Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Women in my Early Life--Together

I really like this picture and was extremely surprised when I found it. From left to right are my maternal grandmother Nannie Becker Flanders (1887-1962), my mother Ruby Nadine Flanders (1925-1990), my paternal grandmother Amalia "Mollie" Koleber Margheim and my father's younger sister Laverna Margola Margheim (1929-1973). I think it must have been taken about 1942 in the back yard at my paternal grandparents' home at 114 E. 6th St, Hoisington, Barton, Kansas. At the time the picture was taken in the Spring of '42, their ages would have been: Grandma Flanders 54, Mother (Ruby) 17, Grandma Margheim 39, and Aunt LaVerna 13. Surprising, huh? How the styles and appearances have changed over the past 70 years.   

Let me tell you the story of why this photo is significant to me. My dad, Ernest L. Margheim, married Ruby Flanders in July 1943 in Hoisington, Kansas. My twin brother and I were born in November 1947 in Great Bend, Kansas, where my parents had their home and where my dad was employed by Thies Packing Co. 

Ernest & Ruby Margheim with twins Dennis and Becky 
at home at 2201 Jefferson, Great Bend, KS 1948
But in November 1949 my mother left her marriage to Dad. She was involved with a man with whom she wanted to spend her life, so she moved to Manhattan, Kansas to be near him, leaving Dennis and I with our dad. Dad moved with us from our home in Great Bend to live with his parents, John and Mollie Margheim, in Hoisington, KS. We are pictured below on their porch with our Grandpa Margheim. 
My dad's brother was serving in the US Army at the time, but his twin sister LaVerna was living at home, while teaching piano lessons and working in the local music store. My Aunt LaVerna helped Grandma take care of us and as I grew to ages 3 and 4 while living there, it was my Aunt LaVerna whom I remember washing my hair while we sang the songs we were hearing on the radio, like Kitty Wells' "It wasn't God who made honky-tonk angels", and Patti Page's "Tennessee Waltz". It was Aunt LaVerna who polished my fingernails to discourage this shy little insecure toddler from sucking my thumb. At age 4 Aunt LaVerna sat Dennis & I down and began to teach us to play her grand piano. She and our Grandma were our substitute mother those early years of our lives.   
Aunt LaVerna pictured with me and Dennis 
and our Dad Ernie and Grandpa John Margheim.
In 1951 my Dad remarried to Phyllis Jones, whom he had met in Great Bend at a community dance for which he played guitar in the dance band. Throughout 1951 Dad and Phyllis, while living with my grandparents in Hoisington, had a house constructed on top of the basement house as pictured below.
Looking north from the corner of 22nd and Jefferson, 
Great Bend, KS 1948-9
Looking north from 2201 Jefferson, Great Bend, 
KS 1952
We moved into this house in 1952 and started attending school in the Kindergarten class of 1952-3 at E. E. Morrison School, just 4 blocks south of our home. Dennis & I were age 4 in the Fall when we started school. 

Phyllis is roller skating with me and Dennis
in front of Grandma Margheim's house. 1951
Our step-mother Phyllis was a very good step-mother and took excellent physical and financial care of us. However, she held very hostile feelings for our mother Ruby. In our household there was minimal mention of our mother's name or role in our lives, which by then was also very minimal. Though Dad was awarded full custody of Dennis and me, we had a court-ordered visitation schedule which allowed us to visit "Ruby" the 4th weekend of each month, from Sat 9:00am to Sunday at 2:00pm. During those weekends Ruby and her new husband Don would pick us up for an overnight stay at the home of her parents Milo and Nannie (Becker) Flanders in Stafford, Kansas. 
Our suitcases are packed for our weekend visit 
with our mother and grandparents.
Because of the animosity between my step-mother and my mother and her family, I grew up feeling like I had two totally separate families. Not just two families, but two separate "Camps". Enemy camps. Our court-ordered visitations with our mother and her "new" family stopped July 1, 1960. (I didn't have to look that date has never left my memory.) When my maternal grandmother Flanders died October 30, 1962 we were not allowed to attend her funeral. Nor did we have permission to attend Grandpa Flanders' funeral after he died August 31, 1965. 

After Dennis and I started college in the Fall of 1965, however, we were finally "free" to resume visits with our mother Ruby and her husband Don and 3 daughters. (As an interesting side note: my brother Dennis drove with our mother Ruby to Ft Hays State College to pick me up for a weekend visit at her home in Valley Center, KS. As I crawled into the car I noticed that I was carrying a purse that was IDENTICAL to my mother's purse. I hadn't seen her for 5 years and yet I had purchased a purse that was identical to hers).  

Because of the animosity between my two families I have always held them in separate compartments in my memories. That's why I was so surprised and delighted to find that photo at the top of this story that shows my two grandmothers, my mother and my aunt--both sides of my family---together and happy at the home of my grandparents. When I saw it I finally realized there was a time when the two families were friendly and met together in unity. It's such a shame that it was so temporary. 


Jana Last said...


I want you to know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!

Becky Jamison said...

Thank you, Jana!