Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another Historical Woman

Clara Wehrle Dean
My Paternal Grandmother
1895 - 1980

This photo is labeled "1947," from my Aunt Dorothy's collection.  I remember the location. 

This photo was taken in the side yard of the red brick apartment house Grandma lived in, on the second floor.  My parents, Raymond Clarence Dean and Dorothy Mae Jones Dean, lived on the first floor.  I remember playing out in this yard!  Me and a little girl named Carol Ann Wheeler, whose family must have lived in another apartment there.  I met up with Carol Ann's family later in life when we moved to Klotter Avenue.

I never thought I'd see a picture of that yard, but thanks to my cousin, Aunt Dorothy's daughter Debbie, there it is.  Wow. 

Before we moved to the downstairs apartment, I stayed upstairs with Dad's family on and off beginning when I was born.  My earliest memories are of my two youthful aunts, Clara and "Dot" (Dorothy)  and my Uncle "Junior" (Frank).  I don't remember Dad's other brother, Norbert, at all during that time and doubt he was married that early.  He was in the navy, however, and that might be why I don't remember him.

I remember Grandma's kitchen.  When you climbed the steps from the door off the side porch, at the top, to the right was the kitchen.  If you turned to the left from the small hallway, you would walk through the living room and then into the bedroom (the only bedroom) that faced Clifton Avenue. 

At least four people in a one-bedroom walk-up flat, a Mom and her three children.  And people today have MacMansions and think they need more space.

The Prosit Cafe was either nextdoor to the apartment building or several doors up.  I took the below photo on a visit last year, and I'm wondering if  "Murphy's Pub" is the old Prosit.  Looks the same.

Notice the vacant lot next to Murphy's.  I'm 99% sure that is where the apartment building was because of the side yard.  None of the other buildings had a side yard; only small back yards. 

This part of Clifton is in the "Over-the-Rhine" neighborhood.  My family memories start here, and the last home I lived in with my parents was in the Klotter/Conroy area, which is also OTR.  Always somewhere Over the Rhine

One vivid memory I have of Grandma's apartment is Uncle Junior sitting at the breakfast table every morning eating a huge bowl of Wheaties.  Every morning.  He was a Wheaties addict.  The bowl he ate them out of was like a vegetable bowl, a serving bowl, not a cereal or soup bowl. 

And he was the biggest tease ever.  He always reminded me that "Susie, the Monkey" in the Cincinnati Zoo and I had the same birthday, September 22nd.  I don't know if that was true or not, but he said it was.  And he'd say we had the same birthday because we looked alike.  Just like a normal teenaged boy.  Always teasing and then laughing real hard, which sounded like a woodpeker, "heh-heh-heh-heh-heh," at his own funny stuff.

I remember Aunt Dot and Aunt Clara getting me to put on little shows, singing songs like entertain family and friends.  I was probably four years of age then.  It's the earliest I can remember back.  I was one spoiled little girl.  So much so that when a young Bill Mertz came courtin' my Aunt Dot, I kicked him in the "shins."  He still remembers that and says he's forgiven me.  Sweet man.  I'm glad he stuck it out and married her in spite of me.

Another big memory is the "cellar" in the building.  There were rats.  I was afraid of the rats and had nightmares about them.  Cincinnati's rats were big.  My mother was determined not to go down the basement steps...Ever!  She hand washed laundry in the sink in our kitchen.  Grandma, however, would not be kept from her appointed duties by a bunch of rats.

I distinctly remember her saying, "No rats are going to keep me from doing the wash."  And she would carry me down to the cellar, after all of her laundry was down there, and set me up on the stationary tubs so the rats wouldn't get me.  I could see them scatter across the floor when Grandma moved about.  She paid not one bit of attention to them.  Wow.  That was my Grandma back then.

She did her "wash" in an old wringer style machine, and she was more afraid of me putting my fingers between the wringers than she was of the rats.  I wanted to help pull the laundry through the two round wringers, where each piece of clothing came out long and flattened like roadkill.

Another story of rats is one time when Aunt Dot took me to the doctor for some reason.  It was starting to get dark when we got back to the apartment.  Aunt Dot went to reach into the mailbox on the side of the building, next to the door, holding me in her other arm, and a big old rat jumped out.  I thought it was jumping at me and I screamed so loud that they probably heard me across the river in Kentucky.

I loved staying at Grandma's.  When I wasn't there, I was out in the country, in Morrow, at my maternal grandfather's farm.  Grandpa had a wicked stepdaughter, Kay,who tried to kill me on more than one occasion, so I didn't like that place much.  When I told Grandma Dean about my narrow escapes from death, she said we had to pray to The Blessed Virgin for wicked Kay.  I don't think Kay ever got healed, though, because later in life, when I was 14, she was still causing all kinds of trouble and did some dreadful stuff that landed her in prison.

Grandma told me lots and lots of stories as early as I can remember, and I guess one of the reasons that I write is because of those stories.  They've stayed inside me until this day.  I'm afraid I might forget them because I'm getting to that age, and everyone else who knew the stories has already died, like Grandma, Dad, Mom, Aunt Clara, Aunt Dot, Uncle Norb, and Uncle Frank.  Nobody else was in that old apartment on Clifton Avenue, or other places where more stories took place.

As they say in the South, where I now live, "I reckon" I'm the one now who has to give these stories to the "young'uns" in the Dean family.  I sure do enjoy it.


Women's Memoirs

Women's Memoirs
Women's Memoirs