Gran-Pa Seager – (Verhaeghe)

Wm SeagerLong before it became the thing to do my mother solved the problem of not having a grandparent nearby. I am not sure if her grandparents were still alive at the time of her birth but even if they were they were far away in Belgium so she really never knew them as by the time she and her mother and father did travel to their homeland the parents were gone.

When she was very young there was a senior gentleman who came by often called Mr. Seager. He was visiting his wife in the front house and Mom and her parents lived in the back. It was a bit unusual but Mr. Seager and his wife no longer lived together because as time had gone on they no longer got along very well. Divorce was just not done back then and so Mr. Seager lived in a nearby rooming house and walking over to take care of his garden in the back. It seemed to be a much better arrangement especially since there were no children.

One day as he walked along my mother ran up to him and asked as boldly as only young children can. “Will you be my grandpa?” He looked down as replied that he was not sure unless it was okay with her mother. Mom grabbed his hand and pulled him to their door. “Mamie!” She called. “Look, I found a grandpa. Can he stay?”

Mamie came out drying her hands and saw who it was and knew him to be a veryWm Seager in garden kind gentleman. She was of the feeling that his wife was the cross person who took advantage of her husband but that was only her opinion. She smiled at him and replied to Mom. “I think that is a very fine idea.” And from that day on he became Gran-pa Seager with all that it meant. He came for supper when invited. Mom would run and walk with him and he would show her his favourite flowers – the gladiolas. When her mother and father were busy with earning a living and taking care of the home, Gran-pa Seager always had time to listen to Mom. She came to love him dearly and he was part of her life for as long as he lived.

He did live longer than his wife and one day Papa went over to check on him and found him crying so broken-hearted. Papa asked him what on earth was wrong. Gran-pa Seager said that he was all alone in the world and that there would be no one to put flowers on his grave on Decoration Sunday. In a small town that was a very big concern as every grave would be covered in flowers except for a few sad ones who everyone knew had no one to care. William Seager was very much afraid that he would be one of those. Papa patted him on the shoulder and made a very solemn promise that for as long as he lived Gran-pa Seager would always have his favourite gladiolas on Decoration Sunday. Papa kept that vow to his dying day and so if you are exploring the Delhi Cemetery and come across a tiny stone saying William Seager place a flower and remember our adopted Great-great Gran-pa.

Mom Wm Seager Mamie
Mom with William Seager and Mamie

Remembrance Day – (Verhaeghe)

Papa (2)
21 Years of Age

Our grandfather, Edmond Gustave Verhaeghe had joined the Belgium Calvary during World War I or as he called it The Great War. He had already lost his older brother Arthur in the war. He never spoke of being in battle or what happened which we never pushed but he did tell of the time that he had been captured by the Germans and made a prisoner of war. The Germans at that time sent prisoners to work on German farms where the sons and farmhands had been taken into the army.

Papa and the other prisoners were under guard, twenty-four/seven although on Sunday, a single guard would walk the identified Roman Catholics to the nearby church in the village and back again after Mass. The guard would not attend but would wait outside and then walk them back to the work farm.

This continued on for a time until the guards were getting a little bored with watching these Belgium Catholics and they no longer wanted to walk the distance to the town. Finally the time came when the guards told my grandfather and the other men that they could walk to church on their own, going straight there and back. The guards figured that since the men wore prisoner clothing they would not be able to go far, as people would raise the alarm seeing these men walking on their own in another area besides the road to the village and back.

Papa and the other soldiers took their advantage as soon as they were in the village. Slipping down a side street they found a clothes line full of laundry that was dry. They quickly changed from the prisoner clothing to these men’s working clothes. Dumping their clothes in the garbage bins. Once changed they paired up so to be less noticeable than a large group of men. In pairs they made their way back to their country of Belgium. Hiding in fields and forests, stealing food as they could as they made their long walk through enemy territory, never seeing that work farm ever again.

And that was the only story that Papa ever shared about being in the First World War. In fact I did not even know that he had an older brother nor that he had been killed in that war. He did not speak of it ever.

unknown soldier

When I was in elementary school and brownies, we had the day off for Remembrance Day on the 11th of November. This was changed in the early 70s as it was thought that the day off meant the children were no longer learning how important that day was but we knew. All Brownies, Scouts and Girl Guides marched in our town Remembrance Day parade. I walked with my father James Michael Broomfield who was in the British Air Force as well as being a child in London during the bombings of the Second World War and my grandfather who was a veteran of the First one. It was a very, very special day and I was very aware of the why of Remembrance Day. When this changed in High School the ceremony we had in our classrooms truly were a pretty poor substitute for walking with Papa and Dad to the memorial in town. No matter the weather we were together as a family remembering what our family did and where they were during the wars and why it was very, very important to never ever forget.

Cover -RemembranceSP

Poppadezutt – (Verhaeghe)

1942 Mom & PapaBack in about 1938 my mother lived on a farm and had a dog that she had gotten from a neighbour. She had named him Sport and took care of him.

Now Papa wasn’t a huge fan of Sport and always called him Poppadezutt which meant Crazy Dog. When Papa did the morning chores Sport would follow him everywhere and one of the things that Papa would do was open the huge barrel that sat in the corner, dip his finger in and give the dog a taste of the molasses that was kept there. This barrel of molasses was used to kill the tobacco worms that would destroy a crop if not taken care of. It was mixed with poison and applied to the plants but what was in the barrel was just pure molasses, no one would mix it until it was needed.

Now today was the family’s day to go to town. Mamie, Papa and Mom would take their car and drive to Delhi to get the week supplies. This would be a day trip which included visiting, errands and even more visiting. It was something that Mom really looked forward to as in those days, one didn’t go shopping or anywhere for that matter so it was pretty exciting to go to town. This day was no different and it was dusk when they pulled back into the driveway on the farm.

Mom was worried as she didn’t see her dog running out when they arrived home. He usually came from wherever he was to greet the family as if they had been gone forever. As Mamie began to take in the supplies Mom and Papa went looking for Poppadezutt. Mom calling Sport looking under the porch and anywhere she could think of. Papa went into the barn, looking everywhere he could think of – no dog – just as he was turning he saw the lid of the barrel open just a bit and in the dim light of the barn when he pulled back the lid of the molasses barrel he could just make out the black nose just poking out of the molasses.

In those days, one dressed up to go to town and Edmond Verhaeghe was no different. He was in his good suit. He tore off his jackets, tie and shirt, reached deep into the barrel, into the molasses and grabbed hold of Sport and began drawing him out of the molasses. Out of the barrel came a molasses covered dog. Barely moving at all. Papa ran with the dog to the horse trough. He put him in and got the first part of the molasses off the dog. Wiping him down with straw and then washing him with soap and a hose until the dog was free of the molasses, he then wrapped the shivering dog in a blanket and stuffed him in a straw bed in order to keep him warm. As Mom sat beside her dog, talking to him she knew her dad had made it better. Sport was going to make it.

In fact, the next morning Sport was back to his old self and following Papa as he went about his chores with one change. When Papa dipped his finger in the barrel Sport took off. He did not want anymore molasses probably for the rest of his life.

Delhi 1938

 

Story Note – All stories will have a title for easy finding and which family it is about in brackets. Stories take place from the beginning of the 1900s to present and therefore there will be things that may not go over well in a present day mind. Spankings were only a couple of swats on the bottom. Pets were not the fluffy pampered animals of today but working animals who earned their keep as well as being loved by the children. Smoking and drinking was a normal part of life even if Moms were pregnant or kids were present in the car or room, especially smoking.

Pig Tails – (Verhaeghe)

PapaPapa use to tell me the story of when he was about 5 years old, one of the dishes that his mother would make was fried pig’s tails. Now that is something that I have never seen but he explained that it was very crunchy and with salt they were like fried chips.

He and his friend were outside playing in the dirt near the pigpen. Most homes had farm animals for the family use. Now, there were piglets in the pen and one was sleeping with his butt snuggled up to the fence. His little pigtail was sticking outside the fence and Papa and his friend were crouched down there looking at it and discussing it very seriously.

Both Papa and his friend loved fried pigtails very much and thought that they could have a small bite of this little pigtail while the pig was sleeping. Now each of them wanted to go first. Papa thought he should go first since it was his idea but his friend insisted and pushed him out of the way as he bent down.

Papa watched as his friend bit down hard on the tail. Well, the piglet squealed sleeping pigletand bolted from the fence. The friend’s tooth was stuck in the ligaments of the tail and his face was yanked forward to smash against the fence hard enough to make his nose bleed and pull his tooth out. He ran screaming to his mother with Papa following close behind. The mothers had been sitting on the porch darning socks when the two ran up, the mothers jumped up to help the child. Papa’s friend was screaming and jumping up and down in front of his mother pointing at Papa.

Papa’s mother did not wait for any explanation from Papa or the other boy but grabbed him and turned him around and smacked his bottom hard. It would not have been so bad a smack if she did not still have the darning needle in her hand at the time. So not only did he have more of a reason to cry by having a needle stuck in his bum he felt bad because he did not even get to taste the pig’s tail either.

1958 April - Me and Papa

Story Note – All stories will have a title for easy finding and which family it is about in brackets. Stories take place from the beginning of the 1900s to present and therefore there will be things that may not go over well in a present day mind. Spankings were only a couple of swats on the bottom. Pets were not the fluffy pampered animals of today but working animals who earned their keep as well as being loved by the children. Smoking and drinking was a normal part of life even if Moms were pregnant or kids were present in the car or room, especially smoking.