Funeral Card Friday: Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis

Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis (1858 – 1940)

The front of this holy card, now
faded reads, “Show us Thy face,
and we shall be saved.”

 

My maternal great-grandmother, Mary Jane “Janie” McGinnis, died at 7:15 in the morning of July 13, 1940, at the home of her eldest child, Benita (McGinnis) McCormick, of pernicious anemia, from which she had suffered for two years, along with chronic kidney disease.

 

Pernicious anemia is caused by the intestine’s inability to absorb Vitamin 12. The absence of this vitamin makes it hard for iron levels to remain normal in the body.  Between this and the kidney disease, Mary Jane’s 81-year-old body had become increasingly weak and frail, though her granddaughters, Joan (Schiavon) Huesca (my mother) and Jane (McCormick) Olson recalled that her mind was sharp until the end.
Janie was buried at Holy Sepuchre Cemetery in Worth, Illinois, next to her husband, Tom.  Years later they would be joined by their eldest son Eugene McGinnis, and youngest daughter, Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon (my grandmother).

It must have been hard for the whole family – her surviving brother and sisters, her children and her grandchildren –  to say their final goodbyes to this great lady who had been the center of their lives for so long.  Still, they would always remember her with great affection and admiration, imbuing this love for her and for Tom, in their own families, some of whom were born too late to know them personally but heard countless stories about them around the dinner table many a Sunday evening.

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully


Wisdom Wednesday: Wise and Loving Matriarch


Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis:  (1858 – 1940)

 

Friends and sometimes complete strangers often dropped by Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis’ home during the 1920s and 30s, hungry for a meal or even advice.  Janie gave both quietly and generously, never asking for anything in return.  She was a fervent follower of the Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
 
Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis, at Bluebird Cottage in Wisconsin, late 1930s.   I think this may have been in the town of Berlin, where she often visited her maternal cousins, Patrick and Mary McGoorty.  The blue silk dress with white polka-dots was her favorite.  She sewed it herself, as she had sewn all her clothes. 
Janie was not only the center of her immediate family but also was the darling of her sisters and brothers, who visited her often.  Other than she, the only other siblings who had married were Frances (“Frank”), who married James Cherry; and John Patrick, who married Elizabeth Cain. The others – Lyle, Maggie, Agnes, Delia “Di,” and Thomas “Tommy,” bought a home together at 17813 Woodbury Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.   Lyle went to live with Janie in Chicago after Tom McGinnis died, where she remained  until her own death in 1934.
 
My mother, Joan Schiavon, went to live with her grandmother Mary Jane McGinnis and Aunt Lyle as a young child, when the challenges of the Great Depression made it difficult for her parents to feed and clothe their two children.  Sleeping with her grandmother every night and following her around like a puppy dog by day, my mother felt immensely loved and protected.  Years later, she would call this the best time of her childhood.
 

Janie McGinnis lived a long and happy life, living with her daughters Benita and Alice as the years passed and she began to feel the strains of old age.  When she turned  79, she was diagnosed with kidney disease and pernicious anemia, and she died quietly on July 13, 1940, at Benita’s home, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.  She was 81 years old.

 
Though her death left a huge void in the McGinnis family, her children and grandchildren carried memories of Janie’s gentle love, selflessness, and wisdom with them through their own lives.  I would venture to say that many of her qualities have trickled down through them to their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who may have been born too late to know her but who to this day continue to benefit from her legacy of love and good works. 
 

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

Talented Tuesday: Domestic Goddess


Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis (1858 – 1940)

My great- grandmother, Mary Jane
(Gaffney) McGinnis, wearing a dress she  made
for her engagement.  Conneaut, Ohio, circa 1884.
Known for her generous heart and her delicious pies, Mary Jane McGinnis held a special place in the memories of her descendants who knew her.  My mother, Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca, was sent by her parents, Ralph and Alice  (McGinnis) Schiavon, to live with Mary Jane, my mother’s maternal grandmother, when she was about 3 years old.  It was the middle of the Depression, and her parents could not afford to care for both her and her brother, Tom Schiavon. My mother remembered “Grandma McGinnis” with great love and respect, especially the way she never turned anyone away from her door hungry or cold.  At the time, Mary Jane’s sister, Lyle Gaffney, lived with her and my mother.
 
Mary Jane, known as “Janie”, was the eldest of ten children born to John Francis Gaffney and Bridget (Quinn),  Gaffney, both Irish immigrants from Drumbrick and Cootehall, Ireland, respectively.  She arrived in the world on December 2, 1858, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was baptized at the Cathedral of Saint Mary in that city.
 
The family moved shortly after that to Conneaut, Ohio, where John made a living as a peddlar, according to the 1860 United States Census.  He and Bridget saved their money and were able to buy a large residence that was big enough to house their growing family  and rent out rooms to the men who worked on the burgeoning Nickel Plate Railroad nearby.  Located at 51 Mill Street in Conneaut, the home became variously known as the Gaffney House and the Conneaut House. And yes, their family grew:  Nine more children would come along:  Margaret, Elizabeth (“Lyle”), Delia, John, Frances, Thomas, Agnes, Clara, and Edward.  The two youngest children died in infancy.  
Jane (McCormick) Olson, daughter of Mary Jane’s and Thomas’ eldest child, Benita  (McGinnis) McCormick and another of their grandchildren, recalled Mary Jane describing the way she and the young girls of her day learned Irish step (or “clog,” as it was called then) dancing, noting that long boards would be held up against their spines to train the girls to maintain a very straight posture for this style of dance.

 
Gaffney House, also known as Conneaut House,
51 Mill Street, Conneaut, Ohio, ca. 1880
One day a young railroad worker by the name of Thomas Eugene McGinnis arrived at Gaffney House to rent a room.  Recently returned from several years at sea as a merchant sailor, he had decided to settle down in the Conneaut area, drawn by the promise of a good job offered by the railroad.  Checking in with Bridget Gaffney, he was greeted by the divine aroma of a warm and freshly-baked pie.  He asked to try a piece, and he found it so delicious that he insisted on meeting the person who had baked it.  Bridget excused herself momentarily and returned with her 25-year old daughter Mary Jane.  
 
Tom could not believe his eyes as he talked to this young woman.  The slender young brunette had deep blue eyes, long, dark eyelashes, a rosy complexion, and a sweet, quiet confidence that intrigued him.  No longer smitten by just the pie, he fell in love with her on the spot.
 
Tom and Janie were married a year later on May 19, 1884, at Saint Mary’s Church in Conneaut.  Janie, who was not only a superb baker but also an accomplished dressmaker, made her own wedding gown.  Her sister Lyle, a milliner, made her headpiece.
 
Tom and Janie moved just down the street from her parents to 78 Mill Street and began their own family.  They lost their first child, Mary Margaret, in childbirth, but they went on to have Benita Elizabeth, Francis Eugene, John Charles, and Alice Gaffney, all born in Conneaut.  
 
Tom continued to work for the Nickel Plate Railroad until a train derailed near Conneaut, killing several men.  Shaken by the tragedy, he decided to move his family to Chicago, where he could find another job.  They arrived there sometime between 1895 and 1900. 
 
Tom found a job as a cement inspector for the City of Chicago.  He built the family’s two-story, Craftsman style family home at 8336 South Drexel Avenue in 1912.
 
Tom and Janie were fiercely devoted to each other throughout their lives, and when Tom died at age 71 in 1927, everyone thought Janie would die soon after of a broken heart.   
 
Sustained by her Catholic faith and her love for her five grandchildren, Jack (John McGinnis’ son), Ralph and Joan Schiavon, and Buddy and Jane McCormick, Janie McGinnis surprised them all and went on to live another 13 years, devoting herself to her family and looking out for her siblings, friends and neighbors.  Her home was the hub of her family’s lives, and all would gather there every Sunday afternoon to share a delicious meal and hours of stories, songs, and laughter.  
 
Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis, surrounded
by her four children, (left to right) Alice,
Eugene, John, and Benita. In the living room
at 8336 South Drexel Avenue, Chicago,
ca. 1939.
Besides her baking talents, my great-grandmother Mary Jane was remembered for keeping a pristine home and was expert at the domestic arts so valued at the time.  She made many lovely clothes for her children and grandchildren, including my own mother. She taught my mother to love sewing, especially embroidery. My mother loved the creative outlet she found in sewing.  She went on to become an accomplished seamstress herself and taught my sisters and me to sew so that you could never see the stitches in a garment.  I was quite proud of this accomplishment and always credited it to my mother and great-grandmother.
 
The pie-making was another story.  Mary Jane was said to make pies with just the right flakiness, warm and light and picture perfect.  After so many stories about those wonderful pies, I was certain that her talent would have to rub off on me.  I was determined to be just as good a pie baker as my great-grandmother.
 
Unfortunately, I would find out that I was not to inherit the pie-making gene, though I tried in vain to learn every secret technique for baking pies to perfection.  To this day, my pies are more crunchy than flaky, the filling is fair at best, my attempts at crimping the edges are clumsy, and the edges themselves almost always fall off the pan before the pie is even done.  Thankfully, my family still eats them, and no one has died from them yet.
 
I have had to learn through fits and starts that I will never be a domestic goddess in the tradition of the Gaffney women, though I hope I at least get points for trying. 
 
On the other hand, my sisters have the Gaffney gene, especially my youngest sister, who is known for her delicious meals and baked goods.  These seem to come naturally to her, as do those long Gaffney eyelashes.


Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

Mappy Monday: The Schiavons and the McCormicks in the 1940 Census

 

Map shows the walking route that sisters Alice (McGinnis)
Schiavon (House “A”) and Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
(House “B”) might have taken to visit each other’s families
in 1940 Chicago, Illinois.  (Courtesy Google Maps, 2012)
Visiting the 1940s Chicago of the Schiavon and the McCormick families, we can see the beginnings of a decade of change for a people who have been living in the midst of the Great Depression.  World War II has begun barely the year before with Germany’s invasion of Poland, followed subsequently in the spring by invasions of Denmark and Norway.

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is campaigning for his third term as President.  Unemployment, which had topped 20% in the mid-1930s, is now on its way down, though it hovers at a dramatic 14.6% with over 8 million people still out of work.  The minimum wage is 43 cents an hour, and the average worker makes about $1,300 per year.  It costs 3 cents to mail a letter, 8 cents for a loaf of bread, and 34 cents for a gallon of milk.

 

And yet, hope and sentimentality reign.  It seems that everyone is humming and jiving to the number one song on the charts, Glenn Miller’s  In the Mood.  And lest there be too much levity, there is still lots of room for epic romance and nostalgia in Gone with the Wind, which wins 10 Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture of 1940.
The United States 1940 Federal Census, showing the Ralph and Alice
Schiavon family living at 8336 South Drexel Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
We find Ralph and Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon and their children, Tom and Joan, living at the old McGinnis home on 8336 South Drexel Avenue (Point “A” on the Google map above).  They now own the home, valued at $9,000, about $3,000 above the average house of the day.  Ralph, at age 42, is a tax counselor in private practice.   He states that he worked all 52 weeks in 1939, yet he does not report any earnings from it during that time.  He does tell census taker John Quigley, however, that he made some $50 or more from sources other than the income from his  (current) job.  Had he been working in some other capacity prior to 1940 and recently gone into private practice?  Or was the “zero” salary simply an oversight by the census taker?  We may have to search a little more to find out.
My grandfather Ralph also tells the census taker that while the highest education Alice had was high school, he only got as far as the sixth grade.  Being a proud man, this admission must have been somewhat uncomfortable for him, but what he does not say is that he managed to go to night school to study accounting after serving in the Navy during World War I.  Too bad there is no space on the census form to indicate determination.
Ralph, who is noted on the census form as the informant (see the “x” by his name), gives his age and that of his wife Alice as 42.  Young Tom and Joan are listed as 15 and 10, in high school and fifth grade, respectively.  But there are some discrepancies.  Alice was not 42 but 44 years young.   My mother was actually 11 – and in the sixth grade.
Ralph refers to my mother as “Joann.” It is one of her nicknames, the other being “Joie.”  Truth be told, she is not fond of either and for that reason years later gives my sisters and me names that typically would not have nicknames attached to them.  In fact, I think that just about the only thing she really likes about her name was that it gives her something in common with Saint Joan of Arc, to whom she has a great devotion.
Barely under a mile and about a 20 minute way away are Alice’s sister, Benita (McGinnis), her husband Phil McCormick, and their own two children, Philip Jr. (“Buddy”) and Benita Jane (“Jane”).  They, too, own their home at 8052 Vernon Avenue (Point “B” on the Google map above), which is valued at $6,000.  Unlike the Schiavons, they have been living in their home for at least a decade.
Though Benita is the informant here, the census taker, Catherine Doran, misspells her name and that of her daughter as “Vanita.”  Perhaps the poor census takers had so many homes and people to cover in a day that they simply took names down phonetically to save time.
Not far from the Schiavons, the United States Census finds the Philip
and Benita McCormick family residing at 8052 South Vernon Avenue
in Chicago.
Unlike many women of her time, Benita does not lie about her age, though at 50 she is a full three years older than her beloved Phil, 47.  Her children, Bud and Jane, are both (nearly) 13 (they would have their birthdays a month later) and are in the seventh grade.
Though it would appear here that Bud and Jane were twins, they were not.  In fact, both were adopted from different families but at the same time, hence the same birthdate.  Jane’s mother was a young German-American farm girl from Wisconsin, while we do not have information on Bud’s birth family.
Like her younger sister Alice, Benita is what today we would call a “stay-at-home mom.” In reality, she and her sister do not stay at home much but keep busy visiting relatives, friends, and engaging in their various pursuits:  Alice with her stamp and doll collections, and Benita with her painting and writing.
Phil works for the railroad – a healthy business during the Depression, and the railroad has been good to him and his family.  He worked 50 weeks last year – likely having taken two weeks off for vacation – and made a higher-than-average salary of $5200.

Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis, the anchor of this family, does not appear in the census with either of her daughters.  Now 81 years old, she has been in failing health for a couple of years and is suffering from kidney disease. Her sister, Elizabeth, known as “Lyle,”  has been gone for six years now, having died in 1934 of heart disease. Census records for April 1940 do not show Mary Jane residing with her son, John, and his family on Minerva Avenue in Chicago, or with her sisters, Maggie, Agnes, and Delia, on Woodbury Avenue in Cleveland.   It is unlikely that she would be living with her son, Eugene, whose has been changing jobs and apartments for some time.

A more plausible theory is that Mary Jane has been living with one of her daughters but is in hospital at this point.  Which hospital, though, is the question, as she does not appear in the census at Woodlawn Hospital, only a few blocks from her daughters.

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully


Wordless Wednesday: Joan Schiavon at Dixon School


Joan Schiavon (1928 – 1987)

         Sixth Grade
         April 1940
         Dixon Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois

My mother, Joan Schiavon, at 11  1/2 years old, must have known we’d be
looking  for her one day, as she circled her face in pen, second row,  far left.

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully



Those Places Thursday: The Medinah Children’s Theatre

Starring…

Phillip “Buddy” McCormick (1927 – 2004)

Jane (McCormick (1927 – 2011)

and

Joan Schiavon (1928 – 1987)
 
Cover of the program for the one act play,
“Darby and Joan,” presented by the
Medinah Children’s Theatre

 

My mother, Joan Schiavon, always loved drama and musicals.  An imaginative little girl, she spent hours playing with her cousins, Phillip “Buddy” and Jane McCormick, dreaming up skits and acting them out.  The threesome listened to serial dramas and musicals on the radio and looked up to their Uncle Gene McGinnis, who had a stint in vaudeville.  So perhaps it should be no surprise that we find them listed in this program as a cast of three in the Medinah Children’s Theatre production of Darby and Joan by Rose Fyleman on Saturday, May 8, 1937.

 

The one act play “Darby and Joan” must have been
the highlight of the evening for the Schiavon and
McCormick families!

The Medinah Children’s Theatre had the distinctive honor of being located at – where else? – but inside the Medinah Athletic Club, a distinctive architectural jewel that still stands today at 505 Michigan Avenue, on Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile.

The Shriners organization built the 42-story Medinah Athletic Club for its members in 1929, just before the stock market crash. The building combined a number of architectural styles and featured an indoor golf course, ballrooms, a junior Olympic size swimming pool, a shooting range, a gymnasium, a tea room, a bowling alley, running track, and several conference rooms, as well as a number of guest rooms for members.

The Children’s menu, shown here, is delightful
and a wonderful example of the food of the day.

 

Unfortunately, the cost of running the building during the Great Depression was prohibitive for the Medinah Athletic Club, and it filed for bankruptcy in about 1933, a mere four years after its debut.  The building went through several owners before it became an historic part of the Intercontinental Chicago, the grand hotel that occupies it today.
For some reason, however, the Medinah Children’s Theatre was alive and well at the site in 1937, some four years after the club filed for bankruptcy.  Is it possible that the Athletic Club operated for a few years after declaring bankruptcy?  Did the Children’s Theatre still belong to the Shriners?  If not, did a benevolent new owner retain the Medinah name for the recognition value and allow the theatre to operate in the building?   There seems to be no information available on the children’s theatre, nor anything to indicate whether my grandfather, Ralph Schiavon, or my great-uncle, Philip McCormick (Buddy and Jane’s father) were Shriners themselves.
We do know that Darby and Joan was a proverbial phrase dating back to 1735 that referred to a happily married elderly couple known for living a simple life of mutual affection and devotion.  There are a number of stories written about the couple, but the play here was written by Rose Fyleman (1857 – 1957), an English writer who went from writing fiction and poetry for adults to writing the same and more for her young students when she could not find age-appropriate children’s literature for them.  She specialized in writing magical and wondrous fairy tales, such as this one.

In this production, Darby was played by Buddy and Joan was played by his sister, Jane, both age 10 at the time.  My mother, who was a year younger, played the fairy.  She is incorrectly listed in the credits above as “John” Schiavon, thereby missing her fifteen minutes of fame.  It must have mortified her.

Notwithstanding the error in the credits, the three cousins must have felt they were in a major production in the midst of the splendid surroundings of the Medinah.  We can just imagine them singing and dancing their hearts out, hamming it up for their adoring parents and relatives.

They must have had quite a fan club.  Their parents, Ralph and Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon and Phil and Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (Alice’s sister) were there, cheering them on. It is likely that the rest of the family was there, too:  their uncles John and Eugene McGinnis, and their grandmother and great-aunt, Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis and Elizabeth “Aunt Lyle” Gaffney.  They must have been very proud of their fledgling thespians.
The Children’s Menu on the facing page of the program is also delightful and a wonderful example of the food of that era.  It was made more sumptuous, no doubt, by the opulent and magnificent surroundings of the Medinah Club’s Imperial Dining Room.


Copyright
 ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

Looking Back: The Schiavons in the 1930 Census

In a snapshot of Ralph and Alice Schiavon and their two children, five year-old Thomas and 21-month-old Joan, the 1930 United States Census shows us that less than a year after the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression had not fully impacted the family yet.

On April 8th of that year, we can see that they were renting a second-story apartment for $95 a month at 6044 Stony Island Avenue in the middle-class neighborhood of Hyde Park, on Chicago’s South Side. 

Ralph and Alice Schiavon and their children,
Ralph Thomas (Tom) and Joan,
appear here on the 1930 U.S. Census

Ralph and Alice (my maternal grandparents) were one of the younger couples in the complex. Only two other couples were anywhere near their ages, and the rest were mostly ages 50 and above.  Alice must have lied about her age, as she claims to be 32 years old, the same age as Ralph.  According to her birth certificate, she was born in 1895, making her, in fact, two and a half years older than Ralph.  At the time of the census, she was two months away from her 35th birthday (June 14).  
 
The Schiavons were part of the 40% of Americans who owned a radio at the time.  This was something of a luxury, as radios were fairly expensive, even during the early years of the Great Depression.  Only a year earlier, a radio set cost about $139 – a fairly steep amount of money for a family struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table.  For this reason, many families paid the cost in monthly installments.  Despite the sacrifice, the payoff was rewarding:  radios provided news and entertainment to families on a tight budget and brought them together nightly to share experiences as they listened intently to serial dramas and comedies, musicals, and concerts.
Though the census clearly indicates that Alice was the homemaker (see the “H” beside her name), it goes on to list her occupation as “none” – something we would never find in our modern-day census.  Today, most women would object loudly to having that “H” made a part of their very identities, yet I remember hearing from my mother and my aunts that there was a time when women took great pride in this emblem.
When it came to my grandmother Alice, the “homemaker” label would have been a bit less traditional in nature.  She disliked cooking but loved a good meal, and she enjoyed many of these thanks to my grandfather Ralph, whose mother, Emanuella Schiavone, had taught him to be a gourmet cook. 
My mother, Joan (Schiavon) Huesca, used to tell me that Alice also appreciated beauty and kept a meticulously lovely home.  She was independent in mind and spirit and taught her children to “dare to be different.”  Although she tried her best to be a good homemaker, she could not stay at home for long but needed fulfillment elsewhere. She had many interests that grew over the years:  doll and stamp collecting, crafting, antiques, and traveling – and all the adjunct activities that went with these hobbies.  She became a renowned expert on dolls and stamps and amassed large collections of both.  
My mother and her sister-in-law, Angelina (Ciliberto) Schiavon, used to say that my grandmother was happiest when she was writing one of her newsletters, speeding around Chicago in her Ford, or out and about on one of her shopping expeditions, always in search of the perfect addition to her collections.  Perhaps today Alice would have called herself a “multi-tasker,” curator, and connoisseur – neither being occupations per se, but accurate descriptors, nonetheless.
The census also confirms for us that Ralph, who was born in Italy, came to America in 1905 (when he was 7 years old), was a naturalized a citizen of the United States, and a World War I veteran.  It lists his occupation as an “income tax expert” working in “government” (in his case, the Internal Revenue Service, where he was a supervisor).  The “expert” qualifier demonstrates some ambition.  Was he already preparing himself to go into business for himself?
Whatever the case, his chance was to come soon.
 
 
Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully


Thankful Thursday: Simple Pastimes of Times Past

Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca
1928 – 1987

 

In her own words  (Part Nine)

 

 

My mother with Santa Claus, about 1931, Chicago
In this final episode from her (unfinished) bookJoan Joyce Schiavon Huesca: an Autobiography, my mother remembers her life as a child of the Great Depression in Chicago, Illinois. The footnote at the end of this passage was written by my father, Gilbert Huesca, who loved my mother deeply all his life.  He used to say that he thought of her “every fraction of a second.” 
 
 
“Economy in those days was very sparse, and we spent our time in simple pastimes.  Ice skating in the winter…Two or three blocks away was a large prairie which the firemen would flood every winter, and off we would go with our ice skates slung over our shoulders, plodding through snow-covered sidewalks to our frozen pond.  Along the way, we would cross street-car tracks, where we would place a penny along the top of the tracks, and retrieve it, flattened out after a street car had passed over it.  Then, off to skate, and fall on the ice.
 
“I remember that one time, I wanted to save some pennies for candy, so when school was over, instead of boarding the street car home (the fare was four cents), I walked home eighteen blocks and froze my ears.  I can still feel how hot my ears felt from frostbite.
 
“I would play often up in the attic with my ‘horse on wheels,’ a large horse which I would mount and dream of galloping off to adventure.  I had named the horse ‘Mussolini’ after the Italian dictator, since my Daddy and I were the ‘Italians’ in the family.  Years later, my our little horse met with much the same fate as his namesake.  I found him hanging from the telephone wires, where some boys had thrown him.
 
“Christmas times we would awaken to find oranges, apples and nuts in our stockings hanging over the fireplace.  There usually was one toy for each of us, and of course clothing of one sort or another.  We were very happy with whatever we received.  My Father always decorated the Christmas tree and one by one, hung the silvery icicles on each branch. I would watch him, and dream of the day when I could decorate a tree, too.  Somehow, we managed a big Christmas dinner, which family and many friends (whom I later learned were without employment and couldn’t afford a celebration) would attend.  My Father would cook a big turkey with all the trimmings.  My Mother, so artistically talented, would decorate a beautiful table setting.
 
My grandmother, Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon, with one of
her beautiful table settings, 8200 South Saint Lawrence,
Chicago, Illinois, sometime between 1948 – 1955.
 
“I never owned a bicycle.  My Brother Tom had one, and I supposed that my parents couldn’t afford to buy another one, so to this day, I have never ridden a bike.  One time, I remember I was all dressed up in my Sunday best, and as we waited for my Mother, my Brother asked me if I’d like to take a ride on his bike.  I was placed on the handlebars, and off we went — but not far — just across the street where I was dumped into a prairie, and picked myself up, covered with peat-soil, black and sticky.  So went my one and only bike ride!
 
“Someone gave us a dog, part German shepherd and part wolf.  Of course, we called him ‘Wolf!’  He was very mean, and would dash out the front door, and attack passers-by.  I remember one time, when we were all packed into the old Ford for a trip to our cottage, Wolf was stuffed in the back seat with me, and snapped at me.  I didn’t hesitate, but with two hands, grabbed at his back, and bit him right back.  He never snapped at me again!”
 
                                                                                 – Joan Huesca
____________________________________
 
Footnote:
 
This is only a glimpse of a beautiful passage of her life.
 
Her wish was to write a complete autobiography up to the day before her departure.  If it could have been accomplished, I am sure that those written volumes would have enriched this world.
 
Because her mission on Earth may have been completed, the Blessed Mother called her, and she returned to the Heavens from where she left and always has belonged.
 
Indeed, I was honored to be her husband.
 
I pray to God to have His blessings to be reunited again.
 
                                                                                  – Gilbert Huesca
                                                                                     Modesto, California
                                                                                     May 3, 1989
 
 
 
 
Copyright ©  2011  Linda Huesca Tully
 
 

Wisdom Wednesday: The Spanking that Never Was

 

Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca
1928 – 1987

In her own words  (Part Eight)

In the episode that follows from her (unfinished) book, Joan Joyce Schiavon Huesca: an Autobiography, my mother recounts a poignant memory of the wise way her father, Ralph Schiavon, understood that sometimes the fearful anticipation of a consequence for one’s actions is more effective than the consequence itself.  This was one of her favorite stories, and she told it often, adding that this event was, for her, a hallmark of the mutual understanding and love between her and her father.

 

My grandfather, Ralph Schiavon,
Chicago, Illinois.

“I had escaped spankings…but there was one time, that I almost received a firm hand on my bottom.  I don’t recall what I had done, but I remember my Mother was very angry and threatened that when my Father would come home, I would be spanked.  


“All afternoon, I worried, my Father had such BIG HANDS!  ‘This will be some spanking,’ thought I.  Finally, the hours passed, the front door opened and there was my Daddy…SO BIG!  He had a smile on his face, which quickly disappeared as my Mother told him of my misbehavior.  A stern, serious expression crept across his face, and I stood there, grasping my Mother’s dress hem, trying to disappear behind her.

“My Father grunted, ‘Come with me.’  I followed as slowly as possible, cringing inside with fear.  We entered the bathroom, my Father closed the door, turned to me, and asked if I was sorry for whatever I had done.  In a small voice, I replied that, ‘Oh yes, I was very sorry and I promise never to do it again.’  

“In the meantime, my Mother, waiting outside in the hall, was having second thoughts about my punishment.   A smile appeared on my Father’s face, and he plotted with me to clap his big hands together, and I would scream as loud as I could.

“My Mother called out for my Father to stop spanking me.  We opened the door, with big smiles, I in my Father’s arms, and that was the tale of my only ‘spanking-that-never-was.’ Let me add that from that time on, I think there was a special bond between my Father and me.  My Father had been beaten as a boy, as my Grandfather was very stern, and through my life, my Father tried to shield me from harm.”



                                                                                 Joan Huesca

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

Talented Tuesday: A Knack for Mischief

 

Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca
1928 – 1987
My mother, Joan Schiavon, 10 years old, at
Dixon School, Chicago, Illinois, 1938.

 In her own words  (Part Seven)

My mother, Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca, was quite the storyteller all her life, a skill most likely passed down by her Irish ancestors, the Quinns, McCoys, Gaffneys, and McGinnises. Two months before her death in 1987 at the age of 59, she determined to put down on paper as many stories of her own life as she could, for the benefit of her four daughters and her future descendants.  
 
Although she was unable to finish her book, what she managed to write was considerable and candid, even through her constant pain.  In this excerpt from her  book, Joan Joyce Schiavon Huesca:  an Autobiography, she remembers childhood adventures with her best friend, Rosemary Reize.
 
 
“We were living in the home that my Grandfather, Thomas Eugene McGinnis, had built in Chicago, Illinois.  The address was 8336 Drexel Avenue.  I remember the house as what was then called a ‘bungalow,’ with a large garden and yard in back of the house.  We had a large basement, which flooded almost every year.  One time, a client of my Father gave us a pet duck, which we named after a radio comedian of the time, ‘Joe Penner.”  On one of the flooding occasions, there was the duck, paddling along in the water almost to the top of the stairs!  We had an attic, too!  There were two rooms in the attic.  One was a bedroom for my  Brother Tom.  The other room as a ‘catch-all,’ with many wonderful things stored away.  I would spend hours there, playing many wonderful things stored away.  I would spend hours there, playing ‘dress-up,’ or putting on little plays and charging my friends a pin to attend these fabulous productions.
 
“My bedroom was opposite that of my parents.  I was just remembering the other day, how unique was my closet!  There was a little window in the closet!  I spent a lot of hours there playing with my dolls.  There were twin beds in my bedroom, one which later was shared by my Grandmother Schiavone when she came to stay with us.
 
“I was about six or seven years old when I met my ‘best friend.’  I had taken my dolls for a walk, and wandered over a block from our house, and found myself in the back of a large apartment building, and saw a little girl through a basement window.  Friendly me, called out, ‘Hello!’ and my ‘soon-to-be-friend’ proceeded to drench me with water.  Thus began many precarious adventures with Rosemary Reize, my ‘best friend’!  Rosemary was a very pretty little girl, with light blonde curls, and lovely blue eyes.  I was quite the opposite.  By this time, my mother had begun to bob my hair, and I was a brunette with big brown (meat-ball) eyes.  Rosemary was the leader, and I the dutiful follower, as you will see, as I tell you of our many misadventures.
 
“We collected milk bottles from the back porches of the neighborhood, with the idea of collecting a deposit for them.  We walked blocks and blocks to the nearest dairy, only to find that there wasn’t any deposit.
 
“Rosemary’s Grandmother had been given a scrungy little dog who apparently had been mistreated.  We took the poor animal down to the basement, to give him a bath, and put him in the old-fashioned washing machine!  The poor thing emerged, alive, but minus all his fur.
 
“Rosemary lived on the third floor of the big apartment building, and decided to see how fast the dog could get down the back stairs, so she put roller skates (one for his front paws, and one for his rear paws) on the poor little dog.  Then she gave a big PUSH!  Needless to say, the dog soon died afterward.

My mother, Joan Schiavon, first row, far right.
I do not know who the other children are –
could one of them be Rosemary Reize?

 “School Days in St. Joachim’s suddenly became much more exciting for Rosemary went to school there, too!  We were preparing to make our First Holy Communion, and during our religion studies, we learned all about the Poor Souls in Purgatory.  Angels that we were, we dedicated much of our time praying for those poor souls.  Then, we decided that maybe prayers really weren’t enough…so we would go to church early in the morning before school began, again at lunch time, and finally after school.  Each time, we would light ALL the candles in the church, kneel down and say a prayer as we lit each candle.  Father Hanley (the pastor of the church) would come in and find the church ablaze with candlelight, altar included.  We were finally apprehended, and our parents received a bill, ‘For the Poor Souls in Purgatory.’

 
“One day after school, we stopped off at a funeral home.  Neither of us had ever been inside such an establishment, and we noticed a crowd of people entering, so we followed.  No one seemed to  notice two little girls, so we continued to wander through one door and found ourselves in a room with a couple of dead bodies stretched out  We ran out and emerged through another door which led us into another room.  There were heavy curtains from floor to ceiling in front of us, and on one wall, a panel of buttons, which of course we decided to push to see what would happen.  We pushed all of them at one time!  Lights dimmed, the curtains began to open and shut, and music started to play, ‘When the Roll is Called Up Yonder’!  We peered from behind the curtains to see a casket directly in front of us, and a multitude of mourners, in a state of shock.  We must have set a record, running out of there, for we fortunately never were caught.”


                                                                              – Joan Huesca

 
***************************************

 

Postscript:  I will add my own memory of my mother and her friend Rosemary’s escapades here.  One Saturday afternoon, when I was about four or five years old, my father packed my sisters and me into the family car, and we took my mother to Rosemary’s apartment, so Rosemary (who had married and now was Rosemary Mager) could color my mother’s hair. At the time, the TV show I Love Lucy was popular, and Lucille Ball’s red hair appealed to my mother, who was a natural brunette but dreamed of being a gorgeous redhead, like the comedic star.
 
We returned a couple of hours later, everyone excited to see the results.  As we waited in the living room, I remember standing near the door to the kitchen, waiting breathlessly for my gorgeous mommy to appear.  After what seemed like an eternity, she and Rosemary emerged, beaming.  But for some reason, she was unaware that her hair was a flaming bright orange, nowhere near red.  She did not look like a movie star at all.  In fact, to me she was unrecognizable.
 
Frightened, I began crying, “Where is my mommy?  What have you done with my mommy?”  My father looked back and forth from her to me, grinning, his eyes wide as he tried in vain to console me that this was my mother.  But I could not be persuaded.
 
My mother, who had expected all of us to love her new hairdo, just stood there for a moment in shock at our reaction.  She walked over to a mirror and looked at herself, turned around and wordlessly walked back into the kitchen with Rosemary following closely behind her.  My father, chuckling by now, scooped us up and spirited us out of the apartment again.  He took us to a movie this time, probably to distract everyone from the hair-dyeing fiasco. 
When we came back for my mother the second time, my father practically had to drag me into Rosemary’s kitchen to see my mother, who was sitting with Rosemary at the kitchen table, drinking coffee.  Her hair had returned more or less its natural color.  I was so relieved to see my mommy again that I hugged her tightly.  She sniffled softly, her cheeks moist, as she squeezed me back. 



Our family moved in the mid-1960s from Chicago to Mexico City and a few years after that to California.  My mother and Rosemary kept their friendship alive, exchanging letters and Christmas cards.  Rosemary phoned my mother when she learned of her illness.  They talked for over an hour, catching up on their lives and reliving memories (one of these being something about them as teens, many moons ago, freeing some horses from the county fair and then running for their lives to avoid getting caught).  When she hung up the phone, my mother said she felt like a young girl again.  After all those years, Rosemary could still make her laugh.  



                                                                      – Linda Huesca Tully

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully