Stories

The Hansen farm and stories of its people

Memories of Grandmother Nixon

February 2000

 

Ruth Gertrude Hemmersbach was born to Adam and Elizabeth Zimmerman Hemmersbach on January 21, 1874, in Henery County, Illinois.

There were no sons born to this union, so this branch of my Mothers family ended with the death of her Grandfather Adam.

Ruth married George Washington Nixon on December 28, 1893 at Creston, Iowa. She was 19 and he was 52, she was his third wife. He had numerous children by his first wives, and three with my Grandmother. My Mother, Goldia Zula was the youngest.

Grandfather Nixon died of cancer when my Mother was 12, and my Grandmother raised the three children alone except for one brief marriage to an older man. I don't know that I ever knew his name, but my understanding is he was abusive and my Grandmother took back my Grandfathers name of Nixon. I remember hearing that later he had a heart attack while feeding the pigs and fell into the pen. The pigs ate part of him. My older brothers and sisters remember this because it happened when they were little.

My Grandmother lived in the same house her husband died in, and many of my brothers and sisters were born in, until she died in October of 1949 of a blood clot. My Mother was with her in the hospital when she died. Grandmother was packed in ice and wasn't supposed to move because they didn't want the blood clot to break loose. She kept asking my Mother to move her arm because it ached. My Mother finally did as she asked and Grandmother died shortly after that. Mom almost had a break down because she felt if she had not moved Grandmothers arm she wouldn't have died. I think Mom always felt guilty about moving West and leaving her Mother, but her Brother lived just a few miles away. My Mothers Sister, Ella, had moved Weast (LA) many years before our family.

the Dr. told Grandma to smoke for some ailment she had. She tried cigarettes, and cigars, but never like the feel for them on her lips. She took up smoking a corncob pipe.

I remember my dad teasing Mom about Grandmas secret vice. For some reason I can't remember, or maybe never knew, the Dr. told Grandma to smoke for some ailment she had. She tried cigarettes, and cigars, but never like the feel for them on her lips. She took up smoking a corncob pipe. She would close the curtains to make sure no one saw her through the window and light up every afternoon before her nap. I never saw her do this, but I do remember seeing the corncob pipe.

My best memory, though, is the time my Sister and I spent there one summer.

My sister Faye and I were the youngest of eight children. We were the first girls born after four boys. As you can imagine everyone in the family spoiled us rotten.

We weren't away from Mom and Daddy much. Our older sisters would beg Mom to let us come and stay, but she could never stand to have us gone.

One summer when we were 8 and 9 Mom and Daddy had to go to a meeting for Daddy's work. They were going to be gone a week, and couldn't take us with them. We begged her to let us stay with Grandma. We had never stayed there alone, but Grandma was so funny and we always had fun there.

This is one of the most wonderful memories of my life. I don't know why it was so exciting. Grandma must have been in her 60's then, and not able to get down and play with us but it was great time just the same.

Grandma had long red hair that she wore on top of her head in a bun. When it was down she could sit on it. Every night before she went to bed she would take it down, comb it, and put it in a braid. She let Faye and I do this every night we were there. When she passed away she left her dresser set with the hairpin holder and hair keeper to Faye, and the beautiful large bone comb to me. I treasure it to this day.

It was warm, late summer, and the flowers were all blooming in her yard. Faye and I would make mud pies, decorate them with the flower petals and hide them and find them all day long. We met two little boys, Skippy Brown and Royce Hill, that lived close to Grandma. They would come over early in the morning and holler at us through the open bedroom window till we got up, had breakfast and came out to play with them.

Faye and I would make mud pies, decorate them with the flower petals and hide them and find them all day long.

On thursday night they had movies in an old building that had burned sometime past, and it was open to the sky. Grandma walked us to the movie then walked back home. When the movie was over, there she was with her lantern, waiting to walk us home.

This week at Grandmas was during the war, and rationing was still on. I can remember going to the store and standing in line to get bread. One time Grandma bought us all some bubble gum. She chewed hers and she had dentures and they kept coming out. We laughed and laughed.

Grandma was a methodist and the church was just up the hill from her house. Come Sunday morning we had to go to church. Grandma bathed, starched, ironed and curled us till we were perfect. She made us a corsage with babys breath and some other flowers from her garden and off we went. We had to be perfect so Grandma would be proud of us.

Grandma bought us all some bubble gum. She chewed hers and she had dentures and they kept coming out. We laughed and laughed.

I was born in my Grandmothers house, as were several of my siblings. She was always there if Daddy was out of work or food was in short supply. We didn't get to see our Grandparents very often. They didn't live far away, but back then 50 miles was a long way to go. Roads weren't very good and tires and gas were rationed. I have so many wonderful memories of growing up, and this is one of the happiest.

I saw my Sister Faye a short time ago and she told me this was one of her favorite memories also. I asked her if she remembered it differently than i did.

She said she remembered that the movie we saw was the story of Jesus life. I didn't remember that, but that's probably why Grandmother let us go see it.