Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reincarnation, Maybe?

When I was growing up here in this little village, there was an older couple who lived across the street from my family (my grandparents, my Mom and me) who had been close friends of my Grandpa's family for years. More like forever, I think.

Her name was Eleanor but everyone knew her as "Toodie" and her husband, Albert, was known around town -and was also pretty well-known in other little mine communities that sponsored baseball teams back in the early part of the 1900s. Albert worked the mines all his life and his two loves were baseball and ice skating.

I doubt there was anyone around town who didn't know him and most everyone knew him by his nickname though -"Chippy" but probably the majority of folks who knew his wife were those who lived on this street and a few others who knew her from church.

Chippy and the family friendship with him and Toodie went back before him even to his parents and my great-grandparents. Apparently they were acquainted back in the "old country" - Sweden -and when my great-grandparents came here, shortly after, Chippy's parents immigrated here too.

They came here though as single people and married here because, in Sweden, they were forbidden to marry. Reason being -they were first cousins. And, of course, where they lived in Sweden -or perhaps the record-keeping system there, which was actually quite extensive for the era -didn't allow them to marry and everyone around where they lived and the local minister too would have been aware of the family relationship, so they waited to marry until they came to this country where there were no records that would betray them as being that closely related.

I don't know for a fact that is the reason behind their marrying here and not in Sweden, but that is the story I learned as a child from my Grandma. And, we all know, "Grandmas don't lie" do we? (Well, rarely.)

But anyway -Albert was born in the 1890s -I think somewhere between 1892 and 1896. His parents and my Great-grandparents were such good, close friends, that after they decided to buy/build their own homes here in the village, they bought lots that were side-by-side and their friendship continued until Chippy's mother's death or my Great-Grandma's -not sure who died first but I think it was Chippy's mother.

According to a cousin of my Mom's, these two women were such close friends that not a day went by after their homes were completed (sometime around the turn of the century) but what they didn't take a break and have coffee and a bit of a snack -probably just bread and some cheese, maybe some coffee cake from time to time, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

And they had their own private signal to each other too.

Once their morning chores -building a fire in the cookstove, packing lunch for the men of the family to take to work with them in the mines, feeding them their breakfast, getting the basics of the housework of the early morning hours completed and a fresh pot of coffee brewing, which ever woman finished that first, hung a dish towel out on her clothesline as a signal then to the other that the coffee was almost ready and to come over to that house then for a little break -a true "Coffee Klach" I guess you could say.

From that friendship though, things were in place then for Chippy and his brothers to become fast, firm friends with my grandparents, with my great-uncle and his family as well as all the others in my Mom's father's side of my family tree.

When, back in 1951, my grandparents and I left here that October to go to Jamestown, NY to spend the winter months with my older aunt there, it was Chippy who looked after our house here, making sure there was nothing going awry with the place. And years later, in 1966, when my Mom closed up the house to come down to live with me in Maryland and to care for my older daughter while I worked, once again, Chippy looked after the house as well as the grounds -seeing to it that the grass was mowed and all was fine and at a ready anytime Mom and I wanted to come back home for a weekend or for Mom and my daughter to come spend a couple weeks here during the summer. He also collected our mail that still arrived here plus, Mom would send him money to make sure that the electric bill and the water bills were all kept up to date too. He even took care to let her know when the taxes were due and she would send him the money for that and he would make the payment for her on them as well.

Yep, close friends -for sure! Like family. Yes, indeed, he and Toodie were that.

When I was a child though, if any of us kids were out playing and we saw Chippy heading up the road, it was not unusual for us to drop what we were doing and tag along with him.

Now, walking with him was something else again because the man never walked at a nice leisurely pace. Nope! He went at what was pretty much a very fast speed -more like a trot! No wonder the man never gained any weight because he walked at that pace whether it was early in the morning when he was on his way to work at the mines -and yes, he walked the distance whether it was up over the hillside behind his home, through the woods, past the old baseball diamond and beyond to the tipple on the upper end of town -at least a mile and a half walk there -or to church, or down to the old mines in Peale -about two miles -he always walked -or rather trotted -and the man was also notorious too in that he was NEVER, EVER late!

As a young man, he played on the old baseball team here in the village -sponsored by the Coal Company -and he held down the shortstop position there for many years. When he decided he was a bit too old for playing the game, he helped out with the management of the local team then too. For many years -at least 20 -this little village had one of the best baseball teams in the county and back in 1936, they even won their league title and from that, went on to take the state championship in their league's division and won second place in the championships held, I think, in Youngstown, Ohio -either there or in Cleveland! Not bad for a rinky-dink little coal mining town, ya know!

Here's a picture of that championship team back in 1936!

And, for anyone who knows/knew any of the players back then, here are the names of those in this photograph. (Photo supplied by Jeff Feldmeier of Allen Park, Michigan -grandson of Steve Sicora, who managed the team at that time.)
Back row: (L to R): William Force (SS), Harold Force (LF), Henry Force (CF), Emro Petrof (Wherever), Emory "Lefty" Gurbal (P), Bill Farr (3B), Steve Sicora (Manager, 2B).

Front row: (L to R): Bill Hill (OF), George Calderwood (2B), Steve Terry (inf./3B), Andy Terry (C). (The scoreboard says "Compliments of Andrew Frendberg." Mr. Frendberg having been the superintendent of the mines here in the village for many, many years -like from about 1888 until at least the late 30s, maybe even into the 40s. A very powerful man in the community, for sure.)

What got me to thinking about Chippy though stems from the walk I try to take most every day -if possible -with Sammy, our little dog.

Sammy is -in my opinion -perhaps Chippy, reincarnated!

He's small built -as was Chippy. A strong wind might have blown Chippy away! And Sammy does not "walk" with me but rather, he pulls me and at a very -VERY - brisk pace, much like a trot, akin to the way one would have to do some pretty fast stepping, punctuated by a few skips -more than a few skips -to keep up with Chippy if one was walking with him to the post office to pick up the daily mail, or up the hill to our church -or anyplace else around town too if you'd decided to tag along with him.

So I'm seriously thinking -will have to run this past Mandy to get her opinion on this -that we should change the dog's name from Sammy to "Chippy Werner Muttley!" (The dog's full name, in case you hadn't picked up on this in earlier posts is my concoction -"Samuel 'Sammy' J. Muttley. I have to be careful though about using that surname for him because at one point, Maya picked up on that and was questioning Mandy about Sammy's name. And she asked about the "Muttley" thing and was wanting to know if, since Sammy is considered to be Gram's dog, if "Muttley" is Gram's last name then too!)

I wish I could find a picture of Albert -AKA Chippy -to show you here but I can't locate any on my computer.

When my older daughter was baptized, Mom and I thought about who to ask to be her Godparents and to both of us, the logical choice was, of course, Albert "Chippy" and Eleanor "Toodie" Werner!

And every day when I manage to get out with our little dog -on his leash -and as he runs till the leash stops him suddenly and jerks me into picking up my pace again, I am reminded of "Chippy" and all the great memories I have stored away of him and his wife, Toodie and his brothers and their wives too.

Yep! The more I think about this, the more convinced I am that if there is actually reincarnation, then Chippy has returned to us in the form of this little guy!


TechnoBabe said...

Toodie and Chippy sound like the kind of neighbors we all want. Steady, interesting, involved in community.
This is a great picture with the bats laid out in front and you even have the names of each player. Amazing. You are amazing.

Sandee said...

What great neighbors they were. Sammy may indeed by Chippy. It could happen.

Have a terrific day. :)

Deb said...

I vote for the name Chippy - if it is not too late to change his name. I love the part about hanging out the dish towel as a way of communicating - clever. Too bad that in this fast paced day and age people don't have time to socialize as they should. Take care.

Smalltown RN said...

OH Jeni that is a great story! I just love the old photo..that is great a classic...and I think you might be onto something about Chippy and your never know..and I kinda of like the name does seem to fit your dog....

terri said...

What wonderful memories of Chippy and Toodie. My parents had next door neighbors while I was growing up who were very similar in their friendship. My dad and Jerry took turns going to buy a Sunday paper every week and then would deliver it to the other's house and stay for coffee. Us kids were always next door watching Doris cook or letting her spoil us.

We have some very good, almost like family friends now, but I think the days of seeing each other every day are gone.