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