Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mom's Haley Family Memories, part 4: Our Unforgettable "Aunt LaLa"

little Mary and Brother Bill 
with Aunt LaLa
circa the late 1930s
Now, let’s start gathering family relationship memories...

Could you describe your relationship with Aunt Helen? I know that at times there was some tension between you two and I also remember her causing me to feel "small" on occasion when she would criticize.  

A very young Aunt LaLa
3 years old

Let's see, about Aunt Helen, or “LaLa” as we called her when we were all kids, she was a very frustrated “old maid."  She would have loved to have married and had children of her own but that was not to be. First of all she was a very large lady. She weighed 12 lbs at birth and just kept on growing. In all of her pics I never saw her with even a suggestion of thinness. She helped her Mom raise three children for the province of Ontario so she exercised her mother instincts there and felt she knew everything there was to know about raising children

Aunt Helen only about 3 yrs old
Whoa wait. What do you mean by she helped her mom raise three children for Ontario? Are you talking about foster kids?

Yes they raised foster kids.   One girl was close to Aunt Helen's age and then later on Grandma took in a sister and a brother who were around my age. I think they were paid by the province to do this. I know at that time my Grandpa Haley was not working and only Aunt Helen (LaLa) worked at the Eaton Department Store in Toronto.  She would buy all our clothes there at quite a discount.

Aunt Helen first communion
about 10 or 12 yrs old
So they raised these foster kids. Did the kids go on and become part of the family?  And what do you mean she got quite a discount from the department store? Was that due to her doing foster care for the province?

Aunt Helen, my aunt, worked at Eaton's Department Store all her life and because she worked there she got any purchases there at a discount. So the discounts had nothing to do with the province foster care.

Aunt LaLa holding
either Bill or Mary 30s

What happened to all those foster kids raised by your grandmother and Aunt LaLa? Did they remain in the family? Did they stay in touch? 

Sorry to say I really don't know.   All that info died with my Aunt Helen. You know she was my godmother and she felt that meant she should help raise me too I guess. We loved to see her visit because she always brought Grandma (who was Helen’s mother of course) with her, who by the way was the sweetest woman alive. (Mom, sounds like we need a paragraph JUST on HER! We’ll add it down below this one.)   Aunt Helen was really bossy to her too.  As happy as we were to see her arrive, we were probably happier to see her go.  

"Little" Aunt Helen standing behind a WWI Canadian soldier

My Grandmother, Lenora Ladle Haley was born in Burlington I’m pretty sure.  I don't know how she met her hubbie Patrick Albert Haley. She had a red haired daughter first, Nora, who died very young.   My Dad was born in 1905.  Then came George Cameron Haley (I think his middle name was Cameron).   Charlie, my dad, when he was learning to talk couldn't say George; instead, he called him Dodes, and that name stuck with him all his life.   Aunt Helen (LaLa) was next and she never married.  Uncle Art was after her; his real name was James Arthur Haley.   Grandpa didn’t go by Patrick but rather by Bert and Uncle Art didn't go by his first name either.   Aunt Helen was always LaLa to us; it seems like nicknames were very prevalent then.

Grandma Nora Haley was a sweet quiet lady and I never heard a mean word come from her.   We all loved her and she always had a hug for us.  My Uncle Art always said that I looked just like her.   So I guess I am more Haley than Kehoe.  She had a severe kidney infection and never told Aunt Helen (her daughter) that she wasn't feeling well until she was very ill with it.   She was admitted to the hospital for treatment. At the time, in the late 50s, there was a bad flu epidemic going on.   She got the Flu in the hospital and couldn't fight both infections and died when you were just 6 months old.    She did get to see your picture though and was so pleased to have a great-grandson.  I'll try to get some info about my Mom, who had a wonderful sweet personality. (She does further below).
top: Helen, Dods, Grace
Center: Charlie, George, Baby Bill w Grandma, Winnie
How did Aunt Helen take it when Grandma stood up to her?  Grandma was not from her side of the family so how did Aunt Helen react at that moment?  Did she apologize, back down, go quiet or just huff and walk away?

Mary Winifred Grandma Helen
late 40s or so
Mom stood up to her a couple of times and if we could have cheered we would have.  If I remember correctly, Aunt Helen just grew quiet and walked away when Mom stood up to her.  Actually, Aunt Helen did have a good heart and if it hadn't been for her we would have had some very sparse Christmases.   She brought many gifts for us on Christmas and birthdays.  Mom and Dad never had an extra penny for gifts when we were small.   You and MK were her first grandnephew and niece; she showered you with gifts too and likewise to Kevin and Gail. She couldn't see that she was sort of self centered but that's all ancient history.   Hope I haven't said too many mean things about her.  Just stating the facts I guess.
Artie Helen n unknown cousin about 1912
Naw, you aren’t that hard on her at all. You include the pleasant with the not so. That’s life. We all have our rough edges, you know?  It’s what makes us human. I do know you didn't include some of the stories where she actually made you cry, when she could be so mean, but that’s ok. She put some edge into your personality, which everyone needs to get along in the world. We can't all be sweet little lamb people, got to have some wolf in there too to keep you alive and kicking when things get tough.

Aunt Helen in the middle
of two friends 1930s
So, were you the only one that felt the sting of Aunt Helen's criticisms?  Did the others have your sensitive side and feel the hurt as well or just you?  I imagine all of you felt the brunt of her bossiness eh? 

Aunt Helen wearing
skates w hockey stick
The other kids in my family all had the same experiences with her. Helen did even as a grown up.   Aunt Helen had come over for Gail's First Communion and was going to stay at Helen and Jerry's. When they drove into the driveway at my sister Helen's house Brian had done some mischief of some kind and Jerry lost it, yelling and ranting at Brian, who of course sat cowering (I imagine). Aunt LaLa got all upset and said “I will not stay in this house!” and told them to take her back to Winnie's (my Mom's).   My poor sister cried and begged her to stay but she would have none of it.  Turned out she went to Uncle Art's for the rest of her visit. I remember feeling so bad for my sister.   Jerry didn't realize he had done anything wrong and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about.

Before publishing the story above I thought I’d pass it by my cousin Brian; his mom and dad are the Helen and Jerry from the story.

Hey Brian, I'm publishing my mom's memoirs in installments on my blog so more people can view them. Of course not everything in life is peaches and cream. There is one mention of an event involving your dad, your mom and our Aunt Helen (LaLa). I don't know if you remember her or not but she figured big in the family up until her death. She was hyper-critical and sometimes hard to take. Anyway, read this and let me know if you think you or your sisters and brother would prefer I don't put it in the blog version. I personally don't think it’s bad at all since your dad is who he is, and the same thing goes for Aunt LaLa. It’s more of an example of a clash of personalities. But if you think it will make your family uncomfortable or unhappy I won't include it in the installment. Get back to me buddy!
Helen aka Aunt LaLa Haley


Thanks for asking.  Don't see any reason this cannot go out as written.  Everyone knows dad has a temper and has never been one to hold back. 

Yes, I remember Aunt LaLa.  We visited her home when I was pretty young—I believe Theresa was a baby—sometime in the late 60s. I remember bits and pieces of playing outside on a tricycle or big wheel, or something like that in the front drive.

Haleys Mike and Bill
w their Aunt Helen Dec 57
I don't remember this specific situation mentioned by your mom but it does sound like dad.  Mom probably let him have it later in private. I have often thought about Aunt LaLa and could not remember what year she died.  I remember when Grandma Kennedy died in 1973 but not Aunt LaLa, was still a bit young in '71, only 4 or 5.

Anyway, thanks for checking.  I don't think anyone in the family will have an issue with this paragraph.

So, that’s what my cousin Brian had to say about our Aunt LaLa. I thank him sincerely for providing that.

Aunt LaLa Helen 68 visit to San Antonio at Expo
Back to my Mom: So Mom, my memories of Aunt LaLa have stayed with me since her death in 1971. She died of cancer right?  How did that go?  How did she take her impending death?  Was she okay with it?  I know it must have been rough on her. 

You know, Aunt Helen’s was the first funeral I ever went to; I'm pretty sure she died before Grandpa Spear, right?  I remember after the funeral going back to my bed that night in Grandma's basement (Gail’s house now) and being totally spooked. I lay there scared to death staring up the ceiling without a hint of sleep until the next morning. It was the longest night of my life.
Aunt LaLa Helen in 68 visit to San Antonio
Last evening I was talking to Winnie about Aunt Helen's death. She died on August 19, 1971.  I'm not sure when her cancer was diagnosed. She was okay when we first came home and retired from the AF so she probably didn't suffer for more than that year.  Thank God as you are right, that is usually a painful death. She and her Uncle Archie Ladle had sold the Ladle home and moved to an apartment and that’s where she died.  Ally Metcalf, her cousin’s widow, lived in the same apartment building.  Helen took care of Uncle Archie until he passed away and when she died she had already made arrangements to be buried in the US. (I think).  So she had a funeral in Burlington and then her body was brought here and that is the funeral you went to.  You had finished 8th grade, getting ready to start high school in Birch Run.  You didn't mention how much that funeral affected you at the time. I guess that was the first one you experienced (until Grandpa Spear died in November of that same year).

Family comments added below:
Art Grandma Helen Haley early 30s
Charles Walkowiak I remember Aunt La La very well which is kinda surprising because I was only 5 or 6 yrs old when she passed. My 1st recollection seeing her was during Christmas at Grandmas, and as Aunt Mary stated, she had presents for all us kids. I recall liking her for that because she gave me a gift and I didn't even know who she was. I still remember the gift. It was a set of building blocks of some type. I recall the following summer, going with my parents in their station wagon to flint to pick her up from the train station. I was excited and adamant on going because I was sure she would have another gift for me. She didn't and I remember being disappointed. I'm pretty sure she was visiting for the family reunion, because I remember her there and yelling at all us little kids to go play and stay away from the tables until after the adults had eaten. It seems I suddenly did not like her much after that and was kinda afraid of her. Last thing, I do remember her dying because I thought that I just saw her recently and she was the first person I knew that had died. I also remember not being able to go to funeral. I think I was upset because Audrey was allowed to go. I could be wrong.

it's kinda funny. I guess I'll add that I also recall my mother telling us to behave around Aunt LaLa. I asked why. And I'm pretty sure she said something to the affect of "well she has never had any children so she is not very patient with them" LOL
Fil Spare Chuck... I'll have to question your mom about that "reason" to watch your p's and q's around her, since it turns out she was around a lot of children, helping her parents with a series of foster kids and all. Sounds like Aunt Win was stretching the truth a bit to keep you guys in line around her Chuck... that IS hilarious.

Charles Walkowiak Phil, now that you mention it, I seem to recall mom ALWAYS telling me to behave when we would go visit relatives

Maybe it was ALL me. 

Aunt Helen maybe 10 yrs old in Toronto
Winnie Walkowiak Oh how she loved all of her Grand Nephews and she loved all of us.., yes she was stern probably as her parents were ., we were always taught that we should be seen but not in todays world...kind of happy about that change.)..I remember going shopping down town with her and my sisters always walking ahead of them And she would say(isn't she cute?), so of course whenever I would be around people at the tender age of 3,4, and 5, I would say (Ain't I cute) an embarrassing moment for mom and dad and my older siblings)...Thanks LaLa.., she was so giving..A christening gift was given to us older nieces and nephews for our oldest child-and each of our children were baptized in the gown...,she also always bought Canadian flannel and mail too me to makes diapers for my new babies...and by the way Phil,-what your cuz Chuck -I wasn't stretching the truth-I didn't want them to be told by her to behave and then dislike her...

 Phil - Mom's story about Aunt Lala - has become a wonderful story from all the grand nieces and nephews about her but also their Uncles and Aunts... so much love reading all your comments - if you had been in the shop this afternoon - a few comments were were made by a couple other grand nieces.... hope everyone has enjoyed this as much as your Aunt Winnie.

Aunt Helen if looks could kill her brother Artie would be dead!
Kevin Spear Okay, so, the lilac smell you remember so vividly was actually lavender. Yardley English Lavender, to be specific. She used to give it to grandma Haley as gifts, I think. But it was also her favorite. 
My memory of that particular funeral is that there was a song in the radio that was played heavily during that time. "Sweet City Woman". It had a banjo solo. By The Stampeders, who were actually Canadian, it turns out. It was playing in the car on the way home from the funeral parlor in Vassar. Makes me think of her to this day every time I hear it. 
Also, in true Irish fashion, I remember Frank Geary taking Joe, Jim, and, I think Pat (Art) Haley out to the parking lot of the funeral home to "change a flat tire". Alcohol was involved.

Helen feeding chickens
Michael Haley Very cool I remember Aunt LaLa and felt the lash of her tongue more than once.... Don't know why I was such a good kid after all...I do remember Grandma snapping back at her once "leave him alone" or some such probably remember that because Grandma was never one for confrontation. I also vaguely remember Uncle Archie, we took a trip to Canada when I was very small he had this little wooden chair that I apparently called my chair because it was my size. When we left he said I should take it, that chair sat in my bedroom my whole childhood, I have it still

By the way I've been doing some digging the last few years and Ladle or Laidle is a Welsh name, not saying that part of the family didn't emigrate from Ireland, lot of back and forth between the islands, just thought that was interesting. I was surprised to learn that
Aunt Helen sitting w parasol n grandma w cousins
Theresa Kennedy Krawczyk I remember playing with all of her jewelry!

Fil Spare Where was that Theresa? It was in a jewelry box?

Theresa Kennedy Krawczyk It was after she died...I think my mom got a jewelry box full of her jewelry??

Charles Walkowiak I also remember that jewelry box. I recall seeing it and told about it from Brian at your parents and being creeped out because it was a dead lady's jewelry. I thought "why wasn't it buried with her?"

Theresa Kennedy Krawczyk I loved playing with that jewelry!!!!  I wish I still had it!
Aunt Helen w brother Art about 1915 or so

Aunt Helen with baby buggy later given to Mary
and destroyed by her brothers (chuckle!)
Aunt Helens friend Ester Lynn winter 1929
Helen w little brother Art n Grandma Haley about 1916

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