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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In-Dell-ible Memories, Chapter Two by Kathleen Mae Schneider

Dear friends, once again I give you my special guest blogger Kathleen Mae Schneider!

Chapter 2

Margaret Is Born...

and So Is 
the Dell

by Kathleen Mae Schneider

   Long ago, all around the hamlet of Violet Hill just south of York, purple and white carpets of flowers covered the local countryside every spring, prompting the residents to honor this humble wildflower by naming their town after it.

A wild violet blooming at The Shady Dell in April

   Violets were probably in full bloom in this place in spring of 1912, when on Thursday, April 18th, my grandmother Allie Brown gave birth to her eighth child.

   Although she and my grandfather, George Andrew Brown, delivered all of their other children at home, sometimes with a midwife and other times without, they summoned a doctor this time – a new thing to do to increase chances of survival for mother and child.

   An international tragedy marked that spring, because earlier that week the pleasure cruise ship RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank, claiming 1,490 lives. Details of the disaster were still trickling in three days later on wireless radio. During breaks in Allie’s labor, the doctor asked others in the household if more survivors had been found, as details were sketchy in the newspapers.

   Soon however, above the crackly sound of the sad news coming from the radio on this spring day was a very happy one: the lusty cry of a healthy new baby girl. Those present at her birth didn’t know that Margaret Elizabeth, named after the doctor's wife, would not only survive, but also outlive all of the Brown children and be able to tell the story of her birth to her own daughter 100 years later!

   Mother’s birth coincided with another event 
that would forever change the lives of many of us reading this blog. Her 38-year-old father bought the deed to 3 acres of wooded land just above Violet Hill along Starcross Road.

   Butchering, operating a general store, selling homemade medicines and raising hunting dogs must have been profitable, because he paid $1,000 cash (an average year’s income) for the land on April 11, 1912 - just a week before my mother was born.

   By 1913 there was a beautiful new brick Colonial Revival-style house on the side of this hill over-
looking the valley. The photograph below shows the house as Mother remembers it. On the left side of the picture you can see the barn and the roof line of the garage built onto the front for George’s new business venture - selling and repairing auto-
mobiles. On the gentle slope beside the house, we see the orchard he planted with apple, peach, pear and apricot trees, with Allie’s large vegetable garden next to it.

(Photo courtesy of Phil Spangler
whose ancestors followed mine at the Dell)

   Mother loves to tell me what it was like to grow up in her old home. Her face lights up as she laughingly tells me wonderful tales of childhood playtime and adult escapades that took place here. What fun she and her family had in this house and barn so long ago! What a good life they enjoyed!

   She often appears tired after story telling and her expression darkens. She shakes her head sadly with no comment, sets her jaw, and quickly changes the subject because she was "dwelling on it”, which she avoids at all costs. I want to know what hap-
pened at this place that is so traumatic for her to revisit. But I put away my notebook until another time when I can ask more questions.

   The old Shady Dell dance hall is now dark, dusty and quiet. The jukebox is no more. Gone too is the outdoor brick fireplace around which rats huddled to keep warm on chilly evenings. In place of the snack bar and diner style booths in the house are a great room, modern kitchen and dining area for the next Dell family.

   However, there is much history in this house that predates those teenagers’ Shady Dell times. 
As they do for me, stories of its earlier incar-
nations might make you laugh and cry, and make you feel like you've entered a time machine with the dial set from the early twentieth century right 
up to the present.

   In the next post, we’ll visit the Dell house in more detail and discover some of her charms. We’ll also learn about my ancestors and their life in this amazing place.

   Won't you please join us? Margaret and I will be waiting for you there!

Next time, Chapter Three:

The House on the Hill

With love to Mother and to All,

In-Dell-ible Memories Chapter 1
In-Dell-ible Memories Introduction
Margaret's Birthday


  1. I was transported into the time of your mother's birth, and even imagined hearing the crackling of the radio program. In my mind I stood around the outdoor fireplace, an observer, detached but wanting to fit in. What a beautiful story Kathleen!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 27, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      Thank you for your kind comment, Jenny. As I learn about Mother's century-long survival of experiences, I want to share not only a good story, but also her clues to longevity, sacrifice and love. I'm glad you enjoy reading about them.

      My life has always been behind the scenes rather than in the limelight. As a teenager I would have been the one quietly helping to string those lights above the outdoor dance floor at the Dell, not dancing on it! The popular crowd only accepted me for the magic to them) of my artistic gifts to design stage sets, decorate for homecoming, be art editor of the yearbook and be pianist for the chorus. Any other terms were not on their radar because I was too shy and sensitive. I had a hard time with self-promotion. Still do, but I would rather have a loving family and a few authentic friends than a crowd of shallow ones who expect me to conform.

      I hope we see you again next month to hear more about the earliest days of the Shady Dell. They were fascinating!

  2. Oh, so well written! I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I can't wait until the next installment. I am really pondering over what she is dwelling on- I hope is is nothing too traumatic. Thanks to you both for sharing this wonderful story!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 27, 2012 at 9:09 AM

      Hi Shelly,
      Margaret's life story contains events that would bring most of us to our post-modern knees. She says she "couldn't do anything about what happened" so she just accepted it and went on. Tough lady, my mother!

      I'm anxious to describe both the good and bad times of her life in upcoming months. Mother and I appreciate your reading "In-dell-ible Memories" and commenting favorably. Thank you for your visit!

  3. Like Jenny & Shelly above, I am so enjoying reading these stories, which are so beautifully written, that I can imagine that I am transported right back to that time. It really is amazing to think that your mum was born at the time of the sinking of the Titanic! As to your mum shaking her head sadly, I wonder what memory she is thinking of - I do hope you manage to discover this missing part of the jigsaw. I'm looking forward to the next instalment, Kathleen!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 27, 2012 at 9:12 AM

      Dear Diane,

      I'm glad to hear from you! Thank you for entering the mystery of the Brown family. I have part of it solved, but a lot of details remain that are beyond Mother's memory since she was so young when they happened and nothing was explained to her! It's both frustrating and exciting to track down the facts, but it will take me a long time I fear. Ironically time to research is scarce because I help with her care, but I'm "hot on the trail" of some of the most difficult conundrums in the narrative and do what I can to follow any and all leads!

      You can imagine when I discover missing pieces of the 'puzzle' and then tell her the real reasons things sometimes went poorly back then - what a switch-up! She mostly just shakes her head as I, her youngest child, tell her about a time I never lived! Thankfully she's humble and takes it with grace and humor. We have such a good time and both laugh about her finding out what happened this much later. No doubt her parents thought they took it all to their graves. She often says, "So that's why----? I always wondered." This is quite a trip for both of us.

      Thanks for hopping aboard! We hope to see you next month.

  4. I'm completely drawn into this story - so well written, and you've got me hooked for the next installment. Reading the other comments above, I couldn't help but comment that your mother and my grandmother lived through some of the same times. She shared many stories of her childhood with me, and some are unbelievably harsh - but that was how it was back then. I suspect some of these dark memories of your mother's are something of the same. Things that happened back then would almost certainly never happen now, and it's really interesting to read narratives of how differently they grew up. Makes me appreciate what I've always been blessed with, and usually took for granted! Thank you again, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 27, 2012 at 2:01 PM

      Hi Karen,

      I agree that comparing our lifestyle with that of past generations certainly opens our eyes to the progress that's been made, especially to women. Every time I want to grumble about the basket overflowing with laundry to be done, I remember my grandmother, Allie.

      She had to first heat water on the coal-fired stove, put it in a big old tub and then scrub individual pieces on a washboard with soap shaved from a cake. Then she had to wring it out with a hand-cranked wringer, carry the heavy basket outside to hang it on a wash line in all kinds of weather.

      In winter the mostly-dry, frozen laundry was collected by armloads in a pile that looked like small pieces of lumber and stood in the corner of the kitchen by the stove to thaw. Ironing with a top-of-the-stove heavy iron followed. And to think I complain!

      Thanks so much for reading Chapter Two. We look forward to your repeat visit next month. I think Chapter Three will make you even more appreciative of today's conveniences as well as the fortitude and perserverance that women of all eras, and men too, show when faced with life's difficulties. As Mother often says, "You have to be tough like me...". She should know. Indeed!

  5. Having my Aunt Katie I can fully understand how thrilling it is to have a relative that can articulate how life was nearly a century ago. I can't wait to read more about her family and some of the things that surely will be so interesting to learn. Thanks for allowing us to join in this journey through time.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 27, 2012 at 2:11 PM

      Hi, Odie,

      It sounds like your Aunt Katie and my mother would have really been fun to have in the same room! Seeing the world through their old eyes made even more beautiful by time is a true blessing. It's easy to see why the elderly are revered in many cultures, and makes you wonder how many untold stories are dwindling away in "assisted living" in ours.

      I'm glad you found Chapter Two to your liking and hope you'll stay with the series in its entirety to learn along with me about my family's saga. Maybe it's time to write yours as well. I'd love to read it!

  6. I'm totally hooked and will definetely be back for the next installment! Like Shelly, I find myself wondering what upsets your mom so. Perhaps it's difficult for her to look back sometimes. The feeling of nostalgia can be so overwhelming. I recall my own grandmother having a difficult time when talking about her childhood because all of her siblings had passed and she missed them so. She said she often felt alone in the world without the people who had known her when she was young.

    I really enjoyed reading about your mother's birth and I was very impressed to read about your grandfather. What an enterprising man! I'm looking forward to the next chapter in your mother's story of life at The Dell. Thank you for sharing it here! :)

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 27, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      Hi, Jenn June,

      Mother is the last of her family and often says that she knows more dead people than alive ones! That's definitely part of living to be really, really old, but I know from my own experience that the discomfort and scars of loss she feels when remembering the past is not much different than it is for the rest of us at any age once we've lost loved ones.

      Her past was especially confused and traumatic for her at a very early age. Not having things explained to her, which was common at that time, made it extra hard. Today we have grief counselors and child psychologists for children. Back then problems adults had were just not discussed with kids.

      My grandfather was quite a man, in many definitions of the word. He was confident and forward-looking, and rarely gave up. He must have had an abundance of energy and was eager to learn new things, all while providing for his very large family. I'm also learning from a nmber of sources that he also was impulsive and had personality flaws as we all do that sometimes got him into a great deal of trouble.

      Next month's post will reveal more of the "jigsaw" as Diane called it. We almost will have the 'straight edges' completed for a frame. Maybe I'll have more of the pieces to fill in the gaps soon. Until then, thanks for your compassionate comment and for visiting the second part of Margaret's story. I appreciate your taking time to visit!

  7. This is such an amzing story Kathleen! I was really looking forward to this post and I wasn't disappointed! This is the kind of story that should be made into a documentary, it's so fascinating!

    I very much look forward to the next instalment.

    Emma x

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 27, 2012 at 2:53 PM

      Nice to see you, Emma! I appreciate your thinking that it is a fascinating story. I think probably many families' would be, once uncovered and recorded (and maybe embellished a teensy bit...).

      As far as a documentary is concerned, Tom already has either Jane Seymour or Winona Ryder cast as Allie! I don't know about George; maybe Russell Crowe or Brad Pitt? Wouldn't my ancestors be surprised to learn many others today enjoy following their lives so long ago? I'm quite certain they didn't envision themselves as movie stars!

      Stay tuned for Chapter Three when the Dell house gives up some of its secrets! See you then.

  8. oh man, eight babies all birthed at home. Thats quite a feat. I hope Kathleen is able to get Margaret to talk about the traumatic details of what happened in her home. Even if she decides not to write about it, it may be good for Margaret to talk about it and not hold it in any longer.

    1. Hello, Amber-
      Thank you for reading about my mother's birth and that of her home too. Talking about her past isn't difficult - up to a point. Sometimes she just thinks any skeletons should be left in the closet. The "back stories" I'm discovering are hard for her to incorporate into her memories of the people she loved. Even though they didn't tell her a lot about what was going on, she picked up the shame anyway that continues to this day. She does o.k. because she can pretty much compartmentalize negative thoughts and keep them from coloring her life - a trait I wish I had inherited!

      We hope you come back next month for more of the story!

  9. PS that photo you sent me is hilarious.

    1. Hi, Amber Blue Bird! I showed you that Indescribable Wow album cover to encourage you to check out the catalog of Sam (Leslie) Phillips, a former Christian rock singer turned secular recording artist. Indescribable Wow contains the song "Holding on to the Earth" which was used in the soundtrack of my all time favorite movie Ruby in Paradise starring Ashley Judd. Sam Phillips' other outstanding albums include Cruel Inventions and Martinis & Bikinis and song highlights include "Raised on Promises" (another track from R.I.P.), "Same Rain" and "I Need Love." I hope you will investigate this groovy gal and her music, dear friend!

  10. Hi Kathleen, and Shady. I've gone up and down your post, glancing several times at the wonderful photo. Ah, I can smell the fruit trees even now! How exciting to know about the various events documented around the time of your mother's birth. When I make a Birthday card for a friend or family member, I go online and try to find something that occurred on the day, or within the week of that person's birth. Even tho the Titanic sinking was such a tragedy, I'm sure it definitely left an impression on your family. It sounds as tho the doctor was very attentive to your mother's birth, and, I'm sure he was proud that she was named after his wife.
    Sometimes, when we go back in time, I suppose we remember some things that were not so glorious, and, that were possibly traumatic. Some things we remember so vividly, but would rather not reflect on. However, as time goes on for you and your mother, these events may become easier for her to disclose. I love your writings of your family, and,of the Dell thus far Kathleen. Best wishes to you and your mother...I look forward to the next chapter.

    1. Mother and I appreciate your thoughts on Chapter 2, Susan.
      For a while, all I knew about my mother's birth was that it occurred the same week the Titanic sank. Both she and I have learned so much more in this last year as I research my family's history.
      I think my grandmother named my mother out of gratitude to the doctor; she had to be relieved that her eighth child survived!
      As far as Mother's disclosure about her family, she and I are reconstructing her past by combining her memories with information from archives, old letters and photographs, and talking with family members. Just when I think she has no more to add she proves otherwise with more stories! When I reveal new findings, some of the bad things that happened make sense to her for the first time. Often more questions are raised as well. It can get very confusing for her 100-year-old brain, and my 65-year-old one too!
      Thank you for your good wishes. We hope to hear from you again!


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