Location: Seville, Medina, Ohio, United States of America
Surnames/tags: Reader Crawford
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BESSIE ADELAIDE CRAWFORD
I, Bessie Adelaide Reader was born May 2Oth - 1894, in Canton, Ohio, second daughter of Henry A. and Jennie Hall Reader. Martha Mae was born July 5, 1892 in Newport, Ky.
My Father was born in London, England Dec. 26, 1867 and Mother in Newport, Ky. Aug. l, 1867.
Father's folks had moved from London, England to Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada when he was about three years of age. There were other children by a former marriage of his Mother, and a sister Jessie and brother Walter, called Wally. His step brother Tom Jones was an endearing soul, though his life was spoiled by drink.
I do not justly know why Father went, in later years to Cincinnati, Ohio, but that is where he met and married Mother. He was only about sixteen years of age when he first came to the States to learn the tool-making trade.
When I was born, or before the 1893 depression, he worked at Dueber Watch Co. in Canton, but was out of work for seven or eight months during that time. I can remember Mother telling of him using their last penny to buy a scalper's ticket to Cleveland, in search of work.
He obtained a Job at the Warner-Swazey Co. where they made telescopes, and I can recall as little children, looking night after night thru one of these telescopes, at the moon and stars. Dad was an honest, hard worker and held many fine positions later on.
Mother was not very settled, so we moved about every year. She had moved twenty six times when they were married 25 years, but it happened that we did not have to change schools each time, which was fortunate for us children. I first attended Giddings school, as it was then called. We had to walk a block or more down Jessie St. where we then lived, then about three blocks on Central and a block up Giddings. We could also go Cedar Ave. way which was about the same distance. One time when coming home,the watchman at a garage on our street tried to grab me but the other girls pulled me away. He had caught a little girl and kept her locked in a room for three days. I was really frightened.
We attended Euclid Ave. Baptist Church where Dad & Mother were faithful members. Mrs. John D. Rockefeller was Supt. of our S. S. [ed:Superintendant of our Sunday School] in those early years and how we children loved her. She was a lovely christian and I shall never forget how beautiful she looked in purple velvet, against her lovely white hair. She used to bring us beautifully colored leaves in the fall of the year. When just a little girl, we were invited out to their estate, to take a ride around the grounds. We rode in a three seated carriage drawn by four beautiful horses, and how I did enjoy that ride. Mr. John D. Rockefeller always thought so much of my Father, who was a deacon in the church and also had a very large class of young men, in the S. S.
Martha and I were baptized in this lovely old church at the ages of 12 and l0 respectively. Forty others were baptized with us, at Easter time.
When I was about nine years old, we moved to Lakewood, Oh1o, really like a suburb of Cleveland. In those days, my Father could have bought land very cheap. Detroit St. was only half paved and there were still some farms on it, but we weren't blessed with riches and Dad would not have thought to borrow money for such a deal.
We lived first on Olivewood Ave. and walked quite a distance to grade school on Warren Rd. That school was across the street from the high school, which we later attended. From Olivewood we moved to Irene Ave. and went to school around the corner on Detroit St. It was from this school my sister and I both graduated.
Our next move was to Alameda Ave. and that was a long walk out to high school on Warren Rd. My poor feet often froze and I would often have to stop in some store to get warmed up. Dad never felt we should take the street car as he didn't think he could afford the daily fare.
Each year in August, Dad would take his vacation, so we always went to his old home in Ingersoll, for the two weeks. Poor Mother always had hay fever so it was a real effort for her, but we children had a glorious time. Grandfather Reader always bought us lots of candy and dear old Grandmother would scold and scold. We thought he was Just "It!' He had a wonderful swing for us, hung from high up in one of the big trees in his front yard. We had nice playmates there too, but Martha was the one who always got in scrapes. She loved to pinch and tease. One time she refused to listen to Dad and started to cross a bog, balancing herself on a log. Over she went and what a sight she was in her formerly lovely white dress, for Mother always kept us looking so nice.
We used to take rides over a floating bridge stretched over a small lake of quicksand, and always heard the story of the young couple who had gone over the side, horse, buggy and all, and drowned. There were no sides to the bridge, so I always trembled when we went over.
Near Dad's home was a beautiful creek with the clearest, cold water and there we went to gather water cress. Along with the fish we caught in the old pond, we had a tasty meal.
Martha was only a couple of years my senior, but she always felt much older and more experienced. Often when I would want to do something or listen, she would say, "Bessie, you are much too young." She had a way of getting things away from me by speaking a piece and Mother said, I would listen with open mouth and hand over the desired article.
After a few years, they started a Baptist church in Lakewood and Father decided to leave dear old Euclid Ave. and lend his services out there. So, we were charter members, first meeting in a little one room building, which I think had been used for a voting place. They soon built a frame building next to the school on Detroit St. where we had formerly gone. A.precious young man, Cyrus Eaton, came as our pastor and we all loved him dearly. He was a nephew of Dr. C. A. Eaton who had baptized Martha and me. We had a couple of men in our church who seemed possessed of an evil spirit and they made the way hard for our young preacher. He became very dis• couraged and left to go into the business world. He was very prosperous - married had a large family and the old friends who loved him so much, were forgotten.
One time when Martha and I were very young, Dad gave us each .25¢ to buy a few fire-crackers. It was the 3rd of July and when we got to the store, a drunken man came in and told us to buy all we wanted - he would pay for them. Did we have fun? We bought sky-rockets, roman candles, everything we could think of. It ran up to $12.00, which bought a good bit in those days. Even Dad had a good time with them, thoug h he did scold us for taking them.
In the 4th grade I had a dear little boy friend named Alfred, who brought me candy or gum every day and I liked that.
Martha and I both attended Lakewood High School on Warren Rd. When in my freshman year, Mother had a nervous break down, so we were excused whenever she needed us. We had moved way up on Warren Rd, the same street, so did not have far to go.
When Mother was better, we moved to Lincoln Ave. in a new house, which was very attractive. A Mr. Willard House came to live with us as he needed a place so badly and was well recommended to Mother. Martha would vie with me in doing things to please him and to win his praise. Sometimes I won out, but Martha usually stole the show.
We had plenty of boy friends and good times, but Dad always put church first, so if the boys wouldn't go, we were out a date. Somehow, in looking back, I'm thankful for Dad. He was strict and oft times we fooled him by opening and shutting the front door and making believe the boy friend had left.
Most precious to me was my school chum Grace Andrews. We spent most of our school years together, went places together and had many of the same friends. I always loved to go to her home on Grace Ave. over night. Mrs. Andrews would fix, "floating island" for me and I enjoyed that. Her father and mother both were very quiet and Grace was the only child.
About 19l2, Dad took a position out in Omaha, Nebraska as Supt. of a wagon and road machine Co. So, we moved again, to an apartment in a building where was a christian science church; a dance hall and various stores. That was a noisy place but Dad thought an apartment best until he could find a place in Omaha. Martha had graduated but I had only a few months to go. We were so often entertained that I got back in my studies and never finished. I've often wished I had stayed and graduated. The school in Omaha was way down town and four stories. My health wasn't too good and all those stairs sounded impossible.
I cried all the way from Cleveland to Omaha - those days I thought Cleveland was the only place, but we found dear friends, as one finds wherever they go. We attended Immanuel Baptist Church, taught in the S. S.; sang in the choir and Dad as always had a large class of men. I had a class of 20 little boys one time and when I got thru on a Sunday morning, I was a mussed up teacher. I couldn't stop them loving me.
Martha had left behind, the one she loved and though I was somewhat attached to a young Clevelander, I found other boy friends had many good times. However, Omaha brought to me the saddest experience of my young life. In refusing to marry a very nice young man, seven years my senior, he took his own life and brought sorrow to his own family and others.
While in Omaha we went thru the awful tornado of 1915 when around 1000 lives were lost. Dad took his men out to help recover the bodies of those killed and what a trial that was. He would come home looking like a ghost.
In Jan. 19l5, Dad moved to the little town of Seville, Ohio, to help start the Union Chain Co. That was our first experience in a small town and many thing happened to amuse us. One day I called a friend and central said, "Oh! he isn't home - he Just went down the street." That is service, don't you think?
The man responsible for Dad's coming had told us of the lovely home he had gotten for us. It was a beautiful night, the ground was white with snow, Bo Mother and I walked out to see what the house looked like. We were quite thrilled with the outward appearance and went to sleep quite happy. But, Oh! the next morning. The description given us was a lovely home with bath, hard wood floors, steam heat, solarium and what more could the heart wish. Yes, the floors were hard wood - had a nice gentle slope; the bath tub was tin, painted white and encased in wood. The toilet was the old box type - box up high with long chain. In the corner of the bathroom was a large tank to hold the water for all uses. On the doors were hooks as on a screendoor; the solarium, about 3 x 4 could hold a few plants.
When our furniture arrived, we moved right in and Mother and I sat down and cried. The basement was a dirt hole and Mother never entered there; rats had occupied it for sometime, but Dad and I had to go down to pump water with the hand pump. We worked until midnight and at last had that big tank full of water. We were so weary but went to bed feeling we had really accomplished a big Job.
Morning came - we went into the bathroom and no water!! The toilet was cracked and all our lovely water had leaked out. Some leaked into the plaster over the kitchen and when doing dishes, down came a large section of the celling right into our nice dish water.
We couldn't have been more discouraged but that wasn't all. It was winter and Grandmother came for a visit. We put her in the latest addition to the house and she about froze. Yes, the water in the vessel under the bed, did. We thawed poor Grandmother out and planned someway to make her more comfortable. As I recall, she didn't stay long.
Upstairs you had to walk very carefully, for many of the floor boards, real wide ones, were loose. In stepping on one end, the other would fly up and 1f you weren't very careful, your feet would go thru the ceiling of a downstairs room. All one could say for that house was - it looked pretty in the moonlight if you were on the outside. We soon found another place but when we were about ready to move, the present tenant came to Mother thus, "Mrs. Reader, I suppose I should have told you, but we do have bedbugs, though I haven't seen any lately." That was about all poor Mother needed, believe me. We moved and found no bedbugs but plenty of dirt. There was an old washer in the basement which contained the largest rat I had ever seen before or since. It took a lot of work but we were finally settled quite comfortably.
It was in this home where Claud wooed and won me. Being the new girl in town I had other offers but my love was all for Claud. We were married Sept. 9 - 1916 on Mother's and Dad's 25th anniversary. For awhile we lived at home, until we could get possession of the little home we had bought, in Wadsworth. The following March we moved and had lots of fun buying and fixing things for our own home. It seemed almost a dream when war came and we had to break up our home but life brings many trials, separations and sorrows, so that was our first. When Claud returned and we went back, we fixed the house all over, adding another bed-room and a garage. I helped in it all but we had a very excellent painter and carpenter, so I really learned much of the art of painting, which did me well in future years. The things we had bought before the war or when first married, had advanced to 3 or 4 times the price we had paid. Thus we were out several hundred dollars, but so happy to be back together again.
In Sept. 1919 we lost our first baby, a little boy and on Jan. 2l - 192l, Wayne Lewis was born at home. We then had no hospital in Wadsworth. He weighed only 4 3/4 lbs. but how we loved that tiny fellow. He never did put on much fat but seemed to grow in strength. My dear neighbor, Grandma Freeborn asked me one day if I loved Wayne. I was quite shocked and asked why she said that. "Well, Bessie dear, if you love him, please don't wash him so much." She told me I washed all the color out of him. I was so cranky those days and even hung a little sign around his neck, "Please do not kiss me." I used that on the others too, but as more came, I became more accustomed to a little dirt on them.
Harriet Hall was born Mar. l - 1922, the first baby girl born in the new hospital, and the second baby. My neighbor had beat me by only a few hours. I never had to make Harriet eat - she was very healthy and grew steadily in weight.
Arthur Reader arrived July 25 - 1925 at Wadsworth Hospital and he too was a fine healthy boy. The spring before Arthur came, we moved out on old 224, now Rt. 97, having bought 20 acres, on which to start an orchard. The old house had l2 rooms, no furnace and no water system, so Claud spent a lot on fixing things convenient for me. He built a large new chimney with fireplaces up and downstairs. The basement was in a terrible condition; the rentors had let their waste water run down there, so the stench was bad. Claud had to scrape off about 6 inches of the soil and sprinkled lime all over. With the windows open, we finally had a nice smelling basement and then he cemented the whole thing.
On Dec. 6 -- 1925 Claud Craig arrived - born at home with dear Auntie Scott caring for us both, as no one wanted the responsibility of the other children.
Auntie Scott, as we lovingly called her, lived back of our orchard and helped me thru the hard years, washing, ironing, cleaning, canning, keeping the children and making herself almost indispensable to us. The children so loved her and were always glad to see us go away, so she would stay with them. She always had interesting things to tell them of happenings in her own life. When Claud was about a year old, we almost lost him with pnemonla and it was Auntie Scott who really saved his life. For this we never ceased to thank her. She has gone from us but we ever hold the memory of her, very dear.
Dr. Melville Miller was our doctor and brought all our babies into the world. He told them at the hospital that he knew if they treated me nice I would be back every year as we were raising pickers for our orchard. When he first saw the tiny trees planted in the orchard he said he would never live to see any fruit on them. We fooled him and gave him the first great big peach. I think it weighed around l 1/4 lb. - it was really a huge one, but we had proved those little trees would one day bear fruit.
Our family was now six, with three dear sons and one precious daughter. Those were busy years Indeed.
In 1930 Mother and Dad Reader and Mother's sister, Lucy, came down to live with us, as Dad had retired from his work in Cleveland. We had to change things around and fixed an upstairs apartment for them, though for awhile we all ate together.
I canned and canned, sold peaches, helped grade apples along with the others. We made our own cider and with Dad's filter invention, we had it so clear, you could read thru the jug. People came miles to get our cider.
It was a hard day for me when our first child, Wayne, took the school bus to enter first grade. He went forth like a little general and as the others had to go, he took over in caring for them.
We had a dear dog; Fluff we called her and that she was after a nice bath. Arthur's first grade teacher gave her to us and we had her for many years. We all loved her so much and we thought her to be very intelligent, though our neighbor boy vied with our children as to the brilliance of their dog "Rover." At the end Rover went to the cemetery to die and we found Fluff in the orchard, so Bob, our neighbor said that was proof that their dog was smartest.
One time before Wayne went to school, when he was only about four years old, he and Harriet were out playing together and not hearing them, I went out to see what they were doing. I found the two walking way down the road, Wayne tightly holding her hand and my heart really skipped a beat. I called and called and they turned to come back at once. I'll never know what was in that little mind, or where they were going, but he was very careful of his little sister and she always adored him.
They all graduated from the then Centralized School, now called Isham school, and then from Wadsworth High. It always pleased us so much to hear the teacher's reports on our children's progress and conduct.
One time when Art was in grade school, he came home looking very sheepish. That very morning I had put a new dark green pair of pants on him and he had backed into a basin of clorox on the gym floor. He came home with the seat of those pants all turned yellow, and said, "Mother, I just couldn't help it."
We had many days of hard work but the sweetest memory I have, is when our little family was all gathered in our living room listening to me read. We read many books and they were good listeners. We did have radlo in those days and they listened to Tarzan, HI'Ho' Silver, Amos and Andy and the then popular programs. Perhaps I am a wee bit selfish but I'm rather glad we didn't have TV in those days.
Wayne was the first to go to college, in 1939 to Ohio State Univ. in Columbus. His cousin Howard Armstrong, whom he loved dearly, was also there and that made the going easier for him. As for me, my heart was heavy - I thought I couldn't give any of them up and many the tear, I shed. Through high school days Wayne would come home and sit at the piano playing, "Birds fly over the rainbow why can't I?" I used to go to the basement and cry for somehow it always spoke to me of a foreboding experience to come. It was good to have him come home for week ends and we too made trips to Columbus, He graduated high in his class.
Harriet graduated in 1940 and went to Wheaton College where she enjoyed most four happy years along with her roommate, Jean Maxwell, now Mrs. Gordon Marshall of Africa. Harriet graduated with honors and then went to Dallas, Texas to take a job there. Many the time we drove to Rittman to take her to the train, which they would flag stop for us, and always Mothers' tears.
Art graduated in 194l and also went to Ohio State Univ. to take the course in Physics. He graduated one of only four in this, the hardest course offered. When the two boys would go back to school of a Sunday evening, we often took them as far as Wooster and there they would thumb their way on down. It was always amusing to watch Art stand on the curb thumbing and Wayne standing back away just waiting for Art to be successfull.
Claud Craig graduated in 1943 and left that fall to go to Seminary at Biola in Los Angeles. He took the 4 year course in 3 years. Then he went to Ohio State and as I recall, again took 4 yrs. work in three. From then on he was in college, endeavoring along with teaching to further his studies. It was in June, 1964 he received his Ph. D. from the Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin. He spent that summer teaching in Milwaukee and is now teaching at the Univ. of Tenn. That will be on our way to Florida, where we are now spending the winters, so we hope to stop off for a visit.
In 194l came the second world war and on Feb. 25 - 1945 Wayne was called away to service. Never shall we forget the heart pangs as we saw that train make the last bend in the road and we saw him wave his "goodbye." He loved flying and was in the air corps for only a year when he, along with two others, were killed. It was the B-24 he flew and as another young man had asked him to go with him in place of the instructor, Wayne consented. They were doing practice landings and only had about 20 more minutes to go, when at about 300 feet up, two of the motors shut off. They had no chance to jump as the plane turned over and fell, burning them along with the plane. That was on a Sunday evening and as I sat waiting to go to church I felt I couldn't go. Nothing seemed right but I didn't know then. The next morning I sot up and prepared to go about my work when the phone rang and it was the Newspaper office in Akron, relaying to us their deep sympathy. Oh! what a shock. I called the Western Union and they would give no message over the phone, so I had to wait several hours before that was delivered. Thus on March 5, 1944, our Wayne went to be with the Lord he loved. He had been a precious witness to his buddies and had excelled in all his studies and in the art of flying. They had hoped to keep him on as an instructor, but for our boy, his earthly race had ended.
Art also was called into service- he Joined the Navy and there worked in the electronic field, in which he is still interested. He is a very busy man, pastoring a church besides all his other duties.
They have all married happily, for which we praise God - have dear families and most of all belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. They were all baptized, when young, in the Seville Baptist Church where we went for a number of years after we were married.
Later on we joined the Christian-Missionary Alliance Church where for many years we have enjoyed loving, sweet fellowship.
It is now 1964 - Dad is 74 and I am 70. Our love continues stronger day by day and we live happily content, serving our Lord as we are able and ready for His call to come up higher.
We have precious loved ones near who are so very good to us, Portia and Howard Armstrong try to take the place of our children in doing nice things for us and we have Mary and Clyde Stearns here in Wadsworth. They are our nieces and nephews and we love them all dearly.
There are many little incidents left out - one could go on interminable but in general this is a sketch of the years thus far spent.
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