The Topic of Conversation

I’m copying an older blog post from November of 2014, originally entitled The Topic of Conversation, because there have been new developments recently.  The original post is under the cut.  It basically entails that I am a member of a Facebook group about the town my parents grew up in, Laurel.  I’m also a member of the one for my home town, Hattiesburg.  It does stand to reason that since my family grew up in Laurel, that the page might contain something to do with them.

None-the-less, when it happens, it still feels like I’m eavesdropping or reading someone else’s private diary.  It is strange to be on the internet and have your family being discussed.  It’s never ill talk, it’s all nice reminiscence, but it doesn’t make it feel any less strange.  The older post had to do with the house my mother grew up in, as well as year book photo’s of my mothers older sister, and my dad and his older sister.

A few days ago, my mother emailed me showing what she saw on that Facebook page.  My sister & I both stared at in wonder.  It was fascinating that someone none of us knows, has a photo that none of us have ever seen before.

Fair booth for Laurel Hoe Works

My grandparents moved to Laurel, from Ohio, in the late 1930s.  My grandfathers family were farmers, so I suppose that farm equipment would just be his thing.  His Uncle owned Union Fork & Hoe in Ohio and gave my grandfather the money to purchase Laurel Hoe Works in the early 1940s, when it came up for sale.

My sister and I sat staring at this photo for at least a full minute before stammering out how weird it was to see it.  That is our grandfathers non cursive print.  There are his words, in print, which we had never before seen.  This is a booth at the Laurel fair that he orchestrated, and we had no idea he ever showed at the fair before.

My grandfather died when my sister was three.  He is someone I never knew, though both my parents have always talked about him, as well as my grandmother and aunt.  So, for me, it feels strange to see this photo.  As far as it pertains to me personally, I could be seeing a random photo from Laurel’s history, but because there are stories I grew up with, it rings differently to me than a mere random photo that holds no type of meaning for me.

It’s like the Arabian or the Strand theatres in Laurel.  There was so much talking about it while I was growing up, that seeing a photo of it would have no tie for me, except for the stories, because I have never been to either place.  The same can be said of my grandfather, or to stories pertaining to a time before I was even alive.

Write up for Laurel Hoe Works

Then someone commented with the above photo.  Some write-up about the Laurel Hoe Works.  My sister and I didn’t read it, as we were too busy staring at the photo.  We’d been told what the area looked like, but by the time we were children, the site had been demolished and there were storage units on that property.  So, this photo is something we have never seen, in real life or in a photographic context.  This was the late 1930s, just prior to my grandfather purchasing the business.

Like just about everyone out there, I have a Facebook account.  One thing I use my account for is to paruse a group dedicated to the history of my town.  It’s fascinating.  Tonight, I wondered if there was a page like that for the town where my parents grew up.  I found one and was not disappointed.

I’m looking through the groups photo albums and after ten pages I see something familiar.  Very familiar in fact because it is my family’s home; the one where my mother and aunt grew up and I spent most of my childhood there visiting my grandmother.  Actually it wasn’t even the house, just the greenhouse.  I exclaimed, out loud, “Holy crap it’s me!”, which is just easier to say than “Holy crap that is the greenhouse in the yard of the house where my mother grew up!”  It became even stranger because some commenter’s were talking about my family.

228 East Kingston Street, Laurel, Mississippi

This house was originally white, though the very top part with the attic venting always looked that way.  The Lindsey’s built the house in the late 1800’s.  They were very wealthy from making wagon wheels.  The bushes in the front are overgrown, and there were two tree’s on either side in front.  The low wall is original.

 My grandparents moved to Laurel from Ohio in the thirties.  They first purchased a small house in the country, but my grandfather purchased the business, Laurel Hoe Works, which was located very near to this house.  But, as the story goes from my family, for ten or twelve years my grandfather drove past this house.  It was empty and for sale and he desperately wanted to purchase it.  Not until 1948/49 did my grandfather purchase this house and moved my grandmother, Aunt Jan and my mother into their new home.  My grandmother lived here until 1987/88.  The neighbourhood became too dodgy and she moved uptown.
While I do find it wildy exhilarating and strange at the same time that my family is being discussed in some of the comments; what is weirder (and oddly spooky), is that a few commenter’s remember a girl named Martha Tru Cobbel, who lived in this house in the forties.  But if my family’s story is correct, then that would be impossible.  She would have been living in a vacant house.  I only photo captured one comment, but two other people corroborate that woman’s story by chiming in to say they also remember this great beauty of a girl who moved before she graduated high school.  Umm…  My mother says perhaps her family was renting?
Three mentions of my family

Here you can see some of the comments.  Summers House, Jan Sommers, Slumber parties… and that one about Martha Tru Cobbel.  But as you can guess, my families last name is Summers, it’s not Sommers, but I’ll forgive them because it really was that when my grandfathers people came over from Germany because immigration spelled it incorrectly.  These two women were friends of my aunt and attended slumber parties at the house.  That’s just trippy to be reading this.  Also the last commenter is remembering things incorrectly.  The room she’s talking about was originally The Library, later Jans room when my family moved into the house.  The room she’s talking about did exist, but it was on the right side of the house, bottom level.

More school mates of Aunt Jan

That first woman is even talking about my grandmother!  It is true, she was a Girl Scout Leader.  She actually started the Girl Scouts in Laurel, as they didn’t have it there yet in the forties.  And as I’ve posted before my aunt did live in Canada and wrote books about Oriental Rugs.  She no longer lives in Canada though, because her and her husband sold the business.

Not sure if she knows what she’s talking about…

And that’s the last relevant comment about my family.  So let’s get on with me showing you the past!

Late 1940s

Right after my grandfather purchased the house, he paid someone to come out and take a photo of it… so they could have it framed… so they could hang it up on the wall inside the house.  Is that an Ohioan thing?  Anyways, the lighting in my house is not that good, so this and the following pictures will look slightly weird.  I apologize.  The difference in the pictures, besides the green paint, is that there are no more chimneys, the slate roof was replaced (I’m sure it needed it) and the center window is now a door on that second floor balcony.

August 1961

My grandparents, mother, and aunt on the front steps of the home.  My aunt was in high school here, just about to start her junior year.  My mother was in junior high, about to turn 13 in two months.

Aunt Jan’s wedding day

This photo was taken in the living room.  It’s December 1968 or possibly January 1969.  Winter.  They had the wedding at the house.  My mom would elope with my dad (because my grandparents didn’t want her to marry my dad) in May of 1970.

Some artistic shot someone took of my grandmother in the seventies

I’m not sure why this photo was taken, unless who ever was taking it and my grandmother thought it would be “neat”.  I’m quoting my grandmother there.  Things were neat to her.  Anyways, that’s the stone wall and behind her the textured front and the attic ventilation.


There were two living rooms when you came in the front door.  The one on the left was the formal one, and the one we are in here was less formal.  The main staircase is behind the tree.  In the corner between the fireplace and the tree was a built-in book-case.  It was cool.  Anyways, that’s my mom, baby me, and my sister all in our matching outfits Christmas morning 1980.  My first Christmas.

The people in this group scan in entire year books.  Awesome, but also wow.  I mean that is an undertaking.  My dad attended R.H. Watkins High School in Laurel.  They were the home of The Fighting Tornado’s.  It’s adorable.  Also makes sense, since Laurel is tornado alley for this area.  This was 1966.  And that plaid jacket is fierce!  Dad’s older sister, Aunt Vicki is a junior here.  George S. Gardiner High School in Laurel in 1962.  It wouldn’t exist in a few years and students would have to go to Watkins.  She’s adorable!

Dad’s graduation, 1966 | Aunt Vicki’s junior, 1961

Also who’s adorable?  My Aunt Jan.  She looks like a fluffy Persian cat!  She’s the prettiest girl on the page, I think.  Anyways, George S. Gardiner 1962.  Just a note.  Jan and Vicki were in the same Girl Scout troop and had to interact at functions and knew some of the same people (but not really in relation to my parents dating) and they did not like each other.  Not one bit.

Aunt Jan’s graduation, 1962

Edit:  Umm.. I should mention, in case you can’t tell who the pretty, fluffy Persian Cat is… Second row, second from the left.  That is my Aunt Jan.

Also, most of those “girls” saying they are Jans best friends, or talking so wonderfully about it.  They were mean to my aunt in school, and are only her “friends” now because she appears to be fabulous with her glamerous Persian Carpet and travel life.


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