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The following is an excerpt from the "Tryon Story Book", written by Elaine Tryon Holdsworth
Click on the thumbnail images to the right to see full size pictures.

Left: Tryon Family: Sager, Margaret, Calvin, Pauline, Martha, Anna

Right:  top row: Genevieve, Margaret, Anna, Mary, Pauline, Agnes, Martha, Bottom Row: Sager, Rev. Sager Tryon, James, Mrs. Jennie Tryon, Calvin


All Of My First Half Dozen Are Boys Except Six

When Calvin was about a year old Dad announced to his family that they were going to be moving — they were going to a smaller city in north central Ohio named Mansfield. The older girls were sorry to be leaving their schools – particularly Mary, as she had become close to one specific teacher in the Cleveland high school. But Dad had been assigned to the Evangelical United Brethren Church on Park Avenue in Mansfield, and the family had to make the move. They were moving with Mom and Dad and eight children – quite a chore.

All of the children helped on moving day – and before the furniture could even be moved in, the windows and floors had to be scrubbed, the indoor bathroom(!) cleaned, and all the curtains washed and ironed. The rugs also were hung over the clothes lines in the backyard and the younger children had the job of beating the rugs with a long stick. Mom pitched in and helped when she could, but she also had to make sure that Calvin was safe and out of the way. By late afternoon most of the house had been washed and the largest furniture had been moved in. “OK – it’s time for this tribe to take a break,” announced Dad. Everyone looked up. Dad pushed hair out of Anna’s face, wiped a grease spot off of Agnes cheek, took Calvin from Mom’s arms and ordered, “Everyone follow me.” What a parade. Ten bedraggled, tired, dusty people; but they looked at Dad with expectation. Where was he taking them? He walked across the back yard, and turned into the alley. He walked up the alley – opened the door and bowed to Mom. “After you, my lady,” he said. They all trooped in – into an Isaly’s ice cream shop. Dad bought each and every family member a five cent ice cream cone – the best tasting cone that any of them had ever had. Maybe life in Mansfield would turn out to be alright after all.

After the house was settled, two tasks clearly took places of prime importance. One was procuring chickens to put in the hen house in the back yard – Mom could have her brooding hens, chicks, and roasters in this house. It became a very familiar and comforting sight to see Mom out by the chicken house calling to the flock with quiet guttural clucking sounds and scattering feed around her on the ground. These small birds were a great source of strength and peace for Mom. When she became irritated, overworked (wasn’t that always?), or even worried she’d step out back, pick up the feed bucket, start in with her almost musical clucking, and spread nourishment on the ground for the chickens. Her shoulders would rise and fall as she took deep breaths, and almost visibly the tension would roll off of her shoulders. She would come in renewed and ready to face the multiple challenges of caring for her family and her husband’s church.

The second major task was the tending of the family garden. From the early spring to middle fall a main focus of family activity was a large garden located about two miles from the house. On weekends during planting season the whole family was gathered, a picnic basket packed, and a brigade of ‘garden girls’ walked across town to the plot. As they got older, Sager and Calvin joined the crew. The ground had to be prepared, and even the youngest child could pick up rocks and deposit them on the rock pile at the edge of the garden. The soil was turned, and seeds planted. Then there was a need for weeding, and later for harvesting. Dad did a lot of the outside garden work; Mom and the older girls were kept busy for several weeks in the fall cooking and canning the winter’s supply of vegetables. As there was no indoor refrigeration available, the food was stored for the winter in barrels buried in the ground in the back yard. As the weather turned colder, these barrels provided a safe place for the food to be stored and prevented loss from spoilage.

One early summer day the children were at home when they saw a man and a woman turn into the front walk of the parsonage. Mom spoke briefly to the man, and then said to Anna, “Quickly, run and get your father.” Anna had to run the two miles to the garden plot where Dad was working. “Mom said to come quickly; there is a man and a woman that need your services.” Dad wiped his brow with a handkerchief and wiped his hands on his pants, “Well, I guess I’d better get on my shank’s mare.” He started back toward the house at a fast clip. By the time Anna returned her Dad was sitting in the front room with the couple, calm, dry, and looking amazingly cool. Mom called Anna into the dining room and then told her to join the other children upstairs as Dad needed some quiet time to talk to these people.

The children were huddled in the hallway at the top of the stairs, trying vainly to hear what was going on. “They want Dad to marry them, “ said Anna. “But they’ve been divorced,” whispered Pauline. Mary quietly motioned for the girls to follow her. They went into Mary and Agnes’ bedroom; this room was right over the front room. In the corner was a plant; the plant was sitting on a register that allowed warm air to rise from the downstairs to the upstairs. Mary quietly removed the plant; the girls gathered around the register, lying on their bellies, so that they could peer down into the front room. It became evident that although the couple had been divorced, they had been divorced from each other and wanted to remarry. Dad thought that this would be permissible, so he agreed to perform the ceremony. The vows were said right there in the living room, in full view of the watching eyes from upstairs. As Dad said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” Mary got up and motioned for the other children to follow her. But in the jostling to get up somehow the water dish under the plant got bumped, and water spilled through the grate. Mom, Dad, and the couple looked up. “Oh,” said Dad, “Mother must have set one of the babies on the register.” The couple laughed, and the woman said, “I saw a lot of girls – are your children all girls?” “Oh, no,” responded Dad, “All of my first half dozen are boys except six! And the next two are young lads.”

The children went downstairs, the couple was congratulated, and they left. Martha went to Dad – “You said that we were all boys except six. Would you rather have boys?” Dad ruffled Martha’s hair – “How could I wish for anything other than my six girls – you are part and parcel of my most favorite thing in the world – your mother. I wouldn’t trade any one of you for a yellow bull pup!” “Dad,” asked Peg, “tell us the story again of how you met Mom.” Mom took Sager and Calvin into the kitchen to feed them lunch, and the girls gathered around Dad on the couch.

“Well, I was on my own from the age of fourteen, and I earned my living my working on ships that sailed on Lake Erie. I was a cabin boy, a jack of all trades. When I was eighteen, I decided that I needed to find another way to make a living. I took my wages, went to the train station and bought a ticket on the railroad for as far as my money would take me. The ticket took me to Delaware, Ohio. I arrived needing to find a job. Right across the street from the train station was the Dunlap Lumber Mill. I walked in to see if they were hiring. A Mr. Barrett standing behind the counter asked me my name. I told him, ‘Sager Tryon.’ He asked me a couple of questions about my family and then said, ‘My wife’s name was Agnes Tryon before I married her.’ ‘I have a sister named Agnes living somewhere in the United States,’ I said. So he took me home. It was my sister Agnes who had married Mr. Barrett; I had not seen her for years, but she welcomed me with open arms. If there are still saints on this earth, my sister Agnes is a saint.”

“What about Mom?” asked Mary. She was beginning to be a bit interested in romance.

“Well, I worked in the lumber yard, and pretty soon I began to notice this pretty young lady who often came to help in the front office. I found out that she was the owner’s daughter. She was the prettiest girl I had ever seen, and she was hard working and efficient. I began to make sure that I was close to the door of the office when she left, and we began talking. One day after church, I waited on a brick wall outside of the church, I blurted out, “Will you marry me?” She was so flustered that she went home and cried for three days. After all, she was only fourteen. Grandpa Dunlap was not at all pleased with the attentions of this ‘older man’ being focused on his older daughter. He made it clear that she was to do no courting until she was eighteen. So we would be able to talk some at church, but I was willing to wait. When she turned eighteen, Grandpa Dunlap could not go back on his word, so I was allowed to come courting. He still wasn’t overly thrilled by my attentions, but, thank my lucky stars, your mother didn’t seem to mind. She agreed to be my girl, and we had a year or so when I took her to church and to prayer meetings and came calling at her house and sat with her on the back porch swing. I then had to leave to make a living, but we wrote letters for two years. How my life centered around those letters! I had a calling to preach in God’s church, and Jennie would be leaving the house of a business man to make a life with a penniless ministerial student. But she was willing to be my partner in doing God’s work. We were permitted to marry when Mom turned twenty-two, and then she became the center of my life. I look at her and think, ‘What a woman, isn’t she wonderful.’ I know that I am the luckiest man alive.”

Mom suddenly was standing at the doorway saying, “Lunch is ready, and you’d better come and get it before I throw it out.” Dad stood up, looked at Mom and whispered loudly, “Yow’ee!” He put his arm around her waist and bent to kiss the back of her neck. “Sager!” she barked, and brushed off his lips. But her eyes were twinkling, and she had a small smile playing on her lips.

Not only did all of the children help with all the chores necessary for running the household, the older girls began to get jobs in the various businesses around town. Mary and Agnes worked in the Friendly House, a crafts shop, and they taught crafts to the patrons. Mary, and later Peg, got jobs at Westinghouse winding metal elements to put into irons. The younger children’s favorite job for an older sister was Agnes’ job at Madden’s Grocery. When younger brothers and sisters came in with pennies, she was permitted to be generous with the penny candies.

Each child had to help with the chores at home, but they all had their own styles. Mary often had to help with the cooking and with the care of the younger children. Agnes would pitch in, but she was a ‘no nonsense’ worker; the job was quickly done, and she would be off to get outdoors and work or play outside. She would often take younger siblings with her to roll hoops, fly kites, skate, or play rousing games of hide and seek. Peg had the job of setting the table and then doing the dishes. She often went into the kitchen with a book. “Are the dishes done?” Mom would ask. “I’m heating the water. It’s not quite hot enough,” replied Peg. She would get engrossed in her book. “Done yet?” “I’ve put the water in the sink, but it’s too hot. I have to wait for it to cool.” Back to her book she’d go. “How are things coming?” “Oh, my, the water has cooled off too much. I’d better heat some more.” This would sometimes repeat several times if the book was particularly interesting, and sometimes it became too late to do the dishes that night. Then Peg would have to get up in the morning and do them in a much more efficient pattern.

Mom and several of her daughters could exhibit quite volatile tempers, and things could at times get quite stormy. But if not too tired, Mom could handle things with remarkable skill. One day Martha had come home from school and Sager was using the family dictionary – Martha needed this to do her homework. “Give me that,” she said. “You don’t have homework; you don’t need it. I do.” She started to grab it, but Sager held it tight and said, “I’m using it.” Anna came in at that time and snapped at Martha, “Why can’t you wait your turn?” “Keep your nose out of this,” yelled Martha. “I can handle this.” She went to grab the dictionary again, and when Sager would not let her have it, she hit him with it. Sager yelled, and Anna stepped up to Martha saying, “Look what you’ve done.” About this time the children became aware of Mom picking up the tablecloth and looking under it, going to the bookcase and moving it to look behind it, peering closely at the tops of tall pieces of furniture, openly drawers and shutting them again, searching corners and looking under the edge of the rug. “What are you doing, Mom?” asked Anna. “Well,” said Mom, stopping and looking at the children, “someone has lost her temper and I thought that I’d better find it.” No more was said, but Martha and Sager figured out a way to share the dictionary.

One of the family’s favorite rainy day activity was to cut out pictures from the newspapers, Sunday school lesson papers, or magazines and make scrap books. One rainy afternoon when all the younger children were home from school and Sager and Calvin were up from their naps Mom got out the scissors and scrapbooks and then discovered that they were out of paste. She had the children sit at the table and she prepared to make some glue. She placed some bones in the heated water and let it boil; as it thickened she added the bichloride of mercury and then set it aside to cool and set up. Then Mom gave each child his scrapbook and glue and went to hang up wash.

“I’m thirsty,” said Calvin. “Wait a minute; I’ll get you a drink,” said the girls. But the girls got absorbed in deciding what pictures they would put in their scrapbooks. “ I’m thirsty,” Calvin said again. The girls again said that they would get him a drink shortly. Calvin saw the cooling liquid sitting on the kitchen sideboard. He climbed up and dipped a cup into it and took a drink. The girls turned around to see him as he dropped the cup. “Calvin,” they yelled. They ran for Mom. She quickly mixed up some mustard water and forced Calvin to drink it. He threw up with wrenching sounds and tears. Mom took the newly made glue and threw it away down the sink muttering, “I should have known better than to use poison around children!.” She picked Calvin up and rocked him in her lap. The scrapbooks and pictures were quietly stored by the other children – they knew not to protest the ending of this activity.

Evenings almost always brought story time. Mom would recite the Longfellow’s poem, “Between the dark and the daylight, when night is beginning to Lower, Comes the time of the evening which is known as the Children’s Hour.” She would pick up a book and sit on the couch and all of the children would gather around. She read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Mrs. Wiggs and the Cabbage Patch, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Little Women, Ivanhoe, Lassie Come Home, and other classics. She could read with such expression that the children could see all the action in their mind’s eye. When Mom thought it was time for bed there was always a cry of ‘One more page, please.’ Sometimes Mom would accommodate the request, but eventually it was time for bed. Mom would stand up and the children would follow behind. As she got to various beds she would chant, “Shadrach, Meshach, and A Bed We Go.” Giggling the children would jump into bed.

In the Park Avenue Parsonage Mary and Agnes shared one room; in another room Peg had a single bed, and Pauline, Anna, and Martha all slept in a double bed. Sager and Calvin slept on an enclosed back porch of the house. Mom thought that the fresh air would protect them from tuberculosis, and anyway, there was no other bedroom in the house. The boys loved to be able to look up at the stars and listen to the night sounds. Sometimes in winter they would wake up, still snug under the many layered covers, and see that a layer of snow was like an extra blanket on top of their spread. When the time came that they could no longer linger in the warm bed, they would jump out and run into the kitchen and stand close to the wood burning stove.

Sunday afternoons were special family days. Everyone had made it to church, Dad had preached his sermon, Mom had greeted all of the church members, and they could come home and relax. They would have a family meal, and then Mom and Dad would always go to their room to rest. The children were responsible for doing only the necessary cleaning up, and then they were to spend the afternoon in reading or quiet family games focused on the Bible. Quietly, they would work together to get the dishes washed and put away, and then they would stay quiet while the older girls got out the ingredients to make fudge. This was ‘work,’ and shouldn’t be done on a Sunday, but if done quietly so that Mom and Dad would not hear them they could all share in the benefits of this labor. Mary would set up the pans, and Agnes would pore in three cups of sugar, a pinch of salt, two cups of milk, and 3 ounces of Baker’s chocolate. The girls would take turns stirring, sometimes moving a chair by the stove so that Martha could take her turn. They would test the chocolate periodically to see if it had reached the ‘soft ball stage.’ When it formed those soft balls when dropped into a cold glass of water, the fudge was poured into a pan to cool to bloodheat stage (body temperature). Then it was beaten until it began to crystallize and then poured into a pan to setup. The girls and Sager (Calvin was napping) would then go into the front room to play a quiet game while waiting for the fudge to harden. A favorite game was “Where in Jerusalem?” Each piece of furniture was given a name of a city in Israel; an object was hidden by the child chosen to be it, and then the rest of the children would try to guess where the object was by asking which city it was near. Other favorite games were Rook or Pick-up Sticks. These pickup sticks were fashioned in the shapes of rakes, brooms, arrows and rifles and other straight objects so that delicate maneuvers were required to disengage the selected stick. Mary was the perennial champion of this game. The children learned to play all these games with quiet cooperation so that Mom and Dad would not wake up and discover the fudge in the kitchen. If left undiscovered, as soon as the fudge was cool enough the children would wait while the fudge was cut and distributed. If Calvin woke up before his parents, he was also given a piece. Sometimes they would try to pop popcorn to eat while they would play authors or old maid, but the smell of the popcorn would bring Dad out of the bedroom, and then the popcorn would have to be thrown away. So usually their secret snack was the warm, delicious, smooth, melt-in-your mouth fudge.

A few days before Christmas in Mansfield a large crate arrived at the parsonage and sat on the back porch. What could that be? Christmas was an exciting time of year, and the family joined in the preparations. A tree was placed in the front room, and strings of popcorn and cranberries were strung and crisscrossed around the branches. The younger children, helped by Pauline, would make long chains out of red and green paper strips. They were strung on the tree. Dad and the older girls would carefully remove the glass blown ornaments out of their wrapping, and they were hung on the tree – birds with fiberglass hair, some horns, some fish, and some pure round glass balls. Dad would then call Mom into the room, and she would watch while he placed an angel on the top of the tree.

On Christmas Eve the whole family went to church, and when they came home through the clear sparkling night air, they would scurry around and try to find enough clean stockings without holes for each child to hand a stocking. They would then sit by the tree and Dad would place the candle holders with candles on the tree branches, and then he would light the candles. The whole family would sit quietly around the tree and watch the candles burn; it was a night of blissful calm.

The next morning the children woke up to the sound of music; somewhere someone was playing ‘Joy to the World.’ The children gravitated to the source of music, and there was Mom sitting in the dining room playing on a piano. The crate sat empty on the back porch. Mom’s face was aglow – she played all of the Christmas Carols, and the children gathered around and sung. They took a small break for the children to check their stockings, and they found apples, oranges, nuts, and a shiny new penny stuck in the toe. They then returned to the piano, and Mom played their favorite songs again and again. What a wonderful Christmas!

 

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