Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robbins Littlejohn Gray Willis Streetman Family Reunions

The history of our family reunions began when many families migrated from the southeastern states to east Texas. This began in the middle 1800s and continued through the early 1900s. The Calhoun County, Florida migration to Houston County, Texas took place in about a ten year time span in the early 1900s from about 1905 to 1915. Streetmans, Cooks, Nichols, Willises, Hudnells and Brinsons arrived.

Over the years my mother's family held several fairly large family reunions. They began many years before my mom was born in 1916 or I was born in 1942. They were usually held in east Texas where the Grays, Willises, and Streetmans had settled in Anderson and Houston Counties as early as 1848 and continued to migrate to the Elkhart, Slocum, and Grapeland areas through the early 1900s from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

The Charles Mack Streetman family was made up of eleven sons and four daughters. The oldest three children were by his first wife Mary Margaret Cook and the remaining living children were by his second wife Clara Parasota Cook. Surely these seventeen family members would be a family reunion.

Growing up, my mother's siblings and their families often met at my grandparents' home in Cleveland, Texas. The first reunion I went to was in the late 40s. On this occasion, all the grown children and their offspring, the first cousins, including me, showed up at once. I do not believe that it was planned in advance. I recall twenty-one of us with my grandparents, their four children and spouses, and eleven of us grandchildren who were born by that time. I recall sleeping on a pallet inside in front of the open front door.

My grandmother canned most of their food and my grandfather took care of the gardens and chicken yard. We all learned to dodge the chicken poop in the chicken yard to go to the outhouse. We grandchildren took baths in the kitchen on the kitchen table in the galvanized tub. We all learned to play checkers with Grandpa and he knew how to beat us every time. We learned our manners from our grandmother, known as "Granny Gray", as well as from our parents. The grownups enjoyed taking the straightbacked cane or rope chairs into the front yard after supper (in Texas, that is) and visiting with each other in a circle in the cooler evening. They usually talked Texas politics or traded jokes. "Granddaddy Gray" or "Grandpa" as he was called by both names, used to put the grandchildren in the wheelbarrow and push us all around the front and side yards.

In today's world, we are carrying on the time-honored tradition of family reunions. Our family reunions may not have as many people at them, but the intent and the joy of being together is still the same. These are family reunions because they include family members from our family from three states with mine and my husband's second marriages of 31 years. We have always celebrated holidays with each other as much as possible, as well as birthdays and anniversaries.

These special events mark the most memorable occasions for family reunions in my mind in recent years:

In 2005, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Our six children and most of the fifteen grandchildren surprised us by showing up one by one during the special weekend which culminated in special picture taking and surprising us with a special cake at our monthly antique airplane association potluck meeting.

Three years ago sixteen of our family cruised together from Seattle to Alaska. That was fun with all six children, four spouses, and four grandchildren.

Four years ago I retired from working, and fifteen of our family members surprised me with a retirement weekend, including five children, three spouses, and five grandchildren.

A special family reunion was for was my husband's 76th birthday. At that family reunion, there were twenty-two family members: all six children, four inlaws, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Some stayed in our home, in our apartment, or in a motel.

A recent family reunion was to celebrate our oldest son's 50th birthday in Wichita, Kansas. Nineteen family members from three Kansas towns, two Oklahoma towns, and two Texas towns came together to spend the weekend in two Kansas homes and one motel. Our ages ranged from 7 to 77 and included two grandparents, five children, two inlaws, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

If you read this far, you may think: Where are the missing children when these family reunions are going on? Some need to work, some are in college, some have other conflicts, some grandchildren live far away in Minneapolis, or Fort Riley, Kansas, and will be deployed to Afghanistan soon. Our newest grandchild was born on July 28th, 2009.

I am indebted to my first cousin David Snow, formerly of Austin, Texas, and now of San Jose, California and my second cousin Ivey Maurice Brinson of Highlands, Texas for adding photographs and information from the early days of our families in east Texas.

This blog post was updated January 22, 2012 by Linda Sue Hollingsworth Littlejohn Robbins

Monday, August 17, 2009

Memories of Lamar Grade School

My sister and I grew up for two years in a small town in east Texas called Palestine in 1948-1950. We attended Lamar School when I was in the first and second grades. My sister was one year behind me. I am in the above picture: the first brown headed girl to the far left in the third row. Lamar School was originally constructed by the Palestine School District in 1922 as an elementary school to educate the children of south side neighborhoods. With the advent of the new Southside Elementary, the school was closed. It now houses the Anderson County Champions for Children and the WIC offices.

My sister recalls that she enjoyed the fire drills because the principal would put red bricks in the hallways to block the children from going down that path for the pretend fire.

I recall the playground at the back of the school. It had a piece of equipment that was attached to a tall pole and had four places to hold on to, and then swing yourself around, with your feet kicking out in space behind you.

I took some pictures of Lamar School in July, 2009 and am happy to report that although it is not a present school building in the district, it is used in the community for the WIC program.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Genealogy connects past with present

Today one of my grandsons experienced a family history moment. His aunt and cousin took a side trip to Coldspring, Texas in San Jacinto County where his great-grandmother Opal Murriel Gray Hollingsworth graduated from high school in 1933.

It was a unique experience because the grandson lives in Oklahoma. He was traveling on his way home when his aunt saw a highway sign on I-45 north of Houston that led them to Coldspring. None of us had been to Coldspring until this summer of 2009 when I went to Coldspring for some family history research.

Coldspring is a very small town of about 2,000 people and the county seat of San Jacinto County. Both Opal Murriel Gray Hollingsworth and her older sister Lois Azalee Gray Snow graduated from Jones High School in 1932 and 1933. The building burned down several years ago, but there are pictures of the building in old newspaper articles at the library.

Now I know that our family genealogy will live on, not only with my children, but with my grandchildren.