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Grandma and Daddy Sam

Let me tell you

about my paternal grandparents, Samuel and Hallie Slater. We called them Grandma and Daddy Sam. In the 1940s our family lived with them in a small town in Indiana, and for us grandchildren, they were a second set of parents.

Grandma and Daddy Sam were old fashioned "picture-book" grandparents. Grandmothers today color their hair, work out at health spas, wear color coordinated "sweats," and often manage to appear little different from their grandchildren's parents. My Grandma wore dresses of dark colored cotton or crepe, with sleeves that were always below the elbow regardless of the weather. Her hemline was several inches below the knee and was never responsive to whims of fashion. Except on th emost formal occasions (church), a large bibbed apron covered the front of the dress. Her stockings of thick cotton were held in place by rolled garters and her shoes were, of course, black grannie oxfords. She wore her grey hair in a bun and would never consider painting, or even powdering, her face. When an occasion called for her to look her best, she "put in" her false teeth, normally kept in a glass in the cupboard.

Grandfathers today strive to be as young-looking and fashion conscious as their wives - some even use Monoxodil! But my Daddy Sam cut his own hair. He wore canvass work pants and long-sleeved wool shirsts. Except in the warmest weather, he bundled up in an olive-drab, wool cardigan. He only wore a tie when Grandma wore her teeth. He chewed Mail Pouch tobacco, and a tin can sat by his chair in lieu of a spittoon.

Even by the standards of their day, my grandparents were poorly educated people. The seldom traveled and knew little of the world outside their township. But they were open and accepting of strangers, harbored no prejudices, and looked for and expected to find the best in everyone they met. They were kind-hearted and never, ever, did I hear them speak disparagingly of anyone. Well, there was one exception -- for reasons he never really could explain, Daddy Sam had no use for the "Roosians." He distrusted and disliked them, and I'm sure it was with some satisfaction that he found much of the world come 'round to his way of thinking when the Iron Curtain descended.

I'm not sure of my Grandfather's origins, but Grandma, whose maiden name was Ulmer, was German (or Dutch, as she called it). And she certainly inherited the German housewife's mania for cleanliness. She chased dirt like the Dutch lady on the cleanser container. During meals, she hovered near those eating at the table (she herself never ate until everyone was fed and the pots and pans done.) The instant a plate was emptied, Grandma snatched it up and hurried with it to the sink. And I have seen her get up from her sick-bed and "tidy up" the house in preparation for the doctor's visit.

Grandma and Daddy Sam had few leisure pleasures. They listened to the radio. He hunted and she enjoyed walking to Town to gossip with friends on Main Street and in the stosres. They did not believe in playing cards or going to movie theaters. But they indulged their grandchildren. We could play "Old Maid" right in the house -- Grandma did not consider it real gambling; and they pinched pennies from their pension to give us money for movies and ice cream.

Grandma did make a once-in-a-lifetime exception to her prohibition against movies. After evening chores, my mother used to read to Grandma. One winter she read "Gone With The Wind", and when that movie came to our small town, Grandma wnet to see Scarlett and Rhett. Mother claims she fell in love with Clark Gable and talked about that movie for years.

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