The only grandparent that I knew was Clara Ida Noe Sullivan. The others had died before I was born. (I also knew my great grandmother, Clara's mother, Eva Fickeisen.) I have already written about my early memories of Clara and Eva. Now it is time to write a history. For other important details see the articles on Andrew Noe and Margaret Mueller (Clara's grandparents) and David Marion Sullivan and Caroline Bartell (Frank's grandparents).
Both Frank and Clara grew up in German immigrant farming communities. One was known as Pleasant Ridge outside of Marietta, Ohio in Washington County. Frank was adopted into this community when he was four. According to my mother "The Bartells, the Fickeisens, the Biehls, the Schwartzs, and the Schrams were the main families out on Pleasant Ridge, came and migrated from Germany well before the Civil War." I think perhaps the Zimmers were also in this community. These folks worked hard on the farm, had Saturday cotillions and picnics, and went to the Lutheran Church on Sunday. They all read the German Bible.
Frank was born on March 23,1881. He had vague memories of his Irishman father, David, who left before he was four. David was a riverman and lived and worked on boats. He didn't stay long in one place, including staying with his wife and five children. His mother, Caroline Bartell, who had been born on Pleasant Ridge, had been drawn into this riverboat life through her marriage. When Caroline died, Frank was adopted by her sister, Elizabeth Bartell, and her husband, Jacob Zimmer. Frank grew up in a family of three boys and one girl. The story has already been told of the death of his stepbrother Jakie when they were both eleven. In his teens, presumably, Frank had tilled the soil, cared for the farm animals, pitched hay and harvested crops. He started dating Clara when she was about 16. Also, somewhere along the way he learned to play the fiddle.
Clara's early connection to Pleasant Ridge, on the other hand, was through her mother Eva, who grew up there in a family of 6 boys and 6 girls. Her parents had started their family and their married life in the New World, following a path across the United States through New York, Northern Pennsylvania and Ohio, West Virginia, and finally Pleasant Ridge. Eva was a young girl when they moved there.
I'm not sure how she met him, but Eva Fickeisen married Louis Noe, and they settled on a farm in Hopewell, West Virginia, not too far from Marietta, Ohio. So Clara, who was born on June 20, 1890, spent the Victorian Decade there. Her father died when she was 14 years old, in 1904, and Eva and Clara returned to the log cabin on the family homestead at Pleasant Ridge within the year. Eva had some savings from the Hopewell farm and bought the old place along with her brother, Charles, for $1200. She lived there for five years.
While Clara was on Pleasant Ridge, she began to date Frank, who was probably living with his adoptive parents on Pleasant Ridge, Jacob Zimmer and Elizabeth Bartell Zimmer. He was nine years her senior. Clara also had trouble deciding what to do with her life. My mom tells me that Grandma Noe found a woman to give her organ lessons, and that she wanted to be the Lutheran Church organist. However, written cryptically in her Lutheran Hymnal is the phrase "First Organist Didn't Play." Mom thinks that somehow either she couldn't learn, or someone else got the job. Her sister went to school, but Clara refused to do that.
When Clara was 19 and Eva was 52 they moved to town and both took jobs, Clara at a Cigar Factory and Eva as a store clerk, housemaid and nanny for a Marietta family. Apparently, Frank and Clara kept dating. Mom says he was probably out on Pleasant Ridge and took a horse and carriage to town. They were married on Nov 12, 1912, and Lorene was born almost a year later on October 5, 1913. For the first few years of their marriage they lived in various places around Marietta and Frank held various jobs. When Lorene was about three, they went back to stay with "Grossvater und Grosmutter" Zimmer, because Frank hadn't been successful in finding sustaining work for his family. The deal was that Frank and Clara were supposed to take care of the old folks, and in turn, they would inherit the farm.
But there was a fight, or perhaps deep differences leading to a fight. Lorene tells it this way: Grossvater Zimmer had sugar diabetes, and Grossmutter made special white bread for him, while serving the rest of the family corn bread. Lorene (4 years old) cried for white bread, and was told it was for Grossvater. The disagreement between Clara and Elizabeth over what Lorene would eat escalated, and they left within a few days. Frank lost his inheritance.
It was then that he found the good job at the Safe Cabinet Co, and worked his way up to the head of the paint department for several years. When Lorene was four, he bought a farm of 11 acres out on Pike Street for $500. He grew some produce for local markets and they had pigs and chickens. Also, across the road lived Tom and Rose Hawkins, and Frank and Tom really struck up a good friendship. Tom came over and helped him repair the front porch on the old beat up place. They became good buddies, including drinking buddies who made the rounds of the local saloons. Mom says that Rose was a big woman, and when they got too drunk she'd bop 'em on the head and put 'em to bed. Mom has good memories of this time. She said that when Frank would ride his bicycle in the lane to their farm she would run out the lane to meet him. He'd grab her up in his arms and call her his little "Nubbin."
Somewhere along the path, Frank and Clara started to fight. Clara was upset about his drinking, but there was more to it than that. According to my mom, Clara wasn't the easiest person to get along with. Mom said that when they'd get into a fight, Frank would play the fiddle and try to get her in a good mood, but more often than not, she would sulk. Things went from bad to worse. Frank took to ailing. Maybe it was the drink, but maybe it was poison from the paint department. And maybe it was more than that. Mom tells me that in an effort to get Tom to stop drinking, Rose Hawkins bought some kind of potion that was supposed to cure alcoholism. But instead, she gave it to Tom in secret and it made him blind. The Hawkins left their home and went to the County House where they became caretakers, he of the men's side and she of the women's side.
At any rate, Frank's health was failing. He sold the family farm and moved over to the place where the Hawkins's had lived, renting it for $5 a month. Continuing from worse to terrible, unknown to Clara, he gambled away the family savings. She only found out about this after his death, when she went to cash in the savings account. Frank died when Lorene was only seven. He just came out of the barn and had a heart attack and died on the spot. The neighbors tried to stop Lorene from running to see him, but she knew her daddy was dead. That was 1921.
After that Eva, Clara, and Lorene eventually moved down to 115 South Fourth St and lived there through the roaring twenties. Lorene was a highly intelligent young woman and loved school. She loved her home economics teacher, Mary McGraner, and prided herself in her handwriting. She was also to develop into a high-spirited teenager. She told me that she fell in love with Fernand the first time she laid eyes on him, in her early teens. Lorene had to quit school in the eleventh grade. The depression had hit Marietta as hard as any place, and it was difficult to make a living. She washed dishes at Braun's Restaurant for $1 a day, working 10 hours, six days a week.
Clara continued to work off and on at the Cigar factory, and grandma and "Red" as Lorene came to be known, often went to help her. The work was so demanding, they did this to keep her from loosing her job. Eva also took in mending and did cleaning when she could get it. They kept a garden and canned as much as they could. They played cards with decks so worn you could hardly tell what the cards were, Seven Up, Rummy, Poker and Pinochle. Everybody knew everyone else down on South Fourth Street. It was just a block in front of the Ohio River. The people were poor. They prided themselves in not taking welfare. When they could, they went to dances at the local lodges.
Clara had a boyfriend or two, but she never remarried. One was called "Gitter" Lemon, and he was especially fond of "Red." That's where she got her name, because his hair was red, too, and he liked to pass her off as his daughter. But eventually he broke up with Clara and married another woman. He told my mother that he wanted to marry Clara but that she was the meanest woman he had ever met.
Between the time when my mother quit school and got married were the heart of the Depression years. As soon as she married Fernand, Clara and Eva became more or less wards of the family. They always had a place to stay that dad provided for them. Eva got to see all her great grandchildren. I was 11, Tom was 5 and Vicki was 2 when she died. Clara and Eva lived over at 103 North Fourth, just around the corner from our family home at 317 Greene St. When Eva died, Clara came to stay with us. It was 1951. She lived thirty more years and saw four of her five great grandchildren. Vicki, my sister was several months pregnant with her third son, TJ, when Clara died at age 91.