Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Valentines from the past...

Last time we were up at my mom's, I finally convinced her to let me dig through some boxes of my great aunt Roberta's, containing many wonderful photos and other "tidbits" of life we tend to want to keep but do not really know what to do with.
Roberta was my grandfather sister and her husband Luman was my grandmother brother, such a thing happened often in small farm community back then,  siblings marrying siblings, at least in Freeborn County Minnesota. In fact three of the four Conns siblings married into the Jensen clan of thirteen children and there was another two siblings, the Sorlies, who also married into the large family, all around the time of the Great Depression.
But enough of my weird family tree, my Aunt Roberta and Uncle Luman never had children so my mom became the keeper of all their treasures and in my digging I found and probably because my mother was somewhat annoyed I had unpacked the boxes on her kitchen  table while she was trying to get supper cooked, she yielded to me claiming for my own, quite a wonderful little treasure box, that got put away when I got home until I realized that Valentine's Day was right around the corner and I had intended to share its contents on the blog.

Some things she had given me permission to keep and a few, I took with the understanding I would make copies of them and return, though me and my sister have always maintained the golden rule with my mother is that if you can  get it out of the house, you are pretty safe in she has so much it is hard for her to keep track of it all, though if she asks I will dutifully return it....or reads this blog!
The little box is not of my Aunt Roberta's things, but of my Uncle Lumans, from his school days at the District 110 school house and must contain thirty valentines over a span of several years as near as I can tell around 1915. There are several years worth for the same signatures on more than one valentine and several teacher's valentines. I'm certain that he, like my grandmother and my mother, through their primary years attended a one room schoolhouse with only one teacher.

The box also contains teachers notes, art projects, a watercolor set, compositions notebooks full of his not so great penmanship, but several wonderful little watercolors of ships, flags and Pilgrims, some with accompanying poems he copied.

Growing up, my mother always seemed to believe that her uncle Luman didn't do very well in school but the reports cards marked in fancy script seem to say differently. I wonder if he and I had two things in common, being an artist and having dyslexia, it can be hereditary and I think he was horrible at math.

My Uncle Luman was one of the youngest of six boys and my Grandmother was the middle of six girls. My Great Grandparents, James and Christine Jensen had a happy, healthy family of thirteen children only loosing their last child, James Jr. when he was a toddler. James was the first of his Danish family to be born in America and Christine made the journey when she was twelve from Denmark.
I assume Luman and some of my other uncles are up on this roof for any number of  "boyish" reasons that I have learned being a teacher myself to ranch boys at a one room school house!
Now the real mystery- why were these things saved? I don't have one valentine from my school days and very little essays and artwork and I am a Girl!! And not like number ten in a long line of children a mother has to keep track off. I have two girls and can barely remember to tuck away their school treasures.
Two things I can guess- and I am only guessing...I think that my great grandmother was more nostalgic with Luman because he was one of the youngest of the children. I know I don't want to let go of my last baby.
Second, Luman had to tuck some of this stuff away himself, it had to at least get home safe and that believe me is a feat, making it from the school down the country lanes on a bus or walking to home, where kids, dogs, getting the mail, petting the cow, playing in the mud might happen before school books are laid on the kitchen table. Again, I know this from being the teacher on one end and a mom on the other!

Luman was a quiet man. Of course I knew him in his later years, and he always took a backseat to my Aunt Roberta who probably was one of the first to wear man's pants and took command around her at all times. Luman loved dogs, working in his garden or being in his workhop that smelled like wood chips and was alway neat and tidy.
I wonder if amongst being one of the boys "on the place", working the land with my grandfather James and all his brothers...

Here are  two of the older brothers, believe me there was a peeking order and Luman was never at the top of it, so doubt he was the one who got to drive the team and that has to be my Great Grandfather James on the right. Love the pipe, could be my Great Uncle Clive, who I sure liked and is the only uncle I remember with a pipe, though my mom could figure out better who all these are.
The boy on the end could be Luman, for the way he is sitting...

Look at all that hay! picked up by hand, with a pitch fork no less!

The relics of the past are sure interesting but there is no way we can understand completely the people who left them behind. But this box makes me wonder, that perhaps in a family so known for their hard work and being practical "Danes", maybe my Uncle Luman was a bit of a quiet dreamer.
As an art teacher of "ranch boys", I can tell you there is no rhyme or reason for which ones will think making them do art is sure torture or which ones will loose themselves for an hour painting away before they go out to recess and wrestling someone in the dirt for no good reason!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed looking at the old photos and the valentines. Your Uncle was very popular, so many cards.