Christmas Past Part Duex: My Dad “Steals” a Christmas Tree

One of my favorite stories of a Christmas past is from 1958. As family knows, my dad lost his job in 1956 when the company he worked for went under due to some nefarious practices by the company financing them. He was about 48 years old, and work was hard to find for a man that old in those days. People thought he should have done better, taken care of his family better, etc. He had a small business he had never given up, which helped tide us over, but Christmas times were hard for a few years.

By 1958, we were living in Middletown, and he was selling roofing materials for large buildings in the winter and doing the application in the summer. He had gotten paid from the sales of some of the material, and we had some money, but not much extra. We went to Muncie on that Christmas Eve for some prudent Christmas shopping, and to the grocery store, and were nearly out of what little money we had. The grocery was the A&P on South Madison.

Now, those of your who knew my dad, Bob Moore, know him to have been a good looking man and a nice dresser. And for some strange reason, when he lost his job, and we were forced to move around, we somehow never lost the 1952 Cadillac that we had bought several years earlier, before the job loss. I don’t know how that happened, I just know it did. So that night, in Muncie, my dad was dressed up, having come from doing business, and my mother and I were not shabbily put together either.

As we walked out of the grocery, my dad saw a row of Christmas trees propped against the building. The manager had helped us carry our groceries out to the car and was putting them in the trunk when my dad asked, “How much do you want for a Christmas tree?” The man named a price I do not recall, and my dad said, “Well, I know a poor family who could use one.” The manager said, “Well, go ahead and just take one, then. No cost.” They picked one out, and tied it to the 1952 Cadillac for the ride to the poor family’s house, and off we went.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, my mother turned to my dad and asked, “How much was the Christmas tree?” He answered, “Nothing?” She was astonished. “How did you do that?” “Well,” he said, “I told the manager I knew a poor family who needed one, and he just gave me one for them for free. We ARE the poorest family I know.” My mother was mortified. But the tree went home with us that night, and shone brightly in our home in the country east of Middletown for that Christmas season.

And that, my children, is how my dad “stole” a Christmas Tree.

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The Way We Were: Graduate School at Eastern Kentucky University

1975 Reunion in Berea croppedFront L-R: Libby McCord, Danny Miller, Patti Pigg, Christine Moore, Ron Ball.  Standing: Alice Nevels, Jennifer Riley, June ?, Dewey Weddle partially hidden by Owen Branum, and Darrel Hovious.

Every August, when it’s time to go back to school, I always think back to school beginnings of my lifetime from Kindergarten to graduate school. I remember some very clearly, others not so, but the one that stands out for me this year is forty years ago this week, when I registered for classes and began my study for my Master’s Degree, at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. One reason it stands out is the picture above and the people I came to know and care about in that year and in those subsequent. To say my life changed substantially is probably an understatement.

Why Eastern Kentucky? They were the first to offer me a graduate teaching assistantship in their English Department. Having such an assistantship was important for me to be able to study. Secondly, the move coincided with my father’s retirement. He asked my mother where she would like to live, and she said, to no one’s surprise, Kentucky. The assistantship offer and the move, as it turned out, were a good fit. So in August, 1974, we left Muncie, Indiana, and moved to a house at the corner of West Main and the Tate’s Creek Pike, where my parents would live for the next eleven years.

I remember climbing the steps the to Wallace Building, where the EKU English Department was then located, and thinking that I would never come to love this place as I loved Ball State. How wrong I was. The Wallace Building was new, situated at the east* end of the old football stadium, and looked out onto the quadrangle which also included the new Chapel of Meditation, and the Powell Building, which at that time served as the student union.

There were eleven of us who served as teaching assistants that year: Danny Miller, Darryl Hovious, Ron Ball, Dewey Weddel, Jane Taylor Boster,, Alice Nevels, Jennifer Riley, Patti Pigg, Owen Branum, June,  whose last name does not come to me right away, and me.  At age 30 I was the oldest one of the group, and we all shared an office on the third floor of Wallace.  Thankfully, we were never all there at the same time! We never expected, going in to that year, that we would come out the other end as an extremely close knit group.  There were lots of things we never guessed, but most of them were happy.

Our “beloved” faculty, included Charlie Sweet, Jack Culross, (who were actually not much older than I was I think,) and Edith Williams, who truly was beloved, and after whom I think I’ll pattern the rest of my teaching career.  Edith was outrageous, Charlie was “cool” because he was good-looking and didn’t wear socks with his loafers, and Jack Culross…well Jack was just Jack.  They all had wonderful senses of humor and when we invited them to our graduate school parties, of which we had several, they actually came and enjoyed themselves.  They later told us that they had never had a group of TA’s such as ours, and we took it as a compliment.  Almost everyone of us gloried in being different.

Fond memories:  study sessions at the old library; Jack Culross’ Literary Criticism class, which almost all of us where in, and during which we often got into arguments that had Jack crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the chalkboard, looking at us in amazement; Ron Ball’s reaction to my being divorced; Patti’s love life; our Milton class taught by Byno Rodes, who taught us about Moses’ brother A-run, (Aaron) and his wife Ma-ree Pal (Mary Powell); Darrell’s hilarious-to-the-point-of-crying recitation of the prologue of Milton’s Paradise Lost” as Gomer Pyle; trips to Berea with Danny, to country dance and to pick daffodils in the spring; Charlie Sweet giving me a B on my first graduate school paper, and telling me what to do to improve my writing, but also telling me to not stop talking in his class or any others (now you know who to blame?) and all of us reading Bleak House ahead of time for our summer Victorian Lit. class, taught by Culross, and then being told it was full and we couldn’t sign up for it, a circumstance which would raise anyone’s ire, and then protesting to the head of the department. until we finally got into the class; and oh so many more.

I  must not forget to mention my dear friend Libby McCord, who although she wasn’t a TA, was a close friend of Danny’s and enrolled in grad school too.  She was one of the gang, and she is still my friend to this day.  I hope she reads this with love.

Most of us scattered after graduation in August of 1975, but I had one more course to take that fall so I didn’t graduate until after taking my graduate exams in 1977.  We kept in touch for a while, had a reunion, the picture above, in the fall of 1975.  Some went on to earn their doctorates, others to teach.  Some we lost touch with for years.  But Danny, Darrell, Libby, Ron, and I always kept in touch.  Danny went on to become the head of the English Department at Northern Kentucky State, and left us too soon in November of 2008, just after the election, when he died of a stroke.  I still exchange Christmas cards with Alice Nevels, and Libby and I are still in touch via Facebook. 

And so it goes.  My Master of Arts in English gave me many opportunities to teach at the college level, including my present job at Butler for the last nineteen years.  Harold and I were married in the Chapel of Meditation in 1976, and lived in Richmond for four years afterward. My step-son graduated from Madison Central in 1980 and my step-daughter graduated from Eastern in 1982.  I became good friends with Libby’s mother and father, and her sister Sally was my student at Model.  I will always be thankful that Eastern chose me, and that it has become as much home to me as Ball State.  It is truly “My Old Kentucky Home”.

*directions are hard to divine in Kentucky sometimes because nothing is as straight as it is in Indiana. 

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A Day Like No Other for (Most of) My Generation

Fifty years ago today I did almost exactly what I did this morning.  I got up, ate breakfast, gathered up my things for school, and went to campus.  On that day however, I was a sophomore at Ball State, and it was the second day of finals.  (We were on the quarter system in those days, and we had finals at a different date than most schools now, even BSU.)  I had a final that morning, I don’t remember in what, and afterward I met some friends about 11:00 at the cafeteria in the old Student Center.  We ate lunch and went our separate ways, planning to see each Monday next. 

We lived on Tillotson Ave, in Muncie, in those days and I got home probably around noon or so.  My mother watched “As the World Turns” which came on at one o’clock and I was lying on the couch, watching it with her.  At about 1:45 or so, just as Nancy Hughes was pouring Grandpa Hughes a cup of coffee (if my memory serves, and it usually does) the screen went to “Special Report”, then immediately to Walter Cronkite, who gave us the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, while on a visit there, and had been rushed to the nearest hospital, which happened to be Parkland, we later came to find out.  I don’t remember exactly what my reaction was, or Mother’s, but I know that we were shocked at the news, and even more so when it was announced a few minutes later, that the President was dead.  I remember Walter Cronkite taking off his glasses, looking down, speechless for a few seconds, before putting them back on and returning to the story. 

It’s hard to understand this now, perhaps, but those who were my age, had placed such high hopes on our country’s future because of this new young president.  More than the past two presidents, he represented the future that we were to be a part of, and we eagerly looked forward to embracing it with the ideals he inspired.  Although many of us tried to become what he thought we could, I think we failed to see the forest for the trees.  As I read once, “The Devil can set his table anywhere, and any time; he doesn’t need a thunderstorm to do it.”  And “the Devil” made sure we knew that by 1970. (I’m not being religious here. It’s simply a phrase I like.)

This was the first major event of television news and the wall to wall coverage we have become so used to now.  The radio stations were given to playing classical or somber music. For four days, through the following Monday, we watched nothing but coverage of the aftermath and the funeral.  I remember John-John’s salute, and Jackie at Caroline going up to the casket and slipping their hands under the flag to touch it as it rested on Lincoln’s bier in the Capital Rotunda (where our class had visited just the year before).   And then came the funeral, and the casket borne on the horse drawn caisson with the riderless horse (named Blackjack) with the boots turned backward in the stirrups led behind.  And then, to many’s surprise, came Jackie, Robert, and Ted Kennedy, and others whom I’m not sure of, walking along behind these at the head of the funeral procession.  Jackie had swathed herself in black, including a long black veil covering her face, for the entirety of the her time in public, in the true tradition of mourning the dead throughout history.

At Arlington Cemetery the body was lowered into the ground at the foot of the hill in front of Arlington House (once home to Robert E. Lee and his family) and the eternal flame was lit.  I saw a live picture of it this morning, burning brightly against the overcast skies of Northern Virginia.  

I cannot explain  my feelings during all of this, except to say that they were of great sadness.  Our country had lost a president, a woman was a widow, and two young children were fatherless.  At that time, Rose Kennedy has already lost two of her children, and In the coming years of the 1960’s she would lose one more.  But that’s a story for another time, say April 4th.

“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”  Edward (Ted) Moore Kennedy, 1980

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More on the Moores Part One: In Which We Meet Our Slave Owning Ancestor

ImageThis is a photo of my great-great grandfather, William St. Clair Moore, often referred to as William C. Moore.  He was born, probably in Kentucky, on December 23, 1796, and died in Boyle County, Kentucky, on August 19, 1867.  This photo is from a tintype given me by his granddaughter, Mary T. Moore Irvine,  He was the son of Reuben and Mary Bird Moore, who came to Kentucky from Shenandoah County, Virginia about 1792.  When he was 38 he married Nancy Jane Owens, the daughter of Jeremiah Owens and Margaret Pittman Owens. (Jeremiah was the nephew of Simon Kenton.)  She was 16.  I have no record of his being married before, nor of any children, so I can’t account for his marriage at 38; however, my dad had several uncles who would have been this man’s grandsons who did not marry for the first time until their 30’s, so it might just have been the Moore way.

ImageThe picture above is of the Moore homestead, which started out as a log structure, on the right side of what you see here.  After we moved to Kentucky in 1974 we found and visited the house and took this picture.  This was where William and Nancy lived.  (The couple on the front porch are Mr. and Mrs. Crow, who owned the property then.)  The house is gone now.  It was torn down about 8 years ago, and someone built a McMansion over it and the graveyard that was to the right of the house.  William, Nancy, and one of their sons, John, and his wife, Julia were buried there.  But I digress.

William and Nancy had 11 children who are listed on the census records.  One was my father’s grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Moore (T.J.).  And yes, William owned slaves.  The 1850 Slave Schedule census lists his as having the following:  1 male age 40, 1 female age 16, 1 male age 10, 1 male age 7, and one male, age 5.  The 1860 Slave Schedule Census lists 1 male age 46, 1 female age 23, 1 male age 20, 1 male age 17, 1 male age 14, 1 female age 6,  and 1 female age 2.  Despite the different ages listed I am fairly certain that the first five listed on each census are the same people.  The other two are probably her children by the older man.  All are listed as black, so I am assuming that the children were all fathered by the older man, also.  There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of co-mingling of the races.

You will notice, of course, that there are no names for the slaves listed.  Very few owners listed their slaves by name anywhere but on plantation/farm records.  The best way to find slave names is in wills and other probate documents.  I think seeing them listed really brought slavery home to me.

Now, William owned between 5 and 7 slaves in a ten year period, and probably some before that.  The war would have freed them.  How do I feel about the fact that an ancestor owned slaves?  Well, quite honestly, while I don’t approve of slavery, there is nothing I can do about the fact that he owned slaves.  I can only do what can be done at the present time, and move forward with that.  I have been told by many that I should be ashamed of my slave owning ancestor.  Excuse me, but he wasn’t doing anything illegal for the time, and once again I repeat, there isn’t anything I can do about it.

“Moore” later.


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3016 Colerain Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio

John Will (Papaw) Estes 1950 in front of 3016 Colerain Avenue, Cincinnati, OH

(To my family: If I have posted this before, read it anyway.)

This is the address of the house my grandparents Estes lived in from 1942, until Papaw’s death in 1959. The picture is of Papaw Estes in the very small front yard of the house. I’m not sure how he got in there because there was no gate I ever knew of as a child, when I was most familiar with the house. The house was three story brick, with a concrete front porch, railing, and uprights. It had a front door off the porch but also had a front gate and a walkway to the right side of the picture, and a side door off that walkway. There was a small back yard with a narrow garden plot on three sides, and my Papaw Estes had roses planted in the plots on all three sides. There was also a cellar entrance in the back yard. It was on the east side of Colerain just a few doors north of the main intersection of Colerain and Hopple, that section known as Camp Washington.

When John Will and Lillie Emmett Estes moved there in 1942, they lived on the second floor I believe, and Uncle Mose and Aunt Helen had rooms on the third floor. The house was at that time owned by Mr. George Ernst, whom the family ended up calling Uncle George Ernst. His wife had died in early 1942, and, my grandparents moved in with him so my grandmother could be his housekeeper. I don’t know how she came to know about him or that he needed a housekeeper, but nonetheless this is the story I was always told, which was corroborated by my brother Jack. At this time Papaw would have had a job outside the home, and Helen would have been working at Crosley or Wright’s. I know she worked at Wright’s during much of the war, making airplane engines. As for what Uncle Mose was doing, well, I won’t even venture a guess.

By the time I came to remember the house, Mr. Ernst was dead and Mamaw and Papaw lived on the first floor, with Aunt Helen and Uncle Estil on the second, and I guess Mose and Etta Mae and their family on the third floor. After Mamaw died in 1953, Mose and Etta May moved to the first floor, and Papaw took the front bedroom on the third floor.

All the floors were reach by two landing staircases. There was red embossed tile half way up the wall as the stairs ascended to the second floor. I remember touching it each time I went up the stairs. Each of the first two floors had a small closet spaced toilet, with a full bath on the third floor. There was also a large laundry area on the third floor. When we went to visit, Della and I slept on a small bed in that area.

The third floor was where Aunt Helen stored her clothes and kept the costumes for the Briarhoppers. I loved to go up there and stand and look at her clothes and shoes and to touch them almost reverently, hoping someday I would get to have such clothes and costumes. Della, Johnny, Sheila, and I would play along the walkway never going outside the wrought iron gate (I can still hear it opening and clanging shut in my mind) and out in the back yard. Occasionally, when we would be visiting, an old man in an overcoat, with his hat pulled down, would come to the gate and call my name. Oddly enough, I would go to him, once I knew he was my Grandpa Moore. He had found out my dad was in town, and had come to see him. He never went inside the house. They always stood by the front gate and talked, then my grandpa left.

Aunt Helene (she had added the “e” by this time) did fittings and made the costumes in her second floor kitchen. As far as I know, she never cooked there. Actually the idea of Aunt Helene cooking is far funnier than that of me cooking. A lot of coffee was drunk, and cigarettes smoked, in that kitchen, however. Her living room, at the front of the house, was always dark, and she had a dark blue sofa and easy chairs, and a glass top coffee table with sides that opened out. She also had a television, which she would allow us to watch, but only if we sat quite still and didn’t jump around, etc. She was the same way when she worked on my hair, Della’s and Sheila’s. We had to sit still or she’d whack us in the head with the brush.

Of course, you may be curious as to how my grandparents got to stay in this house after Mr. Ernst died in 1949. Actually, he left it to my grandmother, in her name alone. He also left her at least two rings, which she then left one to my mother. and one to Jack. Although I was never told this, I am quite sure that Uncle George Ernst left the house to her in her name only because he knew that if he left it to Papaw Papaw could get drunk and sell it or use it for his own purposes and she would be homeless, so to speak. When I asked Jack if he thought Mr. Ernst was in love with Mamaw he did not hesitate to answer yes. Was she in love with him? Who knows. But he saw to it that she had a home for the years left to her.

Of the two rings spoken of above, the one left to Jack has a most interesting history. Mamaw died in January of 1953 and Jack came back from Korea in June of that same year. He took the ring, which was a man’s ring, and had the setting altered and the diamond remounted into the ring that became Jeannie’s engagement ring, which she wears to this day. The other ring my mother wore until she died and I have it now. I do not wear it because it needs to have the prongs redone so the diamond will stay in it. A task for the near future.

And so there you have the history of my grandparents house as I knew it. After Papaw died in 1959, the house was sold and the proceeds divided up among the children. Aunt Helene remained on the second floor, renting it and the third, for several more years, leaving when she married Uncle Gil Schumer in 1970. The house was torn down about 5 or so years ago, and there is a big Wendy’s and its parking lot on the corner which stretches across the ground on which the house sat.

More memories have come to mind, but this is all ready too long.

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June 30, 2013 · 4:52 pm

Fear of Flying

My mother grew up in an age basically without airplanes. Although they were around they were not nearly as prevalent as they are today.   Her best friend Grace Snapp’s first husband was a barnstorming pilot, whom she ran away to marry, probably sometime in the 1920’s,  and who was soon after their marriage killed in a plane crash. When I was a child, my Nan-nan (Aunt Ann) had a gentlemen friend, Mr. Ed Hewitt, who owned a small plane, probably a Piper of some kind, and he often took her up with him.  She loved it!  Mother had a dream for much of my childhood about a plane coming over our house at Brown’s and falling from the sky, she being able to nothing to help.  That only added to her fear.  Believe it or not, at one time I wanted to be an airline hostess, when I was about twelve and there was a series about it on some television show I watched.  I don’t remember what happened to that idea, but evidently it died a’borning.  As most of you know, I’ve never flown on an airplane.  I love to watch them fly, take off and land, and to tour them on the ground, but I just can’t get myself on one.  Major panic attack time.  I’ve thought about getting drunk and getting on one, like Richard Burton had to, but that would ruin the image everyone has of me! ;-)

Whenever Jeff flies and I know it, I always wonder what my mother would think of it.  Sure, she’d fuss, but since it’s Jeff….but then again, maybe not.  She would, however, at least know that there was nothing she could do to stop it, so she might as well be quiet.  Once she convinced herself of that she would be okay.  Maybe she’s watching him anyway, since he’s so close to her at those times.  I like to think she’s watching over us all, no matter what we are doing.


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Lindbergh, Hauptmann, Mary, Jack, and Me

I just watched an interesting program on the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby on a new edition of the _Nova_ series on PBS.  It had many interesting theories, but no conclusive evidence about who the actual kidnappers were, although Hauptmann seems to have definitely been involved.  I am interested in this case because my mother was, and she talked about it when I was a child.  She never believed Hauptmann was guilty, and she never cared for Lindbergh after he went to Germany to live in 1935 because he came back seeming to espouse the German cause shortly before the war began in Europe in 1939. 

So what, you may ask, does this have to do with anything genealogical in our family?  We weren’t related to any of the players in the piece, of course, but I think it had a direct effect on how my mother cared for her two children.  The kidnapping happened when Jack was about a year old, and Mother always said that while our family wasn’t the Lindbergh’s, the whole story made her especially careful of where Jack went, what he did, and who he was with as he grew up.  I never could understand however how she allowed him to get on the streetcar on Sundays with Howard Knight, his best friend, and ride all over town.  She was none the less protective of him I think it’s fair to say.

Then came little Christine.  I think she was more protective of me than of Jack, and I think it was because I was a girl, and, as she always said, a cute little girl.  (Sorry Tammy, if you read this, but I was.)  At any rate, kept watch over me wherever we went, and always warned me against speaking to strange men.  (There are at least a couple of times in my life that I wish I had listened to that advice a little more! ;-) )  At any rate, I wasn’t to leave the yard with anyone, and if anyone approached me anywhere and tried to drag me away I was to scream bloody murder.  Before I started to school, and because I had a habit of wandering away from her in stores, she had a harness for me which had a strap hooked to the back and a wrist strap for her to keep hold of me.  (Those were not unheard of in the day, and although today it would be deemed child abuse probably, I’ve seen cases where I wish people still used them.)  The one time when I was about 12 and she did leave me alone in the children’s section in the basement of the old Anderson Carnegie Library was the only time anyone ever threatened me, but I’m not going to write about that here. 

At any rate, if my mother, or my father, for that matter, was overly protective of us as children I think it was because they loved us, and wanted us to be as safe as possible, not unlike today’s parents.  The Lindbergh kidnapping, like the Sandy Hook murders, and so many others events, made parents across the country hug their children a little more closely and made them become a little more protective of their “little” ones.

The program pointed out one interesting thing about Lindbergh that I didn’t know, and that was that when he returned to Germany after WW II as a consultant for Pan American Airlines and the U.S. government, he managed to secretly, and under and assumed name, father children by seven German women, said children having come forward in 2003 with DNA proof of their parentage.  He was a great believer in eugenicss, one reason he was so enamored of “The Master Race” theory, and oddly enough, one reason why some people think he might have had something to do with the kidnapping of his own child!

And now you know the rest of the story, about kidnapping, over protective moms, and how traumatic events shape our lives.  And now, I strongly suspect, my mother knows who kidnapped/killed little Charles Lindbergh.


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