Thursday, August 19, 2010

Preacher, Preacher, Hair on Fire

My mother's family
My mother's family was a large one, as you can see. Although one of them was missing in this photo, there were 13 children in all. There was such an age spread that the older ones had already left and started raising their own huge families when some of the younger ones were still being born back home. My mother is that sweet child in the bottom row on the far right. This photo would have been taken around 1919. Later note: My sister, Jean, and I have spent a lot of time with this photo. Cousin Cheryl is right (in the comment below) that the last born, David, is not in this photo. Looking carefully at birth dates, we have decided that would mean that my mother is not the child on the right end of the first row, but is the girl who moved, directly behind her. She was born in 1914, and the last child would have been born in 1928, a year or so after this photo was taken.

They lived on a farm up by the border between Maine and New Brunswick. You can tell they are farmers by the "farmer's tans" on the men--tanned and reddened faces with white foreheads that would have been protected from the sun by their hats when they were out working on the potato crop. Many years later, my mother would beg me not to move back up to Canada, because all she remembered about that place was the hard, hard work grubbing up potatoes out in the fields.

See that fellow who looks like his head is smoking? That's my Uncle Clifford, who later became a preacher. He was a man who liked to pray whenever it occurred to him, and he liked lots of company. He came to visit our family when we had left the dust of the Canadian potato fields far behind and had moved to a suburban lifestyle in northern California. Another later note: Patricia Picard (see comment below), a member of the church the Clifford founded in Bangor, Maine for many years, tells me that Clifford is second from the left in the back row. So now we have the brothers figured out, left to right: Beecher, Clifford, and Jesse. Thank you Patricia!

My mother had also left the charismatic church of her childhood far behind, and my sister and I were raised like little heathens. My parents occasionally did send us off to church on our own with dimes for the collection plate. I remember having a real religious revelation one Sunday on our way to the neighborhood Episcopal church. I explained to my baby sister that we should walk in the woods and Appreciate Nature instead of attending church with the all those "tea party ladies." She agreed with me, as she always did back then, and we made sure to look around appreciatively at some trees and flowers as we flagged down Glen the Ice Cream Man to spend our collection money on creamsicles, all frosty orange and white.

My parents were pleased that we were seemingly "getting religion" every week with no effort on their part. We were also pleased with the arrangement, as was Glen the Ice Cream Man.

All was well, until Uncle Clifford showed up, probably taking a swing through the western states on some missionary trip or other. As I said before, Uncle Clifford liked public prayer, administered often and lengthily, with all participants down on their knees. I spent my Uncle Clifford prayer time peeking over my folded hands and sneaking looks out the California-style picture windows, mortified that my friends might be passing by and might see me in this peculiar position.

As I peeked, I noticed that the adults all kept their eyes tightly closed while in prayer and that gave me my getaway opportunity. I inched along on my knees, painfully and slowly, across the hardwood floor until reaching the carpeted hallway and, speeding up on all fours, made it to my room where I crawled under my bed.

I fully intended to stay there until Uncle Clifford went off to save some other hapless suburbanites, but my mother eventually discovered my hideout. She refused to believe that I was "talking to Jesus" under there, as I claimed. Sadly, that made her suspicious of my other religious activities, and I don't remember seeing much of Glen the Ice Cream Man on Sundays after that.

Little Bucksnort and me, before we got religion


  1. I'm glad to see you've started another blog. Being retired makes it more likely that you'll be able to keep multiple efforts going (unlike us poor working slobs who have more ambition than time--but mine will come). Good luck with this; it's already really interesting, and should prove to be a nice companion to the "cookbook."

    Anyway, the story's a hoot, and I look forward to more of your family confessionals.

  2. Praise Jesus And Pass The Holy Creamsicles... slurp. oops, almost forgot... Amen.

  3. ....the creamsicles we've been having lately consist of vanilla vodka and orange soda...yum. Great blog, Clair, can't wait to hear more.

  4. Owlfarmer, I have no idea how you found this new blog before I even spread the word, but thank you for being the first commenter ever on Remember. Yes, retirement gives a person to dream up all these projects and, hopefully, the time to keep them all going!

    Bucksnort, you perfectly illustrate my point about early religious training.

    Mary! You shock me! But, perhaps this is a recipe I could have for the recipe blog? The pressure to publish is terrific, and this sounds like a recipe that might have a story. I promise to quote you!

  5. Hey there, Duffy.....the one missing in the photo is Uncle David. That baby on Aunt Alma's lap is my mom, your Aunt Faith. So, since she's about 1 in this photo, chances were Grandmother Crabtree was pregnant (did I say that?) at the time, barely. Therefore, if I'm not mistaken, this photo was taken sometime during 1927 since mom was born in 1926 & Uncle David in 1928. The kids were pretty much all born every 2 years, starting with Alma in 1900, ending if course in 1928 with David. Surprisingly, she only lost maybe 2 or 3 babies, which during that time was amazing. We certainly come from sturdy stock, don't we?

  6. Cheryl (Mickey)--That's Alma, next to our grandfather? If so, then I count 13 kids including Alma, with our grandmother missing from the photo?

    Can you identify everyone in each row, left to right? And do you know the birth order? I know the family "rhyme" that goes

    Alma, Hope, and Bessie,
    Cliff and Beech and Jessie,
    Elva, Anna, Saidie, Gladys,
    Lois, Faith, and David

    but didn't think that it was in order of birth exactly. If this photo was taken in 1927, my mother (Elva) would have been 14 or so. Which would she be?

  7. I am wrong. That is Grandmother Crabtree with mum on her lap. Oops. Excuse that oversight. But...I'll scan & get some of the others too. Thanks for the list, I actually forgot 2 of the aunts names. Shame on me. Let me know of there are any specific pics u want when u start ur next chapter.

  8. Cheryl, I'm pretty sure that I am wrong, too, in saying that the photo would have been taken around 1919--it must be a bit later. I've got to get out my big genealogy box to see all the charts and family trees and check on everyone's birth so I can get them in order.

    You should just come on over and bring all your photos! I've got a lot, too, but I'm sure you've got different ones. Let's see what we can share as this blog develops. I sure wish you lived closer, but we're better off now that I am in NM instead of NH.

  9. I cannot say who is on the picture, only guess. I know Lois was oldest then from youngest it was David, Faith & Lois but the "poem" seems the birth order but who knows. I never really new Lois, Hope, Jesse or Beecher, I barely remember Clifford actually, but spoke with Sade regularly up til she fell ill & didn't know she died until after dad passed last Jan. I loved Alma to death, she was such a fabulous lady. Got some stories for you bout her. It was funny cuz I always thot Faithy, Elvy & Gladie were closer in age than they were. Grandfather Crabtree added the "y" to all their names. I could go on, it for "the continuing adventures of the calamatous crabtrees" looking forward to it.

  10. Cheryl, I don't know what's wrong with me. I have all this information in my big box of genealogy files, printed out from my old dying computer. During the year we spent in Stamford, CT taking care of Bill's auntie, I had nothing but time and did all sorts of family research and interviewing. I've got all the birthdates for the Crabtrees in those files.

    My plan for this blog is to start with family stories already published on The Zees Go West, then move on to old photos that go with stories I want to tell, then get to the big genealogy box. There are some real surprises in there--things we always believed about the family that just aren't true!

    So, long story short (if possible, LOL), ignore me if I ask about any more birthdates for this generation. They are coming, by and by.

  11. I'll bet we could "photoshop" out that spirit coming out of Uncle Clifford's head, but then again, why tangle with the paranormal forces... or why not?

    1. Please feel free to play with editing that photo. I would welcome the creative touch.

  12. Clair, Clifford is the man NEXT to the man with the flaming hair....

    1. So, that would make the back row, from left to right, Beecher, Clifford, and Jesse. We'll eventually get this photo figured out with help from family and friends. I can't wait to talk with you some more, Patricia.


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