Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Anna Vetter 1893 - 1985 - My Paternal Grandmother


Anna as a young woman
Anna was born on September 17th in 1893 to Katherine and George Vetter. She was the fifth of five daughters. She was born in Chicago, Illinois the same year that the World’s Columbian Exposition took place in Chicago - a formidable time to experience one’s early life. Her family was living at 409 21st Street in Ward 10 when the 1900 census was taken. Anna was seven years old but for some reason, unknown to me, she was not recorded as being in school as were her older sisters, except Kate who was fifteen and already working.

About 1909 Anna worked at Bullocks Department Store in Los Angeles. She would have been about fifteen or sixteen at that time. Very regrettably I did not record the source for this fact so I have nothing to add.

One of the most interesting aspects of Anna’s life is that she lived in Rhyolite, Nevada – a gold mining town in Death Valley that flourished between 1905-1911. Anna’s mother died when Anna was ten years old so she was raised by her oldest sister Kate. Kate married Ernest W. Cordes in 1909 and they appeared along with Anna on the 1910 census living at 160 Chico Street in Rhyolite. Ernest was identified as a gold miner. Today, Rhyolite is a ghost town with only the remnants of a few buildings remaining.
Anna at about age 17 when she was living
in Rhyolite, Nevada
I inherited eight photographs that were taken during the time Anna was living in Rhyolite. Some of them appear to have been taken over a few days, possibly while family members were visiting. One photo is of a group of people standing in front of a small house. Anna, on the left, is dressed in a dark skirt and a poufy white blouse with a collar and elbow-length sleeves. She is wearing a necklace with a pendant. Her dark hair is parted at the middle and she is wearing a very large, black bow at the back of her head. She has her head tilted down slightly and her expression conveys a mixture of determination and a touch of sadness. She is not smiling. Next to Anna, are two adult men and one cocky-looking young boy, maybe 12 years old, dressed in a double-breasted jacket. He has his arms crossed and a big smile on his face. My guess is that this might be her cousin and two uncles – brothers of Ernest, who is standing next to one of the men with his hand on the man’s shoulder. They might also be family friends. Each of the men is wearing a hat and one has on a bow tie. Earnest is wearing a vest and kerchief – possibly something he wears while mining because of the dust. To Ernest’s right is a woman dressed up and wearing gloves, a poufy blouse, and a black hat. The woman is looking at Anna and has a big smile. My guess is that she is either Earnest’s sister or the wife of one of the other two men. In the background, you can see the landscape of Rhyolite consisting of rocky hills, sparse vegetation – just occasional shrubs but no trees. You can also see three or four small buildings in the background.
This is the photo described above

In another photo Anna’s older sister Kate is standing in front of a very small house. She is wearing a floor length black dress with white buttons on one side of the bodice. Her hair is pulled back away from her face. I estimate the house is eleven feet wide by maybe 20 feet deep with a covered wooden porch that is the width of the house and maybe four feet deep. We see the front door and a window on the front of the house and one more window on the side. There are two vents sticking up from the roof. The exterior is painted shiplap wood with modest trim around the porch, door and windows, that is painted white. The porch roof has some decorative trim that is pretty minimal. In the foreground, we see that their front yard is enclosed by a simple chicken wire and 4x4 post fence. In this photo Anna is dressed in a dark (probably black) floor-length skirt and a dark blouse similar in style as the one in the other photo, i.e. elbow length sleeves and poufy. Anna is hatless and is holding what looks like it might be a rake. An empty rattan rocking chair sits on the left side of the porch and a dark, pressback chair – similar in style to ones I inherited from my other grandmother, is next to Kate on the right. Sitting in the pressback chair is what looks like a Jack Russell dog – no doubt a family pet. Some outbuildings, and other structures, are visible in the background as is a shrub-covered hillside with rock outcrops.
This is the house described here. Anna on the left and her
sister Kate on the right
There are two photographs with Anna dressed in a dark skirt and blouse where she is sitting in a wagon. Two mules are harnessed to the wagon. In both photos Anna is surrounded by her brother-in-law Ernest, the young man from the first photo and one older gentleman who looks like he could be Ernest’s father. This man is wearing a dark suit, dark shirt and a hat. He has a rather distinctive mustache. The young boy is wearing a cap in these photos and the Jack Russell dog appears in both. In one of the two photos we see what is probably the back of their house. Between the wagon and the house there is a fence and it looks like blankets have been draped over the fence to air out. The second of this pair of photos was taken from a different perspective, so we see the town laundry business in the background and more hills. Ernest appears in both photos wearing jeans with rolled up cuffs, a long-sleeve shirt, hat and suspenders. The dog has a clipped tail and is not wearing a collar.
Ernest Cordes, young man, Ann and older gentleman ... and
the Jack Russell dog

There is another photo of Anna standing between the two mules nose-to-nose, ears perked up. One mule is saddled with blankets and gear while the other mule is loaded with wooden boxes likely filled with mining provisions. There is a man in this photo that could be Ernest but I’m certain. He is dressed quite differently from the other photos. In this image the man is wearing knee-high leather spats over his pants, a dark shirt, dark jacket, leather gloves with wide cuffs, and a cap. He is smoking a pipe. The expression on Anna’s face matches the one described above. Every time I look at these photos, I wonder what she was feeling at the time.

The last photo from this collection is funny. It was taken at what is either a construction site or a mine opening. There are sawhorses in the foreground. Two men are standing in the middle of the shot. Each is wearing a suit, tie and hat. I don’t know who either of them is. Anna is between the two men and she is plopped in a wheelbarrow with her skirt draped over the sides. She has on a bonnet and gloves and she wrote the word “Remember?” in red ink on the bottom of the photo.
One of my favorite photos of my grandmother
In December of 1910, Anna and Kate’s father married for a second time. George married Nellie Gregory on December 3, 1910. It was a second marriage for Nellie as well. Anna was living with her father at that time. One evening she went out dancing at the Zenda Club at the Odd Fellows Hall in Los Angeles and that is where she met Lewis Pattillo.

One of the stories I distinctly recall my grandmother telling us is that her father would not permit her to get married until she was eighteen, so on September 18th, one day after she turned eighteen, she married Lewis Wood Pattillo in Los Angeles. They were married by F.G.H. Stevens, a Methodist minister. George L. Riehl and Anna’s sister Mary were witnesses at the wedding. According to the marriage certificate Anna was living at 321 N. Catalina in Pasadena at the time. Anna’s sisters Emma and Mary were married shortly after Anna – Emma in December of 1911 and Mary in May of 1912.
Lewis and Anna at John Thornally's
home in Brookdale

The following year their father died on February 18th, 1913 when Anna was only nineteen years old. Sadly, George missed meeting his grandson James Edward “Ed” Pattillo by just three months who was born on May 10, 1913 when Anna was nineteen.

Anna and Lewis were still living in Los Angeles when Dad was born but by 1914, they had moved to Fresno and were living at 1165 Clark Street.  This is where they were living when Bert Lewis Pattillo was born on January 15, 1919 - nearly six years after Dad was born. When the census was taken in 1920, they were living at 3512 Tulare in Fresno. You can view photos of some of these homes on Lewis’ bio that I published on October 1, 2018. I found one more Fresno address for the family on Lewis’ father’s voter registration form in 1927. At that time, they were living at 3512 Iowa Street and obviously, Grandpa’s father, James William Pattillo was living with them.

By 1929, at the start of the great depression they were living in Oakland and Anna started her tenure of working on the election board. Doing so she started a family tradition. She continued to serve on the election board regularly until 1964. Her daughter-in-law Lottie worked for the election board for fifty years, and today her grandson Terry Pattillo carries on the tradition. When the census was taken in 1930 the Pattillo family was living at 1310 49th Avenue in Oakland. They remained there until 1949 when they bought a home at 5632 Hilton – the home I remember having family dinners at. Between these two dates, Anna’s son Ed married Lottie Thornally on August 19, 1939, and her son Bert married Marjorie Anglemyer on October 12, 1940.
L-R Lewis, Bert, Anna and Ed
Another thing I have distinct memories of are hearing my grandmother brag about how she and Lewis would go to each of the dance halls in downtown Oakland and when they arrived Gramma would exclaim, “that every man in the room wanted to dance with her.” One of the most popular and long-lasting dance halls was Sweets Ballroom. She also went to the Ali Baba Ballroom, the California Room on Franklin, and probably the Rose Room – a taxi dancing hall.

When Anna was 40, she served as chair of arrangements for a card party for the Melrose PTA. The proceeds from the event were used to buy milk and shoes for the students. This event made the society page on April 24, 1934 in the Oakland Tribune newspaper.

Anna went to work again to help the war effort during World War II. She was a bandage folder at the Quarter Master Building in Oakland. I’d like to know more about this but alas, I again failed to record my source, so am unable to expand. After the war she returned to being a homemaker.

In 1953, on the day after Christmas Anna’s oldest siter Kate died from a heart attack at the age of 68 when Anna was 60.
L-R Marge and Bert, Anna and Lewis, Emma and Harold Mohr, Mickey
Mohr, John and Lottie Thornally
September 19, 1961 was a special day when Anna and Lewis celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a big party held at the Mosswood Center in Oakland. It was planned by her two daughters-in-law, catered by Lucca delicatessen and attended by some one hundred guests. Of course, dancing was part of the event.

Ten years later family and friends celebrated Anna and Lewis’ 60th anniversary at another grand party held at the home of Bert and Marge. But, that’s not all in September of 1976 another big party was held at their retirement home to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary!
Anna and Lewis with all their grandchildren at their 50th
wedding anniversary. Kathy, Chris, Terry, Pat and Tom
Anna and Lewis with their two sons and their wives
at their 50th anniversary party
Anna’s sisters Emma and Lizzie died just two months apart in 1965 Emma was 73 and Lizzie was 75. Mary her last sister died in 1970 at the age of 81.

In the mid-70s Anna and Lewis sold their home on Hilton Avenue and moved into a retirement community in Contra Costa County near their son Bert’s home. Lewis died a year and a half after their 65th anniversary so they were married for over 66 years – a record few can exceed.

Anna lived longer than all of her sisters. She died in Concord at the age of 91 on September 4, 1985. She suffered from rheumatism and some dementia. Anna is buried with Lewis, son Bert and daughter-in-law Marge at Oakmont Memorial Park in Lafayette.
The five Vetter sister - Lizzie, Emma, Mary, Anna and Kate
Anna was only 5’1” tall but she had a giant personality. When I was very young, I had difficulty distinguishing my two grandmothers so I always referred to Anna as Polka-Dot Gramma and my maternal grandmother as Green Gramma. These names were based on dresses they each wore – fortunately my parents knew what I meant. I felt much closer to my maternal grandmother – partly because we saw her much more frequently but also because Anna clearly had preferences and she made no effort to hid that her favorite son was Bert and her favorite grandson was Tom, Bert’s eldest son.
Anna with her two sons, Ed and Bert
I inherited photos that Anna had owned which helped with my family history hobby. I also received her sparsely annotated family bible, a few pieces of furniture, and a large collection of crocheted items that Anna made. One year for Christmas, after Anna had died, I stitched some of her crocheted pieces to fabric and framed them as art. Everyone who I gave them to seemed pleased to have them.

My cousin Laine Lawrence shared these recollections of Anna. “I am unable to think of Uncle Lewis without thinking of Aunt Anna.  I think Aunt Ana and Jo (Laine’s grandmother) were best friends.  They would come visit us in Brentwood or we would go to Oakland or sometimes to Ed and Lottie’s to see them.  When Aunt Anna was in the room, she was the center of everything.  When she was telling a story if Lewis wanted to add something she would say “be quiet Lewie”.  Lewis would just smile.  My mother and Aunt Jeannette loved them both.  People used to write letters then and Aunt Anna was one of the great letter writers of her day.  If Jeannette got a letter from her, she came straight over our house, opened the letter and read it out loud.  The letters were long, written over several days, and as the letter was read my mother and Jeannette would laugh and say, “Anna wrote just like she talked.”  And when my mother got a letter she would go to Jeannette’s and the same thing would happen.  It was so fun listening to them reading those letters.”
Anna about 10 years old with sisters Mary and Emma

Anna on the right and unknown friend

Anna August 25, 1920, age 27


Anna and sister Kate

Unknown man, Anna and two mules

Ernest Cordes, Anna and unknown young boy and older man

Anna and I think her sister Mary

Anna and I think her sister Emma

Cook Bank Building, Rhyolite, 1908

Cook Bank Building from Google Earth

Rhyolite Train Station 

Rhyolite Mercantile

Sweets Ballroom - one of Anna and Lewis's favorite dance halls

Anna, Lewis and me, 1950

Anna and Lewis on the right with I think her sister Emma and
Emma's husband Tony De Marco

Christmas 1954 at Ed and Lottie's home. L-R Lewis, Anna
Kathy, Pat, Chris, Tom, Marge. Emma and John Thorally
behind Marge, Bert, Terry and Ed Pattillo in back
Anna on the left and Jo Pattillo on the right. I don't know the fish.
Anna and her sister Mary

Map of Chicago where the Vetter family lived when the 1900 census was taken

The Bullfrog Miner, Rhyolite, Nevada March 29, 1907

Lewis shortly before he died, Bert Pattillo and Anna age 74, 1977

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