Memories From My Mother

Originally published 2012

My Mom, Charity Isabel Wattles Kirby, would have been 100 this year. She lived through some of the most stressful yet some of the most interesting times in our country’s history. In 1981, a young friend asked to interview her about the Great Depression. Mom, born in 1912, would have been 17 on Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed. My mother, who had spent much of her life behind a typewriter typing court documents for my father in his law practice, decided to type up her memories, and made sure her daughters got copies. What follows is that history, which is the best inheritance I could ever have received from her. It provides such a window into the era, and on the joy that my Mom felt in everything she did.

The opening page pictured to the right shows the Executive IBM type she used so much of her time working for Dad. Although she deals mainly with the Great Depression years, seeing this type takes me through so many years after that, when I’d see her late at night typing away in the bedroom.

The picture to the below shows Mom and an older sister, Hattie, in the back yard of our house in Florissant, Missouri, in 1976. (I deleted the address Mom had added, because the house has been sold.)

  Isabel Kirby and Hattie Wattles

Isabel Kirby and Hattie Wattles

My mother used to dream about “skimming,” being able to float above the ground and look down on the earth.  Sometimes she had a jetpack on her back, she used to tell me, and  sometimes  just “skimmed” around. I  love the part about the Fourth of July  when she had the thrill of flying for the first time.

I’ve done a little bit of editing, but for the most part this is Isabel Kirby, in her own voice. I’ve just added a few explanations in brackets and dropped in a few illustrations, although Mom's writing lets me see everything without them!

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Isabel Kirby
Florissant, Missouri
April 18, 1981

When my friend Cassandra contacted me with reference to an interview concerning the Great Depression and I agreed to the interview, how little I realized the “Pandora’s Box” of memories that would be flooding over me. I chose to write concerning these years rather than to record them since some sort of chronological order necessarily seems to need to be followed in answering some of these questions.

In order to analyze any “opinion” as to any given circumstance, a background of the person giving this opinion is of the utmost importance, and the opinion of the Wall Street broker hurling himself from the tallest building in New York on October 29, 1929, the bank president refusing to open the doors of his bank to a screaming and threatening mob, and a 16 year old girl growing up in rural Illinois would necessarily be far apart.

Continue reading Mom's memories on the Charity Isabel Wattles Kirby page.