Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dressing Up

My grandmother influenced many of my interests--genealogy, history, poetry. I just realized that she probably also influenced my love of clothes. I wish I had written down the details of all the dresses she described to me.  All I remember are the names of the fabrics: shantung, georgette, tulle, voile. I guess since the advent of ready-to-wear clothing and synthetic materials, the lovely names of fabrics have become obscure to us.  I don't even see the wedding announcements anymore. Remember?  The ones that used to say, "The bride wore a gown of ivory peau de soie with an overlay of Chantilly lace."

I don't remember what my grandmother wore at her wedding.  I know she told me, but I just don't remember.  I remember that my grandfather wore a blue serge suit, whatever serge is.  ("A twilled cloth of worsted or worsted and wool, often used for suits" says the Free Online Dictionary.)

I know what colors my aunts are wearing in this great old black-and-white photo taken just about 100 years ago.  My grandmother is wearing dark blue, my Aunt Georgia is wearing red, my great-grandmother is wearing dark green with black velvet facings, and Aunt Jessie, the baby, is wearing dotted Swiss, another great old fabric.  (My prom dress was mint green dotted Swiss.)




Clockwise, from top: my grandmother, Fannie Castle;
her mother, Florida Day Castle; her baby sister, Jessie Castle;
her sister, Georgia Castle

You don't even hear the names of fabrics from my growing-up years anymore. In the 1960s there was madras.  That was a great fad.  It was this plaid fabric from India, worn by both girls and boys.  If you had the real thing, it bled in the wash.  Why this was cool I don't know, but it was.  There was seersucker--a great spring and summer fabric that even men wore in suits.  There was chambray. Everybody had a chambray shirt to wear with their jeans.  I embroidered matching ones for me and my boyfriend.

Embroidery was my thing, because it sure wasn't sewing.  If I had had one bit of talent in art or clothing construction, I probably could have been a fashion designer. I had all these outfits in my head.  Instead I took Home Economics in 7th grade, and I'm pretty sure I drove my teacher to despair.  I guess it's a good thing we don't have to make our own clothes anymore, or I would have to stay home a lot.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Birthdays

In about a week I will celebrate my 60th birthday.  It puts me in mind of birthdays, my own and others', that I have celebrated in 60 years of living.

I was almost my mother's birthday present.  Her birthday was October 10, and my birth came four days later on the 14th.  My dad, followed by his parents, got my mother to the hospital at 7:00 p.m.  He checked her in, went downstairs to tell my grandparents, walked back up to the maternity ward, and the nurses introduced me to him.  It was 7:30.  In my baby book my mother wrote, "Close shave!"



Birthday parties in elementary school were always a big deal and required dressing up, hanging crepe paper, playing games, opening presents, and eating cake.  In later elementary and junior high school the party sometimes took place at the Glider Roller Rink.  One of my friends had a birthday near mine and always included me in the special birthday skate and the extra-large Hershey bar that the Glider gave as a present.  My best friend threw me a surprise party for my 16th birthday that included lots of record playing and Limbo dancing.










My birthday party, age 11, 1964



Surprise party, age 16, 1969


Ten years ago (wow, has it been that long?) I had two wonderful birthday parties for my 50th birthday.  One I gave to myself.  I thought I might as well celebrate instead of mourn.  At the time I was an enthusiastic country dancer, so I threw my party at the Caravan Cattle Company and bought my own "boot-scootin'"-themed cake.  Then one of my best friends took me out to eat at the Olive Garden, where she had assembled all my family and friends for a surprise party.  I was really surprised.



















My grandmother was really surprised on January 8, 1928, when she gave birth to twin boys. Through the chloroform haze, she was extremely irritated to hear the nurse say, "Are we going to need a basket?" like my dad and his brother were the first two in a litter of puppies. The boys were written up in the Tulsa World as the first twins born in Tulsa in 1928. 

My dad always liked the idea that he shared a birthday with Elvis, who was born on January 8, 1935, and was also a twin. Daddy would be thrilled to know that our Smith family may have a connection with Elvis's family through the Mansells. My great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Simmons was married to John Mansell. They lived in Pike County, AL, and my Mansell cousins theorize that our Mansells may have visited Elvis's ancestors in Marion County, AL, when they moved to Lauderdale County, AL, in the 1870s. 





I think there might be a little resemblance--at least in the hair.


My grandmother's twin brothers, Warner and Wardy Castle, were also born in January in 1900. It was always easy to remember how old they were because they were the same age as the year.

I was pretty surprised myself to give birth to my son on February 29, 1976, since his due date was March 10.  He has taken in stride the fact that he only has a birthday every 4 years.  My middle school students have always been fascinated by the idea that there are some people who don't have a "real" birthday every year.

If my son had been born in a non-Leap year, he would have been born on my grandmother's birthday.  Fannie Castle was born on March 1, 1897, in Morgan County, Kentucky.  In 1946 she applied for a "Special Certificate of Birth" from the Commonwealth of Kentucky since birth certificates were not issued in Kentucky until 1911.  The certificate contains a wealth of information, including names and birth information for her parents, and the verifying signature of J.D. Haney, father of Geneva Haney, a lifelong friend of the Castles whose family also moved from Morgan Co. to Oklahoma.  In 1987 on my grandmother's 90th birthday, we threw a surprise party for her at a restaurant in Tulsa.  All the Castle relatives were there, and she was really surprised.



After my son's birthday in February and his wife's birthday in March, there isn't much to celebrate until July, when my niece celebrates her birthday.  When she was adopted, we were delighted to discover that her birth took place on the same date as our mother and dad's wedding.

August brings to mind my Aunt Georgia Castle's birthday on August 4th. One of my best memories of childhood (and of our house at 2717 W. 42nd St.) was the time my grandmother sent me to Crystal City Shopping Center--a very short walk across the railroad tracks from our house--to buy lunch ingredients at Safeway and a cake at Marilou's Bakery for Aunt Georgia's birthday.  I was also tasked with buying Aunt Georgia's present--which turned out to be a big plaster squirrel for her patio.  We moved from 42nd St. the summer before I turned 10, so I couldn't have been more than 9 when my grandmother trusted me with this birthday expedition.

The last quarter of the year brings several family birthdays: mine in October and my brother's in November.  My other Castle aunt, Aunt Jessie, had a November birthday which was usually so close to Thanksgiving that we always celebrated it then.  I was practically grown before I realized that the date of Thanksgiving didn't always fall on Aunt Jessie's birthday!  My Grandpa Smith's birthday was in December, as is my cousin Debbie's.  My Aunt Marie, my mother's sister, and my sister-in-law Tracy shared the same birthday, December 26.

So...happy birthday to all.  Celebrate your special day.  Dress up, do the Limbo, eat some cake, enjoy the surprises that life brings!