No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.” Note: You can “click” on any image to view a larger version.
I remember my Nana, Edith Anna (Haines) Hall, known by friends as “Ede”, as a pleasantly plump, happy-go-lucky woman with an infectious laugh, who found the good in everyone and everything.
Edith’s early life wasn’t easy. Her parents had lots of mouths to feed. There were times when they had to go without; during the depression, they used coats to keep warm in the winter, as blankets and heat weren’t affordable. Nonetheless, they learned to enjoy life. The following poem, depicting their childhood, was written by Nana’s younger sister, Natalie:
You’re Only Young Once
… A rhyming version of Depression days
Depression Days were then at hand
(Financial woes throughout the land.)
A seventh child was added to
A family which grew and grew.
Their worries big, their money small,
Their laughter rang from hall to hall.
Each day brought on a new event
From buying shoes to paying rent.
They picked blueberries in the sun
And sang on rides ’til day was done.
The castles were all made of sand;
The water cool, the sunshine grand.
The root beer was, of course, homemade;
Each holiday, a new parade!
The bonfires bright, who can deny,
Were better than the last July.
The icy tunnels dug in snow;
The car would need a push to go.
The swan-boat rides meant trips “in town”.
The clothes were mostly hand-me-down.
The marks in school were of the best…
Such praise for every “A” in tests!
A photograph in groups, you know,
Would find them always in front row.
The house was clean, there was no clutter,
But, oh, “Go easy on the butter!!”
The Market on those weekend nights,
With pushcarts for their city sights.
Their visiting was done in groups,
But picnics called out all the troops!
A wink from Dad, a smile from Mum,
Would mean a happy time to come
With dishes washed and windows closed,
The bathroom busy, off they’d go!
Besides the Great Depression, Nana lived through her young husband’s nervous breakdown which caused them to live temporarily with a mother-in-law who disliked her [she considered her son’s marriage to my grandmother a social step in the wrong direction]. Nana worked tirelessly helping to manage the veterinary business and a household. She battled cancer and lost a breast at a fairly young age. One of her arms swelled and stayed that way (I don’t know if doctors ever discovered the cause – likely something to do with medications related to her surgery). She nearly lost her youngest son, to illness, while he was stationed in Germany. Despite the challenges, she loved life and was never without a smile. She had loads of friends, belonged to many social clubs, volunteered at the local hospital and joined every imaginable church committee.
Among her many talents, Nana was an incredible painter [click to see a larger version].
An abstract by Nana (above); my favorite as a child. Below, other pieces in my collection.
After Grampa died in 1976, Nana spent years exploring the world with friends – London, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Vienna, Niagara Falls, Alaska, the list goes on….
She was one of my best friends – loving, kind and sweet.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, my parents dropped us three kids, at my grandparents, across town, every Saturday [four of us, in the early seventies, when my youngest brother was born]. The day would commence, with Nana and I assisting with the spay/neuter operations – she would administer ether while I held the dog/cat’s legs – we laughed and talked.
We spent Saturday afternoons making toll house or oatmeal sundae cookies (licking spoons and bowls), mock-cherry pies and/or cream cheese and maraschino cherry sandwiches (shaped like jelly rolls). We learned to knit and crochet. I still have the pink and white afghan personalized with my name that Nana made to match my bedroom.
We played games, like “The Oregon Trail”, Chinese checkers or chess. Many weeks we took the bus/train [she didn’t have a driver’s license] to Boston where we sailed on the Swan Boats at the Public Garden, meandered along the Freedom Trail or gaped at the Jordan Marsh Christmas display. Many times we attended her church events (my favorite being “decorate your own cup cake” at the annual Christmas Fair). Dinner was meat and potatoes on folding “TV trays” while watching Grampa’s favorite show “Let’s Make a Deal”. My grandparents would drive us home Saturday after dinner. We would pile into Grampa’s big green truck (or in later years, his green Dodge Dart) and sing old songs like “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I’m half crazy over the love of you….” or “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck…”
Nana would call often when I moved to my first apartment in the mid-eighties. I of course was at work, but had an answering machine. My roommates and I adored her messages. She would start off with “Dear Linda”….then relay her message….and end with an emphatic “Love, Nana” in a cheery voice. It was so cute, I wish I had thought to save them.
Nana often spoke of her days working at John Hancock where one of her tasks was to alphabetize hundreds of index cards. One day she tripped, dropping the entire pile down a flight of stairs. Cards flew everywhere. It was a disastrous mess! She recollected this story frequently, each time belly laughing hysterically until tears formed in her eyes.
While in her late 70’s Nana was hit by a car while out for her daily walk. As she lay in her hospital bed with a bruised body, she recounted how fun it was to go flying up in the air when the car struck her. “I was higher than the car roof!! It was sooooooo exciting,” she giggled.
In the nineties, we bought Nana a new phone for Christmas, after realizing she had been “renting” her rotary phone for years and years – likely paying several thousand dollars over time. To discontinue the fees, she had to return the phone – so we decided to make a day of it! As we drove, Nana confessed that it had taken her almost six hours to clean the “gunk” off the cord (so they wouldn’t try to charge her extra for cleaning). We arrived at the “phone store” and indicated to the man behind the counter that we would be returning their rented phone. He looked at it and immediately hurled it 25 feet behind him to the “junk pile”. I was mortified! But in an instant, Nana began laughing uncontrollably, I joined her in hysterics. It took a good ten minutes for either of us to be able to speak and explain to the clerk that she just spent six hours cleaning the “junk pile phone”. He felt so bad, he looked as though he wanted to crawl under a table, which caused us to laugh harder.
On another occasion, while in her late 80’s she decided to take the bus a few stops away to visit my dad who was hospitalized with cancer. Several hours later she was nowhere to be found. My entire family was panic stricken. Finally to our relief she arrived. She was happy as a clam. Nana had taken the wrong bus and had traveled for hours having to change buses a few times to find her way back home with the help of some friendly bus drivers. “The best part”, she exclaimed, “was that I got to see the ocean, and the whole trip only cost me a dime!!”
Years before her death, she labelled her collection of precious Hummels, ensuring that each of her loved ones would receive a keepsake (they were acquired in the fifties, while Nana was in Germany, visiting her youngest son, my dad, who was quite ill).
She was truly an amazing woman, who lived to be 91. While on her deathbed, she told me not to look so sad, she had had a terrific and exciting life. In her last moments, she worried about her family, as was her character, not thinking of herself.
Edith Anna Haines was born at 101 Maxwell Street, Dorchester, Massachusetts on 1 October 1907; eldest child of John Glatis/Galatis Haines and Edith Bernice Lansil. Soon after her birth, the Lansil home was sold and the Haines family relocated. They moved frequently, residing in Melrose, Malden and for a short time Saugus (until sister Doris showed interest in a “colored boy”).
Siblings included John “Jack” Galatis/Glatis Jr., Walter Lansil (who died at 11 months from acute enteritis and colitis), Doris, Marion Jeanette, William Alexander “Billy”, Bernice Frances and Natalie.
Edith’s elementary education was completed at the Ripey School in Melrose and she was a 1927 graduate of Melrose High School. Based on her yearbook description it seems that she was good natured, well liked and perhaps a bit sneeky, pretending to be sick when a “fun” activity interfered with her school schedule.
Edith met her husband, Charles George Hall, son of Charles Milton Hall and Georgianna Hughes/Clough at a dance at the Congregational “branch church” on Forest St., Malden; she asked the minister to make an introduction. It later became an independent church, but by that time Edith had married, and enrolled her two sons in the Sunday School of the Congregational Church on Pleasant St., Malden.
They were engaged by March 1929, as reported by her employer, John Hancock.
They married 18 July 1930.
… By a Younger Sister
Nana’s 80th Birthday