The first laundry-day memories my husband’s mother, Sylvia, has are of the family wash dog. This was a working animal, not a pet. To keep it that way, he wasn’t named.
Wash days for him meant long, hard hours on a treadmill. The belt made the dasher in the washer move back and forth, swishing the clothes through the hot water. When he needed a rest, he’d get a short break and a goat would walk the treadmill. The goat didn’t have the stamina of the dog, but took several short turns. Sylvia remembers the wash dog received special treatment: He worked just one day a week, but lived well on his days off. When the family ate roast beef, so did the dog.
The day the family got a gas motor, they tossed the treadmill onto the trash heap with joy and put the wash dog out to pasture, or whatever is done with retired wash dogs.
Soon after starting my family history research, I discovered that, in the 1890s, my great-great-grandmother Delia French and her children lived where a prominent restaurant now stands in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood. The area was Irish before it became Italian, and this eatery occupies what once were three rowhouses. Their classic facades are still visible. Delia lived in the end unit, now the restaurant’s main entrance.
My uncle, a regular there, was amazed to hear this — he said it’s always been a family favorite. Was it a coincidence, or did a past relative start visiting because of the connection? We had great fun sharing the story with the restaurant’s owners and trying jokingly to wrangle a “family” discount. But it didn’t end there.
Fast forward a year, when I finally figured out Roche is an alternate spelling for my ancestors’ surname Roache. I’d “lost” them in Baltimore city directories until I started looking under Roche. I found the Roaches living in the middle rowhouse, next door to the Frenches. Now we know how Thomas Roache met his wife, Ella French — she was the girl next door. Maybe it’s time to revisit that family discount.
Get a bunch of extended relatives together and crazy things start happening. At least, they do when Family Tree Magazine readers’ families reunite. For publicizing their pain and suffering, each of these submitters can find out if they’re really related to those people with a free DNA test from Relative Genetics <relativegenetics.com>.
Everyone and everything sought cover from the heat during our 71st annual reunion, even the snakes. In years past, a big old black snake had dropped from an oak tree onto Uncle Henry’s lap. This day, one parked itself under a picnic table. The men wouldn’t move it, so I did. After the meal, we were settled in for our meeting when the snake returned. “Hey, snake lady!” came the cry from a lad. This time I took it to the far hedgerow. We’d eaten in peace, now we could meet in peace.
Our reunion is in a park near the town where my grandmother lived. Other than sentiment, there’s nothing special about it.
In fact, it lacked modern facilities until last year. We’d all limit our fluid intake to avoid trips to the outhouses crude building containing a platform with a hole in it. Two years ago, we used white elephant auction proceeds to rent a portable potty. It wasn’t luxurious, but no one went thirsty. Later, though, we learned it wasn’t picked up for four days. I’m sure the locals weren’t pleased. Maybe that’s why the park put in “real” bathrooms.