OK, all kidding aside you didn’t want to make Grandma mad unless you were prepared to suffer the wrath. 
After her children had grown she took a full time factory job to supplement their income. After retirement she and Grandpa accepted a part-time job cleaning the local bank. Whenever I spent the night with them I’d tag along and watch while they cleaned. One particular time made quite an impression on me. Grandma was on her knees scrubbing a toilet when she suddenly looked up at me and said, “JaLeen, I want you to get an education so you don’t have to clean someone else’s toilet for a living.” The bitter tone in her voice and hardened expression on her face embedded that moment in my mind forever.

Grandma Kay was a career woman who owned and operated her own beauty shop from home. For Grandma, doing hair was a passion and she worked in that shop for fifty years before health issues forced her to retire. She too encouraged me to get an education and do something with my life. My grandparents divorced when my mother was just a baby so Grandma’s success was a result of hard work and determination. By the time she remarried thirteen years later she had established her career and autonomy-- two things my step-grandfather admired. This grandmother also had a temper and whenever she got angry we just ran away and hid until she calmed down. Grandpa, however, would egg her on and somehow he always managed to make her laugh. So many times when he’d irritate her she’d take a deep breath and blow it out. “Men!” She’d exclaim. To which Grandpa replied calmly, “Yeah, but you love us anyway.” She couldn’t argue with that.

Great-Grandma Maggie came to America from Germany in the late 1800s when she was a little girl. She watched her parents struggle to establish a new life in a new country and learn a new language. As a young woman she lost her first husband to meningitis and finished raising her children alone before she remarried. I regret that we never talked about these things, but she passed away before I was old enough to appreciate the life she had carved out for herself. I do remember one time when we visited Grandma Maggie and she served us Neapolitan ice cream. Instead of scooping it with an ice cream dipper she’d slice it so we’d have equal parts of strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla. Ribbons of pink, brown, and white and I always thought how pretty it was served that way.

Gustafson Christmas. Used with permission

Great-Grandma Gustafson loved hosting big family dinners at holiday time. She could make one dizzy the way she darted back and forth with lightening speed from the kitchen to the dining room making sure full dishes of food replaced empty ones and that there were plenty of rolls on the table. She was my step-grandfather’s mother and she never treated me different than her own grandchildren. We all received the same unconditional love and we children each got ten dollars at Christmas time. We thought we were rich!

Great-Grandma Auer lived the farthest away so when we visited her we stayed for a week. Grandma lived on a farm and she had a huge garden where she grew tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, beets, corn, and so many other things that she fed to her family or sold at the farmer’s market during the hot summer months. In the middle of the garden she planted a row of gladiolus and bordered the garden with marigolds and zinnias. Grandma always whistled when she worked. I never realized the hardships she endured until I was grown up. She had raised a family during the Great Depression, watched her oldest child suffer through a divorce, and put up with a husband who found fault with everything she did. In spite of the heartaches and disappointments she whistled cheerfully and greeted each day with a smile.

Alice & JaLeen 1976. Used with permission. 

Four of my great-grandparents lived long enough to see both of my children. I was so blessed with grandparents. I lost my last grandparent when I was 45. Three years later I became a grandmother for the first time when my daughter gave birth to Jakob. In the next four years she would give me two more grandsons, Logan and Gavin. 

Jakob, Logan, and Gavin. Used with permission.

When my grandsons are old enough to appreciate family memories I want to share with them my memories and stories of the grandmothers I knew and loved. For now they can’t even imagine me ever having a grandmother. 

The boys are too young to understand these things so I walk through my flower gardens with them as they explore and look for toads. I wonder if this is a memory in the making. Logan grabs a fist full of mums and hands the yellow flowers to his mom who looks mortified. Seeing her panic I remind her that he isn’t doing anything we didn’t do when we were children, and she accepts his gift. When he sees my approval he picks a hand full for me and we take them into the house and put them in a glass of water. Logan smiles as I thank him with hugs and kisses. 

I sometimes wonder what memories of me will remain with the boys as they grow to manhood. Will it mean anything to them that I went back to school and completed a college degree in my late forties and thought about Grandma Bultman when I held my diploma? Will my dedication and hard work to raising a family and keeping a marriage together inspire them to lead healthy and productive lifestyles? 

Or perhaps it will be the little things that inspire them. When they spend the night Jakob always requests that I make Belgian waffles for breakfast. Will the waffles become a favorite memory for him like Great-Grandma Maggie’s sliced Neapolitan ice cream? 

Gavin is still a baby but he is already included in most of our grandmother-grandson activities. He sits contentedly on my lap while we sit on the porch swing. We’re just getting started.

If I’m still around when the boys are grown I hope they share their memories with me. After I’m gone perhaps they’ll sit down with their own grandchildren and say, “I remember when Grandma did this…”

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mother's Day Podcast: Marie Cusack Slakes

Remember our Mother's Day podcast? We wanted to share some of the stories from that podcast. So today we learn more from Kris Ruggaber about her grandmother,  Marie Cusack Slakes.

My paternal grandmother, Marie Cusack Slakes, was born in Gary, Indiana just after the turn of the century when Gary was a brand new town on the map. Grandma’s parents, Timothy and Ottilie, had worked for a wealthy family in Evanston, Illinois, she as a cook, and he as a coachman. After marrying, they saved their salaries and moved east to Gary to help settle the new little steel mill community on the south side of Lake Michigan. There, they bought a small 9-acre farm. My Irish immigrant grandfather continued to work as a coachman, while his wife and children cared for the farm.
Marie grew up to be a feisty young lady, with her own ideas about what it meant to be a woman. She became the bookkeeper for the Tolleston Fruit Market, which was more of an all-around grocery business than merely a fruit market. Soon after taking the position, she married the owner, Michael Slakes. 

Marie, being a well informed and highly intuitive business woman, sensed trouble coming with the U.S. economy. Just before the great stock market crash, she bought a huge safe and withdrew all their money from the bank. She then bought a brand new Mack delivery truck and learned how to drive it. 

My father always remembered life during the Great Depression as being a time when he lacked nothing. He saw how the other families were suffering, but in his home, all was well. One of my grandparent’s best customers was Valparaiso University. They had students to feed and no money to buy food.  My grandmother, always with an eye to business, struck a deal with them to give the university food in trade for a complete college education for one of her sons. A contract was drawn up and the university was able to feed their students throughout the Depression. 

Unfortunately, upon graduating from high school, my father patently refused to go to VU. He had his heart set on going to Notre Dame and he stubbornly stuck to his guns. It was going to be Notre Dame or nothing. Grandma dug her heels in, too. Soon after, World War II was declared and dad joined the Army Air Corps. When my uncle graduated he had no interest in going there either. Grandma continued to go court to sign the judgement every two years, but by the time her grandchildren were ready to enter college, the University had been sold and the agreement deemed null and void. 
Valparaiso University was not the only customer Grandma helped through those times. A multitude of neighbors and friends also got necessities on the ‘tick’ as it was called back then. But what my grandmother never got over was the fact that when times got better and folks went back to work, most of the people she’d helped, refused to pay what they owed over the years and reviled her for even asking for payment. Most refused to even come into the store during the war years. She was angry and confused by their behavior. I don’t blame her either! Eventually, she became so upset that she applied for a great paying job at U.S. Steel, got it, and closed the store forever. Her advice to me was this: If ever you decide to help your friends and neighbors, NEVER expect to be repaid. And if you want to get rich, NEVER own your own business!