Written by Alice Walpole Guernsey
“Mere historic incidents and personal events are frivolous and of no moment, unless the illustrate the ethics of Truth. God is over all. He alone is our origin, aim, and being. The real man is not of the dust, nor is he ever created through the flesh; for his father and mother are the one Spirit, and his brethren are all the children of one parent, the eternal good.”
“Retrospection and Introspection”
Mary Baker Eddy – page 21 and 22
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” Proverbs 30:10
In this bicentennial year of our country it seems appropriate to consider your historical makeup. You children have a grand heritage. The purpose of this book is to give you some insight into the character of one of your ancestors, your grandmother, Elizabeth Holly Walpole. She was a beautiful, spiritual, unique individual whose life was a model of perfection. Perhaps her example will uplift your experience as it has many others; those of us her life touched have been blessed.
Our human history begins with parents and grandparents. To tell about Elizabeth we will go back to the town of Bristol, Indiana, in the year 1906, where she was born in the home of her grandfather, Dr Julius Barbour.
Your great, great Grandfather Barbour was a kind, gentle man who was a country doctor for 30 years. When he was 13 years old, he enlisted in the Ninth Michigan Regiment of the Union Army and fought in the civil war against the South. At a particularly difficult time, during the war at the battle of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, when he lay wet and ill, he swore if he ever got out of the war alive, he would devote his life to helping people. He married Emma Reinhart of Union, Michigan, and they had three children: Harry, Mabel and Will.
Mabel, Elizabeth's mother, told about often riding with her father around the countryside on his calls to his patients. They would travel by buggy or in a cutter for winter use, which was a sleigh for two pulled by two horses. Mabel and her father were very close; she was loved and she loved in return.
In 1905 Mabel and Will Barbour were both attending school in Massachusetts. They attended schools which were situated side by side, but the young ladies attended Northfield and the gentlemen attended Mt Herman. Will became acquainted with a fellow classmate, Alanson P Holly of Lockport, New York, and he introduced Mabel to Alanson. Mabel and Alanson fell in love and were married. After their marriage, the newlyweds moved to New York State where Alanson was a YMCA secretary.
Alanson was the son of William and Eva Holly. He had bee born in Michigan but the family had eventually moved to Lockport, New York, where the Holly Steam Works was located. Alanson had two brothers, Duvillo and Forrest, and two sisters, Adelaide and Marjorie. Alanson's grandfather had been a pioneer farmer in Michigan. His uncle, a Birdsell Holly, was a famous inventor. He invented a regulator for steam boilers used to centrally heat community buildings. Alanson's father had been a farmer, storekeeper and later he installed these Holly Heating Systems around the country.
When Mabel was about to have her first child, she went from New York to her father's home in Bristol where her first child, Elizabeth, was born. Soon after this they moved to West Lafeyette, Indiana.
There are several stories about Elizabeth as a little child. From the beginning, she was beautiful. Her mother, Mabel, told of Elizabeth's being a beautiful baby, she was certain the most beautiful baby ever. Her father, Alanson, said “Elizabeth came straight from heaven and her feet never touched the ground.” I asked your great, great Aunt Hartie Barbour (She was Harry Barbour's wife) recently what kind of child Elizabeth had been and her answer was that Elizabeth was an “ideal child; she had a beautiful disposition. I never saw her angry. She had no faults.”
Elizabeth was a slightly built, quiet child and not quite two when her brother, Lance, joined the family. He was soon a boisterous boy, a little difficult for his mother to control so it was not easy for Elizabeth to play. Elizabeth's mother devised a plan whereby she put Elizabeth and her dolls in a big chair and she, herself, sat on the edge of the chair to keep Elizabeth out of reach of Lance where she could play.
The stories about Elizabeth growing up indicate what kind of a lovely child she was and remained always. Her family tells of her being kind, gentle, dignified and unselfish. She was slightly built with beautiful dark hair, brown expressive eyes, freckles and delicate features. Her laugh was joyous. The family often teased her about her laugh because at times she would be laughing to the point of tears but not a sound would she make.
Elizabeth's sister, Mary, remembers that Elizabeth never got into fights with the other children. Mary remembers her being there as they were all growing up but not really part of them. She had a quality of withdrawing into her thoughts. Mary said this of her sister: “she had a gentle, unselfed love for everyone, always thinking of someone else; how she could help what she could give of herself.”
The Holly children were six: Elizabeth, Alanson Jr, Mary, Helen, Forrest and Alice. Alice, the youngest of the “sprigs of Holly”, as Grandfather sometimes called his children, first recollects her sister when they lived in Webster Groves, Missouri. They lived previously to this in Indianapolis, Indiana. Elizabeth was 15 years older than Alice and they had a unique relationship.
Grandfather Holly had a good job by this time and Grandmother, who had never been away from her children overnight for 17 years, was able to travel and go places with her husband. A natural result was that Elizabeth filled in for her mother and in Alice's life she held a unique place – a combination of sister and mother. Alice never remembers her being “unkind, cross or impatient, but unfailingly good to her in every way.”
Grandmother Holly told of a time when all the family was ready to go someplace for the evening and were almost ready to walk out the door when they remembered that Alice was too little to go. Elizabeth willingly stayed home with Alice.
Forrest Holly describes his sister as “soft-spoken with a little air of the dreamer.” These are his words describing what he remembers: “Would often tease her as a little brother might. (Elizabeth was 12 years older than Forrest.) I see her now with a broom, sweeping the front hall, with a scarf about her head to keep the dust of, perhaps. My plaguing her brought a sharp, cross look with a great desire to be stern, but her character was much too sweet to betray sternness. It was really a sham anger, but she did get after me with a broom and chased me out the front door where I bounded across the porch and hid behind trees so she could finish her sweeping.”
Forrest recalls that when Elizabeth was in her high school days, there were boyfriends and girlfriends of Elizabeth's about the home.
One beau, a David Middleton, 39 years later paid her this tribute: “Betty, (she was called Betty or Beadie for years) was beloved by all who knew he and left her mark on all whom she contacted. For although it is 39 years this months since I first met Betty, I have never forgotten her, nor her beautiful personality of spirit. Yes it was in February, 1923, that I met Betty Holly, while we were both ice skating. And her tenderness and beauty meant much to me in those formative years and ever since.”
“I treasure and honor my memories of her as a girl and want to say that she had a profound influence on my life, although our paths did not meet for many years.”
When the Hollys lived in Indianapolis, Grandfather had a job with an ice cream dairy owned by a family named Furness. This company purchased a dairy in St Louis and Grandfather was sent to manage this plant named The Cities Dairy Company. He was manager until 1931, when the Dairy was bought out by the Borden Milk Company. The family moved to Webster Groves, a suburb of St Louis, in 1923, when Elizabeth was 17 years old.
The Hollys were a close-knit family, sharing picnics, games, skating and visiting relatives. Mary Holly Higgins sent this description of some of their family activities.. “As a family, we spent many hours in the woods, on bird walks, learning trees, flowers, etc. Picnics in the woods. Breakfast cooked on the banks of the Wabash (River). Walks along the old River Road. Such wonderful happy days.”
Grandfather loved automobiles and much of their entertainment involved the drives and trips they took as a family. One of Grandfather's cars was a four-door Packard convertible. A collectors dream these days.
Elizabeth's education was above normal for those days, not nearly as many young people went to college then as they do now. Elizabeth attended Principia College, which, at that time, was a junior college, situated in St Louis. It is now upriver in Elsah, Illinois. The campus was in an older section of town and the campus buildings had many lovely old trees and shrubs surrounding them. Lilacs were especially profuse and lovely in the spring. Elizabeth loved lilacs always because of the association with the happy days at Principia College.
She lived at home and attended classes during the day. Her father didn't have the money to send her to college, but Grandfather Holly's sister, Marjorie, and her husband, Sears Shearston, lovingly provided the money. Elizabeth's experience at Principia was lovely, forming lifelong friendships and broadening horizons.
In the fall of her second year at Principia, Elizabeth met Wallie Walpole, who was also in his second year at Principia. Wallie was a young man from Chicago, Illinois. His dreams had come true to be attending Principia College. They dated, but Wallie was not her only suitor. Also that fall, Wallie became ill and had to head home to be cared for by his family. He was never able to attend Principia again as he had to make his own way in the world. He had been on his own for a number of years. Walter Walpole has always been an avid supporter of Principia and thee of his own children graduated from there.
Wallie, after he became well, continued his suit for Elizabeth's hand, however. The summer of 1927, after graduation, Elizabeth and a friend, Clara Peck, spent a summer as counselors at Ko-Ha-NA Girl's Camp on Lake Michigan in Northern Michigan. Wallie and a friend, Bob Stitt, drove up from Chicago to Ko-Ha-Na one weekend to visit the girls.
Elizabeth was always serious and thoughtful and she was a deep romantic. For the next two years she wrote much poetry, finding this to be an expression of her inward thoughts.
A solemn stillness
Falls o'er land and water
Waiting for the sun to appear;
The east glows rose, honey, mauve,
Yellow, magenta, gold, soft lavender;
A dart of flame flashes up,
Another swiftly follows;
In dignified majesty the sunday Mounts the sky,
Bringing luminous light,
joy and ecstasy.
A flaming goddess drenching
the world in sunshine.
Wavering gray shadows melt away,
Gray brown footpaths beam,
The far flung low lands sparkle
with dew and brightness.
The lark reflects the untold
glory of the sun.
Exultant breezes boisterously
sweep across the fields,
Brush the warming hillsides,
Warm, rolling hillsides
Carpeted with green and yellow grain,
Mixed with tufts of purple vetch,
Buoy, bellow in whisking breezes;
Slim, silver birch trees, graceful pines,
Beckon, call, entreat. “Come to the hills!”
As we journey down life's way
It is the friends we make
That provide our efforts for good pay.
The kindly thoughtful deeds
To little things of life
To our hearts added joy feeds.
May you reap great successful As you journey on the way
And may your home with love
Be blessed –
For you make others very happy
And we are grateful and glad –
Thank you for the little book –
Wallie lad –
When Elizabeth was a teen, she had stayed with Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Sears for a while and they loved her as their own. The Shearstons lived in Coral Gables, Florida; they had two children, David and Evelyn. They invited Elizabeth to come stay with them at this time as she was not working and she could be of some help to them. She arrived in the fall and stayed until spring. She went by train from St Louis; it was October.
Evelyn remembers Elizabeth, her cousin, “even as a youngster to be somewhat special. Delicate (in the right sense of the word), beautiful inside and out, loving, tender and infinitely kind.” Evelin felt “she could talk with her about anything.”
David spoke of how his father, Uncle Sears, viewed her. “My Dad thought a great deal of Elizabeth. He told me, more than once, that next to Marjorie, he thought Elizabeth was the most perfect expression of girlhood and womanhood he ever knew. That, for Dad, was extreme praise, and so well deserved.”
Another story Evelyn remembers also involves Uncle Sears and his love for Elizabeth. “Uncle Sears and Aunt Marjorie took Elizabeth with them to a business party and dance. There was a man there who was quite handsome and very polite, but Elizabeth refused to dance with him and told her Uncle that she wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole (Uncle Sears' expression). He knew she was right, that he was not a good man and he was terribly impressed with her intuitive insight into his character even though he looked very fine.”
(I went with Mother, Holly, Bob and Forrest, in 1954, to Miami for a visit with the Shearstons. I met Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Sears for the first time. I was most impressed with the tender affection they had for Mother. Just before we left, Uncle Sears insisted that she allow him to pay for our trip. It was such a generous gesture. Mother was very touched. She considered it an example of Love meeting every need, for she really hadn't the finances for the trip but went because she had a strong feeling that it was a right thing to do.)
When Elizabeth was still at the Shearstons in April, 1928, Wallie and a Chicago friend, Ralph Fergerson, drove in his Huppmobile car to Miami to see her. In 1928 the trip to Miami by car took five days of driving. There were no paved roads, many were hard surface roads, but not paved. In the mountains the roads were narrow dirt roads. Ralph and Wallie had a tent and camped out under the stars or on some occasions stopped at tourist homes where they could clean up and get a good night's rest in a bed.
The courtship of Wallie and Elizabeth was poetic, innocent and sweet. It belongs to another century of pure-minded, unsophisticated lovers. Elizabeth did not dare to be too forward, as that was not her nature. She hoped and wished and expressed her longings and desires in her poetry. The romance began to blossom with visits and letters and came to full flower in Miami in the jasmine-scented moonlight. It was an idyllic, romantic love affair. Wallie called Elizabeth “My Queen.” One evening they shared a moment of at-oneness and from that moment on, there never was any question as to whether they were meant for each other. Years later Elizabeth wrote about this experience. “I remembered last night the time we stood in a pine woods, watching the moon in the sky, listening to the murmur of the wind. We were filled with the rapture of the exquisiteness of a new found love. We told each other our dreams – they were the same. It awed us to find we were so at-one in the spirit.”
This visit sealed their lives together and they began to consider marriage as soon as possible. Because of the bad times, there seemed to be a block in front of them; the practical aspects of supporting a wife seemed to be out of the financial question. It came to them to wait a year and save so that, by then, they would be in a better position.
On Labor Day weekend, after Elizabeth had been back home for some months, Wallie made a trip to Webster Grove to be with his sweetheart and to also ask Father Holly for approval to marry Elizabeth. The evening of his last day there, the time came to ask the question. Apparently, the Holly family knew what was in their hearts; probably Elizabeth had told them. Helen had placed a little bride and groom on the table the first evening Wallie arrives, so it seemed to be no secret.
A cute little incident occurred as it became evident that the talk was about to commence. Mother Holly tried to get Helen to leave the room and Helen, no doubt, was hoping to get to be in on this exciting event, as all young girls are thrilled by romance. Mother Holly finally had to tell her to leave.
Wallie was petrified at the prospect of having to talk this personally to Father Holly, as he appeared to be a stern man. Elizabeth, being the oldest of the family, had to endure some of her father's more stern rules, and, as a young girl, she had been somewhat afraid of her father. But Father Holly inside was a loving, gentle father who deeply loved his children.
After hours it seemed, Wallie said, “Mr Holly, I suppose you know what Elizabeth and I want to tell you.” Father Holly was standing in the middle of the room, Mother Holly near one window, and Wallie near another with Elizabeth in a tiny rocker by his side. They knew and approved; the Hollys liked Wallie, he was steady, industrious, and kind. The rest of the conversation was between both men, agreeing that Elizabeth was a rare jewel, a girl of high spiritual though, a girl to be loved, cared for, and protected. A wedding was set for the next spring.
The lovers were separated by many miles all this time and until their wedding in May, 1929. They corresponded every day, their letters being delivered on Sunday by Special Delivery. Wallie made some weekend trips to see Elizabeth, but not tool frequently; it was a long trip for a weekend. On one occasion, Elizabeth traveled to Chicago to visit Wallie and his family. Wallie's mother had passed away when he was two or three, but his father, brothers Arthur, Alfred and half brother Tommy, and his sisters Francis, Lucy and Carrie were all living in Chicago.
Aunt Francis' daughter, Lorraine Feldman, described a sweet interlude during this visit. Lorraine was twelve years old at the time. They were at her family's cottage on the Kankakee River. “Aunt Elizabeth was very quiet and refined and had the sweetest way about her. As a youngster one does see the beauty inside as well as other charms. I remember walking behind them on a hike we took to an area called The Falls. Aunt Elizabeth surely was a lovely person. I remember the day so clearly, as if it were yesterday. She was wearing her new engagement ring and Uncle Wallie had his arm around her as they walked ahead of us. Her long beautiful, dark hair hung down to her waist and her sweet smile flashing all the way.”
The months of separation between engagement and wedding were difficult, but Elizabeth always expected good. (Once when we were talking, when I was in my late teems, Mother said, “Love always finds a way.” I don't remember what that related to in my experience but I do know from what was said that it did relate to the unfoldment of her marriage to Daddy.)
The wedding, May 25, 1929, was held on the side lawn of the Holly home in the presence of fifty guests, fifteen of whom came from Chicago and were Wallie's relatives and friends. The yard was full of flowering bushes and plants at the peak of spring color. Forrest Holly remembers that a few days before the wedding, there had been a freak snow fall that covered everything with snow and threw the family into consternation. But by the day of the wedding, the snow had melted away and the day dawned warm and beautiful.
Elizabeth and Wally “went by auto to Northern Indiana where they spent a week at the cottage owned by a friend of AP's . Then they spent two days with Grandma Barbour in Bristol and went directly to housekeeping in a new apartment in Morgan Park, Chicago. We had sent their furniture ahead of them and Wallie's sister unpacked it so they had a real home to welcome them.” This description is quoted from a letter Mother Holly sent the Florida relatives after the wedding. She then added, “Elizabeth has a fine, manly, upright, industrious husband as some of you know and I don't worry a minute about their future.”
The newly weds made a happy, loving home for themselves. They were much in love. The lived seven years in Chicago in various sections of the city or suburbs; Morgan Park, Beverly Hills and finally, Donner's Grove. Here Holly, Alice and Perry Lynn were born. From now on, in my tale, I will refer to Elizabeth and Wallie as Mother and Daddy, as I am now telling about events I personally know about.
I don't remember many details about our life in Chicago, except that they were happy times. I do not as yet have a clear image of Mother. We were taken to many lovely things in Chicago – ballets, museums, the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. We took ballet lessons. In Donner's Grove, our last place of residence in the Chicago area, Holly and I attended the Avery Coonley School, a private school of high quality.
We grew up with frequent visits with all the many members of each family. We saw our Great Grandmother Barbour frequently. I remember being at her home in Bristol, the home in which our mother had been born. We saw aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents often. Mother's sisters, Helen and Alice, came on separate occasions for visits. Lance Holly and Tommy Walpole lived with us at the same time while they were trying to find work. Lance and Tommy became life-long friends from this association.
Lance's wife, Mary Kay, told me that “Lance always remembered how wonderful Elizabeth was to both him and Tommy when they were flat broke and let them sleep on their porch for a long time. Elizabeth and Wallie were having a struggle, too, but they managed to share what they had.”
Our parents sent Tommy to Principia College for a couple of terms. They tried to give him some guidance and a sense of home and family. He later joined us for a year or so in Flint. Uncle Tommy holds a dear spot in my heart as he was much with us when we were children.
Even though I don't remember many details of these early years, I do know that we had a warm secure home with parents who loved each other as well as us. Until I was much older, I was unable to be away from home for long. Our aunts and uncles in Chicago were wonderful to Holly and me and poured love upon us and because several of them had no children of their own, we were given much attention. But I couldn't stand to be away from my parents for very long. Twice, that I can remember, Daddy had to drive clear across the city in the middle of the night to bring me home because I just wouldn't stay at Aunt Lucy's or Aunt Francis' any longer. My, they surely teased me about that in later years.
Grandfather Holly moved his family, excepting Mother and Lance, to Southern California in 1931. Mother always felt it important to see her family, so for the next 13 years, we took family trips to sunny California. The first trip was taken in the spring of 1932, when I was under six months old and Holly was going on two.
This trip was not particularly enjoyable for Mother as they camped on the way out and back. Camp sites were nothing like they are today and cars were not nearly as comfortable. There were few permanent camp sites, people just pulled off the road wherever it looked decent. Mother had bottles and diapers and this was not her idea of a vacation. From that trip on, they stayed at tourist cabins or motels.
When Perry Lynn was born, Daddy left Mother at home with a nurse and took Holly and me on a trip out to California. Daddy was trying to give Mother a rest, but she and the nurse were at odds. The experience was distasteful to Mother. She and the nurse did not agree on how to care for the new baby.
When Grandfather first moved to California, they lived in a beautiful home 150 yards up the hillside from the Pacific Ocean on the west side of Point Loma, the promontory running into the sea near San Diego. In June, 1933, however, he bought 20 acres of land in Ramona, California, a small town east of San Diego, in a mountain valley. Your great Grandfather Walpole and great uncle Tommy helped build the natural stone fireplace for the cabin. Our Grandmother (Lady Mother, we called her) had a natural cactus garden in the front and on the side of the cabin. They raised peacocks which were penned across the driveway from the cabin.
Lance had graduated from Webster Groves High School just before that is referred to as “The Great Depression” of the 1930's. These were extremely difficult times. Young and old were out of work. Lance had had his own difficult times, so had Uncle Tommy. As I said, they both lived with us in Chicago, hoping to find work, but nothing permanent developed, so Lance went west in 1933. So did Tommy, eventually, in the late 1930's.
Grandfather had given up his work in St Louis to move west. The depression had eaten into his savings, but he set up Lance in the turkey business on the ranch in Ramona.
My only personal recollection of Grandfather Holly is of him popping corn over the open fire in the large stone fireplace in the cabin for Holy and me. We were the only grandchildren then. It was always a marvelous treat for us to be there in this environment, we all loved it. I remember coyotes howling at night, the peacock's screech, the smell of pepper trees and the lovely climate. There were happy times when everyone gathered at the cabin in the evening to talk and have fine times, laughing and joking.
The Hollys seemed to enjoy our coming as much as we enjoyed being there. Forrest Holly and Mother grew very close from these visits and also from their correspondence. Forrest said, Elizabeth and I would always visit together and usually late at night, when the children were in bed, the cows in pasture and the turkeys roosting. We usually talked Christian Science, our experiences and such, and were dear friends, indeed.”
Our daddy had been fortunate in having work during the hard depression years. In the fall of 1927 he got a job with a Chicago company, Bob and Beck Clutch Company, as an accountant. Bob and Beck was one of the founding companies creating the Borg Warner Corporation. Some years after the forming of Borg Warner Corporation, Daddy was advanced as assistant Treasurer of one of the new divisions, Borg Warner Service Parts. After four years, he received another promotion as Secretary-treasurer of another division, Marvel Schebler Corporation in Flint, Michigan.
So, in 1936, the Walpoles, Daddy, Mother, Holly, Alice and two month old Perry Lynn, moved to Flint, Michigan. Flint is where Chevrolet and Buick cars are assembled. It has a large Fisher Body plant, as well as many “feeder industries” for the automotive plants. Marvel supplied carburetors to the automotive industries, to John Deere Corporation, as well as other customers. Flint is a typical industrial town; it has 200,000 people, most of them associated with the automotive business.
We rented a house in a pleasant neighborhood not too far from General Motors Tech in one direction and Atwood Stadium in the other. Our grade school was a couple of blacks away, on a step hill. The Flint Soap Box Derby races were run on that hill. Uncle Tommy joined us in Flint; he was always included in our family circle.
From the beginning of their association together, Mother and Daddy made church and important and essential part of their lives. The teachings of Christian Science were not left in the church building on Sunday, but were lived in our home by both parents. No matter how busy Mother became, she never neglected her spiritual study. It was in Flint that I first remember attending Sunday School, although we had attended Sunday School since we were three.
One of the treats we enjoyed, sometimes on our way home from Church, was to stop at Vernor's Ginger Ale Drive-In on South Saginaw Street. They served a Cream Ale drink that was perhaps the most delicious drink ever concocted. We considered this a most special treat.
While living in Flint, our family made many friends. Our best friends being from Church, First Church of Flint. We also had relatives in Flint or in the area. Mother's cousin, Dr Fleming Barbour came to Flint in 1936 to set up his practice as an eye surgeon. Fleming is still practicing in Flint, he is the third generation doctor in that line of the family. His father, Dr Harry Barbour (Uncle Doc) was a general practitioner in Mayville, Michigan.
Often, after church on a summer Sunday, we would drive to Mayville to visit Aunt Hartie and Uncle Doc. Uncle Doc was Mother's uncle. His children, Julius, Fleming and Hartie, were often also visiting in Mayvile on these occasions. Aunt Hartie cooked the most delicious chicken dinners anyone ever cooked. We had nothing to do there and professed to be completely bored, but strangely enough, those visits stand out to me as influential in my thinking. Teaching perhaps the importance of family ties; love and respect for each other; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. A most precious heritage.
Fleming Barbour's wife, Marian, remembers Mother calling on her when she and Fleming first moved to Flint. Marian said Mother drove up to their apartment house with Perry Lynn in a basket in the back seat of her convertible. She described her as “sweet, kind, lovely with her family and oh, so capable. She could sew, do fancy work, cook the gourmet variety as well as decorate.” Marian called Mother “a beautiful person.”
A lovely friend of Mothers lived in the same apartment complex as Fleming and Marian, Miss Ruth Barlow, a church acquaintance, who was the Children's Librarian at the Flint Library. She and Mother became close friends. She spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases with us, even after we moved to Fenton.
Aunt Ruth, we called her, introduced our family to outstanding children's books, many of which we were fortunate to own. We had some first edition autographed copies. Our parents spent hours reading to us and we developed a deep respect for books and reading. “The Book House” was a collection of books for children Daddy and Mother bought for us when Holly and I were tiny. The first book of the collection was children's poetry, each successive book was for an older age group, containing fairy tales and short stories. By the time Perry Lynn had grown out of the first volume, it was completely worn out.
Mother was an early exponent of the Laura Ingles Wilder books. I believe that Aunt Ruth introduced her to these books. We had our teachers in Fenton in the third or fourth grade read these books aloud to the classes.
Aunt Ruth wrote and had published a children's book entitled, “Lisbeth Holly1”. The title was a variation on our Mother's name, a tribute to her from her friend. I have a copy of the book inscribed to me, personally, by Aunt Ruth and the illustrator.
Lovell and Edna Shore were also church friends, Lovell was the Soloist at First Church in Flint. When Forrie was born, Edna took care of Bob. The Shore's daughter, Suzanne, and I often visited each other and played. We became good friends and remained friends even after both families moved from Flint. Suzanne Shore is my friend to this day and you know her as Sue Maxwell, presently living in Carom, Michigan.
One of the events that stands out in my memory is a picture of our little family around the dinner table in the home in Flint with Perry just a small child, and at first just a baby. She would entertain us all through the meal with her antics. Mother would laugh until she cried.
“Yea, she reacheth for her hand to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20 In researching this project, I found several recurring themes; one was Mother's devotion to family, another was her loving, uplifting succor of many.
In 1938 Grandfather Holly sent a desperate request for mother to come to California. Her brother, Forrest, had come from college with a serious eye problem, which eventually resulted in his losing his sight. She responded to the call. Holly, Perry and I went with her. We were there long enough to be enrolled in school in Ramona. Mother's sister, Helen, took care of Perry, who was around two years old. Mother was a tower of strength to Forrest and her parents. It was a most difficult time for all of them.
Forrest described this experience in his own words: “I recall vividly how gentle Elizabeth was in my extremity, pained to be delivered. The delivery came gradually and surely and was advanced enough after perhaps a few weeks that Elizabeth was able to return home. She stood straight and sure during those days of trying to find the way. I think mostly it was her gentleness that helped, accompanied with steadfastness of certain good results. And they did come.”
Another example of Mother's care occurred at Christmas time, again during our years in Flint, when David and Evelyn Shearston came for a visit. Evelyn was a freshman at Principia College at the time. While at our home, Evelyn became seriously ill, scarlet fever, she felt. Mother had three small girls and a husband to care for, but she managed to are for all of us and yet give tender care to Evelyn. This was a Christian Science healing and our Mother supported Evelyn physically as well as spiritually. After some weeks, Evelyn was well and bale to come home.2
Continually, Mother gave of herself to friends who were ill. One time she stayed several nights with a sick friend so her family could get some rest. Mother was probably going without sleep herself as she had a large family to care for during the day. “When she did something for someone, it was done quietly and without fanfare.3”
After a few weeks in Flint, Mother and Daddy began looking for a permanent home. They wanted a home in a small town with good schools and recreation within driving distance of Daddy's job in Flint. They looked for quite some time and finally found a completely rebuilt farm house on an acre of well landscaped yard in Fenton, near the outskirts of town but on the main east-west street between Fenton and Linden. In 1939 we moved to Fenton, our parents, Holly, Perry and me. Bob and Forrie were soon to join us.
The area behind our yard was a huge field that stretched clear across to Shiamassee Avenue. Fenton is surrounded by lakes, so we spent our summers swimming. We could easily ride our bikes to one lake. Fenton was a lovely place in which to grow up.
Fenton provided our happiest years as a family. Again, in Fenton, we were active members of the local Christian Science Church and most of the family friends were associated with this activity. Mother and Daddy had numerous fine friends. It was a happy, productive time. Daddy served a term on the Fenton School Board; he was First Reader at church. Mother was active in the PTA, church work and she served a full term as Second Reader.
Bob and Forrie joined us in 1940 and 1941. They were both born in Hurley Hospital in Flint, as, by this time, medical science had come to believe that it was safer for mothers and babies to be born in the sanitary conditions of hospitals rather than in homes. Holly, Perry and I had been born at home.
The medical authorities told Mother, when she was expecting Bob, that her health was poor and that her life and the baby's life were in danger. She was also told that she should have no more children. Bob was, however, born under completely harmonious conditions and so was Forrest. This was a result of Mother's complete reliance on God, none of the predictions of medical science ever came true.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 31:26
The prevalent theory of baby care, when we came into the world, was that of strict scheduling, babies were to be fed at certain set times. Also, mothers were discouraged from holding their babies. This often meant that babies were left in their beds to cry until it was just the exact time to feed them. Mrs Thelma Roberts, a contemporary of our mother (she is my sister-in-law, Jackie Guernsey's mother), told me that her doctor, DR Melfroys, a well-known physician in Flint, taught this theory. Mrs Roberts said that she would not pick up her baby until the schedule said so. She would leave the house and go for a walk when her husband was home from work in the evening, because it upset her so to have to let her baby cry. Mrs Roberts said that by the time her third child was born, the same doctor had changed his view and mothers were allowed to be more natural with their babies.
Our mother considered these rules unnatural and not good for babies or mothers, and did not follow them. She was a sweet mother. I remember watching her bathe Bob and Forrie when they were babies; it is a tender memory. In my thought, my picture of Mother is the picture of ideal motherhood.
Mother was devoted to motherhood. (This is borne out by everyone I have contacted in putting this book together.) She was quiet and calm, she never raised her voice or lost her temper. I never heard her raise her voice or speak in anger. Mother didn't believe in spanking or physically abusing children. She felt discipline achieved by physical means would teach the child to behave from fear of pain rather than because good behavior was the correct thing to do. She never spoke meanly or unkindly when disciplining – her approach was always loving, gentle and quiet.
When I had children of my own, Mother corrected me on more than one occasion. She told me to never tell a child continually that he or she is naughty or bad. She felt that the child would soon think of itself that way and really become naughty.
Even with this soft speaking approach, Mother demanded obedience; we had rules we were expected to obey. Daddy was a strict disciplinarian; he ruled the home, but they worked together and were even in their application of discipline.
When six or seven, I remember lying in bed when it was still daylight on a warm summer evening, our bedtime was observed even though it was still light. One time when I was in my late teens and had my own schedule of bedtime, I was standing on the lower stairway. Mother was in the living room with some company. She turned to me and said quietly, “It is past time for you to go to bed, dealt.” I immediately, and without arguing, started upstairs. Mother had mistaken me for Perry Lynn, who was younger and still had bedtime hours to keep. Mother realized her mistake and was embarrassed, but this does illustrate how we obeyed.
A picture comes to mind of two active small boys, Forrie and Bob, who were playing but had gotten into a tussle. Mother enters the room, says nothing, just points her finger at them. This was all that was done and the children immediately were playing nicely again.
Another charming picture occurred at a dinner party which Mother and Daddy attended when Bob and Forrie were young. “The boys became restless and Mother quietly gathered up some books she had brought and took them into a quiet nook and with one on each side of her, she read to them. The adults went on visiting and no one noticed because Mother had handled the situation so quietly and well.4”
I got the giggles in church one Sunday. Mother just tapped me on the leg with her fingernails, I remember being chastised and stopped giggling.
From 1932-1945 we took annual trips to California. We always went by way of Route 66 through the Southwest, which was still “the old west” to some degree. We often stopped in or around Gallup, New Mexico, and went to an Indian Trading Post on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It was often our fortune to see a Navajo Indian squaw sitting right at the side of the road under a man made shelter of dried limbs, weaving an Indian basket. The Indians would usually come to the local railroad stations to sell their artifacts and the prices they charged were not adequate for the caliber of the work.
We stopped on one occasion at the Indian Pueblo near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and were allowed into the village. The Indians guarded their privacy, as well they should, but they allowed visitors. The Chief took us into his pueblo, his huge eagle feather headdress was hanging on the wall. The Indian women made bread by grinding corn into flour and baking it in outdoor ovens that looked like bowls turned upside down. The women would sit on the ground with their grinding stones, both stones being smooth from use. The were always colorfully dressed and dignified looking.
One of the things I'm most grateful for was the opportunity to see and visit the Southwest of the United States before it changed into the modern area it is today.
On our trips west, the conditions were much different than they are now. Now there are comfortable motels, nice restaurants, better automobiles and roads. After the Second World War things began to change rapidly, with Holiday Inns, etc all along the way. But on our earliest trips, tourist cabins and tourist homes were about the only lodgings available and these weren't always too convenient. Also what accommodations were available were soon filled by late afternoon. After a long day of travel, to find no place to stay for the night was a disappointment to say the least. On more than one occasion this happened to us, but sooner or later we always found someplace to stay. Mother had a strong conviction that there was always “a place prepared.” Some of the places we found were pretty crude, but they met the need.
One evening we were unable to find a place that had a vacancy. We were out west where the stretches between towns were hours apart. We drove on into the night, stopping at every town looking for a vacancy. We needed a room with at least two double beds, which was harder to find. It became very late and I know Mother was quite tired. Finally, at one or tow o'clock in the morning an old, rundown motel did have a room. It had old, lumpy dilapidated beds and a bare light bulb in the ceiling. Mother sighed, as she often did, and said, “well, at least it is clean.”
On another trip in Oklahoma we stopped at a motel on Route 66, very close to the highway. We just nicely got to sleep after getting used to the ever present roar of the trucks, when it seemed a train was about to come right into the motel room! The motel must have been five feet from the train tracks and every time a train went by the whole place vibrated and the roar of the train scared us to pieces!
Our Holly grandparents had a great love and knowledge of the Indians of Southern California. Grandfather sought them out in the 1930's and was accepted as a friend. They had a fine collection of Indian artifacts. Grandmother told me the story behind a huge basket she had. She had gone to the annual gathering of Southern California Indians. She called at the home of an Indian friend and found the Indian's grandchild ill and in great pain. Grandmother Holly surmised that the baby was troubled by some not too unusual problem and she arrange something to relieve the child. The baby was soon back to normal. Later Grandmother received a token of her Indian friend's gratitude – it was this lovely, hug basket, woven in gratitude and personally for our Grandmother.
When the Second World War broke out in the early 1940's, the normality of our life was changed. We in the United States did not suffer as much as other countries did, but things were changed. The war effort was top priority. Everything it seemed was rationed. Gasoline, sugar, rubber, meat. Almost all products were in short supply. Everyone had a Victory Garden, a vegetable plot, even in the cities.
Our father wasn't drafted, mainly because of his large family and age bracket, but many friends and relatives were in the Service. I had a fellow classmate, we were ten or eleven years old at the time, who had a brother who was a fighter pilot. He must have been trained in Michigan because he frequently would come swooping over his folks home which was across the field from us on Shiawassee Avenue. He would come in low over our house, dive directly over his folk's home, tip his wings and fly away. This young man was later killed. I found these experiences of the loss of many young men deeply disturbing.
Mother, along with all family planners, had to learn to get along with substitutes and shortage, but she managed along with everyone else. It was a glorious day when the war was finally over. By this time Harry Truman was President, atomic energy was discovered, radio was the popular communication device.
In 1944, Forrest Holly was married to Jean Treadway in Bristol, Connecticut. Travel was difficult in 1944 as soldiers were being transported from every area of the United States for the war effort. Civilian travel was not encouraged because of this troop movement. Somehow it was arranged for Mother to attend the wedding as the Holly family representative. Mary was there, also, but Mother took her Mother's place in the wedding affairs. It was a beautiful time for her. The Treadways loved her gracious, sweet charm.
“She looketh well to the ways of her household; and eateth not the bread of idleness. She is not afraid of the snow for her households; for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” Proverbs 31:27-21
From the end of the Second World War in 1945 to 1950 life at the Walpole household was that of a growing up, happy, normal family. We all had our5 activities and Mother stood at the hub of the wheel, keeping things running smoothly. She was a busy person, but always had time for our problems. She supported right activity and we knew she cares about what we were doing.
Daddy worked long hours, plus the driving time it took for him to go and come from Marvel. We had dinner often at 7:00 or 7:30 pm. Our friends could never understand this, it seemed everyone ate before we did. But this was out only time to be together as a family and we seldom missed the tradition. Mother always dressed for dinner in her heels and good clothes. She used our nice dishes, etc to serve. We would discuss our daily activities. Daddy would often have something to talk about from the office. Family letters were read aloud. This family dinner hour was one of our nicest times every day. Sometimes one or another of us would get scolded, or in a disagreement with Daddy, but it was for our good and this was really the time our family could discuss and share things.
Our home was always full of girlfriends and boyfriends of all ages. Bob and Forrie had a baseball game going in the side yard about every summer day. Perry Lynn was still entertaining us as she always had. Forrie did a lot of fishing with a friend. We children lived at the lake in the summer. Daddy bought us a canoe and this was a common summer entertainment for us older children. In other words, our household was quite a typical, normal family household.
Daddy always felt children should have a dog! Ho brought home a number of puppies and instructed us we were to take care of this puppy and not let the burden fall on our Mother, who really didn't care that much for pets. Well, we didn't know how to train a dog and as a consequence we had an assortment of completely wild, undisciplined dogs. Mother always ended up taking care of them and they always loved her, but she was not ever happy with our pets. Several of them were killed by cars on our busy street and mother had to console us after losing our loved pet. Daddy finally began to bring home older, already trained dogs, but this didn't seem to work either. Let Forry Walpole tell you about that: “Mother did not like pets, but we had them. Of course she took care of the pets. When we lived in Lovington, Illinois, we had a “so-called” pedigreed black and white Cocker Spaniel (I think it was actually a Water Apniel). The blood line must have been greatly diluted by the time it got to our dog, Champ. He was totally blind in one eye, barely able to see in the other eye, and had ear problems which gave him a very displeasing odor. Mother was so conscious of house odors that she would not cook fish in the house and having a dog with a foul odor was more than she could handle. I remember coming home one day from school and as I walked into the yard, Champ came tearing down the drive, barking ferociously. I thought for a while he was going to tear me apart. No stranger was going to come upon his property. Suddenly, when he got within about three feet, he recognized me and what had been a menacing looking face suddenly turned into a big, broad smile. This was the kind of dog Mother had to put up with. Worse yet was a very friendly, but totally undisciplined, Irish Setter we had in 1956 and 1957. His name was Patrick, and Patrick did as he darn well pleased. He was too spoiled to stay out of doors, so he was allowed to stay in the kitchen or sometimes the basement at night. Patrick had the uncanny ability of knowing when every female dog in Cass City was in heat. I suspect Patrick fathered more mutts in that two year period than any other dog in Cass City's history. Mother had to replace a half dozen screen doors from her kitchen due to Patrick's busting through them on his way to conquer another female dog. One time Mother received and irate telephone call from a woman who demanded that Mother fetch Patrick who had cornered the woman in her own kitchen in an attempt to get at her dog. (He had gone right through the screen door.) The merchants in Cass City loved Patrick who made the rounds each day to get a pt on the head and perhaps some bits of food. When he was not out chasing some female dog, Patrick would be right at Mother's feet, following her around the kitchen, and generally getting in her way.”
During the early years in Fenton, our Mother frequently invited our teachers to our home for dinner, especially if they were single people. Mother continually sought to include in our home circle people who had no families or were without a good expression of home. Also she felt it was good for us children to be exposed to people of different backgrounds and experiences.
One Thanksgiving we had an ex-convict and his children for Thanksgiving Dinner. This man had just gotten out of jail. I can't remember what had happened to his wife. Mother wanted to show him that someone cared. As I recall, we Walpole children were not particularly enthusiastic about sharing our Thanksgiving Dinner with strangers, but at the same time we were proud of our Mother's generous nature.
On another occasion we had Holly's high school teacher, a Mr Sholton, for dinner. Mr Sholton was a young single man, living alone. He was from a wealthy family but had chose to be a teacher. He had some liberal ideas, one of which he expressed at our dinner table that night. The adults were discussing race relations. Mr Sholton expressed his opinion that inner-marriage was the only answer to the problem! From our standpoint now that doesn't sound so liberal, but it was a very liberal point of view then. It was extremely controversial in our household, but it was the kind of thing that encouraged thinking on our part.
Then there was Miss Kidder. She was our high school biology teacher, unmarried, so she fell under Mother's umbrella of care-for-family-less-people. Miss Kidder became a close friend of Mothers and until Miss Kidder passed away, she and Mother shared a friendship of mutual love and respect. She went to Japan after the war in 1945 to teach dependents of Military Occupation Troops in Japan. Miss Kidder would always come for a visit on her vacations to the States. We were fortunate to learn many fine things about Japanese life from her.
“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor” from Proverbs 31 describes this loving quality of Mothers beautifully. She was always looking for ways to help, encourage and uplift others.
After we had lived in Denton a few years, the Walpole family became close friends of another family named Breckenridge. The association began from a friendship between Janet Breckenridge and myself, but it soon became a total family friendship. Mother and Aunt Betty Breckenridge, although very different in character, became good friends. Aunt Betty became interested in Christian Science through Mother's influence. Uncle Earl at the time we first knew him was a semi-invalid because of serious heart condition. He eventually was able to go back to work full time and Daddy got him a job at Marvel. Uncle Earl was the source of the cinnamon rolls we all make, he was a fine cook.
Janet has given me this firsthand account of our Mother. Janet was in our home a great deal when we were growing up and she and I spent many, many happy times together. I think Janet describes Mother about as well as anyone with these words: “She was to me, loving, giving and intelligent. I think I could have always felt her love for me as a person, even if she were not pleased with my actions. She let us eat crackers in bed6. (This is my favorite remark of all.) She laughed a lot. She loved me. She was so accepting and yet she was not naïve. I though of her as a second mom. I knew she'd care. There have been few others women I've met since then who love the person and separate the deed from the person.
I don't remember her ever really grumpy or in a bad mood. I think she'd probably tell us if we did something she didn't something she didn't like, but then it would be over. She was a sweet, warm, wonderful person! Aunt Elizabeth was so special, so sincere and smart.”
Our parents while in Fenton were part of a large group of friends, mostly associated with the church, who had lovely times together usually at picnics or dinner parties. Social entertainment was gathering for pot luck suppers or summer picnics. Mother was a gracious, lovely hostess. She never had extra help, but would put together a beautiful and delicious meal for a few or many. It didn't seem to matter how many guests. The food would be especially good and the serving done graciously and seemingly without effort. All this while taking care of a husband and five children.
Olga and Bill Hoey were part of this happy group and Olga gave me this description, “Our
pot luck' was a happy period. When her turn came, some lovely meat dish and home-made bread or rolls came from her kitchen and she always looked perfectly groomed --- as though she hadn't done a bit of work. Dinners on her own (not potluck) were delightful and she always had a number of people.”
The Walpole family became acquainted with a young family about this time named Sheppard. Bob, Catherine, three-year old Karen and infant Ann. They moved to Fenton soon after the war. We had a picnic for some friends in our back yard and Mother invited the Sheppards to join us. Catherine was a young wife at this time and a new student of Christian Science and she and Mother often discussed Christian Science. Catherine's description of Mother is beautiful: “I first met Elizabeth when I was a young wife and mother. I was impressed with how much she accomplished in a day. Of course it was because she used her time so intelligently and wisely. At that time she had five children. She was Second Reader at Church, was an attendant at the Reading Room. I'm sure she was active in several organizations. I don't believe she had help with her laundry or housework and she sewed for her children. With all this she looked lovely and well-groomed. She was well read and well informed and expressed herself so beautifully. Elizabeth was a gentle, kind, quiet person. She always appeared so serene and happy with herself.”
“Elizabeth was a very perceptive person – sensitive to other's needs. As I have said, she was a most gracious lady - a regal lady, and yet she befriended people from all walks of life. She was as likely to befriend a woman who did a little cussing and perhaps who was somewhat rough hewn as she was to befriend someone as refined as herself. She loved where there was love needed. Everyone loves and respected Elizabeth.”
This Catherine Sheppard is your present Grandmother and is as lovely, wise and beautiful as your first Grandmother.
Frequently company came for overnight or longer visits. Grandfather Walpole spent some months with us. Mary and Caroll Higgins came for a long visit. Lorraine and Bill, Lance and Mary Kay, Don and Helen, etc.
Forrest Holly came two times at least. I remember having a picnic in our back yard with Forrest. He loved Michigan sweet corn7. A farmer just down the road from us raised vegetables to sell, so we had fresh sweet corn and tomatoes almost every night of the summer. Forrest described a time during one of these visits: “It was spring and the lilacs were in bloom, gloriously in bloom in the backyard, both blue and white lilacs. I just loved the fragrance, the delicate little blossoms all swimming together in the huge blossom. I reveled in it and Elizabeth showed me the various plants and enjoyed them with me.”
Daddy frequently took company to Frankenmuth for dinner. He would always tell the men that he would order them a steak so big that they wouldn't be able to finish it. We went to Frankenmuth for dinner as a family now and again. Daddy took us out for dinner at nice restaurants quite often. We would all parade in, each of us dressed in our best clothes. Daddy wouldn't take us out unless we were dressed up. The patrons of the restaurant would all seem to stare at us as we came in. It wasn't common for parents to take five children out to eat.
When Holly and I reached high school age, Mother planned lovely parties for our groups of friends. A good share of these parties were planned for Holly's high school and college friends. A high school classmate of Holly's told us recently that she felt her own children were deprived of one of the things that had been a highlight of her high school days – these parties at our house. The parties usually were a gathering of the group after a special affair – game, dance, concert or play. Mother would fix a lovely, candlelit buffet. She usually served punch and a delicious assortment of food she prepared. The atmosphere was wholesome and no one objected.
In 1948 Holly went away to college. This was a big change for us.
The summer I graduated from high school, Vic and I decided we wanted to get married that summer. We had been dating for nearly four years. It was generally believed that we would get married, but Mother and Daddy were expecting us to wait a year or two longer at least.
One Sunday afternoon Vic got nerve enough to ask their permission for us to get married that summer. Daddy was sitting in a large, easy chair, reading the Sunday paper. Mother was coming down the stairs, which went from the living room to the upstairs. As Mother heard the question, her legs gave out from under her and she just sat down in the middle of the stairs. Daddy sat completely frozen with the paper held up as it had been when he was reading it. For a long time neither of them said anything.
They were wise in handling the situation. The said they wouldn't stand in our way, but that we should think seriously about what we were proposing to do. Daddy said that when we married we would be on our own, so we should be sure nothing would interfere with Vic's getting his education. They would rather that we wait, but would leave the decision to us. We thought about it for several weeks and finally decided to wait until a year from that August.
The Fenton years became interrupted the year I graduated from high school and went away to Michigan State. A new set of circumstances began to change our family life. Marvel Schebler was to be moved to Decatur, Illinois, and Daddy was to move with the plant.
Mother and Daddy went to Decatur to look for a house. They found a mansion-type home in Lovington, a small town thirty miles from Decatur. Mother fell in love with that house. It was somewhat run down, but it was a gracious, spacious home. Perry, Bob, Forrie, Mother and Daddy made the move in the fall of 1059. Holly and I joined them on vacations.
Mother did love the house, but Lovington left much to be desired. However the family as usual made many fine friends. I only spent a couple of months with the family in Lovington, the summer before the wedding. We spent the summer making our dresses for the wedding. Perry Lynn and I had a marvelous time together.
Prior to the move to Decatur, Daddy and a Mr Brown and Wm Hoey from Fenton formed a corporation named Walbro (a combination of the names Walpole and Brown). Daddy had seen a need for a company to completely specialize in small engine carburetors. This was the first step in the formation of Walbro, but at this point it was just a vague idea. Mr Brown had a small machine shop behind his house and they repaired lawn mowers and did some subcontract work.
After Daddy moved to Illinois, Billy Hoey oversaw the business in Fenton and Daddy came back to Michigan on weekends to keep up with things pertaining to the little business. But problems developed that required Daddy to be with the business in person or else lose all the time and money invested. This precipitated Daddy and Mother's mutually deciding that Daddy would leave his secure job and income with Marvel and risk all they had in their own business. So in August 1951 the family moved back to Fenton – to our same house even, it had been for sale but never had sold.
Within a week of moving back to Fenton, in fact the furniture hadn't arrived yet, Vic and I were married. This wedding was in Fenton, but arrangements had been made from Illinois. When the family arrived in Fenton, Holly and I stayed at one friend's home, Perry at another, Bob, Forrie, Mother and Daddy stayed in the family house but there was no furniture. I was on a cloud of happiness and nothing could upset me, but I marvel that Mother was able to handle this all so beautifully. But then, that was Mother. We had much, much loving help from friends. They had arranged places for us to stay, showers, the reception, etc. Olga Hoey had the rehearsal dinner at her house and on and on. It all unfolded harmoniously and seemingly effortlessly.
“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:11-12
After our wedding the Walpole household settled down to regular living again, with one difference – Walbro. This became the focus of most of Daddy's and much of Mother's attention. It was something like the birth of an infant. The idea struggling to be born, and then it struggled to grow. Daddy and Mother went into this adventure together. Mother standing firm and strong behind Daddy, giving him the support and courage to continue on. Mother was as much a part of the business as was Daddy. Her contribution was that of the spirit, behind the scenes but essential to the over-all unfoldment.
Bob, Forrie and Perry were lovingly cared for, guided, watched over, prayed for as we all had been. But the business was an overriding concern because of the struggle to survive. Bob and Forrie got paper routes. Bob had the morning Free Press and Forrest the afternoon Flint Journal. Mother took Bob in the car sometimes on his route in the morning. She would often go out in her night clothes with a coat on. They stopped for sweet rolls at the bakery, as it was the first customer.
Mother tried to contribute to the family grocery money at one point by making bread and selling it. She made bread for our use several times a week and she thought it could develop into a little business and help expenses. Her bread was delicious and friends were happy to buy a loaf, but finally Daddy figured out that she was spending more to make the bred than she was charging to sell it. She sold her bread for 25¢ a loaf and it was costing her 50 to make it!
MaryKay and Lance Holly visited Walpoles in Fenton around this period. It stayed in Mary Kay's thought because she said they learned later that Mother had borrowed money from Forrie from his paper route money to buy groceries for their visit. She mentioned this experience in a letter. These are her words: “We visited your family in Fenton. We didn't realize until we had returned home that times were real tough for your family and that Elizabeth had borrowed money from Forrie, who had a paper route, just to buy groceries for our visit. Had we known, I'm sure things were a little easier at that time for us and Lance would have insisted on doing something. He always felt badly about this later, but I assured him this must have been the way Elizabeth wanted it to be.”
From 1951 to 1953 the Company struggled along. Several people still with Walbro joined the Company around this time. Two of them were Howard Bacon and Bill Eberline.
Holly and Lambert Althaver were married at Principia College in February of 1953. The Walpole family came down from Fenton for the wedding, while six weeks old Scott and myself made the trip from Arkansas. Principia was always a second home for our parents. It was appropriate for Holly's wedding to be held there. During the few days we were all there, the college President, Mr Freddie Morgan, and his wife had us all for dinner one evening at their home in campus.
In the fall of 1953, I came home to Fenton with nine-month old Scott and expecting Craig. I rented an apartment in Fenton and settled down to wait out Vic's year in Korea. By Christmas time, Mother couldn't stand my being alone and insisted that Scott and I move in with them. Here again was Mother and Daddy's unselfishness expressed. Our moving in with them cost them extra money, much extra work and crowded everyone. But we stayed with them until August 1954.
Craig had arrived in January 1954. Mother and Daddy took me to the hospital in Flint and took care of all my needs. Mother had even arranged for a nurse to go with us to the hospital. She took care of all of us. Bob, Forrie and Perry were all young and needed her. By the way, Bob took over as Scott's second daddy while we lived with them. He was wonderful with the children.
In August of 1954, Vic came home from Korea and we were soon able to start off on our own again. In the following August, Drew joined the family.
Daddy and Mother celebrated quietly their 25th Wedding Anniversary in May of 1954. Their love and devotion was tender and had grown over the years to be even deeper than the early years. Letters written by Mother to Daddy never ceased to express their closeness, oneness and love. They had one of the rare experiences of life that few people are fortunate to share. A marriage of love, happiness and mutual respect.
The spring of 1954 was eventful for Walbro and the Walpoles as the Cass City Development Corporation approached Daddy about moving Walbro to Cass City. They offered to provide a building, give tax breaks, loan the Company some working capital and offer a labor force. Walbro was not wanted in Fenton and this offer from Cass City was accepted and felt to be an answer to prayer. The decision was made to move to Cass City.
That summer while a building was being built for the corporation's production, several young Cass City men spent the summer in Fenton raining for jobs. Lee Hartel, Dale Brown and JG Tuckey were three of them. Mother had them for dinner on several occasions. The plant moved to Cass City in the fall of 1954. Lambert and Holly joined the Company in Cass City. Bert had just been discharged from serving two years in the Army.
Mother did not move to Cass City at this time, although Daddy of course had to be there. She stayed on in Fenton until the following spring with Perry, Bob, Forrie until Perry's graduation from high school. Immediately after all that they all moved to Cass City to what was then the Steven's house. Perry left for college in the fall. They bought the house on Seeger Street, Daddy's present home, a year or two later.
The Cass City years would fill a book. Success, respect, friendships, opportunities for new experiences, and opportunities for new giving. Cass City opened its heart to the Walpoles. The sacrifice, unselfishness, love, devotion of a lifetime found its reward in the outpouring of love and respect Cass City gave to Mother and Daddy.
Mother made friends immediately with many of the fine ladies of Cass City. Helen Agar remarked, “Elizabeth was not in Cass City long and she was respected highly, equally with Belle Schwarderer and Virginia Auten, two of Cass City's outstanding women.” These three ladies, Belle Scwarderer, Virginia Auten and Mother, were women of unusual grace, expressing womanhood's highest qualities.
Lucille Bauer became a very close friend even though they were completely different individuals. They complimented each other and had a fine relationship. Lucille would let nothing deter her from a goal and her goals were usually to create something good for Cass City. The Christmas Pageant was one of her special projects. Mother respected the qualities Lucille expressed. She saw Lucille's greatness and loved her for it. This was typical of Mother's relationship with people. She always saw the best qualities in people.
“Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.” Proverbs 31:23
Walbro began to grow in Cass City. Mother's influence with the Company was profound and people recognized this even though she was not an employee in the regular sense. Walbro became a contributor to the community in all kinds of ways. Walbro gave to many charities. Education was stressed. Executives were encouraged to help in the community. These were contributions of Mother's influence and still characterize the business.
Mother attended plant picnics. The flavor of the Company was that of a big family. An early employee, Elaine Crane, described Mother as she was known to them from these picnics and visits. She called her “gracious and she radiated special care for everyone.”
Here is a letter from an early employee, Barbra Hendrick, telling about the early years at Walbro: “I hired in at Walbro in 1955, right after I graduated from high school. Mr Walpole did all the hiring and interviewing and gave us the rules he wanted followed. He was strict as to what clothes we wore and our morals.
“On Friday afternoons just before quiting time, he would call a meeting, tell us how many carburetors he had put out during that week and how many we needed to put out he following week. He would tell us of the bad work we needed to put out the following week. He would tell us of the bad work we had done, and how upset the companies were that we were trying to sell to. He would praise us for the good work done also. At first it was touch and go. Your mom would come and be there for some of these meetings.”
“After a few years, I think it was 1959/1960 at one of those meetings your dad made an announcement saying your mother had made the suggestion that since the employees had helped make the success and shared the work, they should share the profits also, in the form of bonuses. The first year the bonus was split up in payments, the next year we got a lump sum. As soon as I got mine I went to a furniture store and got a new dinette set, a table and six chairs and to this day it is still in excellent condition after five rough kids use and I know it will last through my future grandchildren someday as well.”
“When thinking of your mom, the things that stand out in my mind the most were her cheerful friendliness. She was what I thought an idea mother and grandmother should be. And she was so neat. Her hair was so pretty and she would always have a sweater around her shoulders. She would come through the factory part on her way to your dad's office. She would stop and say hi to any of us that she would see. I didn't know her well, but what I did know of her, she impressed me as being a fine and lovely lady.”
About ten years ago
A man came to our town,
Without much cash I'm told,
And not a great renown.
He brought with him a patent
And a wonderful family.
A vision of great things
And a marvelous faith had he.
His company grew and grew;
Some people called it luck.
To me it seems somehow,
T;was just old-fashioned pluck.
He backs all things in town
With money and energy,
And brought to many a man,
A great prosperity.
But also with it all,
A marvelous has he.
If any complaint I'd make,
T'woulsd simply have to be,
She's always on the go;
There are babies everywhere,
Who come into the world
And need her loving care.
We wish to you much joy;
We're sure that you will get it.
The secret of it all?
I'd say t'was faith that did it.
The many things they've done,
I'd say are simply great.
And out of it all has come,
The Best Town in the state.
(Poem by Meredith Auten)
Bob and Forrie fit right into school. Both participated in sports and were fortunate to be involved in athletics at a time when Cass City dominated the area. Mother and Daddy followed their sporting events faithfully. There was often a large gathering of young people and parents at the Walpole house after football and basketball games. The coaches and their wives would come and they became good friends of our parents.
The Matlacks moved to Cass City in 1958. Brian Althaver had arrived and Lauren joined joined us in 1958. Bob and Forrie were still in high school when we moved to Michigan from Maine in 1957. I stayed with our parents for a month waiting for Cindy to arrive. So Mother had four extra people with her again. Mother took me to the hospital when Cindy finally arrived. Vic was in Ludington and wasn't able to get back to Cass City on time. We moved to Cass City permanently in 1958.
They took several more trips to California. In fact the trips continued from 1945 on not always every year anymore, but they did make the trip as often as they could. Relatives also visited in Cass City. Our Grandmother Holly visited Cass City several times. She came from the west coast by train, she liked the leisurely trip that train travel allowed. Even just that short time ago, train travel was popular and comfortable.
Mother became active in the Caro Christian Science Church immediately after getting settled in Cass City. The Caro Church was in need of new members. Mother was elected First Reader almost as soon as she joined the Church. The Second Reader elected to read with Mother was Mary Johnson of Caro. Here is her description of her feelings about her friendship with Mother: “My first encounter with Elizabeth was at our family Church in Caro where she was a visitor who would soon join us, sharing her graceful ways, beauty of personal and personality and enjoy with us the love of Truth and God.”
“Our early call upon the Walpole family found a new Grandmother Proudly, happily holding her latest grandchildren, Brain, cuddled to her breast lovingly.”
“Her home, beloved husband and five children were the center of her affection, but not the circumference. Her church received many hours of devotion and civic duties engaged much of her efforts.”
“As our friendship grew, so did our understanding of one another. Her sincere loving support helped me over many periods in my quest for understanding and stronger faith. The privilege of being Second Reader with her remains an uplifting experience along the path from sense to Soul: our hours of preparatory reading aloud the 'lessons' together gave us a fringe benefit of communion.”
“When our youngest son achieved his Boy Scout “God and Country” award it as Elizabeth who fastened it to his uniform, just over the heart to join his Eagle award. At home Clark declared, 'I could feel her love for me and the meaningful award.'”
“The world needs many more 'Elizabeths' with her patience, integrity, faithfulness, charity and effulgence of true Love.”
“Favor is difficult and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
One of the strongest qualities Mother expressed was reliance on God. She had an unwavering trust. Everything in her experience was ruled by this reliance. She had one expression that we heard often “God is governing.” One of her favorite Bible passages was I Chronicles 29:11. “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.” She trusted completely.
A friend from the Caro Church, Nancy Littrup, stated that she didn't know Mother well, but she was strongly attracted to her because of the spiritual strength she expressed. Many people were attracted to her because of this spiritual quality. Another friend, Helen Agar, said: “You had the feeling that she knew the answer to things. She was a wise person.”
An elderly lady in Cass City walked across town to see Mother because she said, “I heard she lives close to God.”8
As a young person I was often not ready to be as understanding of this as I should have been. As an example of this, I was invited to my first prom by Vic. Holly, Mother and I went to Flint to look for dresses for both of us. We found two beautiful dresses, just perfect, but they had to send for the dresses in out sizes. They were to send them to us at our home. The dresses didn't come and didn't come. I became more impatient each day and I gave Mother a hard time about it. The week of the prom arrived and still no dresses! Mother kept telling me, “They will be here on time, don't worry.” Sometime during the week the dresses arrived. Mother had never doubted.
Mother' wisdom was gained by complete reliance on Truth, but the application was in very practical human ways, always quietly and without pushing. Often she would make a suggestion or correction in a quiet conversation about another completely different subject. She would work the point she wanted to make into the conversation. Many of these times in my particular relationship were in the kitchen when we were working together.
We all had boyfriend and girlfriend problems that our Mother helped guide us through. I came home from a dance, the summer I was to be in the ninth grade in high school in girlish anguish. I had been a “wall flower” and I was crushed. Mother heard me crying and came upstairs to comfort me. I don't remember what she said to me at that time but she later told me that she had prayed about the problem for sometime and she always felt that Vic had been the answer to that prayer. He called me for a date in December of that year and we have been in love ever since.
Forrie had an experience much later when he was in the tenth grade of high school. This is the story as I remember Mother telling it. A young high school girl who was living next door was obviously “setting her cap for Forrie.” She waited to walk to school with him, etc. Mother didn't dislike the young lady, but felt her attraction for Forrie was of the wrong kind and she didn't like it. It was spring and prom time was approaching. Mother had a feeling that Forrie was going to ask this girl to the prom. She quietly suggested to Forrie that Joyce Agar was not going to the prom as yet and why didn't he ask Joyce. He did, and she accepted. Joyce had a picture of the dress she wanted, but she didn't know how to go about making it. Mother and Joyce went shopping together for the material and Mother made the dress. Perry Lynn went over to the Agar;s the evening of the prom to help tie the lovely red sash to complete the picture. Of course you all know that Joyce became Forrie's dear wife.
The golden thread of God, good is governing, runs through all the years.
“She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” Proverbs 31:22
Ever since I can remember people have said to me, your mother is so beautiful or your mother's home is so beautiful. Physically, Mother's looks were striking. She had dark brown eyes and in later years a crown of silver hair. Forrie Walpole described her in these words. “By the time I remember her she was already putting a rinse on her hair to highlight the gray that seemed to come at an early age. Most of her features were small but her eyes sparkled with intelligence. She had graceful hands, long slender fingers with exquisite, always polished fingernails. Her manner of dress was totally feminine. It was out of character for her to wear slacks, jean or sweatshirts. Even when doing the housework she usually wore a dress or skirt and blouse.”
Meridith Auten told me that the first time she saw Mother she was wearing a brown dress and was crossing the street near the Ford Garage. Meredith said, “I never saw anyone so beautiful in all my life.” He referred to her beauty as “ethereal”.
This was common to hear. However, Mother had a spiritual quality that shone through the physical and was part of her beauty. She seldom took a good picture because the camera didn't seem to catch the spirit of her.
Mother's atmosphere of thought permeated her dwelling place and because he thought was beautiful this is what was expressed around her. She had nice things, but it wasn't the “things” that people found beautiful, but the love that filled whatever and wherever Mother dwelled.
Mother was a cultured person in the right sense of the word. She was well read, knew and liked good music. She played the piano as a young girl. She was an opera fan and always listened to the opera on Saturday from the Metropolitan Opera. Again, Forrie's words: “As I acquired interests in the world of idea, I found an eager listener in Mother. She was well read, articulate and interested in a wide range of subjects. She loved classical music and opera, delighted in the romantic poets and had a special interest in Russian novelists, particularly Tolstoy and Pasternak. She and I spent priceless hours discussing philosophy, religion and novels. When I was in high school, I went through most of Ernest Hemingway's novels and discussed them with her. Her approach was always to place the novel or particular idea we were discussing in context as it related to our own lives. Although we were raised in a small town, Mother encouraged a universal attitude toward life rather than a parochial attitude.”
To me, Mother was cultured about all in the sense that she had an innate expression of beauty, harmony and intelligence in her everyday life. This blessed others as well as herself.
Just as an example, Marge Johnson did Mother's hair. She was just out of high school and was working at Helen's Beauty Salon. Mother and Marge had many nice talks while Marge was setting or combing Mother's hair. Marge says that these discussions awoke in her a desire to enlarge her horizon. She began to read some of the books Mother suggested and they discussed them together. They talked about current events. Marge a few years ago took up painting and she has decorated her home beautifully. She say that she attributes some of her growth to Mother, who awoke in her, through her example, a desire to express beauty and art in her life.
Alice Matlack expresses this view of Mother as she was known to her in these years. “Elizabeth listened. She listened intelligently, with patience, kindness and empathy to so many people, including immediate family, other relations, close friends and even people she didn't know very well. Often she would listen quietly and then say just the right thing to comfort and encourage. However, I don't believe she very often told others her problems, nor did she complain. I always wanted to tell her of the good things that happened to our family because she would make me fell she was just as happy about it as I was.”
“She was in all ways, a lady. Her life was an exemplification of dignity, warmth, gentility, kindness, intelligence, quiet reserve and strength. She was beautiful to look at but above all, beautiful to know.”
A Mrs Bliss cleaned for Mother and Mrs Bliss grew to dearly love her. Eventually Mother arranged for Mrs Bliss to clean at Walbro because this way Mrs Bliss could get Social Security. I saw Mrs Bliss recently and told her I was writing about Mother. Mrs Bliss said, “I love that woman, I love that woman.”
Between 1954 when the family moved to Cass City and 1961 when Mother passed away, many eventful things happened. Bob and Forrie graduated from high school and each went away to college. Perry Lynn graduated from Principia and in the summer of 1961 was married in Atlanta, Georgia.
Forrie described an experience of his which I though was expressive of Mother's character. He told it this way. “Mother strongly encouraged the pursuit of academic excellence, and no one was more supportive of my decision to seek admission to an Ivy League school. In the spring of 1959 Princeton's letter of acceptance came. Mother received the letter on a day I was in school, and her excitement was unbounded. She was running to meet me as I walked down the sidewalk from school for lunch that noon hour. She was waving the envelope over her head. It was one of her moments of triumph.”
“A great premium was placed on acquiring a college education. Mother had a strong preference for the liberal arts curriculum and embedded this prejudice in my own thought. To this day I still support the liberal arts approach to college education.”
The family grew to include the grandchildren who were especially loved by their Grandmother. She was not a typical grandmother. She remained reserved and quiet even with the children, but she included them in her love and generosity.
Christmas was quite a special time, it always had been in our family but it had become a traditional family affair. It was always held at Mother's and she fixed a large Christmas dinner for everyone. For a few years we always opened all the gifts we were sharing family wise at the family Christmas. There were lots of children and they had a grand time. The gifts would seem piled to the ceiling. Daddy would distribute the gifts and the floor would disappear in an array of children, torn papers, ribbon and toys.
“Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praiseth her.” Proverbs 31:28
Mother passed away in January of 1961. We all miss her greatly, but she left an example of love and tenderness that still blesses each and everyone of us and also all of you.
Posted by Shannon Hillinger Wednesday, August 25, 2010