Monthly Archives: July 2016

Grandma Josie!

We are having tough times in our Alcorn family branch now.  I suppose most families go through this periodically, and now some of ours is marching toward the End of our Trail. We might have a good chance of hanging around into triple digits as did our our Great Grandfather William Alcorn.

Grandfather Willliam was born in California, one of the last four of nearly twenty-five children of  Bransford Alcorn.    They are one of San Jose’s pioneer families. My rattling of the Alcorn Tree was noticed immediately discovered by two Alcorn cousins who were working on their own Alcorn trees.  They also descend from the “Final 20” by way of one of the “big sisters” Alice Alcorn.  We three cousins are very close in age  Kathy and Sharon have been very generous with their searches, sharing all they know, much of which was very surprising to me.

Alcorns were a healthy and hardworking immigrant gang, with roots in Scotland/Ireland and possibly a layover in Nova Scotia (New Scotland) where the family name was spelled “Alkern.”  The Alcorn family and their life stories remain a  verylarge part of San Jose history:; and it appears that the whole of Northern California is filled with Alkerns as well as Alcorns.

Grandma Josie was a real Western Hard Times Pistol!:  Nothing could stop her, not even the ensuing hardships of  pre-WWII America.  She rolled up her sleeves an got busy cooking, cleaning and laundry, making do in the best of ways.






*********  ABOUT MOM!  She was a tall, lanky and energetic woman with a rather strange physical handicap: tumors the size of eggs on the inside of both wrists that froze up her hands: ugly purple tumors, and when the doctors set up surgery to remove them…they shrunk and faded away.

Mom said it was psychomatic: she studied Norman Vincent Peal’s theories.  And she tried to think them away .

She never washed dinner dishes at night:she saved them.  She ran hot water into them each morning and soaked her hands hoping to unlock them and tend to the days needs.  Sometimes it worked, other times she was doomed to a day of disability.  She had little education, ending at about 6th grade.  It is the secondary reason why Mom was never able to hold a real job, she was virtually uneducated.

We skipped most meals while gowing up, a fact that well-fed people often cannot grasp, and others STILL insist on blaming on the hungry for being hungry!

Mom died from Tetanus:  Lock Jaw.  I had just moved away to go to Junior College: (REPUBLICANS PLEASE NOTE:  IT WAS FREE IN THOSE DAYS AND I WAS GRATEFUL TO GET OUT OF POVERTY)

My boyfriend, soon to be husband drove me through the  “dark and stormy night”, up the hill to the hospital, and I jumped out of the car, ran into the hospital and was led to her bed by our doctor.  I held her hand, whispering “Mom?  I’m here..” she sighed and opened one green eye: she saw me, she knew.  It was the first time I saw what I call the Death Blaze.

It is an acknowledgement: her green eye blazed at me, she was weak, but she saw me!  Then she looked beyond me and sat up in bed with her poor broken back and she reached toward foot of her bed, crying “Mama!” and my mother slipped away.I remember watching and I may have seen a flash of light.

Cold and brilliant in the icey white room, the oversized clock ticked her time away. The weather pounded dark and rainy outside.  I ran from the room crying, trying to get away from the hospital and my pain.  Dr. Ford grabbed me and hugged me close, bringing me back to the reality that I did not want to understand. He took me into another room where she lay and showed me the scratch that was less than two inches long: Tetanus.

Calistoga was built on farmland well over a hundred years ago, probably close to two hundred year now.  Over time cows and horses roamed in long gone fields, leaving remains of their feed in places that became playgrounds, lawns, and gardensmaking them  a fertile places for the tetanus virus to set up housekeeping in the soil.  The doctor showed me the deadly scratch in her leg: Tetanus.  Deadly Tetanus.

My whole town helped me trhough the business of Mom’s death, donating the essentials from coffin to services; and food and more. The restaurant owners gave me food, the people from the shoe store gave me two pair of shoes.  The Hardware store forgave a bill my mother had not yet paid.   My town showed up filling the halls of the chapel, flowing out onto the sidewalk, into and across Main Street.  My college friends had cut school and made the pilgrimage.  I learned as a teenager that this ancient and humane gathering is truly an expression of love and support for the family, as well as for the community itself.

I still return home to walk the old familiar streets, often accompanied by classmates from our century.. rememiniscing when so and so did this or that;  and did you see what they are doing with the old hospital!

Sometimes I think I see my mother, that tall, lean woman with her long legs, the legs I could never keep up with, striding through town, stopping and chatting with townfolk and shopkeepers.  And her looney, giggley laugh – I only hear it  in Calistoga. and I sometimes have to turn and take a look-see.

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