Capture that Precious Memory

Today marks my 63rd birthday, but much more important it is the first time in those 63 years that my ‘second mother’, my godmother, my name sake, the family cousin was not here to mark the occasion since her passing this January at age 90. She was Alice Louise Walters Leffler Wallace, my mother’s cousin – who were like sisters — both take charge type of women. The following actual events I had her write down years ago about her presence at my birth so many years ago. With this account by her, it is the most precious gift of all.

A Baby Girl and a Chicken Farm

Florida, the Sunshine State, was true to its name with the weather warm, (in the low 80s) breezy, with a cloudless sky, as the Leffler family of Miami prepared the children, Richard John (twenty months) and Charles David (five months) and myself to drive to central Florida in February 1950. My husband, Lefty, drove us up, but had to return to Miami. The children and I were to visit and help Cousins Harry and Nan Everhart Kershaw at their home called, “Tall Pines”, in Longwood just north of Orlando in Seminole County for a month, awaiting the arrival of the Kershaw’s first child. Two cribs, playpens, diaper bags, toys and clothes left little room in the Leffler’s 4-door Nash auto and even less room in the Kershaw’s home upon arrival at mid-morning. The two Leffler cribs were put along the wall facing Nan’s bedroom, in order for her to keep an eye on the children when it might be necessary for me to be away. It was essential for Nan to rest a lot those last couple of weeks. Looking back on that time I know there was little resting for anyone.

We had all been aware it was going to be a difficult time with the two young children and a new baby plus the work involved on a chicken farm and fruit grove the Kershaws owned at “Tall Pines“. However, it turned out to be an unforgettable month filled with much laughter, a few tears, and plenty of the three little ones’ cries. Rest, I don’t think so! Thank goodness for the strong ancestral stock in each of us; Kershaw, Everhart, Musselman, Groff, Leffler, Walters, Rockwell, Bixler and Albaugh to name a few. Hard work was second nature to us all. You’ll see what I mean with a few tall tales to come. But … this is a story of the birth of a beautiful baby girl.

Walter B. Johnson, M. D. of Winter Park requested Nan go to the hospital at the first sign of labor pains. Nan’s bag was filled with baby blankets, colorful receiving sheets, pillows, diapers, and cute baby outfits from family and friends, plus Nan’s personal items and coming home clothes. Everything packed and in their car a week prior to the baby’s due date. Nan was sure they would forget it otherwise. She had her “going to the hospital” clothes on a hanger ready to put on and Harry’s things over a chair.

I had already been given a long list of things to be done about the house, chicken farm and in the grove. Going over these duties many times with Harry, I was at the point of packing up and returning to Miami, no matter how much I loved my Cousin Nan. I like to think it was a very short thought and the fact that I didn’t have a car had nothing to do with my staying. In fact, know I would never have left them as I recalled that Nan had always encouraged me from childhood with, “We can do anything we set our minds to . . . LET’S DO IT”. For me, workers and servants were available for the hard jobs (which in my opinion were just about everything). I was a city girl – not a farm girl.

When Nan doubled up one day with a hard labor pain, only one thought was in our minds … GET HER TO THE HOSPITAL!!! Nan hadn’t told us how long she had been in labor and said she wasn’t worried, as she knew I was a labor nurse, had delivered 60 babies in Miami and had noticed that I had my black bag with me. Harry, however, was so nervous that Nan and I thought she would have to drive to the hospital or we would have to load the boys in the car and I drive. Finally, Daddy Harry got himself together and off they went to the Florida Sanitarium and Hospital in Orlando as I stayed with my two boys and the chickens at “Tall Pines“.

Eight hours later a call came to say, “our beautiful girl was here and weighed six pounds and was twenty-one inches long”. She was born at 6 pm on Tuesday, February 28th. Mother was doing fine. In the 1950s, mother and baby stayed seven to ten days in the hospital. What a joy it was for me on my first visit to see mother and daughter. I had handsome boys, but this sweet little girl, so tiny was so different. Harry was floating with happiness and rushed through work on the chicken farm every day to see his tiny blessing and beloved wife.

NOTE: My godmother had more information in her write-up from 1950, like the two days she had to administer shots to the chickens (who were not thrilled !) at the ‘Tall Pines’ chicken farm. Precious memories for sure.

Photo- standing Harry, Nan, Alice, Lefty in chair and Baby Alice – June 1950

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