Tag Archives: chronic illness

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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