The Sepia Saturday prompt photo is some children playing what looks like a game of Ring Around the Rosie. And this looks like the ring of dolls, shown on the inside, depicted on a card from my Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook.
On this card, the young blonde girl on the front plays with three newly-gifted dolls, one of which is a little sailor boy doll. The little sailor, however, has apparently not been invited to the birthday party as he’s not seated at the table shown on the inside. Instead, five dolls and the young girl are shown enjoying a beautiful pink birthday cake. It’s implied that she’s a very loved little girl in that she’s got five, count them five, dolls to play with and share birthday cake.
This card was sent to Sadie from her Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill Struss. Beside the saying which reads, “May you and your dollies celebrate in such a happy way that you’ll be wishing that you could have a birthday every day!” there is also a hand-written note from the Struss family. “The apron is for Mercedes + the socks for Billy + the salt & pepper shakers for Mom and the other apron for you and tell Bill to let me know what size film he uses + I’ll send him some film.” Based on that, Helen (Toots) is the one who wrote the note and it is addressed to her sister Beatrice, Sadie’s mother.
After the Great Depression and in times of war (World War II), Sadie was fortunate enough to own a very nice doll. Beatrice (my grandmother) always referred to it as the “bride doll.” It was special enough that they actually took photos of it when they lived at 46 Pine Street, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. Remember, back then (1940s and 1950s), they had to actually own a camera, buy film, and then pay to have that film developed. Unlike today’s digital age, you didn’t run around just snapping photos of things for the heck of it. This doll was decked out in a full wedding dress with a long ruffled skirt and had a lovely, long white veil. The hair on the doll was real hair (not plastic like today’s Barbie’s) and she had a smooth face with blushing cheeks. She was quite tall (around 18″) as you can tell by the chair for reference in the background. Since my grandmother was a seamstress who started her profession by making wedding dresses for a local dress shop called Liz Clinton’s (still operating in Andover, New Jersey), I’m not sure if the outfit came with the doll or was made by Beatrice.
I don’t think Sadie actually got to play with this doll very much. When I was growing up in the 1970s, this doll sat on Gram Strait’s bookcase. By that time, the doll was dressed in a green outfit and was protectively encased in a thick plastic covering. She was held upright by a doll stand and was a definite “look but don’t touch” item in Gram’s house. And that said something because Gram’s house was a very interactive environment for me and my sisters! There were very few things that were actually off-limits to us. This doll was one of them. Gram had other dolls in the house but this was the only one that got encased and saved from all the dust and elements.
The doll sat on Gram’s bookshelf for years and years. Eventually, it went to stay with Aunt Sadie but it’s unclear where the doll is now. Translation: interesting family dynamics that might have led to the doll being sold, given to a non-family member, or perhaps just pitched into a dumpster. I like to think it’s still sitting on someone’s bookshelf, encased in plastic, waiting for the next person to admire it.
This is my second favorite card from Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook. (My favorite is here.) I like the pink and purple and yellow and green along with the dogwood tree on the front and the tulips in the center garden of the park. I’ve been worried I might not have a prompt to use this card with but here it is! Better late than never.
A young blond boy and girl grace the front of this 2nd birthday card. The boy is collecting flowers and the little girl seems to have captured a very friendly squirrel which she is showing to the boy. Their black and white dog is very unconcerned about the squirrel. The inside of the card shows a charming animated park scene. There’s a lady pushing a stroller, a young boy with a wooden tricycle, a boy floating a boat in a flowing fountain, children collecting flowers and playing with toys.
Again, since it’s getting toward the end of the year, I have a few more cards that fit the theme of towheads that I’ve taken from the prompt photo. The second card was sent to Sadie for her 3rd birthday. The towheaded boy and girl are outside where the girl has a tricycle and the boy is playing with a model car. A beautiful cake with three candles is featured in the bottom right hand corner. On the inside of the card, they’re looking into a bird’s nest that contains three little yellow birds. The saying inside reads, “Wishing everything that’s nice To make it plain to see How much I think of Someone who is Dear and Sweet and Three.”
The same style of card was sent to Sadie for her 4th birthday. The children seem to be the same ones from the 3rd birthday card. This time though they’re playing indoors with soap bubbles. A four-candled cake is featured in the bottom right hand corner. On the inside they’re sending bubbles into the air and the saying reads, “Because I know you’re all grown up and four years old today I wish you lots and lots of more fun than words can ever say.”
Another birthday card features a little blonde girl with multiple pony tails all over her head tied with blue bows. She’s wearing a pink dress with white polka dots and is putting her shoes on over her red striped socks. The inside features a saying that reads, “Somebody sweet has added a year, Somebody’s grown a bit more dear, Somebody’s finding that life is fun, Somebody’s joy has just begun, and here is a wish that somebody will stay as sweet as somebody is today.” It was sent to Sadie from one of her grandmothers. Grandma Strait based on the style of the “G” in grandma.
The next card is a Valentine’s Day card from Grandma Repsher to Sadie. It features a young girl with golden curls and red bows. She is wearing a little blue pinafore dress and has a loyal dog sitting at her feet. The only thing on the inside is a saying, “The greeting looked so happy.. so sweet and dainty, too, I knew it was intended for someone just like you.”
The last card featuring a towhead is another Valentine’s Day card. A young boy holding flowers is wearing short blue overalls and has some seriously rosy cheeks. His cart contains a puppy. This card comes from Henry and is most likely a schoolmate.
The dictionary defines a towhead as someone with very light blond hair. That pretty much fits all the children on both the paternal (Strait/Rephser) and maternal (Westra/Pauw) side of the family.
I have a colorized photo of my Dad and his sister that is very reminiscent of this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt photo. Also, the tricycle that my Dad is riding in the photo looks exactly like the trikes found on a couple of the cards above. In the photo to the left, Sadie’s dress was tinted a light pink, Billy’s coveralls were tinted a greenish-blue and both Sadie and Billy’s hair was tinted yellow. They really didn’t need to have their hair tinted yellow since other untouched photos show clearly how blond they were.
My sisters and I were very blond when we were young. Now, not so much without some sort of chemical aid…
Our Westra cousin, Craig Begraft was another towhead when young. I like the photo of him to right. It’s a very joyful photo.
Those are just some of the towheads in the family. I’m sure there are many more photos that I could dig up but that will have to be for another post.
P.S. The latest towheads in the family… These are my sister Jenni’s children and I couldn’t resist sharing their pictures with you.
This card given to my Aunt Sadie for Easter in 1944 shows two ducklings flying a brightly colored plane made from an egg. A flying oval thing, right? Which ties into the prompt picture for Sepia Saturday. I’m going with chicks and eggs and the egg man (we’ll get to him a bit later) for this post.
The saying inside reads, “It’s “plane” to see these ducks must be a-hurrying your way with lots and lots of wishes for a Happy Easter Day!” It was sent to Sadie by her Grandmother Repsher.
The next card is another Easter card which shows a chick with a purple umbrella dodging raindrops and tiny flowers. The inside of the card shows another chick bursting out of his egg into the world. The saying inside reads, “I wish you HAPPY EASTER, Chickie says… ME TOO… We both wish you lots of fun Yes indeed WE DO!” Aunt Sadie’s Uncle Bob and Aunt Jean sent the card in 1942.
This beautifully colored card in shades of pastel was sent in 1940 for Easter to Aunt Sadie from her Grandma, although which grandma isn’t clear. A girl rabbit with a festive Easter bonnet is looking coyly at a duckling holding a bouquet for her. The card opens to reveal a completely different scene with the duckling, sans bouquet, looking down at a fluffy chick wearing a blue bow arounds its neck.
The last card I have to show you is a chick wearing both a bonnet and a short, green jacket gazing up at two butterflies. The chick has a big box tied with a pink ribbon under one wing. This is a cleverly folded card which reveals three layers in succession. The second layer has another chick inside wearing only a red and white gingham bow. The third layer has the saying inside which reads, “To someone who is two years old – and mighty sweet!” It was signed by Aunt Helen and given to Sadie in 1938. It honestly seems more like an Easter card than a birthday card but it fits in with my chick and egg theme.
And that bring us to the story for today… Picture it… 1974… Newton, New Jersey.
Every Saturday morning, Marty Havens personally delivers eggs for the week to our back door at 9 Merriam Avenue in Newton, New Jersey. This particular Saturday, he pulls into our horseshoe-shaped driveway and stops between the giant Tulip Poplar and the rose trellis. Marty is the owner of Havens Poultry Farm, the largest farm business still within the town’s boundaries.
Marty’s delivery truck is just a normal pickup truck converted to haul the eggs all over town. He pulls two light pink Styrofoam cartons out of the back and hustles up the short set of steps to our backdoor landing. A brisk knock on the door and I hear my mom yell, “Come on in, Marty. The door’s open!”
I am playing upstairs in the room that I share with Jill, my sister who is younger by 2 years. Jenni, the youngest of the three of us, has her own room on the backside of the house. Our room is painted light green and matches our dark green coverlets but you would never know it on Jill’s bed. Hers is never made up enough to show off the cover. Each of our twin beds is flanked by three-drawer dressers which match our Quaker style head and footboards. One of the two windows, both on my side of the room, looks out over the porch roof to where the plastics factory sits across the street. The other window faces Ed and Maggie Matthew’s residence, which is a mirror image of our butter yellow house.
I drop my Dressy Bessy doll and head out to the upstairs landing, which has a railing with white spindles and a dark wood handrail. The spindles are not just round; they’re the fancy type with all sorts of bumps and knobs. I’m curious about what’s going on in the kitchen but don’t want to actually go downstairs. I figure I can do my spying from above. If you lean over the railing, you can just barely see into the kitchen but only a sliver. Instead of leaning over, I think I’ll be able to see more if I stick my head through the spindles. Right?
It’s a tight fit. I feel the pressure on my ears as they smoosh into the side of my head. The backs of my pierced earrings poke into my neck. Once my ears get past, the rest of my head just follows. I get as close to the floor as possible and crane my neck to get a good look. Hmmm… even with my head through the spindles, the view isn’t really much better. Definitely not what I was expecting. I should probably just go downstairs.
I pull my head back. “That’s weird. My head won’t come out,” I think to myself. I try again and again and again and again, turning my head this way and that. It’s not working.
Panic starts to take over. I’m never going to get loose. How will I get to school? I love school. What if I have to pee? I’ll have to pee my pants. Oh! That’s really bad. And messy. How will I sleep? I can’t stay here like this!
I wail out, “MMMOOOMMMM!!!”
Mom knows this isn’t a normal “Mom” call and I hear both her and Marty rushing for the stairs. I see them come around the big fat newel post at the bottom. As they realize what I’ve done, Marty bursts out laughing. For some reason, that doesn’t immediately embarrass me. But when Jill comes up behind them, my face turns bright red. I can see the sparkle of amusement in her blue eyes. She’s never going to let me forget this one. Sisters are like that. Also, right now, I’m the oldest at eight years old and the “good” girl of the three sisters. Any little thing that gets me in trouble just tickles Jill to no end.
My mom and Marty size up the situation. “Well,” Marty says, “We can butter up her head!”
My face gets redder and I try to sink through the floor. It’s not cooperating and stays quite solid. After deciding on a plan of action, they try different places up and down the spindles trying to find the sweet spot that has the most space. Marty holds my ears down while Mom pushes on the top of my head. After about five minutes of fiddling, my head is finally free.
My ears are very red. Partly from embarrassment, partly from being man-handled. I’m relieved to be free and mumble, “Thank you,” to Marty but I immediately slink off some place private to mope.
Marty and my mom head back down the stairs to the kitchen to finish up their egg transaction. I hear them chuckling and then the wooden back door slams shut as Marty heads off to his next delivery. He’s going to have a good story to tell to everyone today!