Declutter 2018: Letters from Sue

I met Sue in 1974 when we were scheduled to host British high school students for a month, then go to England to be the guests of our hosts. We hit it off right away and are still friends, although we have not seen each other in 15 years. [1]

Back before email I wrote a lot of letters and received as many in return. Sue was one of the most prolific writers of letters and I still have a few of them, mostly from her days at the University of Illinois. She went away to school, but I didn’t so I loved reading about her experiences. She wrote about studying for exams:

“…so this weekend will be very busy, besides beginning to study for my comprehensive exam in zoology on Tuesday.”

attending concerts:

“Last night was the Beach Boys’ concert. I had the most wonderful time. I even danced! There were more than 8000 people there… I really wish everyone I know could have been there to enjoy that concert! We were in the 18th row in the front and middle! We could see them perfectly! I just love the drummer (Dennis Wilson) there. What I would give for a guy with his looks, his talents (his money!!).”

and romance:

“My Mister Right has not yet come along. However I am dating a really good looking guy named Tom. We’ve been going out for a couple of weeks. In fact last night we went for a 2 hour walk, tonight we’re going to a movie, and tomorrow we’re going to see Dimitri, a famous pantomimist and clown in the auditorium. He’s (Tom) a year younger than me, and he’s been going out with a girl for 3 years (marriage is more or less understood). She goes to Bradley and they both go out with other people to be certain they want each other.”

I’ve written Sue a late Christmas letter and am going to enclose the letters she sent me so many years ago. I figure she will get more out of them now than I would — and I didn’t want to throw them away after keeping them for over 40 years.

Declutter 2018 count: 8 9 [2] letters from Sue.

Notes:
  1. even though she lives less than 4 hours away for goodness sake! []
  2. Added one more because I threw away her Christmas letter, having answered it []

Declutter 2018: 2018 things

Last year’s declutter project was haphazard at best. I didn’t count how many things I tossed, gave away, recycled or donated, but I know it was a lot. If you count everything that I wanted to take from my mom’s house that was sold, given away, recycled or donated — that’s even more.

This year I hope to be more organized and keep track of what leaves the house. [1] Thanks to Kate/Indigo Bunting, I now have a chart on my refrigerator that will track how many things leave the house in 2018. The goal is 2018. Because I am still going through my mom’s stuff, I am pretty sure I can meet that goal.

My rules are simple:

Nearly anything other than food or meaningless scraps of paper counts. Letters, photographs, old Christmas cards in addition to more substantial items such as furniture, clothes and other objects count.

Notes:
  1. I am also trying to not buy things that I don’t plan on eating or using. I admit to having a small addiction to the website Woot.com and have bought items that seemed to be exactly what I needed, but were exactly what I didn’t need. []

Unraveling Harriet G. Switzer of Elgin

A faux alligator skin briefcase sat unopened in Mom’s attic for several years.  I brought the briefcase home after one trip to Elgin. Its contents were a jumble of receipts for a Harriet G. Switzer of 270 Watch St. Elgin, Illinois; a newspaper clipping about a meeting featuring Seaborn Wright [1], a well-preserved Switzer family tree ; and tatting thread, needles and some unfinished bits of lace. I’ve carefully untangled the thread, stored it and the needles with my grandmother’s tatting supplies, I blogged about the newspaper clipping and now I want to discover who Harriet was.

According to Ancestry dot com, Harriet was born Harriet G. Van Volkenburg to Nancy Plummer and John Van Velkenburg in Hampshire, Illinois, September 1871. She married Howard Switzer on January 1, 1889. By the turn of the century Harriet and Howard, still living in Hampshire, Illinois, had two sons, Albert (9) and Elmer (1). Howard made a living at farming. Tragically, Howard died in 1904 at the age of 48.

The 1910 census lists Harriet as living with her 19 and 11 year old sons at 366 Yarwood Street in Elgin, Illinois. She is listed as being employed by the nearby Elgin Watch Factory as a polisher. Albert is listed as being a carpenter. Another tragedy befell the family when, in 1918, Albert, by then a farmer, died in Hampshire.

In 1920 Harriet and her son, Elmer were living at 332 St. Charles Street. Harriet still worked for the Watch Factory, but was now a “piece worker.” Elmer worked as a truck driver for a thread factory [2]. In August of 1920 Elmer married Emma Sommerfeldt.

By July of 1921 Harriet had moved again, this time to 270 Watch Street. According to the 1930 census she owned this home. Harriet began furnishing her home with flooring, rugs and furniture from the Wait and Ross Furniture Company  and A. Leith & Company [3].

It looks like Harriet paid $18.75 for linoleum to be installed at her new house
Harriet paid $52.00 for a rug and $61.00 for something else — I cannot make out the handwriting.

Harriet not only furnished her home, but she hired O (?). W. Bayliss (Bayless?) to do some work around her house on 3 separate occasions beginning July 1, 1921.

She bought something from H. B. Cornwall in November 1921 for $40.

In March of 1923 she bought insurance from Ellis and Western for $12.

In March of 1924 she bought 3 years worth of tornado insurance worth $1250 from Edward F. Prideaux for $5.00.

In 1930, Harriet, now 59 years old worked in the spring department of the Watch Factory. Her home was worth $5000 according to the census.

Harriet continued to live on Watch Street until her death in 1943. She is buried in a small cemetery outside Hampshire called “Old Starks Cemetery.”

It’s been fun spending a morning and part of an afternoon learning about Harriet’s life. I’m glad she spent her last 20 or so years in her own house.

 

 

Notes:
  1. which has been published in a book called Atlanta Beer: A Heady History of Brewing In the Hub of the South []
  2. which was likely Collingbourne Mills, the same factory my Grandpa Green sold thread for and where Hyman Herron worked in the shipping department. []
  3. I cannot find any mention of this company on the Internet []

End of the year wrap-up 2017

2017 has not been a very good year for me. Nothing outrageous has happened. Work’s fine. No one close to me has died [1]. The kids are doing well.

But I have been smoldering all year long and I have been getting angry or hurt about small things. Of course I know why I am angry. I am angry that I don’t feel like I know the country I live in any more. It has become ugly. It is one huge Ugly American.

I’ve fought the ugly American label for so long, but now it doesn’t seem to matter what I do or how I act. I am from the United States, therefore an ugly American. I am from the country that voted a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic reality TV actor as our leader. I live in a country whose leaders are turning back progressive laws. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t vote for this man, it only matters that I have a U. S. passport.

I’ve spent this year eating too much, drinking too much and sleeping too much. Buying too much crap. I have likely been depressed since November 2016. I have let myself “go” in a number of ways and this has got to stop.

That’s why 2018 is going to be the year of hope for me. The year of setting priorities. The year of not being angry anymore.

I still have lots to do, so the Declutter series will continue.

Also, there is a new 365 challenge beginning on January 1. Follow along here.

Notes:
  1. Well, not counting Leo []

Declutter 2017: Letter from Julia

When I was going though a box of correspondence from my mom’s house I came across a small, folded note in an unmarked envelope. Now, my mom kept pretty much every piece of correspondence she received, so it was not unusual that she kept this, but it was a surprise to me and made me very uncomfortable because 1) I didn’t know anything about it and 2) it put me in a very bad light.

It took me a while to figure out that the note was from Julia. I thought, at first, that there was someone I’d been unkind to named Pat Knight who I’d completely forgotten, then I realized it was from Julia.

Readers of this blog may recall that I briefly had a roommate from England shortly after I moved out of my mom’s house and it ended badly. She was beautiful, blond, British and outgoing. At the time I felt much inferior to her, appearance-wise. We’d go to a bar and guys would be lining up to meet her. There were times guys seemed to want to get to know me because they wanted to get closer to her. To put it bluntly, I was envious of her looks and ease with men.

I actually looked forward to her returning to the States [1] as my roommate before she arrived; and I know we had some fun together. The part about me only allowing her to come back to the States because I owed it to my parents is not right — I may have said it, but that was easier to say than admit that I was jealous of her looks and accent and how guys acted around her. I also was not jealous of the relationship she was growing with my family [2].

I know I was difficult to live with, but at the time I felt as if I were the injured party. I paid the rent and she didn’t always have the cash for her part of the rent. I paid for her medical bills when she went to the doctor because she had no insurance. I did the housekeeping and did our laundry. I definitely resented her for a lot of things and I am sure it showed.

There were other things that I won’t mention here, but both of us were on shaky ground based on societal rules (and U. S. and state laws) of the time.

The part about the letter is probably true. I don’t remember writing it, but I hated how I was acting, I hated the jealousy I was feeling. I’d long felt that there was something wrong with me because I had such a short fuse and would explode at the slightest provocation.

For years afterwards friends and family members would ask me if I’d ever heard from her or knew where she was living. I didn’t until I got in touch with her brother, and then got in touch with her in 2010. This year we became friends on Facebook.

And as I told Julia in an email nearly 8 years ago — she’s why Dean and I are together. Dean and I dated a few times in 1979, but I wanted to date someone else. A year later Dean, who  was a client of the salon where Julia worked, had her for a hair washer. When he heard her talk he asked if she knew me. She said yes and that he should call me. He did and the rest is history.

Notes:
  1. She’d spent a few weeks with us during the summer, then returned to England to get a visa so she could stay longer []
  2. well, I say that now, but perhaps I was. I know I was jealous that my mom talked to Marcia about things that she would not talk to me about []

Declutter 2017: Book House Books series: The Chart

Finally, the publishers of My Book House Books enclosed a Child Personality and Character Chart for the parents to fill out about their child(ren). My mom filled it out twice. Once in November, 1961 shortly after receiving the books and again in February, 1965 when I was 9. My scores were as follows:

Section 1st Analysis 2nd Analysis
1: Confidence 85% 84.5%
2: Cooperation 83% 99.5%
3: Emotional Stability 80% 85%
4: Mental Alertness 88% 81%

Declutter 2017: Book House Books series: The sales receipt

Something made my mom bite the bullet and buy the books for me. Not only did she buy the set of 12 volume set of My Book House books, but she also bought me the two volume set of Junior Instructor books and she bought herself the two volume set of teaching guides, called “In Your Hands.”

According to the bill of sales below, my mother paid $99.50 for the above books on November 18, 1961. If this online calculator can be trusted, that’s $715.09 in today’s money. I am even more impressed now that my folks spent that much money on a set of books for me. They were not well-off, by any means. I was 5. I wonder if I showed some sign of wanting to read and they saw it. Or perhaps a teacher said the books would be a good idea.

Whatever reason, I am grateful.