My Mom pregnant with me in 1954
My mother was born in Dubois Pennsylvania April 25 1914 to William and Ida Fairman. She was the youngest of 8 siblings. First born was my aunt Ethel. Then came Grace. Then Doniett. Then Leona. Then Billy. Then Estereen. Then Bobby. And last but not the least, Ruth, my mother.
Moms father, my grandfather, came over from Italy in the early 1900’s. He started a small dairy farm with 6 milking cows. Over the years this Fairman dairies grew and is still in operation today in the Dubois area albeit it in a different location. They had a garden and my grandmother had 15 or 20 chickens. They ate the eggs and the chickens too. It was my grandmothers job to select the chicken for dinner. Cut it’s head off then throw it into boiling water and then pull all the feathers out. Then of course cook it. It was a messy business for sure. Not many of us deal with this anymore as all our food is found at the supermarket packaged and ready to cook. Grandma would not eat any of the chicken except for the back. I imagine her appetite for chicken was diminished by the gory procedure involved!
Mom at about 3. She told me later that she had just got a lickin’ for something that she had did.
Moms family was poor but happy. They made do with what they had. Mom would make a doll out of clothespins and bits of cloth. She loved baseball even at a very early age. Even at the end of her life she would be glued to the television when baseball was on. Especially during the World Series. She also loved basketball and was on the girls team later on in high school.
A Early 1900 Dairy Farm
All the children in her family had chores. Moms two main chores when she got old enough to do them was washing and sterilizing the milk bottles and get them ready, along with her brother Billy, for the next morning milk deliveries. Then she ride out with my grandfather to make the deliveries. She would get up early, rain or shine, and hitch up the horse to the milk cart in the barn and load it up with the days milk, cheese, and butter for the days deliveries.
One time when she was washing the bottles her brother Billy came into the prep room with his girlfriend. Boys always had short hair back then and Billy had an odd habit of brushing his hair on the mechanized bottle washer that had brushes that rotated. He just put his head against them and grinned with pleasure as the brushes massaged his scalp and brushed his hair. His girlfriend thought this was a clever thing and so tried it herself. Unfortunately she had very long hair and her hair was immediately tangled up in the brushes. Billy quickly cut the power to the machine and spent the next hour getting his girlfriend untangled!
A one room Schoolhouse circa 1900
On one of our visits to Dubois, mom drove me over to her old 1 room school house where 1st grade through 5th grade was held. The old student desks were still there. The ones where the chair was attached to the desk and the writing surface folded up so the student could put books in the desk. She ran her hand over one of the desks and said “This is where I sat.” Grades one through five was held in this one room schoolhouse. Mom told me of playing baseball with her classmates out back of the schoolhouse.
In the early 1950’s my grandmother Ida, moms mom, had a stroke. It was severe. It affected her left side. He walked very slowly with a shuffle and could not speak. She never recovered from this and remained the same until her passing in 1963. My mother had long sense left and had married my father. She now lived in Battle Creek Michigan. However, my grandmother had plenty of family about her to help her. The family resided in Shaffer Siding in Dubois Pennsylvania all there life. So all my aunts and uncles were always near by to help her.
Approximate location of the Diner
My aunts got together and purchased a parcel of land right next to the house my mom was born in. They then built a hamburger stand and diner. The diner was on the main road that ran through Dubois. This was long before freeways so they always had plenty of traffic going by and plenty of business, mostly truckers. Aunt grace and aunt Doniett ran the place. Many truckers and travelers would frequent the place. On one of our visits to Dubois Pennsylvania, mom and I walked out the front door of the Larson home where my aunt Grace lived. Then we walked down the street for about 50 yards to a trail that cut through the high vegetation along the road. The slope of the trail was a bit steep as all the homes in the area were built on a siding. Hence the name Shaffer Siding. We made our way down the trail and walked onto the diners property and made our way inside. There would be aunt Grace in the kitchen as the cook and aunt Doniett in the dining room acting as waitress and cashier. Over in the corner would sit my grandmother Ida in her chair with left arm held tight to her torso silently overseeing the whole operation. Grace would come out of the kitchen and give me a little cup of ice cream or some other treat and doter over me and smother me with wet aunt kitchen kisses!
Approximate location of Moms Homestead
After visiting and talking to Aunt Grace and Aunt Doniett for awhile mom said. “Jim. Would you like to see the house where I was born in?” The house was right next door. It was in bad repair. My grandmother had long ago moved in with my uncle and aunt Bogle so that my aunt could keep an eye on her. “Yes I would like to see!” I exclaimed. So off mom and I went across the parking lot where the big trucks were parked and into the adjoining yard. As I said the house was in bad shape. Shutters were hanging from their hinges. Some of the windows were broken. But nonetheless we ventured inside. We stopped at the front door and mom stopped and fingered the front of the door and found a small nick. A depression if you will. “See that Jim? That is where your uncle billy shot and missed when he shot his pellet gun at me. I told your grandmother what happened. Boy did he get a lickin’.”
Like I said, the house was in bad shape. Paint was pealing off the outside and the wallpaper was torn and tattered inside. The old original wood stove was still in the kitchen. There was no furniture in the house. Mom said “Let’s go upstairs and I will show you where us kids slept.” So upstairs we went. Upstairs was no better than downstairs. There was dust everywhere. Down the narrow hallway to the right was the bathroom. Inside was an ancient iron tub. The kind you may have see with the iron animal legs. Also an old toilet and sink. Further down the hall was a large room. Mom called it the ward. It is where all the girls slept. Adjacent to this room was another smaller room where the two boys slept. It was fascinating to me to see where mom lived when she was my age.
I don’t know much about mom between 1924 and the time she married my dad in 1946. However, I do know that she got involved in the World War Two war effort. When the war started in 1941, she moved to Philadelphia and worked for Philips electronics making electronic devices for aircraft. One day after work she and a few of her friends that worked at the Philips plant went out to one of the many beer gardens that had set up business around the Philadelphia ship yard.
They found a booth in the corner of the bar and ordered their drinks. She noticed a sailor sitting a few tables from them glancing up at her and then looking away. Then glancing up again and looking away. It bothered her. Way was this skinny man in a sailor suit with the sailor hat staring at her. It revolted her and she resolved that if he approached that she would reject him and send him packing. The sailor walked up to the booth where the ladies were sitting and introduced himself. “Let me introduce myself” he said. “My name is Robert Culpepper. May I buy you a drink” he said looking directly at my mom. “No” my mother said in disgust. She was repulsed by this man. How dare he come over and ask if she wanted a drink. However Robert was persistent and eventually she agreed to allow Robert to buy her a beer. The other ladies at the table sensed that two is company and that three or four is a crowd. They excused themselves and left my mom and Robert alone at the table. Mom was tense at first but eventually relaxed and opened up to this man. She found him very polite and easy to talk to. They talked for hours until the bar closed. They were asked to leave as the bar was closing. Robert asked my mom for her phone number and she reluctantly gave it to him. It was 1944 and Robert was stationed at the Philadelphia ship yard waiting for the decommissioning of his ship the SS Belknap that was heavily damaged by a kamikaze attack in the pacific theater. After the war ended mom moved back to Dubois Pennsylvania and Robert moved back to Battle Creek Michigan. However they did continue to write to each other. They were in love. She did not want to admit it but she was deeply in love with this man. And in June 29 1946 they married and mom moved to Battle Creek and moved in with him in a small apartment in downtown Battle Creek. The appartment in downtown Battle Creek was small and full of cockroaches. Also their neighbor next door fought every night ending with a beating delivered in a drunken rage by the womans husband. They began to look for more suitable quarters.
Mom loved to move and they did numerous times. They bought some acreage on D drive north in Battle Creek and did some gardening and raised chickens. Mom got a job at the Kellogg cereal company as a cereal packer. Dad had a drinking problem and mom gave him an ultimatum. “Either you quit drinking and get a job at Kellogg’s or I am leaving you!” she said. This scared my dad and he quit drinking at once. He loved his “Rudy”, his nickname for her and would not let anything come between them. He then applied for work at Kellogg’s and got the job. He joined the grain millers union and reported for work. Things were looking good for this grain miller and his wife. Over the years at Kellogg’s he made OK’s, product 19, corn flakes, and fruit loops.
Mom and newborn me
Around 1945 they moved to 100 Jono road and in May of 1955 she had one child. Me. It was the only child she had as her uterus was damaged in giving birth and soon after she had a hysterectomy. Mom quit her job at Kellogg’s to take care of me. Later on when I was old enough to hold my own and fend for myself, she was re hired at Kellogg’s and resumed her job as a cereal packer.
One day in late 1955 she noticed how dirty the car was, and intended to wash it. However it was December and it was very cold outside. Biterly cold. Dad told her not to do it. However my mom was stubborn and she went ahead with the car wash anyway. She them came down with walking pneumonia that almost killed her. She was a smoker at the time and she tried to smoke even though she had pneumonia. She told me later on that it tasted horrible. Like having shit in her mouth. So she quit smoking and never again smoked. Maybe things happen for a reason.
In 1959 they moved again. This time right up the street to 179 Jono road. I remember pleasant times with my mother there. She took good care of her family. However she did not put up with nonsense. One time when we were attending services at Lakeview Baptist church I decided to “act up”. This embarrassed her that her child would act this way. And in public for all to see! She did not say a word but picked me up and took me into the ladies room where she gave me a good spanking with her hair brush. This affected me and I very rarely acted up in public again.
Mom had an old ringer washer in the basement and I so enjoyed watching her do the laundry. She showed me how to feed the clothes into the ringer to extract the water and even let me try, admonishing me to be careful not to get my fingers caught in the ringer. Then she would hang the clothes up on lines strung up in the basement if it was winter. In the summer she would take the clothes to the line in the back yard. She did have a dryer but very rarely used it.
Old toy store
One day in 1961 she took me to downtown Battle Creek to a toy store. The store was an old house that was converted into a place of business. It was a wood building with wood floors that would squeak when you walked on it. The place was a child’s dream come true. There were games, models, balls, and toys of all types.
Mom had a reason to come there that day. As it was a very hot summer, she wanted to buy me a plastic pool to put out in the back yard for me and my friends to swim and cool off in. The pool was about 4 feet wide and about 2 feet deep. It was round. I was delighted! We got it home and mom sat it up. My friend Greg and I spent hours and hours submerged in the pool pretending we were submarines going round and round the circular pool so fast that centrifugal force spilled the water over the top of the pool.
Toy Bow and Arrows
One day I decided to take the suction cups off the ends of a few arrows I had. Mom was strictly against this but allowed me to shoot them as long as it was not at anybody or the house. My back yard at 179 Jono road had a slight slope that extended about 30 feet from the house. At the bottom of the slope was my pool. I had been playing all afternoon with my bow and modified arrows, shooting them into the air and watching them stick into the ground with delight! And then it happened. One of the arrows had significant power to make it all the way down the slope and into my new pool. The arrow not only pierced the side of the pool, but the bottom too. I pulled the arrow out of the pool and watched the water pour out from the side and the bottom. I felt sick. I went inside sheepishly and went to mom In the kitchen and told her what I had did. She frowned and said “Let’s go look.” She wiped the flour off her hands and followed me out the kitchen door to the garage and then out back. She looked at it and shook her head. Seems to me she was thinking to herself as she looked at the damage, ‘I know I should have not have let him use those sharpened arrows.’ Dad applied tape. The water did not escape as fast at first. Then the tape got so wet that it failed too. It was the end of summer days playing submarine in the pool. To my dismay, the pool was taken to the road to be picked up by the trash man. Mom had it right. I should have taken her advice and not use the modified arrows, instead of trying to wear her down with my pleadings. I learned that day that mom had my best interest in mind. It was a hard but valuable lesson to learn.
Worship in the 1960’s
During the sixties mom was involved in the church. Woman circles. Meetups at the Evan’s and the Josylyns, Pot luck dinners, Sunday worship, Wednesday worship and Sunday school. I went to Sunday school and later on to youth group on Wednesday nights. I remember many times when she had groups over for bible study, coffee and snacks, and conversation. Then a bit later she sent me off to youth camp.
A Boston Terrier
We had a Boston terrier dog named Candy in the late 60’s. She was very attached to my mother. She would follow mom around all day as she worked around the house. Candy was especially attached to mom and especially on family vacations. One trip comes to mind when we had rented a cabin on spider lake in the middle of lower peninsula Michigan. We were headed north in the car. Candy was at moms feet where she rode when in the car. She needed to be very close to mom in this very nervous time. Mom needed to stop into a drug store to get something she had forgot and also to get us some ice cream cones. Most drug stores back in the day had soda fountains where you could get your favorite icy delight. Mom and dad got out of the car leaving Candy and I behind. As soon as mom left the car Candy went insane! Candy began to pace back and forth and began to wail pitifully as she strained to see out the car windows on her very short legs. I could not console her. No matter what I did. At last she spotted mom emerging from the store front. A ear piercing wail and a continued struggle to see out of the car. At last mom entered the car and Candy rushed into moms lap and began to lick moms face with her slobbery tongue and lips!
Kresge Lunch Counter Circa 1960
Around 1962 mom and I went to downtown Battle Creek to the Kresge store lunch counter for lunch and then off to Jacobson’s department store for some clothes shopping. I loved going to Kresge’s. It was bright in there with many things on the back service counter to keep me busy looking at. Then after a hot dog and a cherry coke or perhaps a malted milk, we were off and began our walk down the street in a leisurely stroll towards Jacobson’s.
Jacobson’s circa 1960
“Let’s go find you some clothes for school Jim.” So up to the third floor and to the children section we went to select me some new school threads. The store was equipped with a tube suction system like you see at a drive up teller. You would put the cash or check in a cylinder then insert the cylinder into the vacuum tube. The system would send the cash or check to the office to be put in the safe. We had brought the items to the counter and mom had settled up with the cashier. Mom asked me “Would you like to put the money in the tube Jim?” “Yes” I said and at once inserted the cash and coins into the tube without the benefit of the cylinder.
Vacuum tube delivery system
The look on my moms face was a look of horror! The took on the cashiers face was even worse! You could hear the loose change clanking and banging in the tube as it made its way to the front office located on the top floor. The cashier called the front office on the phone and told them what at happened. It seemed that we waited there forever as the cashier and the office gradually got all the money little by little. It was not a good day for mom. However mom knew that mistakes happen.
Many great memories come to mind of my mom. The time when she was a den mother for the cub scouts den 135. She had it all set up in the basement of 114 Beaumont drive. We made stuff with alphabet letters. We also went into the big woods near out home to collect leaves for identification and pressing.
Enquire and News Battle Creek
The den even took a field trip to downtown Battle Creek to tour the Enquire and News paper. I was fascinated with the big printers as the uncut paper flew down its feed. And then the trip to the radio station WBCK Battle Creek Michigan. We were herded into the broadcast booth with instructions to keep our little lips shut unless spoken to. It must have been like herding kitty cats for my mom. We all were generally good. However we were very energetic! Mom was very tolerant and patient and never had to raise her voice to any of us in the den.
In the early days of my life I was always with mom. Trips to the Kroger grocery store. Downtown to the bank. A stop off at the butcher on Michigan avenue.
Mom and Dad retired from the Kellogg company in 1969. We moved to Florida in 1970 and after I graduated High School I got married and enlisted in the navy. It was the only way I could see to support my wife. Mom and dad were living on Lagoon Drive in a rental. I Came home and told them what I had done. Dad looked very proud. Mom did not! She was worried that something would happen to me. We talked for a while and dad and I assured her that all will be well and not to worry. I served my tour in the navy and came home in 1978. I stayed with them and when to school to study electronics. After that I moved out again and married for the 2nd time. In 1985 mom and dad were living on Cypress Knolls in New Port Richey Florida.
One day she came home from a doctor visit with some disturbing news. Her mammogram should some anomalies. She needed further tests. She scheduled the tests and waited for the results. The doctors diagnosis was breast cancer. Her options were radiation treatments or, full a mastectomy. She was scared. Mom had always dressed well and displayed her femininity well. She was worried that dad would not love anymore because she would only have one breast. The success rate was much higher with the full mastectomy than radiation or other surgical options. She chose the former. Dad had reassured her that nothing on earth could stop him from loving his “Rudy”. She had the procedure and fully recovered.
In 1996 mom and dad were living at 10125 Regency Park Blvd. in Port Richey Florida. Moms short time memory had been failing in recent years. She was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We did not known it at the time. But the signs were there. My son Alan had told me that mom had told him that she felt like she was loosing her mind. She was already experiencing the classic symptoms. Memory loss, difficulty planning and solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks, difficulty determining the time or place, difficulty finding the right words to say, misplacing items, withdrawing from her social events, experiencing personality and mood changes including confusion, depression, anxiety, and fearfulness. The worst of it came to a head in the summer of 1996. I was having trouble with my transmission on my car. I had dropped off the car at the repair facility and was waiting for my mom and my wife Susie to pick me up. Mom was going to pick Susie up and drive to the transmission repair shop. This never happened. She did not pick up Susie or me. My son came and picked me up and we went over to mom and dads house. No trace or word of her. Where was she? We called the police and they said they put an all points bulletin out for her. They said that they would be on the lookout for her.
Dad was devastated. Where was she? I decided to stay over at his house for the night to wait for any news from the police. I went home where Susie had a bag packed for me. I then returned to dads house. We sat at the table all night waiting for a call. It did not happen. The next day found us sleeping on the couch and recliner. Around 8 AM the phone rang. It was the police. They had found her! In Mobile Alabama, about 700 miles from home! She was alive but confused. She had driven up into someone’s yard, turned off the engine and sat there in her own urine and waste. Eventually the property owners came out and asked if they could help her. They noticed that she was very confused and not able to answer questions, so they called the police. The police also got notice from mom and dads credit card that she had used it on route to get gasoline. The ambulance came and took mom to a local hospital.
That evening my oldest son, Alan, his wife and I traveled to the destination in Mobile the police had given us. It was very late and we were tired so we stopped off somewhere near Gainesville Florida and got some shuteye. The next morning bright and early we continued our trip towards Mobile. We found the address where moms car was. We talked to the owners. They were very understanding. We then made our way now in two vehicles to the hospital where mom was. A hurricane had recently hit the area and the hospital showed it. However it was still functional. We asked the lady at the front desk as to where mom was and she told us. We entered her room and there she was. A big smile on her face! She was not concerned at all and she had enough mind left to recognize Alan my son and I. After talking with her doctor at the hospital she was released and we made our way back to Port Richey Florida. I asked mom on the way back home why had she driven so far. She said “You father was with me. He told me where to go.”
Fargo Drive as it is today. In dis repair.
My wife Susie dad and I got together and talked about the situation. It was decided that they could no longer function on there own with moms Alzheimer’s and dads macular degeneration. As it was now mom drives as could not see and dad gave instructions o mom as to where to go. So it was decided that we would put their home up for sale and we would purchase a bigger mobile home on our property at Fargo Drive.
It was good. Mom and dad had their own room. Dad hovered over mom and took very good care of her. Dad would say “Ruth. Are you ready for a ice cream cone?” Moms face would light up and they would both head out to the kitchen with ice-cream delight on their minds.
As time went on her Alzheimer’s got worse and worse to the point she no longer talked. She had a blank stare on her face. She would wander around the house in a daze. Her situation broke all of our hearts. Here is a woman who 3 years ago could run rings around us. And in high heals!
One day I was in the living room surfing on the TV remote if memory serves me correctly. Mom came shuffling in past the kitchen from their room to the living room. She walked up to me and grabbed both my arms and looked me in the eyes and said in a very scratchy and strained voice. “I love you Jim.” Then she gave my arms a squeeze and shuffled back to her room. She never uttered another word. Ever!
Moms Alzheimer’s disease continued to progress in 1999. It got to the point that she needed 24 round the clock care. She was admitted to Windsor Woods assisted living facility. We visited her often and took her on trips to park and other outings. However she was in and out of the hospital. Also dad was in the hospital. His kidneys had shut down and he was in intensive care. He was dying.
I got a call from the hospital that I had better come now. Dad was dying. We hurried over to the hospital and rushed to dads side. He was in some discomfort as his lungs had filled with fluid because of renal failure. We told him we loved him and that we would take care of mom. He could not speak but looked me in the eye as if he understood. I asked the nurse if there was anything she could do to ease the pain. She did and soon after dad relaxed and passed away. After leaving dads room it was late at night. We decided to stop by moms room in the hospital. We did so and when we walked in she looked up at us and began to laugh. A big smile on her face all the time. She was laughing and acting very joyful. She had no way of knowing. However I believe she sensed dads passing and was rejoicing in it knowing that he was heaven bound!
Mom continued to get worse and in the early morning of December 29 2001 she passed away in her sleep. I will never forget my mother. The lessons I learned. The fun we had.