Elsie, This Is Your Life

I bet you thought I was going to write about my mother, since it’s Mother’s Day. Well, she certainly deserves it. If I got my work ethic from my father, then I got my spirit of inquisitiveness and adventure from Mother. Where did SHE get it?

Elsie Adkins Welch

She got it from HER mother, Elsie Adkins Welch. My grandmother was a petite woman, who was almost always perfectly coiffed and neatly dressed. She was an inveterate clipper of poems and inspirational pieces that she would work into speeches and letters. (She’s in the middle of this photo.)

Grandfather loved fishing and cigars

My grandfather, Roy, was an short, portly, amiable man, who loved to fish and puff on Roi Tan cigars.

When he moved in with us after his health failed, I asked him why he never looked at any of the fishing magazines I subscribed to, preferring, instead, to devour murder mysteries.

“If I read about fishing,” he said, “it would only make me want to go fish. I can read a murder mystery without wanting to go out and kill someone.”

Roy didn’t like to drive. Truth be told, he wasn’t very good at it. My grandmother, on the other hand, would do things like take off on a 10-day tour of the West with three of her buddies. (More about that later).

This Is Your Life

Gran, as we called her, was active in Eastern Star, was a Worthy Matron and founded a chapter of Past Worthy Matrons. June 4, 1962, the group recognized her with a This Is Your Life program. I think Anna Bidewell was responsible for putting together most of this information, although margin notes make it look like several other women either helped or read portions of the program. With only a few notes from me, here is my grandmother’s life as told by her friends.

Exciting times in Tillman

There were exciting things going on in the hills of a little town named Tillman on the morning of Sept. 24, 1892. On this fall day was when Elsie Lee was born to Willis and Mary Adkins. This was a house full of girls, because this made five, with Chloe, Ollie, Pearl and Iva.

Went to school in Pleasant Hill

Before long, your father opened a grocery store. Now, the town was growing. This made two stores and a blacksmith shop. In due time, you started school at Pleasant Hill. One of your teachers was a man named Monroe Harris. They say you were a live wire on the playground. You were full of mischief. It’s a wonder those tiny trees ever grew to be big and tall because that was a real good trick to ride the saplings at recess.

Polly wants a cracker

When you were 12 years old, your family moved to the big town of Advance. Your father opened a store across the street from the Advance Flour Mill. There was a parrot usually hanging on the porch in his cage. All we could get him to say was “Polly wants a cracker,” but your mother could get him to say lots of things.

My, how the kids envied the Adkins girls – why, Elsie could get anything she wanted without paying for it because they had a store.

Getting a bonnet in Cape

One of the big events of your early life was to go with your father to the big city of Cape Girardeau to buy supplies. Of course, this was by wagon. On one of these trips you bought a new bonnet at Miss Doyle’s Hat Shop, which was quite a thrill in those days. You finished high school in Advance.

Don’t go to Leopold Picnic

Your father and mother made a trip to Illinois to visit relatives. They gave you firm orders NOT to attend the picnic at Leopold with that young man Roy Welch or you’d really be in trouble when they returned. Later on, you said, “That was the best picnic Leopold ever had.”

Decided he could support a wife

There was a wedding on Feb. 29, 1912. You became the bride of that young man, Roy Welch. He was working at Dr. Cook’s drug store and decided he could afford to support a wife. You left on the noon train to a honeymoon trip to faraway Cape Girardeau and stayed at the hotel near the river.

You have to CLEAN the chicken?

Returning, you took a two-room apartment in the west end of town. One of your first meals was baked chicken. You worked all morning getting everything fixed just right. They say that, as meal time became closer, you began to smell something peculiar. By the time Roy came home, there was no question about the odor. You didn’t know that you were supposed to clean the inside of the chicken as well as the outside. But, with lots of experience, you became an excellent cook.

At other times, you wanted to prove that you were a real good housekeeper. One day when you were really busy, the neighbors thought it was snowing. On second thought, they knew it was a little late for a snow storm, so they investigated. It was just Elsie emptying the feathers out of the feather bed so she could wash the tick.

On March 25, 1913, a black-headed baby boy was born and named Kenneth Adkins Welch. You thought your happiness was complete. Soon after, you moved to a farm in the Little Vine community. There are lots of stories about the ice cream and watermelon parties held under the trees.

Mary Lee born in 1921

Nine years later, on Oct. 17, 1921, a baby girl was born. She was named Mary Lee, after her two grandmothers.

In 1924, you left the farm and moved back to Advance to open a business on Main Street. And, remember the big white house you moved into? With the big screened-in porch, so nice for all the parties, for young and old. We knew we would be greeted with the smell of fresh cut flowers, sweet peas in little crystal baskets here and a pot or geraniums there… they were all over. Everyone enjoyed going to the Welches.

About 1926, you were my Sunday School teacher. You had a class of teenage boy and girls. Each time that I needed you, you would give me you advice. What you said made me stop, listen and think twice.

[Editor’s note: the broach above is the one she’s wearing in the old photo.]

First trip to St. Louis

You took me on my first trip to St. Louis. Remember how we had to get out of the little Ford and walk up Null Hill? Felt like we were going to roll backwards down that mountain, but felt real good when we got to the top. After reaching the top, we climbed into the car again and went on our way, counting and taking down notes on the names of every little creek and bend in the road. This wasn’t a trip; it was a journey.

Things ran smoothly until the year of 1935 when tragedy struck your family in the form of an automobile accident that took the life of Kenneth. Time stood still for awhile.

Mary Lee married L.V. Steinhoff

On Jan. 7, 1942, you gained another son – Mary Lee was married to L.V. Steinhoff. You enjoyed each other very much. You all enjoyed many vacations together. But, some said they doubted if they were filled with as much fun as the one you took with Mabel, Lillian and Daisy.

On Trip to Yellowstone

[Editor’s note: I have an undated Missourian clipping that says, “ON TRIP TO YELLOWSTONE.” Leaving Sunday for a ten-day trip through the western states were Mrs. Lillian Ackert, Mrs. Roy Welch, Mrs. H. Zimmerman and Mrs. L.O. Reutzel. They will stop in Denver and Colorado Springs, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.” To say this was unusual in that day and age would be an understatement. I remember crying when they left town because I wanted to go with them, so I had to have been around three, which would have put the trip in about 1950.]

Three Grandsons come along

On March 24, 1947, your first grandson, Kenneth Lee was born. He was your pride and joy and still is. Seven years later, David Louis made his appearance. You were still hoping for a granddaughter, but in 1956, another boy came along, Mark Lynn. To you, these are the greatest.

Joined the Eastern Star

In 1933, when you had some time on your hands, you petitioned the Advance Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star. In 1948, you became Worthy Matron of Advance Chapter 412. This was in the old hall over the bank. I shall never forget the faded wallpaper on the walls and the worn rug on the floor. But, that night, it was sparking clean and the Star Point chairs were all covered in white.

In your acceptance speech, you said in your precise and charming way, “The hall looks just beautiful. Beautiful. The paper doesn’t look faded anymore, nor does the rug look worn. From here in the East, it looks perfect.” Your daughter approached the East that night and presented you with a lovely basket of flowers.

You loved to talk

This was an outstanding year for all. You loved to talk and you had many speeches to give, so you had a ball. It was a lot of work, but you enjoyed every minute. Remember getting ready for company night? How hot the fire had to roar to get the old place hot. Tons of flowers were carried into this old hall to make it brighter. You loved to surprise us on chapter night. Remember popping a bushel basket of popcorn and carrying it up the long flight of steps? And, you always remembered our birthdays.

You gave me my first job in the Eastern Star. I was a new member, but I stood meekly in the shadows holding a spotlight on the scenes of This Is Your Life the night Vallie Bollinger was installed as Worthy Matron of the Advance Chapter.

Founded Past Matrons

In 1949, you were fast approaching the rank of Past Matron. After much meditation, you began to organize a Past Matrons Club, of which we now claim you as its Mother, not in age, but as its founder. “All thing start from someone’s dream; All things worthwhile were in dreams first seen.”

In 1955, you retired from active duty because of ill health, and you moved to Cape Girardeau to live with your daughter. But, your family says you are there in body only, not in spirit – Advance is the only home for you.

Roy Welch died in 1957

In 1957, the Death Angel once again visited your home, calling your husband, Roy.

But, with the three grandsons, Mary Lee, L.V. and the old spirit, you still have what it takes, attending our club meetings and Eastern Star whenever possible, even through rain and snow.

So, on this night, we nominate
And to do this I will not hesitate.
You’re a lady of prominence, I might say
Devoted to our Club and beautiful Order every day.
You’ve made a ladder that shall span the sky,
For deeds of love shall never die.

Elsie, This Is Your Life.

Elsie Welch died April 17, 1973

Elsie Welch died April 17, my Dad’s birthday, in 1973. She was a wonderful lady and I miss her.


20 Replies to “Elsie, This Is Your Life”

  1. Oh my goodness……what a lovely trip through your family history. As always, THANKS for sharing. God bless all the mothers in this world. A mother’s love is always as near as her child’s heartbeat…….

  2. Outstanding! (The one word says it all, but I got a message telling me my message was to short.)

  3. I enjoy every one of these links, that you put together—I really like this one–thanks so much–

  4. I must tell you how much I enjoyed taking this little trip with your family! Your “Gran” must have been quite the lady. I can tell she made a great impression on her family and those lucky enough to be in her presence.

    I can relate to this reading, as my own Granny touched my life so profoundly.
    Thanks for sharing this with us!

  5. What a lovely remembrance about your Grandmother Elsie. There was something special about those Advance women of that era.

  6. Yes, Barb, there certainly was something special about those ladies from Advance. Igrew up with all of these very wonderful people. thanks Ken for your tribute to Elsie

  7. Wow! You outdid yourself, Ken! When I told my daughter about your blog yesterday, she said, “Show Off!” I thought I was doing good to post one photo and a very short bio of my own mother on the Dexter Statesman site early Saturday morning–and then I saw yours! ARG! Good thing I’m not even trying to keep up with you!
    You mentioned Valle Bollinger: She lived to be 102, and her mind was sharp until the end. I did a story on her when she was 98, I think, and another when she was 100.
    Juanita Holder said that Valle learned to dance at the stagecoach stop in Old Lakeville on the Bloomfield Road. I saw the remnants of the old building in later years (not knowing what it was), and I’m amazed that anyone had ROOM to dance in there!
    Special ladies!

    1. It’s easy to produce something like this when you have a great subject, pictures going back almost a century (no, MINE don’t go back that far) and you don’t have to work for a living.

      I have to admit that I started on the page about 10 p.m. and didn’t get it posted until about 5:15 a.m.

      I paid for it the next day, though. I went for a bike ride with a couple of friends yesterday evening. I didn’t fuel up enough before the ride, didn’t get any sleep the night before and ended up “bonking” about halfway home.

      Think of a car sputtering to a stop when the gas tank runs dry. That was how I felt. If you noticed nothing new posted on Monday morning, it’s because I came home and crashed. I’m not sure I even turned over before the alarm went off at 9 a.m.

  8. In the photo under “You Loved To Talk” is a wall hanging that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen before, in elderly relatives’ living rooms. There were a few classic standards from that era, and that’s one of them.

    1. It’s no longer hanging at the house. If I remember correctly, Mother gave it to someone who asked for it after my grandmother died.

      I always kinda liked it.

      1. On the right side of that same photo is a green candy dish with a pink rose on top. I recognize that from my Gran’s (Mary Lee’s) house.

        Where was the Welch beach photo taken? It wasn’t from the same trip as when this photo was taken, right?

        Because that was taken on Mary Lee’s and LV’s honeymoon, right?


        1. I think writing in the beach sand was something we did every time we saw water and sand. I have a photo of them doing it with me, probably on our 1949 trip to Mexico.

          You’re right about the shot of Mother (Mary), above. I believe it WAS from their honeymoon. There are several really iconic photos that I’ll have to publish from that trip one of these days.

          Roy and Elsie did NOT go with them. In fact, I’ll have to publish some of the postcards and telegrams they sent back from that honeymoon trip.

          The candy dish is still at my mother’s house.

  9. Very touching – brought tears to my eyes…
    What a lovely lady to have in your life!

  10. Beautiful. I was going to post earlier that your mother always is nicely dressed, hair is neat, and make up it on. After reading this story I know where she got that from. Great story and wonderful memories.

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