Memories of Velma Swing Hoffmann

When they first moved to 1916 Lansing, streets weren’t paved, just gravel. But between the house & the cemetery side of the hill weren’t many houses. They could see clear to the mountains. That area in between had been a prune orchard (not by 1947), so the hill was just covered in grass. No phone lines in yet when moved in–nervous for Gram with no car (Gramp had to take it to shop) & 3 little kids.

Problems with trees: cutleaf weeping birches on either side in front: south sapling cut off one night, probably by kid on bike; replaced–then cut off by grader when it finally came to pave roads ‘awhile’ after moving in. the birch on the north side survived better, till the year Uncle Jay died. When Gram went up to see Aunt Nancy she’d noticed its leaves were looking sort of yellow, then when she came back it was dead. It had died ‘just like that.’

Used to have white picket fence round back yard since Paula was still very little. So she could have someplace to play. But one day Paula ‘turned up missing.’ Gram couldn’t find her anywhere. So she called Gramp, and he came up, & just as he reached N. Illinois/Rochester he saw Paula (about 2 1/2) and Bootsie heading down toward the canal! Gram always very worried about that canal (the first thing she thought when Paula was

missing.) When they’d only been up there a little while a little boy fell inover by the bridge near the Rose Garden, & got swept all the way down, through the siphon & was found clear by Notus or somewhere.

Another time, Mom decided she was going to run away. She, Jay, Paula, & Gram were all out in the backyard & Mom wanted to do something which Gram wouldn’t let her do (Gram thinks). So Mom announced she would run away. Gram said, “Would you like me to help you pack?” Mom said, “No…” but headed off down Lansing, Rochester, & to that corner there. Gram panicked because she didn’t know what to do if Mom actually took off. But she could still see her so just kept watching her. She stood there for some time, but then finally came wandering back & never knew Gram was watching.

Mom and Jay used to fight, too; Mom, perhaps, being older, thought she should always get her own way. But one day they’d come home from school on the schoolbus, which dropped them off at the same corner, & they walked from there. They’d really been fighting: Mom had some injury, and Jay had long bloody scratches on his arm from Mom’s fingernails. Gram got really angry & said when things came to physical harm it was too much, and time to stop. And they did. But then later Jay & Carla would get into it–Gram thinks he would tease her… “Like Matt did you. My brother used to tease me too.” He would tease till Gram was ‘just beside myself.’

Until one day (at about 13 or 14) Gram called Uncle Roy a bastard (!). Her mother heard, & said, “Velma, do you know what that word means?!” Gram said no. Her mother was going to make Roy tell her but he wouldn’t. So Gram decided it must be pretty bad & never said it again. It was several years before Gram learned what it meant.

Grandma’s parents met when her mother stayed with first Aunt Bert and then Aunt Tillie to help them care for their children–both moved to Indiana. Gram’s dad, though in Illinois (on border), now lived at Wolcott, Indiana, where they’d lived ever since Gram could remember, in a litle bitty house. And met Gram’s mother. Up until 6 months before Lena married him she’d always asserted that she’d never get married– ‘and Linda always said the same thing.’

When Gram & Gramp first were going ‘to come out here’ she decided she’d better get recipes from her mother–she’d never cooked much at home: she did cleaning, & Marilyn liked the cooking and baking. But now when she’d not be able to call up for recipes…so she got her mother’s stuffing recipe. Though her mother never followed a recipe; she just added ‘a dab of this,’ ‘butter the size of a walnut,’ etc.

Gram’s parents lived in Indiana, then, for a number of years, moving when Gram was two to Elmwood–her grandparents had a farm there, & they lived on it for two years. Gram can remember her fourth birthday, then, because it was that day they moved up to Forrest–her father came later on, traveling with his farm equipment on the train. So Lena & the two kids came alone ‘in an old touring car’–rather hectic. They got there, & Gram remembers they had ‘wienies’ for supper, & then someone knocked on the door. Lena’s always been very afraid of hobos & bums, so Gram still remembers how her mother ‘went as white as a sheet’ but it was only a neighbor asking for something.

When Grandma used to work at the old shop on Kimball, Grandma would sit at the desk there, and little mice would run over her feet. Gram was never too afraid of mice, so it was okay. Her mother was terrified of mice, though. If she saw one, without thinking, she’d be up on a chair or the bed: “It was a reflex action.” It was freezing there in the winter, roasting in the summer, “not a good advertisement for their business.”

Grandma’s parents used to speak in German when they didn’t want the kids to understand, and Lena used to speak to her mother in German all the time. Also, when Grandma was a little girl, her mother wanted her to have bangs; Grandma’s hair looked terrible with bangs because of her cowlicks & widow’s peak, so her mother shaved the top of her forehead and cut the hair just behind it into bangs! This looked fine.

Grandma remembered that when she was young you didn’t need a license to drive a car–not until she & Grandpa moved here did she need one.

Gram remembered a compact that Grandpa had bought for her while they were dating. He’d asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She’d listed several things, & he bought her all of them.

Grandma reminisced about a time when, very pregnant with Jay, she dropped a can of coffee (she was preparing breakfast). It rolled around the kitchen, scattering in a ring. Grandma just sat down on a chair and cried. Grandpa then came in & cleaned it up for her. “I would have had to get down on my knees to clean it up…” Mom was born in Portland, then they moved to Kuna. Grandpa bought a cruddy little house out in the country outside of Caldwell. He wasn’t accomplishing anything fixing it up, driving back & forth from Kuna, so they moved in. One bedroom on the south side, a living room, & the kitchen. There were no closets or cupboards; one shelf in the front room. Outdoor bathroom of course. Mom was a very good baby, however, always behaving; Grandpa made cupboards soon, though doorless, & Mom didn’t get into anything. Grandma put raisins & Cheerios & cans of baby food down to the right of the sink for Mom to pay with. She would

scatter these around the kitchen. When the raisins & Cheerios were gone, she would lisp, “More raisins & puff’eet!” They had no running water, a pump out back. Elmo hooked up a tank somehow, so they had hot & cold running water, but only in the sink. Grandpa added another bedroom on the north, connected to the rest of the house by two little rooms. One would have been their bathroom had they stayed there. Mom doesn’t remember outdoor toilets, though, because the kids used a potty chair Grandma had.

Grandpa’s favorite dress that Grandma ever had was brown with turquoise carnations in it.

Gram’s Grandpa & Uncle Joe were Swiss yodelers.

Grandma said Grandpa played his guitar in a band which played over the radio in Illinois & for dances. “My” violin belonged to Gram’s father, and Grandma said he bought it at about 14 with the first money he earned shucking corn away from home.

Grandma never used to be afraid of heights. “There was a big old apple tree in the orchard”, with a branch sticking way out, & a swing hanging from it. Grandma used to climb out onto that branch with a book, sit there, & read. She & Roy once climbed up the poles supporting the grain elevator, and walked around atop it.

Discussing Peoria, Grandma said, “Yes, that was where I was married.” She said she’d been married by a justice of the peace named Herman J. Bridegroom. She chose him for this reason and thought many people must have, because next to his office was a neat little parlor, fixed up with nice carpet and soft lighting, etc.

Grandma and I talked of laundry, how old machines you had to begin with whites, then towels, on down to

darks, because the same water was used throughout and would have grayed whites. Mom asked if wringers were fun, and Gram said yes, unless you got an am caught, and we told of how Dad had when little: “Look how clean my arm is!” Gram said she’d helped a woman who had caught her her hand in a wringer and, with a ring on, it could tear your hand up quite a bit. It was haying time, and threshing time, so they came & asked Gram if she wanted to work for her. Gram helped with the cooking, etc., but one day the threshers came, and she had to feed them, too! I asked how old she was, and Gram said, she’d just graduated from high school, so she was

sixteen. She didn’t really know that much cooking, she said. Some older lady came to help out, too, and it was only for two weeks, and they got along.

Speaking of Mr. Bridegroom…Going to Peoria, you crossed the bridge, then on the street (Gram could remember its name, but I can’t) he had a sign, Herman J. Bridegroom, and Gram had seen that every time she went into Peoria for years, and always thought it would be neat to be married by him, “and I was!”

Gram told of her ‘big square house’ in Wing (moved there right around 4th b-day, left when 12) with an orchard on the West (?) side. It had a big apple tree with a big broad branch where you could sit without danger of falling. Gram used to clamber up there with a book & read. But no danger of falling because “like your mom” she didn’t need much sleep & could never nap. But one Saturday after finishing ‘the cleaning’ they were planning for the dance that night, and Gram’s mom suggested they lie down for a nap since they’d be up late. Gram said she’d lie down but probably wouldn’t be able to sleep. But she did! And was really surprised. And couldn’t remember any other time she napped until she got older– ‘And now I can sleep anywhere!’

The fall of 1922 Grandma really wanted to go to school & had been fussing. The first grade teacher told Lena she only had six students so one more wouldn’t matter. So Gram started school at 5. By Christmas or so she and another girl had finished the first grade reader. They started on the second grade. And even though she got scarlet fever & was out of school for five weeks, still finished it. And the next fall they (she and the other girl) were started in second grade but were really bored so went into third grade at six. A boy whose dad was on

the school board ended up with them because if ‘those girls’ were going ahead he should be able to. Which is why Gram graduated at sixteen. So she thinks always sort of old for her age because she was small, and with older kids, which is why, perhaps, the age difference between her and Gramp seemed less.

Scarlet fever: the worthless doctor came and saw where Gram had scratched terribly, picked up her arm between thumb and finger as though he didn’t want to touch it, and said she had ‘seven-year itch’. Her mother asked if it couldn’t be scarlet fever and he said no. Next day he came, and Roy was also lying there on his bed, and Lena had him check both. He said Roy had the flu and just needed castor oil. But next day he, too, had a rash, and Lena called him and said angrily, “Have you ever seen a case of flu where you break out in a rash?” So he agreed maybe both had scarlet fever. Roy was out of school for four weeks. Lena, too, had scarlet fever when little, but very bad. She was in bed for a year and had to learn to walk again. Gram said scarlet fever tends to settle somewhere, and thinks it settled in her mother’s kidney’s: when Gram was a sophomore her mother just didn’t feel right but didn’t trust that same crazy doctor and drove up the Mayo Clinic, and they found that something was the matter with her kidneys. They feared cancer and removed her left kidney–scar all around her left side. When she came back, she couldn’t operate the treadle sewing machine, so Gram got her first

‘ready-made’ dress then. Other two when a senior–the yellow crepe de chine one for baccalaureate which is in her graduation photo, and her white graduation dress. Also wore cap and gown. The guest speaker at the ceremony was the Presbyterian (?) minister from Fairbury and sat upon the podium and was the first to clap when Gram’d finished her speed and referred to her speech in his, ‘so I felt pretty good about that.’ ‘I always loved school…I really probably should have gone to college…’–scholarships for being valedictorian, but never really thought about it.

Was actually only one year behind Roy in school. When he was a senior he had a motorcycle and put a sidecar on it, and that’s how they went to school. And Gram’s mother was glad because then she still had her car. Once they were driving home to Wing fom Forrest (5 miles) School and had picked up speed when they passed an alleyway. A boy had just finished eating an apple and threw the core, and it hit Gram right in the throat! Roy was furious and turned right around and drove up the alley and scared the guy half to death! He made the guy apologize to Gram. The next year when Roy was no longer in school was when Gram learned to drive the car, and Lena did without. And Gram thought she was ‘hot stuff.’ Once the football team (whose games were played in the cow pasture there in Forrest) was playing a game somewhere, and Gram got permission to drive part of the team in her car. Big old four-story schoolhouse, grade school on first floor. Salutatorian Virginia. Gram had very few dresses: would wear one one week, the other the next. But one winter she had a part-wool dress Lena made, and wore it all winter long! I asked if she got sick of it. She said, “Yes! I was so glad when spring came!” Another big maple tree behind the house, with the clothesline below it. And once Gram was hanging out clothes and was barefoot, and a bee was in the grass and stung her foot.

Didn’t always have a Christmas tree because they were sort of poor. But when Roy got older he insisted on it. So (“because we didn’t have electricity then”) they had little round holders with springclips to attach to branches, with pinky-width, 3-inch candles in them. Christmas morning they had to wait at the top of the stairs. Lena’d said “Wait here while I check to see if Santa’s gone” and she’d light candles, and then they could come down. One Christmas it was really cold so Lena told her she could sleep with Roy (chimney there & warmer!). Very excited so they couldn’t sleep, and Gram’s imagination got the better of her, and she said she thought she heard sleigh bells. Then later, watching the chimney, she was sure she saw a shadow and was sure it was Santa!

Some folks at Wing got together to build a community center where they had Saturday night dances. Gram’s father called (not sang) the dances, perhaps the only caller. So he didn’t get to dance much, though he and Lena loved to, ‘but she had lots of partners’ and Gram loved it too, but didn’t get to much after she began dating Grandpa, because he didn’t like to. Once the weather and roads were bad so they left the car and walked in along the tracks! (one mile to town) Gram lived from age 2-4 in Elmwood, Illinois with her grandparents. Mom says

Grandma had to work hard when a girl, had to keep house while her mom worked in the fields.

I asked Grandma about a little store on tricorner lot along North Illinois–once a tiny grocery where Mom remembers getting popsicles out of a cooler. Grandpa and Grandma parked near it in 1940 when they first came out here in the trailer (18’) they bought from Gram’s parents. On the corner with the hitch was a little dressing room/’bathroom’ (but no toilet). And a little 2-foot-square heating stove for wood or coal (Gram always forgot to empty ashes till done cleaning and made a mess again)–stove at back of trailer, the couch/bed either rested on floor or put higher on little shelves.

The cake at the double wedding slid over (held at McGavins (?) where Elks is now), and someone had to hold up the top layer during the reception.

Grandma’s Composition About a Memorable Pet

The most interesting pet we ever had as children, and there were many, was a squirrel.

We lived in central Illinois and had gone into the timber near the Vermillion River to look for

spring flowers. Three young boys had gotten some baby squirrels, no doubt having killed the

mother and robbed her nest. They showed them to us and my little sister just had to have one of

them so my Mother agreed to take one. It was so tiny that it just fit into the palm of one’s hand

and we had it for three weeks before it opened its eyes. My Father didn’t think we could raise it

as sometimes a wild animal will not take food but my Mother prepared a formula and fed the baby

every three hours, day and night.

As the weeks passed the little squirrel became the pet of the household. We bought a toy

doll bottle and it learned to drink its milk, holding the bottle in its front paws like a baby. When

we ate, it went around the table over our shoulders for a handout from each one of us. Or, if it

was outside when we were eating, it would climb up on the screen door, hang upside down and

“bark” at us until we let it inside. My Father used to give the squirrel ginger snaps and, when it

had eaten all it wanted, it would bury the rest under a pillow. My Father would get the cookie,

give it back to the squirrel and it woud bury it again, patting down the pillow with its front feet.

When we gave it a grape or plum to eat, it would turn it quickly in its paws and the peelings

would fly, first from one side and then the other. We really enjoyed all the things we learned from

this little pet.

In the fall of the year, it disappeared and some friends in the country called and said the

squirrel was at their place in a walnut grove. My Mother went out and brought it home but within

a week it was back in the walnut grove so we decided it was looking for companionship and let it

stay there. However, we never forgot our little friend and the enjoyment it gave us.

Grandma’s dad went to shell corn the morning she was born. It was very cold. Lena had to call him to come back home. When Grandma was 6 weeks old she had pneumonia. Again later, nearly died lips & nails blue. fluid in lungs broken loose, Gram’s mom came in & she was covered in it. 7 mths red measles. Lena didn’t know and didn’t protect eyes. So when a bit older’d put out in evening in high chair after sunset but tears would still roll down cheeks. When Grandma’s own kids had it years later there were dark red drapes in living room so sat in there in dark & Gram read out of Childcraft books. ‘It seemed that’s all I got done all day long.’

Born in IN, to IL when 2 and lived on Grandfather’s farm SW of Elmwood, IL remember being sick but not what she had. Big bush at corner of room upstairs at head of stairs where she & Roy slept. Can remember roosters crowing. B-day when they moved to Forrest, little shacky house 1 big bedroom, liv room, kitchen. Kerosene heather for heat, 3′ tall or so, doesn’t need chimney. That night heated wienies on top of it for supper (4th b-day)

Marilyn was born in 1922, when she a year old built a new house on that place–the big square one. Gram ‘just crazy about that baby’, wanted to hold her all the time. Lena said Roy didn’t try in HS because he was afraid he might have to make a speech.

Grandma started working Feb 13 1934 first job for Corn Hog Association Roosevelt thing. They’d measure farm field sizes, etc., & Gram had to make up worksheets & figure acreages. Feb-Sept ’34. 6 days/wk. $3/day at first, lowered to $2.50/day. Called back (laid off in winter) & back up. Offices in Farm Bureau building. 1st yr. got athlete’s foot, infection then from unwashed stockings (new) & new shoes & had to go home & have Mom take care of me. Next yr. then (summer) got German measles & had to go home again (had been in room in Peoria) & while home Marilyn came down with mumps. To work for a week then she came down w/mumps & home again.

1st yr. Peoria stayed with friend of family who helped get job & roomed with her. 2nd yr. just had room & ate in restaurants. Got tired of eating out a lot. Breakfast 10c doughnuts & glass of milk. Sandwich 15c & milk 5c lunch. Supper 35c Hated to ride streetcars so walked to work (& saved 10c) prob. 12-14 blocks. Later then worked year-round. 1938 got married, boss let her stay on (not usual). Had taken Civil Service exam, didn’t expect job from it (indicated grade not high enough) but May ’38 opp. to Rock Island Arsenal.

Apt. in Moline, IL to work there (not sure at first whether to give up job & go there). At first just clerk/typist, after while in charge of checking other girls’ work, last 6 mths typing up inspectors reps on M1 (2) tanks & there til Sept 1940 then moved out here.

1935 did make trip here–Gram Roy Gramp Alice & another kid & his sister; visited Jessens & they went hunting. Here from Sept 15-early Nov, celebrated Roy’s b-day on way home. Ran out of $ so last few days didn’t eat til Peoria where they knew they could get $.

After here lived in trailer @ big house with garage next to Stardust (not that house though). Didn’t do anything that fall; Gramp didn’t want anything to interfere with hunting (feared unemployment would find him a job!) Gram tired of trailer so looked for job–Selective Service in Boise, bought little house there on N 20th. Shortly after Gramp at Sawtooth Co. on Grove St. Hunting trip to mts. rode in 14 mi. on horseback to old miner’s cabins on Mid Fork Salmon R. Big group. Gram didn’t shoot any deer. U. Lee & wife along, & she killed a deer (hadn’t shot or hunted before) Afterwards Eileen got white as a sheet ‘I killed it…’ Could kill 2 in that area. Got quite a few.

Pretty well situated then (a home, etc.) so decided to start family. Gram quit her job aboutt Thanksgiving Then Dec 7 Pearl Harbor. Gram felt bad, that they could’ve used her help. Then at Christmas planned trip to IL on Portland Rose midnight but at 9 am her dad called–Lena’s ruptured appendix, so got stuff together & caught noon train. Rough trip not knowing what they’d find. But had just discovered Sulfa; used that, & prob what saved her life. Stayed with her a week or 2 after Gramp came back, pretty soon after learned she was to have Mom.

May 1942 changed Gramp’s classification to 1A so he could have been drafted (w/Gram pregnant they didn’t want that) so to Portland to shipyards (doing war work so 4F). Oct 1942 Mom was born. Gramp disliked job–welded too fast (!) & foreman said to slow down–he made others feel bad. Refused to, since a war effort. Foreman said if he didn’t he’d get fired. Gramp said, “No, because I’m quitting!” Foreman said he’d go straight to army. But back to ID & farm (also necessary and therefore exempt from the draft). German POW & Japanese, & some Mexicans. Back to ID March 1943. Bought little farm E of Caldwell, there when Jay born.

Jan. 1946 back to IL & visited with folks in Fairbury. Her folks came up & got Gram, Mom & Jay & then to TX. Gramp back here, sold farm, stored stuff. then to TX, too, brought back up to IL. There a little while then back here. Rented little place 1 mi. S of the farm, looked around for houses but couldn’t find satisfactory, so had this one built 1947 (Feb 17) moved in

[When Grandma was born] the doctor came to the house. It was the same doctor as delivered Uncle Roy, but a different house. Birth certificate: Grandma needed hers for her civil service job, but there was no record of it, so her parents had to swear an affidavit. 1 place listed her birthdate as Feb. 17, and another Feb. 19. Uncle Roy’s birth certificate was there, though. Grandpa H’s wasn’t there either, so his mother had to swear one also. Grandma and Grandpa were dating by late ’34 or early ’35, hanging out with his brothers and sisters. To American Legion dance and stayed with Alice. Civil Service exam: shorthand part did bad (hot & sweaty). Encouraged to retake it but later called up to work. Late ’30s was married.