Memories of Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra

For the Andra Reunion this year, we have been asked to write our memories of my Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra (William Fredrick Andra and Mary Louise Wanner).  These are my maternal grandmother’s parents, but we just referred to them as Grandpa and Grandma Andra.  For sake of reading, I will call them by their more formal title.

My Grandma (Colleen, their daughter) lived in Paul, Minidoka, Idaho from before I was born.  She had grown up in Preston, Franklin, Idaho and her parents still lived there.  Therefore, the only time I saw them is when we visited them in Preston or they visited us in Paul.  At some point, I will write a more comprehensive history of Bill and Mary Andra, but for now I will only write my personal recollections.

Great Grandpa Andra was born in 1898 and Great Grandma Andra was born in 1901.  By the time I was 4 or 5, they were already in their 80′s.  Some of my first memories of my Great Grandparents were the Andra Reunions held at Wolcott Park, beside the Minidoka Dam, near Acequia, Minidoka, Idaho.  Here is a picture from the reunion in 1984.  Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra had 12 children, so our reunions could be quite the crowd of immediate family.

Andra Reunion, July 28, 1984. Bill (Jr), Millie, Bill, Mary, Golden, Larry, Don, and June in back. Colleen and Ross in front.

Great Grandpa Andra was pretty ill.  Some believed it was Parkinson’s Disease, others just thought it was old age.  I do not personally know what it was.  I believe the reunion was held at Wolcott Park because Grandpa was staying in the old folks home in Acequia.  I remember going there multiple times with Grandma and playing while she attempted to play cribbage with Grandpa.  He was pretty shaky, and could not speak in any way that I could understand him.  As you can see in the photo, he needed assistance walking by this point and standing.

I remember him at Grandma’s house in Paul one time and we were having dinner.  Grandma had to feed him.  I do not know exactly what happened, but apparently Grandma became very upset with Grandpa Andra and slapped him over something.  I was not present when it happened.  I remember Grandma crying and I entered the room hearing her sob and tell Grandpa Andra how very sorry she was for what she had just done.  For years afterward, she mentioned how you can spank your children, but you can never slap your Daddy.

Another time we were driving somewhere in Grandma’s 1974 yellow Mercury Cougar.  Grandpa Andra was in the car with us and a song came on the radio.  The song was “O My Papa” and Grandma sang along with it, apparently to Great Grandpa.  Both of them cried.  Grandma always sang along with the song, probably in memory of her father.  Even today, I hear the song and I think of Grandma singing to her father.  Very, very sweet.

Great Grandpa moved back to Preston after probably only a year or two in Acequia.  The only times I really saw them then was at the Andra Reunions, now held at Riverdale, Franklin, Idaho.  Here is a picture of Great Grandpa in the shade at the Riverdale water park where the reunions were held.  I remember he was not very coherent by this point, and family kept herding us away from him so he could have some peace in the shade.  I believe this is the last Andra Reunion he attended in 1989.

He passed away during the spring of 1990 and because school was still in, I was not allowed to go down with Grandma to the funeral.  I remember wanting to go and sad I could not.

Somewhere before this time, for some unknown reason, we went to visit Great Grandma Andra in Preston.  Grandpa was still in the old folks home there because we went to visit him.  We actually stayed the night at Great Grandma’s for the only time I ever remember doing so.  Grandma left us with Great Grandma for part of the day and she pulled out a big board with holes in it.  We played “Aggravation” and it is the only time I think I ever remember playing it.  You move marbles around on a board and somehow your marbles were sent back home.  I remember enjoying it and Great Grandma getting quite a kick out of Andra’s reaction (I know, confusing, but it is my Sister’s first name…I wonder where my Mom got the name?).  She laughed and laughed at one point where Andra was not laughing at all, which only added to Great Grandma’s enjoyment of the situation.

We helped Great Grandma in her massive garden for a good while.  I remember the smells of the garden more than anything.  She had flowers surrounding the garden and even my young 9-10 year old mind knew it was beautiful.  Here is a picture of Great Grandma in 1990 after Great Grandpa Andra passed away.

My last memory of Great Grandma Andra was the day she passed away.  She did pretty well getting around and taking care of herself until a stroke hit her a few weeks before she passed away.  She went downhill very quickly and I remember there being concerns she would not even live until the Andra Reunion in 1991.  The reunion was held and she was in the old folks home in Preston.  Everybody knew it was pretty much good-bye at this point.  We lingered that Saturday with family and then made our way over to the home to say good-bye to Great Grandma.  We all hugged her and gave her kisses.  Grandma climbed on the bed and gave Great Grandma a hug.  She pretty much was laying on her and sobbing and telling her how much she loved her.  Grandma was there too long and we could see that Great Grandma was starting to struggle to breath.  Aunt Jackie pulled Grandma off Great Grandma and I still remember the fluffy white hair in the light as we left the room.  It was a sweet feeling as we left.

We drove from Preston to Paul.  As we walked into the house from the garage, the phone rang.  Grandma answered the phone and the person on the other end informed Grandma that Great Grandma had died while we were driving back home.  Grandma started crying and went somewhere to be alone.  I remember feeling just as sad knowing how much Grandma loved her parents.

I have a very soft spot in my heart for my Great Grandparents because of the love I know my Grandma had for them.  I did not get to know them very well.  Their memory is still fresh in my mind though.  I can still remember both of their smiles, Great Grandma’s laughter, and a sly look Great Grandpa Andra would get in his eye when he would tease me.  I can remember looking at his little tattoo that looked like a eggbutt snaffle bit, that was the only thing in my life that I thought it resembled, just above the thumb knuckle.  Kinda like an 8 on its side with a line between the loops near the thumb of the hand.  I cannot remember if this was the hand he lost his thumb?  (I seem to remember being told someone had the thumb in a jar!)  I did not get to attend Great Grandma’s funeral either.

Anyhow, in closing, here is a picture of after May Melycher was born.  They all drove down to get a 4 generation shot.  I assume sometime in 1989.

Mary Andra, Jackie Melycher, Colleen Jonas, holding May Melycher

Jeep Wreck in about 1980

I thought I would share this story about my mother and me of when I was a baby.  It is a riveting story I had not heard from this angle before.  I knew my mother had wrecked her jeep, rolled it while drunk, and her dog was killed.  I never knew how I was linked!  Anyhow, I have changed the story some so it reads better for those who are not familiar with the family.

Colleen is my Grandmother, Sandy is my mother, Linda is my Aunt (the author), Doug is my Uncle.  I don’t know exactly when this accident took place, I assume somewhere in 1980.  The wreck was near Max Beet Dump, on Highway 24, near Minidoka, Idaho.

“The initial call from the police came to Grandma’s. Doug answered. Colleen was not there. I was asked about you, the police said there was no baby. I had seen you with [Sandy] prior to her drinking. Sandy was not above leaving you in the car when she would drink. So the police began the search. By the time Doug and I arrived at the wreck, they had found the dog, I think he was under the jeep. It was dark, I remember the field, the tumbleweeds. The shadows cast. The jeep upside down. Sandy was at the ER. The baby carrier that she used had been found, but no Paul. I remember hearing someone say, if you were out there, you were dead. The smell of the blackberry brandy all over the carrier, the inside of the jeep.”

“I remember Doug yelling, “I’m going to kill her.” Typical of the family, he rambled about every single thing she had done wrong in the past. Making himself madder and madder. I was freezing, terrified, my stomach hurt so bad.”

“One of the deputies radioed and we were told that Colleen was at home and that you were with her. Doug was so angry by the time we got to you. He fought with his mom about Sandy. All I could do was hold you and cry. Grandma was concerned about Sandy and Doug did not want her to go to the hospital. Colleen had been spared the emotion that Doug and I had just gone thru. I think Colleen had run into Sandy and had taken you so she would not leave you in the car while she drank. Probably because it was cold. I am curious about Doug’s memory of this. Your mom would probably not remember, she was drunk. I don’t remember anyone but the police and Doug and I looking for you. I believe we looked for a little over an hour before the call. Thing is, you were never missing. No one else really lived the terror, so this would not be a story connected with the rollover. There would/should be something in the police report, we did search for you.”

Now I am interested in getting my hands on the police report.  I wouldn’t know where to find it, even if they have kept it for this many years.  Who knew my life was so interesting at some point?  Does anyone else have a story about me I don’t know about?  I am certainly interested in hearing others’ stories, or even linked to this episode.

Welcome to June. It is already all planned out!

Boy, am I glad June is here!  My wife has joined me after our long separation from job and school.  What a relief.  I don’t have to worry about her stressing herself out or being picked up by a much more dashing, intelligent, catch of a man.

We leave this week for what may be the trip of a lifetime.  How many times in a lifetime, if ever, does one get to go to Europe for 6 weeks?  We will be starting with friends in Belgium, working our way to Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Wales, Scotland, and who knows where else we may stumble.  We really cannot afford it, but why not live with some reckless abandon for a little while?  There are so many friends who do so every day of their life and seem to make it through their whole lives.  Granted, their quality may be diminished some.  But what is lost by worry seems it might be made up by the large home and toys that the self-proclaimed responsible typically don’t get to enjoy.  We leave on the 4th to return on the 16th of July.

We signed a purchase contract for a home this month.  Somewhere around the 22nd of June we will be closing on a humble home in Oklahoma City.  Who would ever have thought my first home purchase would be in Oklahoma City?  Did I ever think I would move or live in Oklahoma City.  Most certainly not.

Amanda and I just hit all three of the Idaho temples this past week.  Amanda had never been to any of them.  We have now hit all three Idaho and 11 Utah temples.  Before year end, we will have three more in that geography alone to hit to make it complete once again.  I am very sad I will be in Oklahoma City when the dedication of the Twin Falls Temple takes place.  Being so close to home, and wanting a temple closer for so long, now we get one and I cannot attend.  Amanda and I will be helping with the open house in July.  I guess that is some solace for missing the dedication.  I believe Idaho Falls and Manti are still my favorite temples.  The Rexburg Temple has so many gorgeous rooms.  However, for some reason I still prefer the sessions that are split up into all their sections.  Manti and Idaho Falls Temples both have you moving between all the rooms.  Manti has the pioneer value and beauty with a live session, but the simplicity of Idaho Falls with its rooms and movement make it a favorite.  Salt Lake certainly has the beauty but the place seems more like a zoo than a temple, especially in the summer with all the sealings.

This past week Amanda spent a day with me at work doing bench testing.  It was a beautiful day and we spent nearly all of it in Minidoka.  The Minidoka Longhorn Cafe and Whitesides Dairy was enjoyable for me.  The wastewater we play with is less than beautiful but it is part of life.  Whether we like it or not, we all have waste and somebody has to deal with it.  I thought Amanda was going to throw up at one point when we were doing some filteration.  She kept it down, luckily.  The day turned out well.  Except for the fact Amanda picked up a tick somewhere.  Not only did she pick him up, the tick dug in and started to sup near the middle of her calf.  She was not a happy camper when she discovered him.  A little polish remover and she backed right out.  Hope she got plenty to eat for the long stay in the septic tank.

For the first time in what must be at least 8 years since Grandma Ross passed away, all my siblings were back together.  Becky was coming through Southern Idaho so Scott organized a BBQ.  All five of us where there.  It was really quite a bit of fun and I enjoyed myself.  Even though we were never really close, I am glad we are still cordial and can enjoy ourselves when we get together.  Vicki, Dad’s first wife, was even there.  Dad and Jan were there as well.  Andra brought Brian and Daniel and little Daniel was certainly a favorite.

I know I have not been writing as much.  Despite more people reading the blog than ever before, I just don’t feel like I have much to write.  A couple of people want me to write more relevant things that would pertain to them, but how does one write interesting things for everyone?  Then, how does anyone write for someone else and keep their voice and soul into it?

Pulaski Roots

Speaking of roots, I had a dental appointment on Friday.  Due to Measles as a baby, I have ameliogenesis imperfecta with several of my teeth.  Basically, some of my teeth have deformities.  One of which is that the nerve in one tooth reaches quite a bit higher than normal.  Also linked with the deformity of the drugs (legal!) I took in the early 80′s, those teeth are weaker and more susceptible to problems.  Many, many years ago I had a filling put in the tooth that touched on that high reaching nerve.  Over the years that nerve touching the filling, in addition to a slight tapping from the tooth having moved (from squash racket trauma about 2000), and just normal advancement of time that root has decided to pass away.  Yes, I am the owner of a slowly dying tooth.  I have been placed on antibiotics to keep the nerve from getting infected as it decays.  In the next few weeks I will experience my first root canal. 

On an interesting note, once Dr. Spitzer saw my x-ray of the teeth he quickly noted how long the roots are on my teeth.  Amanda confirmed to me later that during the freak show discussion that ensued my teeth roots were measured at 25 mm long.  Amanda tells me that the normal individual has roots approximately 15 mm long.  The dentist commented how he may have to order some longer tools to work on the tooth.  Whether it was in jest or not, I have come to appreciate how different I really am.  Deep down inside I always knew I was special.  Now I know it is a good 10 mm deeper why I am special.
So we have frantically tried to figure out how we would pay for what a root canal and crown would cost without insurance.  When in the mail today I received an invitation to join the insurance for my work.  As generous as they are, I will now have dental insurance.  Now I just have to find how long of a waiting period I will have with a tooth that has become highly sensitive to hot and cold with slight throbbing from time to time.
Anyhow, on to the story of Pulaski County, Virginia.  My Ross line left Pulaski County about 1912 and headed to settle in Rupert, Idaho.  The daughter, Fannie had married a Phibbs from Pulaski and Carroll County and moved out previously.  Her husband was the Minidoka County Judge in Rupert.  With the opening of the new Sugar Factory at Paul, the rapid expansion of irrigateable farm land, and an economic downturn in Pulaski it was time to move.  James Thomas Meredith Ross who I have written about before followed his daughter Fannie.  His other three children would follow to the west.  James would later settle in the Vernal area.  The Phibbs would eventually end up north of Sacramento, California.  John would roam for many years marrying in West Virginia, Colorado, and Wyoming.  He would die in Alameda County, California.  Robert we don’t really know what happened to other than he died in California about 1944.
While I have written about all of that previously, James Thomas Meredith Ross would leave behind his half brother William Andrew Ross.  William would marry and move to West Virginia.  He lived in Gary, WV most of his life and raised his family there.  He worked in the mines coal mines.  He and Sarah (Sallie) had 12 children.  The youngest of which is Howard Ross born in 1925.
It was Howard we went to visit this weekend.
Howard is the only remaining individual of his family.  He was born in Thorpe, West Virginia and moved to Bluefield, West Virginia many years ago.  He lives in a home perched on the side of a hill on Essex St.  He had 3 children, and a step child he helped raised.  He worked in or with the mines all his life.  His wife past away a few years back and he lives in the home with his grandson and future granddaughter-in-law.
I knew of Howard because he had spent so much of his life pursuing family history.  Grandpa gave me a copy of one of his books he had written about 1972 on the Ross family.  That is how I knew who he was and that he was related.  By the time I came home from my mission I did not expect him to be alive anymore until one day in Twin Falls I was visiting with a missionary who had served in the West Virginia Mission.  I told him of Howard (I knew he was LDS) and the missionary not only knew of Howard, he had his address and phone number.  He gave it to me and I called Howard.
I have looked forward to meeting Howard for several years and of visiting the famous Pulaski County.  The valleys surrounding Pulaski County had already been home to the Graham and other families for over a hundred years by the time Pulaski County was formed in 1839.  There Meredith, Martin, Booth, Shepherd, and other families were well entrenched.  But my main interest was in going to the area where my family left before heading west.
Friday we drove out to Pulaski County and arrived after dark.  We spent the night in a hotel at Claytor Lake just over the border into the county.  The next morning we drove into Pulaski and just got a feel for the town and then headed for the hour and half drive to Bluefield to see Howard.
Bluefield turned out to be what you would imagine a town 50 years ago.  The little streets, little yards, flags on every house, and a good percentage of people sitting on their porch.  It was a lazy, hazy, day in summer.  We wound through the streets of Bluefield following our directions to Essex St.  Wow, as if we were not impressed.  One side of the street was wood and the other side of the street were homes perched on the side of a hill probably 75 to 100 feet up.  This hillside was probably at a 45 degree angle.  We found the home and climbed the steep stairs to the rickety old porch.
I don’t mean to sound negative, but we had entered what you joke about with rednecks.  These homes sat precariously sitting on the side of this hill and had not had any care in the last 40 years.  There was a hand made 2X4 railing up this terribly steep hike and at the top the porch wood buckled with every step.  Howard met us in the open door and invited us in.  We sat there in a relic of the 1930′s with only the television and sofa to remind us we were actually not in the mid 20th century.
Howard sat there talking with us in a most happy manner with his eye patch and asking for us to repeat often what we said.  Moreover, he spoke with that thick gentleman manner which so permeates the old confederate ideal.  His joking ways were jovial and we had quite the good conversation.
I took him with my computer through all the descendants of William Andrew Ross and he updated quite a bit of my information.  We also showed him a number of pictures I thought he would be interested in from my side of the family.  He then told us a few stories.
Uncle Jim (my great great grandfather who went west) had come to visit in the 1930′s where they lived in Gary, West Virginia.  It was the late 1930′s because the family had all gone to attend a Conference of the church in Grundy County, Tennessee.  One of the speakers that morning was Jim Ross, Howard’s Uncle.  The children did not attend but afterward all these people kept coming to his mother and commenting about how powerful Mr. Ross had been in his preaching.  Howard’s mother had to set them all straight that it was not her husband but her brother-in-law.  Howard remembers the day because it was the day he was baptized.  They would meet for the morning meetings and then have a big meal and baptisms in the middle, and go back to conference in the afternoon.
They went back home after the conference and Uncle Jim came and stayed for a spell.  Howard remembers Uncle Jim taking the wash basin out to the fields and coming back with a huge amount of corn.  He then told Howard’s mother to cook all the corn and they would eat it for dinner.  When Uncle Jim found out they did not have any milk, he went out and purchased a milk cow and brought it back for them to have milk.  (This isn’t necessarily all the same night).  Howard remembers that he was so thoroughly struck by how much Uncle Jim could eat.  Howard swears Uncle Jim must have pushed near 300 pounds and that man could eat.  Howard laughs and laughs about how when Uncle Jim left he went and sold the cow and they didn’t have milk for years afterward.
Howard remembers Uncle Jim was missing a finger.  He doesn’t remember which one, but he did ask how he lost it.  Apparently he had been bitten by a spider and as the finger started to rot and decay he finally just cut it off.  The Dr. apparently told him he had saved his life by taking the finger off.
That was about all he remembered of Uncle Jim.  He knew he moved to California after Idaho and Oregon.  While in Fresno he served as a Bishop of an LDS ward for quite a few years.  Uncle Jim was always a Ross to him even though he took the Meredith name back after moving to California.  The timeline in relation to the name I have told previously.
John Ross, or Jack as he was known, also made a trip out to West Virginia to visit.  He came out after his second wife had passed away (my great grandmother) and tried to convince his first wife to marry him again.  She wasn’t having any of that and Jack left empty handed.  Howard never met Hobart Day, Jack’s oldest child with his first wife.
Howard doesn’t remember ever meeting any of the rest of the family.  Donna Phibbs Beachell came out to visit in the 1970′s and spent quite a bit of time with Howard.  They wrote often over the years, some of which letters I mentioned were sent to me in the papers of Howard from John Ross.
Howard was very interested in what I had found out on the Meredith family and I told him what I was pretty sure to be correct.  He related to me more of the stories of what he believed happened to his grandfather but until further information comes out to prove the James Meredith story of the Harvy Ross story, we still really don’t know for sure.  I think mine is pinpointed quite a bit more firmly than his.
Howard then gave us a bit of the history of the LDS church in West Virginia.  He had us drive him down to the Bluefield Ward Building over the border in Bluefield, Tazewell County, Virginia.  He gave us a tour of the building.  We met the Bishop and a few other people.
We went back to the house and he asked that I give a blessing to his daughter, Sarah who lives next door.  She has MS and various other problems that come with smoking, MS, and the redneck lifestyle.  I will tell you now, I was alarmed that 82 year old Howard regularly climbs and descends those stairs out front.  They were so steep I didn’t feel safe especially with an old man struggling up them.  I gave a blessing to a woman who didn’t want it but whose father insisted.  Talk about a little awkward of a position.  We then went next door where he asked I give his future granddaughter-in-law a blessing.  Not only did he want a blessing for her, but the unborn child as well.  That was my first experience I remember blessing a baby in the womb.  Both turned out to be special events.  I enjoyed them and Howard became choked up after the second of the two.  My oil holder had become cracked and did not stay together any more and so we had to make due with a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small glass bowl.  Under the circumstances it was the best we could do and we were richly blessed on the occasion.
Interestingly, the kitchen is exactly how you would have found it in the 1940′s.  The sink, the ironator, cupboards, and more were all of proper vintage.  Sadly, that was probably the last time they were cleaned.  It was quite humbling to see the faith of this man in such humble circumstances.
We left with my promising to do the ordinance work for his son and him after he had passed away.  He joked, part seriously, that through family history he had prepared the way for hundreds to enter heaven despite his own lack of achieving the same goal.
Amanda and I left and wound our way back to Pulaski County.  There we wound our way through the desolate parts of county roads trying to cross the New River.  We found our way across and went through the little towns of Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville.  All towns of which were heavily populated by those of my ancestry.  It was interesting to drive along and recognize names on mailboxes and say to Amanda, “They are probably related.”
We drove back across the river up to Newbern, past Dublin, and back to Pulaski.  There we enjoyed our dinner, as we had our breakfast, at the Sonic Drive-In with gift cards that had been given to us for helping a lady move into the ward.
Afterward we hit the road to try and make Tennessee for some souvenirs and then across Southern Virginia to other ancestral locations.  We realized we were too far from Tennessee too late in the day to make it so at Rural Retreat (how is that for a name?) we turned and headed east.  We drove through Independence (Grayson County) and crashed for the night in Galax (Carroll County).  Both counties are heavily tied to me as well.  Sunday morning we awoke and made our way to Hillsville (Carroll County Seat), Martinsville (home of the Martins of which I am related), over to Danville, north to Keysville and Farmville, and home to Richmond.
It was a long weekend but very worthwhile.  I really enjoyed getting to see Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville.  Maybe someday we will get to go back.  Maybe Howard will be around when it comes time for us to head back west in a year.