A Favorite Photo Selected for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


The first photo to come to mind when asked to select a favorite photo for this challenge isn’t an old one, an ancestor I never met, or a “real” one in the traditional sense. Let me explain.

On 27 February 2011, our first grandchild, Miles, arrived and three days later my mom died. The amazing high immediately followed by an unbearable low threw a wicked curveball my way. However, after a month, with my feet more squarely on the ground, my vision reached out beyond my own loss to the celebration of what gift of life we now enjoyed.

My husband’s mother, Orpha Erickson, almost 92, now the only living member of that generation for our family, deserved some special attention since she didn’t live near us and we didn’t know how long it would take before she could meet her first great-grandchild. I created a plan that involved several people and lots of coordination.

First, I asked my brother-in-law to take a picture of my mother-in-law sitting in her favorite comfortable chair with one arm up on the chair arm as if she was holding something and the other arm on her lap.

Orpha in chair

Second, we visited our grandson, who could not yet sit up by himself and placed him in an over-sized armchair with lots of padding and took several pictures of him from slightly different views. Here’s the one selected:

B380B615EBAD472A812B5F310D70CA45I then imported both pictures into Photoshop and tried to merge them. I wasn’t too successful, so I asked our film editor daughter to give it a try. Of course, she came through with this delightful picture:

Orpha and Miles summer 2011

When I sent Orpha the photo, her immediate response was, “Is my memory failing so much that I don’t remember meeting Miles?” We enjoyed a good chuckle.

Now my mother-in-law has this wonderful connection with her great-grandson and was able to meet him in person a few months later. Don’t they look content sitting together?

When One Door Closes

when one door closes quote by Quotes Hunter

Wednesday, I looked at a closed door and had to decide what to do. I have taught in the older adult education department since January 1991 until they canceled the classes a few years ago. When that door closed, I found locations and continued my classes as best I could. With improved internet and more students using computers, I could create lessons and email instead of printing multiple paper copies. Everyone liked the changes and the classes grew stronger.

A year ago, my husband had surgery, followed by complications and a second surgery. He entered a rehab center and didn’t come home until my classes ended last spring. By fall, I knew I couldn’t continue teaching since he required a lot of assistance. Fall passed into winter and as spring approached, we had to make a hard decision: to move into a single story home near one of our children.

Getting back to the analogy of a door closing, Wednesday I attended my farewell party with some of my former students. Saying good-bye offered me an opportunity to thank them for a wonderful time sharing our passion for memoir writing and genealogy. But the reality is: I won’t see some of these people again and that makes me sad beyond words.

Winnie the Pooh saying goodbye

I could stay stuck in front of this closed door and dwell on the loss of these friendships and learning experiences. But I choose to look forward to what comes next. We will move to a new town where we’ll meet new friends and continue to develop our interests.

I’ll have the opportunity to return for visits and we have email, phones, and all manner of possibilities to encourage each other to keep learning and to keep developing our skills.

Now, where is that newly opened door?



The opening quote is from Quotes Hunter; the Winnie the Pooh picture had no attribution.

States and Countries I Have Visited or Lived in

Randy Seaver, in his most recent Genea-Musings blog (http://www.geneamusings.com/2017/04/saturday-night-genealogy-fun-where-have.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+geneamusings%2FlEXw+%28Genea-Musings%29)  said, “1) A meme on Facebook has been circulating about what states, countries and other places you have visited. [What other places would there be if not a state or country?] The average for Americans is 8.

“2)  Copy the list from this blog post and denote your places visited with an X, and add states or countries you’ve visited not on the list.  Then total it up at the end of your list.

“3)  Put your responses in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a status or comment on Facebook.

Here’s mine:



Arizona State License Plate Clipart

Arizona State License Plate

Arizona X
Arkansas X
Belgium  X
British Virgin Islands
California X
Canada X
Castaway Island
Cayman Islands 

Colorado X
Connecticut X
Costa Rica  X

Czech Republic
Delaware X
Denmark X
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
England X

Finland  X
Florida X
France  X
Georgia X
Germany X
Guam XGuam_map
Guatemala  X

Holland X
Hong Kong
Iceland X
Idaho X
Illinois X
Indiana X
Iowa X
Jamaica  X
Japan X
Kansas X
Kentucky X

Kentucky Statehood 1792 Black and White OutlineClipart

Kentucky Statehood 1792


Louisiana X
Luxembourg X
Maine X
Maryland X
Massachusetts X
Mexico X
Michigan X
Minnesota X
Mississippi X
Missouri X
Montana X

Nebraska X
Nevada X
New Hampshire X
New Jersey X
New Mexico X
New York X
New Zealand
North Carolina X
North Dakota X
Norway  X
Ohio X
Oklahoma X
Oregon X
Pennsylvania X

Puerto Rico
Rhode Island X

Saudi Arabia
Scotland  X

Coat of Arms Clipart and Illustration

Coat of Arms Scotland

South Africa
South Carolina  X
South Dakota X
South Korea
St Marten
St Thomas
Switzerland X
Sweden  X
Tennessee X
Texas X
The Netherlands  X
United Arab Emirates

US Trust Territories X
US Virgin Islands
Utah X
Vermont X
Virginia X
Washington X
Washington DC X
West Virginia X
Wyoming X

Bronze statue of rancher Wyoming

Bronze statue of rancher Wyoming

Wales X

My score:   71

All clip art from classroomclipart.com, a free- use site

How the Depression years Affected my Family

Each family experienced the depression years differently based on where they lived and how they shared their trials with each other and their neighbors. When I married and began getting acquainted with my husband’s parents, one of the topics was “What was your life like as you grew up?” and they instantly made me aware of how different their lives has been than my own parents. Let me delve into each of our parents because neither my husband nor I was born during this time.

depression soup kitchen line up

Jewell Baker Thornton (my mom), born in 1921, grew up on a 200+ acre farm owned by her parents in south-central Kentucky. The crops were not harshly impacted by the depression, so the family fared well compared to many others. As I asked more questionsdepression family laundry of my mom, she replied that she had one dress to wear to school and one to wear to church. She didn’t think that was unusual since most of her friends were in the same boat. The family enjoyed a variety of foods either raised on their farm or bartered from their neighbors. Mom lived at home through 1939 and then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend nurses training. Obviously, my grandparents had enough money to send her to school, as they had done for all of her older siblings.

James Andrew Thornton (my dad), born in 1918 in central Arkansas, had a much harder life and his experiences differed greatly from my mom. His parents moved almost every depression man hopping on trainyear seeking jobs as sharecroppers but remained within a 20-mile radius. He had four older sisters and two younger brothers and one younger sister. As the oldest boy, his parents had him drop out of school after third grade to get jobs to support the family. At the end of fourth-sixth grades, he attended school for six weeks and took tests to pass to the next grade. After that, he sought full-time jobs wherever he could find them, including moving to southwestern Michigan to work in fruit processing canning. He developed a number of skills, but with so little education, he was limited in what he could do. His change came when we entered the war and he enlisted. A steady paycheck allowed him to send money home to help his parents.

Orpha Broberg Erickson (my husband’s mother), born in 1919, grew up on a family depression era secretaryrented farm in the northeast part of Nebraska. Orpha had one older brother and one younger sister and they all stayed in school and finished high school before getting jobs. They worked on the farm and kept up with the family vegetable garden. Since jobs were scarce for women, Orpha moved to Los Angeles in 1936 and became a maid for a wealthy family. She learned about a whole new world of living and was taught how to set a proper table, care for all aspects of the home care, and cook unfamiliar foods. This has stayed with her throughout her life. In 1939 she moved to Detroit and became a secretary.

Martin Adolph Erickson (my husband’s father), born in 1910 in Seattle, Washington. Martin’s parents had both grown up on farms in Sweden and had immigrated to the United depression Chrysler 1930sStates in the early 1900s. They met and married in Seattle, but his dad couldn’t find a job that suited him, so he bounced from one job to another. I think this frustration led them to decide to farm. The Canadian Pacific Railroad offered land at a low price, thus the move in 1920 to southern Alberta, Canada. They moved onto undeveloped land with nothing provided. The land was not as good for farming as promised. Martin was ten and the oldest of three children, so he helped his mom clear the land while his dad built their house and a barn. His interest in making life easier on the farm developed early. An example: he automated the butter churn so his mom didn’t have to manually churn the butter. He attended a one-room school and excelled at academics. Two sisters taught all grades through grade 11. He showed so much promise that they tutored him through grade 12 and had him go to university for a year of remedial work. He transferred to Queens University in Ontario graduating at the top of his class in mechanical engineering. In 1937 he moved to Detroit, Michigan to work at Chrysler. His skills continued to improve, he earned his Master’s degree at Chrysler Institute, and he later, after the war, transferred to Ford Tractor, where he developed a number of patented items for farm equipment.

depression wordle

Free photos: (1) soup kitchen from hoovervillet.weebly.com; (2) doing laundry from frdlibrary.marist.edu; (3) hopping on train from urbanghostsmedia.com; (4) secretary from pinterest.com; (5) Chrysler from pinterest.com; Depression wordle from clipartkid.com

The WWII Experiences of Martin and Orpha Erickson

(The phone interview with Orpha Erickson took place on 12 Feb 2017.)

My in-laws married 22 Nov 1941 in Newman Grove, NE (Orpha’s hometown) and moved into an apartment in Detroit, the city where they both had jobs.

P51 Mustang from en dot WikipediaMartin worked as an engineer at Chrysler and when America entered the war, the plant was converted to making machines for support of the military. He designed engines and pistons for the P51 Mustang and toward the end of the war, he designed large artillery, which traveled via train flatbeds like the one pictured here. (Orpha has faint recollections about this part of his work.)

WWII large artilery on train flatbed

Orpha worked for Rolls-Royce as a bookkeeper and secretary. She typed invoices to carbon paper from employmentresources dot ussend material to England. If it was a regular sale, she made 7 copies (remember carbon copies and erasing errors on each page?) and if it was a lend-lease, she made 14 copies. After they had been married for a year or so, she requested vacation time and was told the company didn’t grant vacations, so she resigned.

Returning home from a trip to Canada and Nebraska to see family, Orpha went to work in an office not far from their home on Fenkle Avenue. She remembers one lady named Olga who spoke favorably of Hitler’s plan to create a United States of Europe with him at the helm. Others heard her comments and reported her. Since she was considered a Nazi sympathizer, she was soon taken away, but Orpha never learned of her fate.

After a couple years of marriage, they bought a home on Tracey in Detroit, knowing it had fallen into disrepair, but they felt capable of making it their own. When I asked about their WWII ration book by pinterest dot comlife at home, Orpha talked about ration books, red coupons for canned goods and blue for meat. When Roger was born in April 1945, Martin took care of getting a coupon book in Roger’s name so they had a larger allocation of food. They had a 3-foot wide strip of land between their fence and the alley driveway, so they converted that into a Victory Garden.

The house needed a new roof, so Orpha returned to work as a bookkeeper in the evenings so Martin could watch Roger when he was home from work. Martin also created a second job drafting various projects in their converted attic, now his office at home.

A vague but lasting memory she shared was one winter morning when she asked Martin if he had walked around to the back yard the night before or that morning. He said he hadn’t, so she showed him footprints in the snow that came from the back fence to their bedroom window. She didn’t know if the person was looking to break in, was a peeping tom, or was looking to see if anyone was home to ask for a handout. Being a nervous person, she took care to dress in her closet from then on.

I’m looking forward to gaining more information in future interviews. Do you or your family have stories from the home front during the war?

The P51 Mustang photo from en.Wikipedia.org; WWII large artilery on train flatbed from pinterest.com; carbon paper image from employmentresources.us; and, the WWII ration book from pinterest.com.