Saturday, November 17, 2007


I have been seriously threatening to make this post for some weeks now. I've scanned the pictures of most of the main here goes!

Now this tale does require quite a bit of back story. My paternal grandmother grew up during the roaring twenties with her mother, aunt and grandmother, (her father having died in 1921 of stomach cancer). Her mother and aunt worked full time to support the four of them, so granma was raised primarily by HER grandmother, who taught her so well she could read by the time she was five, skipped several grades, and graduated high school when she was 16.

They thought that was "too early" to go to college, so she stayed home to work for a year, then went to Marylhurst at the ripe old age of 17 to become a nurse. She often shimmied down the drain pipe to evade bed check, and was generally a hell-raiser. Once she crashed the family car when her mother and aunt were away at the beach (at the time, there was no highway over the Coast Range, so you took the train). Her grandmother took all the money she'd sewn into her petticoats to get the car repaired before they came back.

That also tells alot about the difference between granma's relationship with her mother and her grandmother (my great-great grandmother). She didn't get along so well with her own mother, and absolutely adored her grandmother. See the circa 1939 picture above to see what I mean: My father (born in 1935) is on my great-grandmother's knee, next to her is my granma (her daughter), who is leaning towards her grandmother who raised her, with her arm around her as well.

Both great-grandmother and great-great grandmother were also VERY religious, they went to DAILY mass about 6am every morning, and didn't eat breakfast until they got home! My great-great grandmother even became incensed when she heard about a Nudist Colony opening up on Squaw Mtn, ...about 50+ miles from Portland. Great-great grandmother was so pissed, she said "if those hedonists come walking down the road, I'm going to whip them all back to Squaw Mountain!". I don't think it occurred to her that folks wouldn't be walking down 50 miles of a two-lane highway naked from Estacada (a small redneck town just outside of which is the nudist place), but I digress...

Curiously, after granma left the house, great-grandma proceeded to get married several times, four in fact, all WITHIN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH! I call her the "Most Married Catholic Woman in America". Each man was older than her, and each died, leaving her to find another old guy to take care of (my dad's theory, which I put stock in as he was witness to several memorable "exchanges" between his mother and grandmother).

And the four husbands count is not including the infamous "Mr. Dooley". Great-grandmother lived in his house as his live-in "housekeeper". Obviously, there was something wrong with his acceptability into the Catholic Church; so he was either divorced, unwilling to convert, or perhaps had more charm than his predecessors.

My grandfather (picture right) died of a massive heart attack 1953, when my dad was 18, and his brother was just 6 years old. He was in his early 40's.... Dad had to come home from Notre Dame and go to work to help out the family. He managed to graduate from the University of Portland many years later...

Now a couple years later in the 50's and granma is going out with a nice man, who happens to have a wife back in Hawaii, but they don't get along and are separated, (but NOT divorced). He also happened to be the Mayor of Rockaway (a tiny coastal town), so the whole family got to go on extended vacations at the beach while granma dated this "beau". Rockaway is still one of my dad's favorite places on the coast!

Now this whole situation didn't sit well with great-grandmother, and of course she thought it was her "duty" to straighten her daughter out. So she called on the phone to give her a piece of her mind...granma was having none of it. She yelled right back at her mother, "AT LEAST IT'S NOT A DOOLEY DEAL!!" and hung up the phone.

Now I must say my granma did finally find love again and married David Garman (who I knew as my grampa). She'd had a stroke and was partially paralyzed on her left side, but she was the best granma ever. She was always laughing, and enthusiastic about what we were doing. She had a twinkle in her eye, and left the extreme religiousity in her past as well. Here's a pic from when I knew "grampa & grandma" - don't you love the 70's style kitchen?

Love to you Dave & Dorothy Garman!
(sorry about the blurry image, there was some kind of red ink on the photo)


Pandabonium said...

Random thoughts - why do we call them "nudists" when that is the natural way? Shouldn't we who wear clothes be called "textilists" instead?

Your grandfather was a handsome man. My mother's father died early as well, was also good looking (and played the trombone by the way).

Dooley is the name of the main character in an excellent book by Ernest K Gann, titled "Dooley's Down" about an airplane making a forced landing in the Canadian wilderness and their ordeal and rescue (based on the author's similar real life experience). It was made into a very good movie (Island in the Sky - 1953) by John Wayne who played Dooley in it.

My dad ended all contact with the Catholic church when, as a teen, he saw a nun slap his younger sister at school. He never went to any church of any kind after that except for my sister's wedding.

Thanks for sharing this very personal family information. We often find all kinds of interesting stories when we dig into family history - sometimes more colorful than we expect. :)

The Moody Minstrel said...

I remember your grandmother. I remember she was sharp as a tack and loads of fun. I never dreamed she had so much of an edge to her personality from the get-go! So female hell-raisers aren't a product of misguided modern society, are they? ;-)

ladybug said...

Panda-Although all us kids went to mostly Catholic schools (AND universities!), we've left it behind as well. I'll check out the book as well, it sounds very interesting...I think I may have either seen the movie or heard about the book before, it sounds familiar.

Moody-I'm not sure, but I think you mean Snabby's granma is the one you knew ....she was a bit cantankerous from what I heard tell!

I guess the point of why I'm sharing such personal stories is
1) to record them and keep "history" alive
2) to point out that the past doesn't need rose-colored glasses, and not everybody had a1950's Norman Rockwell family....and we still turned out ok!

Anonymous said...

Oh my!

Love it!

Not only the much-marrying Catholic granny (more times than me! WoooHooo!) but the "Dooley Deal" cracks me up!

Go, Granny, Go!


Don Snabulus said...

I think it is great that you have a well-remembered and rich family history. I should but I didn't value the stories as I should have back when it was easier for me to remember things. (We also have a family tendency to sweep unpleasantness under the carpet.)

So I live vicariously thru Ladybug. Works for me!

Swinebread said...

You get the sex scandals and I get the War stories!