Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Dear Papa"

“Dear Papa”
         It was from the Stinsons’ that seven-year-old Ima wrote one of her first letters to her father. It was the first of many: the Hoggs were a letter-writing family. When Sallie and the children visited the grandparents, when J.S. Hogg traveled on business, when the children went off to school, letters flew back and forth. In December 1889 Ima and her mother and Mike and Tom were visiting the grandparents while Ima’s father and Will stayed in Austin. Ima decided to write a letter:
Dec. 5, 1889
Dear papa;        
         last morning we had to hav a light it was so dark. I scribele on the other side of the paper. Don’t look on the other side papa. Come to Aunts wedding the 15. Ant Jennie is reading a book tonight. I went to Effie and I picked 4 pounds of cotton. I weigh 51 pounds today. Mike weighed 33 pounds to day,
         something is a matter with Aunt Lizzies heart.
         Mamma is working on a craz work.
         I wood like to know what you and Brother are doing.
                                             Write soon.         
“Effie” was most likely one of Colonel Stinson’s tenants. He had 14 houses of sharecrop tenants on his 4,000-acre spread. Ima’s mother was doing “crazy work,” the needlecraft art of sewing odd bits of fabric together and then attaching them to a backing to make a crazy quilt.
“Aunt Lizzie” was Colonel Stinson’s widowed sister. Ima remembered her as “quite thin and old,” but “merry.” Whatever was wrong with her heart, two years after this letter Aunt Lizzie was well enough to spend a summer in Austin, helping to look after the Hogg boys while Ima and Sallie traveled.

On December 8, Ima’s father wrote to her:

My Dear Ima—
         I have received your two nice letters, and felt so proud of them. Willie is now writing to his Mama and I undertake the task to you. He and I have dressed up and will go to church directly. He has a new hat and looks very nice in his new suit. I think I will go to your Aunt Lillie’s wedding. Kiss Mama, Mike and Tom, and all the kinfolks for me.  All well.
                                                               Your Papa

When her father was away, Ima missed him. She scratched out a terse note to him one February day while she was at school:

“Where are you at now? Write soon.”                           

When Ima and her mother traveled in the summertime, Ima did not neglect to write letters home to Austin:
July 23, 1890
Dear papa,
I want to see you so bad.  I am home sick to see you all.  How are you all.  Are you all well?  Tom I guess is bat [bad] as ever.  I have 15 c. of my money.
You must write soon.
I must cose [close]
So good by
Give love to all
Your daughter
Ima Hogg

July 26, 1890
Dear papa,
I wrote to you and I forgot to male it.  How is Mike and Tom? I love to here [hear] they are all well.
I gess you kno Miss Dasy. She is [illegible] me some new pieces and paper rosies and lots of pretty things.
Brownie is sick with slow fever Doctor Blunt says.
Give love to all and give a 1000 kisses to all in the family.
Good by
Your Daughter
Ima Hogg

Kisses were abundant in the Hogg family. Ima remembered that “Each morning when we awoke and every evening when we went to bed, Father gave us a warm kiss on the cheek. This habit lasted all our lives.” [i]

Few families have ever been as close.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Grandfather's home was a little paradise to us."

Ima’s grandfather (Colonel James Stinson, the one who had complained about her being named Ima) had a large plantation in deep East Texas, where Ima’s mother, Sallie, often took the children. Ima loved these visits:

We would start out early in the morning on the train from Austin with a big basket lunch and go as far as Troupe, Texas, where I think, we changed trains for Mineola. This seemed to take a very long time. We would spend the night in Mineola with some friends, either at the home of the Bruces or the Gileses. If the weather permitted, Grandfather sent a hack drawn by the “clay bank,” now called “palomino” horses to town and early in the morning we set forth for his farm, which was fifteen miles from Mineola. We crossed many creeks and sloughs and the water was apt to be high. . . . Many times the rivers or creeks were so swollen the water would be over the shaky board bridges. It was frightening because it seemed impassable, unless the driver was familiar with the location. It took until four o'clock in the afternoon after an early start to arrive at Grandfather's home.
 Grandfather’s home was a little paradise to us. It was on the slope of a hillside which went gently down to a swift, flowing shallow creek. The house was commodious and was a lovely cool place in the summer. The premises provided for a vegetable garden filled with every variety of vegetable, an orchard which never seemed wanting of the most luscious fruits, large juicy peaches, plums and even apples and pears. There was always a large melon patch with watermelon and cantaloupe. . . . Nothing delighted Grandfather more than peeling peaches and apples and splitting melons for the children to eat. He would rise in the morning at daylight at whatever hour that was, and in melon time he always had on the back porch half a watermelon split ready for each child to enjoy.
Under the roof of one of the porches was a wonderful water well with cold spring water which was drawn up by oaken buckets. While one was being drawn up full of delicious water, the other went down. Another porch above this one had long benches where the milk crocks were full of fresh milk, mornings and evenings. Cheese cloth covered the crocks. The cream was over an inch thick and after twelve hours could be rolled off. This went into delicious biscuits and gingerbread. Of course there was a large smoke house where the rafters all hung with bacon and ham. When smoked ham was sliced and fried, the gravy was red. This was good on lye hominy and grits. . . .

         Those were the days. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Hunt up my banjo books."

Ima Hogg loved music all her life. At three, she was learning to play the piano, and at age ten, she took up the banjo. Visiting friends in Huntsville in 1893, she wrote a hurried note to her father in Austin: 
         “Papa tell Grace to express my banjo just as soon as you go home to dinner. 
         Please don’t forget to do it.
P. S. Please get Grace to hunt up my banjo books, the large one and the small one too and let Bill send it by the next mail.” (Grace was the Hoggs’ housemaid; Bill was the Capitol porter.)
         When there were musical evenings and sing-alongs in the Governor’s Mansion, Ima played her banjo for such numbers as “Old Kentucky Home” and "Swanee River."  She also played the piano. As she remembered her early musical training,
When we first moved to the mansion, Professor Ludwig came to live in Austin. He was from Russia and had studied piano with a brother of Anton Rubenstein, though I think the impression was he had studied with Anton himself. Professor Ludwig made a real sensation in Austin by his talk and his performances, and Austin was very proud of having him. Pupils flocked to him for study. Mother had early begun my piano lessons herself because I was a little too small and young to be sent to a teacher. Later there was a Miss Brown in Austin who gave me lessons, but when Professor Ludwig came I was sent to him. Each year he gave students’ recitals and I always played at these. . . .
He quickly saw it was easier for me to play by ear than to read music so he taught me by playing first and letting me follow. It took me a long time afterwards to overcome such a handicap. Several times a year his pupils appeared in concert. I played too, in recital, Chopin, mazurkas and waltzes far beyond my comprehension but imitating Prof. Ludwig. He was quite a prima-donna.”
         So, perhaps, was young Ima Hogg, who loved to play for an audience.
         In 1894 her father wrote to her mother while he was traveling with Ima, “Well I must quit, as Ima is playing the ‘Washington Post March,’ and the crowd demand my attention.”

Friday, October 5, 2012

"We were a pretty rowdy trio."

Ima was eight years old when her family moved into the white-columned Governor’s Mansion in 1891. Mike was six, and Tom was three. Their older brother, Will, was a serious-minded young man of fifteen who considered himself far too old to play rough-and-tumble games with his younger siblings. Ima remembered those times in her memoirs:
         I am afraid visitors to the mansion must have thought we were a pretty rowdy trio, Mike, Tom, and myself. Of course, Brother was dignified and not often conspicuous. We three would start at the top of the steps and slide down one after the other with a great thud into the center hall. Nothing seemed to cure us of this until Tom fell off midway and hung by his chin from a corner of one of the steps. He bled considerably and frightened all of us. Father took tacks and hammered them all the way down the railing of the stairs. . . .
         I do not know what theories my father and mother had about disciplining children but I never saw Father administer any corporal punishment. I don’t think he believed in it. We were not very disciplined, at any rate, but Mother had a little switch which she would use on our legs sometimes. I am sure we needed it more often than we got it. . . .
The paling fence around the mansion grounds was a nuisance to us children, and we were always knocking a paling off through which our neighbors could crawl in. This annoyed Father a great deal because he was always having to have the fence repaired. . . .
         Our grounds were a neighborhood playground. Contests for running and jumping and vigorous outdoor games were always going on in good weather. I was allowed to compete with the boys. My two brothers and I were so nearly the same age; although I was older, and they seemed very much younger to me, we were great playmates. . . .
         They tried to show me how to wrestle, play marbles and enter into all of their games. It made me a real Tom-boy.
         But Ima was not a tom-boy all the time. She wrote happily to her father, “Tom is getting so he will play dolls with me.”