Chapter One: The Story of Ralph and Mary Carey

Mary's Parents?:Frank (Doc) Goebel and Eliza E CulbertsonMary's mother had passed away when she was only five years old. Seeing her mother leave for the hospital, and hearing her say to her father and grandmother, "please take care of the children," would always be in her memory. Mary also remembered being lifted by her father to kiss her mother as she lay in the coffin. This was an especially hard time for the Goebel family, and doubly so when Bessie, the baby of nine months, passed away soon after her mother died.

Mr. Goebel worked in a coal mine near Scranton. Sometimes it was necessary to leave Mary and Lester who was two years younger, home alone. The burden of housework fell all too soon on Mary. She stood on a wooden box at the kitchen table to wash dishes in the dishpan. Sometimes she would put the pan of water on the cook stove and then go outside to play while it heated. After awhile she would remember, and go in to check the water. If it was too hot, she would go out and play again while it cooled, only to discover later it had cooled too much, and she would have to fix the fire and heat it up again.

Mary Etta Carey-Mark on photo says KansasAnother memory of early childhood was of having whooping cough. Some people thought the best cure was to go down into the coal mine. Mary and Les were placed in something (as she remembered it) like a large bucket and let down by a rope. As they went down, down, they watched the opening of the mine get smaller and smaller, until it seemed there was only a speck of light. It was a very frightening experience, and didn't cure the whooping cough either!

They lived near the railroad and many hobos rode trains in those days. One day a hobo knocked on the door and Mary answered. He asked her where her parents were. She told him Pa was working in the mine, her Ma was dead, and no one was there but she and Les. Then she offered to fix him a slice of bread and sugar. The hobo stared at her for what seemed like a long time before going on down the road.

When Pa came home and Mary told him about the visitor and their conversation, he became very concerned. Pa said, "The next time this happens, you tell them your Ma is in the next room--and never, never tell a stranger you and Les are here alone!"
Sometimes Mary would go to visit her grandparents, the Culbertsons. She enjoyed playing with Mayme and Bess, who were really her aunts but were only a few years older.

Grandpa Culbertson worked for the railroad. Their house was very nice compared to the one her father owned. Mary was awed by the fact that Grandma always used white linen tablecloths every day, even though she did the laundry with a tub and washboard. During the course of a meal, Mary knew that she must not ask to be excused for any reason. If this was absolutely necessary, she was not allowed to come back to finish eating.

One day while she was visiting her grandparents, her grandpa came home from a business trip, bringing Mayme and Bess each a bracelet made of sea shells fastened to a gold wire. Mary thought these bracelets were the most beautiful she had ever seen, and Oh, how she wanted one too. It wasn't long before her grandpa came home one night, called her, and asked her to put her hands behind her back, close her eyes and stand very still. While she stood there, she felt him fasten something onto her wrist. That's right! It was a bracelet exactly like Mayme's and Bess'! Mary was so happy. She felt so dressed up when she wore it. She treasured the bracelet and kept it all her life. She enjoyed showing it to her daughters and telling them the story of that day when Grandpa Culbertson made her a very happy little girl.

When Mary was seven years old, her father and his brother, Uncle John, decided to go to the Oklahoma panhandle to see about homesteading some land. They planned to make the trip in a covered wagon It was decided that Les could go along, but such a trip was no place for a little girl, so Pa made arrangements for Mary to live with Mrs. Anderson. Mr. Goebel thought this to be a very wise decision, since Granny Anderson, as she was called, was believed to be a very kind, religious person.
Mary was terrified at the thought of being left behind, and sobbed and sobbed as the covered wagon disappeared in the distance. She really had been left behind with Granny Anderson.

This was the beginning of what proved to be a nightmare for Mary. She slept on a trundle bed which was made up during the day and pushed under the big bed where Granny slept. Her bed was, therefore, very low. One night, she awakened to see a man's face peering into the window by her bed. She began to scream, this awakened Granny who was furious because she could see no one. Of course the man had enough time to run away. Granny had a razor strap which she kept to use as punishment, and so gave Mary a hard beating for waking her. The "peeping-tom" was later discovered to be a friend of Granny's son. He had come by for a night of drinking and card playing.

The old woman taught Mary a prayer to say each night before going to bed. One night, Mary forgot and playfully jumped into bed. This was another time the strap came into use. During the night, Granny used a round, flat wash pan for her "chamber pot". It was placed on a chair and was usually filled to the brim by morning. Each day, one of Mary's duties was to carry this "pot" through the house and empty it into an outside toilet. If one drop was spilled--out came the strap again. How Mary dreaded this daily chore.

During this time, Mary developed a large carbuncle on her back, near her shoulder blade. Granny refused to treat it or help in any way. One day, Aunt Bess came to see how Mary was getting along with Granny. Mary was so glad to see her! While they were visiting, Mary mentioned the carbuncle and how much it pained her. Aunt Bess decided she must see about this. When she saw her niece's back--not only the terrible looking carbuncle, but also the many bruises and cuts caused by the razor strap--she said, "Let's pack up your things, Mary. You're going home with me!"

How happy and relieved Mary was to get away from Granny Anderson and to be with Grandma and Grandpa Culbertson, Bess and Mayme. she stayed with them until her father and Les came back to Kansas.

Granny's so-called religion made a deep impression on the child she mistreated. It was hard for Mary to take seriously anyone who spoke to her of God and His love. It was many years later, when she was in her seventies, that she was willing to accept Jesus Christ as her Savior. This happened in her home at the invitation of a visiting minister.

Mary and her brother Les attended the Fritzlen School. Some of her memories were of the fun of "spell-downs", and of the rush to drink from the community pail and dipper before the boy with the continually running nose took his turn.

(Click here for *large* image of Fritzlen School 1905-1906 year book, provided by cousin Richard Gossett)

She remembered her long braids, so long she could sit on them. She was unable to comb and braid her hair herself, so she would hurry and stop at her Aunt Mary's on her way to school. If Aunt Mary had time, (after helping her own five daughters get ready), she would fix Mary's hair and help her look more presentable. This became quite a bother, and one day in desperation, her father took the scissors and while her hair was still braided, cut the braids off just below her ears. After that, it was much easier for Mary to care for her own hair. Ralph attended this school at the time and said later he first noticed Mary because of her beautiful braids--before Pa cut them off.

Sometimes relatives--uncles or boy cousins--would come to live with them. This only made more work for Mary. How she struggled with the laundry! Those heavy suits of long underwear were impossible to lift and scrub on the wash board once they were wet, and harder yet to wring by hand. One uncle became very angry because the clothes didn't come off the line as clean as he thought they should have. He threw them at Mary in disgust.

Many times Mary spent the night with her cousins at Aunt Mary and Uncle Bill Goebel's home. What fun they had! All six girls would get into the same bed, lying crosswise, and after talking and giggling for hours they would finally go to sleep.

Pa was a fiddler and when Les was old enough to understand the workings of a fiddle, his father taught him how to play. They were a popular team and played for many square dances. These were usually held in someone's home. They would play many hours and sometimes were paid twenty-five cents for their night's work.

The young people of the community enjoyed the dances and would walk many miles to attend. Many were held at the home of Ralph's parents, Ed and Libby Carey. This home consisted of two rooms. Libby allowed Ralph and his brothers to move the furniture into one room, leaving the other vacant for dancing.

Sometimes Pa played a bass fiddle. He would carry this wrapped in a blanket under his arm. People teased him and called the fiddle his "wife". Mary used to wonder if life would have been easier for her had Pa married again. He never seemed interested, even though he lost his wife when he was still young.