Not Our First Rodeo: A Slice of My Life

The Generations

I have been trying to isolate the blog from the Covid-19 virus pandemic, (a little genealogical social distancing) but decided I should discuss the health challenges that my generation faced. After all, everyone seems convinced that we elderly who were spawned in the Silent Generation are most at risk.

If there is one lesson that the Silent Generation wants to pass on to the other generations, it is that we must work together, as a community to successfully survive these massive challenges. Our parents generation joined together in unprecedented actions and we honor them with the title The Greatest Generation. We need to learn from their actions.

Then it comes to generations, we hear a lot these days about the Millenials–everyone likes to blame them for everything. And the Baby Boomers, who believe that everything is all about them– are verging on proud of the fact that they have reached an age where they are in the most vulnerable class for infection by Covid-19. So how does the present Covid-19 virus compare with the health concerns my own older generation have faced? My inclination is to whine, “Life just hasn’t been fair.”

The Silent Generation

My Senior class at Killbuck Ohio in 1956

I am a member of the Silent Generation. People who like to categorize such things, say that people born between 1928 and 1945 belong to the Silent Generation. Before us, came the Greatest Generation (belatedly named that because of their bravery in WWII and their rebuilding spree after the war) and after us, came the Baby Boomers (1946-1964). Next came Gen X (1965-1980) and then the Millenials (1981-1996). Of course there are more, but I want to narrow the focus to these five, and particularly my own Silent Generation. My children fall on the cusp of Baby Boomer/Gen X.

Our parents had lived through the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. Most of us arrived on the scene in time to understand and be frightened by the War. I wrote about some of my war memories here. The unfortunate children lost a parent or other close relative to the War. I was lucky and that did not happen to me.

Those two factors, Great Depression and World War, deeply affected the psyche of our generation. It also meant there were fewer of us because our parents lived in uncertain times and many were reluctant to have many children.

We inherited a sense of frugality, which helps in situations that we find ourselves in today, like avoiding excess trips to stores. Because we inherited a sense of pessimism and fear due to economic and political disaster, we coped by keeping our heads down. That is why the name Silent Generation came about. However, don’t let that fool you. We also provided the leaders and many of the workers in the Civil Rights Movement. We women were pioneers in the Women’s Rights/Equal Rights Amendment fight. And those who went into health care fields conquered many of the diseases that had plagued our earlier lives.

Diseases Faced by the Silent Generation

But today, March 2020, all eyes are focused on an enormous challenge caused by a virus called the Novel Virus, or Covid-19. We keep saying we have never seen anything like it. However, if you look at the challenges faced by our Silent Generation, you can see that we have fought such wars before.

Childhood Diseases of the Silent Generation

Typical Quarantine sign posted by the Public Health Service in the 1940s and 1950s.

Isolation and Quarantine. As children, our parents expected we would get the big three childhood diseases: Measles, Mumps and Chickenpox. Unlucky children might also get smallpox or scarlet fever. There were no vaccines. There was no surefire cure. You just rode it out. Mother served us jello and Vernor’s Ginger Ale. I read lots of books. I particularly liked to read a poem by Robert Louis Stephenson who had personal experience with child sickness. The Land of Counterpane comes from “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”

“When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day. “

After the 1944 creation of the Public Health Service, Public Health Nurses arrived on the scene. I clearly remember when my brother and I had measles abot 1948. The Public Health Nurse came to the house and checked on us, and then put a cardboard sign on our front door announcing the quarantine of our house.

Today, instead of assuming that children will get these diseases and the household will be quarantined, the diseases are rare. Scientists developed vaccines: Chicken Pox (1964) ; Measles (1969); Mumps (1971) . Smallpox ended in the U.S. by 1980.

Temporary closing of businesses, stricter isolation in summer months. Another serious disease threatened us and frightened us even more than the 3 childhood diseases. Polio outbreaks occurred in the summer and public gatherings were limited, swimming pools closed, and newsreels at the movie theater filled with footage of children lying trapped in iron lungs. It was a frightening disease. The ban on swimming pools and gatherings created inconvenience during the summer break from school, but unlike the other diseases we had faced, we felt we could do something to beat this one. Kids in the 1950s and 1960s eagerly joined in collecting dimes for the March of Dimes to fight polio. And we all rejoiced at the work of Jonas Salk, who created a barrier in the form of a drop of liquid on a cube of sugar that would immunize against polio.

Silent Generation in College

Development of new medicines and medical decisions. When we moved on to college, the development of a birth control pill was underway. The idea caught the attention of most every woman, and throngs flocked to doctor’s offices for the pill. At first it was only available for menstrual irregularity–not birth control–and hundreds of thousands of women developed menstrual irregularity. When I got married in 1960, my doctor could prescribe the pill, but no one was sure how long it was safe to take it. Before 1960, young women went to the Planned Parenthood office for birth control pills before doctor’s offices were permitted to prescribe.

The pill, welcomed by most women, nevertheless presented challenges as we became test subjects.

Of course there was a catch. Those early pills had been scientifically tested, but now with hundreds of thousands women taking them, we began to see some problems–like increased ovarian cancer rates . So we were, in a sense, test subjects for how this new drug would work in the long term. By 1988, a new, safer, decreased dose pill became available. By then those who started taking the pill in the 60s were no longer on it, and we had no idea what the lasting effects might be.

Silent Generation Gets Married and Starts Families

Unintended consequences. Another drug for women turned out to be a worse disaster. To fight nausea, doctors gave Thalidomide to pregnant women in the early 1960s. Within a few years the doctors knew that the drug was causing horrendous birth defects, and the drug disappeared from the market. But it was the men and women of my generation who lived with this medical disaster.

Ava Gardner and Gregory Pick in The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Government messages drive behavior changes. Finally, we went to the movies and the glamorous romantic leads inevitably smoked cigarettes as they bantered with clever lines. So naturally, we decided smoking was sophisticated and romantic, and we smoked up a storm. We began play smoking with candy cigarettes when we were very small. When we got older, the tobacco companies ratcheted up the pressure. They shipped sample packs of cigarettes to colleges and handed them out at banquets, dances, sporting events. The companies hired students to stand on the Oval and pass out the small packs of cigarettes. Somebody convinced us that the correct social behavior included offering our guests cigarettes as well as booze.

It wasn’t until 1964 when the first Surgeon General’s report on the effect of smoking came out, that society began to act. I remember my father , a smoker, teasing my husband and me. He and my mother had bought me a car, and he drove it from Ohio to Arizona to deliver it in 1964.

“You notice it has no ashtray,” he said. “I figured you two would read and follow the Surgeon General’s report.”

We did not immediately follow that no smoking guidance, but within the next dozen years, we had both quit smoking. The unprecedented national campaign, pushed forward by the government, meant that everyone knew the risks of smoking. Whether they followed advice or not.

Misinformation and behavior changes. In the eighties, another particularly frightening health threat emerged–AIDS. Within the wider population, authorities and organizations battled misinformation. Medical researchers got to work and today instead of being a death sentence, AIDS is a disease that people live with. But the existence of AIDS led to many direct and indirect societal changes from recognition of the gay community to more caution in sexually active adults.

The Silent Generation, a Retrospective

So while some pretty wonderful things happened during the Silent Generation’s adulthood (roughly 1948 to the present), we lived through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and what somebody recently dubbed our present crisis, World War C. We also faced Senator McCarthy, race riots, Anti-War demonstrations, and many threats to our physical health. ( I have not even mentioned the many virus and bacterial-caused diseases that continue to threaten humankind in addition to Covid-19.)

It seems unfair that we were in the correct age range to suffer through those early childhood diseases, land smack in the middle of the polio epidemic and then served as guinea pigs for women’s medications. If we survived all that, we find ourselves a target again. Most of those earlier health threats have disappeared because of brilliant researchers, awareness of the public health system, and community action. We just hope that all those other generations will take seriously the needed community action to defeat the present challenge. Thanks.

P.S. I belatedly realized that I should add this note. We are very fortunate during the present virus pandemic, despite the fact that we are targeted. That is because our lives are very little disrupted. Even our income stream stays pretty much the same (provided the stock market returns to normal–which hits some people hard). But we feel much compassion for the younger generations–our children and grandchildren–who are faced with abrupt changes in life style and income. And we are so grateful to those who are checking up on us, running errands for us, and just staying in touch. Thanks again.

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Emily Dickinson–Hello Cousin!

Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson from Wiki Media, in the public domain.

I cannot think of a more exciting announcement to make during the month of Women. As the title indicates–I can now call poet Emily Dickinson, cousin.

The Belle of Amherst and Black Cake

Of course I had known the poetry of this premier American Poet since I started reading. But my close attraction with Emily really developed when I played the role of Emily in the one-woman play, Belle of Amherst at the Invisible Theater in Tucson, Arizona. Emily’s opening lines of that play:

This is my introduction. Black cake. My own special recipe.

(After some digressions and introducing herself, she proceeds to share her recipe.)

“Black Cake: two pounds of flour, two pounds of sugar, two pounds of butter, nineteen eggs, five pounds of raisins, one and a half pounds of currants, one and a half pounds of citron, one half pint of brandy–I never use Father’s best–one half pint of molasses, two nutmegs, five teaspoons of cloves, mace, and cinnamon, and–oh, yes, two teaspoons of soda, and one and a half teaspoons of salt.”

“Just beat the butter and sugar together, add the nineteen eggs one at a time–now this is very important–without beating. Then beat the mixture again adding the brandy alternately with the flour, soda, spices, and salt that you’ve sifted together. Then the molasses. Now, take your five pounds of raisins, and three pounds of currants and citron, and gently sprinkle in all eight pounds–slowly now–as you stir. Bake it for three hours if you use cake pans. If you use a milk pan, as I do, you’d better leave it in the oven six or seven hours.”

Now does that remind you of anyone? Someone who loves to cook and share recipes? Although she gained fame posthumously as a poet, during her lifetime, she was well known around Amherst for her skill at baking.

Emily Dickinson Black Cake
Emily Dickinson Black Cake

You can see my modernized version of Emily’s Black Cake here. In fact, Emily’s recipe intrigued me from the first time I read the play. And while I was rehearsing, I experimented with baking the cake. Then I made some to be sold during intermissions at my performance of Belle of Amherst. I have also made her ginger bread and her coconut cake. All delicious.

My Connection to Emily Dickinson

You don’t work so long on the development of a one-woman show without feeling very close to the subject, and I certainly felt close to Emily. As I’m sure you know, she was born, lived and died in Amherst, Massachusetts, where her family had been leaders in the community and the college of Amherst. When I did that play so many years ago, I never dreamed that I had more than just the connection that comes with acting.

A few years ago, as I was tracing my great-great-etc-grandparents from New England, I came across 6th great-grandmother Elizabeth Dickinson Belding. She came from Amherst. Surely she must have been related to Emily Dickinson and her family.

The Dickinson Family seemed to be bewilderingly large and spread out over New England, and I was at that time pursuing another line of ancestors, so I set aside the notion that I might be related to Emily. But I did not forget.

Today I looked for a family tree for Emily and compared her ancestors to the ancestors of my (much earlier) 6th great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dickinson Belding and her father (my 7th great-grandfather). II only had to go back one more generation to find my connection to Emily. Here is what I found, starting with our MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor), Nathaniel Dickinson– my 8th great-grandfather, and Emily’s 5th great -grandfather.

My Tree

  • Nathaniel Dickinson 1601-1676
  • Hezekiah Dickinson 1646-1707
  • Elizabeth Dickinson Belding 1693-1797
  • Samuel Belding 1719-1793
  • Martha Belding Bassett 1756-1842
  • William Bassett 1779-1833
  • Mary Bassett Morgan 1810-1890
  • Harriette Morgan Stout 1842-1928
  • Vera Stout Anderson 1881-1964
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser 1906-2003
  • Vera Marie Badertscher

Emily Dickinson Tree

  • Nathaniel DIckinson 1601-1676
  • Samuel Dickinson 1638-1711
  • Ebenezer Dickinson 1690-?
  • Nathan Dickinson SR 1712-1796
  • Nathan Dickison Jr. 1735-1825
  • Samuel Dickinson 1775-1838
  • Edward DIckinson 1803-1874
  • Emily Dickinson 1830-1886

You will notice that my line comes down through the women in the tree, starting with Elizabeth Dickinson, the daughter of Hezekiah Dickinson. The only exception is William Bassett (1779-1833). Emily’s line, on the other hand, follows the male Dickinson line all the way. My 7th great-grandfather is the brother of her 4th great grandfather, Samuel DIckinson (1638-1711). Samuel is my 8x great uncle.

Emily’s family started in North America in Connecticut, but for four generations before Emily, they had lived in Amherst, Massachusetts.

How appropriate that my bookworm great-great grandmother turns out to be the same generation as Emily DIckinson! And had Emily, instead of being a recluse, had been married and had children, her great-great grandchildren would be in my generation.

The conclusion? Emily Dickinson is my 6th cousin, 3 times removed. Don’t get confused by the “removed”. The three times removed simply means that once you find our MRCA you look at how many generations difference there are between that person in my line and in her line. In this case it is 8x great grandfather and 5x great grandfather–so, 3x removed.

Emily Dickinson Has a Poem For It

How better to end this little tribute to my new-found cousin than with one of her poems. This one is used as the foreword to the printed Belle of Amherst.

Me--come! My dazzled face
In such a shining place!
Me--hear! My foreign Ear
The sounds of Welcome--there!

The Saints forget
Our bashful feet--

My Holiday, shall be
That They--remember me--
My Paradise--the fame
That They--pronounce my name--

Emily Dickinson

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Do I call you Aunt Catherine or Aunt Kathleen Butts?

Since March is Woman’s month, I hope to write about some of the women in my tree. The story of this half-aunt is not what I had in mind, but I have suddenly inched forward in knowledge of the mysterious half sister of my father. So I am taking a break from the maternal Stout line to update the life of my paternal grandmother’s illegitimate daughter.

I first wrote about this mystery woman in December 2014. Since then, I have not added an inch of information to her page on my family tree. Until yesterday. In replying to an email of a fellow researcher, I decided to double check my information. Since I had recently read on Amy Johnson Crow‘s site about some techniques for searching without a name when looking for females, I followed a suggested search technique, in which I used only the subjects first name, and the name of her mother, plus the place that they lived.

Voila! A marriage license popped up. I was very excited, assuming that would lead to a whole lot of other information. It did not. Here’s what I now know–and what I still don’t know about my father’s half-sister.

Follow The Changing Name

September 18, 1891, Mary Isadore “Mame” Butts (my paternal grandmother) gave birth to a baby girl. The Ohio Births and Christenings Index lists the child of Mary I Butts and George Sapp as Casalena, with the same date.

May 8, 1892, St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Danville, Ohio, recorded the christening of Catherine, daughter of Maria Butts and George Sapp (Non-Catholic). Sponsors Jonathan Colopy and Wife.

1893, Mary Isadore “Mame” Butts married Cliff Kaser.

June 1900 Census, Mary I and Clifford Kaser and two children, five and two years old, are living in Coshocton, Tuscarawas County, Ohio.

June 1900 Census, Cathaleen G Sapp, 9, lives with grandparents Henry and Ann Marie Butts in Harrison Twp, Knox County, Ohio.

February 1909, my father, Paul Kaser is born, the third child of Mame and Cliff Kaser. They live in Clark, Coshocton, Ohio.

April 1910 Census, Katherine Butts 18, lives with grandparents Henry and Ann Marie Butts in Buckeye City, Knox, Ohio. Her occupation is listed as seamstress from home.

A Short Marriage

December 1910 Marriage License. Kathleen Butts, 20, marries Basil Hunter. Her age is 20 on September 18, 1910. She lives in Buckeye, Ohio and her occupation is nurse. Her mother is Mame Butts and her father’s line is left blank.

**September 29, 1913, According to newspaper article (below), she leaves her husband and disappears.

June 5, 1917, The Democratic Banner, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, says that Basil Hunter is filing for divorce from Cathleen Hunter claiming that his wife left September 29, 1913 and he has no knowledge of her whereabouts. The couple have no children.

September 26, 1919, the newspaper announces that the divorce from Cathleen Hunter is granted to Basil Hunter

**My last sighting of Catherine/Katherine, Cathleen,Kathleen Butts/Hunter. So the mystery remains. Did she run off with another man? Did she change her name yet again? Did she actually get married again? Did she have children? Did she stay in Ohio or move away? When did she die? No family members ever reported seeing her after 1913.

I owe what I have found out recently about my missing aunt to helpful people on Geneology: Just Ask on Facebook and other helpful people on the Knox County, Ohio site, as well as Amy Johnson Crow’s hint. Where do I go next?

How I Am Related

Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of

Paul Kaser, who is the son of “Mame” Butts Kaser. She is also the mother of

Cathleen, Catherine, Katherine, Kathleen Butts Hunter _____???

Research Notes

  • Christening Record, St. Luke Catholic Church, Danville, Ohio. Besides the fact that I have seen the record myself, a transcript of these records is available at Ancestry.com, St. Luke’s Records, 1829 to early 1900’s
  • Ohio Births and Christenings Index 1800-1962, from Ancestry.com First name is spelled Casalena
  • United States Census, 1900 , Harrison, Knox, Ohio; 1910, Union City, Know, Ohio.
  • Ohio County Marriages 1774-1993, Kathleen Butts and Basil Hunter, December 1910
  • The Democratic Banner (Mt. Vernon, Ohio), June 5 1917 and September 26, 1919. Clippings obtained from a Facebook list member who copied it at Library of Congress collection.
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