By the time I was eight and a half years old, Mary Etta G— R—— was my only living grandparent. She always seemed old to me, perhaps for two reasons: first, she was already 61 when I was born, and second, I’m sure her lifetime of hard work had added many a wrinkle.
Etta and her husband, Elmer Bishop R——, were the nucleus of the family and the Alstead, N.H., neighborhood that is still called R—— District.
In their early married years they often had “kitchen junkets” in their home. They kitchen was cleared, and all enjoyed an evening of dancing. I don’t remember those dances, but I do remember the minister coming to the house to hold neighborhood prayer meetings and hymn sings.
Grammie was always ready to step in when any of the family wanted help with caring for children or whatever else needed to be done. They raised their oldest grandson, Bayard, after the early death of his parents. For several years Grammie drove the horse and buggy “school bus” to the South Acworth high school, traveling five or six miles round trip twice a day. That didn’t leave much time for all of the household jobs that were so time-consuming in an era before modern appliances.
Three of their sons lived most of their married lives in the neighborhood. One of their great-great grandsons and his family now live in the old farmhouse where Grammie and Grampa spent their married life. After Grampa’s death, Grammie remained in the house until serious health problems near the end of her life made living alone impossible, and she moved in with her son Ervin and his wife Alice.
Teachers at the one-room grade school adjacent to my grandparents’ property boarded at their house, and in the summers Grammie and Grampa often welcomed two or more boarders from the New York City area. There always seemed to be exciting people coming to visit their home.
One of my early memories is of a toothache that Grammie treated with ground cloves. A more pleasant memory is of the Christmas she gave me a sled.
Etta was a hardworking woman who was never fully dressed until she had tied on her apron. Like so many country wives, she helped care for the farm animals, worked in the garden, picked wild blueberries for family use and for selling to others, and carried out the many home duties of cooking, cleaning, and caring.
Grammie died when I was 23, leaving a legacy of strong devotion to family, friends, and community.
By my mother, Margaret Etta R—— B—, May 2011, for a cousin’s book about the G— family