Categories
family history Family Lore Minor Surnames Transcriptions

Letters from Home:

Donald C. Minor to his daughter, Marilyn–1954

This letter written from my Grandaddy Minor to my mother, Marilyn, made me chuckle. Though decades old, its mixed sentiments about the holiday season could have been written in just the last few days.

As 1954 drew to a close, Donald Minor paused before heading to bed to pen his account of the Greene Hills Farm Christmas to his eldest daughter.

Dear Marilyn and Norman, Dec 30, 1954

Another year nearly completed–my how time does fly! We used to read about the fleeting years and little could I then realize the full import of the expression and how swiftly the useful years of our lives are really spent. It certainly behooves each of us to live each day with purpose and spiritual significance. Most of our thought and planning is for a livelihood and self agrandizement [sic] and it is apparent that unless we become more careful the tendency will become increasingly prevalent. Somehow it is difficult to feel the challenge for a more purposeful life until we come in contact with a meek soul who is truly trusting God for strength and guidance.

Every day I have meant to write you and thank you for greetings at Christmas together with the candy and guest towels. The candy was delicious and quite different. Did you make it, Marilyn? And the towels are so pretty. –those colors go well with our blue walls in the bath room.

Yes, I bet she DID make that candy, for my mother was a fabulous cook and baker.

From your letter today it sounded like you had a nice Christmas even though you were away from home. I was so glad for you and was so happy you could be together–it would simply have been too ba if you could not.

My parents had been married for just a year, and living separately as Norman completed his first year with General Electric in Rochester (NY) and my mother completed her Occupational Therapy degree at Tufts University, Boston. It snowed heavily the day my mother was to commute to Rochester for Christmas and my dad, fearing the bus wouldn’t make it, drove half-way to Boston, picked her up at one stop [lost to my memory] and headed to their apartment in New York. They clearly didn’t make it back to Lyn’s childhood home in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Our Christmas was much the same as usual–just a family dinner with entirely too much preparation and commotion to be truly enjoyable. Our gifts were mainly clothes and personal things to make a feller’ look better and smell pretty. I got a shirt, socks, house slippers and shaving accessories and oh yes — a wedding band after 24 years. It’s a nice on and I like it a lot. I’m glad the house coat fitted you. I had Toddy Riggs Greenler–she works in the office–try it for size. Only wish it could have been nicer but I did like the color. Norman’s shirt I trust was OK. We thought maybe with your being a bit more north (you are, aren’t you) that a heavier shirt would be acceptable. Those nylon and wool shirts were quite the rage here–Spraggs store sold them by the dozen. I trust the others will tell you about their Christmas which was much like mine except Helen got a R.C.A. Victor record player–Hi fidelity from Steve. It’s really nice. Of course the niceness depends upon the type records and some Steve selected I didn’t much care for. The machine will play continuously for 9 hours if you so desire.

How do you like your new apartment? I hope it will be pleasant and quite satisfactory for you both. I am so glad Marilyn you are living in the hospital where you work–at least I trust it will be more desirable. In this day it is hardly safe for a woman to live out to herself. The beastly desire of men (women too of course) cannot be overlooked and we cannot allow ourselves to be negligent of the fact that such characters are lurking around every street corners [sic]. An article in a recent issue of the Coronet magazine was allerting [sic] women of this prevalent danger. Too it was warning women everywhere to be cautious today and to avoid contacts and places where this type “bird” might be hanging around for they are really vicious. They do most of their work not in the “dives” but right out on traveled streets where they will wait hours for the opportune person and moment. This is not to frighten but to caution you of the danger.

Quite the cheery holiday message, eh? And a solid reminder of how messaging was (is) designed to curtail women’s movements and opportunities.

Yes we got our dining room “revamped” for Christmas. Between the oak squares we have it painted a nile green. The paper above is pale cream background with prominent design of Rhododendron in two shades of pink and flamingo and green leaves and branches in varying hues of green. it is really striking and helps the whole downstairs. Our living room mantle had a string of colored lights hidden in pine and white candles. The doorway too was decorated with pine and lights–in fact it looked real nice.

We seem to be awfully busy somehow doing nothing but just existing. Eating, sleeping a little, and working–in fact I’m plain tired of it. Never washed so many dishes in y life it seemed as during this last week. The male members are simply horrified at the sight of a dish cloth in this household. As soon as they get a fill off they go to another part of thehouse to suck a cigarette.

In my mother’s handwriting is a note: referring to Steve too, I’ll bet!

Helen (my mother’s sister) and Steve left for New Jersey this morning to spend New Years. She worked all day yesterday and up until 11 last night–in fact Helen was worn out and really looked badly. she had no business going so far in her condition [pregnant with her first daughter] but of course Steve didn’t want to go alone and she of course didn’t like to see him go off by himself. Do hope they get along OK. Don’t think she looks forward with anticipation to trips down that way for their living there is so different–Maybe it’s OK but it doesn’t appeal to me. There seem to be some nice people but they sure are pleasure mad. Well here it is 11pm. I just came home from our Agri (sic) Extension meeting. We have some good members on the board.

My grandfather was an active leader in the Greene County agricultural community, known for his livestock expertise.

John Myers is holding Revival meetings for the 1st Bapt. Ch. in Jan. they want me to conduct the song services but I simply cannot and work every day. Then to what is their preacher going to do? He says his “pins” will hard hold him up. Maybe so but by golly mine aren’t so agile anymore and besides I’m older than he is. It seems a fellow has to look out for himself a little–the other fellow doesn’t care too much and I know best how I feel. Best of luck for a happy and successful New Year. Lots of love and a big hug to start it off with.–Dad

Donald was a graduate of Denison College (Ohio) and had as a young man aspirations to be a professional–a banker or a journalist. The Depression blunted that dream, and its reality forced him to provide for his young family by returning to the Garard’s Fort ancestral land and the Minor tradition of raising livestock. Donald never gave up his love of music, however, practicing the piano and leading church choirs as often as time and health permitted. At the time of this note, Donald was 52 years old, and evidently feeling the 24/7/365 fatigue of farming.

Source:

Minor, Donald C. (Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania) to “Dear Marilyn” [Marilyn “Lyn” Minor Strickland]. Letter. 30 December 1954. Privately held by D. Kay Strickland, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. 2021.

Categories
Minor Recipes and Receipts Strickland Surnames Transcriptions women's history

Recipes and receipts: A 1970(ish) Texas Sheet of Chocolate Deliciousness

Our dinner table in southwest Virginia was always full. Mother and Daddy at either end, us four kids seated two across from two on each side. In the center, sat two vegetables, a starch, a meat dish or casserole, to be passed to the left until all were served. At each place was a glass of milk and a small bowl of canned fruit, preferably fruit cocktail with maraschino cherries which had to be equitably divided among the four of us.

The highlight of every meal, though, was dessert. My mother was a terrific cook; her baked goods, however, were whole-other-level fantastic. Homemade cookies or brownies or cakes of all sorts were a daily staple of my childhood memories.

Among the recipes in my mother’s Recipe Accordion File was a hand-written page of directions from her sister’s mother-in-law, Cora Carroll of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. This Texas Sheet Cake is one of the most sweet-tooth-satisfying cakes I have ever bitten into.

Try it. You’ll like it, I’m sure!


Texas Sheet Cake

Sift altogether in large bowl:

         2 cups granulated sugar               ½ teaspoon salt

         2 cups all-purpose flour                1 t baking soda

Saucepan:

         Melt 2 sticks of margarine [or butter], 1 cup water, ¼ cup cocoa. Bring to a full rolling boil.

Small Bowl:

         2 eggs (beaten)           1 teaspoon vanilla      

         ½ cup buttermilk         1 Tablespoon vinegar

Add everything to large bowl. Mix lightly. Pour into greased jelly-roll pan (15 ½ x 10 ½ inch)

Bake 20 minutes at 400°.

Ice while warm with Chocolate Icing:

         [Mix together] 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, 1 egg (beaten), ½ cup melted butter, 2 squares melted unsweetened chocolate, 1 teaspoon lemon juice. [spread over warm cake]


I transcribed the recipe as Cora wrote it out for my mother, baker to baker. I made sure to translate anything that seemed confusing, like measuring abbreviations, but other than that this is how the recipe was handed down.

I have another recipe for this cake from a 1980 edition of A Heritage of Good Tastes from Historic Alexandria, Virginia that uses a mix of shortening and butter instead of margarine in the cake. And in that version the Icing recipe substitutes 6 tablespoons of milk for the egg.

And you, my reader. Do you have variations of this Sheet Cake? What are your favorite childhood dessert memories?

Categories
Minor Strickland

I Miss My Mother

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s birth, the first March 27th I haven’t made a call, or sent a card, or prepared a surprise.  Motherless.  No matter how complicated or difficult the relationship, the mother-daughter bond is irreplaceable.  Irreducible.

We are all just bits of love.”  ~~ Marilyn Minor Strickland

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories
Minor

Music My Mother Played: The Old Lamp-Lighter

Music my mother played The Lamp-LighterIn 1946 the songwriting team of Charles Tobias and Nat Simon captured  the hearts, and ears, of a post-war audience with their tune, The Old Lamp-Lighter.  Band leader Sammy Kaye recorded the song, featuring vocals by Billy Williams, and the haunting melody hit the Billboard Best Sellers List by November.  The Old Lamp-Lighter stayed on the charts for fourteen weeks, peaking at #1.  Among Sammy and His Orchestra‘s many fans was fourteen year old Marilyn Minor, a young pianist and talented vocalist living in rural Greene County, Pennsylvania.  Every Friday she traveled into nearby Waynesburg, to stay overnight with her Grandmother May Minor for her Saturday piano lesson.  I imagine this young teen sitting at the bench, determined to parse out the arrangement’s rhythm of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes.  And I wonder if her father, Donald, sang along, “He made the night a little brighter wherever he would go…”

Categories
Minor Strickland Surnames

Where is the Story?

Her palms hovered just inches from her ears, fingers-spread.  As if a metronome, my mother’s hands rocked back and forth as she spat, “You are JUST like your father!”  I never needed a decoder to understand that this phrase conveyed a mother’s disappointment; her eldest child, and only daughter, carried on the mannerisms and point of view of a barely tolerated ex-husband.  My parents’ divorce was amicable as formal separations go.  Since all the children were fairly grown up, no custody duels were overtly fought.  But the covert competition for our allegiance and love was ceaseless throughout my adult life.

You cope, when your parents are divorced.  You just cope, raising your own children as best you can, fending off the birth family battles with as much panache and courage as you dare, navigating the second marriages and blended family get-togethers without losing your mind.  And finally you start feeling a bit old, mortal, and you set out to reclaim your childhood, your birth family, your ancestors.  Or that is what you do when you get bitten by the genealogy bug.

I wandered the shoals of family memory, curious about how and why !?! my parents ever got together.  There was a college romance.  At RPI in Richmond.  Norman transferred to VPI (Virginia Tech) and they got married.  In Greene County, Pennsylvania. Then they lived in Blacksburg.  Norman got a job with General Electric, and they moved to Boston, where Lyn finished her degree at Tufts. GE transferred the couple to Roanoke.

I had to DIG for this stuff, people.

Finally, late in life, my father admitted that he would always love the girl he married.  Which plants the question: was Norman ever Lyn’s beloved? I would never hear the profession from her lips.

What was once lost has now been found

The letters

My father mailed a letter from Virginia Tech Station, Blacksburg, Virginia, to my mother’s dorm at 819 Franklin, Richmond 20, Virginia, every day from January 28, 1953 until May 28, 1953.

And my mother saved. them. all. *

The love letters chronicle the spring of their engagement; the Barnes Junction rendevous, unreasonable professors, wedding dates, and rambling musings of twenty-somethings. Sometimes the story is not left in the ink of a letter.  It is inferred by the mere presence of that artifact.  The words speak of my parents’ love for each other, once upon a time.  The preservation of this seven inch stack says my mother always loved the boy she married.

It matters to me that my parents married because they wanted to, because they were in love, and optimistic, and happy to be together.  It matters to me that I was welcomed with delight.  Perhaps, after all, my mother was a teeny bit glad that I turned out to be just like my father.

 

*Norman S. Strickland, Blacksburg, Virginia, 1953, Letters to Marilyn Minor; Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection, archived with the author.