Kathryn (Katie) Schmaker Bailey

25 Aug

I find myself thinking “You’ve got to love the internet”. Katie was my paternal grandmother but I wasn’t sure if I had her name spelled correctly so I did a quick Yahoo search. I found her obituary listed in the Savanna Cemetery records. It gave me details that I didn’t have close at hand or had long ago forgotten. The obituary was extremely short – not listing the sons who had lived to adulthood and then passed or the fact that she actually died on a Kentucky Fried Chicken bench and was taken to the hospital to confirm death from heart failure not chicken eating. I was moving into my first house in Federal Way at that time and did not return for her funeral. It would have been a great time to hear even more Katie stories. She was quite a character.

I spent a lot of time at Katie’s house because she lived on the edge of my parent’s garden. My parent’s bought their house 5 months before I was born. Shortly after my birth my father and his brothers built her a small 3 room house. He had supported his mother since he was 14 and this made that support easier. Roland, my paternal grandfather had been killed in South Dakota in an auto – train collision when my father, Lyle was 3 years old leaving Katie with 6 small children. Roland was in the back seat and was unable to get out of the car. My mother always said that being married to Katie, he decided to stay in the back seat. Katie was not an easy mother-in-law to have, but then Mother was not always the nicest person either.  They often found things to fight about and living so close would have provided lots of fuel for the fights.

My mental image of Katie has her dressed in a white hand made lace collar on a black dress with black square heeled Red Cross shoes. Mother said that Katie liked to play the widow role with the black dress Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring. Mother was also resentful of the cost for the Red Cross shoes (I heard about them often enough to remember the name!) Mother needed special shoes for her lack of toes but would never dream of spending the money for them. I’ll save Katie’s financial dealings for another post.

Almost every winter Katie would drive to Florida for an extended vacation with her husband’s half brother, Ray Hammond. She and Great Uncle Ray would take Katie’s sister, Rosa Hatfield as a chaperone which was silly because at an early age I learned you never walked into Katie’s house without knocking and waiting to be invited in. He maintained an apartment but ate most of his meals with Katie. He always put money under his plate “to help with expenses.” Mother used the terms “for services rendered.” Katie and Uncle Ray would fight regularly about getting married. He had wanted to marry her shortly after Roland’s death but she refused. At first my Aunt  Myrtle objected (9 year olds should not get to vote on such things) and later Katie said it wasn’t proper thus Mother’s statements about playing the widow. Uncle Ray would come to my father after a fight to “talk some sense into that fool woman.” I never understood why he tried to marry her for 50 years but he did until the day he died. Katie cried her eyes out then because Uncle Ray’s sister would not give Katie the bible where Ray recorded all of our births and marriages never having had children of his own. I remembered the sister calling her a whore at the funeral. Ah, the joys of 1960’s morality.

On a shelf in my living room is a large jar of sea shells. They are a mixture of the ones Katie brought back from Florida and ones I’ve collected over the years. I played with the shells at Katie’s. My oldest granddaughter, Kitana also played with the shells when she visited my house in Washington. It would be fun to share that tradition with my younger granddaughters but time and distance have a price.

This will be the first page of family stories.




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