Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Disasters

Well, I couldn't find the picture I wanted to post about childhood hobbies and collections so until I do I'm decided to write about disasters.

No, there's no logical reason for that. It just happens to be the pictures I did find. 

I've written quite often about my Great Grandmother Nellie Grace Keith Martin. I have a few memories of her and oddly one of the strangest is my cousin crying at her funeral. He was only a year older than me but obviously understood what was going on more than I did. I just remember confusion... he was experiencing real grief.

Nellie was born in Perry County, Illinois in 1878 to John Riley and Nancy Ann Thompson Keith. When she was about six years old they made the long wagon trek to southwestern Kansas and settled southeast of Dodge City. In 1900 Nellie married William Albert Martin. He left her a few years later and she later filed for divorce.

Whenever I asked my grandmother to describe her mother the first word that came up was industrious. Nellie baked bread to sell, ran a switchboard and a boarding house. By the time I have memories of her she was in an old folks home. This picture is pretty much how I remember her but I don't know how much is real memories and how much is seeing this picture over the years.

I have many doilies and other handiwork she did during her life time. The time print on this photo is December 1961. By this time she was living in the Bethel Home in Montezuma, Kansas. The same place where I was kept in an incubator after I was born. I do remember her room. Nellie lived on an upper floor and her bed was to the left of the door. She lived here until her death in 1963.

It is a miracle she did live to this time because sometime in the summer of 1960 Nellie was living in another home. I don't remember where it was but I do remember visiting it soon after the gas explosion which demolished the entire building.

I can still feel what it was like standing around as my mom and other family members talked about the miracle of Nellie climbing out one of those windows following the explosion. Nellie was always a very large woman and around 82 years old at the time so we are lucky we had her with us for three more years.

Although the memory is dim I will never forget standing there trying to understand what had happened. I was about seven years old. I didn't understand what a natural gas explosion was or why it was so miraculous Grandma Great (as we called her) survived. I only understood being scared of that building and of the demeaner of my mother.

Does your family have stories of surviving disasters? How do they make you feel?