spirit was high that year. And it was a very good year. We are Remembering the Class of 1957. That was a year of many changes. And on December 1st of 1956 Joe Vengrouskie had a surprise waiting on him when he returned home from school. Joe must have done a double take when he saw a steer in his front yard. Pauline Vengrouskie, his mother, won a “jingle” contest, and a steer was delivered from El Paso, Texas to their home on Annapolis Ave. It was a good thing that there was a fence around Joe’s house to contain the steer and to keep it safe from neighborhood dogs, According to the newspaper article the steer was afraid of dogs. No doubt, Joe Vengrouskie, sold it or maybe they ate it.
The difference is huge to the child receiving the gift of the wooden pencils while their sister receives the nice fountain pens. Huge. The same is true with broken dolls for the twin of the favored grandchild.
Catherine E Ruth Jones Kerby has been so elusive, but finally we found a photo of her. The story of the pens and
pencils and porcelain dolls follows as great-great-grandchild, Kimberly Ricketts recounts the story told of Grandmother Ruth Kerby:
My Great-Aunts (twins Irene and Pauline) told a story about “Grandmother Kerby” and the Christmas dolls. Andrew, Ruth’s son, (my G-Grandfather) had a stroke when he was still a young man which made it hard for him to make a living for his family.
He was a painter by trade (Wagon Works in Florence had him listed as an employee – even though the girls never remembered him working there) and did some gardening and painting, but after his stroke around 1909 (in TX) he was forced to relocate back to his “home” near his family.
Andrew’s wife, Minnie, was pregnant with the twins during their journey back home. Apparently, Richard Marshall Kerby and his wife Ruth gave Andrew’s family their previous home (they had lived there on Trade Street since about 1883.) Back then families took care of each other the best they could.
Grandmother Ruth, according to the twins and my grandmother, was snobby and thought she was better than Minnie’s family. She would get on to Pauline for playing and eating turnips in the garden with “little negro” neighbors. She told them they were “blue – blood” and should keep themselves neat and proper at all times.
She would make a difference between the twins and Minnie didn’t appreciate it. She would mail the kids gifts and would always send Irene the nicest gift. Irene was her favorite (Pauline explained to me when she was in her nineties, that Irene was a “suck up” when it came to Grandmother Kerby.)
When their grandfather died Grandmother Ruth left Florence, AL to live with a daughter in Warrior, AL. She would continue to send Irene nice fountain pens, while sending Pauline wooden pencils. One Christmas Grandmother sent all of the children gifts that were wrapped and tagged neatly.
Pauline decided that even though she couldn’t see the gifts she knew Irene’s was the nicest. So, she switched the name tags on their gifts. Much to Irene’s chagrin on Christmas she opened a doll that had a flat head and crooked eyes. Pauline of course opened a beautiful doll with eyes that opened and closed. Pauline’s doll had a beautifully shaped head and was much superior to the doll Irene had received.
Later that year Grandmother Kerby came to visit. The twins would imitate the “blue-blood” attitude that Grandmother exuded when telling this story. Irene remembered her coming into town in a wagon. After Grandmother got settled, she asked all of the girls to get out the dolls she had sent them. She was going to inspect them to see if they had taken good care of them. If they were in perfect shape, Grandmother told them, “she had brought some beautiful cloth to make their dolls a dress.”
Grandmother was mortified when Irene ran to bring her doll to her. Grandmother says, “Irene this is not YOUR doll, this is Pauline’s.” Pauline and Irene’s mother,Minnie, stepped in and told her that if she couldn’t get them the same gifts, then she should get them nothing at all.
All my life I will never forget the twins different versions of this story. Each Christmas I asked the twins to tell us all the story of Grandmother Kerby and the Christmas dolls.
Pauline and Irene Kerby were born in 1910, so they would have no memory of their father’s work at the Wagon Factory if the date of his stroke is correct at 1909.