Grandma’s Got the Holiday Blues: Family Letters,1943

Many people get the holiday blues.  My usually stoic grandmother had more reason that most to feel sad in December 1943.

In a previous post, I wrote about Hattie Morgan Stout writing to her daughter, Maude Stout Bartlett.  Now I am going to launch a series about Hattie’s other daughter, Vera Stout Anderson and her letters to HER daughter.

Vera Anderson wrote frequently to her daughter Harriette Anderson Kaser (my mother), during the months that we lived in Iowa in 1943.  The job my father accepted there  did not last long since the man who was to head the project changed his mind and never went to Iowa. But when Grandma wrote the letters, she (and my parents) assumed the move would last for years.  I was four years old at the time.

A world at war haunts every one of these letters.  We hear about the men in town who have signed up to fight, the restrictions of rations, the effect the war has on occupations and businesses. When Grandma goes to work in a factory in a nearby town, we learn what it was like to be a “Rosie the Riveter” and you can see how the jobs that opened up for women began to affected societal attitudes.

Every letter mentions my Uncle Bill, Grandma’s oldest son. I did not realize until I read these letters that she always called him William, since he was “Bill” to everyone else.

I will circle back and share all of Grandmother’s letters later, but I am starting with a short one one about the holiday blues. Vera Anderson wrote about this time of the year on Saturday, December 10, in 1943–almost exactly seventy-four years ago.  I believe that we had seen my grandmother and grandfather at the end of November, 1943, because I can vividly remember meeting the new husband of my cousin, Evelyn Kaser. Their wedding took place on November 25. A gap in the letters between early November and early December presents another clue that my family probably visited Ohio in November.

The wedding took place on Thanksgiving Day, so we were “home” in Ohio for Thanksgiving, but but Grandma got the holiday blues thinking that her son William and daughter Harriette would not be home for Christmas. To make matters worse, the war in the Pacific was getting more heated, and William was head straight into that unknown part of the world.

Notes on the Letter

Postal Service

Grandma Vera refers to going to the Post Office Box.  Killbuck did not have house to house delivery.  A centrally located post office had boxes even when I was in high school in the 1950s. In fact, we shared Grandma’s post office box, number 103–which was in the family for decades. She also mentions sending the letter to be on the Star Route so it will arrive “first of the week.”  The Star Routes were postal delivery routes that were handled by private delivery companies, and presumably were faster.  Federal money had to priortize spending on the war and postal facilities and trucks limped along and broke down, lacking needed repairs.

Grandma’s War Work

Grandma writes that she just came home from work, and that means that she worked on Saturdays.  The job at a factory in a nearby town meant adding drive time to a long day.  However she says she would rather work on Christmas Day than stay at home to worry and be sad about her children who were scattered rather than home for Christmas. Her solution for the holiday blues–work harder.

Uncle Bill, the SeaBee

She says she thinks that “William has sailed.”  That refers to my uncle Bill, William J Anderson, a SeaBee. While at times in earlier letters she puts a positive spin on his military service, she spent sleepless nights worrying. The situation was terrifying–information came slowly if at all.  She had no idea where he would be going or what he would be doing.  She had already seen many local boys head to Europe and many did not come home. Now he son would be in this truly foreign area and she did not even know what he would be doing.

She had been expecting to hear that he had sailed away from the safe base in California soon.  He had earlier told her that he would soon be sailing.  In the twenty-four hours before sailing, personnel entered a state called “secure” meaning they could not communicate with anyone.

Daddy Guy

“Dad about the same” refers to my Grandfather, Guy Anderson, who had suffered a heart attack in February of that year. Guy and Vera had to give up the restaurant they had run in their house after Guy’s heart attack, and her letters reflect his impatience at not being able to work. My Grandfather’s weakened condition no doubt also kept her awake at night worrying. This worry was not just holiday blues.  She mentions Dr. Stauffer, the family doctor who had delivered me at the Millersburg Hospital four years earlier.  Dr. Stauffer later rented the small building on my Grandmother’s property for his practice.

Grandma’s Letter

Sat. Dec. 10-43

Dear Harriette, Paul & Bunny,

Just came home from work and went to P.O. Box and got your box.  It came through fine.  Haven’t opened it yet.  But knew you would want to know we got it O.K.  I am sorry you can’t come home [for Christmas]. It won’t seem much like Xmas.  I hope we will work.  We couldn’t all be together anyway so we will all be sad.  I think William has sailed as he thought he would go into Secure last Sun or Mon.  I am all broke up about it.  He mailed his Xmas cards last week.

I will have to hurry and mail this so it will go on Star Route and you will get it first of week.  we’ll play Santa Clause for you and many thanks for what ever it is.  I am going to write you again in a day or two.

Dad about the same.  I paid Stauffer $10.00 on Dr. bill last night.

Many thanks again until we see what it is.  Wish you could be here when we open it.  Must mail this. Lots of love to you all and give Bunny a big Kiss.  Will write more tomorrow. Love,

Mother

My Grandmother was not one to let life get the better of her. Her answer to bad things that happened in life, was to keep busy and things would turn around.  I have many letters that she wrote, but rarely does she reveal getting as sad as she does in this December letter with the holiday blues.

 

The Stout Sisters in Pictures

I may actually have more pictures of the Stout sisters, “Aunt Mattie“, “Aunt Lib“, “Aunt Sade“, but if I do they are not identified (or wrongly identified) and I have not struggled through to try to pin  the down.

I have written about each of the Stout sisters (links above)–at least what I know about them. My mother called the oldest, Aunt Mattie (Martha Stout Hayes) “the prettiest one.” She said that the children (meaning my mother and brothers when they were little) and my grandmother Vera Stout Anderson liked “Aunt Lib” (Elizabeth Stout Cunningham) the best.  Sade (Sarah Stout Scott) and her husband Pastor Ed Scott (both in the Stout family picture below) had a daughter, Edna who corresponded with my mother for several years after my grandmother died in 1964, but unfortunately, those letters are lost. Edna lived in West Virginia, married a man named Jefford and had two sons who mother said owned a radio station.

Finding the Stout Family picture at the bottom of the page helps a lot because I’m certain of the identification of the two sisters in that picture since my Grandmother, who knew them well, wrote on the back of the photo.

So do you agree with the matchups of individual Stout sisters that I’ve done below?

Martha Stout

Studio photograph of one of the Stout sisters–Probably Mattie (Martha). Circa 1870

Stout daughters

Perhaps Sarah (Sade)and Elizabeth (Lib) Stout. Misidentified by Harriette Kaser as Myrle and Mary Cunningham, (Daughters of Elizabeth) but I believe dress style is too old for those girls. (Circa late 1870s)

Emeline Stout Family late 1890s

Stout Family late 1890s. Labeled by Vera Stout Anderson: “1st Row, Uncle Tom Stout, Grandma Stout and W. C. Stout (Dad) 2nd Row. Uncle Frank Stout, Aunt Lib Cunningham, Aunt Sade Scott and Uncle Edd Scott.

Stout Sisters

“Aunt Lib, Aunt Sade, Aunt Mattie,” labeled by Vera Anderson “Dad’s sisters” 1910s

Elizabeth (Lib) Stout Cunningham, Sarah (Sade) Stout Scott, Martha (Mattie) Stout Hayes.

Aunt Lib Stout can be seen sitting to the left of the porch post in this picture taken on the porch of Hattie Morgan Stout (to Lib’s left). One of Lib’s daughters is on the far right in back. 1923

I’m hoping that perhaps a relative who has more pictures and more information on the Stout girls will get in touch.  Fingers crossed!

The Stout Family Pictures Raise Questions

At some point late in their mother’s life, the Stout brothers and sisters gathered at the Stout farm in Guernsey County.  It was an important occasion, because Tom Stout came all the way from Wyoming, and Frank (John Franklin) Stout came from Omaha Nebraska.  Not only did the four boys have their picture taken together, but I have just discovered a Stout family picture, another photo that includes the aging Emeline Stout.  I have shown the picture of the Stout boys earlier, but mistakenly thought they might have gathered for Emeline’s funeral in 1905.  I now know the four brothers were together somewhat earlier than March, 1905.

The Stout Brothers

The Stout Brothers

These Stout brothers are (clockwise from top left) Tom Stout, rancher from Wyoming; John Franklin (Frank) Stout, a lawyer from Omaha Nebraska, Dr. George Stout from Guernsey County,Ohio and  my great-grandfather William C. (‘Doc’) Stout from Holmes County, Ohio.

How do I know  with such certainty the photos are from the same day?  The photographs were taken in the same studio in Guernsey County and framed in the same cardboard frames.  The three brothers who are in both photos are wearing identical clothing.

Here’s the Stout family picture I just found, with Emeline and six of her children, plus a son-in-law.

Emeline Stout Family late 1890s

Stout Family late 1890s. Labeled by Vera Stout Anderson: “1st Row, Uncle Tom Stout, Grandma Stout and W. C. Stout (Dad) 2nd Row. Uncle Frank Stout, Aunt Lib Cunningham, Aunt Sade Scott and Uncle Edd Scott.”

DETAILS

Great-great grandmother Emeline is squinting her eyes, because she had lost most of her eyesight later in life.

Judging by the leg of mutton or gigot sleeves on the two younger women, I believe this photo was taken in the last half of the 1890s. A velvet vertical trim adorns Aunt Sade’s double-breasted jacket . Aunt Lib’s outfit is even more elaborately adorned, with flaps extending out from the shoulder over the tops of the large gathered sleeves, light-colored embroidery trim on the jacket and collar, and a light-colored ribbon bow on her right side at the waist. It looks like she has a chain, but the locket is tucked inside her jacket.

The women look as though they are wearing winter clothes, however the four sons posed on a porch.  Perhaps that was not a real porch, but a staged set at the photographer’s studio? Whether they went to the studio for their picture, or the photographer went to Emeline’s farm, I am certain that the family portrait was taken in Emeline’s home. I can see a photograph on the wall which is part of my collection of old photos. Emeline also had a lovely patterned wallpaper on the wall.

Interesting that the two Ohioans are wearing the string bow tie, and the two westerners the large four-in-hand.

I am curious about the star-shaped dangle on a watch chain worn by rancher Tom.  I’m guessing it is the symbol of some fraternal organization.  Anyone out there have a clue?

One More Photograph

It was quite a day for photographs.  My great-grandfather, W.C. (Doc) Stout also posed for an individual photograph on that day.

Dr. Stout

Doctor William Cochran Stout, my great-grandfather

Besides not knowing the exact year of the Stout family picture, some mysteries remain.

The Photographer

Addison, Quaker City, it says on the front of the cardboard frame of the Stout family picture. Quaker City was the town nearest the Stout farm in Guernsey County, Ohio. Many times I get help dating pictures by looking at lists, particularly Langdon Road, that list old photographers. However, I have not found a reference on line, so know nothing about the Addison Photography Studio in Quaker City.

The Missing Siblings

Where was brother George in the Stout family picture?  Since he was a doctor practicing in Guernsey County, perhaps he was called out for a patient.

Where were sister Martha (Mattie) Stout Cunningham and her husband? They lived in Guernsey County.

Why was Aunt Sades husband the only spouse included in the family portrait?  It is quite possible that Tom’s and Frank’s wives did not make the long trip from out West, but W.C. Stout and Dr. George Stout and Lib Cunningham all lived nearby, yet their spouses are not pictured.

And the biggest question of all–what brought this family together?  It was not a wedding, nobody had died in the late 1890s, Emeline would have turned 70 in 1898. Could the family have gathered for her birthday? I’m missing something here. Something that was important enough to draw the entire family together, and commemorate the event with a photograph.

Meanwhile, however, I have the photograph to add to the others of Great-great-grandmother Emeline Cochran Stout.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of
  • William C. Stout, the son of
  • Emeline Cochran Stout

William C. Stout is also brother to

  • Tom Stout
  • John Franklin Stout
  • George Stout
  • Elizabeth (Lib) Stout Cunningham
  • Sarah (Sade) Stout
  • Martha (Mattie) Stout

who are therefore my 2 X great-uncles and 2 X great-aunts