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Texas, United States

4/27/2015

Antique Cedar Chest Memories

 
I have a lot of old family photos I got from a Grandmother and my Mother and I still like to look at them. Though the years at Mother's I would sometimes go through the ones she kept in this beautiful old cherry cedar chest her Mother gave her as a wedding present she eventually gave me. She and Dad told me who a lot of these relatives were over the years and some are of Mother and Daddy. This is a small collection and
what I remember about them.
My parents, John Boon and Martha Rose Kolojaco. They were married in Oct. 1933
in St. Stanislaus Kosta Church in Anderson Texas. The Parish Community began organizing  in 1866 and is built on seven hills, the same as which ancient Rome was built on . A lot of my ancestors are buried in the cemetery beside it including
my maternal grandparents and a lot of their siblings and children.
St. Stanislaus 
 
The wedding reception was held on her parent's cotton farm
approximately eight miles from Anderson. Mom's maiden name was McCloskey.
Her satin wedding dress is still in the cedar chest.
Grandpa & Grandma Arch and Pearl McCloskey. They both came to America as children
with their parents  and entered at Ellis Island N.Y. Grandpa once told me how relieved he was to finally  see the beautiful Statue of Liberty knowing he would never again have to worry about a knock on the door  in the middle of the night from someone coming
to take his Father away to a place of no return.
 
They were persecuted in Poland by Protestant royalty
because of their Catholic religion.
 
Grandpa Arch at top and two of his brothers. I
knew the one on the left as Uncle Stash...he lived
about a half mile from Grandpa on his own
cotton farm. His youngest son of 12 children was called "Buddy,"
who was a couple years older than I was and we
used to roam the pine forest looking for mischief around the farms
during summers I would stay there as a child. We did "borrow" a few of
his Dad's cantaloupe and watermelons from his big patch to snack on in the woods
after Buddy cooled them off in the spring fed stock tank in the pasture.
 
My paternal Grandmother Sophie Kolojaco's maiden name was Graczyk This is a family photo taken when she was in her teens circa 1905.. She is third from left on top row with her parents middle front, she had eight sisters, no brothers. The children are children of one of the sisters. They immigrated to America when Grandma was eight years old in 1895 and had to work seven years as indentured servants, (serfs) to pay for their passage. Grandma had gone to school three years in Warsaw Poland but was not allowed to go to school when she got to America so she never learned to read or write English, only Polish.
She did speak both though. Mother wouldn't allow us to learn Polish because
she didn't want us to acquire an accent. She and Dad both could speak Polish and didn't have one I could discern so I don't know why that bothered her....other than Howard Hughes
told her it best not to teach your children foreign languages while
they were young, accents in America were a liability. 
 
Grandma Sophie and Grandpa Victor Wheat Kolojaco
married in 1907 and Daddy was born in 1908. Grandpa found employment in Fort Bend County sharecropping for a man he worked for and they lived on his land for over 60 years giving half of everything he earned farming cotton to the landowner.
 
Fortunately, his four sons were all very intelligent men who got a little education and found good company jobs that lifted them out of poverty into the prosperous middle class. Two sons worked for Dow Chemical Company, one for a smaller sulphur company, and Daddy for Texas Gulf Sulphur Company, the largest sulphur mine in the world at the time. They all helped their parents make ends meet during the Great Depression. Dad and Uncle Joe later bought and rented pastures and raised a lot of cattle also. Grandpa was never able to attend school but I thought he was a very smart man who could fix anything that broke...including my dolls.
He was my only Grandparent born in America and half Native American.
 
I stayed with them a lot growing up and we were very close. None of her other 16 grandchildren wanted to stay with them in the old farmhouse with no modern conviences, except one beloved cousin I was closer to than my own siblings. We were born three days apart and Grandma used to say we were like two sweet peas in a pod...with a touch of wild Indian. Daniel Hugh Kolojaco will forever remain my all time hero. He became a Marine and Medevac helicopter pilot  and died during the Viet Nam War in his jet a month after serving two tours in Viet Nam rescuing the wounded earning 20 air medals for bravery. That devastated me for a long time.
His "nickname" was Bobo and that's all I ever called
him while he was alive.
 
This is my Dad with his three brothers in the early 30's, Tony, Bill, and Joe, and sister Martha who was run over by a car crossing a street in Houston in 1942.  Dad's playing the guitar. It's the first funeral I attended and though I was only four and a half years old I remember sweet Aunt Martha and the funeral vividly. Bobo and I rebelled at the cemetery when they started shoveling dirt on her and they had to take us home. Until then we thought she was just
sleeping in a pretty blue gown in a pretty blue satin box. During the long wake we had been more interested in the children's swings and slides just outside the funeral home. 
 
My Grandmother gave me one of the eight plots she bought at the time and I will someday "rest in peace...I hope," next to Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad and Aunt Martha. Uncle Tony and Aunt Julia are also buried in the family plot in Rosenberg Texas. I have pondered "my gravesite" for over 73 years when I visited, and for all their funerals, and finally told the children I don't want to be buried...just have me cremated and water my ashes in with a watering can....and I want a small white marble marker like Aunt Martha's with an engraved angel and a great photo imbedded of me smiling 
when I was in my prime like she has.
 
I remember asking Daddy who these guys were but I don't remember who he told me...maybe uncles. I do remember him laughing and claiming..."Those boys didn't have to worry about getting drunk and forgetting the way home...those old mules knew." 
 
Mother was barely 17 in this portrait her first and only employer ever had made for her for
consolation at having to have her long hair cut to get the nanny job in 1930 to help her parents save the mortgaged cotton farm after the stock market crash of 1929 and the price of cotton was falling rapidly. She never liked this photo remembering how sad she was when it was taken and was going to tear it up after she found it cleaning out her parents home and showed it to me, but I asked for it and she gave it to me. She was still eager to get rid of it.
Mother liked this portrait much better Mrs. Lummis had made for her engagement newspaper photo just before Mom quit the job to marry Daddy. Mother and her older brother, who joined the Army, did help their parents save the farm. Mrs. Annette Lummis was the aunt of the infamous Howard Hughes, the Lummis's had moved into the Hughes family mansion after Howard's parents both died when he was a young teenager to help care for him and that's where Mom became good friends with Howard also.
 
 My older brother is named James Frederick, Frederick is for Dr. Frederick Rice Lummis whose Mother was of the family that founded prestigious Rice University in Houston.
The Hughes Home is now a part of the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

 
The Lummis's were still living there while Mom worked for them though by then Howard was in his later 20's off most of the time in Hollywood making movies evidently dating a lot of movie stars. Mom loved to tell stories of Howards visits, he would try to charm her too, and would take her to the movies and help her with crossword puzzles and insisted on approving of Dad before she married him. He did. Mom said she liked Howard but knew better than get any more involved with him than friendship. He was already divorced from his first wife...and he was already strange in that she always had to pay for the movies and snacks and laundry he had delivered to the home. He told her he never carried money because it was "dirty" but he always had someone come by and pay her back with interest.
 
Mom helped her parents and still was able to save enough to buy a house full of new furniture when she married Dad, who she claimed only had a nice car to show for his "savings." Mom and Dad always kept separate bank accounts...she got the company check and he got whatever he made off his hay baling and cow business and she would often bribe him for some of that to put in her savings account. Mamma amassed quite a bit of money over the years.
Young Howard 
 Mom and Mrs. Lummis remained friends for the rest of Mrs. Lummis's life and I last saw her in 1971 at Hermann Hospital in Houston where Dad had a hip replacement. She was in her 80's but still quite spry and charming and they all still talked about Howard. I do remember Mom crying when he died. She felt she knew from what his aunt told her why the "strange genius" had become so eccentric and felt very sorry for him. I still regret Howard
encouraged her not to allow us to learn Polish, though I did pick up quite
a few words from Grandma. Dad and Mom knew it but rarely spoke it.
 
Mom had to quit school in eighth grade to help care for her six younger siblings after her Mother became ill with a kidney disease. Mother always regretted it and she told me Howard once tried to convince her they did have something in common, he never finished high school either. She said that was the only time she ever got upset and fussed at him for wasting an opportunity she wished she had had. Howard apparently quickly apologized
and eventually got a college degree.
 
My Grandfather Kolojaco's Mother was a Catholic missionary converted Native American Apache who may have learned to write Polish from her husband.. Grandfather, always called "Wheat," knew how to read it though he never went to school. I don't have a photo of her but I do have this Polish family missile with her children listed in it my Grandfather gave me in an antique dresser my Grandmother left me, almost one baby every year from 1885 to 1909, sixteen with very long names. It has remnants of the solid gold leaves and mother of pearl flower decorations still on it. Grandpa was next to the oldest born in 1887 and she had her last child, according to this record, a year after my Father was born in 1908. Wow!
Her name was Antonina, born in 1868, and Kotodriejczak was the way Kolojaco was spelled before my Great Grandfather changed it to a more "American" spelling. I thank him for that. Stonham is written in pencil on the page and I think that must have been the small town close to where they farmed most of their lives in East Texas close to where my Mom's family lived also. The family's apparently knew each other, Mom once told me when she told her Mother she had a date with Daddy, her Mother told her to stay away from those Kolojaco boys...she had heard they were a bunch of wild Indians. From the story's Dad told that was likely the truth. Daddy was the one who loved to tell that story about his skeptical Mother-in-law.. When he brought it up Mom would say, "Well Frank, (her boyfriend before Dad her Mom preferred) was a very nice man I should have considered." Daddy would laugh and claim,
 "Maybe so...but he was for sure as slow as cold molasses."
 
Daddy's first love was baseball and he told the story of being scouted by the Cleveland Indians who were looking for Native American ball players at the time they were popular.  They had heard he was a full blooded Indian until he told them hair grew on his face and they didn't draft him. Mom didn't care, he came to pick her up for their first "dance" date with crutches and a broken leg after a runner ran into him at home plate and she told us she didn't want him to play games with Babe Ruth...she was afraid he would get hurt bad and couldn't support her. He always played hind catcher and he was very good and fearless  and could hit a country mile. I watched a lot of his games he played for the sulphur company when I was a young child. He was very proud of that new 1930 Ford coupe
he bought soon after he went to work for TGS...his "muscle car."
 
 He claimed his baseball skills is why the company hired him, he went to work for them on his 21st birthday and said he always had easy jobs in the huge power plant he eventually worked his way up to supervise to keep him fit to play ball for the company team..Dad worked for them for 42 years and only missed one sick day. They had to send him home that day and he was mad about it, he intended to have a perfect record. In 1971 he had a terrible wreck on a foggy Christmas Eve going to work and was on life support for three months before he was finally well enough to get off it. Mom made him retire and they spent the next two decades doing what they loved to do most, Dad baled hay and tended his large herd of cattle. Mom planted big gardens and they hunted for wild meat all over the Southwest in the Winter. Dad often told the story of being given two 22 bullets to find supper for his family when he was eight years old and he said he learned not to miss because he didn't like to get yelled at or go hungry. Daddy made quite a bit more off his hay baling and cattle than he did at his Company job and
we never had to do without much of anything we wanted.
My two brothers and sister in front of the "company" home in Newgulf Texas we grew up in... Christmas 1954. Jim and I were both born at home in tiny Long Point Texas, a small company compound where Dad first went to work for TGS. We moved to Newgulf when I was about three and Jeanette and Robert were born in the small company hospital there.
Dad was well known around Wharton County for being an honest hard working man, he hired a lot of local teen age boys to work for him in the hayfield during the summers...including my three sons when they got old enough. He was the hardest working man I ever knew and worked in is hay fields until he was 79 and had to have carotid artery surgery and had a small stroke. He was 84 when he died.
 
This is my maternal Great Grandmother, Mary Fox, and she was one of two reasons I named my memoir what I did. The others are two of her daughters and a grandson. I overheard my Mom, aunts, and Grandma Pearl, her oldest daughter, often talk about her after she died. It was evidently well known she was "psychic" and often had visions of the future that sometimes caused her a lot of worry. I only remember meeting her once when I was about six years old when she was on her death bed and I was visiting Grandma Pearl in the summer. She told me not to go in and bother her Mom and said she was blind, couldn't speak, and was dying.
I took this photo in the 1950's of Grandpa McClosky's home. That darker room on the right was the first room built in the 1920's and separate from the rest of the house built later. It was connected by a screened in porch complete with, combs, basins, shaving stuff, and soap and basins and pails of water to groom with. The separated room was called the "sick room" and was where I snuck in, circa 1944, to have my Great Grandmother Fox astound me.
 
Well, I just had to see that sight Grandma Pearl described, so as soon as I got the chance, when Grandma went to the barn  to milk cows, I snuck in the musty old room. I had never seen anyone "dying" before. No sooner than I closed the door I heard, "Come over here Anna Marie so I can see what your face looks like." That scared the heck out of me but I obeyed and finally crawled up on her bed and she felt my face and fingers with her ancient hands, then told me my hot pink feed sack dress with green flowers was very pretty, after she told me what color my hair and eyes were. She was in her mid 90's and the oldest person I had ever seen...but my instant fear soon turned back to childish curiosity.
 
 I was astounded knowing she couldn't see, her eyes were milky white totally covered with cataracts.  I asked her how and she told me she could "see" with her fingers. She told me some other strange things including I had a "third eye" like hers and her task on earth was done but mine was just beginning. She died the following week and I was stunned with her "revelations" for quite awhile. I didn't tell Grandma Pearl I had disobeyed her but I did asked Mom on the way home why she would speak to me and no one else. Mother told she had refused to speak ever since her daughters took her from her home to care for her in theirs. I still don't know why she spoke to me, or what she meant, but I have remembered her strange words for over 70 years. I know for a fact some of her"visions" Mother told me about did come true.
 
I did have some interesting ancestors I still think about when I run across
these old photographs. They were all great story tellers and they
 knew I loved to listen to the past and they would entertain my curiosity.

 I also took this photo in the latter 1950's or early 60's of the "outhouse" you still had to go to when you had to "go." It was a "two holer." My husband attended Texas A&M in College Station at the time and Anderson wasn't that far away and Grandpa McCloskey liked us to visit so we did from time to time. My kids loved to go there and roam just as I had as a child. He had electricity by that time but it was quite a while before he got indoor plumbing. It didn't bother me when I was a child that much at either grandparents but it didn't seem near as much fun as an adult.
 
Can you imagine this being the only "facility" at a large wedding reception. It was for several besides Mom and Dad's. I attended Mom's youngest brothers there at the farm. The winters when it was cold and sleeting were the worst to have to run out there to "visit."
 
I do remember when Grandpa and Grandma Kolojaco's sons installed their first bathroom. Both those grandparent's were in their 70's and Grandpa was very proud of it and eager to show me how the toilet flushed my first visit afterwards.
 
Bobo once slammed a mean rooster in the outhouse door at Grandpa Kolojaco's and
that bad bird never pecked my heels again on the way to potty.
 He was quickly stewed with dumplings for supper and was delicious.
 
My maternal Grandma Pearl died at 55 from a kidney ailment called, "Brights Disease", but all the other's lived well into their 80's & 90's and what wonderful treasures they left me. Mom had four brothers and three sisters. Three of the brothers served in WWII but the
parents didn't want the other to enlist so he didn't.
I have a lot of old photos of my older brother and I when we were very young children and we were always dressed well... regardless of what the background was.
I was definitely a "Daddy's Girl" and he usually catered to my whims. When I wanted a piano in First Grade he told Mamma to buy it and paid for lessons for 11 years. When I wanted a horse at the same age he gave me his favorite gentle paint. When I wanted a faster one when I was a teenager he bought me a bad back young quarter horse that beat supposedly the "fastest horse in Texas" in a match race in his hay field that earned him enough in wagers to buy Mamma her first automatic washing machine. When I wanted to learn to shoot a rifle at a very young age also he took me out in the pasture and taught me how to hit a target with his little 30-30. When I wanted to go bird hunting with him, he showed me how to shoot a shotgun and lead a quail. My siblings were never interested in any of these things
so I did get a lot of his attention.
 
 
The last photo of us I have of all of us together taken  by my oldest son
in front of my parents home in the mid 70's on Easter Sunday. We took some great
 individual family photos with them at their 50th wedding celebration in 1983 I have but I don't
 know why we didn't take a family photo like this one above.
Guess we forgot. My two brothers are now deceased.
Dad died in 1993 and Mom in 2001.
 
Practical Mom bought this pretty aqua "anniversary" dress for two occasions.
One for the party and the other to be buried in. She was.
*****
The first paragraph in my memoir reads:
 
 
"Life is based on emotions for the intuitive, spiritual, and impractical Pisces"
 
"Why I have the kind of vivid Technicolor memory I do has always been a mystery to me and to the few who knew of it. Whether it be a blessing or a curse, I assume there must have been a reason if indeed there is such a thing as predestination. I kinda think there is and I do have reason for feeling that way. I do believe we are blessed at birth with free will and I know for certain I should have
paid more attention when I used it."
******
I still don't know if there is such a thing as  predetermined destiny but whether there is or isn't...I have no regrets about mine. I feel extremely blessed at who
 my ancestors I knew were.....
Honest, intelligent, and down to earth, happy, hard working good folks.
 
I still don't know who Great Grandmother Fox "thought" I would be but I was never
 interested in knowing anything about the future more than what I planned. I prayed quite a few times I wouldn't have her futuristic "visions" because of the stress Mother told me it caused her and I never have.
 
I have on occasion seen some amazing Technicolor "movies" in my mind of the ancient past that were  more entertaining than "real" movies and sometimes I still wonder if I prayed my "third eye" to see the distant past in focus rather than the future.
I often dream of it in living color and it sometimes amazes me but doesn't cause me stress
because I always wake up before anything bad happens.