Saturday, December 18, 2010

Days With Extended Family

My Aunt Florence and Uncle Tom lived in a beautiful large, white, frame home in Oconomowoc, WI. This was an estate with long, wide, green front yard, in the rear a fish pond, tennis court, Martins house, many trees. Always the bluejays calls which sound I learned to love with all the happy memories that go with.

The home was across from Lac La Belle, a couple blocks to the beach. I wasn't crazy about being at the lake, often cold water. My little cousin, MaryAnn took to the water like a fish. She told me recently that her father called their home 'Sundown Cottage' with all it's lovely sunsets. 
Uncle Tom had a black Packard which he parked in a garage beneath the house
                                          I would often see this big car from the side porch.

We cousins had so many special times together. The children had a toy room of their own off the kitchen near the back door. There were many toys to play with. At times it was an utter mess. Sometimes we would play in the back yard. And then there was  this wide and long front porch. We loved playing out there on the huge white wooden furniture, rockers and straight chairs, tipping them over sometimes in our imaginative play. I am using this picture once again for it shows the view to the street as we played on the front porch. 
Elayne and Grandaddy on the front lawn in Oconomowoc

There was also a screened in side porch upstairs where we could sleep on very hot summer nights. One can see the porches in the home photo above.

I recall the fun in the upstairs children's bedrooms with maids to watch over us and clean up pillow fights, make up our beds, etc. I have special memories as we cousins ran downstairs and back and forth through the large sprawling living room, our running footsteps sounding, thump, thump, thumps, on the wood floor as as we passed behind our parents visiting together seated on plush furniture beside a roaring, crackling fire in the fireplace. Along with this came the smell of the fresh lake air. These were special, delight-filled, times for the entire family, grandparents, too, all the aunts and uncles and cousins. Maids often fed the children all together in the kitchen. I recall the ice cream they made in refrigerator trays, and dished out for us, rather crunchy, icy. Recall they used a kind of pudding base. Electric refrigeration and freezing was a modern convenience in the thirties.  
Aunt Florence, Uncle Tom Collins with Baby

Is this not a lovely family group marveling at their newborn? I have a similar photo of our Kevin and Charlene beaming over their 2nd son Paul Francis Bergin Stewart.
"Beautiful", they always say, as they beam with love and pride and joy.

This is Tommy as a toddler

Later MaryAnne was born and I recall how nice and slim my Auntie Flo  looked. I was happy for her to have lost all that weight. She is/was my godmother. A few years Auntie Flo would put on belly fat once again. And then my cousin Florence was born. Eventually, Jack joined the family. Here you see some toddler pictures of our cousins. 
MaryAnn and her Sister Flossie [Florence]

Sunday drives were a big entertainment. Stores were locked up tight on Sundays. Sundays were for Church and for family together time. Routinely,  Sundays I could smell beef roasting in the oven or a pot roast for family dinner. Often family, all together, would take an outing in the automobile, adding to making this a special day. Spring and summer we’d have the windows rolled down all the way to feel the breezes on our faces and through our hair. Without air conditioning this was a welcome relief from midwest heat.  Often we would have our grandparents along with. Mother, sisters, and uncles called my grandparents Mama and Papa. Daddy would motor to a lakeside.
Little Brother Jackie

We kids would walk along the beach and collect bottle caps from orange pop [orange ones] and grape soda [purple], root beer [brown]. We used these bottle caps as play people with individual identities. Each had a personality. We had several red and white coca cola caps, too. In later years these 'people' were replaced with lead soldiers with transferred personalities. There would often be one I’d call “Barbara”. Elayne  would consistently use the name “Joan” with her play people. 

Another Outing-
Also, though not as often, we visited our Grandparents Bergin on their farm in Fond du lac, WI., north of Milwaukee. And when there, although we would occasionally see cousins, our treats were the young uncles, watching them do farm work, coming to the house for meals, chickens and ducks, collecting eggs. My Aunt Marion, Uncle Ed's wife, worked at a Children's Home. She was a nurse. Never had children of their own. I thought her job was the greatest and would often day dream about what it was like to be in such a home or to maybe have one like that when I grew up. Our Aunt Helen, a nurse, and Aunt Veronica were often home. Mother used to remark what beautiful young girls they were. Mother and dad told us of Veronica’s marriage to Harry. This was such a sad story because Harry disappeared the day after their wedding. She became a divorced lady, so young. From a Catholic view this was a tainting. For sure she was never to marry again. Some years later she did remarry and had a child, a son. She married a German Wisconsin farmer. I got the impression it would have been far better had he been Irish. Occasionally there were picnics or meals when the extended family gathered together to share, and we would play with cousins, Dorothy, Jack, Virginia, Uncle Frank's children. Francis was the eldest of my grandparents’ children, daddy's big brother.  There were more cousins later when Helen and Tim and Veronica married. Uncle John [Mansfield] never did marry and Uncle Dave, who's twin died at birth, married way late in life. He and his spouse bought me my first Martini when in college Elayne and I visited them. 

The long, gravel driveway leading from the main road to their farm home always fascinated me.
I will return at a later time to these grandparents when I was about 9 or 10 years old.

1 comment:

  1. Do both these houses still stand? Sundown Cottage and your grandparent's Fond Du Lac house? I think I recall you told me you and dad went to visit your grandparent's house a few years ago, and the current owners were very welcoming.


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