My Mother's Story

My Mother's Story
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Esther and Siblings at 1970s Reunion

For many years, Esther and her brothers and sisters did not see one another. They had scattered to the four corners of the United States and were involved with their jobs and families. In the 1970s, Esther lived in Lynnwood, Washington, north of Seattle. Don and his wife Amber still resided in Fort Wayne, Indiana (the only Clark sibling to stay near the home place). Floride and her husband Tim Sonnenberg lived in Baytown, Texas. Doris and her husband Paul Bogner lived in Riverside, California. Max lived in New York City. Esther had kept up a lively correspondence with everyone, keeping track of their children and their adventures. I think it was Max, the youngest, who suggested they should have a reunion to share memories and keep in touch on a personal basis. These reunions became a treasured way for the long-separated Clark brothers and sisters to keep connected. "Hugs are much better than letters or phone calls," they decided. As they grew older, the Clarks increasingly appreciated the opportunity to share childhood memories while keeping close to one another. This photo was taken at one of their reunions. From left to right, they are: Max Clark, Esther Clark Vice, Doris Clark Bogner, Floride Clark Sonnenberg, and Donald Clark.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thomas, Esther, and Wilma

In this photo, taken about 1938, Thomas and Esther pose with Wilma. Notice Esther's attire--and her "saintly" hairdo. Women in the pentecostal church were expected to wear dresses that covered most of the body. They were never to cut their hair. Thomas was determined to return to Indiana to continue his evangelizing, even though Esther was pregnant with Joel. Over Esther's protests, the family traveled in their 1931 Chevrolet across the country back to Garrett, Indiana, where Esther's mother, Maude, refused to let them stay at the Clark house. That episode concluded with Maude expelling Thomas from her home, and cutting off all contact with Esther for several years.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Young Preacher Thomas

When Esther first met Thomas in Garrett, Indiana, he was a self-proclaimed evangelist who traveled across the state holding meetings in churches, meeting halls, and tents. In this photo, Thomas is in his mid-fifties. Esther, who was a teacher in a rural schoolhouse, was in her early twenties. While her mother, Maude, was completely "taken in" by Thomas' religious doctrine, Esther remained skeptical. She couldn't understand why Thomas urged parents to take their children out of school because they would be indoctrinated in "worldliness." He managed to convince Maude to withdraw her children from school, even though Esther sought in vain to encourage her brothers and sisters to keep on with their education.

In this photo, Thomas has a pleasant expression as he examines the grapes in a local vineyard. He is probably pondering how he will use this experience to illustrate one of his sermons based on Matthew 20, the parable that Jesus told about laborers in a vineyard. Thomas held the strong belief that "many would be called, but few chosen," and that it was his job to spread this message far and wide.

Esther, who was devastated to lose her teaching job, as well as her job in a factory, finally agreed to marry Thomas because, as she said, "it was something I could do." The Great Depression had come to send her family into poverty. She could no longer contribute her salary to their support, so she thought her absence would ease the financial burden on the family.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Clarks' Florida Homestead--1911

In 1975, at a reunion of the Clark brothers and sisters, Esther wrote about experiences on the family homestead eight miles from Oviedo and fourteen miles from Orlando, Florida. This is an excerpt from her notes:

My life in Florida began when Mom and Pop, along with Grandma and Grandpa (Theron) Clark and Uncle Harry Clark decided to homestead. Each couple had 160 acres. I was six months old and my brother Wayne was two years old. The family lived a year in St. Cloud while we got ready to move to the "claim." Grandpa was a carpenter, and he worked at this in St. Cloud. Mom wrote penny picture postcards to her sister Lemo, back in Garrett, Indiana. She talked about the wonder of going barefoot in December. My sister Mary was born on February 22, 1911. When she was seventeen days old, Pop drove all of us in a wagon pulled by Grandpa's horse out to the one-room "shack" he and Grandpa had constructed in the pine woods of our homestead. Here we were to spend our next five years.

The claim did not prosper for there was no capital to set out an orange grove or begin a herd of cattle. Mom and Pop had decided not to sell their home in Garrett, Indiana. Our family was very poor. Mary and I played in the sand, pulling an old kettle with a rope tied to it. We enjoyed the woods where we found a bird's nest, down low. We saw terrapins, squirrels, cranes, and various kinds of snakes. Mary and I enjoyed bouncing in the branches of fallen trees, and we were excited when the neighbor's cattle would roam close to our shack--there were no fences. Once Pop shot through the kitchen screen door at some animal marauder after the chickens. I don't remember if he hit the animal or not, but I remember the hole in the screen door.

I walked to a little schoolhouse for a few months, crossing a small creek on a log, getting there more or less on time, as Mom used "sun time." We put on a program one time and little Mary was in it, even though she wasn't in school. "Merry, merry, rollicking, frolicking May, into the woods came skipping one day." Mary wasn't even in school yet. She forgot the last line, went back to her seat, remembered it, and went back up front and finished it. What a cutie she was!

Below is a photograph of the family in front of the "shack." Maude, Wayne, Esther, Cony, & Theron.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Maude and Cony Clark

Esther's box of memorabilia contained a number of old photographs of the Clark family. I enjoyed these pictures of Maude Myrtle Conrad Clark and her husband, Cony I. Clark. I think Maude was beautiful as a young woman, don't you? She apparently had a happy childhood, and enjoyed visiting with her relatives in the tiny town of Corunna, about eight miles north of Garrett, Indiana.

Maude and Cony attended the Methodist Church when their children were young. It wasn't until the 1920s that Maude embraced the teachings of the traveling Pentecostal evangelists. She was totally convinced that their way to heaven was the only way, and she was determined to see that all of the Clark children followed this doctrine.

When I met my Grandma Clark in 1954, I was amazed at her passionate assertions that all of Esther's children must follow Maude's way to heaven or else. . .I didn't think I wanted to spend eternity in the "Lake of Fire." I'm sure she must have turned over in her grave to know that later I joined the Methodist Church!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Esther and Mary

Mary was Esther's dearest sister and friend. This photo shows the two posing for the Maude's camera. Esther is on the left, Mary on the right.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview with local newspaper

This morning I was interviewed by a reporter from our local newspaper, Stanwood/Camano News. It was a pleasant experience. Our discussion was wide-ranging--how and when did I decide to write about Esther's life? How did I learn about her childhood in Indiana? I was glad to think about the long and sometimes arduous process of writing, editing, revising, and rewriting. Quite a journey that was!

During my growing-up years, I kept a diary. It was some kind of escape from the oft-times depressing and traumatic events that hovered over our day-to-day lives. When I became a teacher, I gave my mother a journal. She kept up her entries, more or less, until her early 90s. Those journals, together with a box full of artifacts and recollections, provided me with an inside look into her adult life.

When Mom was in her eighties, she drove from her apartment in Edmonds to visit me at our Camano Island home. She loved to reminisce about her childhood in Garrett Indiana. She was still enchanted by her recollections of the family homesteading in Florida during pre-Great Depression years.

During one very special school year, I had the pleasure of teaching fifth grade in Lincoln Elementary School in Sunnyside, Washington--alongside my mother, who also taught fifth grade. We developed a new relationship as "colleagues," and I came to appreciate my mother's teaching skills and her devotion to her students.

Now I'm researching different methods of distributing my book. The Snow Goose Bookstore in Stanwood, Washington, is currently carrying THE ESTHER VICE HOUSE, and I have made it available for purchase through this blog. I look forward to hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment if you've read the book. Thank you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Esther as a young woman

I thought you would enjoy a photo of Esther Clark, taken when she was twenty. She loved being a teacher in her one-room schoolhouse near Garrett, Indiana. Esther had enjoyed her studies at Terre Haute Normal School (Indiana). She talked about having fun with friends--playing the ukulele, learning to dance the Charleston, and having ice cream sodas at the soda fountain.  She could never have imagined the turn of events that changed her life completely, replacing her joyful memories with somber predictions of doom and gloom.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Esther Vice House Is Published!

Early in my adult life, I decided to write my mother's life story. She was a wonderful woman and a strong role model for me. Her life wasn't easy, and it wasn't ordinary. When she talked about her Indiana family struggling to make a living during the great depression, I marveled at her determination to make a difference. I wish I had taken notes more often when she talked about her past, but her box full of notes and pictures motivated me to get started on this book. It wasn't easy. I struggled to find the right voice. When my husband John and I visited Arizona, I joined a writing group. There, we read selections from our writing and received encouragement and ideas to improve our work. I decided to present Esther's story in her own voice. After that, the writing came easier. I joined the Skagit Valley Writers' League in Washington State and benefited from suggestions offered by my critique group.

Three years later, I published The Esther Vice House. I am pleased with the finished product. Those who have read the book tell me they can't wait to get to the next chapter. They admire Esther's character and identify with her. I look forward to sending a copy to you. Here is the "pitch" printed on the back cover:

During the spring of 1929, a terrible accident changes the life course of Esther Clark, a young teacher in rural Indiana. Hearing a scream, she races out the schoolhouse door, finding six-year-old Willie writhing on the ground, holding his bloody eye. A whirlwind of events carries the unwilling and skeptical Esther through revival meetings by a charismatic traveling evangelist and dumps her in despair when the school board unexpectedly fires her. What's more, her mother shames her into an unlikely marriage that propels her on a cross-country journey which challenges her faith, explores the hardships of poverty and loneliness, and ultimately provides testament to the perseverance of the human spirit.

To order your copy, click on the Pay Pal button. The price is $13.00 US, which includes shipping, handling, and sales tax. Thank you!