Tuesday, May 13, 2014

52 Ancestors - #19 Mabel Erwin Snyder (1910 – 1990)

Climbing My Family Tree: Grandma Snyder (Mabel Lere Erwin Snyder) and me
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Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel LeRe Erwin Snyder (1910-1990)
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This is my 19th post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the “No Story Too Small” blog. I know many bloggers are doing stories about their mothers this week. My Mom is a very private person and would not be happy if I wrote about her life on my blog. So this week I'm writing about my Mom's Mom, my Grandma Snyder.

My grandmother, Mabel LeRe Erwin was born July 16, 1910 to newlyweds Fannie Hartman Hart (38) and Vernon Erwin (38)  in Louisville, Illinois, who had married in 1909. She was Vernon’s first child and Fannie’s sixth child. Fannie had been previously married to Orley Hart and was widowed by his death in 1905. Vernon and Fannie had another daughter, Dale Hart Erwin (1912- ??), two years later. Mabel’s half siblings were: Lester Dene Hart (1894-1981); Gladys Hart (1896-1902); Reed C. Hart (1898-1954); Verne Allen Hart (1900-1982); and Julia Ann Hart (1903-1978).

Fannie's and Vernon's marriage broke up when Mabel was approximately five years old and Vernon left, leaving Fannie to raise her children alone. By 1920, Fannie, Mabel, and Dale had moved to Hancock County, Ohio, where Fannie was raised and her extended family still lived. Fannie became a live-in housekeeper for a farmer and his elderly father and the girls lived with their mother on the farm.

As a young girl, Mabel was interested in the theatre. According to the October 28, 1921 Findlay Republican Courier, Mabel Erwin was one of  26 small girls chosen to  perform the part of the “Dream Kiddies”  in “Kathleen, “ a romantic musical comedy to be performed at the Majestic Theatre in Findlay, Ohio as a benefit for the America Legion on November 3 & 4, 1921. She would have been 11 at the time.

As a teenager, Mabel was very active in multiple clubs in town and in school. I get the impression that she was an extrovert (I am not an extrovert and looking at the list of mentions I unearthed in the Findlay Republican Courier makes me was want to hide  …with a book). At age 13, Mabel was mentioned as telling several jokes at a meeting of the “Buds of Promise”.  At age 14, she is written up on the women’s society page as attending the birthday party of Elizabeth Hartman (likely a relative, as Hartman was Fannie’s maiden name).  At age 15, she hosted her Sunday school class in her home on North Main Street for a St. Patrick’s Day party. At 16, in her junior year of high school, she performed as one of the lead actors in the Junior play, “Her Husband’s Wife;” performed in a Thanksgiving Program play as “Bob, the grocer’s boy”;  and  was very active in the “Justamere Club”  where she gave speeches on “America” in at least three meetings (the “justamere club” was an all woman club promoted in the late 1920’s by Laura Ingalls Wilder [wrote "Little House on the Prairie"]; the club was devoted to intellectual inquiry and current events and was described as “a self-improvement study group for women who wanted to do more than merely take care of their families and manage a household and go beyond socializing to cultivate their minds and increase their knowledge” in Ingalls' biography by John E. Miller).  

In her senior year of high school, when she was 17, she was part of the group that produced the High School Yearbook and was on one of the teams of students canvassing local businesses for donations in exchange for ads in the yearbook;  involved with the Mah-Kaw-Wee Camp Fire Girls and presented a talk on “Loyalty”; spoke on “honest Taxpaying” at a Senior Chapel Service; was a member of the Girl’s Reserves, a charity and social group that met at the high school; and was a member of the Debate Club, where she took the affirmative position in a debate on the subject “Resolved: That Findlay Adopt The City Manager Plan”.  And, perhaps most impressively to me, she did all this while maintaining grades of 90% or higher in all of her classes in all four years of high school, making the Honors “E” Class! My grandmother was a very smart girl with a lively mind when she was young.  Later she worked her way through college and obtained an accounting degree from Findlay College, where she also worked on the college yearbook. 
Climbing My Family Tree: Clarence Snyder & Mabel Erwin at 17 (1927)
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My grandmother and grandfather knew each other in high school and dated.  My grandfather, Clarence Snyder, was the captain of the football team.  In the fall of their senior year, on the evening of October 15, 1927, Mabel and Clarence were riding in a car, driven by Donald Simpson, 18, of Findlay, Ohio, with two other couples (all three of the boys played on the football team), when the vehicle was involved in an collision with a freight train at the East Main Crossing of the New York Central Railroad.  The train was traveling at about 25 mph, and the car at about 10 mph; and the car hit the third freight car of the train.  All occupants were thrown from the car (this was before seat belts), and the car was totally demolished, but only the driver was seriously injured.  (He recovered.)

Perhaps this scare solidified my grandparents’ intentions to one another.  They became serious, and once while Clarence was at college at Ohio University (I get the impression that he may have graduated a year after she did but I’m not sure), they secretly got married, on January 5, 1929,  in Crawford County Ohio (they lied about their ages on the application, but would have been of legal age even if they hadn't); then she returned to her home with her mother and he continued with college, until he graduated and they could be together. [To see the Application for Marriage License and Marriage Certificate, see Clarence's story.]

The 1930 census shows Mabel, 20, living with her mother and younger sister at 425 Hardin Street and a bookkeeper for a garage. The 1931 city directory is a bit more detailed, showing Mabel as a bookkeeper for the Davison-Harrington Chevrolet Company.  By 1933, Mabel and Clarence were living together as man and wife in Findlay Ohio, at 301 E. Main Cross Street. Their first child was born to them the next year in Findlay. (Note, I will not be giving names or exact birth dates as the children are living.) They had four children in six years and then nearly a decade later, in the mid-1940’s, had another two children. Mabel became quite ill with amoebic dysentery for several years after the birth of her last child, which she and others caught in a hotel in the Midwest, and this adversely affected her ability to do much of anything as she lacked the energy as a result of being constantly sick. The girls cleaned the house while she slept at that time.

Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder and her first four girls
The girls are not being identified because they are living.
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Mabel and Clarence got married and started having children at the height of the Great Depression, when it was extremely difficult to find work and provide for one’s family; even those who were employed weren't paid much. Much of the country was on austerity measures just to get by, wearing clothes that were mended and re-mended, stretching food, and hunting to supply meat for the family meals, and based on family stories, and Mabel and Clarence did all of that and more.  Even so, the little family was lucky in that Clarence was employed.  

Mabel and Clarence first moved to Jewett in Harrison County, Ohio and then to St. Clairsville Ohio, and by 1942, the family, had moved to Huron, Ohio, when Clarence obtained a job with one of the war industries and again they were lucky as Clarence's job was deemed "essential" and he was not sent to war. 

Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder - around 1942
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After the war, Clarence moved more into business for  himself as a manufacturer’s representative (salesperson of a sort) for several  toy and sporting goods companies, a traveling position that took him away from home a lot; Mabel did the accounting for his business, in addition to being a homemaker and doing volunteer work in the community.  She made almost all of her children’s clothes. She did not work for anyone else outside the house, but (according to what I found in The Sandusky Register) she was involved in a lot of charity work and social clubs over the years.  She was often the leader of the Parent-Teachers Association, the local March of Dimes fundraising drive, and the local Camp Fire Girls unit, and a local Girl Scout unit; and later she was a den mother for a cub scout unit. She was a member of the Eastern Star, the Library Fundraising Committee, and the local yacht club decorating committee; and she was also in charge of publicity for the Grand Forest Beach Association and later the Beach wood Cove Association (local homeowner’s associations for the neighborhoods in which they lived). Mabel was also active in the Huron Presbyterian church and for many years was the head of the missionary education committee, and in charge of national missions, and, at least once acted as their representative to the World Council of Churches. Additionally, she entertained as a means to support and further Clarence’s career, and because she enjoyed it; she also planned and hosted beautiful weddings for her oldest four daughters throughout the 1950's.

Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder prepping for one of her daughters' weddings
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In 1958, their youngest daughter, at age 12, had to have surgery that required eight months thereafter in a body cast. While she was in the hospital, the carport was converted into a room to hold a hospital bed so that she could be cared for at home. 

I can remember that Grandma Snyder was an excellent cook, as is my mother, who learned from her.  She sewed and knitted, and she liked to read.  I was told that Mabel and Clarence played cards together (gin and bridge) and played competitive bridge against others. She also golfed, with Clarence, and in women’s tournaments. I found several mentions in the local paper of her winning ladies’ golf tournaments and ladies’ bridge tournaments. 

My own main memories of Grandma Snyder are of her cooking for large family get-togethers, of her with Foo-Foo, her poodle (actually, now I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were a succession of poodles named Foo-Foo, as Foo-Foo is in almost every memory I have of her and that’s a long time for a poodle  to live), and often of her animatedly involved in a discussion with my father and other family members.
Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder and Foo-Foo
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In or about 1969, when I was about 9, Mabel & Clarence retired to Florida, where they bought a house in Yankeetown Florida near the the Withlacoochee  on one of the inland waterways, a canal. I remember going to visit them several times. I have a vivid memory of an alligator crawling out of the canal into the backyard.  I don’t know if that happened more than once, but once was enough for me! Mabel was initially an active member of the Yankeetown Women’s Club, the Parson’s Memorial Presbyterian Church, and the Order of the Eastern Star.

Unfortunately, Mabel developed dementia in her later years. Now that I know how intelligent and active she was when she was younger, it seems all the more tragic. After awhile it got to the point that Grandpa Snyder, Clarence, could not care for her at home and moved her to the Crystal River Geriatrics Center in about 1982. Clarence died about two years later, and the family decided that it was better that she stay in an environment that she was used to, so she continued to live at Crystal River,  and her daughters and son visited her there. Her Alzheimer’s continued to progress.  She died on June 2, 1990, and was buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Findlay, Ohio, next to Clarence.


I  need to :

I'm still looking for documentation for period between 1940 & death, beyond newspapers (although more newspapers would be nice), to corroborate memories (mine, those of my parents, and of my aunts).

Census for 1920, 1930 & 1940; City Directories for Findlay Ohio; The Findlay Republican Courier; The Sandusky Register; The Florida Death Index, and the memories of myself, my parents, and my aunts.

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