Sentimental Sewing Sunday


We have reached the time of year here in Missouri where it is really humid outside and if you are not near water you stay inside and find those indoor things to keep you busy. I promised my granddaughter Hannah that I would make her a couple of sundresses and if I don’t get on it they will be fall dresses and Grandma keeps her promises – so sew I did today. When I sew or crochet or cross-stitch a project I always spend time thinking about those I love for which I am creating this project for – so Hannah has been on my mind as I work on her sundress. There is always someone else I think about when I sew – my mother Nancy Gertrude Brumley Weik. She learned how to sew from her mother Nellie Opal Sells Brumley and I suppose she learned from her mother Gertrude W Nichols and so it goes. I still have baby clothes that my mother made for me when she was pregnant and waiting for me to arrive. She also made a lot of my clothes as I was growing up. We would shop for material and patterns and I would give her some ideas on how I would like it to look and she usually got it right every time. Her sewing skills got better with every project and she would always receive lots of compliments on her craftsmanship. Even back in the days in which I grew up not many women sewed so when I wore something she had made to school and told classmates who made it they always were envious of her workmanship.

4-H EmblemI learned how to sew from my mother but she also signed me up for 4-H in our small town so I could learn how to sew the “right way” and not learn too many bad habits or shortcuts. Not only did I learn how to sew, I also learned how to bake and practice what I baked on my brothers and my father, they were always up for a cookie or a baked good or two. I knew I could get real feedback on how I was doing or how I could improve. I remember I got laughed at by other kids for being in 4-H, they always thought that meant I had a cow, pig or steer somewhere in my backyard. It was a little more involved than just that it taught me so many life skills that I use today. I would always enter my sewing project and baked good project in the LaSalle County Fair and usually did very well, I received several Blue Ribbons (lst Place) and Red Ribbons (2nd Place). The highlight of my 4-H career was when I was in my last year of 4-H and made my first 2 piece lined suit. I received a Blue Ribbon from my county fair and I was selected to represent my county on construction of my suit at the Illinois State Fair where I modeled my suit and received a Purple Ribbon for participation. It was a great experience and my mother could not have been any more proud of my accomplishment.

Those skills that I learned back then still are with me today. I have made many items since for my children and my grandchildren and enjoy completing a job well done knowing my mother is smiling down on me. So Hannah – Grandma will get your sundresses completed and it will be done before summer is over!

State of Illinois

In the Good Ole’ Summer Time – Swimming Lessons

Streator YMCA Bldg.Streator, Illinois YMCA Building

Summer months in my small town were always great fun – we were out of school with lots of time on our hands and you didn’t dare say to your parents “I’m bored” or you wish you had not by the end of the summer. And with summer there was always one thing I could count on – swimming lessons at the YMCA. My  mother, Nancy Gertrude Brumley Weik never learned how to swim and she was scared to death of the water, but when it came to her children – they were going to learn how to swim or else! So in order for her mission to be accomplished she enrolled all 3 of us every summer for 2 weeks just to be sure we knew how to do it. My brothers and I liked the water so that wasn’t a problem for us – we just did not like taking them year after year for SO many years! There were usually several of our neighborhood friends signed up as well so it made it fun to splash around in the water with them. I started out not knowing anything and worked my way up to the day when I had to learn the dreaded diving board. Walking out on the board and looking down at the water in the deep end of the pool was a little frightening to me. Many times I would just walk out there and turn around and walk back and told the instructor “I don’t think so”, which he/she would reply, “If you want to pass the class you have to jump of f the diving board at least one time to get the Certificate of Completion”. And I knew my mother wanted to see the Certificate of Completion or I would have to take this class over again next summer until I did jump off the diving board so I had to convince myself I could do this. On the last day of the swimming lessons the parents were invited to come and see the accomplishments of their students and my mother was front and center watching me, so I knew this was going to have to be the day. I walked out on the board very slowly saying to myself I am going to the bottom and never coming up again and then I just stood there, like I was frozen or something, thinking and looking down at the water below me, then I said it is time just do it and hope you live to tell the story later. I held my nose and closed my eyes and took that faithful leap into the water. It felt like the pool was several FEET deep and that I was never going to see above the water again but instinct and training paid off and suddenly I knew what to do and there I was at the top of the water smiling mission accomplished – my mother was thrilled and I got my Certificate of Completion. The best part about the whole thing was that I didn’t have to take anymore swim lessons and I never jumped off the diving board again either!

Streator YMCA PoolThe great thing I learned about all of it was how important it was to learn how to swim not just to my mother but to myself as well and learn how to respect the water for what it is. One day in the summer of 1978 I enrolled my daughter in the Mother/Daughter swim lesson class and just like her Grandmother I watched her over the years accomplish all the swimming techniques, only she did one better than her mom, she became a Life Guard and her Grandmother Nancy Gertrude Brumley Weik and her mother were very proud of her accomplishments!

Help from the Homefront during WW II

Front Cover Ration Book

I remember very well, my mother Nancy Gertrude Brumley Weik getting after my brothers and I when we were being wasteful with food at the table.  As children we heard the story a lot about everyone had to help out back home during  WW II so that the soldiers could have what they needed to have strong bodies to fight the enemy and at that time we could not relate to what she was saying because she had lived through it and not us. As I became older and learned through my history books did I begin to discover about many sacrifices that not only my parents had to give up but everyone in general for soldiers during the war and it was only when I became an adult and going through the items she had saved of her past that we had discussions about the War Ration Book coupon.

War Ration CouponsThe war of WWII caused shortages of various types of food that affected just about everyone on a daily basis. The shortage was caused by a variety of reasons: much of the processed and canned foods were reserved for shipping overseas to our military and our Allies; transportation of fresh foods were limited due to gasoline and tire rationing and the priority of transporting soldiers and war supplies instead of food; imported foods, like coffee and sugar, was limited due to the restrictions on importing.

Sugar Ration CouponThese shortages, the U. S. government’s Office of Price Administration had to established a system of rationing that would more fairly distribute foods that were in short supply. All Americans were issued a series of ration books. They contained removable stamps good for certain rationed items, like sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. My mother could not purchase any rationed item without also giving the grocer the right ration stamp. If you wanted to make something special for dinner or a birthday cake you would have to decide if you had enough ration coupons because you only had so many in a book per month and once they were gone you had to wait until the next month to be given another book of ration coupons. You would have to think long and hard if you REALLY needed these extra items or if you could get by without them hoping for better times when one could celebrate.

Back Cover Ration BookOver the course of all my mother’s stories there has always been a clear message of not wasting or hanging on to it for a rainy day. It was because of these times, that never left their memories that they drove the message home so hard to their children and their grandchildren about wasting food or anything for that matter.  They knew what a precious commodity was and learned how to make things work or they went without it.  I would have to say in today’s society if these same challenges were presented to our children – would they be able to survive without all the goodies in their life – I doubt it.

I am glad I got the message because there have been a few times in my life when I had to ask myself – “do I really need this or can I get by without it” and usually the answer has always been the same – YES I can get by without it.


Friday Faces from the Past – William “Bill” Brumley

William "Bill" Brumley

Well I have been away from my blog for a few days – I don’t really have a good excuse just couldn’t get into the mood I guess. I am trying my hand at a self-hosting website and adding my WordPress blog. I am working hard at it so I hope I can have it up and running soon.

Today I am going to talk about my “Friday Faces from the Past” and his name was William “Bill” Brumley. He must have been kind of a character from what my mother Nancy Gertrude Brumley Weik and I discovered from talking with another relative Edna Leona Brumley Roberson many years ago. William “Bill” was born to Willis Brumley and Mary “Polly” Johns on March 11, 1847 in Missouri. In the 1850 Census the family was living in Richland in Gasconade County, Missouri. He was their first born son but we don’t know if he was named after his father Willis or Willis’ father or possibly someone on Polly’s side of the family. Some of the Brumley’s we have discovered followed the naming chart while others did not;

 The first son was named after the father’s father

The second son was named after the mother’s father

The third son was named after the father

The fourth son was named after the father’s eldest brother

The first daughter was named after the mother’s mother

The second daughter was named after the father’s mother

The third daughter was named after the mother

The fourth daughter was named after the mother’s eldest sister

The family seemed to disappear in the Missouri 1860 Census with no trace – Bill would have been around 13 years old by that time. On October 24, 1872 in Maries County, Missouri he took a wife – Mary E Williams and they began their life together until 1880. As the story goes by Edna Leona Brumley Roberson there was a bad house fire and Mary and their two young children perished and it was devastating to Bill. In the 1880 Missouri Census it listed her and then was scratched out and said dead so I am assuming that it happened in that census year but there is no evidence as to when her death accrued. She and the children were buried in one grave in the Kenner Cemetery, Maries, Missouri.

Ellen Illinois Bell BlackwellIn 1881 Bill married again on July 6 to Mrs. Ellen Blackwell or Ellen Illinois Bell Blackwell as her official name. It was ironic that on that 1880 Missouri Census she and one of her sons lived just a couple of places down from where Bill was living with Mary’s parents. Illinois was quite bit older than Bill as the 1900 Missouri Census shows and there was one child born to this union a girl on December 3, 1882 named America Layna Ethelyn Brumley. Bill and Illinois remained in the same area of Hayden, Dry Creek Twp. Maries County, Missouri until his death on May 9, 1917 he was 70 years old and buried in Kenner Cemetery next to his first wife Mary.

Kenner Cemetery Maries County, Missouri

4th of July in the Midwest – Through my eyes

Fireworks and flag

I can’t believe we have made it to the 4th of July – the sun is out and it is somewhat cooler than last week. Families are now preparing for a fun filled weekend with family and friends, some have chosen to take the whole week off and use it to kick off their vacation plans or just packing up the kids to enjoy the lake for a long weekend. Thinking about the past as a family historian, we reflect on these holidays that were the best of times. I remember as a child when my family would take vacation around this time of the summer we usually stopped in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri and Manhattan, Riley, Kansas to visit relatives before heading on to other vacation destinations. My brothers and I knew if it was the 4th of July we would get to light firecrackers or should I say my father would light the firecrackers while we watched, except for the sparklers which I loved to twirl around and around as a child until they burnt out and my brothers liked to watch the snakes curl up into a black mark on the sidewalk.


Growing up in a small town close to Chicago, the 4th of July celebration was a fun time for the young and old with all types of events and a parade down Main Street and a carnival in the City Park. My father and brothers were involved in the Boy Scouts so they would march or help with a float every 4th of July along with some kind of volunteering so they could earn more merit badges. To my mother that usually meant some kind of sewing, whether it was making red vests for the scouts so they could display their merit badges or helping with items to put on the float. For me I just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle of the crowds and to meet up with my friends, ride on just about all the carnival rides and make sure I got my fill of cotton candy, carmel apples and any other junk food I could get my hands on at the time.  I also liked to play the carnival games that would promise me a huge stuffed animal – sometimes I would have to play the game several times just to get the right one and there were times  I simply ran out of money and went without my prize.  I also remember that for years we had band competitions over the 4th of July, bands from all over the state of Illinois or surrounding states would come and perform at our high school football field and it would draw huge crowds. Our high school, churches and other organizations would open their doors so they could rest between performances and get something to eat in a cool place on some very hot 4th of July’s over the years in the Midwest. The fireworks were always a thrill to see and I would uh and ah with the best of them. It was such a fun time in the Midwest and great memories – I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to experience being a child in the Midwest during the 50’s and 60’s on the 4th of July.

I hope everyone has a fun but safe 4th of July!


Family Ties and Band-Aides

Diann Marie Weik

Diann Marie Weik

I usually don’t write about myself except in my own personal journals but today I decided to put myself out there and talk about me on Tuesday.  My dad, Merle Otto Weik worked in the steel fabrication business and it took him to Davenport, Scott, Iowa first where he learned the trade and that is where my brothers and I were born. He also worked in Sterling, Rock Island and Joliet, Illinois but it was Streator, LaSalle, Illinois that my mom said we were staying put at least while the kids were in school. When we first arrived in Streator we rented a house on Park Street, it was an older house and there were lots of kids to play with along the tree lined street. My mother enrolled me in 2nd grade at Northlawn school and my teacher was Mrs. Snyder. I was a little timid at first making friends at my new school until girl walked up to me one day and introduced herself as Pam and would I like to be friends – I said yes. After that I settled into my new school and my new neighborhood just fine. In 1958 my parents thought I needed a bicycle and I was ready for one but I didn’t think it would be so BIG – but with my determination I vowed I would make it work and I remember trying and trying and  along with that came countless Band-Aids. I was learning how to sidewalk roller skate at the same time and my poor knees took a beating. I would get one knee healed up or scabbed over and then I would hurt the other knee, but in the end I mastered both and didn’t look back.  I also remember this house because it was where I brought home the measles, the mumps and the chicken pox to my brothers. There were not shots back in those days -you just had to go through these illnesses the hard way! My poor mother knew when one of us got sick first it would go through the whole house and that meant about 6 weeks of sickness for her, but I never heard her complain. The memory that sticks out the most when we were living at that house was in the summertime I believe and the circus had come to town and we were going – I had never been to a circus so I was so excited about seeing the clowns and acrobats.  Time was drawing near and then I broke out with the measles – I was devastated to say the least – there I was sitting in a dark house with the shades pulled with my mother while my dad took my brothers to the circus. They brought me back a souvenir but it wasn’t the same as being at the circus in person.

John, Diann, Richard and Nancy (Mom) Weik John, Diann, Richard and Nancy (Mom) Weik

 One day my dad came home and said he had found our family a house that he could buy and it was on the other side of town- at first I didn’t want to leave Park Street but when we saw the house and I could have my own room I was ready to make the move. It is funny that while I was living in that house it seemed big it had 3 bedrooms, unattached garage, a big backyard but later when I left Streator and returned years later it seemed so small  to my grown-up eyes.  I lived in the house on 3rd Street until 1970 when I moved to the big city of Kansas City! I have been back several times over the years for high school reunions and I  am always amazed how things have changed – years and the bad economic times have not been good to the town, but that doesn’t discourage me from wanting to visit with friends who still live there – and yes that little girl that wanted to be my friend in 2nd grade – we are still best friends 56 years later and I plan on seeing her at the end of August for my 45th High School Reunion!