Tag Archives: #AtoZChallenge

Whistleberries: My first nickname – #atozchallenge

Whistleberries: My first nickname. Twenty-third of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — I’m in the home stretch!

My maternal grandparents lived with our family at Whispering Chimneys — but they had their own set of friends and social life over on their side of the farmhouse.  And it was one of their friends who gave me my first nickname: Whistleberries.

My grandmother (we called her Boom) ran a country antique and collectibles shop down by the road. To keep the shop stocked, she and Gramps went to country auctions. That’s where they met Electa and Floyd, who became regular visitors to the farm.

I called them Aunt Electa and Uncle Floyd — though they weren’t related to us — and they seemed to be another well-matched couple. Electa was outgoing with a hearty laugh and personality as big as all outdoors — while I remember Floyd as more subdued.

At the dining table

During one of Electa and Floyd’s visits, my grandparents must have been babysitting me, because we were all gathered around their dining table together. My grandmother made Boston baked beans.

On my maternal grandparents’ porch at Whispering Chimneys circa 1951. That’s me in the middle on my Aunt Rita’s lap, with my grandmother to my left and my grandfather in front of her, next to the unknown lady in the dark dress. The couple in the foreground looks right to be Uncle Floyd and Aunt Electa. Scan: Molly Charboneau

When Boom brought the steaming crock to the table, Electa said, “Well, what do you know — whistleberries!”

She was referring to the beans’ gas-inducing properties — but the idea of whistling berries started me laughing and I couldn’t stop!

After that, every time Electa visited all she had to say was “whistleberries” and I would collapse with laughter. Over time this morphed into, “Hey, Whistleberries!” when she saw me — and thus my first nickname was born.

The big hug

The other thing I remember about Aunt Electa was her big hug. If my brother Mark and I were around, she’d head right for us with her arms outstretched — and when she hugged you, you knew it!

In fact Mark, who was only about three, used to stiffen up in anticipation as soon as he heard her voice — and when Electa hugged him his little face would turn red!

Electa and Floyd were just two of many friends in my grandparents’ lives — but they were among the most memorable from my childhood.

Canajoharie country auctions

I wondered what became of Electa and Floyd, so I did some research and found Aunt Electa’s obtuary on Find-a-Grave. Turns out they were from Canajoharie in Montgomery County, New York — which is probably where my grandparents them on an antiques buying foray.

Friends, associates and neighbors like these can help us find our forbears in a sea of records — and they can also tell us a bit about our ancestors’ lives.

Aunt Electa and Uncle Floyd are prime examples, and I am so lucky to have met them.

Up next – X-mas at Whispering Chimneys. Please stop back!

 © 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Vaccination: A doctor’s office drama – #atozchallenge

Vaccination: A doctor’s office drama. Twenty-second of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — I’m in the home stretch!

At some point in my young life, maybe when I was five or six, I had to go for a vaccination. I’m not sure what it was for. I just remember it involved getting a shot — and I was nervous about that needle.

Mom drove me to the doctor’s office — up Carmen Road past St. Madeline Sophie’s Roman Catholic Church where we went every Sunday. Along the way, she tried to buck me up.

“It will feel like a little pinch, then it will be over,” she told me. That didn’t sound so bad. It was probably more the newness of the experience that bothered me — entering unknown territory and not sure what to expect.

At the doctor’s office

When we arrived at the office, there was a doctor (he wore a white coat over his suit) and a nurse (she wore a white uniform with a sweater and a little hat).  My mom and I were both in dresses (folks dressed up to go to the doctor back then).

Doctor’s office. I remember one particular childhood vaccination because of the swooning drama right after I got my shot! By: goblinbox_(queen_of_ad_hoc_bento)

The nurse seemed nice. She picked me up and sat me on the examining table — where I swung my dangling feet back and forth nervously.

As my mom stood behind me, the nurse pinched my arm and quickly gave me the shot.

Mom was right, it really wasn’t so bad — and I might have forgotten all about it, except for what happened next.

A swooning drama

The nurse suddenly got a shocked look on her face and rushed around the table behind me. “Doctor!” she called out — and I turned around to see Mom slumped on the floor. She had fainted!

Next thing I knew, the doctor rushed in and they helped my mom onto the other examining table where they fussed over her until she came around. Meanwhile, I just sat there with my sore arm — all but forgotten.

How could I know Mom couldn’t stand the sight of needles? Or that all the while she was telling me not to be nervous, she was probably nervous herself? Or that she had to overcome her own trepidation to be sure I got my shot?

For years I laughingly thought of this incident as the time I was upstaged by Mom — but now I realize it was one of those small acts of everyday bravery that it takes to be a mother.

Up next – Whistleberries: My first nickname. Please stop back!

 © 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Under the pines: Family reunions – #atozchallenge

Under the pines: Family reunions. Twenty-first of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — I’m in the home stretch!

If I had to pick a spot at Whispering Chimneys where my genealogy journey began, it would have to be under the pines.

That was the only shady location large enough to accommodate a picnic table and benches. So under the pines is where my parents and grandparents entertained relatives in the summer — and where I first met many of my extended family members.

Day to day, there might be a car parked under the pines to keep it cool. And sometimes I sat under there to read. But this spot really livened up when family came calling — mainly my maternal grandparents’ siblings and their families from Mom’s Gloversville, N.Y., home town.

My mom’s family from Gloversville

My grandmother’s younger brother — Uncle Andy Stoutner — would be there with his wife and two daughters. And her younger sister — Aunt Margaret (Stoutner) Rothbell, a widow — would attend with her daughter.

A family picnic under the pines at Whispering Chimneys. I got to know my maternal extended family at these summertime family reunions. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

Gramps would invite his only brother — Uncle Joe Laurence — and his wife and two daughters. And before she moved to California in 1956, Mom’s younger sister — Aunt Rita Laurence — would join us, too.

On the farm, we had no relatives living close by — except maybe Aunt Rita who had an apartment for a while in Albany. So it was through these summer reunions that I got to know some of my mom’s family and hear about the old days when they all lived in Gloversville together.

North Country visits to my paternal relatives

My dad’s Charboneau family — his parents, four brothers and their families — lived further away in New York’s North Country. So we usually went to visit them on car trips — making a flurry of stops at Holland Patent, Sequoit, Boonville or at the Adirondack lakeside camps they all repaired to in the summer.

In this way — either under the pines at the farm or on summer road trips — the idea of a larger family began to take root during my childhood. Who knew that three decades would pass before this early awareness would finally grow into a pursuit of my family history?

Yet most genealogists will tell you that’s often the way the process works — that the time for memory and reflection usually arrives at midlife after the tasks of younger years are completed.

That’s the way it was for me — and I’m grateful that when I finally decided to look back and begin researching my family, my childhood memories from under the pines were still there to draw on.

Up next – Vaccination: A doctor’s office drama. Please stop back!

 © 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Third blogiversary – #atozchallenge

Third blogiversary! Twentieth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — entering the home stretch!

Today I’m celebrating the third blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy — so I’m going off-theme for a bit of horn-tooting before resuming my childhood posts.

Looking back over these three years I can hardly believe Molly’s Canopy began as a way to chronicle my Union Army ancestor’s US Civil War years — and today is part of a second A to Z Challenge!

What an incredible family history journey it’s been — filled with new research, ancestral discoveries, friends, cousins and blogging experiences.

A year of challenges

Last year, I participated in  my first A to Z Challenge, and enjoyed it so much that I’m back again. The A to Z Challenge is a great way to meet other bloggers and to give and receive mutual support!

Third blogiversary: What  an incredible family journey it’s been!  This vintage number seems to fit with my nostalgic Altamont childhood theme. By: Alan Levine

I’m grateful for all the comments and well wishes on Molly’s Canopy — and for all the interesting blogs and bloggers I’ve engaged with, too.

In November, I also participated in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) focusing on genealogy road trip tips to organize my notes into a blog-to-book outline. Now I need to follow up and get that published!

The sagas continue

Apart from blog challenges, Molly’s Canopy has evolved into a saga format featuring multi-part series on particular ancestors or families. In this way, I hope to slowly but surely bring my separate family lines together — and spur my research along the way.

Over the past year, I continued my paternal great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s story by writing about his Civil War pension application process.

My paternal French-Canadian great-great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau, who arrived in New York’s Adirondack region in the 1850s, was introduced — and I wrote about the childhood of his oldest son, my great grandfather Will Charboneau.

For Laurent’s back story, I explored his early life in Quebec and the lives of his parents and siblings after he moved to the US.

This prompted a series about his sister Elise Charbonneau — who tragically lost her first husband and three children, taught school while raising her surviving daughter, and happily married a second time to a widower with three sons.

Short vignettes

Here and there, Molly’s Canopy featured single-post vignettes about my paternal grandparents visiting Times Square on New Year’s Eve 1937, my maternal grandmother’s cherry jubilee sauce recipe and  Geseundheit: A little linguistic legacy about heeding the smallest ancestral clues.

A series on Aunt Rosie Curcio — a younger sister of my maternal great grandmother — celebrated this single, career woman who lived to 105. My mom and I interviewed Aunt Rosie about our Italian ancestors when she was 95, and I wanted to tell her story, too.

My Dempsey (Irish) and Owen (Welsh) ancestors rounded out the blogging year in March when I chronicled my 1993 road trip to Baltimore, Md., their home city, and showcased photos of some of the landmarks in their lives.  Our Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team, which arose in part from earlier Dempsey blog posts, continues to share stories and family discoveries.

Please join me for year four

So that’s the third blogiversary review of Molly’s Canopy. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot — and there’s still so much more to write about my beloved forebears and their lives.

Please subscribe or follow Molly’s Canopy — and join me for year four when weekly blogging resumes after the 2017 A to Z Challenge.

Up next – Under the pines: Family reunions. Please stop back!

 © 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Standing up to the school bus bully

Standing up to the school bus bully. Nineteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — I’m more than halfway there!

To get to first grade from our farm Whispering Chimneys I had to board a school bus with forty or so rural children — many older than me — for the half-hour drive to Altamont Elementary.

My Kindergarten trips came and went with little fanfare — I think we had a bus of our own, since we only went for half a day.

But my first grade bus — filled with kids from first to sixth grade — brought life’s starker realities crashing into my little world.

Multi-grade mayhem

I remember waiting by the telephone pole at the end of our driveway then entering the big yellow vehicle — where the multi-grade mayhem threw me for a loop.

For the sixth graders, though, the trip was old hat. They’d been there before and had mastered the bus culture — a wild bunch of preteens who pushed the driver’s patience to the limit.

“All right, youse guys, sit down now!” our driver would bellow above the din as we younger children quaked in our seats.

Heading out to first grade the year I stood up to the school bus bully. Scan: Molly Charboneau

But the older kids just ignored him — running out of control in the aisle, kissing in the back seats and bringing blushes to the faces of us youngsters with their rowdy behavior.

“You could hear that bus coming before you could see it,” my father told me years later. And it was sure no picnic being on it!

To calm things down the school authorities established assigned seats. Each bus seat was to hold three children — an older one with two younger kids as “buffers.”

The bully barks his  orders

Wouldn’t you know I ended up with the worst spot — a middle seat halfway back next to Chuck 1, the school bus bully who sat on the aisle. My first-grade classmate Linda, who lived closer to school, got the window.

Chuck laid down his ground rules the first day:”You’re gonna do what I say and no talking.” His overbearing demeanor told us he meant business. The daily ritual went downhill from there.

“Hold my books, and don’t drop them,” he would command, thrusting them at me. Then he’d sneak off in his flannel shirt and cuffed jeans to kiss the girl in the last seat.

Every day it was the same — I had to sit still, hold his books, hold his jacket, stop talking, do whatever he said while he ran amok until the bus driver yelled. I was a nervous wreck.

“What did he do today?” Linda would whisper when Chuck was out of earshot — and I’d quietly fill her in on the latest outrage. She was sympathetic, but she only got on five minutes from school.  I had to ride alone with him most of the way — and I was miserable!

Taking a stand

I don’t know if I told my parents (Mom says I didn’t) — but maybe Linda told hers or we might have complained to our teacher or perhaps someone overheard us telling other kids on the playground.

But somehow the school got wind of Chuck’s misbehavior — because one day, out of the blue, our principal Mr. Alland showed up at my first grade classroom and called me out into the hall.

There next to him stood Chuck. I had never seen him off the bus before; the older kids went to class in another wing. Standing in the hallway next to a grown man, he suddenly appeared weak and small.

“I understand this boy has been bothering you on the bus. Is that true?” Mr. Alland asked. I was nervous. I never expected it would come to this — a one-to-one showdown with my tormentor.

But when I looked at Chuck — the boy who had bullied me, who I never wanted to sit with again — I knew I had to stand my ground. “Yes, it’s true,” I said. “No, it’s not!” wailed Chuck — but Mr. Alland just looked down at him and shook his head.

The next morning when I got on the bus, I had the seat all to myself. Chuck had been permanently moved to another seat — probably up front  where the bus driver could keep a better eye on him.

When Linda asked “What happened?” after we picked her up, all I could do was smile.

Up next – Tadah: Third blogiversary! Please stop back!

 © 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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  1. Not his real name.