Tag Archives: Vera Anderson

Family Heirloom: Gift Book for Christmas

This post is dedicated to those of us who are tempted to give an Amazon gift card for a present. Here is a hint on how to make a gift book into a family heirloom.

My Gift Book

Our family frequently gave gift books for Christmas presents.  My mother and father almost always wrote inscriptions in the front of the book and dated and signed them.  I treasure those gifts, particularly this one which probably accounted in large part for my life long fascination with Greece and the culture of the Golden age.  I read that book so much that the hard cover is long gone.  Here is the title page, and the very treasured inscription written by my father, Christmas 1947 when I was eight years and nine months old.

Grandma Vera’s Gift Book

What a nice surprise it was to discover that this tradition went back two generations before me. I found books that my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan Stout gave to my grandmother and to my great-uncle–writing an inscription in each.  Even more fun, my Grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) did what many young people do–she “wrote” on the pages. The inscription indicates that she would have been six years old when she received this book, but the book seems a bit young for a six-year-old, and she surely would have known better than to draw in a book by that age!

The book is beautifully illustrated and teaches us much about how children dressed and what they played with. Some things have not changed–skipping rope and blowing bubbles. Some toys have disappeared–whipping tops and hoops.

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Great-Uncle Will’s Gift Book

Vera’s older brother William Morgan Stout (Willy or Will), received a very different book for Christmas 1886 when he was 13.  The inscription is in the handwriting of my great-grandmother, but my mother added the “age 13”.

Review of Davy and the Goblin in American Magazine advertising section January 1888.

Review of Willy's Book

Review of Davy and the Goblin in January 1888 issue of The American Magazine.

This is a very odd book. The author, Charles Carryl, was known as the Lewis Carroll of America–writing humorous fantasy, perhaps as an escape from his day job as a stock broker.

This book published in 1894, obviously aims to cash in on the popularity of Alice In Wonderland which was first published in 1865, and continued to be a best seller.  Carryl tells some original stories, like Davy’s confrontation with the giant Badorful, but he also riffs on familiar tales like Sinbad the Sailor, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Robinson Crusoe.

The illustrations are black and white, but surely would appeal to an adventure-minded young man.  Thirteen year olds today might find this a bit young for them, but I can imagine my great-uncle “Willy” eating it up.

Willy's gift book.

Willy Stout’s gift book, Davy and the Goblin meet Giant Badorful, 1887

I post this in the hope that it will influence you not only to give books to family members, but always, ALWAYS, write the date, their name, an inscription and your name. It will enhance the value of the book in the century or two to come.  Amazon gift certificates may disappear in the cloud, but books will stick around for a long, long time.

A Slice of My Life: Home Sewn

Hattie Morgan's Sampler

Hattie Morgan’s sampler, Age 12 (circa 1854)

This pretty piece of needlework has challenged me ever since my mother first showed it to me.  Young girls  showed off their needlework skills in samplers like this.  “Sampler” because the girl  stitched samples of several different kinds of embroidery stitches, in addition to showing off her knowledge of the alphabet and counting, and perhaps a memorized  Bible verse as well. This piece introduced me to the joy and skill of home sewn.

The sampler says:

Prefer solid sense to vain will. Let usefulness and benificence direct the train of your pursuits.

When you mean to do a good action, do not deliberate upon it. When you are about doing a dishonorable act, consider what the world will think of you when it is completed.

Tis virtue sweetens all our toils/ With joy our labor crowns/Gives pleasure when our fortune smiles/and courage when it frowns.

[I actually Googled that last little poem and got no hits, but it is oh so typical of Victorian virtuous poetry.

This particular sampler was made by my great-grandmother, Harriet (Hattie) Morgan, then about twelve years old.

I felt like an underachiever compared to Hattie when I started practicing embroidery , but I determined not to let down the female line of my family. At a very young age, mother taught me some plain stitches.  In Girl Scouts, I had sewn a “sit-upon”–a pillow to carry for outdoors activities. My grandma Vera had taught me to sew on buttons (and how to properly hang clothes on the line to dry outside. ) In eighth grade, I signed up for a 4-H group where I could learn sewing, and began making basic home sewn items like aprons and pot holders.

Side note:  I would NOT take home economics in high school because my mother taught it and that would be the ultimate embarrassment. Much worse than wearing home sewn clothes.

The Singer Sewing Machines

I learned all the tricks I could do with my mother’s old featherweight Singer portable sewing machine. She got it in the 40s and used it for 30 or more years.  I still have it in storage, but haven’t tried out the portable Singer for many, many years.

That portable electric Singer was a big step up from the first sewing machine that I used–my grandmother’s pedal sewing machine.  How I wish I still had THAT machine! I remember the fancy gold trim–which is also a feature on the portable electric.

Sewing Machine

Singer table model pedal sewing machine 1920s Picture from ebay.

Because these treadle machines were first marketed around the turn of the century, it is quite possible that my great-grandmother Hattie Morgan Stout had been the first owner of Grandma’s sewing machine.  If so, she might have used it to slightly speed up the work of making the incredible crazy quilt, she created with her mother-in-law,Emeline Stout, one of my great-great grandmothers. It looks to me as though the pieces were stitched by machine, but then decorated with the fancy embroidery stitches.

crazy quilt pillow

Crazy quilt pillow by Emeline Stout

Of course I had no idea of this possible history when I was pumping away on the treadles in Grandma’s big kitchen. She would not have mentioned it because my Grandmother was not one to dwell in the past.  Although my Grandmother (and my great-grandmother) loved everything new, other people did not immediately embrace the new machine for sewing.

It was also thought that women might be too excitable and perhaps not quite bright enough to manage such a complicated instrument. In addition there were concerns that women would go wild and spend their days shopping, playing cards with friends and who knows what else if they no longer had to spend much of their time making bedding and clothing.

For more about the early history of the sewing machine, see the source of this quote.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know how those predictions turned out. Women indeed , no longer spend their time making bedding and clothing!

Making Home Sewn Clothes

From potholders and aprons, I progressed to making some of my own home sewn clothes, inspired by the pictures on the pattern envelopes and beautiful materials.

It had been popular for sewing for a long time. So much so that the smart flour mills competed to print pretty patterns on their flour sacks. And by the time I started sewing in the 50’s you could buy the material without the flour.  I made gathered skirts from that lovely soft cloth and also made a peasant blouse with a neckline that could be worn off the shoulder–which I wouldn’t dare to do (blush!), and elastic gathered puffy sleeves.

Fortunately, gathered skirts were in style. The home sewn versions were so easy to whip up and the material was so cheap that I could make them in many different patterns and colors.

The Red Dress

During high school, I continued to make clothes for myself from time to time.  I particularly remember a red dress with white collar and cuffs. Since this is a black and white picture, you’ll have to take my word for it that the dress was RED. That’s me as a high school freshman on the far left, one of my best friends, my father, my mother, and in front, my little sister.

Kaser famkly at Easter 1953.

Easter Picture. Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher), Nancy Martin (Orr), Paul Kaser, Harriette Kaser, Paula Kaser , 1953

This picture illustrates some fashion notes of the 1950s. I accessorized my home-made dress with a very trendy elastic waist-cincher belt. Although I had splurged on new wedge sandals for Easter, my girlfriend wears the teen uniform of the day for feet–saddle shoes.  My little sister wears white socks with her Mary Janes.  My mother’s dress looks like it is one of the factory-made materials so popular after World War II–nylon or rayon perhaps. Our long skirt length came into style in opposition to the short, fabric-saving skirts women wore during the war. By the fifties, fashion had turned to the New Look, which meant lowered hemlines.

I am surprised that my father is wearing his shirt tail out and no suit or sports jacket, since we were coming from church and he usually dressed more formally.  My frizzy hair did not come naturally–it comes to you courtesy of Toni home permanents, the cheap beauty shop perms alternative  that left the house smelly for a week.

Fifty years after this picture was taken, I learned that I was not the only one who remembered the red dress.  The man who had been my very first boyfriend showed up at my mother’s funeral.  As we chatted about the old days, he said that he remembered seeing me in a red dress and thinking it was the prettiest thing he had ever seen!  Of course he didn’t say that at the time when I saw myself as an ugly duckling, with my home sewn dress and ridiculous home perm. If only we could  know some of the good things going on around us when we are young and insecure.

Sewing as a Young Housewife

When I went off to college, I took a recess from sewing. After I married and had three little boys, I took it up again. It was not out of necessity, but out of an urge to do something more creative than cook formula and baby food and deal with diapers.  After I tucked the boys in for the night, I would pull out my latest yardage of beautiful material, unfold the tissue paper patterns and get to work. Because I hated to stop before finishing a project ,I once took a night and the following day to sew a taffeta skirt and jacket with matching silk blouse. I wore it to a wedding the following day. I also made formal wear, like this long blue satin gown I’m wearing–along with big hair–in this picture from the late 60s. Yep, still wearing white gloves!

Blue dress source of border for crazy quilt

That’s me in the blue satin dress in the middle of the front row. Scottsdale Jr. Woman’s Club 1967

I fashioned one of my favorites projects, a very short dress (hemlines had jumped up in the late sixties,) from a piece of heavy silk that my brother brought me from Vietnam. He served in that country during the war.

I might have made clothes for a little girl, but since I had boys, I felt no temptation to try sewing their uniform of sturdy pants and t-shirts. However, I get points for  making home sewn costumes for Halloween.

Halloween costumes

Halloween 1966 Gypsey Mike and Ken Rabbit

A new house called for learning to make drapes and curtains. One year I made home sewn aprons as Christmas presents for everyone in my extended family.

Inevitably, I also went through my crewel embroidery phase and my needlepoint phase, and some pieces from those periods surface now and then. Although I dreamed of replicating great-grandmother Hattie’s sampler, that has yet to happen.

Turning away from sewing when the boys were older, I moved on to various other pursuits.  But I will never forget the sense of accomplishment that comes with putting together a whole garment, or learning a new skill like pleating or making buttonholes. I now knew how to secure those buttons that my grandmother had taught me to sew on so many years before.

Harriette Anderson Kaser Remembers Scary Places

And Speaking of Scary Things–Today is my brother’s Birthday! Happy Birthday Paul William Kaser.

Elizabeth O’Neal’s Genealogy Blog Party at Little Bytes of Life suggested an October theme–The Scariest thing you’ve found in your genealogy research. You can see more scary family history by clicking on the link to her site.

Last year I shared my mother’s story of the Dead Body, which is certainly one of the strangestHere’s another of mother’s scary memories.

The Haunted Shack and Scary Anderson House on Mile Hill

Old Anderson Farm

Old Anderson Farm, Photo courtesy of Herb Anderson

The family of my grandfather, Leonard Guy Anderson (aka Daddy Guy) owned a house just outside of Killbuck, Ohio on Mile Hill.

Guy’s uncle had planted extensive orchards on the property.  Mary Brink Anderson, Guy’s Mother, lived there when Guy married Vera Stout (my grandmother). She gave the farm to Guy and Vera and that is where they lived when my mother and her two brothers were pre-schoolers.

That house must have seemed like a mansion to the toddlers, Harriette Anderson (my mother) and her brother Bill. Baby Herb was too young to run around getting into mischief with his slightly older siblings.  But the big old house provided plenty of opportunity for scary adventures. And to add to the fun, there was a smaller house that the children were ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN to enter. So of course they did. And there was a shack with a mysterious and scary history. The buildings gave plenty of opportunity for imagination to run wild.  In her 90s, my mother remembered her childhood.

Harriette Anderson Kaser:  An artist lived at the end of the lot by the big Anderson orchard. [She was not sure of the name but thinks it might have been “Bus Close who married Wanda Orr.” See Note at end]

HAK: We weren’t allowed to go there and play. I think mother and dad really believed the scary ghost stories about that house. Mary Leckrone lived in a farm house nearby. We (Harriette and her brother Bill) went down and played with her. 

HAK: The fruit farm (the Anderson house on the hill) had a beautiful house. There were two farms up above Welcome—Anderson and Allison. They got deeds from the government. Maybe after the Whiskey Rebellion. [I have yet to check this out.]

This is the house where the Anderson and Stout family gathered for a family picture in 1909 when Harriette and Bill were about 3 and 4 years old.

Caroline Anderson Bird

Family portrait at Anderson Farm. Photo from 1909. Harriette and Bill sitting on their grandfather’s lap in right front. “Daddy Guy in white shirt and necktie in back row center and Vera in front of him holding baby Herbert.

HAK: Down the road ½ mile a little shack was supposed to have been a stop on the confederate soldier’s route. [She first said underground railroad and then changed to confederate soldiers.] We kids would stand outside and yell because we wanted the ghosts to come out. Then hearing noises.

[Note: There are persistent rumors that Southern soldiers marched through Holmes County, but no evidence that rebs ever made it that far north in Ohio.]

HAK: We were not allowed to go in the basement. An outside stairway went down. I remember a side door that went down to basement. Water in the basement made it more scary. (Note: Apparently the children didn’t follow orders about not going into the basement of the shack!)

The three children about seven years before this story.

Who would think these angelic children could be so ornery?

HAK: Mom and Dad (Vera and Guy Anderson) would tell us ghost stories about the place.

Guy Anderson had acquired a parrot somewhere, and its presence added to the unusual and scary atmosphere of the old house.

HAK: The parrot would follow us when we went there to play. (The parrot followed them into the forbidden territory.)  It  would say “Mama’s calling.”  She (Vera) was always scolding the parrot for following us.

Poor Vera. Nobody seemed to pay attention to her commands! Neither the children nor the parrot! But a horse had more sense than the kids and the parrot.

HAK: An old horse, “Old Jim” wouldn’t go near the old house (because of ghosts.)

[Note: she switches back and forth between shack and artist’s house, so it is not clear which is which.]

Mary Brink Anderson and others

Guy Anderson and Vera (holding Herbert). Guy’s mother Mary Brink Anderson. Back Jennie McDowell King. 1909

No wonder their mother was afraid to let them play in the haunted house’s basement. Daddy Guy, who was always a jokester, had Vera scared with his tricks, and besides he had the Celtic talent for story telling.

HAK: Daddy Guy was a great story teller—making up stories about these houses.

HAK: Dad (Guy Anderson, aka Daddy Guy) used to hide in the house and make noises to scare Bill and me away. Your Grandma Vera was very susceptible to ghost stories and Guy would scare her.The big farmhouse on the top of the hill had two stairways. A back stairway led from the kitchen to a back door. Dad would go up and pound on the floor to scare mother. The kids knew what he was doing and they would go with him.

I always thought of my mother as fearless, and it is clear she got her training early as she and her brother defied the ghosts in the scary old farm houses.

Mother’s family did not stay in the house very long. By the time her brother Bill was old enough to start school, they had moved back into town.  I always thought my grandmother just was not cut out to be a farm wife. But thinking about her superstitious nature and the ghost stories and Daddy Guy’s tricks, the farm may have been just too scary.

Read another of Harriette’s Scary Memories here.

Note:  I have asked the helpful people on The Killbuck Gang Facebook page to help me figure out who the artist  was that mother refers to in this story. Turns out Bus Close and Wanda Orr were a more recent generation–the time just doesn’t match up.  But someone has suggested that Bus Close’s FATHER was an artist, and I’m trying to determine if that’s who mother was thinking of.