Tag Archives: Found items

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 []

The Mysterious Cross

My mother had a mix of cheap costume jewelry and some more expensive items and after she died I was less interested in the expensive items and more interested in anything with sentimental value. I know her father gave her a heart shaped locket when she turned 16, so I took that and a few other necklaces that I knew she liked.

One of these items was a mystery. It was a large gold-toned cross on a long chain. My mother was not all that religious and I had not remembered ever seeing her wear it. I almost dismissed it and left it at the house to be sold with her other things, but I decided to take it because it looked old and I wondered if it might have belonged to my Grandma Patrick. I had no reason, except its age and the fact that my father’s mother was quite religious to suspect it was hers, but I didn’t want to leave it there in case it was. The one thing that threw me though, was that the chain looked newer than the cross and cheap compared to the cross so I was not completely convinced that 1) it was old or 2) had belonged to my grandmother.

A few months after bringing the cross home I was looking at some photos that I’d scanned. One of them was an old photo of my Grandma Patrick when she was maybe 16 or 17 years old. I noticed she was wearing a long necklace and when I enlarged the photo I knew the cross was hers!

Not being all that religious myself, I don’t know when I will wear it, but I am glad I didn’t leave it at the house.

 

A few found things

Continuing my never-ending purge/clean-out and I have found many things I want to blog about. Here are three unrelated items, but in chronological order (probably).

I’ve had a life-long love of reusable carrying bags. This must have been one of my first. It may have been a present from my mom (only she would have bought me something like this). I kept my embroidery and needlepoint supplies in it. It is ripping at a seam on the bottom and likely no use to anyone, but I am not throwing it away. I’m donating it. Maybe someone will want a retro bag for a costume party.

Clear plastic carrying bag with purple flowers
Clear plastic carrying bag with purple flowers

The second item is something I imagine my British family gave me for my birthday or Christmas. I tried them on, but the material must have reacted to the cold or heat of my mom’s attic and they no longer stretch. I tried to give them to Clare, but she was not interested. I probably won’t get rid of them. They don’t take up too much space.

A pair of knee socks that are decorated to resemble the Union Jack.
A pair of knee socks that are decorated to resemble the Union Jack.

I know exactly where this last item came from. In 1978 I was working as a server at the Manor Pancake House in Elgin to pay for my upcoming +3-month long stay in England to student teach in London. I’d worked there long enough to have “regulars” and this item came from my favorite “regulars,” Carol and her workmate Chuck. They worked at Beef Villa and we got to know each other through visits to one another’s places of employment. I don’t know that we ever actually hung out together except at work.

Anyway, on my last evening at work before my trip to England was a very snowy one. I didn’t expect to see too many people I knew at the restaurant, but pretty much all of my “regulars” came in to say goodbye to me. I was really touched. Carol and Chuck even brought me a present. A stuffed polar bear. I named him Chuckles — sort of a combination of Chuck and Carol. All these years later, the three of us have reconnected (on Facebook of course). Chuckles is a keeper.

Chuckles the polar bear
Chuckles the polar bear

A Swedish Meal and a Swedish Smorgasbord by Mary Martensen

Until today, I’d never heard of Mary Martensen. Apparently she was a dietitian who wrote cookbooks and cooking columns for newspapers. She also was head of the home economics department at the Chicago American whose duties included conducting lessons for large audiences.

The document below must have been given out at one of the lessons. Lesson 10, Week of June 5, 1934. I wonder if one of my ancestors took this lesson or if it was something that Mom found somewhere. I can’t imagine either of my grandmothers traveling to Chicago to take this lesson, although I know my Grandma Patrick went to the Chicago World’s fair in 1933 or 1934 and Mary Martensen wrote a book called “A Century of Progress” cookbook that was published in 1934. It is possible that my Grandma Patrick picked up the typewritten lesson at an exposition at the fair.

I only wish that I had this document when I hosted my bookgroup for “A Man Called Ove.” I would have used some of the recipes.

 

New Blog: A Complete Library of Entertainment, Amusement and Instruction

Another item I brought back from my mom’s house is a book called A Complete Library of Entertainment, Amusement, and Instruction. This book is all one needed in 1903 to be entertained, amused and instructed. For instance, it gives detailed instructions on how to throw dozens of socials, from an advertisement social to a bird social to a beheading social. It also provides guidance on throwing parties including a progressive soap bubble party, a children’s Valentine party and a brownie party. It gives instruction on how to play ping-pong, how to do various exercises and explains both American football and English football rules. Several of the socials, parties, and instructions are accompanied with “full-page half-tone images” and others are paired with simple line drawings.

Three women dressed in warm clothes for a "Northern Social"
An example of the images from the book

I remember looking at this book various times in my life, but it never caught my attention until I took a closer look at the images and some of the content.

So, thought I, what a great idea for a NEW BLOG! Maybe I will actually keep this one going beyond a few posts!

I’m slowly adding content to the new blog, with little, if any commentary. So far you can learn how to put on a Carnival of Nations or a Reunion of Characters from Charles Dickens’ novels. You can also learn how to host a Cat Social, a Bird Social, an All Fools’ Social and a Broken Hearts Social.

Collingbourne Mills, Grandpa Green, Harriet, Jean and Me

Among the items I brought back a while ago from my mother’s house is an old briefcase that was full of crochet or tatting thread and embroidery floss, a newspaper clipping about a temperance leader, a family tree and receipts for various purchases a Harriet Switzer made in the 1920s. Much of the thread and floss was in a tangle, but I managed to save a small plastic grocery bag of thread to be given away. One bunch of floss caught my eye because it was made in Elgin.

Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was made by Collingbourne Mills. I’ve written about Collingbourne Mills before, but not on this blog. One of my Grandpa Green’s first jobs, and likely the reason I am here to tell his story, was as a sales representative (read traveling salesman) for Collingbourne Mills. His sales route took him to Two Rivers, Wisconsin where he met the woman who would become my Grandmother.

The only thing I really remember my Grandpa Green saying about Collingbourne Mills was that ONT meant Our New Thread. I don’t know if that is true or not. The thread I found says A.B.C.

In 2010, at my father’s funeral, a woman approached me and told me she was the little girl who’d grown up across the street from me. We became friends on Facebook, and only then did I realize she’d married a Collingbourne. I asked if her husband was any relation to the Collingbourne Mills family and she said they were.

So here’s another connection between my pre-existence and childhood and present life with some detours in-between. I love connections.

Interesting fact: Harriet and her husband, Howard, lived just down the street from A.B. Collingbourne, the president of Collingbourne Mills. (Harriet’s address was on some of the receipts and A.B Collingbourne’s address is on the Internet.)

 

 

Greeting cards from yesteryear: Card 1 “Happy Birthday”

Among Mom’s things are many greeting cards. I am tossing most of them, but there are a few that have caught my eye because they remind me of the past. Here’s a birthday greeting. I don’t know who the card was for, nor do I recognize the names of the people who sent it.

Green greeting card with rural scene and Happy Birthday written at the top
“Happy Birthday”
continuation of drawing from front and greeting
You’re far away, but every day brings special thoughts of you, of happy times we used to have and things we used to do, so, with this “Happy Birthday” go good wishes from the heart of one who thinks a lot of you although we’re far apart. From Walter, Evajeanne, and Christine Anne.

A gift from Home Savings and Loan

In 1963, shortly after my brother was born, my parents received a gift from their local savings and loan. Now, what would a young mother and father need that a savings and loan would offer? Money? A new bank account for the baby?

The drawing on the card is lovely (apparently drawn by Maud Tousey Fangel according to Google’s Goggles app).

Baby sleeping

What could be inside this card? The greeting gives nothing away.

Greetings to the baby

What about the rest of the card? What could it be? Maybe a bib?  Maybe a gift certificate?

Nope. The card tells us nothing about what was inside it. Never fear — the contents were still intact. I guess Mom and Dad didn’t need to make very many copies that year.

Carbons

Of course. Carbons. This was back in the days before every home contained a copier. When Xerox machines were rare. When things needed to be in triplicate.

 

Old Corduroy Jacket

At some time in my distant past I inherited a light brown corduroy jacket from my dad. I remember him wearing it, but don’t know why I ended up with it. I may have been a teenager. I may have worn it when I first got it, but I never threw it away.

Dad wearing the coat
Dad, Kevin and me in Chetek.

A few years ago I found the jacket in a box of stuff in our attic kneewall. I pulled it out to see if Clare wanted it. She didn’t. It’s been sitting around for a number of years, sometimes in the closet, sometimes in a box, occasionally on the coat rack in my bedroom.

A few months ago I debated throwing it away, so I tried it on. It felt like a hug from my dad. No way was I getting rid of that. It is very worn, has rust stains and is fraying at one wrist. But it is soft and warm. These days it hangs on the back of my work chair and when I get chilly in my office attic I sometimes put the jacket on. For the first few seconds I can feel my father’s presence.

The coat now
The coat

Good-bye to Burrens and hello to Pat’s Appliance Service

When my dad was about 50 he made a considerable change of employment. He struck out on his own and started “Pat’s Appliance Service.” I was in college, I think, and more than a little worried about his decision. That didn’t stop me from making him a card out of construction paper and markers. (did I mention I was in COLLEGE?)

He started out, after the Navy, first as an Electrolux salesman, then he worked as a speedometer repairman with a company in Elgin called K & D. After that he worked at an appliance repair place called Reber’s Appliance. When they closed down he worked for an Appliance store in downtown Elgin where he was sent to school to learn how to fix Frigidaire refrigerators. Finally he shifted gears a bit and worked at Burren’s Transfer in Elgin fixing the refrigeration units on trailer tractors.  This last job was pretty bad — he worked for a man called Walter Schock who was an angry foul-mouthed man. Dad would come home from work and say things I’d never heard him say. The “f-word” flew out of his mouth often and easily. I think he only worked there a year — enough time for us to take advantage of the Teamster’ insurance plan.

Here’s the card I made him to mark this momentous event.

Good-bye to "Uncle Walter" and *drawing of someone cursing next to a truck.
Good-bye to “Uncle Walter” and *drawing of someone cursing (*!!?*x) at someone else next to a truck*.
Hello Pat's Appliance Service and *drawing of someone saying only sweet nice things -- flowers, happy faces, butterflies, peace sign, music*
Hello Pat’s Appliance Service and *drawing of someone saying only sweet nice things — flowers, happy faces, butterflies, peace sign, music, dove with olive leaves* Love, Your family — we’re proud of you!!!.