Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grandma's New York Trip

Reading Ruth Harmon Brubaker’s travel journal about her trip to New York gives some insight into her personality.  The excitement she put on the page as she travels by train from Idaho to New York reveals new aspects of her personality.  She has been described as patient and loving, the journal shows an adventurous side of her life, an excitement to experience more of life.
“We are in Erie, New York & it’s an immense industrial city—Bethlehem steel plants on one side of the landscape—great cement plants, etc., etc.—we’ve come thru miles of it,” she wrote.  “We’ve followed along the shore all morning.  Boats, lovely one by the 1000s just below us.  Yesterday I saw a real old Missouri steamer—3 decker but no way to take a picture of it.” 

Grandma shows an interest in other travelers.  She visits with everyone, she trades magazines with nuns going to Chicago.  She engages a college student on her way home from North Eastern University to Niagara Falls. In addition to her new student friend she strikes up new conversations with interesting observations with others seated around her.
“A man looks like a second Wallace Berry sits in from of me and is going to his brother’s golden wedding,” she wrote.  “He’s a grand person and had 11 sons and nephews in the war—all came back safe but one nephew.  Every few minutes he says ‘I wish Mama was along but she ain’t so well—but she made me come anyhow.’  Well its noon and the little girl got off & her folks just met her, they came to our window to tell us (me and the man) goodbye.  Swell, common friendly people.” 

The pages of Grandma’s travel journal reveal a very intelligent woman, very observant and excited with every new adventure that comes her way.  I don’t think anything really surprises her.  Grandma marvels at the immensity of life.  Early in her journey she notes the speed of the train.  “We are sure traveling fast—will cross the whole state of Nebr. in the nite.”   She is amazed, and marvels at the wonders she encounters in her travels.  But I don’t think she is surprised.

Reading her journal shows an interesting side of her personality.  Grandma is well educated, well read, and very intelligent.  She is patient and loving.  She is truly a fascinating woman with an array of gifts and talents.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Grandma Was A Catholic

As I investigate Ruth Harman, questions that continue to arise include: what she thought and how she felt. An important question: how did she develop such a strong Catholic faith?  Raised a Methodist; her father a minister, yet the entire family remembers her as deeply faithful to the Catholic Church.  It must have been difficult to move away from the faith of her family and accept Catholicism.  An important question if we want to fully appreciate Grandma and her life: How did she reach such faith in the Catholic Church? 

It should also be noted that her faith didn’t go unrewarded and her faith inspired others.  Mary Jane Hislop (Mom) attributes one specific miracle to Grandma’s faith:  When just a few months old Micki, my older sister, suffered from a blockage.  Her stomach became blocked or her intestine was twisted, or something.  The doctors wanted to operate.  Micki hadn’t been baptized yet.  Doctors gave her low odds of survival. Grandma insisted that a Catholic priest come into the hospital and baptize Micki before the surgery.  Sometime between the priest coming in and the scheduled surgery the blockage healed itself.  Mom knew divine intervention healed her baby through Grandma’s intervention. 

Grandma’s strong Catholic faith included the education of her children.  When the family could afford the tuition, each of Grandma’s children went to private Catholic schools.  The apocryphal story concerns Uncle Pat, who was expelled from the Catholic School by the nuns because he kept spitting on the floor.  This same son later studied for the priesthood. 

At her funeral, Dad proudly noted, three priests participated in Grandma's funeral mass.

Obviously, Grandma Ruth Harman Brubaker was very Catholic.  She came from a Methodist family and married into a Catholic family.  How did she arrive at her faith?  Why did she hold such a strong faith?  These are interesting questions with no easy answers.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Life IN Boise

Ruth Brubaker (Grandma) was the amazing glue that kept the family together.  Throughout the family history, she is the one constant force, apparent in either the background or leading the charge to live life as a Brubaker.  A well-educated woman, she graduated from the Nebraska State Normal School and began teaching at age 16.  She married Grandpa and raised her large family during the terrible economic times of the 1920s and 1930s. 

An example of  Grandma Brubaker and her inner strength comes from a collection of memories and oral histories, they all tell the story about Grandma and her extended family when they moved to Boise, Idaho in 1937.  In an oral history from Charles Brubaker, Jr, he explained: “We didn’t see dad (Grandpa Brubaker) much because he was on the railroad.  He worked sixteen hours a day, when he worked.  When we moved to Idaho, he was supposed to trade seniority with a guy in Idaho but the guy backed out.   Dad was stuck in Cheyenne while we were in Idaho.”
Grandma’s extended family seems huge, and that caused some problems.  In the Boise home the landlord allowed only three children in the house.  “When the landlady came to collect the rent, us kids would have to hide,” dad said. “My uncle was living with us; his wife and three kids; my mom and us eight kids and my brother-in-law.  It was wall to wall people.”

Feeding this huge group was another challenge to Grandma and the rest of the family.  “My uncle and brother-in-law Bill went out to pick fruit,” Dad remembered.  “When they got done the farmer couldn’t pay them (in cash) so he paid them in plums.  We had a whole garage full of plums.  We all ate those plums.  I hate them to this day.”
Life in the Boise house lasted only about one year.  In 1938 the family moved to Midway, and later that same year moved into the city of Nampa.  Grandma’s resilience and strength continued to shine through.  But those are more stories to tell at a later time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Means Swimming

In a long, hot summer thoughts inevitably turn to beaches, swim suits, and swimming.  It is an ubiquitous idea (how’s that for a 21 million dollar word).  Today, most people think public swimming pool.  Yet, in the not too distant past, people might look forward to the local swimming pool, the neighborhood fire hydrant, or the local lake.  The Brubaker’s of Idaho looked forward to “water day.”

As my cousin Barbra Ellen tells the story, “We all spent a lot of time at her (Grandma Brubaker’s) house playing and especially water day.  Homeowners got to use irrigation water one day a week and it was flood irrigation.  She would take the water blocks out of the main ditch and the entire yard front & back were flooded.   The ditch was actually in the front of the houses & underground.  We played in the water all day.” 
This picture does not depict the Brubaker’s of Idaho, and yes, I have used this picture before.  These are my sisters, Micki and Trula, at around 1959.  In all likelihood they are in Idaho, but this is definitely not "water day."  Yet, swimming in the summertime was a universal idea.   

Friday, June 26, 2015

More Memories of Grandma Brubaker

Until this week, I don’t think I had seen a picture of Grandma as a young woman.  The only images I conjure up, put her at Mom and Dad’s wedding in the mid-1950s.  By that time, Grandma was in her sixties.  Well thanks to my dear cousins, Barbra Scott and Debi Ragsdale, I now have some new information and new images of a remarkable lady. 

Barbra described Grandma as “vibrant, sociable, fun, kind and patient.”  Physically, “she had very long black hair and wore it braided, with the braids wrapped up and around, circling her head.  She suffered with headaches and those went away after her hair cut.  Aunt Becky and Uncle Bill paid for her to take the train and visit them in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  It was on the trip that Aunt Becky took her to a salon and had her hair cut and permed.”

Mom used to remember Grandma with all of her pets.  Grandma loved cats and dogs, always seemed to have them around the house.  Mom also thought she remembered a bird or two, but couldn’t be sure.

Debi sent me a couple of photographs of Grandma.  Here she is with a couple of her pets in Wyoming.  so this dates the photo at the early 1930s.  I would never have imagined her with long black hair.  But this photo, along with these memories, brings Grandma closer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Memories of Grandma Brubaker

A few months ago I wrote about a few memories of Grandma Brubaker.  Well, I realized I really don’t know a great deal about Grandma’s personality.  So, I’m trying to collect and remember more about Ruth Harmon Brubaker—Grandma.

Grandma Brubaker died in 1970, when I was about ten years old.  So memories of her are not all that great.  My memories of her start and stop in a hospital.  Whenever we would visit, she was sick.
1969 we traveled to Idaho to the funeral of Uncle Bill Brown.  Grandma was in the hospital, possibly in a care facility.  When we went to visit her, we were not allowed to speak of the death of Bill Brown.  It may have been the visit in 1969, or it may have been another time: I remember visiting her, the family gathered around her hospital bed.  Dad is as close as he can get, so that he will hear and understand her mumbled conversation.  I am on the other side of the bed looking at this frail woman.  For some reason, I think my cousin Butch was in the room, standing behind Dad.  He started to make faces at me and I started to laugh.  It was not a nice ride back to Uncle Pat’s house when the visit ended.  I took the heat for that indiscretion.  How could I explain that Butch was making me laugh?  I couldn’t, so I was in trouble. 

A little more than a year later, we were traveling from Salt Lake to Caldwell, Idaho to her funeral.  And the memories are at an end.

I distantly remember her house.  I think we once visited there.  I remember the bathroom because there were no windows and no light switch.  To turn on the lights in the bathroom you had to walk to the center of the room, reach up, find the pull chain and turn on the lights.  That bathroom remains forever burned into my brain, like a traumatic life threatening disaster.
Imagine the difficulties of an undersized, most people say short, young man that has to pee.  He knows he can’t reach the pull chain in order to do his business in peace!  At a certain age, no boy should have to ask an older sister for help in using the bathroom.  Let your bladder burst or ask for help, these were the only two choices.  Pride went out the window when first one sister refused to help.  The other helped only when I started to cry in pain.

That bathroom and the trauma it created are both indelibly burned into my brain.

Unfortunately, I don’t much remember Grandma Brubaker.  I have stories from Dad, but otherwise I don’t know her.  If anyone would like to share some stories about Grandma Brubaker, I would really like to visit.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Change For The Sake of Change: A Rant of Frustration

There is a comedy routine, a group of engineers are helping a young business woman improve her assembly line and enhance sales of her product.  She manufactures up-scale hair barrettes.  The engineers insist that they need to add blue tooth wireless technology to the barrettes because everything is better with blue tooth. 

The routine is a ridiculous example of technology geeks advocating change for the sake of change.  Yet, this pattern of changing technology simply because we can change technology is reaching these ridiculous extremes. 

I will admit that I have been called a Luddite.  And, I may be.  But do we really need so much change, so quickly?  I used to own a flip phone.  I now have a smart phone, only because people around me were embarrassed whenever I would answer the telephone with my antiquated contraption.  The only advantage to my smart phone is the numbers are larger than my flip phone.  It is now easier for me to see the numbers when I dial.

I am trying to muster as much sarcasm as possible as I write: I can’t wait for the next installment of windows or Microsoft office.  I am so excited with the new procedures for writing documents that require me to change the type font to Times Roman because some mental giant has decided that Calibri is more appropriate as a default font and 11 point type is better than the larger and more legible 12 point.  And, I so enjoy changing the spacing from “normal” to “no spacing” every time I create a document.  Thank you to all of the Microsoft and windows engineers and programmers for allowing me to determine the page layout every time I create a new document and forcing me to utilize too much of my time to reset pages that should be default standards.

While I am at it, thank you to every telephone manufacturer in the world for determining my telephone needs to be something more than just a telephone.  I don’t remember how I managed to live without a camera in my telephone, along with text messaging and wireless technology.  Special thanks goes out to the singular “genius” that determined my telephone needed to be so much more than just a telephone.

Today is one of those days when the standard of change for the sake of change is overwhelming.  This morning I had to work with a new index for genealogy research.  Some “genius” decided to combine several indices to make research more of a muddled mess.  It appears to be change for the sake of change.  Honestly, I don’t need any more new and improved “whatevers” in my life.  Is it too much to expect the technology in life to simply function in the manner that it is expected? 

A second cliché keeps running through my brain: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  To all of those techno-geeks, engineers and computer programmers out there, stop fixing it, it ain’t broke.