My Uncle Parker and Cousin Helen
My Uncle Parker (Mom’s brother) died in WW II, long before I was born. Yet Mom talked of him so often I realize how much of an impact he still made on both of our lives.
In researching Parker’s story, I was also reminded of another reality that I am sure is as true for your family as mine: No one person grows up purely as a solo act. In the same way you can’t tell my story without Mom, nor hers without Parker, you also cannot tell Parker’s without their cousin Helen.
Parker and Mom spent a lot of time with Helen when they were growing up. Mom and Parker’s mom (Frankie), and Helen’s mom (Jewel) were sisters. I’ve been trying to do a family tree for Mom’s side of the family, so here is a section that shows where Mom, Parker and Helen fit in. I’ve circled their mothers, Frankie and Jewel.
I spoke with Helen in 2007, and she told me the following stories about Parker and Mom (Miriam).
Helen told Donna in 2007
Miriam, Parker and Frankie came to live with me and my mom (Jewel). Miriam was about 5 years old. Parker and I were about the same age (about 9 or 10 I think) and always were together … people always said “Parker and Helen”, our names together.
Parker and I had to do a lot of chores and work, but we always made a game of it with our great imaginations … so when we were chopping wood we were being pirates building a fort or something like that. Our moms were wonderful, but not the greatest mothering skills. Parker and I had to always take care of Miriam but we didn’t mind. We would be upstairs playing while Miriam was in our mother’s bedroom playing. Time to go down to dinner we’d go check on Miriam and she usually had climbed up to mother’s dressing table and powdered her dolls noses. We would clean up so our mothers wouldn’t know she’d been up there playing, though it did keep her entertained for hours.
One time we were outside playing and decided we’d go down to the park we had heard about that seemed like a neat place to explore so we started off walking. It was 3 miles down the road. Miriam’s little legs gave out soon, so we “saddleback” carried her (I put my left hand into the crook of my right elbow and Parker did the same and we hooked together to give Miriam a seat). So we carried her all the way to the park, played a couple of hours there, then carried her home. We got in trouble for being gone so long.
I learned even more when I spoke with Helen in 2014, when she was 90 years old.
Helen told Donna in 2014
When Miriam was about 5 years old, she was a lively girl, very cute and pretty. She was never tall as a young girl, but petite. She had lots of energy and pranced around on her Tip Toes, always into something.
Jewel and Frankie raised us 3 kids during the depression.
We all moved to the big house in Mt. Grove from Colorado Springs. It was a nice house. Frankie worked in Kansas City at the Kress store as an artist. She had 2 duties. The first was to play the piano for customers that wanted to buy sheet music and asked to know what it sounded like. In those days of no radio and no TV, every home had a piano for music. Frankie’s second job was tinting (coloring) the booth pictures, for which she earned 5 cents or 10 cents per picture (Or maybe the booth picture itself was 5 or 10 cents, I’m not sure from my notes. – Donna) Frankie practiced at home on their own pictures, so I still have many pictures that were tinted by her.
Frankie and Jewel’s parents were well-to-do, and raised them like Southern Belles. Both sisters were brilliant, but not a lot of experience with labor or responsibility. They were used to having everything provided for them by their Dad (Grandpa Haswell). Yet by that time of the Depression, they were raising Parker, Miriam and me by themselves along with Grandma Haswell. They kept Miriam’s and my hair long and curled in banana curls.
One time we went to Farmers Market, and decided to buy lots of seeds of every kind and plant them for food. Amazingly most grew fine and we had garden vegetables to eat. This sealed my own fate, because I was a gardener from then on, loving gardening.
One day, when Miriam was about 5, Parker and I decided to go on a Picnic. Miriam followed us everywhere. So Parker and I (we were about 8 or 9 years old) packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and went to the spring (which was 2-3 miles outside Mt. Grove) for water cress to make water cress sandwiches. We then decided to trek another 2-3 miles up to the mountain to eat our Picnic. Miriam, only 5 years old, couldn’t walk that far so Parker and I took turns piggy-back carrying her. When we got home, my mom and Frankie were frantic with worry.
Great Grandpa Shinn and someone had a blind daughter named Florence. Florence had sheep and would shear the sheep, sort, card and spin the wool. She didn’t act like she was blind, doing lots of things like normal.
Grandpa Shinn had a place in the hills, he built a nice house and had lots of ground. He gave the land to our grandmother, Clara Shinn Haswell. Miriam and I went to Garfield for our higher level schooling. It was a very small town, where my close friend had a general store, and there was a blacksmith at the end of the street.
I look at myself in the mirror and think I look exactly like Grandma Haswell.
LESSON LEARNED: When folks tell their stories, they aren’t remembering the past; they’re reliving it.
LESSON LEARNED: Before learning someone’s stories, they may seem a bland passerby. Afterwards, they better resemble a trailblazing hero!
LESSON LEARNED: Ask loved ones for their stories, and record them. It’s too late after they are gone.
LESSON LEARNED: Sisters, brothers and cousins are treasures.
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