Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grandma and the Prince: Part 3 (a prequel!)

Thanks to Lee Hyatt for inviting me to continue Grandma El's story here at Tote Bags & Blogs. Trust me, there's lots more to come. Today I'm offering some back story, a peek into the world (and the family) my grandmother was born into. It reads like the start of an historical romance to me. One that may or may not have a happy ending. I hope you enjoy it.

Note: my grandmother had a habit of scribbling notes all over her photographs. At least when she wasn't scissoring out people she no longer liked.

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.

* * *

Once upon a time, let’s say around 1900, a little girl named Elsie Isobel lived in a big house on a hill.

The house was called Sea View and it was situated in Litherland Park, a section of Liverpool, England. ("Bootle" is also scribbled on the back of the photo.)

Elsie lived there with her mother Ellen, her father Charles, her brother Cass, and her sister Edith, and the entire Dimler clan. They didn’t live there long. A few years later Charles “sold” his daughter Edith to childless relatives and used the proceeds to move the rest of his clan to New Zealand where they would find fame and fortune. Grandma El didn't know exactly why he had to leave England so abruptly but the whispers said it was because of a woman. "He was a divil of a man," she used to say with a twinkle in her eyes. "A real charmer." Which was code for the fact that Great-Grandpa Charley didn't much pay attention to the fidelity part of his wedding vows.

Here's my great-grandfather Charley who died in New York City in his 47th year. Personally I think he looks like trouble.

Together they were a scary group. I don’t mean to give you nightmares but here they are, circa 1890, before Elsie and her siblings were born:

They’re my ancestors and they scare the hell out of me. They look like Victoria and Albert . . . and the kids they didn’t talk about.

See the young couple on the left in the picture? They’re my great-grandparents, Ellen and Charles. Elsie's parents. They are newlyweds in this photograph. Take a good look at Ellen, please, and tell me if that’s the face of a happy young bride.

I don’t think so either.

See the man and woman next to Ellen and Charles? They’re Charles’s parents, George and Barbara, the owners of Sea View. Family lore has it that George died in the bed of the dairy farmer’s daughter and the servants lugged his big old carcass back across the lawn to the main house so they could claim he died a gentleman’s death in his own marital bed. Hah! Grandma El told me countless times that he liked to follow the serving wenches up the stairs so he could slip his hands up their heavy black skirts. They wouldn’t dare say anything to the master of the house. Not if they wanted to keep their positions.

Next comes George’s namesake, his eldest son George, and Georgie’s wife Peg. The kids had a nickname for Peg. They called her Hairy Toes because she had the habit of slipping silently through the mansion, peering through keyholes and eavesdropping on conversations.

Then we have William and Katie, two more siblings, followed by daughter Kate and her husband Frederick Ziegler. George the Elder never forgave Katie for marrying a German even though the Dimlers shared the same origins.

Now go back to the photo one more time and take a good look at the big beautiful dog on the front lawn. What a lovely animal. So handsome and well-behaved.

Can you imagine my Aunt Edith’s shock when she returned to Sea View in the early 1960s and found the dog still there on the front lawn?

You see, the Dimlers loved their dog. They loved him so much that when he died, they couldn’t bear to part with him so they had him stuffed and placed him on the front lawn. They weren’t entirely weird and heartless, however. They did bring him in when it rained.

Which is probably more than my Aunt Edith could say about her years with them.

To be continued . . .

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton, author of CASTING SPELLS, and you can find me here and here and here. Remember to leave a comment.


Helen said...

I am loving this story isn't family history fantastic so many skeletons in the closet. Looking forward to the next part.

Have Fun

Donna Alward said...

Oh for the love of Mike Barbara!

You really know how to keep a girl on a string. I'm loving this, you know. I just wish it was continued more than once a month....

Lee? Give this woman back to back slots, will you? LOL

Unknown said...

This is wonderful, can't believe the dog!

Lori Ann said...

Barbara, I always enjoy reading your blogs. Thanks for sharing these great stories about your family.

Estella said...

I am hooked on this story.
Stuffed the dog?

Pat Cochran said...

I'm enjoying your tale of your
Grandmother El's adventures. Though
I'm finding that I don't do waiting
very well!!

Pat Cochran

Michele L. said...

Hi Barbara,

Oh gosh, what an interesting story! They stuffed their dog!? Oh-kay.

I think your ancestors and Grandma would be a cool suspense story with a little twist! Ever given a thought to doing Edwardian romance with suspense?

Ok when is your next installment Barbara? Please don't say a month from now! I am dying here of suspense!

Barbara Bretton said...

Thanks for all the terrific comments. You have no idea how much fun I'm having with this. I love sharing these stories. (Although ask me again when they start to get a little messier. I might feel differently.) The next installment is February 18th. (I can't wait!)

Unknown said...

I love your family story. Stuffing the dog kind of freaks me out though. LOL

Unknown said...

I love your family history that your have posted. Also love the photos there great!

mamakin said...

I love stories like this. To be honest, I'm kind of glad I just found this blog & got to read the entries one right after the next. I still have parts 4 & 5 to go & then I'll start pulling my hair out waiting for another installment...or maybe I'll knit & try to think peaceful thoughts. Nah.