My Grandmother’s fond memories of her childhood
By JASMINE WILLIS
“Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age the child is grown, and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies” Edna St. Vincent Millay
After an inspirational road trip to our old hometown my grandmother was gracious enough to share some family treasures with me. Some of which I would like to share. Verna Jean Willis grew up on a farm in Wellsvile.
My grandmother shared some insight on what it was like being a child in the Great Depression.
“We lived on a farm and we were poor,” Verna said. “We had things from the farm to eat. My mother made almost all our clothes, and we went bare foot a lot. I remember placing cardboard in the bottom of my shoes when they would get too worn down.”
Verna recalls all the local farmers helped each other.
“We were a close knit group,” she said. “We helped each other harvest. That was our social life in the farming community, other than going to church on Sundays.”
We visited the old Sherwood Homestead. It was there my Great-Grandmother Ina Church had an emergency appendix surgery on her mother’s kitchen table in 1908. The Sherwood cemetery is nestled in the wooded area that slopes down the hill. My grandmother’s Uncle Abram Slocum lived there the whole time she was growing up.
Off to the Great- Great- Grandmother Addie Adams homestead, Verna pointed out some other cherished childhood memories. Her uncle Herb Adams owned the farm and grew potatoes.
“We would come up here from the school house down the road and after being very tired and hungry we would visit our uncle,” Verna said.” Aunt Maggie had marshmellows, which were a great treat to us. We would stop there to get warmed up.”
Our ancestor Henry Adams from England used potatoes in the 1600s to make beer.
“This is a very old family tradition,” Verna said about potato growers in the family lineage. “Farming was hard work but lovely. We made our own play time. We made fur hula skirts and tied them around our hips with belts. We picked berries, played house, and walked in the swamp collecting frogs and polly wogs.”
Baby animals were part of the turf growing up on the farm. This was true on the Ray Church Homestead. My great grandfather purchased the farm in 1916 from his uncle Abram Slocum and owned it until his death in 1966. His nephew Alan Kruger bought the home and rebuilt it. My grandmother was born in the house with help from the mid-wife who lived next door.
“We had fun with a baby lamb,” Verna recalled. “Our neighbor had three lambs, and could only keep two, so he let us have one. We raised it on a bottle and she was with us a long time. She had babies and for a long time my father had sheep on the farm. My father wouldn’t let us milk cows, because he was afraid we would get stomped on.”
At what was once my grandmother’s childhood home she got teared up seeing most of her childhood gone.
“It is sad for me to see the barn gone,” she said. “We would jump in the hay piles and feed the horses. I loved watching the large forks lift the hay into the barn. My siblings and I were in there to spread the hay around so it wasn’t in a huge pile. I really loved this place.”
(This is the first part in a series on my grandmothers stories during a Mother’s Day road trip to Wellsville Ny)