By Kay Morgan as recorded by Philip Germann October 11, 1991
(PRELUDE Like quite a few, I was born in 1916 when the first World War was in full swing. My parents were childhood sweethearts and unlike so many in that time who didn’t pursue educations mine were different. My parents were born and lived in a little sleepy town of Walkerton, Indiana, where they went to the same schoolhouse and grew up together.)
Gene, my father, was the son of James McCabe who was the county trustee and had been one of nine immigrants from Ireland. He had one brother, George McCabe. My mother, Forest Snow, was one of eight children and her father, Elwood McDaniel, ran the town butcher shop.) I was born in 1916, January 11, in Union Mills, Indiana. It was a breach birth, I almost choked to death on umbilical cord ‑‑ that’s probably why I have a big Adam’s apple. I had two older sisters, Mary four years my senior and Garnet, two years older than I.
My grandfather McCabe lived in Walkerton, town trustee, owned a big farm raising watermelons and onions and shipped them out, had the first Delco electric system, had the first Buick roadster that came out. He also owned a block of buildings on Main Street which he rented out. He came to the U.S. along with his eight siblings during the potato famine in Ireland. Not all of them came to Walkerton, Indiana, area. I wonder when I hear of McCabes in the East, could that be a relative? When my older sister and I lived in Mishawaka we were named heirs in a will of a man we never knew. He must have named everyone in the family tree as we both received about $1.79 apiece.
He (my grandfather) was a great guy. His wife died (when she was quite) young and he remarried. He always sent up a great big box at Christmas time for us girls with candy, rings, games, (bracelets and little gifts, anything he thought we would enjoy) everything he could think of he would put in the big box (We always looked for his box to come as we knew it was always filled with surprises). He was a a sweetheart. One time I was there (visiting) and while he was away step‑grandmother told me, after I had been out picking lots and lots of mint (it was really wintergreen picked in the woods and I came back with a nice sack full), that I should be careful or the chickens would get it ‑‑ I thought she said, “give it to the chickens.” (I started to do so crying all the time.) When Grandpa came back (he asked me what was wrong and I told him what I thought she said) it all got straightened out.
Grandpa McCabe ate (sweet) onion sandwiches for breakfast,(he raised the best in that area) loved us so much and wanted us there. Really nothing I didn’t like about him. He fell in Wintertime and hit his head on the ice and died of a concussion <the same day).
Mother’s dad (Rubin McDaniel lived in and owned) had a meat market in Walkerton, behind his house was a big barn where they butchered. (When we stayed with him we would go to the upstairs to get a view of the barn) My sister and I watched from the bedroom window, the men drop the pigs into the hot water and we could hear the pigs squeal before they killed them. (He also took us to the meat market where) We helped him stuff sausages,(he called us Butch and Mike) he had handlebar mustache and he went out to Koontz Lake in the Winter time with a big team of horses and cut ice in Winter time to sell in the Summer. My Uncle drove the ice wagon in town where he went from house to house as there were no refrigerators then. Grandfather taught me to smoke a pipe at about six year old he would pull up a little rocker and light a little pipe for me. Grandma McDaniel was short, rolly polly, her name was Lucritia. She had eight children and had a great big stove where there was always cracklin’s on the back. When she was dying of dropsey the whole family gathered in her presence. She was always so jolly.
Mother was even tempered, very loving, trusting. The only time that I can remember her getting mad at me was when she sat on a needle I had left in a chair. I had gone to Elk’s Club New Year’s Eve when I dated a sax player in the band. My girlfriend and I sat in balcony and smoked cigarettes. When I got in, early morning, she smelt the smoke and proceeded to give me some good whacks on backside. She went to all lengths to get help for my sister when she was dying with cancer. She was a very good cook.(but the cleanup crew had a big job)
Dad was a dairy farmer. He and mother went to Purdue University in Lafayette where he spent two years in Agriculture (and Business School). Mother took classes in cooking. They were both natives of Walkerton and when she was in first grade he was in eighth. (After completing his course my father ran a dairy farm in Union Mille where I was born. That was just a short stay.) They moved to manage the estate of Erskine’s in South Bend. We lived in the Erskine’s old house, it had 18 rooms and green marble floors. He was president of Studebalker’s. Ye went shopping in the chauffeur’s car. At that time because my folks had such a big home all of my mother’s relatives came on Sundays to freeload (for fried chicken). When father died of pneumonia during the Flu Epidemic, 1918 ‑ 1920 in (January 20,) 1920 someone, an aunt, held me over his casket ‑‑ don’t ever do that to a kid, I was around four years old and that’s my only memory of him.
Uncle George, father’s brother, came home from WW I, he bought an airplane and parked it in the field at Erskine’s by our home (having been in the World War Service as an aviator). People came from all around to see it and get rides in it. He also barnstormed, doing stunts with his buddy at County Fairs. The only time he ever was hurt was when he broke his nose while diving over a barn.
(Quite a few people died from the flu and one of our neighbors wife died also. Leaving him with three boys. As there were three of us girls my mother and he married to raise their families together.) After dad’s death we moved, and mother, one and a half years later married a widower whose three boys didn’t get along with us three girls so she left him. We lived in Walkerton awhile after that, the KKK marched through and we hid behind the curtains because we thought they were coming to get us. She bought a house in South Bend near Notre Dame and rented rooms to students, we played with the Hoffman kids in their ballroom; Mr. Hoffman was President of Studebaker’s after Erskine’s death. Mother was a cashier in a big restaurant in South Bend and we were very comfortable as my father left a very good estate to us.
(But like all vulnerable women the loneliness was too much for her and she married again to a man from St Louis. After that things began going downhill for us. Even though my dad’s uncle and wife (Dr.Dwight Phillips who lived in Chicago) wanted to adopt me she was determined to keep her girls together, and was a loving and caring mother, grandmother and great‑grandmother.)
My mother remarried and we moved to Mishawaka. The area we lived in was closer to Catholic school so she enrolled me there. While living in Mishawaka my sister Garnet died, my stepfather was angry while we were cleaning up the kitchen, Garnet refused to help. He shoved her and in doing so she hit the wall. Three days later she was dead. The doctor had diagnosed appendix but autopsy showed spinal meningitis. Stepfather was taken to court and acquitted but the papers came out with all the details and it was a sad time for all of us. Not only because of my sister’s death but because of the scandal.
Garnet died when she was thirteen, I was eleven, she was full of hell, mischievous and very good looking. Garnet’s death was real sad. the saddest event I have experienced. I was angry too. Moved to a different home in Mishawaka. Mother had been married for four or five years that time, later divorcing him. Mary was four years older than I was and took charge of me when mother was working. We always lived in a nice neighborhood. Mary and I never got along until after we were both married and living apart from each other, then we were best of friends. I must say a lot of it was my fault.
As a child I was average, didn’t like to practice piano, did‑ n’t like to do anything I had to work at. Once I thought that I was going to be an artist ‑‑ I was always drawing. Never had a bike, couldn’t afford one. Never went to the beach or lakes, and never‑ learned to swim. I liked going to Walkerton to visit my seven cousins. Our immediate family was good considering the number of stepdads. Mother always protected us. Family reunions were the best times.
I went to Coquillard elementary school. Uncle George came to school on one of his visits when I went to St. Monica’s in Mishawaka ‑‑ I was top Sun in school after that visit as he was a pilot with the American Airlines and pilots at that time were considered someone to hold in awe. (He was with American Airlines for forty years.) My first boy friend was in parochial school and wrote notes to me, the Nuns caught him and told his mother. She wanted him to be a priest ‑‑ he went away to school to become one ‑‑ but he came back, went to Notre Dame, became a newsman with South Bend Tribune and was a good family friend; that was in the sixth grade.
( While my mother worked in Uniroyal in Mishawaka and my sister after graduating from high school worked an office job our income was meager. As I had four years of high school to complete I couldn’t contribute to our income ‑‑ taking baby sitting jobs for my clothing.)
In junior high I didn’t apply myself very well, quite frankly, I was popular, had a good figure and blond. I played hooky a lot, dated Notre Dame students. I was going steady with a band member. I baby sat for extra money, helped mother, played tennis, and went to a lot of dances. Always went with a player in a dance band. Went to tap dance classes with Mary while in Junior high, neither of us were very good.
The worst difficulties other than Garnet’s death were eczema and incest. I had eczema all over me and had to go get X‑ray treatments. I lived with friends of mother when mother was out of work. One night they had a party and the man of the house came up and started messing around with me. Someone came upstairs and he was interrupted. The next morning I called mother and she came right over and got me. I have never been so scared in all my life, I was fourteen.
I was thirteen and sexy. The assistant football coach had typing for me to do in high school, Miss Sass taught Home Economics and was the other teacher I liked. My best memories of school are the dates and boy friends ‑‑ the left end on the football team weighed 225 pounds and I wore his letter sweater, it was really big on me. He wrote a poem about me and someone put it in the school newspaper.
I was thirteen and sexy. The assistant football coach had typing for me to do in high school, Miss Sass taught Home Economics and was the other teacher I liked. My best memories of school are the dates and boy friends ‑‑ the left end on the football team weighed 225 pounds and I wore his letter sweater, it was really big on me. He wrote a poem about me and someone put it in the school newspaper. Well, the worst thing didn’t happen, I didn’t get expelled. I couldn’t conquer shorthand and that bugged me. I had a lot of fun as a teenager, no difficulties. The greatest joy was when I could conquer another fellow.
My best girl friends were Ruth Johnson, a Swedish girl, and Juanita Geist. Both went with band players too. We liked to do the same things, borrowed each others clothes. Loved to go to Ruth’s home, she had a lovely family and her mother would cook us a great breakfast.
The most exciting times were with Uncle George. I didn’t understand myself then and I don’t understand myself now. He always felt guilty because he couldn’t do more for us as my father was his only sibling.
In high school I went to the Palace Ballroom weekends and danced with Notre Dame students. I tried out for band, playing clarinet but couldn’t do it and gave up after six months. I did it because my boy friend was also in the band. Took Commercial courses, I got through high school and went to work. During high school my grandfather died and left his farm to me and my sister ‑‑ this was in the Depression ‑‑ the bank held it (the farm) for us and leased it out. The tenants ran the farm down and the bank liquidated it, they gave each of us $500.00. My sister bought a piano, mother used my money to go to beauty school to get out of working at Ball Band. This was a good move on my mother’s part as she moved on to become a beauty operator. Then worked in downtown South Bend at a Merle Norman Studio. That year she met my third stepfather, Morrie Larson. His wife had passed away and as he had no children, he loved all of his stepchildren, Mary and I, and all grandchildren. He was foreman in Studebaker’s Auto and at his retirement my mother and he moved to St. Joseph, Michigan, where she had two beauty shops. One in Benton Harbor and one in St. Joseph. She also had a large room in the shop in St. Joseph where she had all sorts of reducing machines. Business men from both cities would come on their lunch hour and after work to take advantage of this. Both of her businesses were a great success as she also sold and demonstrated Merle Norman Cosmetics. She bought a huge home on State Street in St. Joe ‑‑ my children and I would visit her often. My son, Phil was her favorite.
While the bank held the property I could go to the department store and get clothes on that account as they were my guardian. There was nothing outstanding in high school. Uncle George took me to Chicago ‑‑ stayed where all the pilots stayed ‑‑ went to a speak‑easy and he took me out to dinner.
(Two years after graduation I met and married my three childrens father. He was the oldest and most cherished of Maude and Hugo Germann and a very brilliant man.)
Married on 1935, it was a great year, both worked, he played in a band and I went with him. Just learning to drive, I was on the way to pick him up and turned the car over, so naturally someone else had to pick him up to come out to get me. We went to a lot of picnics and stuff with Luther League.
In 1939 Uncle George came through and I went with him to Fort Worth ‑‑ while I was away Herb shaved his mustache off and almost didn’t recognize him with a big lip when I came home.
My sister and I went to St. Louis to visit George and Bell. He flew a mail plane from East St. Louis to West St. Louis, (he) is in the Who’s Who of American Pilots, we went up with him, he took over Lindbergh’s mail flight.
My second child was born in 1941, now two was a little rough, much busier, had a lot of time because their dad worked most evenings.
Kathy was born in 1943 and my sister died that year, I had surgery in ‘44 as my sister died of cancer and doctors were afraid I might have it. 1945 was WW II. When my sister and I lived together we fought like cats and dogs, then when we were married and lived away from each other we got along beautifully. My husband and childrens father played bass viola In a dance band at Avalon in South Bend, worked in engineering at Studebaker Corp., with three kids not much time to do much except take care of the home and children, was very active in PTA. Started cub scout group for son and when my daughters were old enough, had a Campfire group also. I was also active in Republican party, taking various jobs with them. Helped with March of Dimes and United Fund. In 1946 the oldest two were taking dancing lessons, Mother moved from South Bend to St. Joseph, Michigan, she bought the girls white fur coats. Dressed Judy and Phil up for Halloween at Playland Park contest and they got their pictures in the paper but didn’t win any prize. Phil had a tie that lit up on batteries and flashed them at the judges when they passed the stand, he was in top hat and tails, Judy had on an evening gown and the white fur coat. They both put on a good show. Took kids to Grandma’s to visit, got mumps, spent week‑ end at Crystal Palace, all had the mumps except Herb. The band had rented several cottages at lake and the band families were all together that weekend. It was a good time. ( This ten piece dance band was a hobby with him and after twenty three years of marriage we were divorced. There was no time to grow and do things together.)
In 1958 I moved out of the house and filed for divorce, took the two girls with me, Phil was in college at that time. We had a home an Corey Lake in Michigan and when I reunited with Herb we moved there, about a year after I filed for divorce. Divorced in 1961.
(As we had built a home a lake in Michigan I remained there and worked as payroll clerk in a small industry. During this time my son, Phil, who graduated from Western Michigan College married and my daughter, Judy also married and graduated from Western Michigan. My youngest daughter Kathy, still in high school were together after my divorce. My children all worked hard to help with their education. After seven years I remarried to John Morgan whom I met while fishing on the lake I lived on. We were married in 1967. After retirement we settled in Brownsville, Texas which we made our retirement home.. He passed away in Houston, Texas, after a quadruple bypass in 1983, leaving three lovely daughters. (I stayed on in Brownsville as I had made friends in our community.)
Met Dean in 1986. That Christmas Phil and son, Bill, came to visit. Bill was dressed really macho. He wore a leather jacket, beret and had his hair short on one side and long on the other side. It was a great visit. At that time I was having pinched nerves in my spine which was painful. My grandson, Ted Germann, came to visit me and at that time I had bought a travel trailer and put it on the Laguna Madre at Padre Island. We were located by “Louie’s Backyard” which was a great place to eat and had music all evening long. I took Ted there and he left dinner to take a walk so he could eat more. The first night he was there he wanted to tour Padre Avenue. I cautioned him to be careful because of the Mexican element, and to be in early. He arrived home at 2:30 and made me worried. Later ‑‑ much later ‑‑ he told me he had spent the evening with Mexican people. He met a cute girl on Island. Her grandparents lived at Rancho Viejo a short way from Brownsville. So naturally we went back to Brownsville so he could have a date with her.(After so many years apart from my children, in April of 1990 I sold my home and moved to Grayling, Michigan so I could have a better chance of becoming acquainted with my grand‑ and great‑grand‑ children.)
THE ADULT YEARS
Dreamed that I’d be a millionaire, have a happy life. I wanted three kids, got just what I wanted. Wanted a white brick house with two baths, big laundry room, fireplace. Hoped that my children grew up happy and healthy. Hoped to have a good family life.
I picked the Commercial course in high school because I couldn’t go to college. Those were the only choices I had for classes. Planned on being a housewife and a mother.
I became an adult when I was eighteen because I went to work then.
Intimacy means being real close, confide in each other, trust them, It means living with somebody. It really is jumping into bed with them. (It means sharing the hard times and the good times.)
Leisure time was playing cards; going to dances, parties, and picnics with friends and their children. Took the children fishing.
A sense of community is important, that’s where you get to know the local area, the people, the social life, the customs. The stresses of being an adult are getting along financially and coping with the problems of everyday life. The most stressful event for me was my divorce. The divorce was about the only transition where I had to make a new home. My children completed my family life. The values I tried to pass on to them were to be honest, to excel in school, to be considerate, to try and get along with siblings, to love and respect their grandparents. A lot of that goes along with everyday life ‑‑ don’t even think about it. They were great children and I enjoyed each of them. Although they were siblings, each one had their own personality and looks. Phil had brown eyes, dark curly hair, Judy the middle daughter was strawberry‑blond with brown eyes, Kathy was blond with the biggest blue eyes. Phil was determined and strong in his wants and desires. Judy was more gullible and full of hell. Kathy was passive and her feelings were easily hurt.
My greatest joys were in the achievements of my children. Their individualities were so different. Phil loved to read, raise flowers and music. Judy liked to dance, be in plays and have a lot of friends. Kathy was a little tomboy ‑‑ she excelled in all kinds of sports, playing football with neighborhood children, hunting and fishing.
LIFE AS A WHOLE
We had a lot of family reunions, family Christmas’, Aniversaries, cocktail parties and the dances that followed were all important in my life. The gift that is still important in my life is to be remembered on my birthday, but not my true age. A tradition that is important in my life is visits with my children.
I first experienced death when my father died at age four, there was no meaning to that event for me or understanding of death; but it was horrible when I was held up to see him in the casket, it wasn’t someone I knew. Then there was my sister Garnet’s death, at age eleven, and my sister Mary’s at age thirty five with cancer. I went to her home once a week and cleaned her house and made potato soup which she could tolerate.
My mother taught me to be honest, not to give up my virginity, what to expect with boys; to believe in God.
The special person I knew was Uncle George. My children are the most special thing in my life. My life was shaped by my mother. No heroes, heroines, guides but my mother. The most crucial decision in my life was the divorce and setting up a new home and whether I was doing the right thing.
Mistakes, yes at least a dozen. I started smoking at eighteen, when I first started going out with my future husband. Being too trustworthy because I believed everybody was honest. The biggest mistake was a real estate broker in Brownsville ‑‑ the investment that cost me $20,000. I had heard that there was trouble and when I talked with the broker he said that I shouldn’t sell. Then the real estate firm filed bankruptcy ‑‑ it was a fraud. I bought Platinum for $383 an ounce, fifteen, and sold for $585 an ounce. My mistake was taking part of the money for uncirculated coins, then found out that they had scratches, as of now I still have coins. I was told to get an affidavit from two coin collectors and see State Attorney, as he would file for full recovery for me. As yet I haven’t done so; but will leave all my coins to children as part of their inheritance.
I was the happiest when raising my children. The least enjoyable time was with my health was when I had surgery in 1944 and couldn’t have any more children. The other least enjoyable time was breaking up the home. I have survived and hopefully my children also.
Religion plays a big part in my life, but I’ve not followed through. I always went to the Lutheran Church and brought my children up in that religion. As of this last month I have started back to the Lutheran Church in Grayling. To go to church, when I was with John, I didn’t go because he wasn’t interested, I could have gone but I didn’t. I would call myself religious, yes. I believe you have to be good, there is a heaven. My religious experience was in parochial school, elementary, when they asked me to be catholic. I didn’t have to make that decision because mother told me to wait. when I asked her, as I was too young.
I hope someday to be wealthy, give to my children all that they need. I have an inner strength belief that I am doing the right things. I’m in control of my life at this point, not when married to John. After I married John I was shocked to have him say to me “I want you to love my daughters, but I can’t love your children.”
My life in five years, I’ll probably be in a nursing home. Rather do anything than be there. The world will be like it is now, in an awful mess. I am certain of dying; of my children, that I love them; and I’m certain of their love for me.
I will never forget how wonderful it was to see my first child. My advice for the younger generation, learn to respect their elders and be polite and thoughtful. If speaking to high school students I would tell then try to get a good education so they can cope in everything that happens to them in life. What’s wrong right now is they’re too dependent on parents for financial aid ‑‑ so they get in a bind, go to parents to bail them out. Not to get married until they can support a wife. Not to expect to get all the material things their parents have at once.
Unity in life in my children being happy.
Feel that I haven’t lived up to my potential, that I could have done more things than I have done. I feel that I should do and see the things I want to do and see. I want to while I am still physically and mentally able to do. So go to different areas ‑‑ I have a desire to be in every state and see all that area has to offer, both in scenery and customs.
I moved to Michigan to be closer to my children. At the age of 75 years I felt that I needed to be close to my two daughters. As my son lives in New Hampshire it is closer than Texas from Michigan. I have a home in Grayling now and have enjoyed decorating it. I enjoy playing bridge and fishing which are my two greatest hobbies.