Sunday, October 8, 2017

Greetings! Cards and Notes Tell Stories of the Early 1900s

If email, Facebook, and Twitter had been around in the early 1900s, we would have no insight into communication among members of the Howe and Salyers families of Carrollton, Kentucky. Thank goodness people actually wrote notes and cards to each other – and thank goodness Sarah Eva Howe Salyers pasted so many of those notes and cards into her scrapbooks.

The most recent scrapbook I've explored contains many cards, and each one tells us something not only about Sarah but about the time in which she was a young woman. Today we'll look at some of those cards from the 1920s and 1930s.

Some cards in the scrapbook celebrate birthdays, while others are for staying in touch. Here are examples of both kinds.

These two birthday cards are pasted to old, crumbling pages, and I dare not try to remove them to see who sent them and who received them.

This birthday card was probably addressed to one of Sarah's children.
This sweet card invites someone to visit.
Someone is nudging the recipient of this card to write back. The sender, or maybe Sarah herself, tagged the dogs with the names of Sarah's children: James Richard, Bob, and Mary Alice.
Sarah's sister Leonora Alice Howe sent this postcard from Cincinnati to her brother-in-law (Sarah's husband), William Levi Salyers, while he was traveling on business.
Sarah sent this card to her husband, who was again traveling in his job as a representative of Moore Brothers Company, distributor of stoves and furnaces. She wrote a poignant note: 
"Who looks for your buttons now?"

Sarah kept many cards that have a Dutch theme. Most of them, like this one, are stereotypical – a child wearing wooden shoes, a windmill, and messages written in ethnic vernacular to simulate mispronunciation of American speech. I know from her descendants that she often used this phrase about the weather: "There's just enough blue in the sky today to make a Dutchman a pair of britches." I'll post more Dutch-themed cards in future posts, maybe with some insight about American attitudes about Dutch immigrants in the early 1900s. 
I wish I knew the story behind this card. Who sent it? Who received it?

Last but not least, this card sent by Sarah's son James Richard ("Jim") to his sister Mary Alice, suggesting that it might apply to her. It was in the early 1930s, and letters in the scrapbook reveal that Mary Alice had caught the eye of a young man named Lawrence. Jim suggested that she would jump up and run after him if he walked down her street.

Postcards and note cards tell a lot of stories. We'll look at more of them in a future post. In the meantime, I'll take a break from blogging to spend time with visiting relatives – three generations descended from Sarah's daughter Mary Alice.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The '20s May Have Roared for Most, But Not for Sarah and Will

Art in the Roaring '20s style
The 1920s were roaring! The decade was a time “when economic growth, technological change, and the loosening of social codes encouraged a lively and uninhibited youth culture centered around the automobile, jazz music, and bootleg liquor.” *

Today, almost a century later, we associate the Roaring '20s with women in fringed “flapper” garb, men in Model T Fords, and crowds drinking prohibited alcoholic beverages in illegal bars called speakeasies. Before the Wall Street Crash of 1929 , the decade was a time of rapid industrial growth, advances in technology, and increases in productivity, sales, and salaries. Consumers were buying more goods and services. Businesses were expanding. For most people, times were good.

Apparently, those good times didn’t filter down to the family of William Levi and Sarah Eva Howe Salyers of Carrollton, Kentucky. Letters saved in Sarah’s scrapbooks reveal that things weren’t quite as “roaring” at their house. One poignant letter is this one from Will to Sarah. Will, who traveled regionally selling Moore Brothers stoves and furnaces to retailers, wrote from the Hotel Tutwiler in Birmingham on Jan. 18, 1925:
First page of a letter from William L. Salyers to his wife Sarah, Jan. 18, 1925
Dear Sarah,
Your special delivery letter came up to my room (via bell boy) at ten o’clock this morning. Glad to hear everybody is all right and hope David is getting over his cold.
[I am unable to decipher the next few lines except for an occasional word or phrase, such as “I don’t want to have to pay for all ?? if I can keep from doing it as we have had trouble with all the ??” ]  Also got the money order which was “very welcome.” I often feel like I am a failure to the extent that somehow or other I can’t make money enough for our wants and needs. I can sell goods all right but guess something was left out of my make up so I can’t sell enough. One thing that I think handicaps me in the “tough times” I have gone through. It is alright to say that a stretch of “hard times” is good for a man, but it takes its “toll” and there is “something” missing that can’t be replaced. Today like all Sundays is the hardest day of the week. It poured down rain all day yesterday and has been raining all day today. I would judge that there are 200 [unreadable; apparently a reference to traveling salesmen/businessmen] here in the hotel, and the cigar woman (not girl as she looks 45) says our tempers are not improved by having to stay in.  . . .
This is one of many letters Will wrote from the road. From those letters, I’ve learned that he often ran short of cash during his business trips and had to ask Sarah to send money to tide him over. Did he not plan ahead, or did he spend too extravagantly? Did Sarah hang onto enough cash for just such times, or did she appeal for loans from her more prosperous parents or siblings? The letters offer no clue. It appears that Sarah always followed up by sending money orders. While I have not found her letter in response to Will’s dark mood of Jan. 18, 1925, I like to think she wrote reassurances to bolster his self-confidence.

Will and Sarah’s eldest child, Bob, was a student at the University of Kentucky in 1925, which could explain, in part, the family’s financial stress. Bob, too, was feeling a financial pinch and doing what he could to help. In September 1925 he wrote to his mother: “I bought a pair of pants from a boy for $1 and I think with a little alteration they will make a good pair of school or work pants for Jim.” Bob’s brother Jim was 15 and living at home at that time.

Bob was looking for a job in Lexington: “I went to see my man [apparently a prospective employer] and he said it would be in October before he would need me, but that if business did not pick up he would not need anyone at all. All the table waiting jobs are full up, so I don’t know what to do. I’ll talk it over with Dad."
Excerpt of letter from Robert King Salyers to his mother Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, September 1925

In 1925 the Wall Street Crash was still four years in the future, but comments in these and other letters seem to foreshadow it. I’m eager to explore later scrapbooks, hoping to discover how this family fared during the Depression years.

* American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. S.v. "The roaring 20s." Retrieved Sept. 23, 2017 from

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Was Sarah Eva Howe Salyers America's First 'Helicopter Parent'?

In September 1925, Robert King Salyers started his sophomore year at the University of Kentucky. He lived at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house at 430 E. Maxwell in Lexington.

The scrapbooks yield several letters from Bob to his mother, Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, and from Sarah to Bob. What a treat to discover some things in this world are the same 92 years later! In excerpts from one letter (transcription below the image), Sarah pines for Bob and mentions other parents who are missing the young people who left Carrollton, Kentucky to attend college. Sarah also offers advice, entreats Bob to keep promises made (with no mention of what those promises were), and urges him to continue with medical treatment for an ailment not disclosed in the letters. I was amused to find that our precocious, inventive, fiercely independent Sarah had become a bit of a “helicopter parent,” today’s definition of one who hovers over a child to the point of micromanagement.
Dearest Bobby;
I was so sorry not to get to talk to you tonight –- I long to hear your voice, my Bobby! The town is full of bereft mothers tonight, tho. Mr. Harry and Miss Grace say they are missing the girls so terribly –- I haven’t talked to Miss Mabel, but I know how she feels; Roman [Browinski, a 1923 graduate of Carrollton High and Bob’s distant cousin] leaves tomorrow, and Doug Vest on Wednesday. I have tried to get you on the telephone at least six times! Especially when Roman was here at dinner yesterday, and again today at dinner, so you could talk to Giltner [possibly surnamed Salyers; another distant cousin].

I’m afraid you were cold tonight, without your covers. I sent them today; I hope you slept in your bathrobe and put your overcoat over you!

. . . [Referring to making pumpkin pies] I’ll save one till you come home, or perhaps I can send you one in a box. Please write and tell me about everything. Can’t you write me a letter as long as the ones you used to write to little Thomy? You don’t have to write [those] any more. Please don’t put off the inoculation and lose the effect of the first! Please tell me about the courses you are taking, what studies, etc. About the [Kappa Sigma] House, and what boys are there. Don’t forget what you promised me to do –- and don’t forget to go to church. 
With deepest love, Mother.

A letter from Bob to his mother responds to a few of her inquiries:
Dear Mother,
. . . I got my suit yesterday, also my laundry, for which I thank you very much. I’ll send you some more soon. I got a letter from Dad yesterday and he said he’d be thru here about next Thursday. I’ll certainly be glad to see him.
Well, it cost me $38 to register, and I have my schedule fixed up, but it does not suit me. To begin with, I changed into the college of commerce and had to take 11 hours of freshmen requirements which I did not have last year. I have college algebra, 3 courses in economics (3 hours each), psychology, military science and 2 hours of psychology lab, every Tuesday.

. . . We have all of the old boys back, except the ones who graduated, and ten good pledges. There are 24 living in the house now. Everything looks good for a big year.

Give my regards to everybody.

Your son, Bob
In a later letter, Bob named the Kappa Sigma pledges of 1925:
Dave McNamara and Eggy Marshall from Frankfort
T. Newman from Ashland
Bill Matheny from Stanford
R. Dycus and J.H. Adams from Smithland
George Penn of Lexington
Ed. Davis from Berea
George Broadus’s brother (no other information)
Joe Thomas from Hopkinsville

Like any college student, Bob wrote home about money:
I wrote a check on you for $3.50 and perhaps you had better send me $7 or $8 as I still have some books to get. Books cost $5 apiece or thereabouts once in a while $2.50 or $3. I am not going to write any more checks now.
Of course, college can’t be all work and no play. There’s football! Bob writes home to his brother:
Jim, old boy, I’ll be glad to have you come up to the Centre game if we can get seats and a way over, both of which will be pretty difficult. I’ll let you
Ticket stub, 1925 (found for sale on eBay)
know right away so you can come up to some other game if I can’t get seats for the other. Really, the best game will be the one with W&L [Washington and Lee] this Saturday. . . There is one with Sewanee the next Saturday and one with Tennessee on Thanksgiving – the Homecoming day. Maybe that one will be best.
To his mother, he mentioned going to a couple of college parties and the football game. He also wrote home about an achievement:
. . . I am enclosing a clipping [gone now from the scrapbook] announcing the pledging of the SuKy Circle, considered by many the foremost honorary [fraternal organization] on the campus. . . . To make a long story short, your little boy was among the lucky ones to be pledged at the exercises tonight. I have worked pretty hard for it but now I realize it was worth it.
He also reassured her:
I have been to church both Sundays, once at the Presbyterian church and once to the Baptist. Will go to Park [a Methodist church] this Sunday.

Sarah, an active member of the Carrollton Methodist Church from childhood, must have been pleased to read that!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bits & Pieces: Mystery Women; the Carrollton High School Class of 1923; Social Notes from the Carrollton Democrat; and More

Now and then, a "Bits & Pieces" post shares scrapbook items that don't fit neatly within posts about the Howe-Salyers family. Still, the random photos, cards, and clippings must have been important to the family. They may still be important to readers who had ancestors in Carrollton, Kentucky and nearby communities. This post includes a lot of names and faces.

1. Can You Identify The Women? The Buildings?

This image, cut into sections, features 27 women who appear to be in their teens or early 20s. A high school class? A social organization? A group of office workers?
The image offers a few clues about time and place:
  1. Written on the bottom section: "Photo by Otto White, North Vernon, Ind." North Vernon is less than 50 miles from Carrollton, and Otto White was a prominent professional photographer in the area from the mid-1890s until at least 1934. [Source: Lieber's Photo News, May 1934, p. 9; cited in an online post about early North Vernon photographers]
  2. Written on the top section: A date: "Oct - 24 - 1923"
  3. A sign on a building in the background: "J.P. Taylor Co." A web page of the Library of Virginia reveals that the company was connected with Universal Tobacco Company, a major player in the tobacco industry during most of the 20th century. The company was based in Richmond, Virginia, with offices in other places, including Carrollton, then a major tobacco market. There is no mention of a company location in Indiana.
Based on these factors and the hometown of our scrapbooker Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, I think chances are good this image was taken in Carrollton.

Can you provide the names of anyone in the photo or identify the location?
UPDATE: A Facebook viewer, Carolyn Williams, identified the building as the original Carrollton High School on Seminary Street, where the middle school is now. Thank you, Carolyn.
Notice below that the list of 1923 Carrollton High graduates includes 11 girls. Could they be in this photo, along with other girls at the school?

2. Graduation Day 1923, Carrollton High School

Commencement Program Participants:
Rev. B. Lehr, Miss Coghill, Miss Schirmer,
Miss Greenwood, Professor J. T. C. Noe,
Mr. O'Donnell, Rev. Robert B. Smith

Senior Class (a few related to Sarah) 
Anna Voigt Becker
Mary Nell Coghill
Julia Aileen Davis
Lenora Greenwood
Effie Harsin
Helen Elizabeth Jett
Anna Belle Lindsay
Ruth Howe Lindsay
Martha Janetta Nicklin
Anna Katherine Raney
Opal Maurine Schirmer
Roman Alexander Browinski
Richard Joseph Framme
Charles William McManis
David G. Pryor
Howard C. Robertson
Ralph Newton Taylor

3. The Good Ol' Days at the Pharmacy

Imagine paying $2 for four prescriptions! Sarah Eva Howe Salyers did just that in January 1923. She also bought an atomizer for 85 cents plus four rolls of shelf paper and four rolls of crepe paper – at 10 cents a roll – for the Carrollton School PTA. This bill from Ford-Driskell Drug Company, "The Home of Pure Drugs," tells the tale.

Maybe some of you with Carrollton ties can make out the name written under the printed word "Salesman." Bill Kendall, maybe?

4. Names in the News

Here is a summary of social notes from newspaper clippings (likely from the Carrollton Democrat) pasted into the same scrapbook. While the clippings are undated, they come from pages containing items from the early 1920s. Below the summaries are images of the first three articles.
  1. Johnson-Luhn Wedding – Lillian Florence Johnson became the wife of Henry G. Luhn, Jr. in a ceremony at St. John's church at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26. [Oct. 26 was on a Wednesday in 1921, so that could be the year.] Officiating: Rev. B. Lehr. Attendants: Hilda Luhn and Frank Luhn, sister and brother of the groom. Parents of the groom: Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Luhn.
  2. Death of Mrs. Charles Brown – Alma M. Welch Brown, wife of Charles R. Brown, mother
    of infant Charles Robert Brown. Based on date references in the obituary and a posting on,  I estimate that she was born in 1906 and died in the early autumn of 1925.
  3.  Milton Woman Bitten by Snake Large as Man's Wrist – (reprinted from Madison Courier) – August 20 – Mrs. Allen E. Smith, wife of the pastor of Milton Methodist Church, was bitten three times close to the ankle by a copperhead snake while in her garden. She sought help from a neighbor, Mrs. Harry Voiers
  4. News from Ghent: • Mrs. Oliver Tyson died at the home of her son in Madison on Friday, August 17. [Aug. 17 occurred on a Friday in 1923.]  • Miss Carolyn Platz entertained Wednesday evening for her guest, Miss Rogers, of Covington, with a delightful garden party.  • Mrs. F.B. McDonald, Misses Linnie and Callie McDonald, J. M. Bond and John L. McDonald motored through central Kentucky this week.  • John Tandy is enjoying a two weeks' vacation from the bank.  • Mrs. R. O. Dufour and children, after a month's visit with relatives in Geoegia, returned home Saturday afternoon.   • Miss Margaret Scott entertained with a picnic supper in honor of her visitor, Miss Elizabeth Toby, of Harrodsburg. The following guests were present: Miss Wilson, from West Virginia; Miss Caroline Platz and her guest, Miss Daisy Orr, of Covington; Miss Margaret Ford, of Georgetown; Misses Martha Scott, Mariam Gex, Anna Katherine O'Neal, Mary Long and Ruth Ellis; Messrs. John Long, Will Ed and Gex Diuguid, Will Parker, John L. McDonald, J. M. Bond, Emmett Montgomery, Leslie Terry, John Heady and Victor Ellis.
 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Sometimes these incidental little newspaper bits can help genealogists make family connections. I hope you found some familiar names here.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Family Stories Told in Verse – A Few Revealing Poems Written by Sarah Eva Howe Between 1890 and 1915

The little scrapbook of Sarah's poems
While digging through the piles of scrapbooks this morning, I came across one I hadn't seen before. It is much smaller than the others and has been trapped, maybe for decades, among the larger, thicker books.

"A treasure!" I thought. Sure enough, it was. Sarah Eva Howe Salyers had transcribed into the book some of the poetry she had written between 1890 (when she was 7 years old) to 1915 or so.

To preserve some of the poems for family and for all who care to read them, I am including here a few that tell family stories or offer insight into Sarah's thoughts and observations.

The first poem includes this note, using initials for her own name, Sarah Howe Salyers:
Written the summer S.H.S. was "going on eight" and her first written-down poem.
Her poem includes an asterisk leading to a footnote that refers, I think, to her twin children and their battles over toys.
Two little mice ran out to play
One was brown and the other was gray
One had some cheese, but none had the other,
Who tried very hard to get some from his brother.*
But as they played and frolicked about
A little pussycat then came out.
She "shooed" them away from their quiet play
On that beautiful summer day.

* Even at the age of seven, I was prophetic of conditions seen later in [the] Salyers family –- not only cheese.

A few pages later, I learned something about the Howe family I had never heard, nor had my husband, who is Sarah's grandson. (Read the transcription below the image if you prefer not to decipher Sarah's handwriting.)
Sarah's explanation about the inspiration behind "Chalchuite," a poem she wrote at age 10.
Transcription: When S.H.S. was ten, in the 4th grade, her parents talked of going to live in New Mexico, reading much literature concerning it, and especially enjoying the book The Land of the Pueblos by Mrs. Lew Wallace [Susan Arnold Elston Wallace]. This poem was written under the inspiration of much hearing about turquoise mines in the New Mexico side of the Rockies, called "Chalchuite" by the Indians.
Imagine! This family in Carrollton, Kentucky was seriously considering a move to New Mexico. If they had gone, I wouldn't be reading Sarah's scrapbooks today – and I would likely never have met her grandson. (Note: Mrs. Wallace's book is available to read online or download free in electronic format.) An asterisk within the poem leads to a footnote that tells us more about the family.

Chalchuite (pronounced chälchəˈwētē, says Merriam-Webster) is an Anglicized version of the Aztec word for turquoise, the most valued green stones in the Aztec society.

The cold gray peaks of the Rockies
Look on the peaceful vale
Forming a pathless barrier
Before which the strongest quail.

They guard the chalchuite
In their stern and rocky base
While the stormclouds gather unheeded
Shrouding their tops with lace.

For the beautiful vale, this jewel
Its country's praise has won.
So we call the land "Chalchuite" *
This land of the setting sun.
* That was how we privately spoke of New Mexico, so no one would learn what we were talking about, as the idea of going there was a secret. We didn't go, incidentally.
 In 1894, when Sarah was 11, her pet and constant companion Solon disappeared. (I think she pronounced it like "SOLE'-on.") She wrote this poem and likely posted it in her neighborhood and maybe in the window of her father's department store.

Strayed or Stolen
"Strayed or stolen" – a spaniel, Solon!
White breast, white feet – he's fond of meat – 
(chicken, however, he likes the most).
He's "brown as a berry" and "warm as toast"
And just think, friends, that he's lost or stolen.
Oh friends, dear friends, let me entreat
That should you meet upon the street
A spaniel by the name of Solon
Oh please remember he's lost or stolen!
And then return this small bow-wow
To the house or store of R. J. Howe
and bring back my poor little Solon!

 And now, one of my favorites: a poem Sarah wrote at age 16, casting her father as narrator. She noted in the scrapbook:
This poem was written about 1899, inspired by some of the early art efforts of Leonora. [In the poem, Daddy calls Leonora "Elsie."]
Higher Criticism
From all the absorbing study of a book on Ancient Art
Showing on illumined pages master pieces of the ages
I had turned my thoughts and fancies to things present, with a start,
But there lingered still the glory told in picture and in story
Of all the wonders man had wrought since prehistoric days
When the first man, with his hand, drew strange pictures in the sand
While the woman stood beside him to admire and to praise.

But lo! I hear a sudden sound, and as I quickly turn
I see my Elsie standing, an audience demanding.
Within the brown eyes starry bright the fire of genius burns.
In fingers fat and fair, a pencil held with care.
She waves a paper masterpiece before my dazzled sight.
"I've drawn a picture. Look! Daddy, please don't ready your book!
See if you know what this is -- all red an' black an' white!"

Still musing on my book, I gaze, and answer dreamily
"Great Heredity art thou! On these pictured pages now
I behold each circling age since Art was in its infancy –-
Thru these hieroglyphs are told stories that are centuries old;
Thus, perhaps the wise Egyptian wrought within his pyramid;
Carved in ebony or jade some Chinese-like monster made
While these lines and curves are like the work the great Assyrians did.

Ah, this gorgeous Art – Byzantine its origin, no doubt
While the frescoes in the tombs of the gloomy catacombs
Find a parallel achievement in these skulls the lie about;
Youthful Michaelagelo –- "

"Daddy, stop! Oh no, no no!" 
My Elsie's lip is trembling, and a frown is on her brow.
Quick tears have filled her eyes and stormily she cries,
"You just don't understand at all!
Why Daddy, that's a cow!
A poem ends with Sarah's little sister's frustration over Daddy's highbrow interpretation of her simple artwork.
Continuing through the scrapbook: What fun to find a 3-stanza poem Sarah wrote as a 25th birthday gift to William Levi Salyers (the man she would marry two years later, in 1905). As noted in the blog posts of Sept. 25 and 29, 2016, William (often called Will) was known as "girl crazy" in his teens. This poem lets us know that Sarah was well aware of his popularity among young women. Sarah included Will's girlfriends by first name in her poem, and in her scrapbook she added a footnote to provide their surnames, just in case future generations wanted to know!

To "Billy"

When Billy was a baby, in the long long years ago
(With big blue eyes, and dimpled cheeks, and golden curls, you know),
He looked about and wondered what this strange queer world could be,
He wasn't altogether pleased with everything, not he!
The great big sun was far too bright, the moon too far away;
And cats scratched when you played with them, and puppy dogs would bite.
But when he saw a little girl, he smiled a dimpled smile.
She suited him exactly his spare moments to beguile.
The years have passed, but strange to say (you'll think I'm joking, maybe),
He likes the little girls as well as when he was a baby! 

The years have passed, a score or more o'er Billy's curly head
He's fluttered like the butterfly from flower to flower, 'tis said;
Cupid, how could you be so mean, you wicked little sprite! –-
To take a good and honest heart and leave it such a sight!
For here your arrows left a scar, and here 'twas but a scratch,
With here and there a gaping wound where Billy met his match!
In many a state and city has your cruel work been done,
and each a chip or splinter as a souvenir has won.
You have brought him many pleasures and perhaps a little pain
And not even Father Time can make his scarred heart whole again. 

And when a "jolly bachelor" he sits before his fire in days to come
and sees the ruddy flames leap higher and higher,
Methinks I see in fancy wondrous pictures thronging[?] fast
In drifting smoke, in glowing coals, sweet memories of the past.
There's little (1)Peggy –- his first love -- and (2)Nellie, young and true.
There's (3)Ella with the golden hair and sprightly (4)Jennie, too.
Three (5, 6, 7)Mabels (one with birdlike voice) and (8)Mary fair and tall;
"Sweet (9)Emily with dreamy eyes," he sees them one and all.
There's (10)Sallie, too (the little scold!) and fair-haired (11)Harriet,
There's (12)Anna with the merry smile and many another yet!
He smiles, then sighs, then turns around, contentedly, to pat
The comrade of advancing years, his old and faithful CAT. 

  1. Peggy Wilkins
  2. Nellie Hafford
  3. Ella Hamilton
  4. Jennie Stringfellow
  5. Mabel Taylor (who lived in Madison, Indiana)
  6. Mabel Burke (who lived in Louisville)
  7. Mabel Myers
  8. Mary Butts
  9. Emily (name illegible; possibly Soos)
  10. Sallie Howe (Sarah herself)
  11. Harriet Smith
  12. Anna Milton
From Sarah's poem "To 'Billy,'" a list of girls dated by William L. Salyers before Sarah and Will became "an item."
The book holds many more of Sarah's writings: lullabies she wrote and sang to her little sister (who, as you may recall from previous posts, was 13 years younger); a verse about a stray cat; poems she wrote as school assignments; poems she wrote after her marriage. I'll hold those for other posts. For now, I will just marvel at the creativity of this girl, who was writing complicated rhymes before her age hit double digits.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mam-maw and Aunt No-No Write Home from the Sanitorium

In January 1912, our scrapbooker Sarah Eva Howe Salyers was a busy woman. She was caring for her family of five (including husband William Levi "Will" Salyers, 5-year-old Robert King Salyers, and twins James Richard and Mary Alice, who were a few months shy of 2 years old). Apparently, Sarah also was caring for two ailing relatives: her mother Alice Ada Cost Howe and 15-year-old sister Leonora Alice Howe. In the scrapbooks are references to Alice and Leonora having rooms upstairs at the Salyers house. At first I thought they were staying there because they were ill and needed Sarah's care, but various notes in the scrapbooks make me think they lived there with Sarah and her family.

(from left) Mary Alice, Bob, and Jim Salyers, 1911-1912
The children were sad when Daddy and big brother Bob took Alice (called both "Mam-maw" and "Grandma") and Leonora ("Aunt No-No") to the Carrollton depot to board a train bound for Louisville. From letters Sarah pasted or transcribed into her scrapbooks, we learn that the two women went to a sanitorium. References to "Dr. Pope" suggest that they checked in at the Pope Sanitorium, established in 1890 by Dr. Curran Pope on Chestnut Street in downtown Louisville. According to Louisville Encyclopedia by John E. Kleber (University Press of Kentucky, 2001), Page 785, "sanitoriums were popular in those days for treatment of chronic diseases and disorders such as tuberculosis and nervous/mental disorders." I have not yet discovered the ailment that sent them there.

Letters from Alice and Leonora to Sarah in Carrollton, and letters Sarah sent to them in response, offer insights into social customs, medical care, and transportation trials and tribulations of that time. There's also an amusing story or two.

 February 1 (Letter from Leonora to Sarah)
Dear Sister,
It is snowing "like pitchforks" here.  . . . We received your letter just a few minutes ago and were certainly glad to hear from you. I got the letter down at the office in the back of the building. Mr. Thruston Pope is just as fat as ever. [This statement makes me think that the Pope family had Carrollton ties and that the Howe and Salyers families were acquainted with them.] I had a pleasant time on the train coming up except that the train was too warm and I got the headache. When we got here, it still ached so I lay down and slept about two hours. About that time Dr. Pope sent for me. He looks about the same but his hair is a little grayer. Dr. Pope did not keep us so very long. I do not know anything about how long I shall have to stay.

February 1 (Letter from Alice to her daughter Sarah)
"We are rapidly getting acquainted and find the crowed very friendly and agreeable. One lady, Miss Tillie Baer of Owensboro, is one of the lively ones. She knew "Harry" McGinnis and knew "Artee" Griffith . . .  Haven't drunk cocoa but have had milk every meal. Doctor questioned us both closely yesterday, and I took the "mestatic" yesterday but Leonora's headache was so bad, she did not. . . . [I have searched for the term "mestatic" but have not found a meaning or explanation.]

February 2 (Letter from Alice to her daughter Sarah)
Dr. Pope says for us to take a morning walk for 20 minutes before our treatments, so we have just come in from our "braces" which felt very "tonic" as it was colder than I thought. Please send me 1 black silk waist [which I think is a blouse or under-blouse], 1 pr gray kid gloves no. 6, one gingham apron.

February 28 [Letter from Sarah to her sister Leonora]
. . . As for Madge [the Salyers family horse], we can't drive her yet on account of the terrible roads _ the hundreds – I was about to say thousands – of tobacco wagons that are constantly criss-crossing the streets into a hollow checkerboard of mud (if you can take in such a figure). The last time I had her out it was almost impossible for her to drag the
Sarah's transcription of her letter to Leonora. The scrapbooks contain some actual letters but many transcriptions of letters, possibly so the originals could be returned to the people who received them.
surrey through the streets, light as her load was (your humble servant was the sole passenger).  . . . Will said he had a fine time on his visit to you and a mighty good dinner at Doctor Pope's and could see a lot of improvement in "our" two patients. I must tell you the joke –– Bob wanted to go down with his daddy, and I suggested that maybe he could go and stay with you all while Will attended to business, as you did have two beds, and he could sleep with Grandma. Will said, "I wonder if I could stay one night at the Sanatorium, too," and Bob said readily, "Why yes, Daddy, you could sleep with Aunt No-No while I sleep with Grandma!" But his daddy blushed and said he was "afraid Aunt No-no would object!"

Several observations about this excerpt:
  • The Salyers family of Carrollton was still using a horse and buggy for transportation in 1912. A previous post reports that only five automobiles were registered in Carrollton in 1910-1911.  
  • Sarah's reference to dinner at Dr. Pope's reinforces my thinking that the Salyers family was connected at least socially with that family. 
  • Little Bob's innocent suggestion that his daddy sleep with his mother's sister made his daddy blush, which I find endearing. Other scrapbook passages mention that Will stayed at the Seelbach hotel when he traveled to Louisville on business or to visit his mother-in-law and sister-in law. The hotel would have been within a few blocks of the sanitorium at 115 W. Chestnut Street.

March 25 [Letter from Leonora to Sarah]
Leonora Alice Howe without her glasses, circa 1918
By March 25, it appears, Leonora's health has improved. In a letter to Sarah, she speaks of going to
places beyond the sanitorium grounds:
I am going to see Girl of My Dreams [a play] Saturday with Miss June Walker at Macauley's. This morning we went downtown. We went to the New York Store and then to Dr. Ledeman's. . . . I just wanted to see if my glasses were all right. I wish you could see the doctor. He is attractive. He has a keen sense of humor and is fascinating because he is so funny. He is a man of almost thirty years, I suppose. Now you will think I am talking a great deal about him, but I assure you he is perfectly harmless and besides he is Hebrew and is married "already yet."
How typical of a 15-year-old girl to write home about her social engagements and the handsome doctor. Less typical, perhaps, is her frequent request that Sarah send butter:
Do tell me if you find any fresh butter, for you know my weakness for that article. Dr. Pope has good butter, but it is not quite so fresh as I like. I like the fresh country butter.

Sarah's letters from Carrollton reply that she was unable to get fresh butter at an affordable price. Research on why that was so will have to wait for another day.

The pages and papers in this scrapbook are loose and not in consecutive order. A look through the whole book failed to turn up evidence of how long Sarah's mother and sister stayed at Pope Sanitorium. We know they recovered from their ailments, because both lived decades beyond 1912.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Five Years Later, It's Twins Again – and Mourning Again

In May 1915, Sarah Eva Howe Salyers of Carrollton, Kentucky, was the busy mother of three children: 8-year-old Bob and 5-year-old twins Jim and Mary Alice. Her husband William Levi Salyers was busy, too, most likely working with his father at the local C.D. Salyers Tin and Stove store.

The Salyers household was about to get even busier. Sarah was due to deliver their next child at any time. In 1915 she had no way of knowing if the child would be a boy or a girl. Did she know she was carrying twins? I'm not sure if physicians of that day could tell if a mother was carrying more than one child, but I suspect a stethoscope would surely detect multiple heartbeats. Even without an official diagnosis, Sarah may have suspected twins based on her previous pregnancy.

On May 14, Sarah gave birth to twin boys. The first-born twin was healthy. They named him David Hillis Salyers II, after his father's grandfather.

The second twin was stillborn. They named him John Howe Salyers, after his mother's grandfather. On the day he was born, John was buried near his ancestors in the IOOF Cemetery in Carrollton.

David H. Salyers II, circa 1936
Sarah and Will had to celebrate a birth and mourn a death at the same time. I can't imagine that wrenching struggle between sadness and joy.

David was what is known today as a "twinless twin." Psychologists tell us that a surviving twin feels a sense of loss throughout life. I wish he was still here to talk with me about that.

David was the baby of the family and was, I'm told, spoiled by his sister and teased by his brothers. Like many Howe and Salyers relatives, he loved reading, singing, acting, and playing the piano. He never had a piano lesson, but he was a natural – he just sat down and played.

He went to school with his neighbors and cousins in Carrollton until his family moved to Richmond
circa 1926, when David was about 10. After a few years, they moved to Lexington, where he graduated from Henry Clay High School (1933) and the University of Kentucky (1937).

In July 1942, David joined the U.S. Army. He served first as a clerk typist, then in ordinance, then –
when his commanding officer discovered he could play a portable field organ – as a chaplain's assistant. During his 29 months as a soldier, he traveled throughout central Europe. He wrote many letters home, including one describing what he saw when he helped liberate the prisoners at one of Hitler's death camps. (Maybe those letters will be blog posts someday.)
David H. Salyers II, circa 1943

Before he went off to war, he married his Arkansas-born sweetheart, Eurelia Maehew Kennedy. Mae settled in Louisville, where David had been living in an apartment with his mother. While he was away, their son (my future husband) was born. A daughter was born a few years later but died shortly after birth.

In the late 1940s, David and Mae bought a big Victorian house in what was to become fashionable Old Louisville. It wasn't so fashionable then, just affordable. They became active in neighborhood restoration and were major forces in saving the historic area from decay and demolition. They were leaders in many civic organizations and projects, including the Kentucky Derby Festival, Shakespeare in Central Park, St. James Court Art Show, and others. Following the footsteps of David's Howe ancestors, they were also were active in the United Methodist Church. They lived in Old Louisville until they died.

David worked at the Kentucky Department of Revenue's downtown Louisville office for many years. He was an outgoing man who had the gift of gab, and he enjoyed nothing more than engaging people – friends or strangers – in conversation.

On 25 September 1981, he lost a 10-year fight against a kidney disorder. Honoring his wishes, his wife donated his body to the University of Louisville medical school. In death, as in life, David helped others.

David with wife Mae and son David III, Christmas 1945
David H. Salyers II, early 1916

David H. Salyers II in 1958, visiting the Carrollton, Kentucky house where he was born in 1915. This was the home of his parents, William Levi and Sarah Eva Howe Salyers.
David H. Salyers II, enjoying time at the piano, circa 1960. He never learned to read music but could play any song he heard, frequently entertaining others at church events, family gatherings, and parties. He also was known for his baritone voice and was a soloist in college, performing in Broadway musicals and operas. Keeping a promise to his mother, he sang Ave Maria at her funeral in 1955.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Death Casts a Shadow on Sarah's Joy

We pick up the story of Sarah Eva Howe Salyers where we left off, with the birth of her twins Jim and Mary Alice. Sarah and her husband William L. Salyers now had two sons and a daughter in their happy Carrollton, Kentucky home.

It was a joyous time for Sarah, but she had one nagging worry. In the weeks before the twins arrived, her father, Robert James Howe, was not well. He was complaining about stomach upsets and fatigue. As many people did in those days, he had traveled by train to the world-class spas in French Lick, Indiana, hoping that the area's sulfur-spring "miracle waters" would bring relief.
Image from a post card sent home to Carrollton by Robert J. Howe in March 1910.
On April 8, two days before the birth of Sarah's twins, Robert wrote to his wife Alice Ada Cost Howe:
Dear Allie,
Today I have been recovering from the disorder of Friday.  Have been drinking waters hot and cold, walking, chatting, making acquaintances, etc. Visited West Baden again this morning and tried the waters from two of their springs. Mr. John Herrod[?] and Mrs.[?] James Todd of Owenton arrived last night. Took a bath hot sulphur salt glow rub etc. this afternoon. Letter from Bro Will [Rob's brother William F. Howe] rec'd this A.M. I wish you all good health. My love to you. Tell Leonora [Sarah's sister Leonora Alice Howe] to write.
In other letters, Rob mentioned headaches, skipping dinner, and drinking "five or six glasses of hot mineral water, which has since been effective . . . " He wrote letters to Alice from French Lick as late as April 12, when he mentioned that he was "nervous" and would share details when he saw her. (I interpret the letter to mean that he was nervous about his health.) He probably left for home soon after that to meet his new grandchildren.

Less than three weeks later, on April 29, 1910, he was dead.

Although Rob was a prominent citizen and businessman of Carrollton and known throughout the region, I have not found his obituary online. It may have been front-page news in the Carrollton Democrat, as was the news of his brother Joseph B. Howe's death 19 years later. I'll be visiting Carrollton to dig in the archives and will update this post when I find an obituary.

Condolence Letters

Sarah's scrapbooks include many condolence letters sent to her and to her mother. Even though Rob had been feeling below par for a while, the letters indicate that his death was unexpected.

I am struck by the outpouring of sadness in these letters – and the eloquence of the writing. Most of the letters sent by relatives and close friends included comments about Rob's deep Christian beliefs, and most expressed concern for Alice and her daughters Sarah and Leonora. Some were especially concerned about Sarah, who was "just over her confinement" after giving birth to twins.

Page 1, Letter from "Aunt Katie"
To Alice From "Aunt Katie" of New Mexico:
"It is not that I think I can say something to lessen your grief that I write, but because I want you to know we feel for you and sympathize with you in your bereavement. ... But what a good thing he got home. And that Sallie was over her confinement. . . . The memory of him is so pleasant as he was so kind and good – and what comfort that is to us  . . ."

To Alice from Margaret Bond of New Orleans:
"I wish I was able to say something to help the heartaches, but words fail me so. With the deepest sympathy and may the Lord help you each one in this dark hour."

To Alice from Mariam Coltrane of Concord, North Carolina):
"God's ways are mysterious, and we have only to accept them knowing that it is a 'loving Father.' In this case we know that he was ready always for the summons and to me the quick call is so much more desirable than a long, lingering illness. ... I hope that Sarah was sufficiently recuperated not to have any real harm to her health from the shock."

To Alice from Mattie A. Carrington of Louisville:
 "I was so shocked and grieved to know of your great sorrow, and I want to offer you my love and deep sympathy."

To Alice from Mrs. W.C. Darling of Grand Rapids, Michigan:
"The very sad news has reached me of Mr. Howe's sudden death. How Mr. Howe will be missed. The vacant chair in the home, the empty pew in the church . . . "

To Alice from Sallie W. Wells of Charleston, South Carolina:
"I cannot yet realize it is true . . . I feel I have sustained a personal loss, for he was always a true friend, and they are passing away so rapidly. ... Not only will he be missed at home but wherever he is known."

What a fitting post for Father's Day 2017. Sarah loved her father and was, as mentioned in the post dated Aug. 11, 2016, a bit of a "daddy's girl." Today's reflections on her father might remind us of our own. Happy Father's Day to all dads and dad-like mentors out there.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A "Little Fairy" Daughter for Will and Sarah Howe Salyers

Mary Alice with mother Sarah Howe Salyers, c1914
Mary Alice Salyers was born to on April 6, 1910. I long to include her baby picture here, but I have never seen a picture of baby/toddler Mary Alice that didn't also include her twin Jim!

To solve that problem, I've cropped one of the images to feature her with only her mother. After all, as you will see, she was like her mother in many ways. You can see several more images in a previous post about the twins.

Letters in the family scrapbooks refer to young Mary Alice as a "little fairy" and a "sweet little elf." Maybe that little round face and those big eyes played a part in that. Based on what I know of the adult Mary Alice, I can imagine her as a little girl full of creativity, a keen interest in everything, and a love for books and stories.

This fading picture hints at another part of her personality. An older Mary Alice, maybe 10 years old, is playing with her brothers Jim and Bob and two unknown (to me) adolescents. This image fits with the adventurous and playful Mary Alice who in her 60s and 70s waded with my children in a creek, gave them rides in a wheelbarrow, and helped them catch bugs.

Mary Alice Salyers forming a pyramid with brothers Jim (far left) and Bob (far right) and two unidentified friends, possibly cousins, c1920

Mary Alice Salyers, c1928 (age 18)
When Mary Alice was in her mid-teens, she moved from Carrollton to Richmond, Kentucky, where she graduated from Madison High School circa 1928. (I'm guessing at the year, based on her birth year of 1910.) I wonder if this portrait might be her senior picture. Like most of the photos in the scrapbooks and family albums, it is not dated. I may discover details about her high school years as I delve into more scrapbooks. Her mother Sarah made some of them specifically for her, but Mary Alice made many scrapbooks, too, just like her mother.

Mary Alice got her college degree from the University of Kentucky, where she was a member of Kappa Delta social sorority; Theta Sigma Phi communications/journalism society; Phi Beta Kappa honor society for the liberal arts; Kappa Delta Pi honor society for the field of education; and Mortar Board, a society recognizing scholarship, leadership, and service. All of these accolades fit with the Mary Alice I knew 35 years later.

From about 1934 to 1939, Mary Alice was the librarian in Somerset's combined city and high school Carnegie Library. She left that job when she married Richard Allen Hays of Anchorage, Kentucky. What fun it is to read newspaper articles about her engagement and wedding. This article from the Lexington Leader of April 9, 1939 (found at describes how Mary Alice announced her engagement to her friends. Of course the event involved books!
An article in the same paper's "Personals" column of June 4, 1939, described a linen shower give in Mary Alice's honor. "Gifts for the bride-elect were presented in a box made to resemble books on a shelf," with the names of the guests as authors of the books.

The ceremony uniting Dick and Mary Alice in marriage took place at sunset on June 17, 1939 in the garden of her parents' home in Lexington. 
(Will and Sarah moved there from Richmond around 1930.)  The local paper reported the next day: "The bride, given in marriage by her father, wore her mother's wedding gown of ivory silk, shirred in princess style, with lace veil caught to a wreath of white rosebuds."

What a treat to see Sarah Eva Howe's wedding dress! I have not come across any  pictures of Sarah's wedding (14 December 1905 in Carrollton, Ky.). Now I can imagine the way she looked when she married Will Salyers.

Dick and Mary Alice moved to a farm in Jefferson County during the 1940s. In 1945, Mary Alice gave birth to the couple's only child, Richard Allen Hays, Jr. A few decades later, they downsized into Dick's childhood home in Anchorage.

Mary Alice was an educator and librarian at Anchorage School, where she made reading important – and fun – for students from the 1940s to 1975. She offered summer sessions that brought her students in to read, do projects based on that summer's theme, and hear stories. Like her mother Sarah, Mary Alice could tell a good story.

Mary Alice died on July 18, 1998, just two months after becoming a widow. Her story continues through her son and his wife, their sons, and a new generation now numbering two.

There will be more posts about Mary Alice, because Sarah created scrapbooks for her and because Mary Alice created some of the scrapbooks herself.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a break from blogging to spend time with living cousins. In the next post, we'll return to the scrapbooks to learn about a death in the Howe-Salyers family – a death that brought Sarah much sorrow barely two weeks after the birth of her twins.