Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: A Golden Anniversary

December 19, 1948 was a memorable day for me. I fingered the rich green velvet dress that my mother made for me. I felt so elegant with real lace edging on the collar and silver filegre buttons, as I danced around my grandparents house, the full circle skirt swirling around my legs that glistened with of my first pair of stockings and a new pair of black velvet dancing shoes. Thirteen, self-involved,and unaware of the real importance of this day, I only thought of going to my first grown up party. The occasion was the Golden Wedding anniversary party for my grandparents, Jabez Burns McPherson and his wife of 50 years, Elizabeth Alfreda (Foss) McPherson.

Every night for the weeks before the party, I would take out one of the black vinyl records and place it carefully on our phonograph and dance around our living room. Sometimes, in response to pleas, my dad would be my real life dancing partner. Daddy and mother often went out to dance, which sounded so wonderfully romantic to me. I was sure that I would be asked to dance and have wonderful memories of dancing, my full skirt twirling, and impressing my favorite uncle, Allen, and cousin, Tommy.

A photographer came to take a picture of my grandparents, surrounded by their ten children. Now sixty-one years later, I look at the picture taken that night and memories upon memories flood over me. The darkened dining room of the Casa Blanca Restaurant glittered with twinkling Christmas lights, while a real band played at one end of the room. My parents, aunts and uncles, in their finest dress clothes, danced around the room. My dad danced with me several times. It was a wonderful night.

Back Row,L to R: Harold Lloyd (my father). Marjorie Bryant, Helen Jansky, Betty Enos, Allen Clifford, Lorraine Lippert, Verna Higgins, Clive Walter;
Front Row, L to R. Bertha Clouse, my grand parents Jabez Burns McPherson and his wife Elizabeth Alfreda, Ralph Jabez.

I focus on my grandparents, Jabez Burns McPherson and Elizabeth Alfreda (Foss) McPherson, as they stare back at me from this remnant of that night in 1948. When I was a child, I never thought about them except as my grandparents -- and old. Now I search for clues of who they were when they were first married. For this task, I am fortunate that I had my Uncle Ralph, who gave me letters of memories and stories of my grandparents. Both of my grandparents were born in December; Jabez, my grandfather, was born on December 23, 1872 and Elizabeth Alfreda Foss, my grandmother, on December 12, 1883.

They were married on December 19, 1898, when Elizabeth was but 15 and Jabez was 26. Years later, I was surprised to have one of Ralph's letters indicate that they were married in the spring of the year; however, they always celebrated their anniversary on December 19th. I have often wondered how the 26 year-old Scot met and wooed a young girl of 15, who grew up in a very close knit German family – a family that rarely was far from their 2-acre farm in Madison, Wisconsin.

Ralph tells us of how, in the spring after their marriage, young Elizabeth had one of the most memorable trips of her life. Jabez and Elizabeth, were joined by his parents James Burns & Harriet Elizabeth McPherson, as well as his aunt and her husband, Anne Adamson McPherson and Alonzo Foy, on a trek from Madison to Iowa. According to Ralph's letters, “there were two or 3 rigs of them & the folks (Jabez' parents) had a surrey which is a 3 seat buggy with a hard top & equipped with side curtains.” Then, as now, a McPherson will travel hundreds of miles to see family. The McPherson group from Madison was headed to Lawlar County, Iowa to visit Jabez's aunt Jessie Stewart McPherson Watts and her family. What a trip for 15-year-old Elizabeth who had rarely gone more than a few blocks from home.

When I think of my grandparents Jabez and Elizabeth, I always think of them as one, as Grandma-and-Grandpa. As I look at this Anniversary picture, I realize that in all of the pictures that have been taken of them, rarely were they separated. They traveled together from Madison, to Iowa, to Madison, to Minnesota, to California, to Oregon, to California, to Minnesota and back again – always together.

Now when I look at this picture from a long ago night in 1948, I see a sandy-haired Scot smiling at a lovely dark-haired girl; I see them hand-in-hand, the young man showing a whole new world to his young wife; I see them always together, raising their family; and in old age, always together. I am so fortunate to have stories and pictures to follow them through their lives – always together.

Jabez Burns McPherson and Elizabeth Alfreda McPherson
December 19, 1948

Text copyright by Joan G. Hill, Roots'N'Leaves Publications, Ashland, Oregon.


  1. What a wonderful post about your grandparents, Joan. What a great example of togetherness they were to you (whether you realized it at the time or not). And how fun that you have the memory of their 50th anniversary party -- and the photograph, too. Thanks for sharing them with us.
    Nancy from My Ancestors and Me at www.nancysfamilyhistoryblog.blogspot.com

  2. Again, a fabulous post! I so love reading your blog. You inspire me to try harder! Thank you.

  3. Joan, what a beautiful tribute, and so wonderfully written! It reads like a great novel. Hopefully, you have one in the works. :)


  4. What beautiful memories you have! This is an awesome tribute to your grandparents. But when one thinks about it, your grandparents were not old on their 50th anniversary. She would have been on 66 and he 72. That's young!

  5. I loved reading this post. You put me in your place. I could feel the velvet dress and the joyful swirl a girl feels with a swishy dress.
    What a special memory, thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Joan, you had me hanging on every word! I love how you told the story through a "child's" eyes. You painted a picture of a very different time. I wish I had grown up when people went out dancing! I agree, how romantic. I was just thinking last night about removing all the TVs, computers, video games, iphones, etc. from the house; what would my family do then? Maybe we would dance? I love reading your blog! You are a wonderful leader by example. You inspire me and always make me think! :)

  7. What a beautiful story you have written about your grandparents. I could just picture you twirling around in your velvet dress. I look forward to reading your blog. Also thank you for visiting "The Ties That Bind" - Terri