Tag Archives: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

1938: A magnanimous Matron of Honor

For Sepia Saturday 383, here is a prequel to Bridesmaids revisisted prompted by a family photo — the story of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s trip down the aisle as Matron of Honor for her younger sister Margaret.

My grandmother stands tall as Matron of Honor (1938). From right: The groom Ralph J. Rothbell, the bride Margaret Catherine Stoutner, the maid of honor Liz (Stoutner) Laurence and the best man, possibly the groom’s brother Spencer Rothbell. Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

On Monday, 6 June 1938 my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner of Gloversville, N.Y., had the pleasure of announcing the upcoming wedding of her youngest daughter Margaret, to Ralph J. Rothbell from nearby Amsterdam.

News of the planned nuptials — made public at a bridge party Celia hosted — made it onto page three of the Gloversville and Johnstown Leader-Republican newspaper the next day.

My great-grandmother was undoubtedly thrilled that she would finally be Mother of the Bride — but I have to wonder what my grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence made of it all.

Headstrong oldest child

My maternal grandmother Liz, born in 1905, was the oldest child of Celia and Andrew P. “Pete” Stoutner, who were both first-generation German-Americans. Her younger brother Andy was born in 1909 and younger sister Margaret came along in 1914.

At age 18, over Celia’s objections, my headstrong grandmother Liz eloped to marry the boy next door — my Italian-American grandfather Antonio W. Laurence.

In A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes I described the events leading up to my grandparents’ fateful 1924 trip to Detroit, Michigan, where they united in a marriage that lasted a lifetime.

Healing past rifts

Wedding announcement for Andrew J. Stoutner and Anna Grimm from page 12 of the Gloversville and Johnstown, N.Y., Morning Herald (2 July 1934). Source: Old Fulton New York Postcards

Celia did not get to be Mother of the Bride at that ceremony — but she was the proud Mother of the Groom when her son Andy married Anna Grimm in Gloversville on 30 June 1934.

Small wedding parties were common during the Great Depression and Anna chose her own Matron of Honor — so although my grandmother Liz surely attended Uncle Andy’s ceremony, she was not in the bridal party.

By the time Aunt Margaret’s wedding was announced in 1938, my grandmother had been married for 14 years and had two daughters — my mom Peg (born in 1926) and my Aunt Rita (born in 1929).

Engagement announcement for Margaret Stoutner and Ralph J. Rothbell, from page three of the Gloversville and Johnstown, N.Y., Leader-Republican (7 June 1938). Source: Old Fulton New York Postcards

The success of Liz and Tony’s marriage and the passage of time appear to have healed past rifts over her elopement.

My grandmother magnanimously agreed to be Margaret’s Matron of Honor and finally got to walk down the aisle before friends and family — including her once-disapproving mother — in this valued supporting role.

Holding a large bouquet, Liz stood tall beside her sister Margaret in a photo of the wedding party — and Celia probably felt a mother’s pride to have all of her children married and moving on with their lives.

Up next: My grandmother Liz, at age 1, sports a different kind of white dress. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1948: Aunt Rita at nineteen

On 31 Oct. 1948, my mom’s younger sister — Rita Mary Laurence –sat down and penned a letter to a family friend, who recently shared a copy with me.

Although it was Halloween night, Aunt Rita must not have greeted the trick-or-treaters because she didn’t  mention any ghouls or goblins in her missive.

Aunt Rita’s college home

Aunt Rita visited us at Whispering Chimneys, our farm in Altamont, N.Y.  (circa 1953). That’s me as a child sitting on my aunt Rita Mary Laurence’s lap. Next to me is my maternal grandmother Elizabeth and in front of her, on the step, is my maternal grandfather Tony. The others are my grandparents’ friends. Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

What she did write provides a window into her life when she was a 19-year-old college student living at 63 Van Schoick Ave. in Albany, New York.

Dear Alicia, What have you been doing for excitement lately???? As you can see from my address, I’ve changed my residence in Albany again. This place is really wonderful — I’m practically one of the family — more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Training for a medical career

Aunt Rita’s new home was near the college where she was studying to be a blood bank technician. She was clearly excited to be preparing for her professional career.

They’ve really been giving us the business at school this year — I think all the prof’s are going test crazy or at least it seems that way to me.

But truthfully it’s really fun — at the lab we’ve done all kinds of blood tests — we work on each other when we do venipuncture — lose more blood that way — We’ve also fixed, cut , and stained tissue sections for examination…

Wanderlust takes hold

And then came the hint of wanderlust that would send Rita cross-country six years later for a job in San Diego — a move that left my high-strung grandmother beside herself.

Tell your mother to start looking for a job for me — of course I don’t get thru here for 1 1/2 years yet but when I do I don’t want to stay in this next of the woods any longer than necessary — !!!!!!!!!

Alicia’s mother was a childhood friend of my maternal grandmother — Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — from Gloversville, New York. She had moved miles away to Florida and here was Aunt Rita considering doing the same.

But first — about a month after writing this letter — Rita would stand up as maid of honor at my parents’ November 1948 wedding.

We’ve got everything almost set for Peg’s wedding — I’m to be maid of honor — that should be priceless to say the least — Guess that’s all for now…Write soon — don’t follow my example. Love, Rita.

A precious letter in Rita’s voice

For a few years after college Aunt Rita remained geographically close to our family. She was around for my birth (when she stayed with my mom and dad to help out) and my early childhood, as shown above (when I lived at Whispering Chimneys with my parents and maternal grandparents).

I even remember going with my grandmother to visit Aunt Rita’s basement apartment in Albany when I was little. Used to country living, I was scared by the rickety metal doors on the sidewalk near the corner store — until my grandmother explained they covered stairs to the basement, just like at Dorothy’s farmhouse in Wizard of Oz.

But in 1955, Rita finally made the fateful trip to California, got a job, set up house and never looked back — and my later memories of her are from photos, home movies, family stories, presents at Christmas, and her occasional visits back east.

So the gift of this letter — from a young Aunt Rita in her own voice — is precious indeed.

Up next, one more maid of honor: My maternal grandmother in 1938. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Liz: My modern grandmother- #atozchallenge

Liz: My modern grandmother. Twelfth 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!

My maternal grandmother — Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — lived at Whispering Chimneys with us when I was little. Gramps called her Lisbeth and her friends called her Liz.

But I came up with her family nickname — Boom — when I mispronounced Grandma as Booma. The shortened version stuck and seemed to capture her assertive no-nonsense personality.

Boom and me in Gloversville, N.Y., shortly before we moved to Whispering Chimneys. My maternal grandmother Liz was always fashionably dressed and accessorized, with every hair in place. Scan: Molly Charboneau

She was young as grandmothers went — only 45 when I was born — and always kept up with the latest fashions, footwear and accessories. She was modern in other ways, too.

While Grandma Charboneau (my dad’s mother) never learned to drive — Boom loved to get behind the wheel. She wasn’t shy about hitting the gas pedal, either.

Boom even drove cross-country once with my Aunt Rita — Mom’s younger sister. And after we moved to the farm, she wasted no time setting up her business.

Boom’s antique shop

While Gramps got his shop going out in the barn, Boom cleared a building down by the road and opened an antique shop specializing in country and early American antiques and collectibles.

“She absolutely loved that shop,” my mom told me. And I did, too.

I remember the faint smell of powdered ginger when I opened some of the tins — and the old rocking butter churn from the shop that she used as a decoration up by the house.

Whispering Chimneys Antiques, my maternal grandmother’s antiques and collectibles shop at the farm. Scan: Molly Charboneau

Boom named her business Whispering Chimneys Antiques and took full advantage of its location along Route 20 — a major thoroughfare before the New York State Thruway was built.

To stock the shop, Boom and Gramps went to local auctions — and made some fast friends there. They also belonged to the Grange up the road, which helped her network in the local farming community.

Besides all of that, Boom was like a second mother to me. According to my baby book, she was right there alongside my mom for the big events in my young life — like my first word or when I walked for the first time.

A well-matched couple

I didn’t know it then, but my grandmother eloped at 18 to marry my grandfather against her mother’s wishes — which I wrote about in A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes.

Strong-willed and determined, Boom applied that same spirit to her antiques business — and at the farm she and Gramps appeared to be a well matched couple.

When she had ideas, Gramps had the practical skills to assist — building this and that as needed, like a sign for the shop or a bank of windows to let light in.

Together they made a good team. And they were a beloved part of my family team for my first seven years.

Up nextMailbox madnessPlease stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Family Recipe Friday: Boom’s Instant Jubilee Sauce

Today is Family Recipe Friday in the genealogy blogging world, which brings to mind a simple, elegant recipe from my maternal grandmother.

My mom’s mother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence was fairly modern as grandmothers went. Just 45 when I was born, her lifetime spanned most of the 20th Century. She came of age and married in the Roaring Twenties and was still pretty active when I hit my teens in the Sixties.

Boom's recipe box.
My maternal grandmother’s recipe box. Boom was an artist who taught Early American Tole Painting. She hand painted her tin recipe box in a style that reflected her German-American heritage. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Unlike my friends’ grandmothers, who appeared more traditional in their sensible house dresses, my grandmother was tall, trim and stylish — a clothes horse from a young age who would not be caught dead without a coordinated outfit, jewelry and every hair in place.

We all called her Boom — from my childhood mispronunciation of Grandma as Booma — and the family nickname seemed to capture her outgoing, no-nonsense personality.

An elegant shortcut

In her early years, when she was raising her daughters (my mom Peggy and my aunt Rita), Boom probably did a fair amount of old-style cooking from scratch — because she always turned out fantastic family meals for the holidays.

But by the time I came along, she was all about shortcuts and time-saving recipes. Boom was an early adopter of Jell-O, which made its way to the table in a variety of flavors as both a dessert and a salad. And she was always on the lookout — in newspapers, magazines and from friends and family — for quicker ways to make the old standbys.

img_4588_2
Instant Jubilee Sauce recipe handwritten by my grandmother. This simple, elegant recipe still works today, producing a sauce just as impressive as its more complicated counterparts. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Enter Boom’s hand-written recipe for Instant Jubilee Sauce, which I found tucked away in her carefully painted recipe box (she was also an artist who taught Early American Tole Painting.)

Did she copy it from a printed recipe? From a cookbook? Or was it dictated by a friend or relative? I have no way of knowing. But typical of my grandmother’s style, the recipe is as simple as it is elegant, and I decided to make it for the holidays last year.

A ruby red holiday treat

The key to to the recipe’s success is finding just the right cherry preserves — dark, sweet and jewel-colored — so the finished sauce is a deep, ruby red when it cascades down the vanilla ice cream over which it is served.

I tried it out at my annual trim-a-tree party in December, to the oohs and aahs of my gathered guests. With plenty of port still on hand, I made another batch and brought it to a neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party.

“I hope you didn’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen cooking this sauce,” she said, apologizing for the late notice about her impromptu get together.

I had to smile. This was just the sort of comment my grandmother would have loved to hear about a shortcut recipe that could not be distinguished from its more complicated counterparts.

And preparing and serving Boom’s Instant Jubilee Sauce was a special treat for me — like having her along for the holidays one more time!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Gesundheit: A little linguistic legacy

If you are several generations removed from immigrant ancestors, you may find yourself longing — as I did — for some lingering evidence of a heritage connection within your own family.

Tissues. My family’s use of the word “gesundheit” when someone sneezed was likely passed down from my maternal German immigrant ancestors. By: Chris Costes

My advice is to pay careful attention, because — as I discovered with my maternal German ancestors — the evidence you seek might be found in the most unlikely place.

My German heritage comes from my maternal grandmother Elizabeth Christina Stoutner — who eloped with Anthony [Di Lorenzo] Laurence, the Italian-American boy next door in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

My mom — their oldest daughter — grew up near both my grandparents’ families, with many reminders of her ethnic roots.

Where were my ethnic clues?

But off my mom went to college. Then there was a career move, marriage to my dad, children and more moves — so by the time I was growing up in the suburbs of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., we were an assimilated, Baby Boom family living several hours’ drive from our nearest relatives.

I envied my friends who had closer ties to their immigrant heritage — as I enjoyed perogies and kolachkis with my Eastern European friend up the block or watched a school friend’s Italian grandmother lay handmade pasta to dry over the backs of her kitchen chairs.

Alas, there were few ethnic clues in the basic meat-and-potatoes dinner my family sat down to most evenings. But then someone would sneeze, and we would all say, “Gesundheit!” — and presto, there was my first heritage hint.

A healthful heritage hint

Gesundheit means “health” in German, but I never gave this much thought as a child. It was just something our family said. Not until at school, when I heard others say “bless you,” did I realize that not everyone said gesundheit.

Many years passed before I delved into why — and many more years still until I seriously researched my German heritage and made the connection to this salutation.

It turns out the word gesundheit arrived here with early German immigrants — like my ancestors, who came to these shores in the mid 1800s — then proliferated through the general population as German immigration picked up.

“Used to wish good health to a person who has just sneezed,” according to thefreedictionary.com, the word’s frequency of use over the decades is depicted by an online n-gram graph.

Who would have imagined that as my German-American ancestors sneezed down through the  generations, they would pass along the hearty response “Gesundheit!” as a little linguistic legacy from one generation to the next?

Or that their healthful German salutation would be passed from my immigrant Mimm, Stoutner, Albeitz and Edel great, great grandparents to their children, then to my maternal grandmother, my mom and me?

Such a small ancestral bequest — but one I am reminded of whenever I hear someone sneeze!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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