A tale of many households

My grandmother, Jeanette Shrum Willett, left us a wonderful handwritten manuscript of her life which she wrote in the mid 1980’s. She was born August 4, 1897 in Bloomington, Indiana and died March 3, 1988 in Salem, Massachusetts.  I have been transcribing her manuscript here. You can start from the beginning with Part 1.

There is a lot going on in this post. I feel my grandmother was getting tired of writing and started to do a bit of a wrap-up of everyone’s status  like what they were doing and where they lived.

My mother, Martha Lee, for example, was given exactly two sentences that explained her life from 15-22. My grandmother glossed over mom’s teenage rebellion of smoking, skipping school and hanging around the Boston Garden to meet boys.  Mom eventually straightened out, of course. I find it interesting, and a bit sad, how my grandmother focuses so much on my Aunt Jean and Uncle Burleigh and their accomplishments and less so of my mother. Education was highly admirable to my grandmother. She mentions it frequently when talking about Jean and Burleigh.

I sensed a kind of sibling rivalry, perhaps, between my grandmother and her sister Merah over the affections of their mother. Although I know that my grandmother and her sister were always very close, I know that my grandmother always felt a bit inferior to Merah. I wish my grandmother would have talked more about the later years of her parents life. She just briefly touches on it here.

The grammar, punctuation and any spelling errors are left as Jenny Shrum Willett wrote them.

Kendall Hall New Hampshire
Kendall Hall for girls, Peterborough, N.H. My mother, Martha Lee Willett, is the first girl on the left in the second row from the top.

Part 11

“Martha Lee was not happy at High School so we sent her to Kendall Hall and then to Vermont Junior College. She worked there a year after college and then came home & worked in Boston. She had met Bob Horner in Montpelier & in 1950 they became engaged and were married in October and went to live in Hartford. Burleigh was an ensign in the Navy and the two years he was in Pacific Jean went to B.U. & graduated just before he came home. They went to N.H. for a year then decided to come home & both would get Masters degrees at Tufts. We enjoyed having them with us. They went to Southern Seminary to to teach, there they saved enough and with a scholarship for Jean they went to Columbia for doctorate. They had their first baby Leigh there and I went over and had the joy of keeping care for her.

Mom on her wedding day, October 21, 1950 in Swampscott, Massachusetts.

Harold loved to fish and we went to Danaroscotta Sunsil Lodge in the fall. I enjoyed the change & good food and looked forward to it every year. In 1950 we took our first trip to Florida visited Williamsburg on way down motel were $5 & $6 a night gas & oil $64 for whole trip. My father died in 46 and my mother came to live with me until her death in 55. She would visit Merah for short periods but always wanted to come back to me. She would take Fred & Helen out for dinner or on trips but almost never went there. She was active, enjoyed cards, loved clothes, and was alway ready to mend or sew for the girls. She had a gall bladder attack & was operated on but did not survive and died at 86.”

Luta Helton Shrum and Charles Horner
My great-grandmother, Luta Helton Shrum and my brother Charles Horner in 1953 in Newington, Connecticut. This was about a year before she died. Luta was visiting my parents home there.

I have joined an online challenge by Amy Johnson Crow to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I’m writing about the prompt “Diary.”  I am hopelessly behind on participating, but Amy says there really is no “behind.” Writing at your pace and getting something out on the page is what is most important.   You can join any time and find all the details here: 

Click here to sign up for the 52 Ancestors Challenge 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *