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. 


  1. I just learned that Pop was from Appling, Georgia, USA.

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  3. I have a recipe that Martha gave me for Pop's Grape Wine. Would love to hear more about that - where did the recipe come from and has anyone ever tasted the wine? Has anyone attempted to make it recently? We just might have to do that!

    1. Jamie,
      I had no idea that the recipe for Pop's wine was out there at all! I'd love to see it....Martha? I do remember helping in the process. He brought home a big box of grapes and we had to somehow get the flesh out of the skins and get rid of the seeds. Then there was something about hanging it all in cheese cloth....I guess to let the juice drip out. The part that really caught my attention, though, was the way the juice from the grapes was fermented into wine. The juice was put into several very large glass jars with narrow necks. They were then corked and a small rubber tube ran out through a hole cut into the cork and then it was all sealed with candle wax. Then (and this was the part I really loved) the end of the tube was put into a small bottle of water which was secured to the side of the large jar. Everyday I'd go and check on this contraption....which was kept behind the hot water heater in the kitchen or in the watch the bubbles. As the juice fermented gases were forced out through the tube and made bubbles in the water that was in the small jar secured to the side. That way, I was told, gases would go out, but more air could not come back in. I had no idea that I was learning an old and honored art of wine making.....I just thought I was helping Pop!

    2. Actually, the above remarks were made by me, Monty, not Russell. I didn't make my own accout, or whatever I was supposed to do. Sorry.

  4. I loved hearing your perspective of Pop and the story of him killing the ants. I wonder if his saying that killing the father would affect the whole family reflected his life after his father died when Pop was only 12?
    Btw Mother Cile lived to be at least 90. I have a picture of her on her 90th birthday. I will try to scan it when I get home.