Saturday, August 11, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 32

Chicago ~1958
With the writing prompt this week being Youngest, my mind went to youngest in the family. I am the baby in my family, having three older brothers (one of whom died before I was born) and one older sister. That made me think about other members of my family tree, wondering if any of them were also the youngest born child. I knew that neither mom nor dad were the youngest in their families. As it turns out neither Grandma or Grandpa Kubler, my dad’s parents, were the babies in their families, nor were my mom’s parents, Grandma or Grandpa Crusham.

In looking at the ancestral chart, I had to go all the way back to my maternal great-grandfather Peter Metz, who was the youngest of 9 kids, to find another baby. None of my other great-grandparents fell into this very special place in their families.

In a way my family is unique in that my parents had almost two separate sets of children. My sister is 11 years older than me, followed by a brother who is 9 years older than me, and then a brother who is 18 months older than me. In between the boys, my mom suffered a couple of miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in all of one and most of the other ovaries being removed. She was told she would most likely not get pregnant again, and if she did would not carry the baby to full term. And then along came my brother and me.

My sister was like a second mother to me, and she spent a lot of time caring for my brother and me. With my brother being so close in age to me, we were best buddies as children. We shared bottles and toys, and got along great. My sister has corroborated that we were sickeningly sweet to each other. We played a lot of games together, rode our bikes and acted out war scenes with his G.I. Joes, and later played baseball with the neighborhood boys.

Maybe due to our close age, I never really felt like the baby of the family. I certainly never was aware that I received special attention. Mom never played favorites with any of us, and if anything my dad favored the brother next closest in age to me. I don’t think my dad ever got over losing his oldest son to aplastic anemia at the age of 7, and I believe my brother reminded dad of Roy.

One benefit of being the youngest is that I learned a lot from my older siblings. My dad had a bit of a temper, so by observing what set him off with the older kids, I avoided doing those things. It was also nice to have my parents to myself for the last couple of years of college, when the others had married and/or moved away.

It was a good childhood, with a lot of love and laughs. I enjoyed my place in it as baby of the family. Even if I often shared that place with my not too much older brother.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 31

The writing prompt Oldest probably makes you think of the oldest person in your family. But that topic was covered in Week 3 when the prompt was Longevity. Instead I want to write about the oldest heirloom that I have in my possession. It is an oak chair that was made in the mid to late 1800s.

North Wind face?
Whimsical furniture containing griffins, lions and gargoyles appeared in England in the 1820s, and the style made its way across the pond. A unique American version was the face chair. The carved face was supposed to blow evil spirits away. G. Stomps & Brother (later changed to Stomps-Burkhardt Company) of Dayton, Ohio was one of the furniture manufactures producing face chairs in the 1800s. While there is no marking on the bottom of our chair, I have seem many photos of similar looking chairs that were made by the Stomps company.

So how did this chair come to be part of our family? In 1944 my father LeRoy Kubler was stationed at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, living in a boarding house along with my mother and oldest brother Roy. My father was in the Army Air Forces, and received orders that he was shipping out to India. He was given enough time to drive my mom, very pregnant with their second child, and Roy to Cincinnati and deposit them with her parents, Mike and Mayme (Metz) Crusham before leaving the country.

When the house next door to her folks came on the market, mom quickly sent a letter off to dad asking if she should buy the Koch home. Before my dad even had time to answer, she had borrowed money from her brother Charlie and purchased it. The next letter dad received announced, “I bought the Koch house!”

face chair
The Koch’s left behind a couple of pieces of furniture, of which one was this chair. Mrs. Koch said that the chair was 100 years old at that time, indicating that it was manufactured in 1844. Mom and dad kept the chair, and it moved with us from Cincinnati, to Chicago, to Des Moines and then back to Cincinnati when dad retired in 1984. I always loved it, though it had a very dark patina on it for much of the time it was in our family. Back in Cincinnati, dad decided to refinish it. While the stripping brought out the beautiful grains in the wood, I knew what the Keno brothers on Antiques Roadshow would say. “Well, if your dad hadn’t refinished the chair, it would be worth $2,000. But since he stripped off the original finish, it is only worth $300.”

After my dad died, my siblings and I divided up his household items. As I am the only one who lives in an old home and collects antiques, I got the face chair. It sits proudly in the foyer of our 1902 Queen Ann house. Several years ago I took the chair to a new antiques dealer in our town. She called it a North Wind chair, and said it had been made in the mid-1860s. She placed a value of around $1,600 on it. We discussed the fact that my dad had refinished it, and she simply asked me if I like how it looks now. I told her that it really is so much better because you can see the beautiful wood and also make out the facial features. She said then that is all that matters. I suspect she is off a bit on both the production year as well as the value, but that’s okay. I don't intend to ever sell the chair. It keeps a bit of mom and dad here in the house with me.