Martha Eileen's Memories

Memories of my Grandparents
by Martha Eileen Blackmer Quigley

I have always considered myself very blessed to have lived near my grandparents when I was very young. My mother took me to visit in their home on a weekly basis. The Heaps family was a wonderful, fun loving family and I always felt very special and loved when I was there, not only by my grandparents, but by my mother’s younger brothers and sisters that were still living at home with my grandparents.

Grandpa and Grandma seemed to love having their family together. The family always enjoyed each other and loved to play games, dance, and laugh. There was always witty and fun conversation flowing back and forth between them. I could feel the warmth and love they had for one another.

Grandmother was crippled with arthritis and could hardly walk. She assisted her walking with crutches, but on several occasions, I remember when the boys became too rowdy with their teasing or bothering the girls in the kitchen, Grandmother would threaten them with the broom if they didn’t stop whatever nonsense they were involved in.

Grandmother mostly sat in her rocking chair and just enjoyed what the rest of the family was doing.

She had very long hair which she kept done up in a braid and coiled into a bun at the back of her head. If I was very careful and gentle, she sometimes allowed me to brush her hair when she “took out” her braid, then she would braid it back up and coil it into a bun, fastening it with long hair pins made of bone or tortoise shell to hold it in place. Sometimes she used combs to hold her hair securely away from her face.

As she sat in her chair, she would rock gently back and forth. I found this to be a great help to me during the winter months when the family enjoyed the big bowl of nuts that was always there. When the adults were using the nut crackers, I would sit on the floor back of Grandma’s chair and as she rocked forwards, I would slide a nut under the rocker and when she rocked back, I would scrape the nut pieces out and eat them. I would repeat the performance until I had my fill of nuts.

I remember one year when it was time to can fruit, Grandpa brought Grandma to our house and she sat and peeled fruit for my mother as she was canning. Grandma taught all of her daughters wonderful homemaking skills that have been a blessing in all of our lives. Each daughter mastered the art of cooking, sewing, canning, baking bread, and so many other useful and wonderful skills.

On one occasion, when Grandpa brought Grandma to visit, she brought me a special gift. It didn’t matter that it came with a sales promotion from an item from the grocery store. I was thrilled when she gave me a metal yo-yo that hummed as it went up and down rapidly. I was so surprised about the gift because it wasn’t even my birthday or Christmas.

Another gift that she gave me was when I was left for the afternoon at her home to take a nap while my mother was at a meeting. Grandmother had a little glass Bull Dog with red beads for eyes. I really loved that little dog and always asked to hold it for a minute while I was there. The afternoon I was there to take my nap was no exception, I asked if I could hold the little glass dog for a minute and when I gave it back to Grandma, she told me in her sweet, kind way that, “If I was a good girl and took my nap, I could take the little dog home with me and it would be mine to keep.”

I was so excited I could hardly go to sleep. I finally did fall asleep and when I awakened, I was given the little dog to take home. I have cherished it these many years. the glass bead eyes are gone and it has a few chips, but it is still treasured and cherished as a special gift from grandmother.

I remember when grandma became very ill and had to have surgery to remove a large goiter from her neck. When she came home from the hospital she had to be in bed for a long while; or so it seemed. Mother took me to see Grandma. I remember how sick she looked and I felt so badly when I saw her. She didn’t smile at me like she usually did and hardly said a word. Mother told me that “I had to be very quiet and be very careful to not bump her bed.”

Grandmother never did fully recover from the effects of her surgery. She passed away 12 days before my 6th birthday. I never will forget that birthday, it was sad indeed without Grandma.

After Grandma passed away, Grandpa moved away from the house on Center Street in Pocatello and rented a house out in West Pocatello, just through the block from where we lived. It was so much fun to have Grandpa living so close. I could visit him often as I just had to go out our back gate, across a vacant lot and into Grandpa’s back yard.

My memories of Grandpa are so numerous that I can’t begin to write them all so I will put down a few that stand out in my mind.

Grandpa was very special in my life because in many ways he filled two roles, that of grandfather and Grandmother. He was not overly affectionate in his actions nor did he verbally express his love for me, but he didn’t have to as I always knew it and felt it in the way he treated me and I felt happy and secure when I was with him. He was a tease and full of fun, but when he told me to do something, I knew I had better be obedient because he was a “no nonsense” kind of a man and he demanded respect and obedience.

After my parents were divorced, we left West Pocatello and moved to a house in town on Garfield. Grandfather and Aunt Helen also moved to a house on Hayes Street. Grandpa then went on a trip to California to visit his grandchildren and children living there. We were so glad when he returned. He visited in our home for several days.

It was in the fall of the year and mother was busy with her usual canning projects. Grandpa went with her to the orchard to get fruit. I can still see all the boxes and tubs of fruit sitting in our kitchen. Mother was employed out of the home as well, so Grandpa helped get the canning done.

We had an old black cooking range in the kitchen and every morning, while Grandpa was there, he would build a fire in the old range. Soon it would be humming crackling cheerily, warming and cheering us. When the fire would be burning well and we could hear it roaring up the chimney, Grandpa would say, “Now she’s a snorting”, then we would laugh.

It was also that fall that Mother decided that our bedding needed new covers, so out came the quilting frames and Grandpa helped Mother tie several quilts to replenish our bedding supply. Claudia and I had such fun playing house under the quilts while they were up on the frames. We pretended that they were our tents. Then we decided to really play like it was a tent and asked if we could make a bed and sleep there that night. Grandpa helped us make our bed and we went to bed in our make believe tent. I remember I awakened early feeling very uncomfortable from the effects of the hard floor. Never have I slept on such a hard bed as that was, before or since. When they laid, “hard wood” floors in those days, they weren’t kidding!

Grandpa learned to cook at an early age. he didn’t have any sisters to help in the house, so his mother taught her sons to cook and keep house. I was really proud of the fact that my Grandpa could cook and even bake bread and jelly cake.

After Grandma died, Grandpa was very lonely and eventually made his home with Aunt Helen or Aunt Mary and their families. It was while he was living with Aunt Helen in the house on Hayes Street that he had an accident and fell and broke his hip. Since my mother was still working, Claudia and I stayed at Aunt Helen’s until mother returned from work. I remember how Grandpa suffered while his hip was healing. It was hard to see him in so much pain. He was quiet and didn’t tease us. That was different than we had ever experienced before.

Grandpa loved ice cream, so on the least little occasion, or just because he wanted to, he made ice cream. He had a freezer with a crank handle that he turned by hand and since I was the oldest between Buddy, Janny and Claudia, I had the privilege of standing on the freezer to hold it steady while Grandpa turned the crank, that way it didn’t dance around when the ice cream started to get solid, making it harder to turn the crank.

It was always a real treat to lick the dasher when the ice cream was done and everyone vied for the honor, but grandpa usually always had the first taste, “to see if it was any good.” He did make good ice cream and so it wasn’t any surprise when Uncle Lewis opened an ice cream shop in Twin Falls, following in his Father’s footsteps, becoming well known for his good ice cream.

Grandpa was famous among his grandchildren for the pocket knife he always carried in his pocket. I’m sure everyone of his grandchildren had the offer at one time or another of having their ears altered with Grandpa’s knife. The thing I remember the most; however, was how he used to peel or slice apples for the grandkids. As long as we wanted to eat them, he was willing to provide bits or slices - always “served” - from the blade of his knife.

Another thing that Grandpa did with his knife was make “willow whistles.” Whenever we went on a picnic in the mountains or whenever we found a patch of green willow, Grandpa would make us all a whistle and we would have a noisy, good time with them.

As I have mentioned, Grandpa loved to tease and often told me that if I drank coffee it wold make my knees black, of if I would eat my burned toast it would make my hair curly like his. (He was bald!)

Sometimes when he wanted me to do something he would say, “Hurry before I give you a nickel.” Another time he might tell me that he would give me a nickel if I could take my teeth out like he did. Of course, I would try and try, finally ending in tears of frustration.

Remembering Grandpa always brings back memories of his Nash Lafayette coupe. How he loved to travel and drive that car. He always liked to leave early and hated to stop and “dilly-dally” around. When he was ready to go someplace, he liked to do just that and was often ready and on his way by sunup.

When my mother decided to leave Pocatello and move to Twin Falls to work with Uncle Lewis in his ice-cream shop, it was Grandpa that drove us to Twin Falls in his Nash Coupe. That move brought an end to the close association with Grandpa. In those days it took at least 4 hours to drive from Pocatello to Twin Falls and that ended our regular visits with grandpa as we had enjoyed in previous years. Mother didn’t own a car, so Grandpa came to visit us from time to time. Those were very special occasions for us and we looked forward to them with great anticipation.

The legacy left to us by our grandparents was not written on deeds or in Bank Books, but in our hearts and in the name that we bore. Honesty, loyalty, integrity, and love was our common inheritance, all of which made us extremely wealthy, indeed.

Photos of Descendants - 1st generation

Memories and Stories of
Benjamin Franklin & Ann Eva Dittmore Heaps
Eva Luella Heaps
Shirley Ellen Blackmer Tyler
Claudia Lee Blackmer/Freeman Vance

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