Series Part 10 – Extracts from Dickeyville Days memoirs
By Linda Gibbons Webster
Memories from Linda Gibbons Webster
Oh where to begin…so many amazing memories of old Dickeyville! I guess some of my favorite memories rest in the bosom of the Gibbons family homestead at 2323 Tucker Lane, with its country charm, painted white brick exterior and black shutters that really worked, full front porch at one time and added on kitchen, variable level first floor and stairs that went half way to the second floor and hung a left. We spent many a Christmas morning at 4 A.M. waiting at the top of those steps in the little drop landing that joined two adjacent rooms with a step on each side as you came to the top of the stairs. We’d gather there (probably about an hour after my saintly parents had gone to bed after completely putting up and decorating tree and train garden and putting all the presents out) and holler down “is it time yet?” Soon we could see the rainbow of light coming up the wall past the corner that prevented us from seeing the goods! Then it would be time to come down and bask in the glow of the tree and the merriment of all that “Santa” had done. It was a love scene too beautiful to truly describe.
We loved Christmas in our beautiful Christmas garden of a neighborhood with the beautiful Bird Sanctuary down by the Dam where Millie Nicolai stored barrels of corn to feed the beautiful swans and wild ducks and mallards, as well as those horrid geese! LOL! Mom would take us for walks there and we’d take bread and feed the ducks. Later on when we were older, I can remember walking up into the farm with my big brother Mike and seeing the fearsome bull in the pasture. I know Mike has a story or two about that bull! I was scared to death of him!
And then there were the mulberry trees in the Railey’s yard and our yard and down by the Dam. We spent lots of time sitting in those trees feasting on the most delicious berries this side of heaven! Back on the home front, the Gibbons yard was graced with a plum tree, an apple tree and a grape arbor. My mom made the best apple pies in the world. My grandmother (Dad’s mom) would make homemade jelly with the grapes every year until she passed away and the vine finally died out. I would love to have a plum tree now remembering how good those plums were, but it was the first of the three to go due to some disease. I also learned to enjoy flowers in that yard, from peonies to violets to various kinds of roses, daffodils, tulips, forsythia, lilies of the valley and more. Dad would also grow his tomatoes right by the front gate where he said they “naturally grew”. I’ll admit, those were some great tomatoes!
Then there were memories of the Dickeyville Garden Club and Junior Garden club. I remember my grandmother, Nell Weyrauch, who lived nearby on Colonial Road which eventually was flooded out, helped us from time to time in the Jr. Club. We competed in neighborhood shows and events. I always enjoyed the Christmas decorating competition each year that the senior Garden Club put on. Mom and us girls would do our best to make something special for the house/porch, bay window, railings, lamp post, etc. Once I actually got my picture in the newspaper at one of the Jr. Garden Club events, admiring a lovely arrangement. Not bad for a shy little girl from Dickeyville. Of course, I was always a bit jealous of Susan Crosby who won most of the blue ribbons! She really did have a knack for arranging though, and we all knew it! Back to the Gibbons house, when I was small there was a stream right across the little lane where we learned to rock step and fish for minnows and crayfish. It was so sad to see that go but by then we were old enough to venture down to the Dam and continue developing our rock stepping skills, as well as our exploring and raft-building skills!
Back to Tucker Lane, I’ll never forget sledding down the lane on my brother’s back going fast as the wind with snow from the wake of the blades gently pelting our cheeks and scarf covered chins and noses. We’d be out there for hours it seemed with all our besties, the Webers, Williams, Crosbys, Howards, Raileys, Krammes, and more! When it snowed, school was closed and it seemed they did not clear the roads! The kids had a blast for days on end, or so it seems looking back. We built snowmen and forts and tunnels. Just so cool! Years later, I remember skate boarding with the gang all the way from the top of Wetheredsville Road down past Tucker and around the bend going toward the mill! We were so brave!
And of course the one harrowing memory of my sister Karen falling from the top of the fire escape after recuperating from being hit by the car about a year earlier. She fell all the way from the top and hit her poor head on the cement block below and miraculously only had a fever for a while and some pain but was fine in about 24 hours.
Homes I spent a lot of time in were the Williams, Webers, Crosbys, McDormans, Colgans, Parrots and Krammes. Each home had a special charm of its own. The moms were always there to care for us like we were their own. We did not need to go to camp, although some did here and there, but we were a camp! Summers were filled with games, getting squirted with the hose at the Gibbons house and elsewhere, playing with pets, making up plays, swinging on tree vines, races, bike riding, you name it! We had an idyllic life!
We had so much fun celebrating [Halloween] as a neighborhood. The part at the Parish Hall (corner of Tucker and Wetheredsville) with bobbing for apples, all kinds of treats, prizes for costumes and music provided by Dr. Bob Lloyd for all the kids to sing along and enjoy. He was such the entertainer. Then, of course, all the trick-or-treating, scaring each other along the way.
Having read Irv’s description of some of the church activities at Dickey Memorial, I felt a little left out. We were Catholic and attended nearby St. Lawrence which originally was housed in a converted stable on the property of Kernan Hospital. Dad would literally march us kids to church while whistling and calling cadence as he was a Navy man through and through. The church was a small wood framed building but I remember it had polished wooden pews and a polished wooden altar rail. Father Fortenbaugh would sing the mass and preach stories of Jesus so vividly and beautifully. I remember all the ladies in their fine hats and not being able to see over the tall people in front of me, and the organ and choir that sang so passionately and reverently. Eventually, the church bought the property up on Security Boulevard which had once been a field across from my Grandmother Nell’s house! The buildings are still there, where my sisters attended the elementary school (I was older and had to attend St. Agnes) but I don’t know what those buildings house as of this writing.
I lived in Dickeyville from 1951 until 1975 when I married and moved to Windsor Terrace (3 minutes from Dickeyville) where my husband and I raised our two daughters until my parents became ill. At that time, the family wanted to keep mom and dad together and so we volunteered to move in with them and take care of them. Back to Dickeyville I went! My husband worked very hard to put up a new fence since the old one had seen better days. Gary Webster was handy so he built a lovely picket fence and several wheelchair ramps inside and outside the house for my Dad. We left our house vacant for about a year while we cared for mom who eventually died from Leukemia. Although we knew Mom would not be around for long, we made the best of it as we cared for them and my children had the very special experience of bonding ever so closely with my parents, and living in Dickeyville. When we sold the house (with the help of Mary (Weber) Mayo, we took Dad and moved out to Carroll County, where I reside currently. Dad lived with us for another year or so and then when things got more difficult with the kids growing and me needing to work more, Dad lived in several different nursing homes before he finally passed away. We’d saved Mom’s urn and buried them together in the same plot in Lorraine Park Cemetery. As I look back over our lives, I am so blessed to have had such wonderful, loving parents and siblings. Mike, Karen, Jan and I all live within 25-30 minutes of each other and spend all holidays together, etc. lgw
By Linda Gibbons Webster
Editor’s note: Please check back each Sunday to the Dickeyville Village blog to read extracts from the Dickeyville Days memoirs – a compilation of memories from previous Dickeyville denizens reflecting on a childhood spent growing up in the village during the 1940s, 50s, & 60s. We hope you enjoy their stroll down memory lane.