Aunt Zula and Uncle Louie

Olga S. Hardman

(1904-1971)                      (1905-1989) 

Uncle Louie was my father's youngest brother (see The Stengers) and Aunt Zula was the lovely girl from Ireland, WV, that he married. They had 2 children, John Robert and Elizabeth Jean. They lived in North View just 2 houses from us until around 1939, when they bought a small farm on Duck Creek road near West Milford. Since their daughter, Jean, and I were not only first cousins but also best friends, this put quite a distance between us and "getting together" became one of our top priorities in life. If my family had gone to "the farm" to visit, Jean and I spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how I could stay there overnight or she could come back to Clarksburg with me to stay overnight. Since Uncle Louie was a glass cutter and worked in Clarksburg, his morning trip to work and return trip home in the evening became a readily available means of transportation for us to accomplish our goal. Jean and I worked so aggressively on our goal each time we got together that soon the adults began to call us the racketeers. It simply was great fun if you were a city girl to go to the country and if you were a country girl to go to the city.

Although Aunt Zula was only 6 years younger than my mother, I always thought of her as much younger. Perhaps it was because Aunt Zula always seemed ready to "play" with us. If we had had a heavy snow she would take us to the park and we would play "Fox and the Geese," build igloos and snowmen or simply lie down in the snow and make "snow angels." To make snow angels, one simply lay down in the snow and moved his arms up and down to make "wings." I always got excited when Aunt Zula put on her "mackinaw" which was a short, double-breasted, heavy-weight winter jacket which was usually plaid. Aunt Zula's was a red-orange and black plaid and when she put it on it usually meant that we were going out to play in the snow.

Both Aunt Zula and Uncle Louie read a lot and there were always wonderful books at their house. I remember that even in the late 30's they always went to the annual James and Law book sale and that was like getting a personal present because we all were welcome to read any book we wanted. Since their choice of subjects was different from the selections at my house, I could enjoy a wide gamut of reading material. Fortunately most everyone in my family loved to read and hence I always had a wide array of reading material from several different sources in my youth. Big Little Books were popular at the time and Jean, Robert, and I had enormous collections of them which we traded around. They were only about 4" x 6", but they contained many pages and hence were called Big Little Books. 

At the farm we could feed the sheep, play in haystacks, ride horses, go swimming in the West Fork River which was just across the road and down over a hill, and all sorts of things a city girl could never do. So, I always wanted to go to the farm. In town we could go to movies, stop at the Candyland for an ice cream soda, ride the street car to and from town, and/or play in the park close to my house. So, Jean always wanted to come to my house and I always wanted to go to the farm. So through much our youth, Jean and I enjoyed the pleasures of both worlds.

Later, after Aunt Zula and Uncle Louie bought a much larger farm on the Lost Creek road, going to "the farm" was still great fun. While my 3 sons were growing up, we often spent Saturdays and/or Sundays there. There was always something interesting to do, such as feeding farm animals, riding a pony or horse, watching the milking process since Uncle Louie had a large dairy herd, or just walking down to the West Fork River which encircled the new farm for an evening boat ride.

In the winter, we often gathered around Aunt Zula's piano and sang. Most of us liked to sing and I must say that sometimes we harmonized together quite well. We also enjoyed playing cards and other table games. And of course, we all enjoyed good food which was always in abundance at Aunt Zula and Uncle Louies. We all especially enjoyed fresh corn on the cob, fresh green beans, home-made potato salad, etc. There was always cold watermelon after picnic meals in the summer and sometimes even home-made ice cream.

Uncle Louie was bright, well-read, and articulate. But he was also argumentative, as I myself was. We were always on opposite sides of an argument and rather delighted in expressing our views loudly and with enthusiasm. I remember on one occasion that our arguing became so loudly aggressive it made my own dear mother physically ill. Fortunately, I was able to eventually cool my fierce opposing persuasion. But I remember that even when Uncle Louie was 80 and I was 57, we could still each hold our own in our side of an argument.

I remember Aunt Zula as quiet, sweet, and very nurturing. Whenever I was with her, I felt that she was always taking care of me - covering me with a blanket if it was cold, fixing me a cup of tea, or just making pleasant, quiet conversation. I miss her!

Although it was only for a short time, Uncle Louie and Aunt Zula's son, Robert, served an apprenticeship as a glass-cutter while he was in high school.  He worked during the summers and also 1/2 days during his senior year at Unidis High School. He hitchhiked to the Rolland Glass Plant from the school in West Milford. Sometimes, when Robert arrived in Clarksburg, he hopped a coal train to save the two mile walk to the Rolland Plant in North View.  He worked with his own father, Louie, at Rolland Glass Company, as well as with my father, Frank, at Adamston Flat Glass in Adamston.  (The Adamston and Rolland plants were just across the West Fork River from each other.)

For a time after serving his apprenticeship, Robert worked for the American Windowglass Company in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.   He was also chair of the unions at both Adamston Flatglass in Clarksburg and the American Windowglass Company in Oklahoma.  Shortly after Robert became a glass cutter, machines were brought in to cut glass and the entire process of producing glass was automated.

Robert then got his college degree, as well as advanced degrees, and spent the rest of his career as a science teacher in Delaware schools.  For generations, both here and abroad, the Stenger men had made their livings in the glass industry. As a matter of fact, in Europe, the Stenger name was synonymous with glass making.  Robert was the last of the Stenger men to work in the window glass industry.

   © 1999 Olga S. Hardman