My Great-Grandmother Ada Jane Lewis Hooker: Was the Clock Hers or Not?

My maternal grandfather’s mother, Ada Jane Lewis Hooker, died when my grandfather was still a child. My grandfather died when I was not quite ten, before I started asking any stories about prior generations. In addition, sons don’t talk much about their mothers and my grandfather was a taciturn man. So I never heard much about Ada Jane, and I know little about her.

My grandfather’s clock — from Ada Jane’s kitchen to my living room

And yet, I have her Seth Thomas eight-day pendulum clock in my living room—this clock is the only possession I have inherited that I know belonged to any of my great-grandparents. I call it “my grandfather’s clock,” because my grandfather (Ada Jane’s son) was the first person I remember owning it. But it came from his mother. Or so I was told.

The story goes that this clock sat in Ada Jane’s kitchen in her home in Dallas, Oregon, when my grandfather was young. She kept it on a shelf above the stove, and over time the clock became coated with grease and other cooking residues. But it has always looked clean and beautiful to me, for as long as I can remember it, back to my earliest childhood days when the clock was a fixture in my grandparents’ house. Someone along the way—maybe my grandfather?—must have had the clock restored to its original late-19th-century glory.

I don’t know how old the clock is. I’ve looked for similar Seth Thomas clocks online, and my clock appears similar to 1870s models, though I have yet to see pictures of any other clocks with the same style wood frame or metal painted face. I used to fantasize that my clock came across the plains in a covered wagon along with my ancestors. Ada Jane’s relatives arrived in Oregon sometime in the mid-1800s, and her husband’s ancestors, the Hookers, arrived in 1848. But after some investigation, I doubt the clock dates back to the 1840s or ’50s.

I.A. Hooker May 1875

My research shows that though the clock was in Ada Jane’s kitchen, it probably did not come from her birth family. It was probably purchased by the Hooker family she married into. Inside the clock, behind its painted face, are the words “I.A. Hooker May 1875,” handwritten in pencil. Ira Allen Hooker was my grandfather’s grandfather, Ada Jane’s husband’s father. Ira was the first of my Hooker ancestors born in Oregon, the child of the Hookers who emigrated to Oregon in 1848.

Thus, it appears that Ada Jane got the clock from her in-laws, and most likely it was purchased in or not long before 1875.

Thomas B. and Ada Jane Hooker

Other than the clock in her kitchen, all I have of Ada Jane is a picture of her with my great-grandfather, Thomas B. Hooker. I know very little about her ancestors, only that her maiden name was Lewis.

There are records showing Lewises coming to Linn County, Oregon, as early as 1846, and other Lewises in Polk County, Oregon, by 1847. But I don’t know which of these Lewises—if any of them—were related to Ada Jane. I don’t know where her ancestors came from before they emigrated to Oregon.

All I know about Ada Jane’s life is that she was born on April 6, 1883, married my great-grandfather Thomas B. Hooker (but I don’t know the date of the wedding), had two children, and died December 12, 1917, when she was only 34. My grandfather Robert Eugene (called Gene) was the older of her children, born on March 15, 1905, and he had a younger sister Gwendolyn, born on September 18, 1906. So Ada’s children were only twelve and eleven when she died.

Ada’s obituary reads:

“Mrs. T.B. Hooker, wife of Deputy Sheriff T.B. Hooker, passed away at her home in this city [Dallas] Wednesday after a lingering illness of several years caused by cancer. Mrs. Hooker, who was one of Polk county’s native daughters, was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Lewis, pioneer residents of the Lewisville neighborhood, and was born on April 6, 1883. She is survived by her husband and two children, Eugene and Gwendolyn of this city, her father and mother and ten brothers and sisters. The funeral services will be held this morning in the United Evangelical church of this city and interment will take place in the family cemetery at Lewisville.” Capital Journal, Saturday, December 15, 1917

I don’t know what kind of cancer Ada Jane had. Her son, my grandfather, developed colon cancer in his last year, though he died of a stroke. He lived longer than her 34 years, but he died relatively young at age 60.

Grave marker for three Hookers — Ada Jane Lewis Hooker, Thomas B. Hooker, and Winona Grace Lewis Hooker

After Ada Jane died, her husband Thomas married her much younger sister Winona Grace Lewis. Both Thomas Hooker and Winona survived into my childhood. Nona, as we called Winona, was born in 1897 and lived until 1987, or seventy years after her sister Ada Jane died. Nona had one child, Thomas B. Hooker, Jr., who was many years younger than his half-siblings/cousins (my grandfather and his sister). In my current work-in-progress, I write about a widower who married his first wife’s younger sister. That idea came from this detail of my own family history.

Ada Jane was originally buried in Smith Cemetery, but her grave was moved to the Dallas Cemetery prior to World War II. Now all three of them—Thomas Hooker and his two wives, Ada Jane and Winona—are buried under the same headstone in the Dallas, Oregon, cemetery.

I wish I had more of Ada Jane than her picture and an old family clock.

What do you wish you knew about your ancestors?

Anniversary in Aruba

For our 25th wedding anniversary in 2002, my husband and I went to Aruba. First, we celebrated Thanksgiving at home with our two children—I think that was the only year we have ever had just the four of us for a holiday. We cooked turkey and all the trimmings, and at the end of that weekend, we sent our son back to college and made arrangements for the neighbors to watch out for our high-school-age daughter while we went to Aruba.

Our daughter was a good student, a good driver, and I trusted her. Still, I wanted someone to know she’d be by herself at home for a week.

“If we hear music, we’ll call the cops,” our neighbor across the street said with a deadpan face.

I must have looked appalled at this possibility, because he laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said. “We have teenage girls. We know what to watch for.”

Then, in the first week of December, we set out on our adventure.

What I remember most about Aruba is the wind. My husband and I stayed at a lovely resort on the northwest coast of the Caribbean Island, one of a series of resorts along that shore. As soon as we arrived, we walked to the beach, and the wind whipped my hair about my face.

View from our hotel room

Our tiny rental car

After a day or so near the resort, we wanted to explore more of the island and rented a car. Over the rest of our stay, we toured much of Aruba. We drove all along the southern shore, did touristy things in the capital of Oranjestad, snorkeled on a reef in shallow water near the Citgo Oil Refinery, viewed the lighthouse on the northern tip of the island and the natural bridge on its north-central coast, toured an aloe plantation and factory, and hiked a corner of Arikok National Park.

Rocky beach on Aruba

Reef where we snorkeled, with refinery in the background

Natural bridge on Aruba

Through all of it, the wind blew, hot and drying. It wasn’t really unpleasant—I was used to wind from my childhood in Richland, Washington, where the wind came through the Columbia River Gorge and east toward Richland.

But Aruba was a far different Caribbean experience than our trip to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for our tenth anniversary. St. Thomas was a more typically humid Caribbean climate. The vegetation in St. Thomas was lusher, the beaches whiter, and the water a deeper blue.

Still, our trip to Aruba was a memorable week in our lives and a delightful change from early winter in Kansas City and the madness of Christmas preparations.

On our last day in Aruba, we headed to the airport and learned our flight was delayed by snow in Charlotte, North Carolina—our transfer point. We made it to Charlotte late that night, but not back to Kansas City. We got one of the last hotel rooms near the airport and made the final leg of the trip home the next day.

Our daughter had managed fine without us. And we’d had a wonderful trip, until the journey home.

What memorable vacations have you taken?

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Green Beans

A staple recipe in our household is Old-Fashioned Green Beans. They’re easy to make, and the recipe doubles easily so it can feed a crowd. My husband and I often take these beans to potlucks and other events where we are responsible for a side dish. We also serve them regularly at family meals.

The official green bean recipe, with updated annotations in the corner

Despite the simple recipe, my husband doesn’t think I make green beans right. This recipe comes from his side of the family, so he feels some proprietary ownership in it. He’s often suspicious of my cooking, thinking I don’t follow the recipe. And sometimes I don’t.

Still, what can go wrong with green beans? Fry the bacon and onion, dump in the beans, and add some spices.

It’s in the spices where he thinks I go wrong.

So I wrote down what he did when he made the green beans for our Thanksgiving dinner last week. Here is the official Old-Fashioned Green Bean recipe (though he modified it from his mother’s recipe, because we didn’t have the exact spices she used):

Old-Fashioned Green Beans

2 lbs green beans
2 strips bacon
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp Mrs. Dash or Perfect Pinch or Beau Monde (see, there are variations)
1 tsp seasoned salt (he used Lawry’s)
1 tsp garlic salt

Cut up bacon, fry on medium heat. Chop onion and add to bacon. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
Add beans, up to 1/3 pan of water, and seasonings.
Bring to boil, then simmer as long as time allows (at least 2 hours).

Enjoy!

All that’s left of our Thanksgiving green beans — enough for one more meal for the two of us

What recipes does your family argue over?

Our Fortieth Anniversary: Memories and Treasures Through Generations

This year I’ve posted several times about my husband’s and my courtship forty years ago. (See here and here and here.) Yesterday, November 26, 2017, was our fortieth wedding anniversary. As we did the year we were married, we celebrated throughout the Thanksgiving weekend.

This Thursday we hosted my husband’s mother, sister, and brother-in-law for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a smaller, older crowd than our holiday dinner forty years ago. Then, my parents hosted the entire wedding party and three generations of family members at two tables. My husband-to-be-in-two-days, at age 28, was the oldest person at the kids’ table in the basement. My parents, at age 44, were the youngest people at the grown-ups’ table in the dining room.

This Friday, we rested after our meal preparation for Thanksgiving. Forty years ago on Friday of the holiday weekend, we had the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.

This past Saturday evening, my husband and I went to a Christmas music show at the Quality Hill Playhouse in Kansas City. On Saturday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend forty years ago, we were married, followed by a low-key reception at a local hotel in my hometown. Late that Saturday, my husband and I flew to San Francisco, where we stayed at the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

On Sunday—our actual fortieth anniversary—my husband worked and I dealt with a temporary crown that popped off. But in the evening we celebrated with dinner at Piropos, a premier restaurant near our home (though to accommodate my tooth, I ordered soup and seafood ravioli instead of salad and steak, as I had planned). On Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend forty years ago, we had brunch at the Top of the Mark, then headed back to Stanford to prepare for our Monday law school classes.

On June 25, 1955, almost twenty-two years before my husband and I were married, my parents also stayed at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, driving there from Klamath Falls, Oregon, after their wedding. My mother wrote her parents a lovely thank-you note on June 27, 1955, while on their two-week honeymoon in Carmel. My grandmother saved the note, and I have it now.

I was a less grateful daughter and didn’t write my parents while on my brief one-night honeymoon. Nor did I contact them anytime in the week after the wedding. When I did first call my parents the following weekend, there were some hints that they should have heard from me earlier. My only excuse is that I had classes on Monday and a law review note to rewrite in three weeks. That, and I am less thoughtful than my parents were.

As I was going through our good china and silver (most of which we received as our wedding presents) to set the table for Thanksgiving dinner last week, I came across a box with a silver tray in it. The tray falls into the category of “things I forgot I had.”

In the box with the tray was a note from my mother to my husband and me:

“Dear Theresa and Al,
Happy 25th Anniversary! As a silver keepsake-memento for this occasion in your life, this silver tray Nanny Winnie and Papa Gene [my mother’s parents] received from a group of their friends in Klamath Falls on their 25th anniversary at a surprise party (I believe) in 1954.
With our love and prayers, Mother and Dad.
November 26, 2002 — Have a wonderful trip to Aruba.”

My parents were as thoughtful in their choice of gift for our twenty-fifth anniversary as they were after their own wedding, by then almost fifty years in the past. I’m sure I wrote them a thank-you note after receiving the tray, though there is no evidence to prove it. And I’ve never used the silver tray from my grandparents, which is why it became a “thing I forgot I had.” It seems too nice to leave out, plus it would then need polishing on occasion.

This post rambles from events commemorating our fortieth anniversary this year, our twenty-fifth anniversary in 2002, our wedding in 1977, my parents’ wedding in 1955, and my grandparents’ twenty-fifth anniversary in 1954—which happened before I was born. Some of these events are part of my memory. Some were not my memories, but those of my parents and grandparents, and they survive now only as recorded in letters. Or in my blog posts.

Family memories live on through the ages, as long as we keep them alive. By writing them down, I do what I can to keep my family’s memories alive.

Perhaps I will pull out that silver tray from my grandparents this year to hold the Christmas cards we will receive over the next few weeks. That, too, will help me keep alive the memories that are mine, my parents, and my grandparents. And maybe I’ll even build some new memories, so that the silver tray becomes mine as much it was as my grandparents.’

What treasures are part of your family’s memories?

Random Photos: Thanksgiving 1988

Every so often I thumb through one of my boxes of old photographs. This time I kept thumbing until I found something suitable for a November blog post, so I suppose my choice isn’t really random at all.

For this post, I selected an envelope of pictures my father took during a visit my parents made to Kansas City for Thanksgiving 1988. And the photographs did bring back some random memories.

I’d forgotten this particular visit and holiday, though once I looked at the pictures it began to come back to me. I’m not sure I would have remembered the exact year, except that my father thoughtfully labeled the envelope “’88 Thanksgiving Trip to KC.” Moreover, attached to the envelope is a receipt from the photo print shop dated 11-27-88.

When I opened the envelope, I was delighted to see these snapshots and to relive that Thanksgiving Day twenty-nine years ago.

My kids and me, Thanksgiving 1988

Daughter in the plaid coat

In the picture of me with my kids, the one with my daughter sitting on my lap, my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter is wearing her favorite black knit skirt and white sweatshirt top—or at least this was her favorite outfit until her preschool teacher told her she couldn’t hang upside down on the monkey bars while wearing a skirt. Then she never wanted to wear it again. I tried to force the issue, but she would have none of it. Thankfully, her teacher’s caution didn’t come for a few more months.

In another picture from that Thanksgiving Day, taken as we were getting ready to leave for my in-laws’ house, my daughter has donned a hand-me-down coat from her older cousin.  I loved this plaid coat, though not quite as much as the little blue coat that was a hand-me-down from my childhood. But daughter had outgrown the little blue coat.

Son on Thanksgiving 1988

My son was a few months short of seven in November 1988 and losing his front teeth. It would only be another year before he went into braces to fix a gap between his new incisors. He then had metal in his mouth for six years until he was fourteen—poor kid.

Missouri River in November

My dad took these pictures of my children and me on Thanksgiving morning shortly before we all drove to my in-laws for a big family dinner. I had forgotten that my parents and my family had this holiday meal at my in-laws in Marshall, Missouri, until I saw these photos. But to jog my memory, there’s a picture of the Missouri River taken on our drive to Marshall (I remember the drive on that cold, gray day), and another picture of my kids in their holiday finery in my in-laws’ dining room.

Kids in my in-laws’ dining room, before the feast

Thanksgiving Day 1988 wasn’t one of my more memorable holiday celebrations, but it was nice to revisit it as I thumbed through these snapshots. Many of the pictures were blurry, as happened often in the days before digital photography. But then, a blurry picture is better than nothing at refreshing a blurry memory.

When has a photograph reminded you of something you’d forgotten?

“When He’s Ten . . .” And Now He’s Fifty!

When our youngest sibling (a boy) was born, my ten-year-old brother announced in awe, “When he’s ten, I’ll be twenty!” As if it was impossible for him to consider ever being twenty, which it might well have been.

My siblings and me with our grandmother, right after the youngest brother was born. This might even have been the date when my ten-year-old brother said, “When he’s ten, I’ll be twenty!”

My grandmother loved telling that anecdote, and she repeated it often over the years. Of course, she was just a few months short of sixty when it happened and had already lost one husband to death. Even being twenty might have felt long ago in her past, which is what made it amusing to her.

My take on the story at the time was that in ten years, I would be twenty-one—out of college, an adult, and voting. (The voting age hadn’t yet been reduced to eighteen.) I didn’t say so when my brother made his pronouncement, but the notion of adulthood awed me as much as it did him.

Earlier this fall, that ten-year-old brother turned sixty. Our “baby” brother turns fifty tomorrow. It is fifty years—half a century—since that story became part of our family lore.

Baby brother when he was ten, escorting our mother into my wedding.

Obviously, fifty years ago, baby brother was not thinking of what his life would become. Now he has been married for over fifteen years, and he and his wife have two children. His career is well-established. I’ve written about this youngest brother before—his childhood precociousness, the fulfillment of his childhood desire to become a pediatrician, his devotion to our parents, and his steadiness after their death. He has become a better adult than any of us had in mind half a century ago.

Meanwhile, long before age sixty, the ten-year-old brother became estranged from the family for reasons of his own. I wonder when his perspective changed from awe at the possibility of turning twenty to a decision he didn’t need the rest of us. He is independent, but I doubt he has the type of adulthood he imagined through his growing-up years.

And in the intervening half century, my perspective has changed as well. After all, I am now older than my grandmother at the time of that incident fifty years ago.

Not only am I an adult—as I have been for more than forty years—I’ve been married for forty years, had two children, completed a corporate career, and launched myself into a “retirement” career of writing novels. In fact, I’ve been “retired” from paid employment for more than a decade—the same time period that so awed my brother when he was ten.

A decade doesn’t mean what it used to. At ten, it is an entire lifetime. At fifty, it is only 20% of a life. At sixty, it is even less significant. My perspective on time has changed as I have aged. A half-century still seems like a lot, but even that means less than it did fifty years ago.

How have your perspectives on time changed as you have aged?

A Belated Veterans Day Post

It seems that in over five years of writing this blog, I have never written about Veterans Day. This year, I am finally doing it, albeit a couple of days late.

I never expected to be part of a military family. I didn’t have any veterans among my relatives. Neither of my grandfathers served during World War II. One grandfather was just past draft age in 1942. He also owned a business that made machinery for sawmills—his work was deemed part of the war effort. I don’t know why the other wasn’t called up—he was still of draft age, though at the high end. He was married and had two children, but so did other men. I never heard of any health problems that would have kept him from being drafted.

My father toyed with the idea of joining the Air Force during the Korean War, but his eyes were too bad for flight school (which is what he wanted to do), so he went to college, got married, and had kids.

My brothers did not turn eighteen until after the draft for the Vietnam War ended.

So none of the men in my family served, and of course, it was much rarer for women to serve.

USNA picture

Then I married a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Class of 1971.

My husband and I met after he had served his five-year commitment in the Navy, during which he had both sea deployments and shore assignments. Though he had left active duty, he was still in the Naval Reserve and drilled every month while we were in law school together.

He thought about going back on active duty after law school, but I was adamant that I didn’t want to move our family every few years. I wanted to put down roots in a community. So he didn’t return to active duty, but he stayed in the Naval Reserve until 2001, when he had thirty years and was forced out as a Captain.

For the first twenty-four years of our marriage, then, he was in the Reserve. He drilled every month, often in cities far from our home in Kansas City—a couple of years in Milwaukee, another two in Fort Worth, and there were a few other cities he traveled to as well.

In uniform, as a Naval Reserve officer

In addition, he went on two weeks’ active duty every year. Sometimes he trained on a ship and was at sea. Sometimes he went to a course in Europe or did training exercises in Japan. Sometimes he set up a Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare unit on the coast and trained.

These Reserve weekends and active duty periods always seemed to fall at the worst times.

Both of our kids were born on drill weekends. He had to skip the Saturday drills to be with me at the hospital. But he made the Sunday drills.

Our first dog went into seizures on a drill weekend when hubby was in Milwaukee. I had to take the poor thing (a 60-pound mutt) to an emergency vet clinic by myself to be put to sleep. The only 24-hour vet I knew of was all the way across the metropolitan area. Our son helped me load the dog into the minivan, but I was alone when I dragged him into the clinic.

Our toddler daughter broke her arm on the Friday of a drill weekend when my husband had already left for wherever he was going at the time. I took her to the pediatrician on Saturday morning, five-year-old son in tow. It was the only time in my life I showed up at the pediatrician’s office without an appointment.

Our son almost got our car insurance canceled due to too many speeding tickets. I found out while my husband was in Japan on his two-week stint. Son and I had several lengthy conversations about the issue before hubby returned, and I purchased alternative high-risk insurance for son as well.

All of this in the years before cell phones and text messages made communications around the globe a simple matter.

In addition to the crises, my husband’s stock response when we debated who ought to do what around the house, or which of us should ferry a child to a social or sports commitment, was “I provide national defense,” as if his Naval Reserve obligation should exempt him from all other responsibilities. He said it tongue in cheek, but he did spend many weeknight evenings after working as an attorney all day on Naval Reserve paperwork and training. It’s hard to argue with the importance of supporting the national defense mission.

I do not pretend that the problems our family faced were anywhere near as significant as those of families where one spouse has been deployed for months on end in a war zone. But my husband’s military service did have an impact on our family, and I experienced enough of the single-parenthood caused by a spouse’s service that I can relate to what service members and their families endure.

Our marriage survived my husband’s absences, and we celebrate our fortieth anniversary later this month. Many veterans are not so fortunate, and many military families disintegrate under the pressures of distance and trauma.

Our veterans deserve huge thanks from this nation for their service and sacrifice, and so do their family members who do without them.

A belated expression of gratitude this year—to my veteran and to all our nation’s other veterans.