Saturday, September 6, 2014

#29 -A Grandson’s Memories, Guest Blogger Billy Recalls Bertha Hauxhurst Tyson

A  Grandson's Memories of Bertha Hauxhurst Tyson

These are memories of my great grandmother Bertha Hauxhurst of Old Westbury,  Long Island who married Chester Tyson of Adams County, PA  as told by my uncle, her grandson. He was a young boy when he went to live in Adams County (my mother is older than he). 
Bertha Hauxhurst as a young woman
Bertha (nearing 70) and Elizabeth at Crestmont c 1950
Thank you, Bill (or Billy) for “guest-blogging” for me:
Guest Blogger Billy & Bertha Hauxhurst Tyson (in her late 60s) behind him


A Grandson’s Memories - Guest Blogger Recalls Bertha Hauxhurst Tyson

My maternal grandmother [Bertha Hauxhurst, wife of Chester Tyson] may have raised twelve kids, but she was not known for her nurturing attitude; at least by the time I came along. 

World War 2 Living Situation
Bertha was living in half of (her son’s) my Uncle Don’s quaint house as far back as I can remember, which would probably take us back to World War II. [Bertha's husband Chester Tyson died in 1938, prior to the start of WW 2.]

Uncle Don [Tyson b 1902, eldest child] had a very old place that was half log and half stone.  Bertha lived in the log half. They shared the stairway and the bathroom, which was upstairs, but Gram had her own small kitchen.  Their water came from a spring that was about 200 feet up the road past the barn, and everyone enjoyed the watercress that grew in there.  Unfortunately, this also meant that water pressure was pretty poor in the house, and even worse in the barn.
Did she drive a car? I might remember her driving a car, but by the time I really got to know her she no longer did that.  If I recall accurately, she owned the blue Studebaker which was at Don’s house, and it would have been one of their earliest post-war models. The Studebaker was the kind of style we joked about: the sort which you couldn’t tell the front from the back.    
Studebaker c 1950
  Staying With "Gram" at Don's
Don Tyson’s farm comprised 80 acres, I was told, and it adjoined Uncle Ralph’s huge fruit farm [Don’s brother & another son, Ralph Tyson, b. 1914] at the top of the hill behind the house.   
Up there along a woods on the property line Bertha would gather wild strawberries for her cereal, and sometimes she walked all the way up to Ralph’s that way.  The alternative route to Ralph’s was the highway on Pennsylvania Route 34, which ran up through Idaville and passed Ralph’s fruit stand right at the Adams County line.  
When my mother’s uncle Ned [Edwin Tyson, brother to her father, Chester Tyson] became visibly ready to die it was decided I should spend some time at Uncle Don’s. In those days my cousin Ken Tyson (b. 1933) was my favorite playmate, and Aunt Irene (Kenyon, Don Tyson’s wife) was a favorite too. 

I was about seven years old. [Edwin Comly Tyson was b 28 Aug 1864, Gettysburg PA. He died 21 Nov 1945. “Ned” married Bertha’s elder sister, Mary W Hauxhurst, prior to Bertha marrying Ned’s brother, Chester Tyson. Guest blogger was seven years old.]

So, I actually stayed with Bertha. Gram [Bertha] had a double bed while cousins Ken and Jim could barely squeeze into their tiny room with its bunk beds. 
It must have been winter as Bertha would send me to bed before she went up, with instructions to heat up the bed.  It was frigid as the heating system did not directly heat any of the bedrooms, and I have never forgotten those miserable long minutes until my own heat started to make the bed bearable.  The window was usually open anyway, held up by a notched apple crate slat, since there were no sash weights to counterbalance it.   

That was OK because you could hear not only the trucks laboring up Route 34 from Idaville, but the crashing stream that fell through a jumble of rocks less than fifty feet from the house. [As mentioned, Ned died at the end of November]
Not Quite Keeping Up With Gram
One day during my stay there Gram [Bertha] decided we would walk up to Uncle Ralph’s, but not over the hill and down to his barn.  Instead, she decided to go up the highway, perhaps to check the mailbox at the end of Don’s long lane. 
It must be a quarter of a mile from the house to the highway, and the last part is up a steep hill.  I got to the highway, but when she started up along the edge of the highway toward Ralph’s, I began falling behind. 
Once in a while she would turn around and shout, “Come on, Billy!” but she never broke her stride, and she got smaller and smaller as the gap between us widened.  
 For some reason that has always stuck with me, Gram [Bertha] knew I could do it and did not have any patience for a laggard, even for a little pre-schooler.  Being on the highway was not a big deal, except for the occasional truck.  Gas rationing ensured that there weren’t many cars on the road.
[Note: in 1945, the year Ned died, Bertha was 64 years old.]

Gram and Chester
One day while she was fixing lunch I asked Gram why she had so many children.  She replied, “I guess Grandpa just liked children.”  It was many years before I figured out what Grandpa really liked.  
Bertha & some Tysons c 1948 (circle around Bertha)
I never met [grandfather, Bertha’s husband] Chester J. Tyson because he died in June of 1938, one month before I was born.  But I was aware of his importance in the community.  
I often explored people’s property in the countryside where we lived, and people inevitably asked me who I was.  I soon learned to say I was CJ Tyson’s grandson, which got me instant recognition and approval nearly everywhere north of Gettysburg.  I was very proud of that.
Chester J Tyson c 1912

  Gram's Cooking (or Not)
Gram [Bertha] was not a very good cook, at least during the time I knew her.  I believe my mother said she was of that opinion also.  When Bertha was a young mother, she always had an American Indian girl from the Indian school at Carlisle Barracks as a maid and cook.  
 And when my mother [who was the eldest daughter] got old enough, she was pressed into service to help with the cooking, cleaning, and raising of all those little brothers. 
Her sister Margaret probably was too young to be much help [Margaret was 2 years younger, and the next in line].   
Gram did bake shoo-fly pie, but I didn’t care for it much.  I don’t know now whether it was just her version, or if I just didn’t care for that kind of pie.
Shoo-Fly Pie, if you don't know what it contains
 Gram's Quilts
At that time Bertha had a huge project that went on for many years.  She made quilts on a large wooden quilting frame in her living room.  She made them for all of her children [12] and all of her grandchildren (yes, I still have mine). 

She used to stand for hours over that work, with a thimble and thread, and a little electric lamp that sat on the quilt next to where she was working. 

Later Don got her a television to keep her company, but I think she went right on making quilts.  Most of the designs were cross-stitched through cotton batting.  And that’s all I know about that.

 Gram, the Non-Interfering Mother-in-law
Gram was not one to interfere with [her son] Uncle Don’s family.  Apparently she knew that the mother in law can be a real problem, so she seemed to pretty much keep to her side of the house except when invited to participate in something.   
Their back door was into a small vestibule, with Irene’s kitchen to the left and Gram’s to the left.  I think there was a refrigerator in the vestibule. 

One time a truck load of whiskey overturned on the curve in Gardners, PA.  Uncle Don was an apple buyer for Musselman’s and happened to be in the vicinity, so he went over to see if he could help.   
State troopers were smashing bottles from the cases that had burst open, and gallons of whiskey were flowing down the ditches. 
Uncle Don did what any civic-minded citizen would do in those circumstances and removed a few bottles for safe-keeping so that the troopers would not have as many to smash. 
Gram made the comment to Irene that she thought there might be some liquor in the house, but that it was none of her business.

 Gram Enjoys Traveling & Chris-Craft Spotting
In 1949 my mother bought a new car to replace the tiring 1938 Buick we had driven since her accident in the winter of 1943.  It was a brown Plymouth station wagon (Suburban). One of the reasons she wanted it was to have a reliable car to drive to my sister Ann’s graduation from Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, RI. 

Naturally we took Gram along, but not my sister Mardy [Margaret].  I’m not sure why; I don’t think she was yet married. She was still at Penn State.  Gram was a good traveling buddy. 

At the time I was engaged in counting every new fish-tail Cadillac on the road, they had introduced their new tail fins by then.  

Then when we got to Rhode Island we saw boats everywhere.  My life’s dream was to have us own a Chris-Craft [brand name], a very popular brand of upscale cabin cruisers and inboard runabouts.  
I had their catalog and knew every current model on sight.  From that trip onward,  whenever Gram would see a small boat in my presence she would say, “Look, a Chris-Craft!”  She was a good spotter, and this was fun when we four went out on Cape Cod all the way to Provincetown. 
But, when I was in my twenties it became a little tiring.
Chris-Craft ad 1951
 Gram's Lye Soap
There used to be a funny song about “Grandma’s Lye Soap.”  It was no joke to us. 
About once a year, probably after someone had butchered a hog, Gram [Bertha] would come spend an afternoon making soap.  She used a full lard can, but that’s the only ingredient I remember.  There must have been some pumice in it, too, and of course the lye.  

She did all the heating and stirring out on our back porch, behind the kitchen, and when she was done there were big pans of white soap sitting around to harden.  The type of vessel I remember was the kind of white porcelain pan you used to wash babies in (I guess you could wash dishes in them, too, but we didn’t.) 

After a few days someone took a large kitchen knife and cut that hardened soap into cubes of three to four inches on a side, and we used those for hand soap and bathing.  It worked really well, and just smelled of soap—no perfume in it.  According to the song, lyesoap was really harsh, but I don’t recall that it was. 
[Billy, I found the lyrics to Grandma's Lye Soap:
Do you remember Grandma’s Lye Soap,
Good for everything in the home,
And the secret was in the scrubbing,
It wouldn’t suds, and wouldn’t foam,
Oh, let us sing right out, sing out!
For Grandma’s Lye Soap,
Sing it out, all over the place!
For pots and pans, and dirty dishes,
And for your hands,
And for your face!

Little Therman, and Brother Herman,
Had an aversion to washing their ears
Grandma scrubbed them with her lye soap,
And they haven’t heard a word in years!
Mrs. O’Malley, out in the valley,
Suffered from ulcers, I understand,
She swallowed a cake of Grandma’s Lye Soap,
Has the cleanest ulcers in the land!

Gram, Later On
My only memorable encounter with Gram [Bertha] when I was in senior high school was when I was sent to Harrisburg, PA to pick her up at the train station, which at that time was the Pennsylvania Railroad--the same station where they were known to have held up passenger trains so that her husband, CJ Tyson, could get aboard.  (As told to me by my mother).  

I took my girlfriend along and we did meet Gram in the station. My recollection was that she was somewhat grumpy and did not seem overly impressed by my companion.  There was something about who would ride in the front seat and who would ride in back, but at this point I can’t remember how that worked out. 
Then I went off to college and didn’t see Gram until the summer before my final quarter before I graduated.  

Then in 1960, my parents had returned from being in Italy and were then stationed in Wichita Falls, Texas, at Sheppard Air Force Base.   
And Gram [Bertha] had gone to live with them, something my mother had sought for a long time. 
I had a summer job as a laborer for a plumbing contractor who was laying new sewer and water pipe in various new communities there in Texas.  I would come home from work pretty beat from the sun and the work, but Gram was always there to liven things up.  

My father bought their first TV that summer, so they could watch the political conventions, which used to be very interesting. 
Gram and I enjoyed discussions about most anything, but she mostly talked about the distant past. [In the 1950s Presidential Conventions were first televised for both parties, but it was not till 1960 that the Presidential Conventions were widely viewed. In 1960, Bertha was 79 years old].

Gram's Final Years
I suppose she was in the early stages of dementia, which in those days was known as “hardening of the arteries.”   
Recent events were much harder for her to recall, of course.  During that period Gram read every issue of the Gettysburg Times, and I think she read every word, including the ads.  But, of course she started with the obituaries, and would regale my mother with accounts of who had died and what she remembered about them.  Unfortunately, she liked to read out every item that interested her, but my mother tolerated it pretty well.

The last time I saw Gram [Bertha] was at Sheppard-Pratt Nursing Home in Baltimore, and she was to the point that the high point of her day was tossing bean bags with fellow residents.  

Unfortunately, the day we visited she recognized me right away.  This was nice for me, but hard for my mother to take because Gram did not seem to know who she was that day.  But we all knew that is the nature of dementia.

Gram [Bertha] was very proud of her Hawxhurst/Hicks heritage, and often mentioned her childhood.  She also often mentioned Aunt Mary [Hauxhurst], Uncle Ned’s wife, who was her sister.   
I think her loss was quite a blow to Gram, but by the time I met Uncle Ned, Aunt Mary was long gone. The house did have memories of her, including old appliances and devices, like an ice box and clothes mangle, that had been hers.

[Mary Willis Hawxhurst  was b. 1862 in Old Westbury. and died in 1941, only 3 years before her husband died. The guest blogger was only 3 years old when Mary died.]
Ned Tyson (husband's brother) & his wife, Mary (also Bertha's sister)

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