Jefferson County
Illinois


Family Letters



Submitted By: Gary Piercy


Marilyn Sue Piper Piercy 
May 2, 1938 - Dec 28, 2009

Gary & Doug,

You may not understand why I am writing this to you guys, maybe I'm not sure either. I just
wanted to give you some insight about me and things in my life. You've heard bits and pieces
about me over the years, but I wanted to tell you a little more about your mom and my side of the
family. I wish my mother had written mc this kind of letter. I really don't know that much about
her, except she was my mother and I loved her very much. When I was a little girl and she would
rock mc to sleep, I would always have to have my hand on her cheek. I don't believe I have ever
felt that safe again. She was kind and gentle and never asked anything for herself and as I look
back, none of us really gave her much, after all she was "mom", she didn't need anything. How
wrong we were.

I know her mother died when she was four and she was raised by different aunts and uncles. 
I don't know who they were, but I do know her childhood was hard and I can imagine she must
have been lonely. She married dad when she was 17. I don't know how they met or where they
were married. I know nothing of her teen years, nor did I ever ask her what her dreams had been
as a young girl and then when I was 21, she was gone at the age of 55. I still miss her warmth
and wish I would have asked her these questions before it was too late. Do you know my mother
never lived in a house with a bathroom or any kind of running water. Her name was Mabel Edith
Rosenberger Piper.

As you know, I was bomed May 2, 1938, south of Woodlawn in Jefferson County, 111. They tell
me the house I was borned in is now a chicken house, ha My growing up years were
uncomplicated. The 18 years that I spent with my parents were happy ones. I felt like an only
child because of Jack's and Helen's age difference. We lived in the country, so therefore, I had a
lot of imaginary friends. We had an old chicken house that wasn't used anymore -1 had myself a
real neat playhouse. I would spend hours there with my dolls, dog and cat. I was always dressing
up the dog and cat in baby clothes. I have some early memories that happened between the age of
1 and 2. I guess I was just a toddler walking around the house and can remember these times.
Remember Helen is 11 years older and Jack was 9 years older than me. Anyway, I can see them
fighting each other in the living room and Jack broke Helen's glasses. I can remember when
grandpa Piper died at home and I watched as they pulled the sheet up over his face. I remember
the day we moved into my grandmothers house (where grandpa died), because she had moved to
Woodlawn. That's where 1 lived until I married your dad. It was also at this time I got the
whooping cough. I had a bad case and coughed so hard that I gritted my teeth together and they
all broke off. They put me to sleep with gas and pulled what was left of my upper and lower
front teeth. I was just a little over 2 at this time and I never had any front teeth until I 
was in the second grade. I was so happy when they finally came in. When I was four, I heard 
my parents talking about Pearl Harbor being bombed (which I didn't know what that meant) and 
a little later I can remember standing in the front seat beside mother while she was driving. 
She pulled into the gas station in Woodlawn and a lady came out and said, "did you hear that 
President Roosevelt died". Those are my only pre-school memories. It's strange that these 
memories are all traumatic things for a little mind.

I know what my dress looked like on my first day of school and of course that's where I met Ann,
Barb and Donna. It was during this time they struck oil on my grandmother's land where we
were living. We were just coming out of World War II and people didn't have much, but when
grandma Piper struck oil, she bought herself a brand new baby blue Chysler! She didn't know
how to drive and never did leam. Her children borrowed the car sometimes and then if she
wanted to go some place, they would take her. Her children shared in the royalitics of the oil, 
so in the forties, you might say we were "well off for that period of time, but now it would hardly
be anything. My parents were receiving monthly checks in the amount of $450 to $500. They
would always hide the checks under the carpet in the living room. They didn't have a checking
account until later on. Guess they didn't trust the banks at that time or didn't want anyone to
know how much they had.

When I was in the 4th grade, dad decided we were going on a vacation. I had never been on a
real vacation. We were going to drive to Colorado! No one did that in those days, a lot of people
didn't even have a car. Dad, mother. Jack, a friend of his named Bud Lange and myself took off
in our 1937 Ford. I saw such beautiful sights that I had only seen in pictures. Between the 4th &
7th grade, we made another trip to Colorado and a trip to Hollywood!!! You can't imagine how I
felt about a trip to Hollywood. Our friend who lived in the Los Angeles area was a contractor,
and he knew where a lot of the movie stars lived. You know what a movie buff I have always
been, so you can imagine how I felt seeing the homes of Lana Turner, Clark Gable, Jack Benny,
etc. I had a list of names of the homes I had seen and couldn't wait to show my friends, but they
thought I had the big head about being able to see all that and more or less stuck their noses up in
the air at me. That was o.k., I still had my memories.

My dad was a hard working man. He worked at the car shops (railroad) for many years. The
loud noise there made him almost deaf. But my memories of him was a carpenter. He was a
good carpenter and there are still homes in the Mt. Vernon area that he built or remodeled. He
had a great sense of humor and loved to play practical jokes on people. He and mother were well
liked in the community and participated in the activities in the schools. When I was very young
(6 or 7), they were having some kind of community talent show in Woodlawn (really an excuse
to get together to eat and gossip). I don't remember any of the things going on, but when
someone got up and announced they would like to present "Miss Woodlawn" - out walked my
dad on stage in a woman's bathing suit (the kind the legs came down to your knees), a swimming
cap and a banner draped across the front of him saying "Miss Woodlawn". He was around 40 and
I can still see him and hear all of the laughs and applause. Mother wailed on him hand and foot.
She always had him a hot breakfast and a hot supper when he came home from work. His big
heavy carpenter overalls were always washed and ironed to perfection. Remember there wasn't
any automatic washer and dryers at that time. Just an electric Maytag wringer washer and the
clothes line outside. When mother died and he wanted a new shirt, he didn't know what size he
wore. He always kissed her goodnight and when she was laying in her coffin, he kissed her
goodnight then too. Six months after her death, he died too. His funeral was identical to hers.

Mother and I attended the Woodlawn Baptist Church and sometimes dad would go with us, but
always using the excuse he couldn't hear the preacher due to his loss of hearing. He never
minded mother inviting the preacher home for Sunday dinner. I forgot to tell you she was a great
cook. Dad loved my mother, but he did take her for granted. I also know he loved his children.
The first time I realized that as I look back, was when Helen was in a car accident when she was
17. I was 6 at the time and when the phone rang and told us the news - he cried. We drove to
Centralia as fast as we could and when we got there, they had her laying in the hall. They said
she was dying, so they didn't bother to clean her up very well. Glass was still in all of her cuts.
Today they would have been sued for malpractice. Anyway, dad said, "no she isn't" and he got
an ambulance and took her to St. Louis. I think she was there around 6 months, but it was a year
before she could walk. We drove over to see her almost every Sunday. Again, you have to
remember this was the 40's, roads weren't that good and cars didn't go as fast as they do now.
There was (corrected in margin wasn't) any insurance, so dad paid out of his pocket all her hospital 
and doctor bills. He would pay the hospital money each month. My dad's name was Ernest Loren Piper.

My grandpa Rosenberger (mother's dad) was half German. His father came over from Germany.
Not only did he (your great, great grandfather) become a citizen of the United States, he was 
also the first man in Jefferson County, 111. to join the Civil War. Back to grandpa Rosenberger -
mother's mother was his first wife. Her last name was Mandrel. They had 6 children and I
believe she died giving birth to her 7th. He married a second time before I was born and I think
they had one daughter. When wife #2 died, he married again. The third wife is the one I knew
and called grandma. We called them grandpa and grandma Gene. They were married many
years, but he outlived her too. He married a 4th time (after Gary was bomed), but that didn't last
long. When she found out he didn't have money, she threw him out. One of the best memories
of him is the late 40's and early 50's. He had one of the finest buggies around and he would
always drive it to Woodlawn on Saturdays to buy groceries. He lived about 10 miles south of
Woodlawn. The seats in the buggy was all leather and he had a pretty pinto horse to pull it. 
He always wore his overalls and straw hat to come to town. When it was bad weather, mother
always made sure they had groceries. I think he died around 1962. His name was Eugene
Rosenberger.

Grandma Piper was the one I really had the most enjoyment with. She never had much fun in her
life. Grandpa was a big farmer (peach and apple orchards, etc.). They raised all their children on
the farm where I was raised. I am sure she had all children at home - five boys and one girl. The
daughter (Aunt Mary) came late in life for grandma. The boys were all married when she came
along. She was not much older than Helen. My dad weighed 13 pounds when he was borned.
The oldest son, Berthel, and the youngest son Virgil were blind and paralized from the waist
down. After grandpa died and the kids moved out, grandma had to care for them by herself. This
meant lifting, bathing,etc. My memories of them began when Berthal was around 50 and Virgil
was in his 30's. They were big men and grandma was a little woman, but none the less she lifted
them off their beds and put them on the pot, which was beside their beds. They could feed
themselves, but their life was a very sad one. Berthel was usually in a bad mood, so I didn't play
with him much. He would sing real loud and most of the time off key. It didn't matter who was
in the house, if he had to go, he would holler "mama I need to sh_". They each had a bedroom
so they would holler back and forth to each other. I loved to play with Virgil. I played like I was
a nurse and I would have him wrapped in toilet paper from head to foot. He never acted like he
was tired of me and grandma never complained about the amount of toilet paper I used. I also
thought it was great because she had an indoor bathroom. Their house was by the railroad track,
so Virgil always knew the time of day because of the trains. This was the days when the trains
came through Woodlawn on regular basis. I don't know exactly what year they died, but it
seemed pretty close together. At last grandma was free to get out and about a little. After the
uncles died, I would spend the night with her. This was when I was 9 or 10. She enjoyed only
about 10 years, then she had a stroke and laid paralized and couldn't talk for seven years. She
died in 1957. Her name was Luttie Eubanks Piper. My grandpa's name was Doctor Austin
Christian Alexander Piper. He was known as Doc Piper.

You have to realize Woodlawn wasn't like it is today. It was a thriving small community. There
were two grocery stores, bank, drugstore, barber and beauty shop, feed store, pool hall and a
restaurant that had the best home cooking in the world. Those were the days before instant
potatoes and frozen food. The town was always a busy place. People from all around would
come to town on Saturdays to buy groceries, etc. If you needed to go to Mt. Vernon, you could
catch the morning train and come back in the afternoon for 50 cents. Thursday night was a night
we all looked forward to. That was "Showtime". A man would come and put up a tent - 25 cents
adults and 15 cents children - you went to the movies. That is where I seen my first Frankenstein
and Dracula movies. I still like to watch them. When I was a little girl, we would always sit on
the front row, but as I got older and had boyfriends - we set on the backrow. I also remember one
time Barb, Ann, Donna and myself put up a lemonade stand, we drank more than we sold.

My love for dancing began when I was around 10. Mother was almost 40 when she had me,
therefore, most of their friends didn't have children as young as I was, which meant I was always
with older people. They taught me how to polka, waltz, two step, square dance, etc. There wasn't
such a thing as rock-n-roll until highschool. I didn't know there were actually people on this
earth that thought it was wrong to dance until I was out of highschool! We used to go to "bam
dances". Some farmer would clean out his barn, put out a few bales of hay, get a few fellows
together that played instruments and have a dance. Yes, things were simpler then.
Also, when I was ten, Henry Piercy from Boyd died. My parents and I went to his house to pay
our respects to Mrs. Piercy. There was this boy there, he sure was cute and I think he thought 
I was too - his name was Bob.

The junior high days came and went. Jack left for Korea which broke all of our hearts. He was
married and Regina was pregnant with their first child. She moved in with us. It was real hard
on her, but she and I played cards a lot and went to Mt. Vernon to the movies (this was before 
I was allowed to date). Jack didn't get to come home until Jeannie was six months old. It was
really neat having the baby at our house. Guess that's why she has always been special to me.
The day finally came, I was a Freshman in highschool! On that first day all freshman were told
to go to the English room - behold, through the door came that cute boy I had met when I was
ten. He had on a light blue shirt with some red in it, to match those blue eyes.

My highschool days were certainly different from your days in school. As I have told you, it was
just like the TV show "Happy Days". My first real "go in the car" date was with Bob Johnson
from Ina. Of course all four of us girls got a boyfriend from Ina - Ann ended up marrying her
boyfriend from Ina - Tom. You talk about puppy love, I had it bad. I thought it was true love.
This all started when we were in the 8th grade and it really made the Woodlawn boys mad. We
told them, "you never ask us out" - there reply, "we didn't know you could date", ha ha Anyway
that lasted until the end of my freshman year, then I realized there were a lot of boys out there! 
I was cheerleader all four years of highschool. My senior year your dad and I was first runner-up
for King and Queen. My junior year - ELVIS appeared. He certainly livened things up! That
black and white Ed Sullivan TV show which they show once in while where he made his first TV
appearance, I was glued to the TV that night. He was my singer and James Dean and William
Holden were heart throbs of the movies. I think I saw the movie "Rebel Without a Cause" (James
Dean) a dozen times.

Your dad and I became good friends those early years of highschool, but we never dated. It was
in Oct. of 1955 that we began to date a little. We were both in the senior play. By Christmas we
were an item. We got each other a pink sweater for Christmas - don't laugh - that was when pink
and black were the in thing, even for guys. Your dad looked great in his black slacks and pink
shirt! We became engaged on June 16,1956, married Sept. 1, 1956 and as they say - the rest is
history. I do think our marriage has been successful because we were friends first

When we moved to Wash. D.C. in December of 1956, you can't even imagine what that was like
for us - such a big place. We were actually going to work and live in the city we had read about
in our history books. The group I worked with we (were) able to meet and shake J. Edgar Hoover's 
hand one day. I guess that was the first famous person I had ever seen. We both were the baby of 
the family and I was pretty spoiled. We always thought we would live either in Woodlawn or Mt.
Vernon the rest of our lives. We put our few belongings in a small U-Hall and started off for
D.C. The work at the FBI was interesting and it did us a lot of good to move away. We became
very close, all in all it was quite an experience. Wc got homesick sometimes and we saved up
enough money to fly home (this was 1957 before Jets), our first plane ride. I guess we were and
still are the adventurous type. When I became pregnant with Gary, I knew I couldn't have our
baby in Wash. D.C, my mama was in Illinois! So we packed up the old u-haul again, after living

in D.C. almost two years. Work was hard to find in Mt. Vernon and your dad worked some of
the time, but was laid off most of the time. We were too young to realize how poor we were.
Most of the winter before Gary was borned in May, Bob didn't work. We just received
unemployment. Most all of our friends were in the same boat. The beginning of 1958, my dad
was building Stan the Tire Man a house and dad got him to hire Bob as a tire changer. We still
didn't have any money or insurance, so when Gary was borned, my grandpa Gene Rosenberger
paid the bill. Of course hospital bills were not out of sight then. If I remember right, it was 
only around $200.

We were living in Woodlawn at the time, but moved to Mt. Vernon about six
months after Gary was borned. Life was going along pretty smoothly, I didn't have to work even
though we didn't have much left over, then mother started getting sick the spring of Gary's first
birthday. She would get ok, then get sick again. My mom and dad finally moved out of the
house they had lived in since I was two and moved to Woodlawn. We all thought mother was
getting better, but in Oct. of 1959 she died. This was the second death in our immediate family -
Helen's little boy and now mother. We moved back to Woodlawn with dad. I am glad we did, as
he spent the next six months enjoying Gary before he died.

In February of 1960, we were able to take our first vacatioa We decided to go visit some friends
we had worked with in D.C. who lived in Ft. Worth, Tex. As I look back, no one drove to Tex.,
but we did! We left the snow and got to Texas it was so warm, we just didn't want to leave.
Someone told Bob they were always hiring people down at the B. F. Goodrich store, so he
borrowed a sports coat from our friend and put in his application. We went back to Illinois and
really didn't think anything would ever happen. Then in March we received a letter from the
Goodrich store staling they had a position open if we wanted to move to Texas. So once again
we packed up the u-haul and took off for Texas with our 1-1/2 year old little boy. The one thing 
I regret, my dad hated to see us move off, especially with Gary. He died two weeks later, if only
we could have waited to move just two more weeks, but we didn't.

We loved Texas and settled right in. In 1961, our own little Texan was borned at the Methodist
hospital in Dallas. We had our two sons and we thought we were settled, but as you both know,
we stayed their 5 years, Goodrich moved us to Okla. City for 5 years, Houston 2-1/2 years,
Fenton 3 years and dad and I were very unhappy there. So Goodrich said they had a job for us in
Houston, but we would have to move ourselves back at our own expense. We made the decision
to move back, then after awhile they wanted to move us to Mobile, Ala. That's when dad quit
Goodrich, we didn't feel we should move you guys again. Now look, you have both moved away
from us. ha ha

You guys have been our joy. I just hope you have some memories of your childhood. We had
good times, but I probably remember them more than you do. When I dream of you, your always
little boys. We made mistakes, but you will make mistakes raising your kids also, and you will
have regrets when they get older and wish you could have done some things differently. We are
so proud of our precious grandchildren. The advice I want to leave you with about your children -
don't assume everything is all right with them. That was our mistake, we thought we were the
Cleavers, how could we possibly know what was out there -we were the product of the laid back,
everything is great 50's. Keep the line of communication open, things can slowly creep in
unannounced. We taught you right from wrong the best we knew how.

Both sets of your grandparents were hard working, honest people. Gary, my parents loved you so
much. Doug, I am very sorry they didn't get to know you, but I know they would have loved
you. I am counting on us all being together in heaven - what a happy day.


 

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