Monday, January 28, 2013

Ida Pearl Thomas

The glass dresser set pictured here belonged to Ida Pearl Thomas. Pearl, as she was known, was the first daughter born to John Griffin and Mary Jane Thomas, on November 19, 1892. Just days before, Grover Cleveland had been elected President of the United States. Pearl never married but she was her mom's right hand in raising the nine younger children in the family. Pearl lived her whole life in Dexter, Georgia and is buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Dexter. She died at age 83 on May 25, 1976.
Pearl was my mom's aunt, her father's sister. I am not sure who gave the set to my mom and trusted her to keep it safe but I will never forget the day I found it, safely stashed away on a shelf, wrapped in tissue paper in a Tupperware container with this note on the top. Finding the note in my mom's handwriting brought tears to my eyes again that week as we were clearing out her apartment after her death. I brought the set home with me along with many of my mom's other possessions and it is now displayed on her antique dresser in our home.  I am so grateful that my mom was careful to note important family treasures, without her attention to detail we would not have known the origin of this special family heirloom.

This picture of Pearl was taken at a family reunion that we attended in the late 1960's in Dexter. I believe it was taken on the lawn in front of the home she lived in with Lois Thomas Daniel, her sister, and Lois' husband Eason Daniel. This home is still located on the Thomas family property that is owned by Pearl's nephew James Earl Thomas.

So, here's my memory of Aunt Pearl...she had a bowl of Circus Peanuts on the table by her chair in the house. I remember eating those delicious orange, marshmallow-y treats during that visit to Dexter. I also remember (Uncle) Eason telling us kids to stay away from a certain part of the property because there was an alligator in the well.  Not necessarily a deep or profound memory but it was a grand day of fun for a little girl, her siblings, and a bunch of cousins!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Veni, Vidi, Vici

Yep, that’s about it for my Latin vocabulary.  Veni, vidi, vici...I came, I saw, I conquered, believed to have been written by Julius Caesar in 47 B.C. as a comment about a short war that took place in present day Turkey. So, why, the Latin recitation today?  Because, get this, my grandmother took four years of Latin when she was in high school in the 1920s. The 1920s people, seriously, pretty cool, huh?  According to her final high school transcript (which is far too brittle to flatten and scan, sorry!) She aced The Essentials of Latin and Caesar and she got a “B” in Cicero and Vergil’s AeneidThe Aeneid, 9,896 lines of dactylic hexameter, sheesh!  It’s like The Odyssey and The Iliad, classical, epic, poetry. Now, I know, you all absolutely could not wait for that class! But wait, not only did she take four years of Latin but she also pretty much aced Algebra, Quadratic Equations, Binomial Theorems, Logarithms, and Plane and Solid Geometry. Add to that two years of English, American Literature, English Literature, Medieval and Modern History, English History, United States History, Civics, a year of Biology and, of course, Home Economics. All that in three years, not quite the schedule I would envision for a young woman attending a very rural high school in the 1920s to have mastered.  Oh yeah, and, it was noted on her report card that she was “of good moral character!” There were ten people in her graduating class so we are not talking major high school here. Pretty amazing if you ask me. But wait! There's more! Of course she took a rigorous course of study, times were changing for women in the 1920s. Women's Suffrage was finally successful in 1920 sparking a new age for women and their voice in politics in the United States. To my female friends and family-don't ever pass up an opportunity to vote, it was our great grandmothers who paved the way! (Sorry, well, not really... I'll get off my soapbox now.) Mildred was a young woman in a very interesting time in our history. Mildred (Ball) Arlene Silas, Rentz High School, Class of 1925.

Here’s some more interesting information about Mildred and her education:

From my Mom’s (Jane Thomas Abbate) notes on her Mother: 
"Mother was closest to (her sister) Gladys, who was two years older than her.  When time came for Gladys to go to school, she refused to go unless Mama went with her. Since it was a one room school house; the teacher, Mr. O.K. Jolley said, “just let Ball come, it won’t hurt anything”, so Mama started to school two years early.  It must have been a good thing because Mama finished school with high grades and in those days if you did that you could teach school when you graduated."

Basically she started school at age 5 and finished 11 years later at age 16.


My maternal grandmother, Mildred Arlene Silas was born on March 11, 1909 in Rentz, Georgia. She was the sixth child of John Franklin Silas, Jr. and Minnie Eucebia Alligood. Even though Mildred could have become a teacher after graduating from high school she did not choose that path.  Instead, she married the love of her life, Daniel Claude Thomas, at the age of 16 on July 20, 1925.  They moved to Miami, Florida, in the 1920s and lived there the rest of their lives. She was the mother of two daughters, Phyllis Margaret Thomas (1926-1999) and Eucebia Jane Thomas (1937-2012). She lived to get to know and enjoy each of her five grandchildren. Before her death February 26, 1989 she had six great-grandchildren with two more having been born after her death. Mildred died on February 26, 1989 in Hialeah, Florida. She is buried at Flagler Memorial Park in Miami, Florida where her husband and both daughters are also interred.
Want to try Grandma's famous Apple Salad? Check out the family recipe page.

Friday, January 18, 2013

She's A Solid Lady

She’s a solid lady, beautiful, warm, and dignified, meant to be cherished.  When she was young she was a picture of fashion and in her later years she still has grace and style.  Her presence brings character and beauty to the places she’s called home. She has watched the stories of generations unfold and has been at the center of her family through celebrations, grief, laughter, tears, joyful announcements, plans that often, but not always, came to fruition, and through life changing decisions that left scars that will never completely heal.  The years have taken their toll and her appearance is more tired and worn these days.  Some would say that she needs a makeover, but truly, to erase the evidence of the years of wear and tear would simply strip away too many memories of who she was, is, and is yet to be.  She was lovingly created by a master, created to be passed down through the generations, and indeed, she has fulfilled that expectation.  

She was fashioned in Gardner, Massachusetts at the Nichols and Stone Company, "Makers of fine Windsor furniture since 1857" along with her six companions, the two arm chairs, two side chairs, and the two extensions that allowed her to embrace her families during the “quiver full” days and to create intimacy during the empty nest years. Her exact acquisition date is not known but here's what I do know: the table and chairs bounced across the country from Massachusetts to California where they they graced the Los Angeles apartment of the couple who had reconciled and found true love again. In the summer of 1965, I was a shy six year old who had experienced her first "airplane ride" across the country to get to know my grandparents, Victor and May Abbott (Abbate). It was at that table that I first tasted and was allowed, by my grandfather, to eat pretty much as many sugar cubes as I wanted! They took the table and chairs with them to their retirement home in Austin, Texas, and again as a young teen we were reunited.  It was around that same table that my Sicilian grandfather taught me that butter and Parmesan cheese were an acceptable alternative to “the sauce” when one was not feeling well.  When Victor and May were gone, the set was moved to reside with the next generation, their son Victor James and his wife, Jane, and their family, in Hialeah, Florida.  It was here that three more generations lived, loved, and were anchored to her as she provided the gathering place for them in the center of the family home. Years later the set was once again moved with Jane, the one who cherished her the most, to an apartment in Miami Lakes, Florida. They were not connected by the bloodline but by an heritage, a past, that represented all that Jane had loved.  There they spent the hours and days together while Jane pondered life, its blessings and its challenges.

And now, to Farr West, Utah to reside with us, the third and fourth generations, a new family home.  Here she graces yet another room with her flaws and wear and tear for all to see so that they too will remember that she’s special, she's got history. Fifty years later she is still a solid lady, beautiful, warm, and dignified, fashioned by a master and meant to be cherished by the generations.

Victor Carmello Abbott, Lena May Stockton Abbott 
 and Maria "Mary" Abbate Fuca "at the table" in
Los Angeles, California

Angela Abbate Mood "at the table" in
Los Angeles, California, 1965
Victor James Abbate "at the table"
Hialeah, Florida

Victor James Abbate, Jr. and Sarah Mood Lyons
"at the table" in Hialeah, Florida
Christmas Morning, 1986

Jane Thomas Abbate "at the table" in
 Miami Lakes, Florida
September 2006
Angela Abbate Mood "at the table" in
Farr West, Utah
January 2013

My grandfather (the original owner of the dining set in the story) Vito Carmello Abbate was born to Angelo and Luigia (Forte) Abbate in Salemi, Trapani, Sicily on March 2, 1903. He was six years old when he and his mother and siblings, Agata (Agnes), Maria (Mary), Salvatore (Sal) and Amalia (Molly) boarded the Principe de Piemonte in Palermo, Italy and began their voyage to America. His father and uncle had already immigrated to the United States and had worked and established residency so that they could bring their wives and children to the U.S. They arrived at Ellis Island on April 22, 1909 with 2,331 other passengers after a two week voyage. It is said that the children were very sick throughout the entire crossing. After arriving in the United States Vito lived with his family in New York. Vito married Lena May Stockton in 1927.  At some point in his adult life, Vito changed his name and began to use the "American-ized" version, Victor C. Abbott.  He lived with and is buried using that name.

From Virginia Abbate Thompson (daughter of Victor and Lena)
"How did Lena May and Victor meet? I believe they met in Miami on vacation. It was the "in" thing to do for the Ohio crowd to visit Miami during the winter months, and Victor must have done the same. Somewhere there are photos of them hanging out at the beach. Other members of Victor's family must have been in Miami too, because my mother told me they were never allowed to date as a couple. One of Dad's sisters always had to be along!"
Victor and Lena lived in New York for many years.  They moved to Miami, Florida in 1935.  At some point they separated and Victor moved to Los Angeles, California where several of his siblings were living.  In the early 1960s Victor and Lena reconciled and remarried.  They lived together in California until the 1970s when they retired and moved to Austin, Texas where Victor's brother Andre and his family were living.  Victor was the father of two, Virginia Abbate Thompson and Victor James Abbate.  He lived to enjoy six grandchildren and, as of this post he has nine great grandchildren. Victor died in Austin, Texas on February 3, 1976 at the age of 73.  He is buried at Vista Memorial Park in Hialeah, Florida. 

Do you have stories or memories to share about Vito Carmello Abbate? Please post a comment!