Four: Christmas 1887

Gratia Housler Fox

I don’t remember anything about moving although we were living in a little place called Excelsior long before Christmas. A little place? I should say it was. A little store building made of new lumber stood at one side of the road where another road ended or began. This road led off into the woods and was the connecting link between the houses, and the outside world. We lived on the main road across from the store far from the houses, I should say cabins and shanties, of the inhabitants. Near Traverse City Michigan.
The road was just like the stem of a grapevine, twisting and turning in and out to touch every new home in the wilderness and it was a wilderness. Some houses were larger than others but the furniture in all of them consisted of what was absolutely necessary. Each home probably had something about it intended to beautify but I was too little to know about such things. The picture above, taken in nearby Dolph Michigan about 1912, is of Gratia’s son Bill Fox and a friend.
We lived in two rooms of the only house near the store. Just across the road we were. Another family lived in the same house and I believe their name was Morris.The little store was also the Post Office. A pot bellied heating stove kept it warm and men congregated there. A young woman was back of the counter. I never wanted to go to the store because I was bashful and men were always standing around and I didn’t like men.  
But when Christmas came, things had to be bought and I had to go to the store to get some of them. Mother knit a new pair of woolen socks for Dad and I had a penny burning a hole in my pocket. I wanted to buy a stick of candy to put in the toe of my dad’s sock. “Dad” was William B. Housler, the eleventh of twelve children of John J. Housler and his first wife, Anna Thompson. John remarried and had at least another five children with Jane Viletta Bolster.
So Mother gave me money for a pair of gallouses [suspenders] and wrapped me up good and warm and I went to the store. It was a great adventure for me like going forth to battle. The gate which opened on the road was closed and I had to climb over it. I got to the store to find it full of men. The young lady asked me what I wanted and I told her. She asked me lots of questions which I answered. I remember there was a lot of laughing at me but I didn’t know it then. The gallouses I bought were blue, the stick of candy was white with a red middle. I would have preferred a striped stick but white was all they had. Strange, but I never thought of buying anything for my mother. My dad should have taken me with him and had me buy my mother a present but he was careless about the sentimental side of life. I suppose it never occurred to him that I should learn to observe the special days in the family life. “Mother” was (Myra) Blanche Bowerman Housler, the last of nine children of James Addison Bowerman and Amanda Hastings.
Christmas morning I awoke to find a chair setting by my bed and on the chair my Christmas presents. I had a book of bright colored pictures, a little flat iron I could heat on the stove to iron with. It had a iron stand to set on. A big glass marble, big as a golf ball and striped just as if it had candy inside. I never got over wanting to break it to see if the inside was candy. I got a doll with a china head. She had black painted hair and blue eyes and was all dressed up in a nice new dress with pretty underwear.  
I got a book of songs for children.
Then in a cage and going round and round with their little bright eyes shining were three squirrels.
The squirrels finally were named U-know, I-Know and Guess.Mother got a pair of new shoes for her present.
It was sometime around Christmas that my grandfather died. My father went to his funeral and when he came back he brought me a little broom from my Aunt Libbie; a belated Christmas gift. John’s daughters include Elizabeth Ann, his second child, and Eliza, his twelfth. His son George’s wife was Matilda Eliza, so “Aunt Libbie” could be any of those women.
Sometime that winter my mother’s sister Alma died. Grandmother sent mother a box of her clothes and things that were my aunt’s Grandma thought my mother would like. I remember of thinking that  what happened to Grampa Housler and what happened to Aunt Alma was just the same. Alma Bowerman died in 1891. “Grandmother” was Amanda Hastings Bowerman, the widow of James Addison Bowerman, a Civil War fatality.
We must have had a lot of snow that winter because the snow formed a wall straight up on either side of the door clear to the eaves. We had a regular open roof tunnel from the door to the road and I was not allowed out of doors for fear the big icicle hanging from the roof would fall on me or I might get buried in the snow. In the meantime I felt sorry for the squirrels and let them out. They ran around the wood shed and often came back to their cage. They stayed close around until early spring we moved again, this time to a little two room house near the lumber mill. The squirrels were left behind.  

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