Gerald and Claudene (Ramsey) Johnson, cutting their wedding cake, 6 Nov 1953.
It was a Friday afternoon and Grandma Johnson was giving my Mom’s wedding dress one final ironing. She glided the iron quickly and carefully across the antique white satin, careful not to scorch it. Having made the dress herself, she knew every inch of it, including the more than 30 buttons down the back that she had covered in the same fabric as the dress.
“Look outside!” she called to Mom.
Mom turned to the window and saw that it was snowing. November 6 is early to have snow in central Ohio, but there it was.
The year was 1953 and it was the day that my parents got married.
Fast-forward to today, their 60th wedding anniversary. Three daughters, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Still going strong. My sisters and I joke that since Dad retired, we can’t keep up with them. (It actually isn’t that far from the truth!)
Happy 60th anniversary, Mom and Dad!
My furnace hasn’t worked in over a week. (Before you feel too sorry for me, let me add that I’ve been gone most of that time and it hasn’t been that cold in central Ohio.) It was getting pretty chilly in the house when my parents brought over something from my childhood — the electric space heater.
The space heater we used while I was growing up. I’m surprised this antique still works.
Firing up that space heater and seeing its toaster-like elements turn orange took me back to my grade-school years. The family room in the house where I grew up was always cold in the winter; the sliding glass door, which we used as our main entry, probably didn’t help. There were many drawings made in the condensation that formed on it daily. I often wanted to sit on the floor and eat my breakfast in front of the space heater, but was never successful in convincing Mom that the floor was a proper place to eat one’s breakfast.
What I remember most about that heater wasn’t how warm it made me feel while eating my oatmeal. It was how it kept me warm on the way to school.
The walk to school was only three blocks, but it felt like miles when there was snow on the ground. What was worse was when the snow was melting and the sidewalks were covered in a thick layer of icy slush. On those snowy, slushy mornings, I would lay down my boots in front of the heater and point the tops toward those glowing orange wires. If I remembered to do that before I started breakfast, my feet would stay warm most of the way to school.
Funny how even a small appliance can bring back memories. What unexpected things have brought back a childhood memory for you?
People sometimes ask me how long I’ve been doing genealogy. I often reply with “I’ve always been interested.” It’s true — I’ve had an interest in my family’s history for about as long as I can remember. I was so lucky to have been able to spend time with my grandma Johnson. She was the Keeper of Stories and Labeler of Family Photographs. She even wrote her memoirs. (Yes, my Grandma wrote her life story.) So I come by this “genealogy thing” pretty honestly.
We also used to take drives. Lots of drives. It wouldn’t be unusual for us to end up at some family-related location, like a cemetery. (Ever have a tailgate picnic in a cemetery? I have…. and I thought it was normal!)
But I didn’t realize quite how young I started in genealogy until I found this photo.
At Locust Grove Cemetery, Lawrence County, Ohio
This was taken at Locust Grove Cemetery in Lawrence County, Ohio, where Grandpa’s parents (Linton and Margaret (Kingery) Johnson) and grandparents (Eber and Ann (Stephens) Johnson) are buried. This was probably Memorial Day weekend.
That’s my grandma Adah (Young) Johnson in the blue dress, my mom in the white dress, my grandpa Stanley Johnson… and 4-year-old me.
I started young with my genealogy.
Growing up, I spent more time in service stations than most girls my age. When your dad owns and operates a Texaco (and later, a Gulf) station, you find yourself hanging out around the garage. As one of my sisters commented, “It was like an amusement park!”
This past Labor Day weekend, I posted onto Facebook one of my favorite photos of Slane and Johnson Texaco. (There’s a version of this photo in the NSTS banner.) I commented that I’d love to have the car on the left.
Slane and Johnson Texaco, Columbus, Ohio. Circa 1952.
It’s not a photo that was new to me. I’d had it for some time. But I was surprised when Dad left this comment on Facebook: “That car was mine and I had it when I was courting your mother. It is a 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible.”
Really?! This was the car that Dad had while courting Mom and I’m just now finding this out?! Of course, I couldn’t let this story just stop there, so I called Dad to ask him more about it.
Turns out he bought this car after his brother borrowed his previous car and rolled it. (“It was a great car, but I needed to buy another one after that.”) So he ended up with this 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. (Though the photo doesn’t show it, it was blue.)
Dad loved this Chevy. “I loved that car so much, I carried a picture of it in my billfold for years.” That’s when it clicked. This was the car in the photo that we teased Dad about. See, for a long time, Dad didn’t carry photos of any people in his billfold, but he did have a photo of a car. This car. The blue 1950 Chevy Bel Air convertible. The car he courted Mom in. The car he sold for a new 1953 Mercury hardtop after they got married.
The car that I really want now.