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Memoirs of Mary Agnes Hooper

transcribed by Karen Hamilton Rager in the Summer of 1999

My fathers mother was Mary Thomas and they called her Polly. She had four sisters and a brother. They were all born in England. At some point they lived in Wales but I donít know much about it. When she was 17 to 20 she came to America. She married my grandfather, Thomas Hooper.

They tried to trace the Hoopers back to the early settlers but I donít know if they ever found any that came over from England with the first settlers. One of the Hoopers signed the Declaration of Independence.

My father was Robert Oswell Hooper. Grandma and Grandpa Hooper lived in the Pittsburgh area. Dad was born in North Braddock, Pennsylvania on Oct. 5, 1896. North Braddock is a suburb of Pittsburgh. They still lived there when I was born. It is now all run down. It lies on a hill overlooking the mill. It was very sooty because the mills at that time were not cleaned up. They didnít have what they call now, a Ďsmoke-free cityí, it was very smoky.

Grandpa and Grandma had three children. Clifford was the middle child and Rosie was the baby. At some point my grandmother was very ill and the doctor told her she had to leave that smoky city. So they went up in the mountains, in Blairsville, PA. They called it the Ridge. They had a little farm with an outhouse up on the Ridge and they lived there the rest of their lives. Recently we finally sold the house after Rosie died.

My grandfather died when I was young because I donít remember him too much. I remember seeing him but I donít remember interacting with him. I didnít like my grandmother too well. I think was to do with my motherís attitude. My mother had the attitude that they didnít like her. So I didnít like them because they didnít like my mother. That was my attitude. I didnít like to go up to the farm, I didnít think it was fun up there at the time, and I think it was probably just anger because they didnít like my mother, I donít know.

Uncle Clifford never married. He had a lot of mental problems and was in the mental hospital. Aunt Rosie never married. From what I understand, if she ever had a suitor then Grandma would chase them away. I donít know if that is true or not. Grandmaís one arm was all rough and bony and bumpy because she was dragged by a truck or something. She had some kind of accident where she was caught and dragged.

My mother was born in the same area, I donít really know. Her name was Emma Lena Kauffman.

I donít know exactly how Mom and Dad met but I do remember that the courtship was swift. My mother said he pushed her, they were married within six weeks. She always accused him all his life of going too fast with things and always being in a hurry. She always said to take your time and think things out.

I remember my Pop called my mother ĎOld Dutchí because she was out there with a broom twice a day. I think she scrubbed the porch twice a day. She cleaned her wallpaper a couple times a year, she washed the curtains every few weeks. It was a lot of work. I found later when I started working in the cleaning business and I was working with my friend, Pat Stern, that I wanted to call our business ĎOld Dutchí and later, when I was on my own, I did. I guess I sort of got my cleaning from her.

I think my Dad was really crazy about my Mom. Thatís my opinion. But they were two different types and I always thought that each would be happier if they had somebody else. She wanted a man who would take care of the home and help her paint and do interested in the house. He had no interest at all. All he was interested in was the church and the people. She didnít want to be a ministerís wife. I always thought that was sad. I remember even when I was young I would tell them they ought to get a divorce. I would tell them that they were both wonderful people but they just didnít have the right person. They werenít too affectionate with one another, you know how people were in those days.. My mother was unhappy.

Pop worked in the steel mill and when I was 3 or 4 years old he finally left North Braddock and we moved to Harrison City, which is near Jeannette. He had a little house built. My mother finally had the little house that she always wanted. It was a little 2-story, white, very plain, not much of an overhang on the roof. It was a narrow piece of land but it was really long. I remember that I used to run away. I would run off up the hill and it was hard for my mother because she would have to run after me and she wasnít well.

I was born on May 14, 1939. I was the little one. Bob was 15 when I was born, Buddy (Frank) was 12 and Dorothy was 10. Mom wasnít very happy because she was 38 and thought she had her family already. She was not happy about having a new child. Especially when I ended up being spoiled by all the adults around. And all the cousins were in the older age group, and all the aunts and uncles, and I was the only child in this clan and Mom said they spoiled me. I know I was very independent and wanted my own way and that didnít go over very good.

My brother Bob (Robert Oswell Hooper) married Caroline Taylor (Carrie). Her parents owned an ice cream shop. They had one child, Robert Taylor Hooper who married a widow with two sons. They all live in Montana and Bob and Carrie own a large plant nursery. Bob was in the Navy and served on the Fighting Lady. They had that ship on T.V. once and we all crowded around trying to find Bob. When he was out of the Navy he worked for the fire department and became the cook because he didnít like the way anyone else cooked!

Buddy (Frank Eugene Hooper), is my other brother. He married Jeannine Deitz when I was still very young. They got married the same summer that Dorothy and Dean got married. She didnít like me because I always wanted to hang around Buddy. Jeannine says that when they got married, I had to sit between her and Buddy on the way to the church Bud and Jeannine had three children. Jeannine is divorced and has two girls, Cherise and Cheryl. Christopher has two girls. Thomas lives with his girlfriend.

Dorothy Lenore (Dot) married Dean Frye when she was 17. He had a twin - Dale. Dean and Dale were the youngest of about 6 or 7 boys and they took over the family dairy farm. Dale married Dorothyís best friend, Phyllis. All four lived on the Frye farm - Dale and Phyllis in the big house and Dorothy and Dean lived in a little tiny place over the garage. They still live in the farm today. Dale died last year, he was in a nursing home for 11 years. They all had a pretty tough life, a farmers life.

I think it was Aunt Ruth who made the dresses for the bridesmaids. They said I was too old to be a flower girl so they made me a junior bridesmaid. So I had this pink gown. The reason I wasnít in Bud and Jeannines wedding was because they didnít have a real wedding. Jeannine was Catholic and they werenít allowed to get married in the big church because Bud wasnít Catholic, so they got married in the parish house. Just a small wedding. We went to Jeannette and had the reception at Jeannineís parentís house. I seem to remember they had beer and I had never heard of beer or had beer in our family. That might not be true, it might just be a memory of mine.

I spent a lot of time at the farm. They bought me this little baby goat, Nanny. I just loved that baby goat. Thatís why I love goats to this day. I remember Dean was strict with me and I was very stubborn and didnít like being told what to do, so I never lasted long. I always would say, ďIím going for the whole summerĒ and I could hardly last two weeks because we just couldnít get along. With my sister either. But I constantly went back. I really enjoyed being on the farm.

Dorothy and Dean had five children. Marlene married Robert and they had two children. Michael was in the service, maybe the Navy. He is divorced with two children and lives in Baltimore. Marilyn is divorced and has no children. She has leukemia. Debbie is divorced with two girls, Beth and Emily and lives in Tennessee. Mary Jane is single and lives in the apartment above the garage now.

My mothers mother was named Mary Kauffman but I called her Gak Gak. She used to flip through magazines for me and show me the pictures when I was very little. She would sit by my playpen. She died when I was about 2 years old. My parents felt bad because they were playing cards or something, having a good time anyway, downstairs when Gak Gak died. My aunt Mame carried me upstairs to tell Gak Gak goodnight and that is when they found that she had died.

My aunt Mameís real name was Mary Alice Kauffman. She never married. She worked for Westinghouse for a while in Swissvale and then retired in Lancaster county to be with the Mennonites. The Mennonites still have reunions every year. My sister goes to them. I seem to remember she moved into a log home.

I donít remember my mothers fathers first name. His last name was Kauffman. He was a Mennonite and the name Manspeaker comes in somewhere on his side. He died two weeks before I was born. I think he was illigitimite.

Grandma and Grandpa Kauffman had six children. Daniel married and had five girls. His first wife died and his second wife was Esther Girman. I remember she always wore spiked heels. Ruth was about 38 when she married and she had no children. She was a very strict schoolteacher. She took me in when I was 16 and I lived with her until I married Glenn. Ruth and her husband, Bill moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and after visiting them I decided that when I got older, I was moving to Florida. Margaret (Peg) was married to Charles Owens and they had four children, Warren, Eddie, Mary Lynn and Donnie. Minnie got her name because Grandpa Kauffman thought that no one could make a nickname out Minnie. He wanted her to not have a nickname. But everyone ended up calling her Min. She married Chuck (Charles) Brown and they had two children, Marrietta and Lloyd. Lloyd was the only one who was near my age.

My mother had migraine headaches. She wasnít too happy having me and then when I was 8 years old Pop felt he was called to join the ministry. He had a nice job in the drawing room at the steel mill but Mom was very unhappy. He was also a paid singer at some of the big churches. At one point, he had a radio show where he sang. He loved singing and I always liked listening to him sing. He was a Sunday School teacher, very interested in the church. He took his training for the ministry through a correspondence course and they sent him to a little town called Castleman in PA.

It was a little town in the mountains of Somerset county. Just a tiny little place and he had five churches to take care of. They were all out in the surrounding areas - they called them charges. Castleman charge, I guess it was - these five little churches. So he would go around and have services at these various little churches. He spent a lot of time just driving around, meeting and visiting these people. He also he would study at home.

The Church was called EUB - Evangelical United Brethren. This used to be two seperate churches. The Evangelicalís and the United Brethrenís. I think it might have been in the Ď40ís that they came together. Glennís family was Evangelical and they were very strict, no dancing or card playing or movies. The United Brethren, thatís what my family was, let you play cards and go to movies. They didnít see anything wrong with that.

Mom was very, very unhappy because they had sold their little house to Bud, who was married to Jeannine. In the new place there was no hot water or something wrong with the water and the floors were crooked. It needed repair, needed to be fixed up. She was extremely unhappy. My dad would not ask the people for money to fix the house because he felt they had all they could do to keep the churches up.

Mom was a housewife. She did embroidery and she would do a little crocheting. Sort of the practical type. Always, when she would get new washcloths, she would crochet an inch around the edges because she said that would make them last longer. She wasnít much into the people at the church and never had any friends that I knew of.

Then we moved when I was about 10 to the next town over, Rock....Then we got a nice church, just one church and it was a brick church and it was really pretty. I remember it had ivy growing on it and we lived next door to that. I really loved it there. The school ground was in back of the house and there was like a little alley between us and the school. There was the biggest playground that I ever saw. It was right there.

And there was like an old chicken coup in the back yard and my dad made that into an playhouse for me. In fact, when I lived in Castlemen we had sorta of a garage that dad made into a playhouse for me. So my dreams, which come from my beautiful memories of having a playhouse, are that my granddaughters have a playhouse. I had so much fun in the playhouse. I would take cardboard boxes and turn them upside down, then draw burners on them for a stove. Playing house was all I ever wanted to do. Play house and play with my dolls.

I had a friend, Evanell, who lived across from the church. Her last name was Gary. We played with our dolls and our paper dolls. We did a lot of clothing design, playing jacks and roller skated. And of course, we played on the playground. The play ground had three slides in it. One plain little sliding board and one big one with a bump in it and one great big one with two bumps in it. Iíd never seen that in my life. And it had a Maypole! I had never seen a maypole. It was just the greatest thing. And this school had a big fire chute. It was just a round chute that went from the second floor and came down to the ground. It had a cover to keep it closed but once in a while the cover would come loose and we would have a great time on that chute. But of course we were not allowed.

I always kind of felt a little guilty because I never had to do anything. I guess it wasnít that much to do, with me being the only child at home and my mother didnít work. She never gave me any chores. I was sort of glad I didnít have to work, because I was lazy but on the other hand when I used to have wait for my friends to finish their chores, I would feel like I should be doing some chores but I didnít want to.

I remember getting a spanking one time from my dad. They were playing cards and I would peek over their shoulders and I would say what was in the cards and they would tell me not to do it but I kept it up.

When I was in fourth grade, my mother had a nervous breakdown and I went to stay with my sister. I stayed there for six weeks and went to school. Porch Road School. I remember that I had a plaid jumper and maybe flowered blouse and Dorothy was always trying to get me to wear something that matched. I didnít like that, I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear. Flowers and plaids.

I liked being around Dorothyís because in my side of the family there was no friends my age, no cousins, they were all older. But there were nephew and nieces that I got to play with. And sometimes we would go to a square dance. Now, that was fun.

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