Mother’s Family Stories–Installment 12

My mother’s 100th birthday will be this November (Martha Evelyn Mount, born November 28, 1916, in Morrow, Ohio and passed away on July 31, 1991).  When she was 72 in 1989, she made a taped recording of family stories for both sides of the family.  In her honor, and still incredulous that she sat and dictated all of this into a tape recorder by herself, I’m going to post what she wrote along with pictures whenever possible.  She had a rather rambling, random method and said whatever came to her mind at that moment, punctuated by hearty laughing.   I’ll post the stories in the order she told them and will only edit the posts to keep out anything that might be offensive or embarrassing to other members of the family.

8/89 – Family Stories Tape by Martha Applegate
Transcribed 5/19/01 by Lillian – notes in parenthesis by Lillian


I used to love to go and visit my Aunt Hettie (Hettie Conover Gillis) – she lived on a farm and I had one cousin one year older than me and one, one year younger (Alberta or Roberta and Mildred Gillis), so we made a good group.  We would play in the barn – oh, I loved that old barn and I still love old barns to this day.  I can just imagine I can smell that hay and those cows being milked.  We’d play in the hay mow and we’d play all kind of things.  We’d put on shows and we’d put on everything and I love an old barn – there’s just something about that.

Belle Baker (Belle Hutchinson) used to live up on the hill where the funeral home is now – the big funeral home just before you go into Morrow.  She used to call for me to come up there when they had pears and I used to climb up these wooden steps that were all broken to go up there and get pears.  I used to love to go there – she had the biggest cookie jar and always would give you the biggest cookies – she was my father’s aunt – my grandmother’s sister – and her sister and her husband lived there – Aunt Becky (Hutchinson) and Uncle Warren (Warren Brunson).  They didn’t have any children and I used to love to go and visit with them.  They were real old at that time and Aunt Becky always had a little clay pipe in her mouth turned upside-down.  They’re buried up in Morrow and I always remembered their grave – I loved that little old couple.

Alice Mae (Mount – Mother’s older sister) had it kind of rough.  She was a good little housekeeper and she had to take care of the little ones while Mom worked but we would always go to her if we wanted to do anything – we’d always ask her first.

Grandma school closeAlice Mae, ca 1925

Gr Helen and daughterAlice Mae and Mom (Helen), ca 1925

And I’m scared to death to be closed up in anything – I can’t stand ….any kind of a meeting or church or anything like that where they close the door and I can’t get out.  My sister told me the reason for that is one time my mother was sick and my father had to get someone to take care of her and the woman put us in a cupboard and shut the door on us – shut us up in that cupboard – and my sister would say – she was just 3 years older than me – I guess I must have been about 3 and her about 6, I don’t know – no, not that old ‘cause my father wasn’t dead yet – but she’d say, “Oh, we’re not going to get out and we’re scared, she’s not going to let us out” and to this day I can’t stand to have a door closed on me.

I had a very happy childhood – lived in Morrow and in the summertime the carnivals would come through and I loved when Bartone’s Tent Show would come through.  We’d go to all those tent shows and then we’d go home and we’d act out those shows.  Every once in a while down in the town square they’d have what they called the Punch and Judy Show and they would sell medicine.  They would put on this Punch and Judy act and I don’t know, it seems like there was something nice going on all the time.  We’d go to church on Sunday and I just had a very happy childhood all the way ‘round.



Although each of my parents came from a troubled childhood and married when they were teenagers, they were determined to give my sister and me a stable family life and they did.  My father gave up the horse business and worked first on the WPA, then for the City of Cincinnati, for Dayton Acme during the last part of World War II, and then as a self-taught television repairman.  After I graduated from high school, he returned to the horse business he loved and stayed involved with that until he died on the track at the end of a race in 1978.

John A -family 1941 - CopyThe Applegates – Johnny, Martha,

Lillian and Shirley, 1943

Mother was the perfect stay-at-home Mom until my sister and I were grown.  She then went on to a long career and retirement from Shillito’s, a large Cincinnati department store.

MotherStoryA_0001Mother with her new White sewing machine in 1954.

She was wearing a dress she had just made – we thought the matching ruffles on the gloves were a nice touch.

In her 60s and 70s Mother finally got to dance as much as she wanted when she took round dance and square dance lessons and danced right up to the last months of her battle with breast cancer in 1991.

Mother died on July 31, 1991, and I sat under a clear blue sky in the back yard and wrote in my journal:

Mother went dancing today with her skirts swirling and petticoats flouncing, her golden red hair in perfect order and wearing her matching shoes and earrings.  She was smiling and light on her feet, happy at last to be able to promenade and do-si-do and twirl and swing.  She barely glanced back at the rest of us still struggling with our affairs.  She was going dancing!

Mother-memorial - CopyMother, ca 1981

This concludes my mother’s taped family stories from 1989.  It was the best gift she could have left for me.





Mother’s Family Stories–Installment 4

My mother’s 100th birthday will be this November (Martha Evelyn Mount Applegate, born November 28, 1916, in Morrow, Ohio and passed away on July 31, 1991).  When she was 72 in 1989, she made a taped recording of family stories for both sides of the family.  In her honor, and still incredulous that she sat and dictated all of this into a tape recorder by herself, I’m going to post what she wrote along with pictures whenever possible.  She had a rather rambling, random method and said whatever came to her mind at that moment, punctuated by hearty laughing.   I’ll post the stories in the order she told them and will only edit the posts to keep out anything that might be offensive or embarrassing to other members of the family.

8/89 – Family Stories Tape by Martha Applegate
Transcribed 5/19/01 by Lillian – notes in parenthesis by Lillian


martinreddickandmatildacreagerMy great-great grandparents, Martin and Matilda Reddick

In this installment, Mother tells about John B’s mother, Emily, his father, Joseph Martin, and some stories from the 1800s.

When Granny (Emily Jane Reddick) and Grandpa Applegate (Joseph Martin) were married, her father (Martin Reddick) had give her a piece of land up above Marathon, up there in Brown County – the old home place is still standing there, no one lives in it now, but the old log cabin’s there – they put stucco over it and fixed it over and there’s always been an Applegate living there. But he took her up there when they were married and built a log cabin and he was a very good man, never no harm was ever said of him.  Aunt Anne (sister of John B) used to say he would be out in the fields plowing and the girls would go to him and say, “There’s a dance tonight, we want to go to the dance” and he’d stop right in the middle of the field and he’d go on in and take them to a dance.  He’d just do anything for them and every morning when they’d get up all their shoes would be sitting in the front of the fireplace, they’d all be shined and slick – he was just real good-hearted.

Jos Martin Applegate - CopyMy great-grandfather, Joseph Martin Applegate

But Granny – she was something else.  She’d want to go down and see Uncle Jim (her son) – he lived down in Marathon – and they’d hook up the spring wagon and every place she went she had to take her feather bed.  Well, they’d put the feather bed in there and take Granny down to Uncle Jim’s and she’d no more than get down there – she wouldn’t stay – she’d want them to bring her back and they’d have to load the feather bed up and bring her back.

Emily Jane-60My great-grandmother, Emily Jane Reddick Applegate

In those days they made their own stockings and hats and gloves and everything and every night they’d sit and knit and they had a “spinning lady” they’d call her who would go around from farm to farm – they had their own wool but this spinning lady would go around and do the spinning into yarn for them and they had a spinning wheel.  That spinning wheel is underneath those steps and boarded up in the house and as far as I know it’s there to this day.

grannyGranny (Emily Jane Reddick Applegate) at 80 years of age

It was wild up there in that country in those days.  They said they shot an Indian out of a tree up in front of the house – there was still Indians up there yet when they first moved there and they said that Sherman went through with his troops (maybe Morgan?) and they had to hide their horses and hide things out in the field so he couldn’t get them.  They had lived there that long.

Uncle Court (Courtis Applegate, brother of John B) I guess was about the oldest one in the family but he always lived in the house and he raised his children there and they raised their children there and I think there’s some of them living there yet.  Uncle Court and Aunt Bird – they never spoke for years – I don’t know how they had so many children ‘cause they hadn’t spoken to each other for years.  Uncle Court would eat dinner and go out and sit on the porch, lean his chair back and he had a pet chicken that would sit on his shoulder and that’s how they found him dead – he died and never even disturbed that chicken.

Uncle Court was very hard of hearing and they always called him “Dickie” and we always thought his name was Richard and we were going to name Shirley (my younger sister) after him but evidently that wasn’t his name, they just nicknamed him that.

In the Applegate family there’s an awful lot of hard of hearing.  Bill (Applegate – Jim Applegate’s son) had a hard of hearing boy and almost every family had a hard of hearing child so it runs in the family.  Of course, John (B) was very hard of hearing but he could hear very well if he was on the telephone or if he was in a car.  Riding with John in a car – he could hear alright but him with his chewing tobacco, he would spit out the window.  He always wanted to sit in the front seat and I’d sit in the back and he’d always want to sit on that side because I was lighter to try to divide up the weight because of the bad tires and he’d spit out the window and it’d fly back and hit me and, aw, I’d get so mad at him.  One day I had a brand-new dress on with a big white collar – we were going to the fair – he spit out that window and speckled my white collar – him and his chewing tobacco!  But he chewed tobacco when he was only four years old – he nursed up until he was four years old.  He’d be out playing and he’d call Granny from behind the door to come in so he could nurse, then he’d put chewing tobacco in his mouth and go on out and play.

JohnB_cigarMy grandfather, John B. Applegate (1945)

In the next installment, we’ll hear stories about the colorful Applegate brothers back in the mid-1800s.

My Mother’s Family Stories–Installment 2

My mother’s 100th birthday will be this November (Martha Evelyn Mount, born November 28, 1916, in Morrow, Ohio and passed away on July 31, 1991).  When she was 72 in 1989, she made a taped recording of family stories of both sides of the family.  In her honor, and still incredulous that she sat and dictated all of this into a tape recorder by herself, I’m going to post what she wrote along with pictures whenever possible.  She had a rather rambling, random method and said whatever came to her mind at that moment, punctuated by hearty laughing.   I’ll post the stories in the order she told them and will only edit the posts to keep out anything that might be offensive or embarrassing to other members of the family.

8/89 – Family Stories Tape by Martha Applegate
Transcribed 5/19/01 by Lillian – notes in parenthesis by Lillian


In 1921, John B and my grandmother, Lillian Frances Illie, were divorced when my father was 9 years old and his brother, Frank, was 7.  John B got custody of the two boys and took them with him on the road to blacksmith at county fairs.  Here is my mother’s version of some of their adventures.

John A and Frank A 1917Frank and John A. Applegate

Ca. 1920

Then when John (B) and Grandma-up-Dayton (our name for our paternal grandmother who lived in Dayton, Ohio) had separated, John had the boys (John A. and Frank E. Applegate), he was taking care of them – he’d get drunk.  Well, Frank was so little they couldn’t leave him out so when he’d get drunk and they’d put John in jail, they’d put Frank in with him and he’d get in there and he’d climb up and down the bars like a monkey and rattle the tin cup up and down and they’d finally  have to let John go to get rid of Frank.

One time John (B) and Frank and Johnny (John A) were shipping horses on a boxcar train out to Missouri, I guess it was, and John was drunk as usual and they were all shut up in this boxcar with the horses and for some reason they got side-tracked and put onto another track and was left sitting there for days.  They didn’t have a thing to eat, nothing to drink, and the horses and Grandpa drunk – that was a bad time for the boys.

When Frank (Applegate) was a little boy, Grandma-up-Dayton (Lillian Illie) and Grandpa (John B) were still married at the time, gypsies came through and they wanted to tell their fortune and they said, “No, no, get out of here, we don’t want our fortunes told”.  Grandpa said, “Get out of here”, John (B) said, because gypsies, they’d steal anything that wasn’t fastened down and they said, “Either tell your fortune or we’ll put a spell on that baby”.  John said, “Get out of here, get out of here” and he chased them off.  Well, right after that, Frank just went into convulsions and had fits and they thought they were going to lose him.  John got on a horse and he took out and he hunted those gypsies until he found them.  He found this woman and he said, “You take that spell off that baby or it’s going to be the end of you” and so she did, she took the spell off the baby, she took the spell off of Frank and he didn’t have any more convulsions.

When Frank was little and hadn’t gone to school yet, Grandma-up-Dayton made them both little baseball suits to match and Johnny took him to school to visit and all through school they kept smelling something and smelling something and thought what on earth is that?  When he got up to go out of the room, they found out what it was – Frank had pedooped all over the back of his baseball suit, it was all yellow – Johnny was so mad at him.

school-j&fSchool Picture – John A (4th from left, row 2) and Frank

(3rd from right, row 1)

Next time, we’ll hear some stories about Johnny before his parents divorced and about life in rural Ohio in the early 1900s.

Cousin Bill and Fried Mush


My father’s favorite cousin was Bill, ten years his senior and completely opposite from my diminutive, quiet, handsome, intelligent father.  Bill was bawdy, boisterous, tall and husky with a loud, hearty laugh – a loveable rascal.
We have a picture ca 1920 of Bill in a nice suit, neat and clean-shaven…


…but I remember him only in scruffy clothes with mud-caked brogans.  He was a blacksmith by trade and followed the county fair trotting circuit to shoe the horses.  Back in the 1960s, I took my three young children to the Owensville (Clermont County, Ohio) Fair and stopped in a trailer parked on the fairgrounds to visit Bill and his family.  Inside the small trailer, 4 or 5 little kids were seated at a table and Bill’s wife, Mary, was at the wood-burning stove frying mush in a big cast iron skillet.  She would slice the mush, throw it into the hot grease, flip it and then put it on one of the kids’ plates.  For the 15 or 20 minutes we were there, she never stopped flipping and serving slices of hot mush – there was always an empty plate and a hungry child yelling for more.  I’m also a lover of fried mush and so, in memory of Bill and his wife, here is how I make it.


  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Butter for frying

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Combine the remaining 1 cup of water with the corn meal and salt; slowly pour this mixture into the boiling water, stirring constantly.  Cook until thickened, stirring frequently.  Cover; continue cooking over low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir and pour into an oiled 9-inch loaf pan.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Invert mush loaf onto a flat surface….


…and cut into twelve ½-inch slices.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add about 2 teaspoons of butter.  Fry the mush slices on one side …

…then turn and brown on the other side.

Serve with butter and syrup, although I prefer it the way Mary fixed it – just fried golden brown without syrup.


Makes 6 servings of 2 slices each

Mush will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week.

A Tribute to my Father

This is a tribute to my father who was born 100 years ago today.  Some of the notes in this post are from a tape my mother made when she was 72 years old in 1989.

John Alonzo Applegate was born on May 19, 1912, in Lerado, Jackson Twp., Brown County, Ohio.  His mother was Lillian Frances Illie Applegate and his father was John Black Applegate.  The place of birth on his certificate is Lerado, but there’s a little discrepancy here because family legend is that he was born on the kitchen table in his Uncle Jim Applegate’s home – the old Applegate homestead – and that house is not located in Lerado, but nearby.   According to my mother’s account, possibly John B. and Lillian were visiting Uncle Jim at the time:

On her tape, Mother said, “If it wouldn’t be for Uncle Jim, none of you children, great-grandchildren or any of you would be here today.  He saved Johnny’s life when Grandma was about to have him.  Two of the Applegate brothers got into a fight and she got in the middle of them and she got pushed out a window backwards and she came near losing the baby.  They called Dr. Forman in and he said, ‘Oh, the baby’s breech – he’s going to be a breech birth’, he said, ‘I’m going to have to cut the baby in two to save the mother’ and Uncle Jim said, ‘No baby gets cut in two in my house’ and with that she went ahead and had him and that’s the only reason any of you are here today.  Johnny always had a very bad temper and his brother, Frank, told him the reason he had a bad temper was because he came in back side first and from that time on he always had his backside up in the air over something.”  

Uncle Jim – a very pleasant man unless he was riled.

John Alonzo was always small, serious, intelligent, with a fiery temper.  He used to tell stories of moving around so much and changing schools so often as a boy and how he would have to fight his way into each of the schools,  He also had the job of fighting the boys his younger brother, Frank, would antagonize with threats of “I’ll tell my big brother!“

Frank and Johnny, ca. 1917.  Johnny always had a firm grip on Frank.

Mother said, One day Johnny was playing in the sand and he didn’t have too many toys back in those days and he was playing in the sand and he had a big chain and he was pulling it around through the sand in the road like a big train – playing like it was a train – and two boys from the city, Cincinnati, came up and they said, ‘Oh, look at the little boy playing choo-choo in the sand’ and he just kept on playing, never paid any attention, and they just kept that up – ‘Aw, look at the little boy’ and finally he got up and he took that chain and he beat them over the head and like to killed them.”

When I was transcribing Mother’s tape and listening to her telling about the boys continuing to aggravate my father, I actually felt a chill going up the back of my neck, knowing too well what he would do in such a circumstance.

The family never had an easy life – John B. was a blacksmith and traveled around the fair circuit to make a living.

John B. and Johnny at their shop in Marathon, Ohio, ca. 1914

The family traveled along with him and we can get a good picture of life on the fairground from this picture of Lillian at the washboard and little son, Frank, in the foreground, ca. 1916.

My father’s major passion all his life was harness horses. Mother said, “Johnny started driving horses when he was real young.  He and Frank (his younger brother) both took care of horses from the time they could remember.  They’d each have to stand on a chair to harness them – they were that little – but one day up at Owensville (Ohio) they were making a big deal out of a boy that was 16 years old that was driving and they were just carrying on how big he was and how great he was and Doc Parsons was sitting on the fence alongside of Johnny and he turned to him and said, “How old were you when you started driving horses?”  And Johnny said, “Twelve” and Doc said, “Yeah, I thought so.”

In 1931, while the Applegates were at the fairgrounds in Lebanon, Ohio, brother Frank visited a small diner owned by my Grandma Helen and my mother who was 15 years old at the time.  Frank was a great talker and would go on and on about his big brother, Johnny – how good he was with horses, how good looking he was, how smart he was – and finally one day he brought along his big brother to the restaurant.  Mother used to laugh when she told the story, thinking she was going to see this big, rough guy from the fairgrounds and in walked this young dark haired boy who was about 5’7” tall – not nearly as big as Frank described, but just as handsome.

Photo booth picture of Johnny and his mother, 1932.  When Grandma saw this picture, she said, “Oh, he looks just like a movie actress!”

Mother fell for him immediately  and they were married in 1932.

I always thought my parents were the most handsome couple and so young compared to the parents of my friends.  I considered my father particularly good-looking, probably accentuated by his brooding, quiet manner.  He spoke little but his words were absolute law not only in our house but with anybody he came in contact with.  He started out as a laborer on the WPA but quickly was made a timekeeper and then moved on to other jobs where he always wound up in a position of authority.   After World War II and the advent of television, he did television repair for several shops and for a time had his own shop in the front room of our little red brick house.  He built our first television set and we were one of the first families in Cincinnati to own one.

Snapshot of Johnny, Martha, Lillian and Shirley, 1941

My father had dark, wavy hair and deep brown eyes.  I loved it when people said I looked just like him.  He was a very small man but had tremendous strength in the shoulders and arms from handling horses.  On one arm was a small tattoo of a horse head which fascinated me.  He was a chain smoker and seemed to always have a cigarette in his hand.  He also loved baseball and was a very good softball pitcher and manager.

When I was very young, people would ask me what I was going to do when I grew up.  I always said I was going to get a job and help Daddy buy a horse.  Within months after graduation and getting my first job @ $30.00/week, my father told me he had a horse in mind and was ready for my contribution.  This is one of our early horses winning a race in 1955.  I made the jacket and cap my father is wearing.

I owned shares of my father’s horses off and on for many years until he was better established and my own expenses with four children didn’t leave enough to support a horse.  My father continued to be a top driver/trainer in the southwestern Ohio area for over 25 years.  In 1978, at age 66, he was driving a horse called Peter Horn at a track in northern Kentucky.  Just after finishing second in a photo finish, he died on the track of a heart attack.  Our family said they knew if he died on a track, he died happy except that he would have wanted to be the winner.  This is a winning photo of my father and Peter Horn in 1975.

The following notes are from my journal dated August 20, 1957, when I was 25 years old.  We had just gotten word that my father had been in a serious accident in a race and were waiting on word from the hospital.

“I’m thinking of Daddy when we were both 20 years younger and he was the very ultimate in my life – always right, always strong and unemotional, very intelligent and very strict.  He was the supreme authority in all things and the one I strove hardest to please.  I liked pancakes and chili because Daddy did; I love peanuts and chocolate drops because he did; I was thrilled at harness races and baseball games because they were thrilling to him.  I tried to emulate him, too.  He was quiet and sober so I thought it giddy to talk or laugh too much.  He was always tops in school so I tried to make perfect grades because less was unacceptable.”

Today – 100 years after he was born – I remember my father, the most influential person in my life.

Johnny and Lillian, 1933