Elaine Mae Miller
- Born: 26 Jun 1915, 205 Ray Street, Flint, Michigan
- Christened: Garland Street ME., Flint, Michigan
- Marriage (1): Leslie Pearce on 8 Sep 1934 in Angola, Indiana
- Died: 7 Jan 2014 at age 98
NOTES BY KEN MILLER. August 4, 1995 and later.
Elaine was born before the first World War, and one of her early memories is of women giving packages to departing soldiers on troop trains as they shipped out of Flint.
Elaine went to a number of schools in the Flint area as she grew up, as the family moved around quite a bit. From her memory, she went to kindergarden at Kearsley St. school, 1st grade at a country school at Atherton and Center road, 2nd and 3rd at Doyle school, 4th at Kearsley st., 5th and 6th at Durant school, 7th and 8th at South Junior High School, 9th at Longfellow, and 10th, 11th, and 12th at Northern High School.
She has fond memories of Grandfather MacLennan. He worked for the Grand Trunk railroad, and lost an arm in a switching accident. After that he worked for a while as a crossing watchman. Elaine would walk out of her way to go by his watchman's house, as he was always good for a nickel or dime for his granddaughter. She also remembers his gifts at Christmas, etc. as being above and beyond the norm.
Elaine has vivid memories of the Depression, and the tough times people went through then. One story is of Dad after he had owned a small grocery store, which went out of business. But there were some outstanding accounts and he tried to collect them, as he certainly could have used the money. She remembers driving with him in ice and snow up to a ramshackle farmhouse where one of the debtors lived. A number of small children were sitting on the front porch, in their bare feet. Dad never stopped; just made a U-turn and left.
Following are excerpts from a tape made by Elaine while driving with her husband Les, and brother Mike (Ken) from Florida to Michigan in April, 1996.
NOTES FROM ELAINE'S TAPE-
I always say to Jan that I knew a different mother and father than she did, due to the difference in our ages. Things were really rough during the depression. Grandma and Grampa were going to lose their home, so the folks sold their house in Chevrolet Park on Flushing Road, and we all moved into our grandparent's house on Davison Rd. (Note by Mark Coller - see John Harvey Miller notes which elaborate on the living agreements made between the Clarence Miller family and his parents.)
Money was very tight. At one point Dad's salary was cut to a little over $14 a week. It was really rough. When I graduated from high school, Cousin Helen graduated in the same class. Aunt Grace bought me my pin, a dress, and paid for the robe and the pictures. It was just too much for our folks to handle.
Cousin Helen was about 1 1/2 years older than I, and we used to play together. We were the only two girls, and If she had a birthday party I would come. She loved to come to our house, cause there was always something going on. At her house it was always very quiet, and Uncle Mac swore quite a lot, which scared me. I remember once I hid in the closet. He used to serve at dinner, putting the food on the plates. He would take out his handkerchief and dust his chair before he sat down. Then Aunt Grace would go through the roof and they would yell and swear at each other. I didn't hear that stuff at home and it scared me.
They had what I thought was a really big house at the time. Helen had her own lovely bedroom, and her closet was like a small room, and we used to play in it. I thought that was really plush. But she liked to come to our house. We were more laid back, I guess.
Helen says she has a paper which offically changed our grandparents' name from McLennan to MacLennan. I never knew this, but she says its on legal record. She says Uncle Mac pushed Grandpa to do this. I always thought our ancestors came from Scotland, but maybe they were Irish. I guess there was a lot of ill feeling toward the Irish at one time, and maybe that's why they changed the name.
When Grandfather MacLennan died, he left Mother a little money. She bought herself a Model T. I often think Mother was one of the original women's - libbers. For a woman to have her own car then, back in the 20's, was pretty rare. Not many women even drove then.
Mother used to chauffer the neighborhood kids out to Long Lake to swim. It was called Long Lake then, rather than Lake Fenton. She would rush around and get her housework done by 10 a.m., and then off we'd go.
The family car was an open touring car. When it would start to rain, Dad would have to get out and put on those ising glass curtains. I can hear him yet: it would start to rain and he would say, " Oh, Judas Priest!". He'd stop, and put the curtains on, and we couldn't see through them, which made us unhappy. We've come a long ways since those days, as far as comfort in cars go.
I think that was the same car that we went up to Port Huron in one time. Gas stations were few and far between, and Dad used to carry extra gas. Even so, we ran out, and by the time we got to Aunt Mary's and Aunt Laura's, it had taken us 13 hours. This to go some 60-65 miles.
Aunt Mary and Aunt Laura were sisters of Grandpa MacLennan. Mary was married to Will Streeter, Laura was married to Clark Purdy. I've got the family bible at home, but that mainly covers the Miller's side of the family. I should bring the bible up to date, but the pages are all filled up. I can recognize Mother's handwriting, and Aunt Ethel's and Grandma Miller's. I would have to add pages, and I should do that and bring it up to date. But I'm just a procrastinator.
Dad kind of ran into a brick wall trying to trace Mother's side of the family. Grandpa MacLennan came from somewhere in Canada. Dad had just started trying to trace Mother's side of the family when he died. But he was really ahead of his time with genealogy. It's quite a popular thing now, but not when he started doing it.
The year that I was born we lived with Grandma and Grandpa Miller. When they knew Clare was about to come, Mother and Dad decided they would have to get out on their own. Mother told how she and Grandma would sometimes lay in bed and each crochet a booty before getting up in the morning. These booties were for me. She said I was so spoiled; if I made the tiniest peep either Grandma or Grandpa would pick me up. When they got out on their own they decided they had to break me of the habit. They said it took about three nights of listening to me cry. Finally I decided that nobody was going to pick me up anymore.
At one time Dad worked for a cigar company ( Watson or Watkins) They saved the bands from cigars, and turned them in for premiums. That's how Mother got her sewing machine, which was treadle-operated. I used it for years, finally got a new machine, and was ready to throw it out, but Lynn wanted it. She now has it up in her bedroom. Lynn is quite interested in old things.
Dad told us once that when he worked for the cigar company he would sometimes come in early and do some janitor work. One morning the boss came in and said, " Miller, you didn't dust my desk". Dad took off his hat, dusted the desk with it, put his hat on, said, " I quit", and left. I don't know where he went from there; maybe that's when he got a job with Moffett Grocer Co., but I'm not sure. Dad had a bit of a temper, and I guess I do too.
I have quite a lot of pictures that nobody knows who they are, because they aren't marked. Alice and Gracie brought over quite a bunch and a lot that Aunt Ethel had had, and I was able to identify quite a few. I try now to put names and dates on photographs, because later it's nice to know.
We've kind of gotten reacquainted with Aunt Ethel's side of the family in recent years. For a number of years after Aunt Ethel died we only sent Christmas cards. Then when Gracie's daughter Elaine graduated from high school she sent us an invitation. That was probably the thing that got us started again. I painted a couple of little things and sent them to her ( Note from Brother Mike; Elaine has painted china for years, and is really very good. But under-appreciated in her own family. Sort of like a prophet in his own country). And then we got an invitation to Elaine's wedding, and Eldon sent us an invitation to one of his son's weddings, and then of course Alice had a reunion there a few years ago, and Janet had one two years ago, and then Lynn got them together again last year.
Gracie wasn't well for years, and was in a wheel chair a lot of the time, but she always had a smile, you know. We didn't realize how bad off she was, I guess. She died in January, 1996. When we went to the funeral her daughter Ethel gave the most touching eulogy. I couldn't do that; but it was lovely.
In the 30's we had a place out at Little Lobdell Lake, with a couple of cabins on it. Grandma and Grandpa Miller liked to spend the summers out there. There was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, water had to be hand-pumped from a well, and cooking was done first on a wood stove, and later on a kerosene stove. At one time Grandma even made her own soap, using lye. It was really strong. Heat was from a big old stove in the parlor, which burned coal. It had ising glass windows, and everything else was nickel-plated cast iron. (Note from Mark Coller - see the John Harvey Miller notes which elaborate on the living arrangements made between the Clarence Miller family and his parents.)
Grandma loved company, and when we went out to see them she could always whip up a meal. Of course she canned almost everything, and made conserves and preserves. It seemed like she could get a meal out of nothing.
We used to take her over to Argentine grocery shopping, and that's when they would give you a piece of depression glass with your groceries. It was just cheap glass, and she gave me a box full one time. I thought "It's just old cheap glass" and I put it down in the basement and never even looked at it--- until it started to get expensive as a collectible. Then I went down and took a look. Evidently she would get pieces that weren't all the same pattern, but most were in cherry blossum pink, so I decided to add to that. I've got service for eight now.
I corresponded with Jim Haskell, Dad's cousin, and we stayed with them in Tulsa for a couple of nights. Dad and he resembled each other quite a lot, more than any other relatives. I asked him once if Dad and he were first cousins, and he said yes. Their families had adjoining farms in Ohio, and they used to play together.
I've really got a different feeling about donating things anymore. Dave's collection included some really nice bottles that came from Flint, made for drug stores and so forth. Charlie White was in the bottle club with Dave, and he asked if we would consider donating the Flint bottles to the Sloan Museum. We talked it over with the boys, and agreed. They did have a really nice opening reception, not only including the bottles, but also a candlestick collection. They were on display for 3-4 months.
Then about a year ago (1996) they put on a display of Flint and its history. We went, and took along Derek and Valerie who were visiting from England. It included a number of old bottles which I'm sure were Dave's but they gave him no credit at all. It just said " Courtesy of the Flint Antique Bottle Club". It just burned me up.
Another thing Dad donated to Crossroads Village was that big cement slab from the depot at Flint, that said Flint on it. He had it out on the hill at the lakeplace for years. But they never used it. We'd go past the maintenance building and they had it standing up turned to the wall. It was out there for 6-7 years. Then one day they called up and asked if they could use it down along the river at the so-called Riverwalk. I talked it over with Jan, and we said OK, but I don't know if they ever did.
But if you donate something to somebody it's theirs, and they can throw it away, sell it, or whatever they want. So any more I'm a little leery of donating.
When I worked down at the warehouse ( Moffett's) I worked in the office, and Clare worked out in the warehouse, and so did Dad. There were quite a few of us who did things together. I remember going down to Detroit one time with young Bob Moffett and his date, and Clare and somebody, and Les and I. We used to kind of pal around together.
When we were two kids at home, Clare used to really get in my hair. We would fight all the time. But after I was married, he was over to our house most of the time. He and Art De Caire or somebody. All of a sudden we were best friends.
The following is from a tape made at Les and Elaine's house on Coldwater Rd. in Davison, Michigan.
Grandpa MacLennan had more than two sisters, perhaps, but the two that I knew were Aunt Mary and Aunt Laura. Aunt Mary married a man called Will Streeter, and Aunt Laura married a man called Clark Purdy. They lived on farms north of Port Huron, where Mother was born.
Grandpa's youngest brother was Herb MacLennan. He was a deaf mute, although he could speak somewhat. He couldn't hear himself speak, and his voice was kind of high, but he could make himself understood. He taught tailoring for years at the old Michigan School for the Deaf here in Flint. He used to visit out at the lake place. Mother could speak with her hands, and she could communicate with Herb. I can't remember if Aunt Opal could speak with her hands, but she probably could.
We were down at Bertha Zeisloft's 90th birthday party in Ohio, and Gracie came, drove all by herself. Her husband is a dealer in collectibles, and is usually away on weekends. She said, " I've got some pictures out in the car. I don't know who they're of, but they sure are ugly!" She brought them in, and I knew who they were cause they're in that book of Dad's, and Aunt Ethel used to have them hanging on her parlor wall. I said " Those are your great-grandparents". She asked if I wanted them, and I said sure. I was really thinking of the frames, which are now quite valuable. So I took them, and now Lynn has them on her dining room wall.
I regret now that I didn't pay more attention to what the folks said. Sometimes I 'm talking to Lynn and I say "Now listen to what I'm saying!" But she's quite interested in family stuff. She kind of likes the history of the family and so forth. I've said the only good thing about Mother's illness was that I spent quite a lot of time with Dad. We'd drive up to Traverse City, and talk on the way, and I got to know Dad better, after I was an adult.
One time when I was president of the Women's Society, 210 women, he called and asked me to go up to Traverse City with him. I said I just couldn't, as I was supposed to pour at a big tea. Then after I hung up I thought about it, and said the heck with it. I called up and said I couldn't make the tea. I'm sure it was pretty lonesome for Dad to drive up there alone all the time, and I know he liked the company. So I decided that was more important.
Sometimes it was a pretty tough trip, with snow and ice. I remember one time the snow was so deep on the country roads that they had the mail boxes marked with poles with flags on them, so the mailman could find them.
I do wish I'd paid more attention to what Dad had to say, but unfortunately I didn't.
Noted events in her life were:
1. Residence, 1926, 2511 Flushing Road, Flint, Michigan. Source is address and postmark on mail.
Elaine married Leslie Pearce, son of Alfred William Pearce and Caroline Isabelle Methven, on 8 Sep 1934 in Angola, Indiana. (Leslie Pearce was born on 19 Jun 1909 in Enfield, England, christened on 9 Sep 1912 in Trinity Church, Mackinaw Island, Michigan, died on 7 Nov 1999 in McLaren Hospital, Flint, Michigan and was buried on 10 Nov 1999 in Sunset Hills Cemetery, Flushing, Michigan.)