Poodle Skirts and Saddle Shoes

I came across this picture from 1957 recently. It brings back memories of the 50’s and the circle “poodle” skirt worn with matching sweater set, bobby socks and saddle shoes. My older sister had a blue skirt with a white poodle on a silver leash and white sweater set. She was a teenager and the bobby socks had to be white and folded just so.

Although the poodle skirt originated in 1947, it really became popular with teens and young girls in the 1950’s. It was so simple, a circle cut from felt with appliqués sewed on. My mom loved them. She was always fashionable, but money was often tight and her sewing skills were notoriously poor. Even she could do this, and because the skirts were made of felt, there was no need for hemming.

The original skirts were appliquéd with a pink poodle on a silver leash, but as the trend caught on, the appliqué changed to just about anything. My skirt in the above picture had umbrellas on it, and I had matching green socks instead of the usual white bobby socks. Even though I wasn’t a teen, I thought I was so trendy. Of course I had saddle shoes to go with the outfit.

Developed in the 1900’s, the saddle shoe has always been in style. During the depression and war, materials were scarce. Traditional saddle shoes were expensive and use was limited to cardboard versions with cork soles. In the late 40’s after the war, leather saddle shoes with natural or black soles came popular again. They were worn by both men with business suits and women with everyday dresses. The trend was evident in 1947, when my great Nellie, came to visit from Colorado. Note her saddle shoes.

Saddle shoes reached movie star status in 1957 when Elvis Presley wore saddle shoes in Jailhouse Rock. Adoring teen girls just had to have them and they often paired them with poodle skirts. The white bobby socks they wore with them were iconic and had to be folded just so. I remember my sister, who was crazy for Elvis, spending hours polishing her shoes, and folding her socks so they looked just right.

Saddle shoes hung around until the ’70s, but they were never as trendy as those times during the ’50’s. They gave way to developing versions of todays Oxford.

So much nostalgia brought on by looking at an old picture of me in a poodle skirt and saddle shoes.


Response to 52 Ancestors Weekly Prompt: Fashion

Taking the Freeman’s Oath

In researching my ancestors in the Colonial America period, I occasionally came across references to being admitted as a freeman, especially ancestors from Plymouth Colony and the Boston area. Sometimes sources referred to taking the Freeman’s Oath. I thought that that meant being free from debt and owning land.

Not quite. Freeman is a term which reflected a person’s position in the church and community. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a man had to be a member of the Church and free of all debts to be a freeman. The position of freeman had to be earned by the colonists and was followed by taking the freeman’s oath to defend the Commonwealth and not to conspire against the government.

A man must have taken the oath to be eligible for public office or even to vote in town meetings. As the name implies, the Freeman’s Oath was only available to free men and not slaves, indentured servants, apprentices, or women. In addition, a man had to demonstrate that he was of good character and be sponsored by other freemen.

This copy, represented as a rare fine in 1985, turned out to be a fake, by the infamous forger and murderer Mark Hoffman. Hoffman is currently serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison.

The Freeman’s Oath is important to genealogists because by the early 19th century, much of the population of New England was descended from freemen. Since the courts recorded the Freeman’s Oaths, lists exist of freemen from across New England.

My ancestor, John Gallop (1593-1649), set sail from Dorset, England on March 22, 1630 aboard the Mary and John with 140 other passengers. His wife Cristobel was reluctant to come, so she stayed in England with their four children. It would be more than three years before he could convince her to come.

He was a skilled mariner, adept at piloting ships through the harbor and Channel Islands. In September 1633, he became famous for using a new channel to pilot the Griffin into Boston harbor. On board were the Rev. John Cotton, the Rev. Thomas Hooker, and other notable founding fathers. Gallop’s wife and children are thought to have been aboard. After safely arriving, Cristobel and the children embraced their new country and adjusted well. Cristobel’s arrival appears to have given new incentive to John, as after her arrival he appeared to be more assertive and contented with his businesses.

John was admitted to Old South Church, Boston on January 6, 1634 and was made a freeman in April of the same year. He was one of the earliest citizens to be granted land in the northern part of the town where he had a wharf-right and house. The area became known as Gallop’s point and was at the southeast part of the peninsula, north of the town. He also had a farm on Gallop’s Island (aka Gallup’s Island), one of the Boston Harbor Islands. Today it is part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreational Area.

Gallop’s Island

John Gallop died in Boston in January 1649/50 of a “great griping in his bowels” (from a letter of Adam Winthrop to John Winthrop, February 1649/50). Cristobel lived six more years. They were founders of a large family that continues today, including mine. The freemen’s oath helped me discover them.

Washington’s Life Guard

Standard for Washington’s Life Guard

Seth Alvord, my 1st cousin, six times removed, enlisted in the Revolutionary War, under the flag of George Washington.

Seth was a cabinet maker, living in Chatham, Connecticut. He was said to be intelligent and reliable, a large, muscular and handsome man, fearless in the line of duty. In 1776, when he was in his late teens, he gave up his business making furniture and coffins and and joined the Continental Army determined to battle for liberty to the end.

He enlisted, June 1776, to re-enforce Washington in New York and served throughout the war as a member of General Washington’s Life Guard. He was with Washington when he crossed the Delaware on Christmas night 1776 and was with him at the surrender of Cornwallis in Yorktown October 19, 1781.

It seems he may have enlisted more than once as he is listed as “time expired” at the end of December 1776 and he was with Washington at the end of the war. Also members the life guard were required to have already been drilled.

I was not familiar with Washington’s Life Guard. They were an elite unit officially called The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard and were authorized in 1776 and disbanded after the war in 1783. The unit was composed of up to 250 men, commissioned to protect General Washington and the money and important papers of the Continental Army. .

Washington’s general order on 11 March outlined the type of men he hoped to recruit:

The General being desirous of selecting a particular number of men, as a Guard for himself, and baggage, The Colonel, or commanding Officer, of each of the established Regiments, (the Artillery and Rifflemen excepted) will furnish him with four, that the number wanted may be chosen out of them. His Excellency depends upon the Colonels for good Men, such as they can recommend for their sobriety, honesty, and good behaviour; he wishes them to be from five feet, eight Inches high, to five feet, ten Inches; handsomely and well made, and as there is nothing in his eyes more desirable, than Cleanliness in a Soldier, he desires that particular attention may be made, in the choice of such men, as are neat, and spruce. They are all to be at Head Quarters to morrow precisely at twelve, at noon, when the Number wanted will be fixed upon. The General neither wants men with uniforms, or arms, nor does he desire any man to be sent to him, that is not perfectly willing, and desirous, of being of this guard. They should be drill’d men

It sounds like a great honor to belong to this unit, and family members are understandably proud. However like all family stories, this one may not be what it seems. Although I have authenticated that Seth belonged to the Life Guards, they may not have been as prestigious as imagined. According to some historians, it was really nothing more than what would be called a headquarters security detachment. Whether it was prestigious or not, family legends of the great honor of serving George Washington abound.

Risk Takers

Herb Sommers and his Harley Davidson (photo added to ancestry.com by khines1166)

This week’s 52 ancestors prompt and this picture reminded me of all the risk takers in my family. Those who risked everything to come to a new land, the ship captain pirates, those involved in the American Revolution, and those who moved to settle the American West. Then there were the stunt pilots, race car drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts. There is definitely an adventurous streak in my family.

The picture is of my mother’s cousin, Herbert Sommers crossing the Mendota Bridge over the Minnesota River on a motorcycle trip in the 1920’s. I don’t know if he belonged to a club or not, but family remember him being a motorcycle enthusiast. Motorcycle clubs were starting at the turn of the century and there were motorcycle shops in Northfield where groups gathered. Often they learned to work on their own bikes.

I’m not sure what Herb did for a living. In the 1910 census he listed odd jobs, so maybe he was mechanically inclined, but in 1930 he is listed as a salesman for a nursery. In 1940 he lists his occupation as a dairyman for the United States Indian Agency. I guess the bike was just a hobby.

Likely, Herb took less risks after he married in 1902 and after his daughter, Alice was born in 1925, but you never know. Adventure runs in the family.

Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Parlor

No favorite bridge this week. There were bridge builders in the family, but no one that makes a good story. No one plays bridge or has bridge in their name. The first thing that came to mind is Bridgeman’s ice cream.

Growing up in Minnesota, the summers were often hot. No one had air-conditioning. Sometimes, during streaks of heat and humidity, mom would give us a special treat and take us to Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Parlor. It was a place to cool off and get a delicious ice cream treat. For the rest of the family it was usually banana splits. For me it was a hot fudge sundae or an ice cream soda. It was such a great way to cool off, calm hot weather tempers and enjoy a sweet treat with my family.

When I was older, Bridgeman’s became a summer teenage hangout. Not quite as fun as the pizza place we frequented in the fall and winter, but still fun and air-conditioned. Later, when many of us had summer jobs, we went less often, but it was still a popular place to gather.

I did an internet search, and it’s still there, 50 years later. I wonder if today’s teens still like to gather there?


Response to 52 Ancestor’s Weekly Prompt: Bridge

Gisle Lee Joins the Army Band

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. A large army, over 2 million men, was recruited and mobilized to deploy overseas. Recruitment efforts were intense.

My mother-in-law’s cousin, Gisle John Lee, was one of the recruits. When the war began, he was 21 years old and a student at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. On June 7, 1917, after the semester ended, he enlisted. Unlike most of the recruits, his purpose was not to join a fighting unit, but to learn to play an instrument and join the band.

Like all band recruits, he completed the same basic training as fighting units. On completion, he was assigned to a band unit at Army Headquarters in Brest, France and sailed for music school on July 23, 1917. He remained an Army musician in France until more than a year after the war.

I didn’t find much information about Gisle, not even what instrument he played. He was a corporal at the time of his discharge and went back to Iowa to finish his schooling, graduating in 1924. I’m not sure if he continued with his instrument, but think it likely. Not professionally, but as a hobby. Family members have vague recollections. He married, but had no children.

Because I play in a community band that provides music for VFW occasions, I was interested, so I researched Army bands during WW1.

With the mobilization of so many men, there was an urgent need for musical units for ceremonies, concerts at Army hospitals and recreation areas, and in local French towns to maintain positive relationships between America and France. The number and quality of the bands was increased in April 1917 with the appointment of General John Joseph Pershing to command the AEF in Europe. He had a special interest in military bands and found the quality of the Army ceremonial bands appalling.

In 1918, General Pershing implemented steps to improve the Army’s band program. In July 1918, additional bands for the duration of the war were authorized. By the end of the war, there were over 200 bands in France. Approximately 7,500 bandsmen and bandleaders would serve in the conflict over the course of the war’s last two years.

Pershing also increased the size of bands from 28 to 48 instruments, and set up a training school for band leaders and musicians at Army Headquarters in Brest, France. Graduates went on to be part of the prestigious “Pershing’s Own” Band.

Per General Orders No. 183. Paragraph 2 G. H. Q., A. E. F. (Oct. 21. 1918), personnel for a 48 Piece Military Band (Leader plus 47 instrumentalists) was set as:

Commissioned:
1 first or second lieutenant (band leader).
Enlisted:
1 band leader.
1 assistant band leader.
1 sergeant bugler.
4 band sergeants.
6 band corporals.
6 musicians, 1st class.
0 musicians, 2nd class. 
20 musicians, 3rd class.

Instrumentation for a 48 Piece Military Band (Leader plus 47 instrumentalists) also set per General Orders No. 183. Paragraph 2 G. H. Q., A. E. F. (Oct. 21. 1918) was set as: 

First Group
1 piccolo in D flat
1 Flute in C
1 Flute in D flat
2 Oboes in C
2 Bassoons in C
1 Contrabass Sarrusophone in E flat

Second Group
1 Clarinet in E flat 
2 Solo Clarinets in B flat
4 First Clarinets in B flat
4 Second Clarinets in B flat
2 Alto Clarinets in E flat
2 Bass Clarinets in B flat
1 Alto Saxophone in E flat 
1 Tenor Saxophone in B flat1 Baritone Saxophone in E flat
Third Group
4 Trumpets in B flat
2 Cornets in B flat
4 French Horns in E flat (Substitute Altos for mounted bands)
3 Tenor Trombones in B flat
1 Bass Trombone in F

Fourth Group
1 Baritone in B flat (small bore)
1 Euphonium in B flat (4 valves)
2 Basses in E flat (4 valves)
2 Basses in BB flat (Helicon)
Fifth Group
1 Snare Drum (and Triangle)
1 Bass Drum and Cymbal

The following additional instruments will be issued in lieu of bassoons and oboes, which are not suitable for marching purposes:

2 Soprano Saxophones (in lieu of oboes)
1 Snare Drum (in lieu of bassoon)
“It is intended that the bassoonist shall play cymbals on the march. The above with the 47 authorized instruments will bring the total number to 51.”

Black band leaders and musicians were segregated into separate units, but performed for all occasions. In order to find black band leaders and musicians for the new units created at the beginning of the war, recruiters targeted schools and the entertainment industry for musicians. These newly formed bands entertained servicemen and civilians with both traditional military and concert band music and with minstrel shows and revues. They also introduced the latest flavor of ragtime music, which they called jazz.

Reading about the history of Army Bands helped me imagine a story about Gisle’s life in the Army. There’s no way to know if it’s true, but it’s nice to imagine what his life might have been like.

History of Bands in WW1 https://www.tapsbugler.com/history-of-bands-in-ww1-part-1/

Black Army Bands and Their Bandmasters in WW1 https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1069&context=musicfacpub

Photos of US Regimental Bands during World War I (1917-1918) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1E5a0rIySY&t=6s


Response to 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Weekly Prompt: Military

Queen of the Bargain Hunters

Mom would have hated COVID. For all the obvious reasons, of course, but also for what it would have done to her love of being fashionable. Sitting at home alone in sweat pants with nowhere to go and no one to see would not have made her happy.

My mom had more clothes then she could wear, always wore the right outfit, and was great at accessorizing. She bought good quality clothes, in classic styles, that would last a long time and she still had a lot of them later in her life when she moved to a care facility. Her makeup was flawless and she never went out without her lipstick.

Mom, always in style, even when mowing the lawn

She never paid full price for anything – ever. Shopping was her passion and she was the world’s best bargain hunter. She would find something she wanted and then watch for it to go on sale, preferably clearance. If it sold before then, she might have been a little disappointed, but she moved right along to the next thing. There was always something else to buy. I sometimes thought she enjoyed the thrill of getting a bargain more than the actual purchase.

Black Friday and the day after Christmas were days that she looked forward to. The crowds only made it more fun. She stocked up on all her Christmas items and even bought gifts to be put away for the next year. Mom and my sister would start out early in the morning and shop until early afternoon, then come home and gloat over all their “good deals”.

Mom missed my sister terribly after she married and moved away, and shopping was her way of easing the loneliness. Often she brought me along. Unlike my sister, I wasn’t very fond of shopping and stylish clothes really didn’t interest me, but we both loved the time it gave us to spend together and we always ended the day with dessert at a favorite coffee shop. It was great for both of us. I usually ended the day with nice clothes that looked good and fit well, and unlike later when I provided my own wardrobe, mom was pleased with how I looked.

In the fashion department, I fear I was a great disappointment. Not being a fan of shopping, or being interested in being stylish, I bought and still buy a lot of my clothes at the discount store and wear them until they wear out. I generally look okay, but I’m certainly not a fashion plate. My shoes are limited and bought for comfort, and except for for my gardening hat and gloves, I don’t own any head or hand accessories.

Later on, I figured out mom gave me a great gift. She may have been a little disappointed, but she never tried to change me. She even came to like and admire me for just being myself. The self who would always rather be comfortable than fashionable, who wears clothes that are practical and sometimes a little wacky and who aims to fit in, but doesn’t worry too much when she doesn’t.

Mom on her 90th birthday

Response to 52 Ancestors weekly prompt: Mother’s Day

A Crime Was Committed, But What Happened to the Accused?

My mother’s second cousin, Margie Kateley, was married in 1947 when she was just 16 years old. Margie and her husband, Kenneth Dorman, had six children. The third oldest child, Jackie, was the victim of a horrific murder.

In 1973, Jackie was divorced and living with her 8 month old daughter in a trailer park in Redding, California. Her body was found on April 15th when a babysitter arrived to care for her child while Jackie worked at her job as a barmaid. She had been stabbed in the stomach and throat, shot in the head and disembowled. The baby was found unharmed.

Her neighbor 45 year old Miley Glazzard, was arrested the following day. He was charged with her murder and held in a local jail.

Those are the facts I’ve found. I knew Jackie had died young, but didn’t know how until a newspaper article showed up as a hint in my ancestry account. I haven’t been able to find anything else. Was there a trial? Was Miley released? Why aren’t there any more newspaper articles? In California, criminal histories compiled by law enforcement agencies are not public record, so that is a dead end.

I can think of several possibilities:
  • He pled guilty and there was no trial
  • He was decided to be mentally incapable of standing trial and remanded to a mental health facility
  • There was a trial, but there are no newspaper records (seems unlikely)
  • He was exonerated
  • After 1973, Miley disappears from the city directories until 1994 when he reappears with a Redding address, continuing every year until his death in 2000. It seems likely to me that he was in prison or a mental health facility during that time.

    This is a disturbing story with an unsatisfying ending. I like tidy endings or at least resolution, and this story doesn’t have one. I’d like to know the rest of the story. If he did it, why? If not, is the case unsolved? I hope that someone was held accountable for Jackie’s death. Her family deserves answers, I hope they got them.

    Response to 52 Ancestors Weekly Prompt: Crime and Punishment

    Update: Thanks to https://findingmyancestors.wordpress.com/ and some articles from the Sacrament Bee, I now know that Miley went on trial and was convicted of Jackie’s murder. He claimed he was framed by investigators, but a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to life in a state prison. He must have been paroled in 1994, when he starts to appear in the Redding City Directories again.

    Brick Wall Dreams

    According to dictionary.com, dreaming about a brick wall means that you are trying to build a prosperous future for yourself and you are possibly encountering difficulties. Bricks are seen as obstacles, “a block” in life.

    I don’t know if my great-grandfather, Frank Kateley, dreamed about brick walls, but he certainly encountered obstacles. When he was 20, he was injured in a Civil War battle near Kindrew Mountain, Georgia. A cannonball struck a rail file where he was working, crippling his right hand and injuring his right eye. He overcame his injuries, returned to Minnesota, married his sweetheart, and got on with his life. If not exactly prosperous, he was able to care for his wife and growing family working on area farms.

    Frank longed for a farm of his own, so in 1873, he applied for and received a land grant for 160 acres in Jackson, Minnesota. Unfortunately, 1873 was the beginning of the great grasshopper infestation in Minnesota, and Frank lost his farm.

    Disaster struck again in 1887. While he was working in a blacksmith shop, a hammer broke and a piece struck him in the left eye, putting his eye out.

    A lot of brick’s in Frank’s life, but from what I have found in my research, he had a resilient personality and managed to come back from all of them and make the most of his life.


    Response to 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Weekly Prompt: Brickwall

    The Great Isolation

    I first read about my Great-Aunt, Nettie Alvord Stott, when I was doing some research for a story about her brother, my Great-Uncle Pearl. This week’s prompt gives me a chance to tell a little of her story.

    Sweetgrass Hills, Montana

    The story begins with her husband, Lester Stott. Lester was born in Wisconsin in 1862. When he was young, his family relocated to Brookings, South Dakota. They had always longed for the unsettled open spaces of the west, and in 1895 the entire family joined a wagon train and traveled to the Flathead Valley in Montana where they settled.

    Lester was a hawker, traveling around the country selling odds and ends out of the back of a wagon, doing shoe repair, carpentry and other odd jobs. In his travels, he met my great-aunt Nettie, who was a school teacher in Martin County, Minnesota. They were attracted to each other and began courting via correspondence. In 1900, after 8 years of letters, Lester returned to Minnesota and on February 10, they were finally married.

    They lived in Kalispell, Montana for several years and started a family there. In 1903, Lester, Nettie and the baby boarded a train for a visit to Minnesota. They were eager for relatives to see the baby. While they were on the train, Lester heard the Sweetgrass Hills calling him, and he decided to do some prospecting for gold. So, he got off the train and sent Nettie and the baby ahead. He didn’t find any gold, but he fell in love with the hills and decided to homestead there. Nettie and their son Ray and her brother Pearl Alvord, joined them later in the year.

    Living in the Sweetgrass Hills at the turn of the century was a very lonely and isolated life. The ranchers only went into town to pick-up supplies or for cattle drives. The women usually went along. They cooked for the ranchers, and in town purchased kitchen and sewing supplies. It was also a time for visiting with other women.

    Although the ranchers didn’t leave often, mail arrived every day but Sunday. It was their link to the outside world. It was where they got all national news, as well as news from their loved ones. It was a way of breaking the loneliness and isolation.

    Getting the mail was a process. It came by train out of Chester. At Chester the mail was transferred to a team and wagon who carried it to Whitlash where it was delivered. It was quite a deal to get mail, but it came every single day but Sunday and it was never late.

    In 1916, Lester and Nettie sold their ranch and cattle and moved to Whitlash to avoid the long, lonely and brutal winters. They moved their log cabin to town and it became the general store as well as their home. In 1918, Nettie became the postmaster for the area and their house expanded to include the Post Office. It was a place to visit while picking up your mail, often in Nettie’s kitchen. The post office was in one corner of the store. It had a counter inside and then, on the outside, the boxes opened on the porch, so people could get their mail at night.

    Nellie served as the Postmaster until October 1928, when she and Lester moved to Chatteroy, Washington. Her daughter, Louisa and her husband Ted Allen, moved into the house/post office. Ted became the storekeeper and Louisa was appointed the new postmaster. She raised her own family while continuing Nettie’s tradition of dispensing mail and gossip. At her retirement in 1974, she was recognized as the longest acting postmaster in the United States.

    Lester passed away in Chatteroy in 1937. After his passing, Nettie went to Oregon to live with her daughter Ellen. In April of 1946, she went back to Whitlash for a visit. She died there on Easter Sunday.

    People like Nettie and Lester were instrumental in settling the west. Nettie’s work with the Post Office was vital to breaking the great isolation and loneliness that was common and was also an important connection for families. I enjoyed learning about her and her story.


    Response to 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Weekly Prompt: Great