Sunday, April 6, 2014

Aunt Alma: Memories

Young Alma; she is also the fourth from the left in the
front row of the family photo used as the header for this blog

Alma was my mother's oldest sister, the first child born to their parents. When she was born on August 20, 1900 in Easton, Maine, her father, David, was 25 and her mother, Edith, was 20. 

My mother Elva, born in 1914, says that by the time she was growing up, some of her older brothers and sisters had already left home. When Alma married George McLellan, my mother was only 6 years old, so the oldest of Alma's children weren't that much younger than my mother. 

Because our immediate family lived out in California, far from most of my mother's relatives, I only got to see my Aunt Alma a few times. The time I remember best was when Alma visited our family in 1955. She would have been 55 and I was 11 and in the sixth grade. 

Alma took me to church, because she never missed a Sunday. She found a church close enough for us to walk. It was an Assembly of God, which I see via Wikipedia originated from the Pentecostal revival of the early 20th century that made a huge impact on my mother's family. The service was nothing like the one in the quiet and conservative Presbyterian church I was used to: The praying was loud, and the music was absolutely wonderful. I never forgot that experience. 

Here is another memory of Alma. This one is from my cousin, Cheryl Blakely, daughter of Alma's sister Faith:
I remember back when I was maybe 15 or 16, Alma and I used to write to each other lot. She had such a youthful mindset. It was more like she was a teenager than a woman in her 60's. She told me of how she'd go over to the retirement home across from the assisted living place where she lived and play piano for the "old folks" on Sunday. Heck, half of them were probably younger than she was. Lol. She thought it was such a scandal when she married Guy [Nickerson]. Oooh...she was 72, he was only 69....a younger man.

A third memory comes from Sheila Lafferty, a librarian at the University of Connecticut, who kindly contacted me with information about Alma:
My family came from Aroostook [Maine] Pentecostal roots and knew the Crabtrees very well. Some are in ministry and still have close ties with the family. I knew Alma as a young person and she taught me how to quilt in my early teens. 
Alma was so sweet to the three of us young girls, and we will always remember her kindness. And now, I would like to share a news clipping that Sheila sent to me. It's an amazing story about Alma and her family.

Mother Of Five Veterans Has Two More Enter Service, By Joseph Stofko
The Hartford Courant (1923-1987); Aug 24, 1952;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Hartford Courant (1764-1987)
pg. A6A

Plainville [Connecticut], Aug. 23 [1952].When Robert McLellan, 22, and his brother Murray, 20, leave Monday for their joint enlistments in the Marine Corps, their mother, Mrs. Alma McLellan, will say goodbye to the sixth and seventh of her sons to don armed services uniforms. During World War II, her five eldest sons, Russell, John, Lawrence, Eugene and Arnold, all served in various branches of the service.
"And that isn't the end yet," said Mrs. McLellan, "my eighth and ninth sons are already asking when I might sign up for their enlistments. Ivan is 16 and Daryl is 15, so that won't come about too soon." The family lives at 141 Whiting St., and also includes two daughters, Audrey and Jane. 

Five Run Garage Speaking of the older boys' service, Mrs. McLellan explained that Russell and John both served in the Army during World War II. Although they did not travel together, one followed the other through campaigns in North Africa, Italy, Belgium, and Germany. Lawrence was a member of the Seabees and saw duty in the Pacific Theatre. Eugene served as a member of the occupation army in Germany, and Arnold, a member of the National Guard, returned July 1 from service in Germany. These five boys, she said, have banded together and now operate the Highway Service Co., Main St., New Britain. 

Raised Family Alone Mrs. McLellan, who is also the grandmother of five children, has had the sole responsibility of rearing her family for the past seven years, [since] just before the youngest, Jane, was born. Few mothers in the country have seen so many sons in the service. 

Caption for accompanying photo [not included here for copyright reasons]: Left to right above are Lawrence, 27; Eugene, 25; Ivan, 16; Arnold, 24; Daryl, 15; John, 29; Murray, 20; Mrs. Alma McLellan; Robert, 21; and Russell, 30. Murray and Robert are joining the Marines; Ivan and Daryl, high school students, assist part-time in the service station. 

One last note: Alma's boys were handsome, at least if they were anything like Murray. He stopped by to visit my family in San Francisco when he was on leave and he stole my [7-year old] heart!


  1. Another delightful story about dear Aunt Alma: I remember when Aunt Alma came to visit my family in Long Beach (California) I remember I was only 9 years old at the time because my dog at the time was still just a puppy, and I had gotten him as a Christmas present in 1961. Back then, a common toy for a puppy was to take old hosiery (this was before panty hose). Well, she and my mother were dressing in my parents bedroom and the best thing I remember was Lucky, a little black poodle, running like a maniac Dow the hall with Alma close behind, saying fretfully "Oh, Faith, he has my hose". She was so cute.

  2. I remember Lucky! He was a happy happy boy.

    How could Aunt Alma have all those babies and still be beautiful? I saw the picture of her and her boys and although it wasn't a really clear photocopy, I could still see that she was still beautiful!


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