Cheryl Nestico Photography
1929 - 1951 Dads Childhood years - Dad's life in pictures
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF
CLARENCE EUGENE ROGERS, SR. AND GRACE CLAIRE HUMMER ROGERS
RAISING A FAMILY IN NEW JERSEY
By: Evella Rogers Michelle (Second Child) and Nancy Rogers Bond (fourth Child)
Our Dad, C. Eugene Rogers, Sr. was born in Alabama on July 4, 1897. His Mother was Lulu Woolsey Rogers and his father was John W. Rogers. He had a sister Mary and brothers, Ike, Ed and Bryant. His mother died and his father remarried. Our Dad was rejected by his Stepmother and he left home at an early age. He joined the Marine Corps and until he died he was proud of that connection. My siblings will remember his many renditions of the Marines Hymn while we were growing up. He came North after he got out of the Marine Corps and roomed with the Rapp family in Carpentersville. They had a sawmill and Dad worked for them. He met our Mother, Grace Claire Hummer, who was a teacher in the area. They were married in 1928.
Mother was born on July 23, 1907 to Caroline and Charles Hummer. She had two sisters who lived to adulthood, Jean and Anna. She had four brothers; Paul, Charles, Robert and Donald. She and her sister Jean lived with Aunt Mamie and Aunt Eva, on Washington Street in Phillipsburg. They both became teachers.
Dad and Mother lived in Clark Summit, PA when the oldest son Clarence Eugene Rogers, Jr. was born on December 6, 1929. On February 23, 1931, Evella Caroline Rogers was born in a hospital in Scranton, PA . William Cole Rogers was born in Phillipsburg, New Jersey on April 26, 1933. Nancy Pauline Rogers was born April 30, 1934 in Phillipsburg. Augustus Kellogg Rogers was born in Phillipsburg, New Jersey on March 15, 1938 and was the last of the five Rogers children.
It has been said that a happy childhood is one of the best gifts that parents have it in their power to give. We had a wonderful childhood first in Blairstown, NJ where Mother taught in a one room school house and later at two locations in Phillipsburg. Our first home in Phillipsburg was an old stone house near the Delaware River. The train tracks were along side of our house and many times the place shook as a train went by. We loved swimming and boating on the Delaware and ice skating during the winter months. The river froze all the way across many times. We had a bathing beach which we called The Wing and we spent many hours there. The rest of the time we walked to Grandma and Pop Pop Hummer’s home and we swam at Hummer’s Beach. Aunt Nan Nan (Anna Hummer) taught us to swim at an early age. As we got older we helped out at the refreshment stand at Hummer’s Beach and that was so much fun. One time Aunt Nan Nan took a few of us for a walk and bought us éclairs from a passing bakery truck. Eclairs were not a regular staple for us, that’s for sure. Many times when we siblings get together we laugh about the fact that we were poor, and none of us knew it.
When we were young we would take turns staying at Aunt Mamie and Aunt Eva’s home on Washington Street. It was such a treat, because there was a street light on the corner, they had a bathroom and we got bananas on our cereal for breakfast. Another special thing was taking turns visiting the Kellogg's in Delaware, NJ. They had raspberries right in their yard and we often had them for breakfast. Each morning Uncle Gus gathered the whole family for devotions Clara and Mary took us all over in the car doing errands and they took us to Mountain Lake.
It seems like we always went to the Hummers for Sunday dinner when we were young and we remember that chicken was the main course. There were a couple of loaves of bread on the table and they were completely gone when the meal was over. One time Aunt Nan Nan cooked the chicken with the gizzard, neck , liver and heart inside. She forgot to take them out and everyone had a big laugh over that. Another highlight growing up was when we went to Philadelphia for baseball games. Dad would drive us down, Dad and the boys would go to the baseball game and the girls, Gus and Mother went to the Philadelphia Zoo. We always took a picnic lunch and what a great outing it was. One time we girls got to go to the game and we’re not sure why that happened. Maybe we had extra money that week. We would go to Ocean Grove on occasion, but we have little memory of those trips.
We loved going to Aunt Jean and Uncle Nutch Wilhelm’s cabin at the Delaware Water Gap. Edye and Chet Wilhelm and their family also had a place there and the adults dug holes in the ground, built a fire and steamed corn, potatoes and probably clams. It was a feast. One of Aunt Jean’s specialties was baked pork roll and that was a favorite. Later they built a house along the Delaware south of Belvidere and they lived there many years enjoying the countryside and the river. We often visited and we can still see Aunt Jean floating on the river in an inner tube with sneakers on her feet.
When Gene and Evella were in High School, we moved to 90 Bullman Street and Mother and Dad lived there until their deaths. We had a real bathroom and modern conveniences; even a telephone. The home was a beautiful old Victorian and we enjoyed living there.
Dad had many jobs while we were growing up and when we were all in school, Mother went back to teaching in Springtown, NJ. She went from Springtown to Warren Glen School and it was from there that she retired.
Dad suffered from the disease of alcoholism, and struggled to keep in under control. For many years he did just that. He was an extremely handsome man, 6 feet tall and very slim. He hunted and fished to put food on our table when needed. He loved his hunting dogs and named one Caroline Lucy, after Grandma Hummer. He had a beautiful garden where he grew all kinds of veggies for our use. We were assigned rows for weeding the garden – not a happy memory. We could not play or swim until our rows were weeded. Mother canned and canned and we had veggies for the winter, especially green beans. Mother was a wizard with making dishes with green beans. We had a cow and a goat at one time and Mother did the milking. Dad had a big flower garden and Mother always had flowers on the kitchen and dining room tables. We had a grape arbor at the house by the river and there was a picnic table under it. We ate many meals on that picnic table. It was also the gathering place for many kids from Delaware Park.
Sometimes Dad would make a bonfire and we would cook hot dogs on a stick for our dinner. Mother was an extremely good cook and did magic with what she had on hand. Dad made ice cream and buried it in the snow during the winter. He also made root beer and we usually had a good supply on the shelf at the top of the cellar steps. We had baths in a tub in the kitchen, taking turns. Mother had a wringer washer on the back porch and we got water from a pump. It would be difficult to write about growing up without reference to our out house. Trust me when we tell you it was an experience being in there when it was snowing, or when a train went by.
A highlight for us was to have Aunt Jean come for a weekend. When she came she always brought something good, like fresh fruit or other treats. We loved Aunt Jean. Another highlight was going to the grocery store on South Main Street when Dad got paid. We always stopped at the 5 and 10 and Dad bought chocolate crèmes, his favorite candy. What a treat that was! Sometimes he would say, “Let’s take a ride around the block”. We would all pile into the car and if it ran, we would go for a ride. Sometimes we would stop for a soda or ice cream. When Mother started teaching, she parked the car at the top of the hill near our house at the river, and started the car when it rolled down the hill. We walked to the Delaware Park School by going over the side of the mountain via a couple of pathways.
There was a strawberry patch alongside the porch and we feasted every year from that patch. Mother made biscuits to serve with them and eating was pure joy.
We always went to Sunday School and to Vacation Bible School at the Westminster Presbyterian Church. When we would leave Sunday School, Aunt Eva and Aunt Mamie were always seated in the same pew in church. Aunt Jean would join them when she finished teaching Sunday School. When we got older, we also went to church, all lined up in Aunt Eva’s pew.
Dad was a tool man at the Canister Company for a long time and he was very handy at fixing things. Every year he built a farm scene under our Christmas tree, working on it for hours to surprise us on Christmas morning. There were houses, lakes and animals – a wonderous sight. We all believed in Santa Claus for a long time because of the joy Mother and Dad brought to Christmas.
Mother and Dad loved each other very much, they lived through many hard times and many good times. I think looking back that they were exceptional parents, each in his own way. Dad loved his grandchildren and delighted in spending time with all of them. . He died while fishing on April 24, 1965 in Trenton. After he died, Mother got busy with church, the Easton Womens Club and the grandchildren. She spent summers with the Bonds at their home in Ocean City and loved being there. She visited Europe on a tour and especially loved London. She visited Gene in California and Bill in Germany. It was while she was visiting Germany that she became ill and she died of cancer 6 months later on June 29, 1977. At her funeral, many former students stopped by. We always thought she was an outstanding teacher because of the time she spent in preparation and the loving way in which she spoke of her students. Comments of her students at her funeral confirmed our thoughts. She was indeed an outstanding teacher , an outstanding Mother and an outstanding human being. Our parents set an example of honesty, of love and they met life with laughter, especially our Mother. She had a tremendous sense of humor and we have no doubt that it got her through some difficult times. Thank you, Dick, for giving us a chance to share some memories.
The family tree is worth bragging about if it has consistently produced good timber and not just nuts. (God’s Little Devotional Book For Moms)
Submitted by: Evella Rogers Mitchell and Nancy Rogers Bond - June 2002
Growing Up in New Jersey
by Clarence Eugene (Gene) Rogers (First Born Child)
The oldest of five siblings, I feel blessed every morning when I wake up and realize that I’m still on this side of the grass.
My earliest memories go back to the Hummer’s House and Aunt Eva’s House. When I visited Aunt Eva, I would see the iceman deliver ice in his horse drawn wagon. Aunt Eva would give me a quarter to put in the gas meter in the cellar to keep the gas flowing. The ice cream man also came to Aunt Eva’s house in a horse drawn wagon, and I would usually get a nickel cone. I had the “hots” for Doris Hackett who lived in the other half of Aunt Eva’s duplex townhouse. I think Doris was 3, and I was 4 years old.
Mom Mom Hummer would send me to the spring near their house to pick watercress for a salad. It grew wild all along the spring. Mom Mom kept milk, butter, and other perishables in the spring, as the water was always ice cold.
Pop Pop Hummer had a huge horse that he used to plow the fields. He would let me ride on the horse on the way to the fields. They also had a beautiful parrot that lived in the corncrib. At various times during the day a siren would sound – this meant that the quarry up the road was getting ready to blast.
I always wondered about the little rooms under the porch of the Hummer’s house. Later, I learned that the Hummer’s house had been a stockade, and the rooms were used as a jail. The whole area had been an Indian village, and while cultivating gardens, we would find all kinds of arrowheads and other Indian artifacts. Uncle Bob had a great collection of arrowheads.
Uncle Paul built a house on the hill just above the Hummer’s house. It was built of pine and looked so neat and clean. Unfortunately, it burned down.
My Dad, Clarence Eugene Rogers, Sr., would let me tag along when he set out his trap lines. The bait he used smelled terrible.
When we moved to Blairstown, we first lived in a fairly nice house owned by Mr. Babcock. Mother did his laundry and cooked his meals, and Dad took care of the farm. I started kindergarten and rode the bus to Blairstown School. One day I swallowed a marble, and it got stuck in my throat. Dad threw me in the car and took off for the doctor’s office in Blairstown – which was about 10 to 15 miles away. Just as we arrived at the doctor’s office, I told Dad, “I swallowed the marble.” He responded, “I don’t give a damn, you’re going to see the doctor anyway.” The Doctor said, “don’t worry – he will pass it.” Shortly after that, I slammed the car door on Bill’s finger and tried to pull it out without opening the door. Ouch!
Later we moved a few miles away to another farm. There was a huge two-story house on the farm – it had no water or electricity. We got water from a pump in the front yard. There was a small house adjacent to the main house. The owner’s father lived in the small house and Mom cooked his meals. We didn’t have much contact with him because he spoke very little English. I still remember seeing him on his porch rocking in a chair and smoking a pipe.
There was an apple orchard behind the house. Dad raised chickens and a couple of pigs. We also had a cow. Evella and I walked to a one-room school about a mile from home. Miss Webber was the teacher, and she would often come to our house for dinner. Mom would substitute teach for her at times.
Dad made kites from newspaper and reeds and glued them together with paste he made with flour and water. They always flew very well.
Dad let me sit in his lap when he drove the tractor and Mom would tell people, “Genie used to drive the tractor when he was only five years old.” That used to drive Charlie Bond nuts.
Dad would also take me hunting, but at 5 years old, I was too young to carry a gun. During deer season, he would take me into the woods when it was freezing cold. He put a lantern under a peach basket so that he would stay warm. Dad would say, “now if you get cold just walk around.” Later I realized that he knew that I would spook any deer that might be the area and chase them down the deer run where he was sitting. Dad taught me a lot about hunting and fishing, and although I no longer hunt, I still enjoy fishing. Bill mentioned putting the electric probes in the ground to “dig” worms -- I still do it that way.
My sisters and Bill covered most of the memories of living in the stone house by the railroad tracks. Dad and I covered many miles hunting in the nearby woods and fields. Sometimes together, sometimes alone. We also spent many hours fishing the river.
We (the kids) often spent our days swimming in the river. (Paula now tells me that we were swimming in a chemical stew.) One day I was swimming across the river from the wing to the rocks by the pumping station. When I looked back, I saw Gus right behind me. He was only 5 or 6 years old. I wasn’t sure how to get him back across the river, but, after resting awhile, I followed him and he made it OK. Mother had a fit!
I would be remiss not to mention Dr. Bloom. He treated all of us and probably brought most of us into this world (with a little help from Mother). One time Dad paid his bill by giving Dr. Bloom a hunting dog. Another time he paid him with a couple of rabbits and a pheasant. He was a real “old time” doctor, and he was very fond of Mom and Dad as they were of him. I still have a gift he gave me when I was a baby.
I now realize how difficult it was for Mom when we were children. She was the glue that held the family together. Dad was a good man, but he did have a drinking problem, and it caused her much heartache – always worrying about him. I know she loved him very much. She never allowed us to say anything disrespectful about him. We were blessed to have such a wonderful mother. She had a happy spirit that brightened many days.
I look back now and realize that parents can influence their children to succeed or fail in life. I would say that our parents did a great job, and I’m proud of my brothers and sisters -- even if Bill did start the tomato fight for which I got spanked. As said by others, “we were poor but didn’t even know it.”
Humbly submitted by: Gene Rogers 6/22/02
Rogers Family History
By : William (Bill) Rogers (Third child)
Reading the Rogers' family history and childhood memories by my sisters, Sissy and Nancy certainly triggered many recollections for me. My memories of living in Blairstown are vague, but I do remember riding a tricycle round and round the dining room table, getting stung by hornets in the front yard, playing with my best buddy, Nancy in the yard, and one day a special treat of cheese cake which Mom bought from the bakery truck...only once, I think, but gosh it was good. Dad always told the story of going out in the woods to hunt one day and heard a sound behind him, turned around and there I was, all of three years old, following. Dad always called me Woody because when Sissy first attempted to say Billy it came out Woody.
We were told that the stone house by the river was built in the late 1700's. Looking back, I would have to say that living conditons were kind of primitive, but we seemed to get along pretty well and the good times definitely overshadowed the not so good. I remember we all dressed for school around the potbelly stove in the living room on cold winter mornings. I too, look back with unfond memories of weeding the garden. One day Genie and I got into a tomato throwing battle with big juicy tomatoes and when Dad came home and saw us he calmly went to the nearest bush, cut a stout switch, and proceeded to whip us severely, which we richly deserved. We destroyed a large part of the family food supply. As the girls said, Dad could make anything and fix nearly anything. He made a metal rod with a wooden handle and attached an electric cord. We would jam the rod into the ground, plug it in and the electric tingle would drive worms to the surface. He taught us to string large night crawlers on a heavy fishing line using a large needle and when the string of worms was several feet long we rolled them into a ball, about the size of a softball, attach the ball to a strong fishing line, attach it to a stout bamboo pole. When flooding made the river high, we went out in the rowboat, dropped the ball of worms in the river and eels would grab the ball of worms. We would pull them up, hold them over the boat and they would drop off usually several at a time. Dad called it bobbing for eels and we often caught large sacks of eels, skinned and cleaned them, cut them into pieces a few inches long, and Mom would roll them in flour and fry them for supper. They were really delicious.
Dad also built two beautiful miniture stagecoaches, one was made of milky white plexiglass and the other of wood. Both were beautiful creations with movable working parts, trimmed with copper colored metal. He named each one "The Coppermine Express," which was emblazoned on the top edge of the carriages.
During the great depression when jobs were hard to get, Dad got a job with the WPA, driving a huge grader. He helped build the stone wall along the road to Hummer's and wrote his name and date in the concrete. We used to look for it when we walked to Mom-Mom's house. He would walk to work, carrying his shotgun and shoot rabbits, pheasants, squirrels, and even blackbirds. If you could eat it, he shot it and brought it home. He wasn't too particular about the gender of the pheasants, (It was illegal to shoot hens). They all tasted the same. It was quicker to walk to Hummer's along the railroad tracks, also easier with no hills to climb. Genie and I once walked the entire distance on the rails without falling off. We used to go up there, jump in the Delaware and float down to our house. Sometimes we would go to Hummer's at night, row a boat across the river to watch outdoor movies, usually Tom Mix or some other cowboy movie.
We all attended Delaware Park School. Nancy and I completed our entire elementary education there. I'll never forget my first day in Kindergarten. Mom dropped me off and I really didn't want to stay there. I cried and sat on the floor outside the room wondering how my own mother could be so cruel as to leave me there. Finally my teacher, Miss Stoffel coaxed me in. The kids who lived nearby went home for lunch and when the teacher said it was time to go home for lunch, I grabbed my sack lunch and went home. They sent Uncle Donny, who was an eight grader, on his bike to bring me back.
Donnie was my hero. He was drafted and went to war. He was told that he would be going to basic training by train and the day he was going we all stood for hours by the tracks to see him go past. Sure enough the train finally came and Donny was hanging out the window waving at us. I remember thinking he had a nice new jacket on for the trip. Donny fought through Africa, landed at Anzio Beachhead and fought all the way throught Italy and a large part of Germany. We loved reading his letters which had large portions blacked out by the censors. It was very exciting stuff. Donny contracted malaria, and was stricken with spinal meningitis and I believe hepatitis. He went through hell, as many of those guys did, and he died much too young. His stories of such things as devastating German artillery attacks and seeing flatcars loaded with corpses were frightening.
Mom was also a hero. She was the glue that held it all together. Looking back on those times I find it extrodinary that she managed all that she did. Raising five kids (reasonably successfully) during a depression and teaching (very successfully)...it boggles the mind. She had a wonderful sense of humor which I'm sure got her through some trying times. She loved to tell the story about how as a newlywed she ironed Dad's trousers so the creases were on the sides, just before he was leaving for a union meeting or something. She was also very affectionate and there was no doubt that she loved us dearly. She also dearly loved her grandchildren. That is not to say that she wasn't tough. I recall that when I was about seven years old when we lived in the stone house, I did something bad but lied and said I didn't do it. She lined us all up in the kitchen and said, "Get cleaned up, I'm taking you all to the police station. They know how to find out the truth." It didn't take me long to confess.
Other fond memories include standing around the piano in the evenings and singing what Mom called the "Old Standards." I seem to remember that she dragged us over to Easton to sing a song on the local radio station. I don't recall too many talent scouts coming to call. We loved to listen to the old radio shows like Fibber Magee and Molly, The Shadow, Gangbusters, Jack Benny, and Amos and Andy. Boxing matches were fun too, I particularly remember how exciting the Joe Louis vs Billy Conn fight was. Also we used to go to the "Ranch House" on Saturdays to see movies. Usually a double feature and I think tickets were a dime, as was popcorn. Nancy and I went to see a movie called "Frankenstein and the Wolfman" and we left after about five minutes, when the coffin lid started to open. During summers we often walked up to Delaware Park to play kick the can with a bunch of friends. In the winters we went up there to ride our sleds down the hills. Genie got pretty banged up in a crash on one occasion. We used sneak up with our sleds to the bus that stopped at the corner and grab on to the back bumper. We would ride them all around the streets, usually dropping off about two blocks from where we started.
During the war we scrounged and saved tinfoil and milkweed pods for the war effort. Dad was an Air Raid Warden and had an armband and a large billy stick. Everyone had the top half of the car headlights blacked out so enemy planes couldn't detect them. Gas and other things were rationed and stamps were provided, which you needed to buy certain things. I guess people complained some but for the most part people were willing to pitch in and cooperate with the war effort.
One cold winter morning at the stone house, Dad got up early and found a soldier sitting in our kitchen. He apparently was too cold and tired to continue his travels and came in to rest and get warm. Mom fixed him breakfast and he left. That's the way it was in those days. People never locked doors. Everyone helped one another get through troubles and hard times. It was safe to walk around...We walked everywhere...and were safe. When I think about the luxuries that we and most folks our age have enjoyed for the past few decades compared to Mom and Dad's generation, it's with great gratitude. Their's was a truly great generation. They came back from the horrors of the Pacific and Europe and with hard work and common sense built the foundation for what we have today, the greatest nation in the world, the envy of the world. I hope we don't throw it away.
Submitted by: William (Bill) Rogers - 2002