Yesterday would have been my Grandma Jenny's 121st birthday! Her name was Jeanette, but we called her Grandma Jenny. She was born on August 7, 1887. She passed away on December 11, 1992 at the age of 105 years 4 months. (My middle name is Jeanette, named after her.)
She never colored her hair but loved to have it permed. She took great pride in her appearance and her figure. She was clothes crazy and loved to dress up! I can remember her always smelling of perfume, Tabu being one of her favorites. She loved peppermint and carried a little bottle of it in her purse. She was in 7th heaven with a box of bath powder with a big powder puff! The bathroom would be covered with powder dust, but oh, it smelled so gooooood!!! She loved to bake cookies and breads. Guess that's where I got my love of baking.
I can recall the times when she would come to live with us for 6 months at a time, as it was such a fun time! She had this big trunk, naturally filled to capacity, that my poor father would lug up 18 stairs to her room! She had everything a little girl could ever imagine in that trunk! It was so much fun going through her jewelry and trying it on. She and I would stay up late into the night unpacking that big trunk. She always wore pretty, pierced, dangling earrings! She had those 'pop beads' (see above photo...the pop beads are the light blue strand) which Mom would find all over the house long after Grandma had moved on to another daughter's home for a few months! I loved to sleep with her as she used nothing but flannel sheets, and they were so soft and warm! She made my life so much fun growing up. Guess that's what grandmas do.
She always chewed gum and loved Beechnut peppermint gum! She would remove her gum at meal times and stick it on the collar of her blouse, sometimes forgetting it! Then my mom would have a mess in the dryer on laundry day! She always carried a little bottle of peppermint that she got from the pharmacist and would tip it up to her tongue, saying that it settled her stomach. Grandma complained of every ache and pain you could possibly imagine, and ended up dying of just old age. She loved to watch the soaps every day, too. But shopping was her true love! She loved clothes more than anyone I've ever known. I can remember being in elementary school and coming home to new skirts she had made for me so many days! She made them with little pleats and some with gathers. I totally loved it when she lived with us. I could barely wait to get home from school every day! There was never a dull moment!
She always accompanied our family on vacations. My father was an absolute saint to put up with a wife, 2 kids and his mother-in-law! He would have to give her a half hour notice prior to stopping at a restaurant so she could "fix" her makeup! She carried a big hand mirror in her purse. LOL If she didn't like her meal, she would say, "Maynard, you'd better tell them!" If he didn't, she would cause a big ruckus! He would always reply, "Yes, Jen." She always had to go with him when he checked the motel rooms each night, too, and if it didn't suit Grandma, we didn't spend the night there. Poor dad would have to keep driving! We took her to California one year with us and another year to the New England states and Thousand Islands. She loved to travel and shop. For several years, she also went to Florida with us over the Christmas holidays. Her favorite vacation spot of all was New Orleans, though.
We always went to Florida every winter over the holidays. One year on the way back home, we spent a couple of days in Washington, DC. One of the places we visited while there was the Washington Monument. We took the elevator to the top, but Grandma absolutely refused to come down in it! We had to take the steps down.....all 897 of them!!! The next day, my parents were both hobbling around, as well as us kids, but not Grandma. She was up and ready to go again! She loved to have her picture taken so we always had a lot of pictures to get developed when we returned home. Remember getting those films developed when we had to send them in somewhere and then wait a week or two for them to come back in the mail? Well, Grandma was always the one who watched the mailbox on a daily basis for those pictures!
I recall when I was in school when she would move in every year during deer hunting season. My parents owned a big old hotel, and my mother kept hunters and fed at least 100 men every night. My mom always paid her, as Grandma never really had much when she was raising 4 children alone. Mom never expected her to show up in the kitchen at 2:30am to start preparations for breakfast. She had two other ladies and me when I was in high school who worked those early hours. Grandma always loved to sleep in, so sleep in she did! The hunters all teased her about her getting her beauty sleep, and she just ate that up! She really was an attractive ole gal right up to the end!
The hunters all loved her. They had been "regulars" from the time I was a baby, so it was really like a big family reunion every year. There was this one old guy they called "Skins" who kind of had an "eye" for Grandma! One night, he made the wrong turn while up to use the bathroom during the night and ended up in Grandma's room! He scared poor Grandma about to death! She woke everyone up in the entire place, and then Skins' grandson came and led him back to his own room. That was quite a night. After that, Grandma never forgot to lock her bedroom door! But she and Skins sure took a lot of teasing at supper every night thereafter!
She had a pretty rough life, raising 4 children on her own during the Depression. Her husband died in 1930 when my mother was just 7 years old. My mom was the youngest of four children. For years, Grandma kept boarders and took in laundry and washed clothes on a scrub board until her knuckles would bleed, my mom told me. She also did dry cleaning for the businessmen in the little town where she lived in PA. She had a gentleman (Wardie) who loved her for many, many years, but she would never marry him. That is, until she was 72 years old! He bought her a 1/2 carat diamond ring, and she wore it for several years before actually saying "yes." Then they had a lovely church wedding and a reception at my Aunt Naomi's home. Aunt Naomi was her oldest child. Then there was a son, Ken, and another daughter, Vivian, and then my mom, Oliene. All are deceased now except Aunt Biddy (Vivian), and she will be 89 next month.
This is a picture of their wedding reception held at my Aunt Naomi's home. Pictured L-R are Wardie, Grandma, Rev. Karnes, Aunt Naomi and Uncle Bruce.
The wedding was beautiful! Grandma had chosen a royal blue sheath dress, and she had the figure for it, too! She made a beautiful bride. At the very front of the church where they had to stand, there was a heat register in the floor. Well, Grandma's high heels kept getting stuck in it. So, finally, to avoid another ruckus during the ceremony, the minister moved them off to the side away from that register. All went well after that. That is...until Wardie had to say "I do." He was just standing there, daydreaming, and Grandma had to poke him with her elbow several times, telling him to "say it," and he would reply, "Say what?" And she shouted at him, "Say I do." They had everyone in the church literally in stitches during the entire ceremony.
Then it was time for the reception and the removal of the garter! Well, Grandma just was not going to stand for her new husband to touch her leg!!! No way!!! So it was quite a fun thing to watch him trying to get that garter off her leg! The giggling and whooping and hollering from all of their old friends was a real hoot! (I couldn't find the picture of this, but I do have one somewhere!)
Below is a picture of Grandma and Wardie not long after they were married. He was the only grandfather I ever knew, and I loved him just as if he were my real grandfather. Both of my biological grandfathers passed away when they were very young. My dad was 5 when his father died, and my mom was 7 when her father died. Grandma was one lucky woman that Wardie waited so many years for her to accept his marriage proposal. He was sooooo good to her!
Wardie had been there for Grandma all those years while she was raising her children. He had always provided their holiday meals for them and saw to it that they always had food on the table. My mother told the story of how he came one Thanksgiving morning and threw a dead duck right in bed with them. That was for their dinner, he told them. He had a great sense of humor and Grandma's children all loved him. He always provided for Gram and her children. To this day, no one knows why she waited so long to marry him. We always thought it was because she loved taking turns living with her daughters.
Below is another photo of them. I would invite them to my home for Sunday dinner quite often, and this picture was taken on one of those Sundays.
Together, they had a good life. Grandma had taken turns living with her daughters. Wardie had lived in a local hotel in one room for many years, walking a half mile every morning to my Aunt Naomi's home to get the lunch she packed for him every day, and then he would walk another mile and a half to the factory where he worked. He loved to walk, and there has to be some connection to walking and longevity, as he lived to the ripe old age of 96! He never owned a car in his entire life and never had a driver's license. He had a huge garden right up to the day he died. He did all the shopping and housecleaning for Grandma, too. So, you see, they really did have a good life together as they had their own home then. And Wardie was quite the cook, too! He gave Grandma a life of pampering and leisure living! They were so good for each other!!!
One night while I was downtown for something, I went up to her apartment and found her watching HBO!!! She said that man on there didn't have any clothes on under his raincoat! She was in awe!!! I said, "Really?" With her eyes as big as saucers, she replied, "Oh, YES, but don't tell anyone because they'll take that channel away from me." I thought I was going to die!!! Somehow, she was getting HBO for free! LOL Grandma was a real character, to say the least.
Below is another photo taken on a Sunday on our patio. They loved to get out of their apartment whenever they could. We used to take them to my parents' home, also, 20 miles away. Just 3 miles from my parents' home, we would pass through the little town of Austin, where Grandma was born and where they both lived in their younger years. They loved to ride through Austin and always had a new story to tell each time about this or that or someone!
After I was married and had moved to the town where they lived and my husband worked, I would take Grandma 25 miles into NY state to our closest mall. She had the best times shopping and trying on clothes! She would spend a day at my home every week, and we would sew and cook and bake together. Sometimes, on Sundays she and Wardie would join us for Sunday dinner. But Wedneday nights were THEIR nights....we would always congregate at her and Wardie's place with Aunt Naomi and Uncle Bruce there, too. Best nights I can remember!!! Lots of story telling and videotaping! Grandma always had dessert to serve, too. She loved her Wednesday nights! These are the times that will never be forgotten....Grandmas do build memories...lots of them! With tears flowing the entire time, I am writing this post in remembrance of all those wonderful fun times gone by.
People really had it hard back in the old days, but they were hard working folks, and I am so proud that I have had such strong genes passed on to me! Grandma, I love you and miss you very much! I often think of those Wednesday nights with so much joy and love in my heart. Happy Birthday, Grandma Jenny!
P.S. I didn't have time to post this yesterday as I was at my daughter's waiting for hours for UPS to deliver an envelope containing a state-certified copy of her birth certificate which she needs in order to obtain a passport for her new job. The package required an "in-person" signature since it was a birth certificate. I had been working on this post for 2 weeks, trying to find the appropriate photos to add to it and then didn't have time to even finish it and post it on Grandma's actual birthday. So it is a day late. This was rather long, but if anyone ever deserved a long post, it is my dear Grandma Jenny.