Esther Piccirillo sat down with her daughter Sylvia and talked about her memories of her life and relatives

Memoirs of Esther Anna Matilda Nelson Piccirillo - October 2001

My earliest memories were living in an apartment over a grocery store on the left side of North Broad Street in Ridgway.  I was born in August on the 17th, 1911. I remember standing on our back porch looking down and seeing some strange animals eating grass. They were goats.

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We had a rocking chair without arms in the kitchen. We still had it years later in our apartment on North Broad Street before I was married.

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One morning, I was about four years old, in the bedroom with my mother I noticed she was looking at something out the window, so I went to see, too. I saw a man walking up the street. His legs were gone. He seemed to be walking on his knees. I never forgot that. My mother pushed me away so I wouldn't see him, but it was too late. The poor man, I thought.

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One day when we were coming home from my grandparents, I noticed I was holding another woman's hand, so I ran up ahead and found my mother's hand. She was wheeling my brother in the go-cart.

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When we used to go to my grandparents and I heard a train coming before we reached the crossing, l always was scared and told my mother we should hurry before the train came. She always said, "We have plenty of time."

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I was about four years old when we moved to Rock Street on the first floor of a house. We had five rooms. I made friends with a four year old girl who lived upstairs. Her name was Ethel Marie Johnson. We were best friends until the age of 14, she died of diptheria on August l9, 1925. We had a birthday picnic with a neighbor in the cow pasture, next day Ethel was sick for three days. Later, we moved to North Broad Street and her family moved downstairs.

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When I lived there, I used to play in the cow pasture and pick violets and we used to pick strawberries above the pasture and blackberries too.

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We played in the clay mines on the left side and stayed from the right end where the men were blasting with dynamite for clay which was sent down in carts on tracks to the brickworks on North Broad Street.  Sometimes the cart wrecked and we watched. The men had two mules which pulled the carts in the clay mines. Sometimes the mules, who lived in a barn on Florence Street, got loose and ran downtown.

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Above the mines, we found a rock on which there were a lot of pink flowers which had a wonderful smell. We called them pinksters. Later, when I was married and lived on Rock Street, I transplanted a bush I had dug up in the hill and it was pretty to enjoy for several years until an ice storm in the winter spoiled it so it never grew again.

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Above the mines, there were woods - it was a nice place to go. It was quiet except for the birds singing. We never saw any snakes. There were a lot of huckleberry bushes. We had picnics on a big rock - Ethel Margaret Newquist and myself.

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When I was 14 years old we moved to North Broad Street on the day before my confrmation day. My mother was with me in church on my confirmation day. I made friends with Ruth Ella Newburg who lived downstairs. She was 11 years old.

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I took 7th and 8th grades together in a special class with others. While in 8th grade I won a writing prize of a $5.00 gold piece. I was so surprised. When I became a Freshman in High School, the Freshman and Sophomores were put together. No more Freshman class.

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I graduated at the age of 16 and went back by the orders of my father for post graduate course of two years. I learned bookkeeping, shorthand and typing. After two years my father got me two jobs. In the mornings I worked at the Ford Garage and in the afternoon at the Commercial Loan Office. At the Ford Garage, the bookkeeper, Ameiia (Millie) Johnson and I became good friends. At the Comrnercial Loan Office, there was Helen and we became good friends, too.

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From those two jobs I went to a government office job in the Post Office. lt was during the time of the depression and they had a Public Works job which put men working on the roads. That job didn't last long. I had met Mike through Lena Linder whose family had also lived in West Hickory, PA as did Mike's family so they knew each other.

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Mike and I eloped on April 10, 1934 to Warren and were married. We had an apartment on High Avenue. I remember all the daffodils blooming in the garden. We lived there a little while and then went to live with my parents.

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Mike worked at the Tannery as did his father and brother, John. My father and Uncle Eric got him a job as a carpenter apprentice in Isaacson Carpenter Shop where Uncle Eric worked.

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We moved to a downstairs apartment next door to my parents in November. On December 29, 1934, Benjamin Henry was born. Sylvia Ruth was born on New Years Day, January 1, 1936 in Mike's parents' home. We moved to an apartment on the lower side of North Broad Street. As fate would have it, it was on-the spot where the grocery store was years ago and we lived upstairs of it when I was little. Rosalie Esther was born while we lived there on January 6, 1938. After a year and a half we rented a house on Rock Street, I remember it was May 1939 and our peach tree and pear tree were in bloom.

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When Rosie was five years old I started work at the Elliott Company office. I came home for lunch. My mother lived with us and took care of the children while I worked.

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While we lived on Rock Street, I planted tulips, a French lilac bush and a forsythia bush. We had rose bushes up in the back yard and creeping phlox on the banks and tall phlox on the side and up back and lilies in front and in the back.

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Mike and I were divorced. The Elliott Company closed and I went to work in the off'ce of the Y.M.C.A. I retired at 62 years of age.

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I lived in my house on Rock Street for 40 years before I went to live after retirement to the Hi-Rise. I joined the Senior Center.  I enjoyed going there. When living at the Hi-Rise became too much for me, Sylvia helped me to get in Ridgmont Personal Care Home where I am living now. After living here about four years l certainly am enjoying it. I am 90 years old now using a walker.

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Continued Memoirs

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When my sister, Mildred, was in one of the lower grades in school, she took me along on her last day of school, in June. I remember I enjoyed that. She was three years younger than me.

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When I was growing up Ethel and I were friends with girls on Florence Street. They were Viola, Mae, and Frances Segerstrom. They had a large home above our place. I liked their blackboard in the kitchen. I also liked that beside a front stairway to the 2nd floor, they had a back stairway, too. We used to play Parchesi on their front porch. Their mother made taffy candy which was delicious. We used to have plays in their big empty barn up back.

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I remember when their mother had twin boys one night at home. Next morning I heard about it and asked my mother where they came from. She said the doctor brought them and I believed it.

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They had to move later because a family coming from Sweden bought it. That family moved right in with them so Segerstroms had to move their things downstairs. I remember seeing a little four year old boy peeking down between the banisters in the front stairway. I was below in the living room.

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Ethel and I and her younger sister, Martha used to like to cut out the catalogs on their back porch.

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Our fathers had tomatoes in their vegetable gardens and Ethel and I used to each get a tomato and salt shaker and go in back of Segerstrom's barn and sit there, on a little stone in the grass. It was a quiet place next to the cow pasture.

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Ethel's father bought three rabbits. I liked to feed dandelion stems through their fence. I also liked to catch grasshoppers and put them in a jar. Later, I let them out.

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In 1924, when I was 13 and Mildred, 16, our town celebrated being 100 years old. We were in a pageant celebration, both of us. I was an Irish girl with a green skirt and a tight pink vest. Mil was one of the 48 states and was dressed in red, white and blue. I had to perform a jig dance with my girl partner and some Irish ones. Mil and the other 47 states paraded in a march around the grounds. The pageant took place in West End, past the bridge where the old Silk Mill used to be on the left side near the creek. My father climbed up a tree to watch. I heard a girl say. "Look at him up there. I hope he falls." I didn't say anything, just hoped he didn't. It was safe for him. My grandmother bought a picture taken of all of us in the pageant. I saw it but I never knew what became of it.

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As teenagers on Rock Street, my sister and I and friends liked to take walks up North Broad Street to the end of the sidewalk every Sunday afternoon. One day I had a pretty plaid pleated skirt colored pink and green, I remember.

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One cool day we set out to hike to Johnsonburg. On the way we took pictures. I sat on the fence, wearing a tan summer coat, tan hat and tan high heeled slippers. Some man stopped and gave us a ride. On the way to Johnsonburg he wanted to know if any of us was free that night. None of us were and told him. I don't remember how we got back to Ridgway again.

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One early morning we started out to hike to the fire tower over Boot Jack Road. On the way to Main Street, we stopped for pictures in the Sam Murphy front yard on our knees in the hyacinths and crocus. We stopped later on our way to see a friend called Rika. We had to laugh when we got into her living room because it was May and she had a big Christmas decoration still hanging from her ceiling light. It was fun going up the fire tower when we got there.

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Every New Years Eve, we had a program in our church at 9:00 at night. After the program upstairs we went downstairs for coffee and sandwiches. At 11:30 we went upstairs again and were there until midnight. Going outside we could hear church bells ringing and the Elliott Co. blowing their whistle. The Armory building was having a big dance. When we passed there we saw drunkards coming out.

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Later, when I was 16, taking post-graduate work I met William Shrefler, who was a pupil in my room. One night he came to see me at our apartment. I was surprised. He also at another time, brought his father to take my picture. We started going to the movies and sometimes we sat outside on the swing on the front porch. He wanted to hike to the fire tower but my mother wouldn't let me. One time in our hall, he asked me for a kiss, but I didn’t feel like it. I had to let him down finally because I thought he was too short and I had started going with Mike. Bill was a nice person but I really wanted a taller boyfriend. I finally married a taller boy friend but he was entirely different from Bill. I heard from an aide here at Ridgmont that he is now in Ohio.

My Mother and Father, Henning and Matilda Mortenson Nelson By Esther Piccirillo - Dec 2001

I remember my grandfather as a stout man with gray mustache and using a cane. He had a hobby. He spent his time in his shed near their vegetable garden carving little people and wagons out of wood and coloring them. He put the people in the wagons. I liked to watch him carve them.   He didn't smoke.

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He had his own chair in the kitchen beside a big table near a window. The table had green plants on it as did the windowsill and the other kitchen window, too.

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My grandmother was little, a slender woman in dark clothes. In winter she always wore a scarf on her head because their home was cold upstairs. They had wood burning in the stove in the kitchen and a small gas stove in the living room.

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She loved plants and flowers. She had planted both a purple and a white lilac bush near the front of their house. On both sides of the house she had planted bunches of pale pink roses with a wonderful scent. I never smelled any rose like them to this day. When it rained, the petals turned brown. How sad! It spoiled them until more buds came out.

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She liked fall flowers, I noticed. She had orange and yellow calendulas. She had wired a big basin and planted portulacas and had it trailing from a branch of a small tree near the back of the house near their boardwalk.

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When my mother and I came to visit my grandmother, she most likely was upstairs on the bed with her prayer books and her plants on a table near the bed.

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I liked to play their old-fashioned organ. When she heard that, she came downstairs to be with us.

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Sometimes we would find her and Grandpa sitting on a bench together in the garden. They had two apple trees. She and my Aunt Charlotte who lived with them with her husband and three girls made a spicy brown applesauce and canned it. Of course we got some home with us and enjoyed it at meals.

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My grandmother liked to go to church with her brother-in-law, Charlie Swanson, who drove. She always sat on the left side of the church in the back row. I always thought she must have had good hearing. Charlie sat on the right in the front so he could hear. After Sunday School, my cousins and I sat with Grandma for church services. She always had hard candy to pass to us.

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She had beautiful tall dahlias, pink and white one, yellow one, red one, and a deep purple velvety one. On my birthday I always got a big bouquet of those dahlias and I loved them.

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I liked to visit my great Aunt and great Uncle Lena and Charlie Swanson. We took a path from Grandma's over the creek through the woods through the gate at the bottom of their garden. I liked their lilac bush, cherry tree, apple trees, dahlias, gooseberry and current bushes. In front of their house they had a big bed of lilies of the valley.

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Every Sunday afternoon my mother and I headed for West End to my grandmother's and sometimes it was after school. Mom would stand on Main Street and wait for me.

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When the pussy willows were out near the creek, we got bunches of them to carry home. There were big beautiful violets near the creek too which I had to pick because I liked them so.

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When we left sometimes my grandmother followed us out to the gate and looked up and down the road for us to get a ride home, but no-one came along. It was a long walk home but we didn't mind it. We always had a good time at my grandparents home. I have such good memories of happy times there and at my great aunt's and great uncle's home.

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Comments by Clarice Juers on her great grandparents.

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Esther mentioned the pump organ and that is also a fond memory of mine.  Between 1940 and 1946, I took piano lessons and on Sunday afternoons I visited and played hymns for my great grandmother and Auntie Lottie (her daughter).  They no longer attended church.  The room was not heated and was very cold in the winter.  They had no running water, indoor plumbing and only gas lights on the walls.  We got spring water from the well across the street.  I remember picking the most beautiful violets by the outhouse (Big flowers and long stems). By this time Christina was in her late 80's and stayed in a bed in the corner by the stove.  As a little girl, I believed they lived on coffee cake and coffee because it was always on the table by the stove.  Like Esther, I remember all of this with great fondness.  They were quiet, loving, pleasant people.  I don't remember Nicholas.  Henry Juers said he looked like Santa Claus.

Henry and  Mildred Evelvn Victoria Nelson Juers by Esther Piccirillo  - October 2001

Henry Juers was born in Wassau, Wisconsin on April 22, 1906. He attended school there. When he was grown he and his father came to Ridgway, PA. They lived in the Y.M.C.A. and worked at Hyde-Murphy Company.

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While Henry was sitting outside Hyde-Murphy's one day, he met Mildred going to work over Race Street to the Chevrolet Garage. They started going together and were married on June 21, 1933. Although her father liked Henry, he asked her why she couldn't get a Swede?

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They had a nice upstairs apartment on West Main Street across from the Green House Flower Shop. Before they moved in, her mother and sister washed the inside windows. After nine months they had a baby daughter, Clarice Anne, born on March 17, 1934.

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Grandpa Juers lived with them at first  and then later married. Her name was Grace, a widow, with one son. She was later called "Aunt Grace".

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From West Main Street Henry, Mildred and Clarice moved to an upstairs apartment on Metoxet Street and later bought a home on a hill on Charles Street. It was while living there, David Henry was born.

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Before marriage, Henry belonged to the First Lutheran Church and then changed and joined her church, the Bethlehem Lutheran. He became president of the men's brotherhood society. Mildred belonged to the church's women's society, the choir, and a girls' singing group called The Jenny Lind Chorus. They sang for different groups in town and out of town and had tan pongee gowns with green scarves that looked so pretty. Mildred also played the piano during Sunday School. (We had an organ in our dining room on Rock Street while growing up. Mildred took lessons from Esther Olson.)

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Mildred had a lovely alto voice and her sister, Esther, had a soprano voice. They sang duets often in church.

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Mildred and Henry had quite a few beautiful peonies growing up in the back of their home.

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Henry had the job as church janitor for a while and Mildred worked in the office of the hospital. Later, Henry worked at the Telephone Company.

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Mildred was born in Ridgway on May 10, 1908. She passed away on August 31, 1971. She was 63 years old.

My Brother and his Wife, Paul Nelson and Inga-Li1 Pearson Nelson by Esther Piccirillo - November 2001

Paul Hilding Nelson was born on June 30, 1914. I first remember seeing my brother being held in the arms of our mother as she walked with him around the kitchen trying to put him to sleep. She was singing to him. It seemed so nice, seeing them and hearing her sing. I sat on the couch and watched them.

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One day when I was in 1st grade, someone came who took pictures of Paul standing on our back porch on Rock Street. It was a cute picture. He was three years old then.

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After that, I recall all the games we played together. Someone gave us a lot of little white hard blocks we played with on the kitchen floor. We lined them up and then pushed the end and watched the blocks as they pushed each other in a column across the floor. We took my mother's ironing board and  put one end on a chair and the other end down in a cardboard box and rolled marbles down into the box.

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The room off the kitchen was our junk room. We would sit in a big wood box stuffed with rags. In front of us was Mildred's old go-cart. Paul held a wheel which was off in his hands and we pretended we were riding in a car. He made bm noises with his mouth like the noise of a car.

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In winter, we went sleigh riding in the backyard of Johnson's yard. They lived above us. We rode through their back yard to a bank coming down to our back yard and we rode down over the bank. It was fun.

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Our living room was closed off and very cold in the winter until Christmas when we put up a hemlock tree and kept the room opened.

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One winter when Paul and I had just come home from school for lunch we decided to take a ride on our sled down Rock Street. When we reached William Street, which went down to North Broad Street, Paul took the sled and I went home. It wasn't long when a man came and told my mother Paul had been run over by a car on North Broad Street. They had taken him to the hospital. His right arm was broken near his shoulder. I never forgot my mother crying, "Not my boy!" Mildred had to go to the shop where our father worked and tell him. His arm was set but our father wasn't satisfied with it, so he took Paul to the Kane hospital where they reset it. When he at last came home my father took the cast off in the bedroom, and I watched him doing it. I went into the kitchen. My mother asked, "How does it look?' I said, "It's alright."

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I always took Paul to school and picked him up at his room after school. He was in second grade when the accident happened.

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Paul had a friend on Florence Street - Reinhold Swanson. He had a pony he let Paul ride.

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We moved to North Broad Street when Paul was 12 years old. He joined the Y.M.C.A. While there, he joined a boy’s club called The Leaders' Club.

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Paul and two friends, Robert and William Kerrick had built a camp they enjoyed going to and staying over night across Elk Creek over on the hill.

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Paul was graduated from High School in 1934. He got a job in the Sole Plant and later became a clerk in a hardware store on Main Street. He and his boss became good friends and Paul did real well at his job.

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Later, he went to Chicago and took a course in electricity.  After that he moved to Jamestown and lived with Eddie Olson and another man. He got a job as a clerk in a rug and carpet store. He could also service Hoover sweepers.

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He told me he had noticed a beautiful blonde with green eyes on a street car in Jamestown. One day he was servicing a Hoover for a Mrs. Pearson. He noticed her daughter's picture in the room. It was the girl he had noticed on the streetcar. Her name was Inga. Eventually they met and started going together.

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Inga-Lil Pearson was born in Sweden on April 29, 1920. She came to the United States before she was six years old. When she started school she could speak no English. She had three sisters and one brother. Inga was the youngest in her family. They lived in Jamestown, NY

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After graduating from high school she found employment as a dentist's assistant.

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Paul was inducted into the Army during World War II. He carne to Ridgway before he left for the service. Our mother was living with me. I remember seeing Paul sitting outside on the swing, thinking about everything. He was lucky! While traveling on the ocean on the way to the Phillipines he heard the war with Japan was over. He stayed in the Phillipines for a while. They had to flush some Japanese out of the mountains.

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When he came home he and Inga were married. He wore his uniform. They became the parents of two sons, Larre Henry and Dennis Eric and later grandparents of one granddaughter and four grandsons.

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At first Inga's mother lived with her married daughter, Viola. She and her husband owned a beauty parlor. They had one son. When Inga's father was dying, he came back to live with Inga's farnily and her mother at Inga and Paul's home. Inga and her mother took care of Mr. Pearson until he passed away.

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Paul and Inga's family and Inga's mother moved to a beautiful home on the Hunt Road when their boys were teenagers. They lived there until Paul and Inga retired and moved to a condominium in Sunrise, Florida. By that time their son, Larre, had married and lived in Attleboro, Mass. Their son, Denny, had married and lived in Sunrise, Florida.

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Paul passed away in August 2001.

My Grandparents, Nicholas and Christina Mortenson by Esther Piccirillo - Fall 2001

I remember my grandfather as a stout man with gray mustache and using a cane. He had a hobby. He spent his time in his shed near their vegetable garden carving little people and wagons out of wood and coloring them. He put the people in the wagons. I liked to watch him carve them.

​

He didn't smoke.

​

He had his own chair in the kitchen beside a big table near a window. The table had green plants on it as did the windowsill and the other kitchen window, too.

​

My grandmother was little, a slender woman in dark clothes. In winter she always wore a scarf on her head because their home was cold upstairs. They had wood burning in the stove in the kitchen and a small gas stove in the living room.

​

She loved plants and flowers. She had planted both a purple and a white lilac bush near the front of their house. On both sides of the house she had planted bunches of pale pink roses with a wonderful scent. I never smelled any rose like them to this day. When it rained, the petals turned brown. How sad! It spoiled them until more buds came out.

​

She liked fall flowers, I noticed. She had orange and yellow calendulas. She had wired a big basin and planted portulacas and had it trailing from a branch of a small tree near the back of the house near their boardwalk.

​

When my mother and I came to visit my grandmother, she most likely was upstairs on the bed with her prayer books and her plants on a table near the bed.

​

I liked to play their old-fashioned organ. When she heard that, she came downstairs to be with us.

​

Sometimes we would find her and Grandpa sitting on a bench together in the garden. They had two apple trees. She and my Aunt Charlotte who lived with them with her husband and three girls made a spicy brown applesauce and canned it. Of course we got some home with us and enjoyed it at meals.

​

My grandmother liked to go to church with her brother-in-law, Charlie Swanson, who drove. She always sat on the left side of the church in the back row. I always thought she must have had good hearing. Charlie sat on the right in the front so he could hear. After Sunday School, my cousins and I sat with Grandma for church services. She always had hard candy to pass to us.

​

She had beautiful tall dahlias, pink and white one, yellow one, red one, and a deep purple velvety one. On my birthday I always got a big bouquet of those dahlias and I loved them.

​

I liked to visit my great Aunt and great Uncle Lena and Charlie Swanson. We took a path from Grandma's over the creek through the woods through the gate at the bottom of their garden. I liked their lilac bush, cherry tree, apple trees, dahlias, gooseberry and current bushes. In front of their house they had a big bed of lilies of the valley.

​

Every Sunday afternoon my mother and I headed for West End to my grandmother's and sometimes it was after school. Mom would stand on Main Street and wait for me.

​

When the pussy willows were out near the creek, we got bunches of them to carry home. There were big beautiful violets near the creek too which I had to pick because I liked them so.

​

When we left sometimes my grandmother followed us out to the gate and looked up and down the road for us to get a ride home, but no-one came along. It was a long walk home but we didn't mind it. We always had a good time at my grandparents home. I have such good memories of happy times there and at my great aunt's and great uncle's home.

​

Comments by Clarice Juers on her great grandparents.

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Esther mentioned the pump organ and that is also a fond memory of mine.  Between 1940 and 1946, I took piano lessons and on Sunday afternoons I visited and played hymns for my great grandmother and Auntie Lottie (her daughter).  They no longer attended church.  The room was not heated and was very cold in the winter.  They had no running water, indoor plumbing and only gas lights on the walls.  We got spring water from the well across the street.  I remember picking the most beautiful violets by the outhouse (Big flowers and long stems). By this time Christina was in her late 80's and stayed in a bed in the corner by the stove.  As a little girl, I believed they lived on coffee cake and coffee because it was always on the table by the stove.  Like Esther, I remember all of this with great fondness.  They were quiet, loving, pleasant people.  I don't remember Nicholas.  Henry Juers said he looked like Santa Claus.

My Great Aunt & Great Uncle, Carolina (Lena) and Charles (Charlie) Swanson by Esther Piccirillo - Fall 2001

They located in Wilcox, PA.  They had a daughter narned Sennie. Also two sons. I don't know their names. They both died as infants of the croup. My aunt said the happiest time of her life was when she had her children around her to care for.  My mother and her sister used to enjoy taking the train to Wilcox to visit them.  Later, the Swansons moved to Colorado. I don't know how long they lived there. Later they came to Laurel Mill in Ridgway.  I always remember since I was small, my aunt sitting beside the kitchen stove with a cane because she was crippled up with arthritis, especially her hands.  When my cousin, Edith Johnson, was old enough she did their cooking and housework.

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I never knew Sennie, only saw a grown-up picture of her. She was beautiful and looked like her father. She went to Chicago, met her future husband there, married and died in childbirth. They had a son named Frederick. Her husband later married again and when the boy was around eight years old they visited his grandparents here. I remember seeing them. His father was a kind man. I remember he came to Aunt Lena's funeral and seeing him crying. I suppose he thought of Sennie then.

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When we visited my great aunt and great uncle they were so happy to see us. She always had a bowl of fresh bananas to treat with. Uncle Charlie pretended to chase around the house. We thought it was fun although he just walked.

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In those days they just put the coffee in the water and let it boil and when done it was strained. It always smelled so good, I thought.

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My cousins, Mildred, and I used to climb up the hill across from Swanson's to pick violets and give them to my aunt.

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They had many friends who came to visit them in the afternoons.

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In 1924 Uncle Charlie bought a Ford. He gave us and his wife rides in it.

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Some young men who were his relatives came from Sweden and settled in Jamestown, NY. A special person was Eddie Olson. He was usually there every Chnstmas. Sometimes he brought a friend and they stayed over night. He had a bathroom put in next to the kitchen with a door going into their bedroom, too.

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They went to "Julotta" Christmas morning services. When we visited them my uncle treated us with wine in little shot glasses.

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I have happy memories of my great aunt and great uncle. They were my godparents. She said I was a pretty baby.

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When I was married we first rented an apartment on High St. My great Uncle appeared one day with a home-made quilt for a welcome present.

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Comments by Clarice Eckles on her great-great anut and uncle.

Esther does not know why they came to the US or why to Ridgway.  They came in the 1880’s when my grandmother (Mathilda Mortenson) was six months old.  I don’t remember Caroline but I do remember Charles. He was active for a man in his 80’s.  When he died, he went to bed one evening and never woke up.  Even as a little girl, I thought that was beautiful.  When they went in to see why he was not up they found him dead.

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