Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mother Cile and Pop

The Christmas season is well upon us, and I know everyone is otherwise occupied with egg nog, and tangled lines of lights.  I want to thank those of you who have sent in some of your remembrances, and I know once December Madness is behind us, the dead days of winter will afford us all more opportunity for reflection.

This month I am focusing on Mother Cile and Pop, so for those of you old enough to remember them, please let us hear from you!  They are the linch pins of the current Holsenbeck family as we know it, and they both lived into their eighties and therefore had an impact on several generations of family.

Pop was born Daniel Marshall Holsenbeck, Jr., on March 9, 1886, and Mother Cile was born one year and 364 days later on March 7, 1888, as Lucile Dixon Kiser.  "Pop" is traditionally used as a pet name for one's father, but in his case, his children actually called him Father and his grandchildren started using the name Pop.  His wife called him Marshall, and I believe his contemporaries called him both Daniel and Marshall (several postcards from friends bear this out).

I was aware of Mother Cile from the very earliest days of memory, so I never gave a moment's thought to the derivation of the name until much later in life.  Having a great-grandmother named Mother Cile was the most natural thing on Earth (my other living great-grandmother was called Aunt Beulah, which is another story in itself).  "Cile" is clearly a truncated version of Lucile --  this tradition started with her grandmother, Nanny Dick (Frances Fleming Dixon) and continued with her mother, Mother Ki (Emma Dixon Kiser).  This Southern tradition of colorful nicknames died with my generation -- I referred to all four of my grandparents as Grandmother or Granddaddy, respectively.

Pop's greatest contribution to mankind, I believe, was electricity.  He had a way of "transferring" it from his hand to yours that, for kids, was quite convincing (until I accidentally felt real electricity some time later).  He was also able to miraculously pull a quarter from your ear, a trick that truly puzzled me as a child.  He would walk us grandkids down to the swimming pool at Brookwood Hills in Atlanta, and along the way he would point out ants crawling about on the sidewalk and make up stories about them.  There was a father ant and mother ant, and some children ants, and they were all scurrying on their way to school or work.  Then, much to my horror, he would take his cane and calmly squash one of the ants (usually the father) and explain what a devastating effect this would now have on the rest of the ant family.

When I knew Pop and Mother Cile, they were both in their eighties and had trouble getting around, and neither one of them was particularly demonstrative.  But I always remember helping Mother Cile up steps and out of cars, and she was always able to produce candy at any given time.  On one particularly sweltering drive out into the country, I was in the back seat with her and I complained that I was frightfully thirsty.  She immediately brought forth from her purse a roll of butter rum Lifesavers and assured me that these would quell my thirst.  As you can imagine, it had the exact opposite effect, but I kept waiting in vain for the magic to kick in.

On a completely different topic, I am thinking of changing the background colors of the website.  White print on navy blue is quite bold and striking, but I think after a time it becomes wearing on the eyes.  I may also widen the site somewhat, taking advantage of the blank space on the right side of the screen.  I am slowly learning how to be a webmaster and designer, so your patience is appreciated, as well as your comments and suggestions. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Welcome Aboard!

This past summer, as Andrew and Jamie Waskey pondered the daunting prospects of parenthood, one particular quandry wouldn't settle in their heads.  If their new son, the soon-to-be Jack, were to be raised in Dubai (or such other exotic locales to which their professions might lead them), how would the poor boy ever come to know his real roots?  The typical summer drive to Grandma's or a train ride to Christmas with one of his numerous aunts and uncles would be quite out of the question.  Journeys stateside would be rare indeed.  Soon the boy would come to think of himself as Cain or Abel, a son of parents that had been plopped onto the Earth with no discernible predecessors.

Thus the idea of a heritage website was first born.  Andrew had a cousin who, through circumstances set in motion by the Great Collapse of 2008, had plenty of time on his hands and was willing to undertake the administration of such a task.  The blog you are now reading is one part of a larger web project, which, when finished in the fall of 2012, will be turned into a book.  Jack's sense of self will thus be saved!

Originally, Andrew and Jamie were interested in having little Jack become acquainted with his great grandparents Bill and Frances Gillham and the moral, intellectual and cultural influence this pair had on their subsequent decendants.  However, it soon became clear that the scope of the project would have to include the families of Frances' two siblings, Bryant Moore and Dan Holsenbeck.  It also became apparent that all of the Holsenbecks of Andrew's and Jack's generations could benefit from this undertaking.

I, the aforementioned cousin, will keep the family apprised of the progress of this project through weekly entries to this blog.  The main website,, will be the focal point of project.  The name is drawn from what can be considered the Holsenbeck ancestral home:  992 Washita Avenue in Atlanta, the home of Pop and Mother 'Cile.  Though currently not in family hands, the house was, through most of the 20th century, a place of safe haven and refuge for the Holsenbeck clan.

More will follow next week as to the particulars of the endeavor.  For now, though, we need you to start sending us your memories.  On this page on the website there is a form where you can enter any remembrances or anecdotes you wish to share, as a means of building a family history.  Facts and figures are of course welcome and necessary, but more important are the thoughts, feelings, traditions and values that have made an impact on you.

Comments and feedback are always welcome, as well.  You can either leave your comments at this blog, below, or on the Feedback page on the website.

Thank you for joining us!  See you again next week.

Russell Caldwell