My handwriting is terrible. Some very old penmanship samples showed me just how awkward. My struggle with writing made me admire my grandmother’s Spencerian script even more. But she was not the only person with good handwriting back in her day. If you look at the penmanship of most of the entries in the autograph books of Maude and Vera Stout, you will see many examples of children who might have studied penmanship with a master.
One day when I was visiting her, she showed me three pieces of paper with fanciful birds, drawn by pen in swooping lines of every-changing width. I gaped. The person who created these penmanship samples was an artist. In fact, the drawings were promotional material. Advertising differed in the 1880s from today’s TV and websites. So did penmanship.
The International Association of Master Penman, etc. provides a haven for those who think penmanship counts. They introduce F. W. Tamblyn, who moved from itinerant penmanship teacher to penmanship by mail courses. If you love beautiful penmaship, you may want to givve their site a look.
This is smaller than the other two penmanship samples, also done by J. S. Johnston of Millersburg, Ohio. Like the other two, it is on ruled paper like children used in school.
They were all signed by J. S. Johnston, Millersburg, Ohio, and two of them designated that Mr. Johnston was a Penman. My grandmother had kept them folded in a drawer for more than sixty years.
Itinerant penmanship teachers swarmed over the countryside in the 1800s. At that time, penmanship fell under the category of vocational training. For those of us researching court documents and old legal papers, we become familiar with the handwriting of clerks hired for their beautiful and clear penmanship.
Grandma Vera Anderson explained that the penmanship teacher would come to town (Killbuck, Ohio) and set up outdoors near the center of town, creating these awesome examples of his work and handing them out to the children who gathered around. Of course, he really wanted the youngsters to run back home and tell their parents about the wonderful drawings and that they could sign up and take his class so they, too, could make their writing a work of art.
In this one I admire the delicate suggestion of tree limbs in the background of the top bird, and water behind the lower bird. And how beautiful that U. S. A.!
Two graceful birds in penmanship sample by J. S. Johnston of Millersburg, Ohio. Note he made an error in writing Millersburg! 7 3/4″ wide by 9 1/2″ tall.
I think of the skill needed to make these penmanship samples with a scratchy metal pen dipped again and again in a pot of ink and I get the shivers. Even if he had never studied the concept, he was working with negative space and balancing the decorative designs around the page so that they fit into the whole. His composition draws the eye just where he wants it.
I wonder how long it took for him to create something like the complexity of the drawing below? I can almost hear him talking to the gathered children as his hand flew across the paper. He told them how these lines form part of letters in handwriting, and wouldn’t they like to be able to do this, too? Here, take this paper home and show your Mother and Father. I will be here all week giving lessons in penmanship.
Very detailed picture made by penmanship teacher, J. S. Johnson of Millersburg Ohio, on ruled paper like a child’s school tablet. 7 3/4″ wide x 10″ tall.
When I inherited the drawings, I framed them properly as a work of art should be framed. Now they are well over 100 years old, and protected.
I think of these examples of penmanship, and the children’s desire to write beautifully in the autograph books whenever I hear the current discussion of whether it is practical to teach script in school any more, since everybody prints or keyboards.
Poor Mr. Johnston, the penmanship teacher, would be bereft.
As I would be without these gorgeous penmanship drawings.
Note: This post is a response to the weekly prompt of the 52 Ancestors project started by Amy Johnson Crow. This week’s prompt: Heirloom
It is getting closer to Christmas, and while Grandma is still sad, she talks about Work and about Christmas gifts and news of the family and friends. Although she probably did not know what exact end product she was working on, she was making Corsair fighter planes and work and homey Corn Meal Mush at home for supper.
The last letter was written on a Saturday, December 10. She said she would write the next day, but if she did, the letter did not survive.
The next letter dated December 14, 1943, and postmarked the next day. The 14th would have been a Wednesday, a work day. It is a longer letter, so I have numbered my notes to correspond with the reference in the letter and added the notes after the transcribed letter. As usual, I have added paragraphs to increase readability.
Dad and I are sitting in room on top of the radiator. It is awful cold tonight. Sure hurts after such nice weather.
¹I came home from work got supper which was fried mush, ham & beans and got up from table and went to bed until 8 o clock. got up and Dad helped me with dishes and here we are now. I am going to write you go and mail it and go back to bed as 4:30 comes pretty quick. I have some cold tonight so will try and not let it get me down as tomorrow is pay day.
³Sarah called me and wanted me to go to Gerald Bushs and play Bridge for her tonight but I just cant and get up so early. Her mother was here for a week went home Mon.
Bob told me the cut off was frozen over and there was a bunch of girls and boys going down to skate tonight. I told him to get me a pair of skates and I would show them how to skate.
¹I must tell you how I rate at shop. They transferred me over to Pre Assembly. and it is much nicer and cleaner. We make parts on jigs and then they are drilled. They told Mrs. Bell and me today that tomorrow we would build them and each of us would have a man to drill them so it will be nice.
I must get some new slacks. I only have one pair and they are getting pretty thin. I wash them and dry them in evening.
³Irene just came in for a chat and then went over to Lou Kidds. She is going to take my iron down and see if Truman can fix it.
We are so glad to know Bunny is getting to feel better. Sorry you both are still having to be stopped up
³Sarah had a letter from Wm saying he was sending clothes etc home as he thought he would go into Secure last Mon. nite. Didn’t know where they was going but a lot of tents on boat so thought must be somewhere it would be warm. I am so sorry I was so in hopes he would never leave the States. I feel awful bad about it.
² I opened the box and just peeped at the lovely silver box but could not take any of them out until Xmas. They were just as you put them. Don’t believe one of them has moved. I closed it back up and wrapped it up again. Only wish you could be here to open it up. It won’t seem like Xmas without you as I don’t remember when you wasn’t home on Xmas. I heard some say we would work on Sun. before Xmas so we could have Xmas off. I would rather work.
³Haven’t seen Herbert since last Sat. as he has changed shift again and goes to work at 1 P.M. and I am sure can’t wait up on him now.
³I must write Will and Jean also Maude a Xmas letter. I guess I wont send any cards this year.
³Sonny plays wonderful B.B. Plays on first team a lot. 2nd team hasn’t lost a game. First team has lost to Big Prariere (can’t spell it). Mrs. Morris has the band play at games and it was very nice as I went up here when they played B.P. Glad you heard from Frank and Dean.
¹I worked Thurs. Fri. Sat and Sun at show. I do all the drawing now on Sat. night now as Howard boy quit. Bot helped me one night but he didn’t like it. I don’t get a bit nervous. I thought maybe I would drop the capsule when I tried to open it but I just get along fine. One night the loud speaker didn’t work so I really did go on the air as Dad says.
² Well kids I am gong to send you some money and I want you to get yourselves something or go to good show. I don’t care what you do with it. I just can’t get any where to get anything and you know what you want. Get Bunny some thing and if I can find something here that I can send her so she will get it from the mail man I will. It won’t be much but just some little toy etc., I think Irene is making her a dress. I will also give Herberts and Bob and Sarah money. Think Wm. will enjoy your Xmas to him. he always gets a kick out of those things.
³Irene tells me Isabell and Delmar haven’t been very well. I will give them the book for you. I guess they are looking for Marilyn home now in a day or two.
Well, I guess I can’t think of anything else so will go mail this, get Dad cig. and go to bed. Many thanks for lovely box and will write you again before Xmas. Lots of Love for you and tell Bunny These XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX are for her. Write.
Never got your card until today the 14th. Where was it all that time? You mailed it on the 9th.
³Here are some gasoline stamps. They were Herberts to get gasoline for plane and he has more than he needs. He said Paul would know if you could use them out there. You would have to get it in a can and put it in your car. Just like Sarah does for her stove. He said if you thought you could use them O.K. if not you could send them back. Don’t use them if they would get you into trouble.
They are worth 5 gal. each.
Like most letter writers, Grandma starts with the weather. She makes it more vivid with her description of Daddy Guy and she huddling over the radiator. According to historic weather records, the temperature that day in nearby Wooster was 9° high and 0 low with a trace of snow falling.
Vera Anderson was a hard worker. Always. With her husband unable to work because of heart problems she worked more than one job. With the war job she had taken in a nearby town, her days were long.
In this letter she refers to work several times.
Describing her day, she tells us that she was so tired when she came home from work, she could only get supper on the table and eat and then had to to take a nap until 8:00. After she washed the dishes, she will finish the letter and will walk (In temperature approaching zero!) to the post office, a couple blocks away, and then finally get home to sleep. Her nights were short, since she had to get up at 4:30 in the morning.
Later in the letter we learn that she has another chore before bed–she will wash the slacks and blouse she wears to work the next day and probably lay them near a register to dry. She can only afford one set of work clothes, and washes them every day. As a side note, she apparently had never worn slacks before (not counting the baseball pants seen here) and Daddy Guy was not at all pleased with the idea of a lady wearing slacks. This is one of those far-reaching effects of World War II–a change in people’s view of what is permissible for a woman to wear.
Vera is competitive and very pleased with the progress she is making in her job. She and another woman have been singled out for a promotion of sorts. During World War I, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron Ohio had branched out into constructing blimps. During World War II they named a separate branch the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. One of their branches was in Millersburg, Ohio, the county seat of Holmes County, and that is where Grandma worked. By 1942, Goodyear Aircraft employed 35,000 people. Besides the familiar “airships”, they built the Navy FG Corsair fighter planes. That means that grandma was probably turning out parts for a Corsair plane like the ones in this video. (The video is 11 minutes, but you can see the plane in the first minute.)
Her description of doing the drawing at the Duncan Movie Theater is close to my heart, because that was my first paid job. Every Saturday, when many farmers and their families came to town, the movie theater was busy. As people went into the theater, they would stop at a small niche in the lobby behind a Dutch door, and sign their names on a raffle ticket. At the end of the movie that night, a person (Grandma in this case–me about ten years later) would turn the handle on a large wire barrel and draw out the winning name. I enjoyed being in the spotlight. Apparently my cousin Bob Anderson did not. The winners might get cash or might get pieces of dinner ware.
Like the wearing of slacks, Daddy Guy did not approve of this business of his wife getting up on stage in public and speaking to all those people and teased her about going “on the air”–in other words thinking she was a radio star.
Note that she works there on Thursday through Sunday. That means that at least two days of the week, she is getting up at 4:30 a.m., working all day, coming home to make supper and then going to the theater (practically next door to her house) until at least nine p.m.
In case you had not figured it out, 4-year-old me had the nickname Bunny. Irene (My aunt Irene Kaser Bucklew) was making me a dress. We saw some of her talented needlework in an earlier article here.
‘Herberts’ refers to her younger son Herbert Anderson and his family of five children.
How I wish I knew what it was that mother had found to send to Uncle Bill out there in the Pacific! Something he would “get a kick out of”.
³Friends and Family
Names mentioned regularly in these letters include:
Irene (Irene Kaser Bucklew, my father’s sister)
Truman (Irene’s husband)
William (William J. Anderson, Vera’s son and my Uncle Bill)
Sarah (Sarah Anderson, wife of my Uncle Bill who was sailing into the Pacific.) Sarah and their son Bob (a high school student in 1943) lived on the farm that once belonged to my great-grandfather, but later she moved in to town and lived in Grandma’s house.
Herbert (Herbert Guy Anderson, Vera’s son and my uncle.) His wife was Pauline, and his children who are sometimes mentioned are Sonny (Herbert Guy Anderson Jr. a high school student in 1943), Romona, JoAnn, Larry and Jimmy.
Maude (Vera’ sister, my great-aunt, who lived in Buffalo, New York)
Will and Jean (William Morgan Stout, Vera’s brother, my great-uncle, and his wife Jean. They lived in New York City)
I don’t know many of the other people, but I have mentioned Delmar Alderman is a couple of earlier posts. Delmar owned the town hardware store where my father worked at one point. He and his wife Isabel were good friends of my mother and father, and my dad wrote to Delmar trying to convince them to join us during our summer at Mt. Weather in Virginia.
The town she can’t spell is Big Prairie, a Holmes County School that was a main rival of Killbuck High School in basketball. Basketball was THE sport in these small towns and the whole town turned out for games.
I love Grandma’s comment about how she’d show the young people how to skate! My mother remembered her in younger days as the best skater in town. The “Cut-Off” that froze, was part of the Killbuck Creek that bordered the town, and had been used for ice skating since Vera was a girl.
William says his Navy Sea Bee unit is going someplace warm–indeed they did, as we learned in my profile of him as a Seabee. When she says they are going into Secure she means the term used in the last letter…the sailors are incommunicado for a time before sailing so they can’t tell someone where they are headed.
Seabee Bill Anderson on Pacific Island, WWII (Someplace warm!)
Two final blows came to the young Paul Kaser as he made the abrupt transition from carefree youth to independent adult.
Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser late 1920s
September 1926,If you have read the two previous stories about a letter and a life-shifting death in the family, you know that at 17, Paul left Millersburg Ohio to start college in Washington D.C.
October-November 1926. But shortly after school started, he was called home because his mother died. His father decreed that he could not go back to school.
April 1927. Therefore at 18 he was home, when his younger brother, Milton Kaser, got pneumonia and ultimately died. Not only was this a blow because he loved his younger brother, but now he had to live alone with his father. But that was not to last long.
Cliff Kaser’s 2nd Marriage. To Mildred Dailey
December 1927. Cliff Kaser, Paul’s father, married Mildred Jameson Dailey in Millersburg and they set off on a trip to Florida. I did not know her name until I found this marriage license.
The way my father told it, the woman his father married just wanted to go to Florida, so she married Cliff on the promise that he would take her there. Within a week, Cliff was back in Millersburg–without Mildred.
I have not dug deeply enough to find a divorce record, but their is a mystery hiding in this story. I know from the records that Mildred continued to call herself Mildred Daily on census reports, and all official papers. And when Clifford Kaser died, the death record listed Mame Kaser as his wife, and he shares a burial plot with his first wife, also. They both apparently wanted to forget that day in December 1927 when they were officially married.
That is the problem with family stories. You only hear one side. And the essence of a story is that there must be a conflict between a “bad guy” and a “good guy.” Now, maybe my Dad’s recollection is true and Mildred just wanted to get out of town. Maybe unemotional and strictly religious Cliff didn’t turn out to be the man of her dreams and she bailed. But maybe Cliff deserted Mildred down there in Florida in a fit of pique.
Maybe they were just two lonely widowers looking for company when they married. Cliff’s wife had died a few months earlier and Mildred’s husband had died at the end of 1925. Find a grave says that the cause of his death was “alcoholism.” If that is true, it could lead to all kinds of twists to the story. But I don’t know.
All I have to go on are my father’s admittedly biased report, and some official documents.
At any rate–his father’s marriage and the brief trip to Florida disrupted my father’s life once more. At 19 he was thrown on his own, expected to find a way to make a living.
End of 1929-January 1930. Toward the end of 1929, back in Millersburg, and once again working on building duct work for furnaces, Clifford Kaser began to feel bad. He had a hernia and went to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Mt. Vernon Ohio for treatment and surgery. His death certificate graphically describes the cause and contributing factors in his death. Too graphically, for me to add here. As my father said, he died of complications from an operation that today would be totally routine. (Ironically, my father also died of complications of an operation).
Cliff Kaser Death Certificate
January 13, 1930. Paul Kaser officially becomes an orphan when his father dies. Paul is now approaching his 22nd birthday. For more about his rootless life during the early years of the Great Depression see “Paul Kaser: No Permanent Residence.“