High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In-Dell-ible Memories, an Introduction by Kathleen Mae Schneider


Hello again, my dear friends! Tom Anderson temporarily filling in for regular master of ceremonies Shady Del Knight.

In my last post I had the pleasure of introducing Margaret Elizabeth Brown Schneider, the oldest living Dell rat, as she celebrated
her 100th birthday.

Now I would like you to meet Margaret's devoted daughter, Kathleen Mae Schneider. Kathleen is here today to launch her new guest blogger series In-Dell-ible Memories, the true life story of her mother Margaret's child- hood at the Shady Dell. The engrossing journey begins at the close of the 19th century when Margaret's parents met. It then moves forward to 1912 when Margaret was born and 1913 when her father built the Dell and it became the family's new home. As you read Margaret's diary you will get to know the Dell's first residents, follow their adventures, learn about the hardships they faced and the tragedies they endured. You will view dozens of rare, never before published photographs of the Dell as it looked
during the World War I years along with awe-inspiring images of young Margaret and her large family.

Ladies and gentlemen at this time I am honored to present the preface to a gripping saga, an inspiring story of survival, Margaret Elizabeth Brown's In-Dell-ible Memories written by her loving daughter and my wonderful new friend, Kathleen Mae Schneider!

My Shady Dell “Roots”

by Kathleen Mae Schneider

   A familiar antique glass and wooden inkwell 
sits right next to the computer on which I write. 
I often pick it up, turn it over in my hands, and am struck anew by the irony of these two vastly different writing instruments sharing my desktop 
(a real wooden one, that is, not virtual!), sepa-
rated in time by 100 years. The first is small, heavy-bottomed and humble in appearance. The 
second is large and streamlined, humming away 
as I type this.

   The old inkwell acquired an eerie significance last spring as I searched for connections to the past that would help me write my family’s history. I took new notice of some traces of ink on the con-
cave wooden top of the well. These stains silently bore witness to a time long before the computer, and held clues to my origins.

   It is easy for me to imagine a pen dipped into the black ink in the well and then briefly touched to the opening in the top to get off the excess. I can almost hear a delicate scratching sound as it carefully writes on a page in the front of a large Bible a century ago this week. It records the birth date and name of a 12th child welcomed into the family - Margaret Elizabeth Brown.

   The writer I envision is the baby’s father, George Andrew Brown, the man who fulfilled his dream of building the house that would someday be-
come The Shady Dell. He is long gone as are his two wives and all but one of his 14 children. That one remaining child is my mother, now an amazing 100 years old.

   She was an original Dell “rat,” having lived in the house her father built from infancy to age 12. She still remembers growing up in this mythic place. Ironically, all these years later, scores of people revere it as an unforgettable part of their growing up and coming of age. George would be proud that his beautiful house is held in such esteem and that it is now preserved for the future.

   Long before hundreds of teenagers enjoyed lis-
tening and dancing to rock-and-roll at The Shady Dell the house was simply known as 1501 Starcross Road. Instead of Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly its rooms were filled with the sounds of my ancestors’ voices as they discussed the day’s events or sang along with tunes such as “Over There” and “We 
Don't Want the Bacon (What we want is a piece of the Rhine)” from an old hand-cranked Victrola and player piano.

      They lived and loved one another in that house and worked long and hard to make their home the anchor of their lives. Although I never went there to hang out in my teen years (I was preparing for 
a career in classical piano and I was forbidden to go there anyway…), what transpired at my mother’s original home, and after the Brown family left it, has been an important influence on my life.

   In spite of her advanced years, Mother’s mind is alert. Having survived many rough spots in her long life she is now challenged by her slow recovery from a broken hip which she says is “the worst thing that ever happened” to her. She is frail and tires easily. However, except for occasional frus-
tration, she deals steadily with the difficulties she faces as she has done her entire life and her family before her. She is an inspiration to all who know her.

   She is well aware that she is the oldest living link to the Dell’s origins, relishing the notoriety given her. After an interview with a newspaper reporter and knowing about my posts here she tells everyone she is now on the “Inner-net”! This week we celebrated her centennial which is nothing short of miraculous.

   It’s incredible that someone so old is able to vividly call up so much about her childhood, but she willingly indulges my curiosity.  She tells me her memory is bad, but then enjoys surprising me with a story I never heard before. With a tricky sparkle in her eyes she’ll say, “Didn’t I ever tell you that?”

      The recollections she shares with me are frequently funny, sometimes sad, and more often than not, mysterious. My ancestors and their life at the Dell house seem to come alive again as she describes their time there. I’m given a rare window on the past because there are so few people around whose lives spanned so much of the 20th and 21st centuries let alone someone I know and love so much.

   Some of my questions about her early years are met with a quizzical expression and a shrug. She tells me that she merely “grew up”, trusting that her parents were taking care of her.  Long before the advent of child psychology and the fear of 
damaging tender self-esteem, the Brown children weren’t told a lot by their parents. Any trauma 
or misfortune the family faced (and they were considerable as future chapters here will show) were met with cautions “Not to dwell on it”. Then they were not mentioned again. Discussion closed!

   Because of this I have to mine details of some parts of her background from other sources. It isn’t that she doesn’t remember, she was quite simply never told those details. My venture into 
my maternal family’s history many times seems like a job for Hercule Poirot!


Margaret at 100!

 I look at Mother’s face now - lined, wrinkled and tired, but showing wisdom and acceptance that was hard earned from a century of living.

Margaret at age 4 or 5

 Portraits of her as a young girl show her with an innocent and trusting expression. I feel such respect and tenderness for her and this remar-
kable family as they all look back at me from their old sepia-toned photographs.

   They courageously adapted to difficult times and persevered.  My life is tied to theirs, including the house in which they lived. Both genetically and using the oral, pictorial and archived histories, I am entrusted with their legacy.

   I am so very privileged to learn about and be inspired by these resourceful and resilient people whose genes I carry. I am incredibly proud to preserve their story for future generations. As I share it with you in coming posts, may I do Mother, and her family, honor!

   Following next time is the beginning of Margaret’s story, starting with her parents.

 Soon: Chapter 1 -

The Beauty and the Butcher

With love to Mother and to All,


  1. This story is so beautifully written. I feel an immediate tenderness for you and for Margaret. How wonderful to be the one to carry and share the stories as they surface. It felt like I had just opened the pages of a beautiful book and was settling in on my couch for a good, long journey to a place and time that is so interesting and full of life. Thank you for sharing these In Dellible Memories!

  2. Margaret, I sincerely thank you and Tom for bringing us this story. I am hanging on every word and enjoying the journey as you tell us.
    As I shared last time my Aunt Katie will be 104 this september and is doing awesome. I sat with her and my Uncle Lester one day and recorded an hour long video of them recounting stories I had never heard of my father, their brother.
    You have a real fan here in NC waiting anxiously for your next episode. Thanks again for sharing this journey with us.
    Odie Langley

  3. I have been eagerly aniticipating this since you announced it and I am so happy we are finally on this journey!

    This is such a valuable endeavor, and will serve to not only inform and enlighten us, but will hold for all of posterity these priceless memories.

    Thank you, Tom, for making it possible for us to be a part of this, and to these two wonderful women for sharing!

  4. This is a beautiful introduction to your mother's life. It was probably better when children didn't know about everything that went on and told not to think about it. Children seem to know too much now. I'm very much looking forward to the stories. It is wonderful how you are working on the history of your family. My mother wrote a memoir for the family and I'm so happy she did that.

  5. Hallo Kathleen. This is Diane (thisisme) all the way from England, and it really is a pleasure to meet you, and your mum, Margaret. What an amazing first post this was from you. You have such an easy writing style, and I am so looking forward to reading what looks to be an incredible story. Thank you to you Tom, for bringing all this together!

  6. Hello, Kathleen! And Tom!

    Kathleen, you had me captivated from the very beginning, with your description of the inkwell and the computer. You possess a beautiful way with words, and you do wonderful things with them. I am Yours just based on the story's Pilot Episode, and I look forward to your next installment. I love the "knowing" in your Mother's eyes (in her picture). She has a beautifully active mind, and I'm sure her hip is mending---slowly, but surely, of course. Thank your Mother for telling her story, and thank you for wanting to know it---and so eloquently share it with us.

    And Tom, I've witnessed you possess two more sport coats than I do. Thank you for assembling this beautiful woman's story and her daughter's excellent writing with us. Until next time,


  7. Hello Kathleen. Your mother's story is already enfolding as exciting and inspiring. I'm sure you are very proud to be the presenter, and, grateful for what you have learned about your family. I look forward to reading chapter 1 of your story.

    Thank you Tom, for bringing this together. Have a great week.♫

  8. Ms Margaret, Kathleen and Tom,
    How wonderful to hear stories of the Dell from its inception. What a rare and fantastic opportunity the three of you are affording us.
    I love hearing stories from generations before us, we have so much to learn from them and it is so rare to get an opportunity such as this.
    Kathleen your love for your Mother and family is so evident in your writings. I am thrilled and ready to read and learn from 'In-Dell-ible Memories'.
    Thank you Tom for sharing this wonderful story and part of history.
    Blessings to you all~

  9. What an incredible journey Kathleen is taking us on! She is a wonderful writer (just like you!) I feel so fortunate to be part of the Dell's history. I can't wait for the next chapter! This is fun!

  10. I love that her daughter is writing all this down. Her mother has lived an exciting live and I cant wait to learn more about this Dell rat. I hope she is ready to be an "Inner-net" superstar ;)

  11. Thank you for the kind words. I am glad my little comment could bring smiles to these ladies :)

  12. Who would have thought that researching my family history would result in such an array of compliments for my Mother and me?! Thank you all for your kind feedback. It encourages us to continue documenting her memories and sleuthing for clues to my "Shady" past.

    All the Best,

  13. I came to this post after reading the second one because I had just moved from South Carolina to Florida. I'm glad I clicked on the link from today's post. It really is fascinating to hear the past. My mother is 87 now and still ornery and spry so I appreciate hearing tidbits from her childhood. We are lucky aren't we?! Looking forward to more from you!


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