Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mother's Tree

If you have read any of the previous posts, you know that I love family history.  I'll admit to being a genealogy junkie.  I can lose an entire day by just sitting down at the computer with my morning coffee and saying to myself, "I wonder if there's anything new on Ancestry."   Pooof .... it's dinnertime!  The dog is whining, the dust bunnies have multiplied, I've forgotten to eat (not a bad thing) and I'm still in my jammies.  Holy crap, batman!

But what you don't know is that I have another passion and that is stitching.  Stitching of any kind ... knitting, quilting, cross stitch, crocheting.  You name it.  If it involves a stitch, I'm game.  My mother taught me to sew when I was in junior high school.  At that time, my older sister was taking home ec in high school and Mom had traded in her old treadle machine for a new electric model.

Mom was an excellent seamstress when she had time; but since her time was limited, she taught her daughters to sew.  Of course, I didn't realize at the time what a wonderful gift it truly was until I was blessed with a daughter who grew to be 6' tall.  Believe me I used every skill she ever taught in lengthening skirts, dresses, pants.  I even made her wedding dress as she was not only long-legged, but also had a long torso. I became a bit suicidal at that point and haven't done much sewing since.

Another gift my mother chose to pass on was how to crochet and embroider. Something to do on a cold winter night or a rainy afternoon.  I must have been fairly young because I don't remember doing either while in high school. After I left home, I taught myself to quilt and knit.  Do you remember those little green Coats & Clark books you bought at the dime store?  That's where I learned to knit. Wonder what ever happened to mine?

To get back to the main theme of today's blog, I decided to combine my love of genealogy with my love of old samplers and stitching.  I found a wonderful pattern called "Mother's Tree" by Lavender & Lace.  This was exactly what I needed to sew an heirloom gift for my only granddaughter.  The pattern records all women in a direct line.

Several years of genealogy research were completed before I even began the stitching.  In the end, I was unable to find the birth date for Anna Maria Conter Mueller.  German church records were not available for her village in that time frame, which I estimated to be around 1750.  I had hoped to perhaps find a death date that might give me a clue; but with the name Anna Mueller, I might as well have been looking for John Smith.  I began to stitch from the bottom up, hoping to find the missing data before I reached the space for her information, but no such luck. I decided it was best to finish it while I was able to do so.  Sometimes life gets in the way and I would have hated to see it end up unfinished and stuffed  in a drawer.

This week I brought it home from the frame shop. It felt like I had given birth!  It represents many years of my life.  It will hang in my home until my granddaughter is old enough to have her own home.  Since she's edging towards 15, it will be several years but hope to still be around to see it hung on her wall.  If not, she will have all my love and a bit of her family history wrapped up in thousands of stitches.  Perhaps it will be passed on.  I asked the framer to leave a bit of extra material tucked away at the bottom in hopes that maybe a future generation will be able to add a name if so desired.

Oh, did I mention that I never want to see DMC color 934 every again?

The stitching gene passed over my only daughter, but I taught my granddaughter, Reghan, to knit and cross stitch when she came to my house after school.  Of course, she's now a busy teenager with many school and sports activities, and stitching is far down her list.  But, I have faith that she will pick it up again someday just as I did.

Next up will be a sampler for my only grandson based totally on his surname.  Now if  I could just pass on the genealogy gene .....

Monday, September 12, 2011


As we observe the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, we are all reminded of the heroes in our lives.  My biggest hero was my grandfather, George Kornegor.  I loved that man.

I remember a tall, quiet man who didn't make much fuss over little granddaughters, but felt his love in many ways.  He suffered a stroke when I was about six years old and was bedridden much of the time. Many of my memories are of  his pet parakeet resting on his hand or walking up and down his paralyzed arm.  He would gently stroke it's head with his huge fingers and it would chirp to him. To me he was a gentle giant.

Grandma would ask me to come over and sit with Grandpa to keep him company while she went to Eastern Star meetings once a month.  We lived close by ...down a long gravel road, past a huge grove of pine trees that echoed your footsteps when you walked home in the deep dark of night.  But that's another story.

I'd help get the TV tuned to the right station and adjust the rabbit ears (things were pretty snowy in those days) as he loved to watch the old wrestling shows of the 1950's. Of course, Gorgeous George was his favorite. It's the only time I ever heard him swear.  His speech was a bit affected by the stroke, but there was no mistaking .... mumble, mumble, sumbisch!  I almost laughed out loud, but had to turn my head so he wouldn't know I heard.

The only industry in our small farming community was the local brick and tile company.  Grandpa was the superintendent of the plant so was well known and respected.  I was so proud to be his granddaughter.

                                                            George Kornegor ca 1910

My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1953 and Grandpa died just three years later.

George Kornegor, Sr., was born July 12, 1878 near Collins, Iowa in Jasper County.  He was the oldest child of Rachel and Thomas Kornegor. He grew to young manhood in the Collins community and at the age of eighteen he joined the Methodist Church in Maxwell, Iowa.

On November 15, 1903 he was united in marriage with Isabell Stockman, and they spent their early married life in Nevada, Iowa, where he was employed by the McHose Brick and Tile company. He later served as superintendent of the brick and tile companies at Iowa Falls, Van Meter and Sheffield, before coming to Rockford February 1, 1914.  For 35 years he served as superintendent of the Rockford Brick and Tile Company. He was a member of the Rockford Town Council for fourteen years.

He suffered a heart attack Sunday, September 23 and departed this life October 1, 1956. George was a member of  the Masonic Blue Lodge and Royal Arch Masons and had also served as a member of the town council.

                                                                George Kornegor 1953

My grandmother, Isabell, who had lost her life-long companion, never seemed to recover from her loss.  She died just nine months later.  I like to imagine that, like me, she had also lost her hero.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Wish Book

As a child growing up in the late 40's and early 50's, one of life's exciting moments occurred with the arrival of newest Montgomery Ward catalog.  We usually got one from Sears Roebuck also, but Mom seemed to prefer "Monkey Ward".  We had no home delivery of mail.  Everything was delivered to the post office and we would walk 6 blocks to check the mail every day.  Oh, the excitement when the newest edition arrived!!  My sister and I would argue over who got to look at it first.  Of course, if you were the kid that lugged it home from town, you got first dibs.

The Spring-Summer edition would arrive in mid-winter and we would spend hours looking at all the wonderful warm weather fashions soon to be available.  With the wind howling around the house and snow up to our knees in mid-February, we would curl up close to the heat register and  browse an afternoon away dreaming of warm weather.

The Fall-Winter edition would arrive in mid-summer and again we would page our way through exciting ideas for the new school year.  We would dream about the new, shiny bicycles, roller skates and all the mind boggling toys that were available in the Christmas issue.  It truly was a Wish Book as we knew most everything except the underwear and socks would not be available in our frugal world.

When the newest catalog arrived, I would start to beg my mother to let me have the outdated issue.  What a treasure!  I'd grab my scissors and cut out paper dolls and dresses galore.  My imagination knew no bounds.  Men, women, kids .... entire families came to life. 

The old, outdated catalogs were also used as booster seats at the kitchen table for little kids.  There were no heat registers in the upstairs bedrooms so on cold, winter mornings we would grab our clothes and dash downstairs.  Then Mom would open the oven door and we would sit on an old catalog while we dressed for school.

Of course, there was always an old, dog-eared edition residing in the outhouse in case you needed something to read ...

Since my parents had survived the Great Depression, spending frivolously was never, ever done ... ever.  This means that since I was the younger of two sisters, I was raised in hand-me-downs.  My wardrobe consisted of whatever Eileen had worn 3 years previously.  Some things I could not wait to grow into and others were less desirable. I distinctly remember a yellow peasant dress with black rickrack trim. Can you say Butt Ugly?   Mom never dressed us alike, but for some reason she bought two of those darn things.  They were probably selling at a greatly reduced price!  Needless to say, I was blessed with wearing those dresses for years.

I remember one summer day, my mother handed me the newest catalog, opened to the dress pages for young girls. It was time to get ready for school. She told me I could have any two I wanted as long as they were not over $2.98 each.  Oh the bliss!  Plaids, stripes, flowers, sashes or no sashes, collars or not ... There must have been 5 or 6 styles on the page that fit my $2.98 budget and I agonized over my purchase  for days!  I had never been given that privilege before. Wow!  Just for me!  Funny how that memory has stayed with me all these years. 

I never went to a shoe store to try on shoes until I was about 14 years old.  All our shoes were ordered from the Wish Book.  Don't know how my mother measured our feet, but the shoes usually fit.  Probably because she ordered them a bit on the big size so they would last all year.  We only got one new pair of shoes a year.  Mom always bought the plain brown oxford.  No frills, no different colors ... plain brown.  No Mary Janes as "the strap will break within a week."  No saddle shoes as "too hard to keep clean".  Plain brown shoes from the catalog.  Sigh ...

How I hated those brown shoes.  Actually, I hated shoes period.  Sis and I ran barefoot all summer so when it was time for school to start and we had to put on socks and squish our feet into shoes, it was pure agony.    I can remember walking out of the school building, sitting down on the steps, taking off my shoes to walk home on a warm September day.

The Wish Book was a large part of my youth. It was a sign the seasons were changing when the new issue arrived.  Sprawled on the living room floor, paging through all the wonders that were available, a little girl with a big imagination, could spend the afternoon.