Feb 202007

My sister Jenny found this and sent it my way. This is my great grandmother (my mother’s mother’s mother) Dorothy Stephens (“Gran’ma”), 49, in the Birmingham Post-Herald on September 30, 1955:

She’s been gone 15 years or so. She adored my sister and me and doted on us endlessly. One of my very favorite things to do as a child was visit her where she lived with my great aunt and uncle on Logan Martin Lake, about halfway to Birmingham from my house in Anniston.

Gran’ma was a masterful cook who was often asked for her recipes. She would always omit some little thing, or give a slightly incorrect quantity for something, then cackle under her breath at the person saying “but mine didn’t come out as nice as Dorothy’s.” Isn’t that mean? I’ve never had any cheese straws or shortbread cookies that were even close to hers.

I always heard whispers of colorful chapters in her life, like wartime jobs she had and about (pretty much literally) throwing her philandering husband out, but they were just that–whispers. I was only just getting old enough to hear the real stories when she died, and I never thought to ask my grandmother, great aunt, or mom, and now they’re all gone too.

If there are things you want to know about your family, take the time to ask now.

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  11 Responses to “My great grandmother about town”

  1. My amazing 90 year old grandmother sent all of her grandchildren our family genealogy record that she had traced back to the Revolutionary War for Christmas this year. It was a gift that I know I’ll cherish.

  2. That is very cool, Lesley.

    I need to spend the afternoon with my dad sometime with this on my mind. That side of my family would be rather easier to gather information about right now than would my mom’s.

  3. You never think to take time to talk about your family it seems, but then when you do you always learn really amazing things that you never would have known otherwise. It makes you value the time when your family interactions aren’t fucked up.

  4. such a stylish lady! i love her “cinnamon-colored felt chapeau.”

  5. I have one of my grandmother’s handwritten recipe cards. It’s for cobbler. The directions say to “add the fruit and juices”. Nothing about how much or what kind.

    I know she would tell her maids to go cook things and then fuss at them when they came to ask for clarifications. She always wanted people to use her recipes. Now I have something to blog about this week!

  6. Hedy: Thanks. She was neat. I wish my adulthood had overlapped with her life a little more. I’m glad your little gramma is doing better.

    Saintseester: That’s pretty funny. Sounds like a variable, i.e. if you’re making peach cobbler, add peaches; apple cobbler, add apples; etc. ‘Course, some quantity guidelines would have been nice.

    My mom’s recipes are notorious for butter. You start by halving whatever quantity she specified. Then, if you see “add more butter as needed” anywhere, chances are you shouldn’t. I was 25 years old before I realized I liked asparagus, because I’d only ever had my mom’s, and hers was always about half butter by weight and cooked to the consistency of baby poop. I like it crunchy and “painted” with butter and maybe a little garlic or rosemary, like a good steak place does it.

  7. My great grandmother (who made it to 97!)made the most incredible pound cake… and would NEVER give the recipe. One day my father asked for it and she gave him an elaborate recipes where you had to sift flower 10 times… and all this crazy stuff. He followed the directions to the letter and the cake was a total bust. He went back to her and she laughed when he told her he’d followed her directions to the letter… and then she said she used Duncan Hines pound cake make – and add an extra stick of butter! Apparently she wanted him to do the legwork first.

  8. […] grandmother’s sister Dottie for most of 60 years.  (Both my grandmother Gwen and Dottie were Gran’ma’s […]

  9. What a lovely woman, Bo! Younger ones never pay much attention to older family member, thus, missing out on great family stories. We really should listen to their stories and write them down. My memory is so bad, I forget by the next day.

    Those wonderful stories which capture the essence of the person won’t be found in genealogy records.

  10. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting here, Jan. Have I mentioned that I’m relishing our renewed friendship?

  11. […] for the bread machine several weeks ago, and though it wasn’t a match, it immediately evoked my great grandmother‘s cheese straws.  So I got excited about refining it until it was that magical flavor, […]

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