There is not much known about my mother's side of the family. The only living relative I have on that side is my cousin Jay Muchmore of Albuquerque. He and I keep in touch and both say the same thing, "In those days people didn't talk much about the past." It is like a mystery with just a few shreds of data here and there. Jay's comment was, "Then, children were to be seen and not heard, so even if you had questions, you likely didn't ask them". How true. It's like sex. 100 years ago it was a closely held secret. Today everybody talks about it as much as the weather. Isn't there a place for moderation? But, I digress.
My mother's maiden name was Grace Esther Lovig. She was born in 1909. I think. I say I think, because she did not want anyone to know how old she was, especially my Dad, who was born in 1916. So she told him she was born in 1912. About 30 years later she confessed and said she was born in 1909. She was terrified that Dad would find out since she thought she was sooo much older than he thought. Years before her death she made me promise that I would never tell anyone how old she really was, even after her passing. And, here I am telling this to everybody. Shame on me.
Well, the fact of the matter is, I really don't know how old she was. Look at the picture of her and her sister Alice. Alice was born in 1902. If mom was born in 1909, does there seem to be that much of an age difference? Is it really important?
THE LOVIG SIDE:
Mom's grandfather (my great grandfather) was Edward O. Lovig. He was born in Norway in the mid-1800's. He married Elizabeth Reine Nov. 5, 1882. They lived in Lisbon, Ill. He applied for U.S. citizenship Sept. 24, 1888. As an avocation he was an artist. The only thing I have of his is an oil painting called "The Vikings Discover America." It is signed Edward Lovig. It shows a horned warrior wading to land from his viking ship in the bay.
Mom's Dad was Arthur Ludvig Lovig, born Aug. 12, 1883. He was christened shortly after, and one of the witnesses was an Emma Anderson. As he grew, Arthur was very short in stature and took on the mantle of a banty rooster. He always told me that he was a member of the tough "West Side Gang" and he had to always defend himself. Apparently what we would call today, "the short man complex."
He had a nice career as an office supply salesman, working for Horder's Office Supplies. "Order from Horder" was their motto. He had a territory and sold to businesses for most of the time. In later years he worked in their retail store in the Loop.
His only sibling that I know about was Esther Lovig Shannon. Her husband was in the employment agency business. I remember that because Mom told me to visit them while I was in Los Angeles and they could get me a job. I went to the address given and discovered it was an employment agency for day work. I think it was called "Redi-Men" or something like that. Anyway, all the skid row bums were lined up ready to go for the day. I decided it wasn't for me.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Mom (L) and her sister Alice. Earliest photo of her around 1910-1914
Alice and Grace in the early 1930's
Mom visits Alice in the tuberculosis sanitorium, 1935
Earliest photo I have of Gramp and Gram with Art and Esther. Circa 1926.
Interesting photo. Mom wrote on the back: "Aunt Esther, my grandma, and aunt Hulda who is Harold Benson's mother. S. Irving Ave. in Chicago over 50 years ago." Could be from around 1920. Hulda looks African-American. I met her son Harold on several occasions and he did have those features. And when she said "her Grandma" I woud assume on her mother's side, nee Emma Anderson.
My grandparents, Ida and Arthur Lovig celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in June, 1955.
Grace with two friends, Florence Fritchie, above, and Lillian Johnson, below. Circa 1930
THE BENSON/BENGSTON SIDE:
My mother's grandfather on her mother's side (my great grandfather) was August John Benson. His name originally was Bengston, but it got changed, like so many names in that era, for convenience. He was born in Sweden in January of 1855. His wife was Emma Anderson. She was born in Sweden in October, 1861. It's interesting to think that Abraham Lincoln was the U.S. president at that time and we were in the midst of our civil war.
Click here to see the hand written page from the census taker of 1900 who listed the entire Benson family in their home at 2300 Hoyne Ave. in Chicago. You can see all the children and their ages.
Ida Elfrida Benson, my grandmother, was born May 16, 1887. According to the birth certificate, she was the third child born to the parents, of which only two were living at the time. August, the oldest, was born in 1884. After that, Herbert-1888, Harry-1891, Walter-1893, and the youngest, and closest to Ida all her life, Esther-1896.
Of all the siblings, I knew Esther the best, spending many holidays and visits with her. I also met Herbert (Uncle Herb) several times. He was a contractor from Michigan and was married to a lady named Corrine. Corrine had an elderly mother who lived with them and a brother who was a priest in the Catholic Church. They were fairly well-to-do, but nobody liked Corrine very much. I remember that she didn't smile hardly at all. They didn't have any kids.
Nobody had any kids my age. Since we lived around Chicago, these were the relatives I knew. No kids. Every event, holiday, visit meant only old folks. Of course, to me, everybody over 18 was old. Everybody would eat and then fall asleep in their chairs. Except my Dad.
Anyway, I never met any other sisters or brothers of Gram and Gramp Lovig except for Esther and Herb. One other note about Esther. She married rather late in life to a man named Charles Adams. Kind of a cantankerous guy who, I was told, had a brother who was a counterfeiter. He died in the late 1940's. Esther had a black cat, Inky, liked to watch Liberace on TV, read the scandalous magazine Confidential, and was very hard of hearing. She died in 1957.
Now to go back in time. Arthur Lovig and Ida Benson were married June 24, 1905. In 1902 they celebrated the birth of their first child, a daughter, Alice Elizabeth. Later in the decade (1907? 1909?) their second born, my mother arrived on June 9. And, in 1916, Arthur Jr. was born.
Mom grew up with a horrible inferiority complex. Adults were so brutal to say things like, "How come you're not as pretty as your sister." She was told she was cross eyed, which she wasn't, but she believed it all of her life. Then her little brother came along and all the focus was on him, especially by her Dad.
In the late 20's she married a man named John Prochaska. He was a drinker and it didn't last long. Again, Mom kept this marriage a secret from me. I found out by accident when I was in my 20's. Secrets, lots of secrets. That's why it is so hard to write the complete family story.
My aunt Alice married a man named Roy Muchmore and had two children, Roy Arthur, born in 1929, and Jay, born in 1931. She died of tuberculosis in a sanitorium in 1938. Roy died in the 1987 after being ill from a stroke for years. Uncle Art also passed in the 1970's. You could basically say that he drank himself to death. Aunt Leona moved back to Las Cruces, NM, her home town, and died in the late '80's. She was a heavy smoker and finally succumbed to emphysema.
Arthur Lovig Jr. as a teenager in the 1930's.
Cousin Jay's wedding, January 31, 1953 in St. Louis. Jay is on the top right, my Mom and Dad top left, and me in the center bottom.