Written by her son, Charles E. Page, in 2002
We who try to record the genealogy of our families sometimes get bogged down with dates and names of people, and we neglect or just donít know, what kind of people they were, and how they lived. In writing these stories I try to impart at least a little glimpse into our family life.
To understand my motherís background you should read my story "Minnie Lloyd Jones". That story takes place when Ma was growing up on the farm near Madison, N.Y.
As her mother did before her Erma boarded in Madison Village while attending high school, transportation being so uncertain in the winter. She stayed at the home of Minnie Butler. It was while in school there that she met her future husband, my father, Clayton Page. He lived with his mother on the farm of her brother Chester Stowell, since Claytonís father had died when Clayton was only two years old.
They were married in 1914 after Erma had graduated from Cortland Normal School and had taught for a time in a one-room schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is still standing near the corner of Tinker Hollow Road and Stone Road in the Town of Madison. The couple moved into a rented house in Hamilton where their first child, Dora, was born. Clayton worked in a beginnerís job at the Hamilton Bank. After a few years Clayton took a job with the Madison Co Trust Company and moved the family to a house on Stone St. in Oneida, and then to the house owned by my Grandmother Lewis [see the story "Grandpa and Grandma Page." ] My sister, Alyce, and I were born there.
As was the custom then Ma did not work outside the home, but raised the children, made their clothes, and provided a fine and stable home for the whole family. We children always felt safe and comfortable there. It could be dependedupon whatever our problems outside wereSome of our friends were afraid to go home when they had done something bad, such as getting all wet from rolling around in the snow, or falling in the "feeder", or throwing mud on the neighbor ladyís clothes. We got the message all right about these things, but we were never afraid to go home. We were never scolded for coming in soaking wet or dirty. Ma expected kids to do those things. Of course, we were never allowed to go out to play with our good school clothes on in the first place.
We lived on east Walnut St., just a hop, skip and jump from the Elizabeth Street School [now Willard Prior]. For some reason when I was in third grade there came atime when I didnít want to go to school. This went on for some time, and my Motherof course, sent me off anyway. One day I started off through the back yard, and on through Mr. Starrís gate, when I must have had some kind of panic attack. I just couldnít bring myself to go the rest of the way. I know of no logical reason why, and I still donít. I ran back home and Ma tried to get me to go back. But I created a big fuss. I guess she was at a loss as to how to handle it. She sat me down and said, "You know you have to go to school. Itís the law that you have to." I replied, " yes,I know, but if I can just stay home today, Iíll go tomorrow". She said, "OK, if youíll promise to go tomorrow". Tomorrow came and I went to school and never gave herthat kind of trouble again. I, even then, appreciated her compassion and understanding. I think if she had forced me to go that day, I might have been fightingher on it for a long time. As it was, it was my own "agreed-to" decision. She understood that aspect.
None of us kids went to kindergarten, but started directly in first grade. I donít think kindergarten was offered at Elizabeth St. but anyway, I think my parents believed it was better to have the mother teach and guide the children for another year than to give that responsibility to someone else. I know I "got a lot out of" the year I was at home after my two sisters had started school, probably because I received all the attention. However, both my mother and father read to us a lot, even after we were old enough to read some ourselves. In the year I was home "alone" I remember playing in the flour bin while I watched my mother making pies, bread and cookies. While she was working around she would sing a lot of old songs such as " The Irish Washer Woman" ["did you ever go into an Irishmanís shanty"óI still remember the words], "Onward Christian Soldiers", "Wearing of the Green", "Red Wing", "After the Ball", and such. Ma also read "Bible Stories for Children" to us in which I suppose some of the gore and begets were toned down a little, and explained about Adam and Eve, etc. We didnít attend church much but all of us kids went to "Bible Study" once a week or so during the school week for part of the year.
I remember stringing rubber bands between the knobs of the kitchen cabinet, and by making some tighter or looser, could play tunes on them. I think this gave my mother the idea that I was interested in music. Music was always a fairly large part of our growing up. We always had a piano, which my father played by ear. All of us kids took piano lessons and I had to take violin lessons. Often of an evening we would play as sort of an orchestra. Alyce would play the piano, my father would play the cornet, and I played violin. Dora could also play the cornet and piano. Of course, Ma had to keep at me to practice for my lessons, but I enjoyed playing music. If she hadnít pushed me, I probably would not be able to play now at all, and would have missed out on the enjoyment I get from playing it now. Sometimes parents know best. Often in the evenings the whole family played cards or other games. A favorite board game when we were young was a game pronounced "Croak-in-ole", I donít know how it was spelled. We also learned to play pedro, five hundred, penuchle, rummy, auction and contract bridge.
One time when I was maybe ten or twelve years old and we were at camp for the summer, I became obsessed with the idea of building a swimming pool. My idea was to dig the dirt out of the old caved-in barn foundation, and pipe the water from our spring down the hill to fill it. Never mind it being a foolish idea. The spring only gave out a trickle and it would soak into the ground as fast as it ran in. We couldnít afford a professionally built pool. I argued and complained that we could do it, until my parents were probably sick of hearing about it. So one day after my father had left for work, Ma said, "Get the shovels and weíll start digging". She and I had a shovel and a mattock, and we started digging. We worked for about an hour. We had made almost no impression on the hard sod-covered ground. I saw we couldnít do it. I was greatly disappointed. I donít remember anything being said, but we picked up our shovels and put them away. Nothing was ever mentioned again about a swimming pool. I still have that mattock and the shovel.
In about 1933 when I got home from school, much to my surprise, I found my father already home. It was usually l about 6 oíclock that he arrived. I could see he was upset and finally found out what was the matter. Ma had been diagnosed as having breast cancer. Grandma Lewis came to stay with us kids while Dr. Earl and my father took Erma to Buffalo to the cancer hospital [Roswell Park, I think]. During the next couple years she received the primitive treatment of the times. Surgery and radium needle implants. I think Dora stayed in Buffalo with her during most of her treatment there. They rented a room near the hospital.
While she was there once my father took Alyce and I to visit her. I remember hearing the foghorn on the Lake going all night. The trip home was quite a nightmare. A heavy blizzard was in progress, the roads were drifting, and visibility was nearly zero most of the way. My father stopped in Batavia and bought and installed a set of chains for the car. He couldnít chance the possibility of getting stuck with my mother in her weakened condition. It took us 12 hours to get home. There was no Thruway then and most roads were not well plowed.
In 1940, while staying at the camp, my father died suddenly of a heart attack. [He was 48 years old]. Erma was devastated as were the rest of us, but she held the family together. Alyce was still in college, I had just finished college and had started a job working on a poultry farm in Holcomb. Mom had thirty dollars a month income from Claytonís life insurance, and so Dora, who had finished college and was working at Oneida Community Ltd., provided for the daily household expenses. Momís meager income paid for the rent and utilities while Dora paid for groceries, etc. It was still our home that we could come back to.
In 1942 when I bought the farm at Butlerís Corners the whole family moved with me, and my Grandmother eventually sold the house in Oneida. It was a courageous move on Momís part. She was giving up her comfortable home in the city and going back to living conditions similar to those she grew up in. There was no electricity [kerosene lamps], only gravity feed running cold water, no central heating, [wood burning stoves, the wood for which we cut by hand], no modern bathroom and of course none of the appliances that take electricity, such as, washing machines, irons, etc.
Two years later  she knew something was wrong. She went to a doctor [Dr. Earl was no longer in Oneida] who told her not to worry, it was nothing serious. After a while she felt something in her abdomen, and arranged to go to Buffalo. Alyce went with her. When they returned Alyce told us cancer had returned and it was too late for treatment. They gave her six months to live. Alyce who had been working in Rochester, resigned her job and came home to care for her so that Dora and I could keep working. She learned to give Mom her pain shots which had to come more and more frequently. One day Alyce called us into the house and said," You better go upstairs, I think this is it". We all went into my motherís room. She suddenly vomited about a pint of blood. The doctors were right. It was almost six months to the day. Erma was fifty-three years old.
"Erma Jones Page"
"Erma Reading to Alyce, Charles, & Dora"
Copyright©2002 Charles E. Page
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