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

Friday, January 25, 2013

Allie's Rats, Part 2: Margaret’s Pig Tale and Other Close Encounters

Dear friends, it is a pleasure to welcome back my guest blogger and good friend Kathleen Mae Schneider with the latest chapter of In-Dell-ible Memories, a series that chronicles the early 20th century childhood of her mother, Margaret Brown.

Chapter Four 

Allie’s Rats, Pt. 2

Pig Tale 
And Other 
Close Encounters

Kathleen Mae 

“Why is it called the Shady Dell?” I recently
asked my mother, the world’s oldest living Dell rat. “Since a dell is defined as ‘a small secluded valley’, why is a house on a hill called by that name?” I wondered. As we left after the last visit to her childhood home before it changed owners, Mother answered, “It was named for the real Shady Dell right down the road. I’ll show you where it is.”

What a revelation! I didn’t know that the house’s namesake existed so close by. Mother pointed to a long narrow valley on both sides of the road, mere yards away from the Dell property, covered with tall wild grasses and guarded by a large metal gate. “The Sittler family raised pigs on a farm there”, she said. “One day when I was a little girl playing in the woods across from my house, the pigs somehow got loose and came running up the road and chased me back home. I was scared of pigs for a long time after that!”

We laughed picturing her, now a very old lady, as
a startled youngster suddenly jumping up from her fun, screaming and running as fast as her little legs could carry her, away from those grunting and squealing pigs - who were probably more scared than she!

I explored the site of this porcine mayhem, the place so rich with my family’s history, on the morning that I returned alone for a last visit
to Mother’s childhood home. Before I helplessly witnessed the ghastly smoldering remains of my grandparents’ demolished barn and the Ettline’s famous dance hall, I made a solitary pilgrimage
to the storied glen nearby.

Finding the spot Mother showed me earlier, I
parked the car and climbed over the guardrail to
enter the first Shady Dell. A steep embankment slopes downward, covered by a sun-dappled tangle
of lush green forest and underbrush. In some places this diminutive ravine widens into quiet golden meadows, carpeted with wildflowers. Threading its way through the middle, a sparkling stream tumbles over rocks. Here and there, small inlets dug into its mossy banks by local muskrats form small placid pools.

This truly beautiful and ancient place is the only Shady Dell my mother and her family knew a century ago, and is the one after which John and Helen Ettline undoubtedly named their restaurant many years later.

It doesn’t show on this old photo of the house and barn that my grandfather built in 1912 because it is located at the bottom of the hill beyond and below my grandmother Allie’s large vegetable gar-
den and past the orchard where my mother and her brothers and sisters played.

Sparrows were chirping and flitting among the branches overhead as I walked a few feet into the brush. Looking up through the morning mist at an opening in the foliage of now-towering trees that cover the hillside of Mother’s time, the house appeared ghost like in the distance. There was Mother’s old bedroom and beneath it, one of her favorite childhood spots - the porch where she loved to spend time swinging and roller-skating.

A small sound interrupted my thoughts. The large brown eyes of a young doe stepping gracefully out of the woods met mine, but unlike Mother and the pigs in her story, neither the deer nor I was afraid. After nonchalantly nibbling on a tuft
of grass she disappeared into the underbrush.
I smiled, for she seemed like a gentle messenger from the past. I wondered if her ancestors also wandered these woods, first wary of the Native Americans who depended on them for survival, and later of my grandfather, George Andrew Brown - an accomplished hunter with noisy dogs and a butcher by trade.

So many kindred spirits were with me that morning: prehistoric inhabitants, animals, and most of all - my grandparents and their large family. I imagined a slender Allie looking up from her garden, wiping her brow with her apron. She laughs as she waves a handful of green beans at her husband. He salutes her loudly with the large bulb horn on his new
REO automobile as he chugs past on Starcross Road. Sounds of their children’s laughter rise from the wooded valley below as they wade in the stream catching crawfish and salamanders to cool off from the summer’s heat.

They have all disappeared, but surely not their spirits now enshrined in these woods. I am profoundly grateful that their house remains and their stories are entrusted to me by their last living child, my 100-year-old mother. This is truly hallowed ground!

As we slowly drove by after the story telling weeks before, Mother silently looked out the car window with wise old eyes, not only seeing the late-summer Shady Dell now overgrown and abandoned, but also remembering sounds and images from another time in her long life.

I heard that the original Shady Dell was used as an overflow parking lot and I wondered aloud how many teenagers never knew or cared where their hangout got its name. I bet many others are still unaware of its beauty and magic as they speed past. Mother is used to knowing myriad things that most people around her, including me, never heard about or experienced. Still looking out the window as the sun set below the trees she quietly said, “Probably a lot.”

Next time, read more about life for the Dell’s first family.
Please join us for:

In-Delli-ble Memories 
Chapter 5  
Home Sweet Dell.

With love to Mother and to All,

Chapter 4: Allie's Rats, Pt 1: Hill and Dell
Chapter 3: The House on the Hill 
Chapter 2: Margaret is Born...and So Is the Dell 
Chapter 1: The Beauty and the Butcher
Introduction: My Shady Dell "Roots"
Margaret's Birthday


  1. How exquisitely lovely and satisfying this is to read. I am so glad you were able to go for that last visit and visit the natural Dell. I loved hearing how it got its name.

    And as long as these stories live on in you and in us with whom you've shared them, they are vibrantly alive.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 25, 2013 at 5:32 AM

      Shelly - Stories are always more enjoyable when shared, and I'm so fortunate to not only be given these memories of Mother's early life at the Shady Dell, but also to see the actual spot where they took place. I'm triple blessed to have this marvelous opportunity to ensure the stories' survival by sharing them with caring folks like you.
      Mother and I thank you for reading chapter 4 and your kind comment, Shelly. We're glad you enjoy these chronicles and look forward to your next visit to hear more of them.

  2. Kathleen, I so enjoyed your vivid descriptions of the Dell property and it's surrounding.
    You make it easy to picture in our minds Margaret swinging, pigs chasing, and Allie gardening.
    What a wonderful, innocent era it was.
    I feel so fortunate to be one of the lucky ones who have walked those areas you described and know exactly where it (the real Shady Dell) is.
    As always, I can't wait for more, more, more!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 25, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Toni - When I saw the Dell house through the trees that morning, chills went down my spine at the sight of her standing tall and proud and knowing she would be there for a long time. I felt a renewed sense of gratitude to you Toni, for your efforts to first save her from destruction and then renew her with such care and love. It's incredibly heartwarming to know that the rooms my mother walked as a little girl are once again full of life. Thank you again for making that possible!

      Although the early 1900s were certainly much simpler when we compare them to our postmodern time, Mother and her family had their own set of issues and hurdles to overcome. Future chapters will reveal some that I've uncovered as I dig deeper into the Brown family history. I think you'll agree that like all families' pasts, they are fascinating, with myriad plot turns and surprises - complete with villains, heroes and heroines.

      Thank you for reading Chapter Four. It means a lot to us to hear from you dear Toni, and to read your kind comments. Stay tuned for Chapter Five!

  3. I've often wondered about the name "Shady Dell" and it is a joy knowing where it came from. You describe it so beautifully. It reminded me of a place in California I lived. There were houses all around us but I found a secluded place of huge trees and a deep ravine. I used to go sit in a tree and read books there. Places like these are special.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 25, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Thanks for visiting this morning, Belle!

      Peaceful places like the Shady Dell and the one you describe in California can be hiding in plain sight, just waiting to be experienced by people of all ages if they can slow down and look for them. They are especially important to the child in all of us.

      Once we've visited, in person or vicariously, we can always return to them in our hearts and minds – where our spirits are nurtured and healing is encouraged. They are gifts that become a part of who we are and continue to positively influence us throughout our lives. May we all find such havens, even as adults!

      This secluded valley is literally in my genes. I'm glad that my grandparents chose it as a place to raise their family and I'm honored to tell their story to you. I appreciate your telling about a similar special place your life and your kind comments. We hope to hear from you again.

  4. Hallo Kathleen. I have been eagerly awaiting your latest reminisces, via your dear mum, of life in the early days of The Shady Dell. I was not disappointed! I, also, wondered where the name came from. How delightful that you were able to explore this tranquil setting. I'm certain that the spirits of your mum's family are still very much there in that place. It does sound like an idyllic childhood. I know that i've said this before, Kathleen, but your writing is beautiful. I hope that Margaret is keeping well.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 25, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      Hi again, Diane!

      Aren't the origins of names fascinating? Sometimes they are just interesting footnotes to history and other times they invite us to explore our connections to them in the past. Such is the case of the Shady Dell for me. Just seeing it ignited my imagination and the memory of it spurs me on to continue researching and writing.

      Thank you for asking about Mother's health. By way of answering, she is next to me, wanting to know who is commenting on our chapter! She remembers you and your birthday message all the way from England. She voted for the first time in her life in November, and is doing as well as can be expected at 100.

      My siblings and I continue to care for her in the house my father built, just a few miles from The Shady Dell. She moves about independently and mostly needs companionship, but we remain alert to her needs as her eyesight and hearing is poor and she is of course frail. She takes very little medicine and keeps current with our family, the news and weather – and the comings and goings of her neighbors! We are trying mightily to maintain quality to her life and to keep her immunity strong during this awful flu outbreak.

      It''s great to hear from you Diane and I'm very flattered by your generous comments. If I ever do write that book, I'll be sure to ask you to write a recommendation for the back cover!

      Please stop by again to read the next chapter of In-Dell-ible Memories and take care of yourself during this cold, cold winter.

    2. I just had to respond. I just think it's so wonderful how you and your family take such great care of your mum. Sadly, that isn't always the case with families these days. How marvellous that she can still remain independent up to a point. I am very touched that she remembers me. Take care.

    3. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 26, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      Diane - Our style of care for Mother is not very popular. Thank goodness we are all retired and in relatively good health. We are also fortunate that she is mentally competent. We take three day shifts, which works out most of the time. I just feel blessed to be able to return just a bit of the kindness she gave the three of us growing up, now at this stage of her life when she needs our help.

      For example, when I was a little girl, our house was not the warmest, so on very frigid winter days she would hang my clothes by the stove before I woke up so they would be toasty warm by the time I put them on. I was always cold so I really loved that.

      Just this morning I reflexively did the same thing by hanging her outfit for the day next to a radiator. As I was helping her into her warm clothes, she slyly smiled after I thanked her for that chidhood memory and said "Did I do that?" - as if she had forgotten - but of course she hadn't!

      I cannot imagine giving away to strangers such opportunities as this for her to see how loved she is and how her many acts of simple kindness many years ago influenced her children to this day.

      I'll read your caring comment to her soon and I'm sure she will appreciate it, as I do!

      All the best to you and your family.

  5. Hi Kathleen,
    I enjoy reading your posts about the Shady Dell and all that transpired within those lovely walls and surroundings, prior to Tom's era. It's lovely that you have you documented all the history so we can all have an idea of the origins of Tom's Shady Dell.
    Thanks again for sharing...
    PS are so fantastic to have included Kathleen and her Mom so we can all visit the past.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 25, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      Hi Sush!

      Without the search for info about my Mother's old home and in the process the discovery of Tom's blog, my writing would probably have been relegated to the "someday" file! Emerson said, “Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.”. By first asking me to contribute to SD&M, and then being patient with my sporadic output, he's done just that. This is one of the busiest and most stressful times in my life, but I feel that my family's history and that of the Dell needs to be documented while we still have one of the last eye witnesses to the early 20th century with us.

      I'm glad you like reading accounts of our Shady Lady's origins. I love my Mother and her stories, I love to write, and I also really enjoy this blog and its readers. Need I mention that I also love the Shady Dell? That's a great motivating combo and there are lots more stories to come.

      I'm sure glad you are along for the ride! Thanks so much for your visit and comment. I hope to see you here again.

  6. Hello Kathleen, I thought about you just a few days ago, and, hoped you would write soon. You are so descriptive...I can see, hear and smell all of the things you describe. I'm glad you wandered some more into the past, beyond the old house, to find the Shady Dell. Even tho you weren't there, I sense you could feel the joys and mysteries of this dell. And, I enjoyed your photos-they do put us there! I'm glad you encountered a deer instead of pigs! What a lovely experience.

    It was good to see you here again. And, your chapter was invigorating! Thank you and your mother for sharing these wonderful experiences with us. I hope the two of you are doing well. Hugs to you both!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 25, 2013 at 8:32 PM

      Hi Suzanne!

      It seems so much of my family's history elicits technicolor, 3-D and stereo surround-sound imaginings. (I'm probably showing my age here with these descriptions!) I'm glad you could relate to the details in Chapter 4's stories.

      The deer experience was almost mystical. Several weeks earlier my daughter Elisabeth and I visited the Shady Dell Woods across the road from Mother's old home at the Dell. A female deer appeared that time as well and also seemed quite tame. Perhaps there is a herd that lives in the area and is accustomed to humans.

      I never met my grandfather and barely knew Allie, my grandmother. (She died when I was in 3rd grade.) However, Mother's memories of them and those relayed to my cousins by my aunts and uncles, along with bits of information gleaned from the official archives, are enough to piece together relatively detailed portraits of them. I feel like I'm getting to know them better with each chapter I write! You're right, I do sense the magic of their era and old property with each visit.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Suzanne. Mother and I appreciate your caring too and want you to know you are most welcome. We are both well, thank you, and gladly accept and return any and all hugs, virtual and otherwise! Hopefully we'll hear from you again after reading Chapter 5.

  7. Kathleen thank you for once again takeing me back to Margarets Shady Dell, back to the time when the Dell magic started. All my life I have felt pulled to that house on the hill I feel as if it were my own home. You Tom and Toni have done so to keep the Dell alive with the words you write and pictures you post on the blog. John and Helen did so much to make me the person I am. The days of going up on the hill and walking the grounds of the Dell and knowing that I was all ways welcome ended when Toni sold her.The last time I was there was the day the barn came down and you and I talked.I still can"t belive that anyone could just smash it and not care. I hope when Spring comes I will feel like going up and seeing what else has been done.I hope you and mother Margaret are both doing well and I will be looking forward to the next part of the story. Remember You and mother are both in my heart all ways. A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 26, 2013 at 9:43 AM

      Welcome back, Greg!

      Finding the Dell property so changed from the way you and Tom remembered it has got to be very hard to take. It's hard for me too, without even experiencing the coming-of-age you guys had there. Mother, who was quite literally ripped from her Dell home when she was 12, tells us to count our blessings when things get rough. So let's try to be grateful that the house will remain for a long time. Happy memories of the place will always be a part of us as you said, and can be a powerful antidote to the pain we feel.

      For the new Dell family, these may well be their golden days. It makes me smile through my tears to think of their children happily playing in the woods, on the ground where the barn once stood and in that wonderful sunlit attic playroom. The last time my daughter and I explored the leaky, dank and dusty barn we said our goodbyes because we realized it was truly unsafe the way it was. Unless Donald Trump bought it and restored it, it likely would have fallen down on its own during the next big wind storm. Time exacts this price on everything and we can only do so much to defy it.

      Since we don't know the new owners, we must just accept their choices and forgive - another of Mother's keys to longevity and a happy life. We may be pleasantly surprised in the spring to see the Dell property healthy and safe again. It would be worse I think to see condos or an apartment building with no trace of the former Dell.

      John saw what time and inevitable change did to the property. He was wise and accepted his limitations, knowing he, Helen and good Shady Dell times would be remembered. They would both be happy to see what a big part their labor of love played in so many lives and would marvel at the beautiful house now.

      You may not any longer be welcome at the old Shady Dell, Greg, but you certainly are welcome here on Tom's blog. Every visit brings to you the Dell in its past lives through photographs, my Mother's stories and Tom's vast collection of music. It faithfully and freely gives us friendship, acceptance and fun and reminds us of the simple pleasures and basic goodness of life available to us, whatever our age. We can find healing for our sore hearts here whenever we are missing the good old days.

      Thanks you for your comment and good wishes for Mother and me. Please take care!

  8. I enjoyed this wonderful and informative guest post.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 27, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Katherine - Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you read Chapter 4 and enjoyed the stories. Hope to see you here again. There are lots more where this came from!

  9. Wow! I actually had always wondered where the Shady Dell got it's name and never even thought to ask! Now I know! It's such a pretty name and I'm glad the mystery of where it came from has been solved for me! It serves as a reminder as to what a beautiful place it must have been to grow up in! Thanks again for your words and photographs Kathleen!

    Emma x

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 28, 2013 at 6:52 PM

      I grew up with stories about Mother's Shady Dell past and it had become infamous by the time I was a teenager, but I never became curious about the name until writing my family's history. I'm glad it interests you as well. It was and is a beautiful place that begs repeated visits.

      Thank you for visiting Chapter 4. Mother will be thrilled when I show her Ireland on a map and show her your comment!

  10. What great stories, really they're magical! Hope you're having a good January Shady.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 31, 2013 at 5:50 AM

      Thanks for your comment, Alabee. There's more magic on the way in Chapter 5 of In-Dell-ible Memories, so I hope you'll visit us again.

  11. After coming to Canada from Europe in 1982 my husband and our lil growing family lived in this old 1912 farm house for many years ... we raised beef, sheep, pigs and chickens ... made hay, had crops of wheat, barley and canola ... plus maintaining a big garden ... having only a window of 100 frost free days to grow things was often a bit challenging ... there was laughter and love, but also tears ... but I'll never forget Myyrtle's face, when she came to visit us one fine day ... she was born and bred on our farm back in the 1930s to her Swedish family ... I was proud to show her around the farm, and she was so moved to see how her childhood home was so still so loved by us "young" people ... she even wrote a story for "The Western Producer" about her early life on that farm and us "immigrant youngens" continuing that life there ... I felt very hounoured, Mr Shady ... smiles ... if you are interested in her article, I could send it to you ... Love, cat.


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