Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Guest Post from Aunt Beth the Great

My great aunt Beth (or "Aunt Beth the Great" as she signs her cards) is my Grandma V's littlest sister. She's my mom's aunt and a faithful blog reader!

When I posted the photos for Veteran's Day, Aunt Beth sent me an e-mail with some stories from her childhood, and I told her that I wanted to share them here--a little history lesson from my favorite octogenarian. 

Just a little context: My grandma, Joyce, (my mom's mom) was the eldest of five children. She had a younger sister, Jean, who was close to her in age, then a brother, Dick, then two little sisters, Lois and Beth. They all grew up in Webster City, Iowa, where my mom and her siblings were also raised (my grandparents were high school sweethearts). I'm cutting and pasting this from Aunt Beth's e-mail, with my editorial comments in brackets.

Aunt Beth writes...

As a young child (around 7 years old I think) I watched my siblings go off to war. My brother was in the army infantry served in the Battle of the Bulge, was wounded twice, so two purple hearts and a silver star for saving another soldier's life.

Your grandpa was a bomber pilot who lost most of his crew but survived himself with no injuries, and my sister served in the Waves [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, the World War II women's branch of teh U.S. Naval Reserve] and was an airplane mechanic 

[this was my grandma's sister Jean, and here's a short article Jean wrote about her experience] and her husband, my brother-in law, was in the Navy.
Long before that, during WWI, my father, your great-grandpa served in France during that war. WHEW!

I have lots of memories especially of telegrams that brought bad news to our house.  Also I remember when your mom [she means grandma] got married and the dress was an off white----gorgeous thing!   Yes, the fringe was so fun and trendy at that time. [Fun fact: Aunt Beth's daughter Amy now designs and creates couture wedding gowns.]

They were married in Liberal Kansas and my mom and dad attended their wedding-----going by train from my little hometown of Webster City in Iowa.  Lois and I were to reamain at home in the care of our maternal grandmother-----Grandma Carrie (Caroline Hollister Payne). [My mom was named after her maternal grandmother, and Zuzu was named after her maternal grandmother.]

I, immediately after my parents left, had an  asthma attack and was left with my grandma's cure.  She fed me some sort of pill and I would not swallow it so she put it in a spoonful of jelly which went down smoothly, I guess.  For years, I had a sort of problem facing jelly in a spoon or otherwise.  I am glad I got over childhood asthma and my dislike of jelly.   

My older siblings were my idols and all but your grandma and grandpa were married in our congregational church in Webster City.  I got lots of letters and cards from all of them in various parts of the globe.  I will never know that pain my parents suffered having to have their children go off to war.  

My father served our hometown as one of the ones who supervised the blackouts that we had to do sometimes in case enemy planes were going to fly over our little town.  He had to go out and monitor the neighborhood.  The other vivid memory I have of those times is when my mother would go off and cry when a telegram came reporting my brother missing in action and then the ones that said he was wounded in action a few weeks later. [Uncle Dick survived the war and returned home safely.]

Today's world is so small and our children and grandchildren and our 3 year old great grandson have no idea what war years mean as none of those things have affected them personally. I do, like you, sincerely hope they never have to know the horrors. 


I love the way family history (and world history!) comes alive in Aunt Beth's stories, and I'm so grateful that she shared these. 


  1. Your Aunt Jean!! She's like an "O.G." for me, lol, I was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy! So awesome. Loved reading about her boot camp experiences. That idea of keeping info to yourself is no joke and holds true, even now. I have two great aunts in their nineties, one in particular just as sharp as a tack. Spending time with these ladies is such a gift. I guess they're all "O.G.s" for all of us younger women, we stand on their shoulders in so many ways. So glad your truly fabulous Aunt Beth shared that with you, and that you shared it with us.

  2. I'm glad she shared all this - so important to preserve that history. It's so fascinating (and frustrating) to me how involved EVERYONE was in our country's wars and how much that has changed (for better and worse). I love reading personal stories, just gives so much more meaning to the historical significance of it all. So much gratitude for all their service and sacrifice.

  3. You look just like your aunt Jean!

  4. So wonderful that she shared these stories with you! I used to tell MY grandma's youngest sister that she was a "great aunt in every way." :) She was fabulous -- gone almost 10 years now, the last one of her brothers & sisters, and I miss her tremendously. She was still in her teens when the war started, and travelled from Minnesota to California by herself to marry her high school sweetheart when he was on leave from the military before going overseas (he was a decorated pilot). They were an adorable couple with a long & happy marriage.