Four Generations at a Child’s Fourth Birthday Party

This was the fourth birthday party for my sister, Gloria Neal, who is in the center on her tricycle. Candy the Cocker Spaniel was her gift, but it looks like I took a liking to the puppy.

Not only are there four generations of my motherline in this photo, on the left are my dad’s sister, mother, and his grandmother. Two of these ladies are my grandmothers, and two are my great grandmothers!

Near Dexter, Iowa, July 1950

Betty (Neal) Wells sang at my folks’ 1943 wedding. Her children are Vincent (in front of her) and Patty (on the other trike).

Ruby (Blohm) Neal was Dad’s mother. Her folks were German immigrants, her dad was a grocer and butcher in Dexter. Grandma Ruby was famous for her quilts and crocheted afghans. And kuchen bread at Christmastime.

Nellie (Keith) Neal was Dad’s grandmother, married to O.S. Neal. They were neighbors to the Clabe and Leora Wilson family during the Depression, so most of my stories about them are from my mother. (According to my mother, who was 10 at the time, Nellie made the most wonderful ham and beans for the Wilson family when their twins died of whooping cough in 1929.) I don’t remember my great grandmother Nellie Neal, whose mother came from Ireland.

Laura (Jordan) Goff, who was born in a log cabin west of Monteith, Iowa, three years after the end of the Civil War. Great Grandmother lived with her oldest daughter, Leora, in Guthrie Center, the whole time I knew her. She died when I was a freshman in college. After her daughter died, I became the keeper of a quilt top, which I completed decades after she began it.

Leora (Goff) Wilson, whose stories are told in the “Leora books,” which takes readers through her pioneer ancestors and early years through shortly after WWII.

Doris (Wilson) Neal, Leora’s oldest daughter and Gloria’s and my mother.


    • And here the pup was my sister’s BD gift! (Doris was suffering from depression, because of losing three brothers and her father in just three years, which she dealt with off and on the rest of her long life–to age 97. In fact, I think it’s a good thing the “Leora’s Letters” wasn’t published until both sisters had died. They looked forward to it, but I think having a copy with those brothers on the cover would have made their last months sadder.)

      • Gloria was very kind – allowing you to hold that precious pup! And your mother? What losses for her. I hear you about the impact of “Leora’s Letters” – especially the cover image. Hugs to you for your generous sharing of family history. I love every bit. 💕💕💕

  1. You and I both had the relatively rare privilege of knowing our great grandparents, something most kids today don’t enjoy. Your mention that this was her fourth birthday party sort of made me envious. Our parents promised us two parties–one when we were six, the other at 16. I got the first but (for some reason I no longer remember) not the second. The cocker spaniel also brought back memories of a cocker we had when our daughters were growing up.

    • Yes, to the great grandparents! Even grandparents. Our only grandchild lives 4 hours away. I’ve had only one BD party, when I was about 13. What was your Cocker Spaniel’s name?

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