Saturday, October 6, 2012

Keeping in Touch With a Childhood Friend

When I opened up the little brown notebook to write about it yesterday, what should fall out but a newspaper clipping?! And that is perhaps the best place to begin exploring this little encyclopedia of family discoveries.

The news article—clipped so closely as to eliminate any clue as to publication or time frame—was brief. Judging from the content, it was from a Fort Meade, Florida, newspaper. The narrative explained that my maternal grandmother had decided to pay a visit to her childhood home.

Based on the clue of her return from Disney World, we can pin some parameters around the publication date. Disney World didn’t open until October, 1971. Since my grandmother most likely wouldn’t attempt such a trip from her home in Ohio without her husband, and since he died in 1988, we at least have a window of time for this report—wide, but a window.

My grandparents had traveled from Ohio to Florida for a vacation, but while there, that call to return home must have seemed all the easier for proximity. Though she hadn’t lived there since the 1920s, an entry in her little book confirmed that she had kept in touch with some childhood friends in Fort Meade.

Reading the newspaper clipping, I pulled out that little book and looked under the heading “C”—and sure enough, there were two Childers entries. One was for a Mrs. Pinson M. Childers—sadly, crossed out, leaving a silent token of another untold story—and the other was for Mrs. R. R. Childers.

It didn’t take long to learn what the “R. R.” stood for: Reuben R. Childers was listed in the 1920 census in his widowed mother’s household, along with his brother Pinson and other siblings. A 1935 Florida state census for Polk County showed newlyweds Reuben and what looks like “Aina P.” Childers still living in that same household. The 1945 state census shows the wife’s name morphing to “Ina P.” A transcription of state marriage records yields a wedding year of 1934 but maddeningly does not reveal that wife’s maiden name.

Whoever “Mrs. R. R. Childers” was, she maintained a friendship with my grandmother from childhood years, through geographic separation after the McClellan family moved out of town, and through adult years and across hundreds of miles. The little address book closed the gap.

            Mrs. Jack Davis of Columbus, Ohio, visited Mrs. R. R. Childers here Monday, after visits to Disney World and to her brother, William McClellan, in Tampa.
            Mrs. Davis is the former Ruby McClellan, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. R. C. McClellan. Dr. McClellan practiced dentistry here, and his daughter attended Fort Meade schools.
            Mrs. Davis tried to find familiar landmarks, but found Fort Meade much changed since the family left here for Tampa in the 1920s. She did find the former home, now the Ed Heath home, and was happy to identify some part of her past.


  1. You are already making good use of the Little Brown Book. How interesting that the social columnist provided that nugget of genealogy.

    1. Yes...and even more amazing that the information provided was actually accurate! (You know my take on newspapers...)

  2. Aina Persson Childers
    Birth: Apr. 6, 1902 in Rhode Island
    Death: Mar. 9, 1988
    Evergreen Cemetery
    Fort Meade
    Polk County
    Florida, USA

    I did some 'plorin' and I am nearly certain that Aina T. Persson was Mrs. R. R. Childers maiden name. She was the daughter of Emma H. Persson (b. 1874 in Sweden, immigrated in 1893, widowed in 1910). Aina (Anna, Rina you name it) lives in Rhode Island until 1930 US cencus and then "dissapears", I suspect when she married Reuben. :)

    1. Looks like that's the right one, Iggy! Thanks for finding that info and providing the link. I did find other documentation online that indicated she was from Rhode Island.

      While my grandmother's handwriting takes a bit of getting used to, I believe it did spell her first name out as Aina. I can see why the census takers might have struggled with that one.

    2. It would not seem like your grandmotjer ever met Aina?

    3. Oh, no, they were childhood friends! I remember my grandmother mentioning that name, and my mother's cousin recently confirming the connection for me.

    4. My comment was badly worded. Whaat i meant to say was since Aina lived in Rhode Island until at least 1930, it would seem like it was her mother-in-law that was the childhood friend? Just confused.

    5. Iggy, you have really got me thinking...enough, in fact, to write a post about it all. Seems like a few things I thought I "knew" about my grandmother are just not the way they really were. This is one small bit of trivia, but it is part of what is giving me a slightly unsettled feeling about assumptions and thinking I know...

      As far as Aina, Mrs. R. R. Childers, let's say that "childhood" designation stretched a bit into her teen, maybe even young adult years. My grandmother was still in Fort Meade for the 1920 census. Perhaps Aina's family had a summer home in Florida?


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