My Family – The Smiths And The Bowsers
I was born on June 25, 1919, in the Emanuel Nofsker house where my parents lived with my Bowser grandparents. It was a hot day in June and about noon or a little after, my dad was called down to the house to go after Doctor Robinson in Roaring Spring. I was born sometime in the afternoon. Many happy days I spent in that farmhouse as a child. The house was divided into two parts, which would now be called a duplex. Our family had the one side and I remember just a few small things that happened there. I was just out of diapers and was crawling on the floor. Granddad was lying down sleeping and I guess I thought that would be a good place to go to the bathroom - to do number two, so I crawled close to his head and did just that. He awoke and said in a loud voice "Who left that kid in here?" He was done sleeping. He may have seemed gruff at times, but he did love me, being his first grandchild. I am looking at a picture now of him sitting on the front steps of our house, holding a rabbit. I am by his side petting the bunny.
Mrs. Don Weaver now owns the farm on which the house is located where I was born. Part of the house is now torn down. That was the part where my grandparents and my parents lived. Now, in my later life, as I look back, my thoughts are centered on my childhood, but not primarily on that farm. The one thing I do remember about that farm was playing on the floor with my grandfather. Instead, my memories start on a little farm in Harker Hollow (10 acres) in the vicinity of Smith Corner, which my father purchased shortly after my birth. I was an only child and had to invent games that one person could play.
My grandmother Smith lived nearby. During the time I knew her, she was raising three sons, Brady, Sherman and Irvin and three daughters, Marie, Ethel, and Arvilla. "Mammy" as her children called her, raised two other sons who were married by the time I came on the scene. They were Millard and my father, Eldon. Grandmother Smith had been a widow since November 9, 1916 when my grandfather, George Smith was killed at the railroad crossing in McKee, Pa. He was going for a doctor because Irvin was sick. Irvin recovered without the help of a doctor. That was one of the strange things that occur at times.
I remember only faintly my visits to my great grandmother’s home. Her Christian name was Eliza Jane Ickes, but everyone called her Granmuzz Butler, having married John Alexander Butler. I especially remember a couple things about her. She smoked a clay pipe, and it was rumored that she made whiskey. She lived in a little shanty type house. It had only one floor, containing only a kitchen and two bedrooms. She raised a relative that I never connected to the family, Allen Shoemaker. She was, in my estimation, a true frontier type of woman.
My other grandparents, Aaron and Linnie Bowser, were living at that time near Hollidaysburg on the Calvin farm. It is now known as the Calvin House Restaurant. Until I was four years old, I visited with them several weeks out of the year. Of that farm, one thing I recollect was that the outside toilet was down at the far corner of the lot. Each time I went down there, the old rooster that they had seemed to take great joy in flogging my rear end. And what made it worse, I wore the drop seat pants with the four buttons in the back. My grandmother would always unbutton them before I started down to the outhouse. The exciting times were when my grandmother would call to me to come and see the big trucks passing the house. This happened about twice each day. They were the Dixon Chain Drive Trucks made in Altoona.
I spent a lot of time at Grandmother Smith's because she lived nearer to my home. Some things happened at my grandmother's house, which were not pleasant for me. One time in particular that I remember was that I was told to come home at a certain hour, but my uncles and aunts said to stay longer; they would take care of my mother. Well, the idea seemed good at the time, but my mother met me at the halfway mark (which we called the ore bank) with a birch limb. It was a small one but a very effective persuader. From that time on, I got home on time. Another of the things that I remember was going out in the orchard for the cows with Sherman and Irvin; they hid their chewing tobacco under several flat rocks in the pasture because tobacco was not allowed in the house.
At about age five, my Bowser grandparents bought a small place nearer to my home. I spent a lot of my days with them, learning from my grandfather many different things: how to make whistles from alder branches and also a "pop gun". I believe my son, Larry still has that pop gun. Grandpap Bowser also told me of the many places that he had worked, and of his moving to Virginia and buying property there and then moving back up to Pennsylvania. I was not much interested at the time, which is something I now regret. I think that it would have taken a lot of courage to leave home with a team of horses and a wagon loaded with your furniture and head for Virginia. And then there was Uncle Elmer, who seemed to be a part of the family. He went with my grandparents' family to Amelia, Virginia, driving the buggy. Grandpap Bowser took the whole family: Grandmother, Essington, Laura and my mother. My Grandpap Bowser told me something of the trip. He and my grandmother lived and worked at the farm of the owner of a hot, mineral springs resort. He told me of the eighteen-inch gold fish that were in the James River. Actually they were golden carp.
We were privileged in the early 90s to go on two trips to Amelia. There we found copies of the deeds where Grandpap Bowser bought and then sold some acreage. He never built on the land, but continued to work and eat at the farm headquarters. We saw the ground he owned, but the farmhouse where he spent his time was torn down. Grandmother did not need to cook because they all ate at the farmhouse. The Negroes did the cooking and housework.