The Love Link…Happy 100th, Grandma T.!

Yesterday would have been my Grandma Thompson’s 100th birthday…I can’t think of a more appropriate day to do a tribute to her than the hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day!  I learned so much about life from both my Grandma and my mom (her daughter)!

Martha Alinette Taylor was the third child of five born to Lewis A. Taylor and Marie C. (Auer) Taylor.  She was born March 7, 1911 at home in Marysville, Ohio.  She was called “Martha” as a child, but preferred “Alinette” as an adult (“Alinette” was a combination of her grandmothers’ names: Alice and Annette).  When Grandma was about four, the family moved to her Grandma Taylor’s farm, about 8 miles from Marysville on the Beecher Side Road (her Grandma was Alice Beecher Taylor, a distant cousin of the “famous” Beechers).  The farm was quite a shock for Grandma’s mom (my Mamma), who had grown up with all the modern conveniences in town, and was not accustomed to houses with no running water, no electricity, no furnace, and no indoor plumbing!  The family shared the farmhouse with dozens of rats and mice too! 

Grandma’s dad started on the farm with hogs, but then switched to sheep farming.  He also raised Border Collies specifically to work livestock.  One of his dogs, Rex, was a regular performer at the Ohio State Fair, and got so famous that he was even used in a national film!  Sadly, Rex was killed by a car when he was only 5  years old. 

As a girl in high school, Grandma’s teachers always wanted her to become a teacher, but she had her heart set on office work: when her Dad cleaned out his desk, she’d go through the wastebasket and salvage papers she could play “office” with!  Grandma and her mom were always close…Grandma’s teenaged friends were shocked when she told them she’d ask her mother if they had questions about S-E-X…they wouldn’t think of posing the questions to their own mothers! 

After graduation from high school, Grandma was given two scholarships from local colleges, but her dad didn’t have the money for her to go, and Grandma wasn’t healthy enough to work part-time while she went to school.  She took part of a correspondence course in office work (typing and shorthand), before being offered a secretary/bookkeeper job with the Farm Bureau.  It was September, 1931…the salary was $40 a month.  Grandma took the position, and moved into a room near the office.  Her boss, a “Mr. Bear”, was initially not keen on her being hired, and co-workers told her he tried to get her to quit by piling on the work.  Grandma did it anyway.  She worked there for 3 and 1/2 years, and when she was gone, they hired TWO women to take her place!

When she wasn’t working, Grandma was a bit lonely…she’d heard that her old piano teacher, Jennie Sherwood, had opened a music school in her home nearby, and that Miss Sherwood was staging dramatic productions there.  Grandma took some drama lessons, and it was at one of the shows that she met my Grandad, Lewis C. Thompson…he was the good-looking stage manager!  The two were talking backstage, and Grandad was so absorbed, he missed his cue to open the curtain!  He didn’t ask her out that night, but Grandma noticed that the Floyd’s Dairy milk truck he drove seemed to go by her office a lot during the day…Grandad honked and waved every time.  It was two weeks before he asked her out…it wasn’t long before Grandma’s milkman was “her milkman”!  They used to put notes to each other in the empty milk bottles, and Grandma rigged her bedroom light with a string so that when Grandad went by at 4:30 a.m. and honked, she’s turn the light on and off in response.

Grandma and Grandad were married on September 21, 1934 in an evening ceremony at her family’s farm…it was an intimate affair…her parents couldn’t afford a big wedding!  The couple went on to have four daughters: Geraldine (Jerry) in 1935, Dorothy (Dottie – my mom) in 1939, Judy in 1942, and Connie in 1954 (she was a happy surprise!).  Both worked full-time for many years: Grandma became the accountant at Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine, and then the Comptroller at Carter Steel.  Grandad ran a filling station, drove a Columbus city bus, managed the Holland Theatre in Bellefontaine, and then worked in management for Super Food Services (a grocery wholesaler).

Grandad and Grandma in 1935...that baby bump is my Aunt Jerry!

In the early 1970’s, Grandma was forced to retire due to ill health: osteoarthritis was causing her spine to disintegrate, and she also had other health conditions.  Despite multiple hospitalizations and being in chronic pain, Grandma simply found something else to do.  She started to volunteer at her church visiting shut-ins.  After a year, she was asked to be chair of the “Love Link.”  In 1976, Grandma introduced a phone element to the program, calling shut-ins every couple of weeks just to let them know their church still cared about them.  By this time, she was doing her work from her “office,” a mattress on the floor of the living room where Grandma spent her days.  In addition to building a special typing table on wheels so Grandma could type lying down, Grandad rigged up a station wagon with a mattress in the back, and took Grandma to visit her shut-ins…she would lie on their couch and talk to them for a few minutes.  When she wasn’t “running the roads”, Grandma would recycle used greeting cards given to her by friends and family to make notes and cards for her people…she also made Christmas tags and post cards from used Christmas cards for sale at the church’s winter bazaar.  She gives my Grandad due credit in a piece she wrote encouraging fellow church members to “Get Involved”:
“All this is made possible by my wonderful husband who is chief cook, and bottle washer, besides running all my errands and chauffeuring, etc.”
When I was a young child, we would visit Grandma and Grandad on holidays, as we lived two hours away.  At Easter, Grandma would fill a decorated coffee can with candy for each grandchild…the cans had our names on them.  In 1969, our family moved to Canada, 550 miles away from Grandma’s, so our visits with them were reduced to two a year: summer holidays and at Christmas.  One Christmas tradition Grandma did in the 1970’s was called the Grab Bag. All her daughters had young families: after opening the gifts at Christmas time, the grandchildren would go to the Rumpus Room, where there was a big pile of brown paper bags in the middle of the floor.  We would take turns “grabbing” a bag for our family, until they were all gone (it was fair, because all the daughters had a girl and a boy!).  All through the year, Grandma would stock up on paper products, dime store items, and other small essentials that a family could use.  She’d save grocery bags, and before Christmas, pack the items in them and staple them shut (in later years, my cousin Barb and I sometimes got to help her…that was fun).

Grandma and Grandad...late 1970's

My Grandma was only about 4’11” tall due to her spinal disintegration, but she had a lot of energy in her small frame!  She was a big hugger, and loved all of her grandchildren dearly!  We were all devastated when we got the news that Grandma had suffered a heart attack and died on February 15, 1979.  My Grandad followed her a little over five years later, after succumbing to his second bout with cancer. 

My Grandma wasn’t a traditional woman by any means, but she was a wonderful example to all of us!

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Note: Much of the information for this post came from Grandma’s memoirs, which she wrote for her daughters a couple of years before she died.

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56 Comments

Filed under family, memories

56 responses to “The Love Link…Happy 100th, Grandma T.!

  1. What a wonderful way to honor your Grandmother–she was a wonderful example to us all! and my son shares her birthday. Love the picture.

  2. Hippie Cahier

    I’m with Katybeth — what a nice tribute to your grandma. It seems your writing talents are inherited!

    • Thanks, Hippie…I’m very lucky that a lot of my relatives have written down their memoirs…

      I got my “gift” from both sides…my dad would have been a journalist if he hadn’t become a minister instead…my mom’s youngest sister published her first book a couple of years ago.

      Glad you stopped by (although you missed some cool pieces…just sayin’).

      Wendy

  3. What a glorious tribute to your grandmother–I “see” her in you–something about the cheek area. 🙂
    Happy 100th, Grandma, and Happy International Women’s Day!
    blessings
    jane

    • Happy IWD to you, Jane! I’m glad you liked the piece…it wasn’t easy to write…such an interesting life…tough to get it down to 1200 words!

      I never thought about it, but I suppose I look a little bit like her…my older girls resembled her as a child when they were toddlers…

      Hugs,
      Wendy

  4. What special memories of your grandma. I love when people are “can do” type of people and willing to try things outside of the regular expectations. I bet they missed her at the Farm Bureau. I love the milk bottle notes between your grandparents. How sweet!

    • I’m glad you liked it, Jeanne! She was six months pregnant with my aunt when she left the Farm Bureau. I’m sure they had some bad times too, but I think my Grandad adored my Grandma…they had a love that you don’t see much today! Wendy

  5. Darin

    Thank you Wendy. I didn’t know alot of that history. Grab bags were a fun time and the meals were delicious. Grandpa and Grandma were on our alter this past Sunday at church. Our sermon was on family and relationships and Kath was in charge of decorations. She used a photo of each of them that we have framed from their graduation days. Happy Birthday Grandma!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Darin…as I said, a lot of it came from the story Grandma wrote of her life (covers birth until her father’s death in 1944)…maybe you can borrow your mom’s copy of it some time. I love the grad photos…I have them framed too! Love, Wendy

  6. What a fitting, fitting portrait of your grandma on a fitting day. Lovely. I think family memoirs are invaluable. One of my projects I’m (slowly) working on is researching my mom’s story; this is a gentle reminder to get back on it.

    Thank you.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Leanne. Is your mom still living? I was really lucky that my mom wrote her story and gave it to us before she died… Good luck…family history is one of my obsessions! If you need any advice, you know where I am! Wendy

      • Yes, my mom just turned 70 and is in good health, thankfully. Last summer, I started interviewing her. She had a brain aneurysm in 1972, when I was one. She had a 4% chance of living, less of walking (she was paralyzed on one side for a while). I was raised by my relatives for the next few months. One of my dreams is to write that story, which would be a story of survival, community, and family, as well as 1972 rural prairie life.

      • That sounds like a great story, Leanne…I hope to read it some day! Wendy

  7. Barb

    Hi Wendy,
    What a beautiful tribute! I cried as I remembered…..I loved the grab bag and want to incorporate that into our family get together next year some how! I never thought about this until today but both my boys love to write as so do many of that generation in our family; I imagine that is something they get from Grandma! I can still see her in that station wagon coming for a visit! Thank you for sharing! Love you so much!

    • I’m glad you liked it, Barb…I’d forgotten about the station wagon until I read about it in Grandma’s “Get Involved” piece… It was fun to write, but hard at the same time…she had such an interesting life…tough to get it down to 1200 words! Love, Wendy

  8. Yay for Grandmas! They make us better women. I love the pic of your grandparents in the 70s – it’s really sweet how your Grandad is looking at her and smiling. I bet there was a moment before that picture!!

  9. What a fascinating post! I loved it! It sounds like your grandma was an amazing woman.

    Happy Birthday to her!

    Hugs from Haiti,
    Kathy

  10. Wendy – this is so dear … what an amazing grandmother you had. I love that you honored her this way. xo iz

  11. What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother, and what a perfect snapshot of a life. I do see your daughters in her face!

  12. Beautiful tribute…I wish that I could get my grandmother to write her “memoirs”

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Melissa…maybe if she doesn’t want to write them herself, you could take a tape recorder and get her to tell you some stories! It’s really important to get the stories before they’re gone! Wendy

  13. What a remarkable and interesting woman. Wendy, I’m truly impressed by how much you know about your grandmother’s heritage. Did you study your family tree?

    I haven’t forgotten my offer to drive by her old house and take photos. I should be able to make that happen in the next five weeks…

    Lovely post.

    • Thanks, Maura…I’m fortunate that five of my eight lines have been traced in some part by other relatives…I’m nuts on genealogy myself! Would love it if you can get that photo…thanks again! Wendy

  14. jacquelincangro

    I so enjoyed reading this! You’re fortunate that your grandmother left such detailed journals. Have you heard about StoryCorps? You might be able to record her story for future generations. http://storycorps.org/

  15. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman. I always love reading these and getting insights into the lives of people who left such a mark on the world in their own way 🙂

  16. Wendy – I absolutely loved this post. What an incredible story of an incredible woman and how very special that she thought to write memoirs for her children. Thank you so much for sharing. Happy Birthday Grandma Thompson!

  17. What a lovely tribute to a woman that lived a full, rich life!

    My own grandma turns 90 this September (God willing). I have a book called Grandma Tell Me Your Memories that she filled with stories from her life. I’ll always treasure that.

  18. Connie Titus

    Dear Wendy, What a joy to read these precious memories AND all the loving comments from family and friends. I can hear Daddy’s dairy truck driving by Mom’s place, honking his horn at 4:30 a.m. probably because a man named Neal Owen Titus drove his ’55 Chrysler Windsor Deluxe down Park Street, 15 times a day, honking at me. Must be a secret way to win Taylor-descent women. Thank you for writing about your grandma. I’m thankful her life is important to you. She does live on in all of us. Makes my heart swell, my lips smile ear to ear, my eyes well up with tears. Thanking God Martha Alinette Taylor Thompson was who He created her to be. Much love to you.

  19. Love the recollections Wendy. It’s great to have that kind of family history. You know I’m a fan.

  20. What a great story. She must have been a wonderful woman, keeping going and thinking about others even when she had problems of her own. What a great roll model.

    My mom has been writing her life story and says it keeps her going. At 89, she can’t die because she still has more to write. If she could go back, she would be a journalist, she tells me. And, that in a family that seemed to believe, even when I was young, that woman SHOULD NOT work.

    • Glad you stopped by, SVV! My Grandma was an amazing person! I’m happy that the fashion of women staying home has changed…I wouldn’t have made it through without a job! Wendy

  21. “…it wasn’t long before Grandma’s milkman was “her milkman”!” I loved that line, Wendy. And how your grandmother rigged up her light so she could reply to your grandfather’s early morning honk. It’s fun to think that our grandparents were once just crazy kids in love.

    Great memories, Wendy.

    • Thanks, Chase…in her story, Grandma talks about getting so good at flashing the light that she could almost do it in her sleep! She had lots of boyfriends before my Grandad…funny to think about! Wendy

  22. A beautifully written and comprehensive tribute to your grandma, Wendy. It is clear how much you loved her, and it is so obvious to me how much like her you are. Not so much in the way you look, but in the kind of person you are – always lovely, kind and helpful and interested in others, selfless, hardworking, competent, well-liked and and and … and a great writer.
    Lovely post – you write these so well. Happy birthday, Wendy’s Grandma!
    Sunshine xx

  23. What a wonderful tribute Wendy 🙂 You’ve done Grandma proud! I can see a definite family resemblance there – physical and in character. She was one spunky lady and you are too! Visiting shut-ins when she herself was on a mattress…how supremely dedicated and cool is that? They just don’t make people like that anymore! And your Granddad – a true partner in every sense 🙂

    I loved ‘Alinette’…it’s an unusual name that I haven’t heard before. It suits her 🙂 Happy 100th to her!!

    Hugs, H.

  24. Love link is what we call our family email list, which started when our brother was dying. Your grandmother was one feisty and caring woman!

  25. I can’t imagine living that long. Imagine all the wonders she’s seen?

  26. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. She sounds like an amazing woman! And I love how she called your grandfather chief cook and bottle washer. It sounds so romantic — like they were really happy and comfortable with their lives together. What a great read. Thanks for sharing!

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