Sunday, May 20, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Mothers - Betty part 2


(part 1 ended with Betty and Donald's marriage)

Donald’s work would require them to live in Atlanta for the first year of their marriage, but then they would return to Chicago where they would live with her parents since Donald and his parents often traveled for the company. Many of the company’s jobs took the Hansens to Wisconsin and Michigan where Donald wrote almost nightly to Betty especially while she was expecting their first child.

After Donna was born, the little family moved to the apartment building, four blocks away, that was owned by Betty’s brother Tom. They stayed there for several years until they were able to purchase a two flat about two miles further west. The house was across the street from the public school where Donna and Tom would attend kindergarten and about two blocks from St Thomas Aquinas Church and School. Betty’s family would grow to number four children while they remained in the City. By now Donald had left the dangerous work in steel construction and taken a job working for Betty’s father handling the Real Estate portion of the business. Donald was a good salesman and enjoyed the work.



As part of his job Donald often went out to look at the new listings of homes for sale. In the fall of 1948 he traveled to Elmhurst to see a 4-bedroom house listed for sale. Inspired, he took a picture of the large house to show Betty. The location of the house was perfect for the growing family. It was one block from both the Catholic and Public schools as well as a park and library. The church was located on the same property as the Catholic school and there was shopping within walking distance. Being close to the train station was also an encouraging factor since Betty did not drive and this would make it easy for her to go to the city to visit family. The family moved into this perfect house in Dec 1948. When it was time for a large grocery shopping trip, Betty would walk to the store and make her purchased timing it so she would be finished when Donald got home from work and he would meet her at the store, load the groceries into the car and take her home.

Life continued in this manner during the 1950’s as the family grew until it numbered eleven with the birth of Donald Joseph in 1957. Betty and Donald hosted family parties from the beginning of their marriage and continued to do so in Elmhurst. Thanksgiving was huge with both families represented by parents and cousins. It was many years later that I finally determined what the relationships really were!

At different times during our childhood Betty had help with housework and childcare. I remember Mary Williams who came to help with the house cleaning on a weekly basis and I remember Emma, a German lady who lived with us to help mom. And I remember Ruth who lived with us one summer to babysit. This help was needed since Betty had suffered with rheumatic fever I think three times, the most recently following the birth of Peggy. Peggy was born before Christmas and we didn’t see mom again until Easter. After her release from the hospital after Peggy’s birth, mother and baby went to Milton, WI where a long-time family friend would nurse her back to health.

In addition to raising her nine children, Betty was a true contributor to society. She was a Camp Fire Leader, in the evenings she would sit and do bead embroidery on cashmere sweaters for the Catholic charity her sister-in-law supported. 




In the summer the family made a trip to the Indiana cottage owned by her sister Kathleen for a vacation on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was no “day at the beach” for Betty as there were none of the conveniences of home. Lacking a dishwasher, Betty stood at the sink doing dishes after each meal of the day while the children were out the door for their adventures. Since the cottage did not have laundry facilities once a week the family would travel to Michigan City and Betty would go to the laundromat to do laundry while the rest of the family would enjoy milkshakes at Scholl’s Dairy or go the movies or the zoo. Since Betty was not yet a driver, Donald was the chauffer on those occasions. Donald also worked while at the cottage, doing painting and other minor construction as needed for it’s upkeep. Evenings at the cottage were meant for playing board and card games and often there was popcorn!

Labor Day meant the return to Elmhurst, school, and work for Donald. For Betty it was a return to her regular routine, so much so that she was featured in the local newspaper as the “Local Mother of Nine” who was asked how she managed her large family. 

Sometime during the late 1950’s Donald and Betty took the only vacation since their honeymoon. They took a driving trip around Lake Michigan with a stop at Mackinac Island. I remember she brought home a cocoa brown dirndl skirt with a boarder of white embroidery just above the hem. About that time also Betty and Donald considered buying a new house that was slightly bigger, but by then the older children were in high school and would soon be leaving home. To increase their income, Donald left the Real Estate business and went back to construction. That did not work out well since his first job was counting the number of times the jackhammer needed to strike to complete the job! When Donald went back to the Real Estate business, he returned to his habit of bringing Betty the “Saturday Evening Post” when he worked late on Thursdays. Sometimes he included a pint of her favorite ice cream which varied between Butter Pecan and Peppermint Candy. And so life continued until Dec 28, 1959.
                                            (to be concluded)