Written by my Mother, Elaine Ingram about her parents, in a memoir writing class.
|May 4, 2012:I am saddened to add in order to report that the author of this piece has passed away.
Elaine, 78, peacefully entered God's eternal kingdom on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at St. Vincent Hospice Center, Indianapolis, Indiana. She was born on December 2, 1933 in Indianapolis to Ronald G. and Madge V. Ingram who predeceased her. She graduated from Shortridge High School. Elaine was a legal secretary spending her entire career at Baker & Daniels, LLP in Indianapolis.
Elaine was a lifelong Episcopalian attending Christ Church Cathedral where, as a girl of nine years of age, she was one of the original founders of the church's nationally acclaimed Girls' Choir. She also co-founded the Cathedral's volunteer auxiliary to support the music program of the church, which is now known as Cathedral Arts, Inc. She was an unapologetic liberal, democrat and advocate for those who are marginalized. She loved writing poetry, horseback riding, gardening and theology.
Elaine is survived by her children: Melissa Elaine, William Eric, Rebecca Marie, and Ronald Edward, as well as her eight grandchildren...
The following is actually the text of two works written by my mother Elaine for a memoir writing class. From it, I have gained a more personal sense of who my grandparents were...and also a bit more about my Mom herself.(Any interjections I might add, I will put in color like this. Mom's text is all in black.)
October 28, 1999
Ronald is the mystery, the enigma which drove me to the Memoir Writing class. Ronald Gurnett Ingram was my father. He was born in 1886 and died in 1964. He was a great man. It is most unfortunate that I didn't know how I relied on and found comfort in his charm, humor, love and enormous joy in living until he could no longer offer those endearments. I did always know that I loved and adored him.
Daddy was very attuned to the present, and rarely spoke about the past. The details of his life invariably came to me indirectly from my mother or, after she, too, was gone, from written documentation I found among their papers. Those details are sketchy, to be charitable. Or so I thought. Then miraculously I found a paper dated 1950 which I had written about my father. This is what I wrote in 1950, confirmed by my father's comment at the top of the paper, and therefore constitutes what I know of him for sure:
My foreign relative is my father....My father's family boasted eight members--four boys, two girls, and as is usually the case, a mother and a father. David and Alice Ingram endowed their children with resounding names: David Stuart, Agnes Margaret, James ward MacIntyre(Hamish), Douglas Cameron, Ronald Gurnett and Mary Stuart. As each of the boys was more mischievous than the last, if possible, and each of the girls was excelled only by their mother in graciousness, the family was well known in the town of Bedford, England, although for various reasons. Their position in the social circle was a good one, and at one time they even sported a carriage and horses, a cook, and an upstairs maid.
But tragedy, which occurs so often in the happiest families, showed its sullen countenance, and David Ingram died with half of his life before him, being still in his thirties. Ronald, my father, the youngest of the boys, was nine.
Alice economized, released her prides, the cook and upstairs maid, and managed to send all the children through school. She sent Stuart and Hamish through college and Mary and Agnes through music school. She cherished the hope that all her children might enjoy the privileges of a higher education. Alice arranged a scholarship for Ronald. He graduated from Bedford Modern School at the age of 13.
But again fate planted itself squarely in his path. The scholarship provided that he could not enter college until he was 19, nor could he have entered college if he had not been in school the previous year. In other words he must stay in the same grade at Bedford for six years if he were to go to college!
There were only two alternatives. He could obtain a commission in the Navy or go abroad. Finances prevented the first; his family could not afford a commission. Now there was no alternative.
Swynton Bramley-Moore was Ronald's close friend and had many connections, as his father was the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. His brother, Alwyn Bramley-Moore, owned a large farm in Ontario, and with the financial assistance of Mrs. Bramley-Moore, passage was booked for my father from Liverpool to Quebec, and connections made from Quebec to Ontario.
His journey started in the steerage class, but the second day, for reasons then mysterious to Ronald, the steward escorted him to a second-class cabin. His mother and Mrs. Bramley-Moore had again intervened.
My father says he still vividly recalls the seven mile walk from the railroad station in Ontario to the farm near Sombra. He had not been expected for two months. This accounted for the lack of a welcoming committee.
Ronald had arrived in America.
There is much more that I maybe know about Ronald. My mother told my sister, Miriam, and me that she was my father's fourth wife. We must have asked questions. She then told us that his first wife, Rose, had died in childbirth with Ronald and Rose's second daughter. Mother said Daddy had lost it because he had loved Rose so much and had blamed Rose's family, Christian Science practitioners, for her death. She bled to death, mother said, unattended by a physician. When I found my 1950 paper, I also found a letter Daddy had written to a doctor in Detroit, stating he would pay the $25 owed the doctor for attending Rose, but that he was protesting because of the circumstances. It sounded like Daddy blamed the doctor, not Rose's family. Or maybe both sources are right. He could have blamed both of them. Mother said the result was that Daddy abandoned his two little girls, and Ruth, the oldest of my half-sisters, was adopted by an unrelated couple, and Jean, the younger, was brought up by Rose's relatives. I know that I didn't meet either of the half-sisters until I was in grade school. By then, they were adults and had families of their own. I suppose their children would be my quarter nieces and nephews?
Mother also told us my father was married to his second and third wives at the same time. She was not very clear about these details. She was clear that the event, or events, occurred during World War I. the interesting arrangement came to light when the third wife claimed an allotment from the Army and was told that an allotment was already being paid to another woman. Mother said there was a young woman named Shirley who claimed to be Daddy's daughter. Mother knew this could not be possible because Daddy had been overseas during the entire time. Later, in papers I found were several documents concerning a lawsuit by the second wife, I presume against the alleged third wife, for alienation of affection. I found it a rather quaint pleading. None of the papers noted the disposition of the action. Mexican divorce papers I found bore a much later date, more around the time of my mother's marriage to Ronald. Such a boy; one might even say such a naughty boy.
Mother told us my father was a stretcher bearer for the American forces. He had been too old to enlist in the infantry and so had volunteered for the medical corps. Mother also told us other stories about his service in the First World War; that he had seen dreadful sights, and because of his experience with battleground "hospitals" would never allow himself to be hospitalized. We knew that he wouldn't go to a hospital. She said that he had been exposed to mustard gas, which aggravated his eczema to the point of his hands constantly being inflamed, and at worst, oozing infection. We knew he wore white cotton gloves when his hands were really bad.
When he finally wound his way to Indianapolis and married my mother, Daddy found good employment with P.R. Mallory Company as a Purchasing Agent. It was useful work, though not highly paid. We were never very comfortable financially. In 1945 Daddy had a terrible bout with pneumonia, was ill for 11 months, and was fired from his job. He and Mother bought a teachers' employment agency, and Daddy ran that for a while. Mother told us that working in an office made Daddy very nervous. So Mother took over running the agency, which had expanded to make office placements, also, and Daddy became a traveling salesman for Curtis Key Industries out of Cleveland, Ohio. He was very proud that he had "opened" the Indiana territory for Curtis. He was an active salesman on the Friday that he became ill in 1964. On Sunday when I took him to my home to recover, by his bed he had laid out a map for his next week's sales trip. He did not recover in my home. He died in my son Eric's bed. It was very sad for us all.
Mother was in the hospital when Daddy died. By this time, she had sold the agency and was secretary to the Dean of Men at Butler University[In Indianapolis IN]. She had fallen on an icy sidewalk on her way to work at Butler and broken most of the bones on her right side: arm, ribs, knee and leg. I couldn't tell her about Daddy, we sent a priest. She was not able to go to the funeral. Miriam and I, and our husbands, all thought we would make it easier for her by bringing her photos of Daddy looking very peaceful and serene. We couldn't have been more wrong. Mother flew into one of her famous rages and screamed at everyone in sight, "Are you trying to kill me too! How could you do such a thing."
The final and most lasting thing I knew about Daddy was that he worshipped and adored my mother. Life is a mystery.
I was named after Ronald. Having been born in 1963, Grandpa got to see his namesake, but I never had a sense of who he was until my mother gave me this manuscript.
November 4, 1999
Madge Leone Vandervort hated her name. I'm surprised my mother didn't flat out change it when she was grown. The middle name particularly galled her and could be elicited from her only with great effort. Putting up with her name was probably the only difficult thing she did during her childhood. She was indulged and pampered as an only child and given generous gifts, including a charge account at Kirklin's (Kirklin is about a 30 minute drive northwest of Indianapolis by modern automobiles, I'm certain the trip was considerably longer in Grandma's childhood) only drugstore, a sort of general purpose mercantile for the small town with a population of 750. Her father, Newton Vandervort, farmed outside of town and on weekends was a circuit riding preacher for the Disciples of Christ Church. Her mother's name was even less musical than Madge--Myrta. Myrta may not have liked her name either. Myrta and Newton both died during Mother's college years.
Mother graduated with honors from DePauw University in 1924. She seemed to have been surprised by her achievement. She told my sister, Miriam, and me that she had taken 9 hours of Shakespeare. I thought when I was a child she had reported 90 hours of Shakespeare. Either 9 or 90 hours of a dead English author were alike unfathomable to my child's mind. Later I knew it had to be 9 hours and still wondered at that accomplishment, or rather more that Mother should have retained that lifelong impression of 9 hours of Shakespeare being golden.
Mother also told us she had been married in college to a Robert Stewart. That was all she said about Mr. Stewart. It accounts for her name being Madge V. Stewart on the commencement program. She trained at DePauw to be a high school English teacher and did teach in Brazil Indiana, for what must have been one memorable semester. She left the field and never looked back.
From Brazil she moved to Indianapolis and worked in the Secretary of State's office in the late 1920's. This was the KKK era and she must have been a co-worker of Madge Oberholzer, who was kidnapped and raped by the Grand Dragon of the KKK, a man named D.C. Stephenson. Ms. Oberholzer later died, and Stephenson was tried and convicted for rape and murder. The case was noteworthy because it spelled the end of the KKK's stranglehold on Indiana politics. I remember Mother's vague references to being in the Secretary of State's office at the time of these events.
Mother met my father, Ronald G. Ingram, about 1928. Daddy's papers refer to his setting up a "boarding house" apartment about this time. Madge must have been his boarder. They married in 1930. Mother and Daddy both lived almost exclusively in the here and now and so didn't speak much of their earlier lives. Most of what I know of them I have gleaned from the few papers and photos they saved which I found after their deaths. Neither one ever referred to these items, either. It has been a challenge to learn more about them, while at the same time it has been most frustrating.
Madge and Ron must have moved to Portland, Oregon, where my sister was born in January 1931. Mother soon persuaded Daddy to come back to Indiana, because her Aunt Faye told me after Mother's death that Mother, Daddy and infant Miriam had spent some months with Aunt Faye and Uncle Vern in Kirklin before again settling in Indianapolis. Motherhood must not have been a propitious happening for my mother. Nevertheless, she tried it once more, just to see if it would be different, and I'm not sure it was. I was born 22 months after my sister and was somewhat puny as a child. I was also subject to frequent and intense nightmares. My mother had a cure for those. One night when I had awakened her with my crying from a nightmare, Mother sat me down and told me very directly that once I had my tonsils out the next week, I would never have any more nightmares. I didn't.
By the time my sister and I were midway through elementary school, Daddy had health problems which lead to Mother working. She was managing an employment agency and seemed to like having a career very much. She had someone to clean the house, she sent the laundry out, and my sister and I did the dishes. Her sole housekeeping occupation seemed to be cooking our evening meal. Even as a child I found this ironic because her cooking left much to be desired. I don't think she enjoyed it either; she just hadn't figured out a way to dodge that chore.
After Miriam and I were both married and out of Madge and Ronald's home, Madge became even more disenchanted with home life than while her girls were home. I don't know if that was causal or not, anyway, Mother decided she would prefer being on her own. She moved out of the house in December and took an apartment near her employment agency. She moved back in with Daddy on Valentine's Day of the next year. I believe he was properly appreciative.
My father died in 1964 and left Mother on her own. It was the first time in her life this happened, and I don't think it was totally to her liking. She was lonely and suffered numerous illnesses, notably pneumonia and bronchitis. She somewhat smugly told people she had pneumonia every Christmas for five years. In 1968 Mother had been sick when I made the decision to divorce my husband whom she regarded as the son she had never had. Mother was not pleased. On her sickbed, she flung her arms across her forehead and declared, "I guess I'll just kill myself." I had the presence of mind to retort that she wasn't getting the divorce, I was, and such extreme measures were not necessary.
Recently I found a poem Mother had written during the time she worked in the Secretary of State's office. It spoke of being in a second hand store and contemplating purchasing a gun to commit suicide. This poem confirmed my long held suspicions that below her tempermental, flamboyant exterior, Mother had a deep reservoir of intense depression which all of her posturing and demanding never completely drained. She lived another 18 years after Daddy died. She actually managed quite well on her own. I only wish she could have enjoyed her life. While Mom and Grandma were never the most demonstrative of their affections, I still knew it was there. Later I did come to see that Grandma could be quite demanding of both her daughters, my Mother and my Aunt...but she spoiled all 8 of her grandchildren any chance she had!