The Rooms of My Life

The Rooms of My Life

by Dorothy Louise Quinn Pence

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The Rooms of My Life is a collection of writings that span the 90-year plus life of the author. A good portion of her time and talent was devoted to the design and making of miniature rooms, several of which are depicted in these pages. Captured here as well are the chapters or "rooms" of a lifetime filled with fascinating experiences, events and individuals that most…  See more details below


The Rooms of My Life is a collection of writings that span the 90-year plus life of the author. A good portion of her time and talent was devoted to the design and making of miniature rooms, several of which are depicted in these pages. Captured here as well are the chapters or "rooms" of a lifetime filled with fascinating experiences, events and individuals that most influenced this remarkable woman. Certainly in more ways than one, these memoirs by Dorothy Louise Quinn Pence teach us all to appreciate the little things in life.

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The Rooms of My Life

By Dorothy Louise Quinn Pence


Copyright © 2012 Dorothy Louise Quinn Pence
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4389-5310-6

Chapter One

ROOM 1 My Ancestors

My great grandfather, Henry Quinn, was born in Dublin, Ireland. I have no viable dates, but I guess it was about 1830. He was in the British army stationed in Dublin where he met and married Elizabeth Barnwell. She was from a well-to-do family but was disowned by her family for marrying a common soldier. Henry and Elizabeth had 13 children. These eight lived to adulthood:

Henry Jr.—died at age 20

Sarah—married Robert Hull and lived in Canada

John—this is my grandfather. I'll tell more about him later.

Charles—he was a musician, lived in Chicago and married Bird.

Willie—died at a young age

Bessie—married Lew Blakely

Agnes—married Al Knox

Virginia—married George Moncure.

Henry's regiment was sent to Fort Henry, Kingston, Canada.

Elizabeth and the children accompanied him; I'd guess it was about 1862.

John Quinn (my grandfather) was about five years old when he arrived in Canada with his parents from Dublin. They lived in the barracks with their father. John learned to play a trumpet from some of the men in the regiment. He was so good at music, he was asked to play in the regiment band, and later to be their bugler.

At one point, the regiment was called up to go out to western Canada to put down an Indian uprising. John was not allowed to go because he was too young. When the regiment returned, each man was granted a piece of land in Canada and because John was their bugler he too was granted some land. He still had that land when I was in college, but later sold it.

About this time, Henry died and John became the head of the Quinn family. He had brothers and sisters to support. Having heard about the Centennial being planned in Philadelphia for 1876, he made plans to go there and try to get a job, and had no trouble finding work as a musician. It was the era of John Philip Sousa and brass bands were very popular. John had learned to play all kinds of horns as well as other instruments. After the Centennial ended, John went to New York City where he found work playing in bands, usually as a soloist.

In 1881, the Chicago fire was big news so John decided to go there and see the rebuilding of the city. He found work as a musician and met a dancer named Beatrice Pollock. She was from a Jewish family and John was raised as a Catholic, so both families disapproved when they got married, they were both disowned by their respective religions. John became an agnostic or, at times, an atheist. John and Beatrice were married in 1882. They had four children:

Viola was born in 1883. She married Jack Paddock in 1906

Lily Virginia was born in 1885. She married Dick Paddock (Jack's Brother) in 1914.

David was born in 1887 and married Goldie in 1915.

John (Jack) Maurice, my father, was born in 1889. He married Nola Nye in 1916.

In 1891 or 1892, Beatrice left my grandfather John and their four children and ran off with another musician. I think the girls kept in touch with their mother and their grandparents. When I was grown and married I asked my grandfather if he was mad when Beatrice left him. He said no, that he was glad that such a beautiful and charming woman stayed with him as long as she did.

John Quinn had a very busy musical career. He played in bands and orchestras and gave music lessons. He and his brother Charlie had a studio in downtown Chicago where they offered lessons in almost any instrument. Charlie played violin at the Grand Northern Theatre and John played French horn at the Grand Opera House (later called the Erlanger Theater). He brought his mother, Elizabeth Barnwell, to live in his house, but for the most part the children were cared for by cooks and housekeepers.

John met his second wife when she came to him for music lessons. When he told his children he was going to marry Helene Olney, they objected. She was only a few years older than his oldest daughter, Viola. Supposedly, John said, "If you will all promise never to marry, and will stay with me, I will not marry." The four children decided their father could marry with their blessings.

John and Helene were married and had one child in 1907—Marvyn. By the time Marvyn was 9 or 10 John had retired from playing his horn. He said that horn players "lose their lip". John and his wife traveled all around the U.S. and one summer after World War I was over, they did "the Grand Tour" of Europe. I think they took their car with them.

Marvyn died in 1926 when he was a freshman at the University of Chicago. He died of polio during one of the epidemics that seemed to happen every year or so. His mother was devastated and never recovered from the shock. She developed breast cancer and died a year or so later.

At about this time (the Roaring 20s), Violas husband Jack and Lily's husband Dick, who were brothers and both army officers, decided to get out of the army and go into stock market investing where people were making lots of money. That turned out to be very bad timing because the market crashed in 1929. It was the beginning of the depression that lasted about 10 years. Jack and Dick lost all they had, so the two wives asked their father John Quinn if they could stay with him temporarily. John had lost some money in the stock market, but he still had two apartment buildings he had built and a house all debt free.

So John Quinn had a full house again. There was Jack and Viola, their three children plus Dick along with their mother, 'Mud', who lived in the maid's room off the kitchen. She had been an army wife all her married life, so on Sundays she tuned in to the U.S. Army Hour on the radio while John, ever the musician, tuned his radio on to the Metropolitan Opera. Every Sunday they had a battle of the radios. I remember that because Sunday was the day we usually drove from our home in Gary to Chicago to visit Grandpa Quinn.

My Aunt Lily was a great cook so she did the cooking for the household and Aunt Viola managed the house keeping. This arrangement lasted until Grandpa Quinn died in 1942. By that time, Mud had died, Lily and Dick had divorced, Jack Paddock had died, and Jack and Violas children had all married and moved out.

In the meantime, my father, Jack Quinn, and our family moved from Gary, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois about 1938 or 1939 because his father John was ill and wanted my dad to be the executor of his will. My dad had to be an Illinois resident in order to fulfill that role. My father took over the management of the rental properties that John owned. When my grandfather died he left all the properties to his four children but they decided to ask Jack to continue to manage them and share the profits. This plan worked very well for a long time. My two aunts moved out of the house after grandfather died and had enough income from the rentals to move into a nice apartment. The four children agreed to remodel the apartments into six units, so there were 10 total rental units.

After 12 or 15 years, the family decided to sell the properties because the neighborhood had changed. My parents had lived in one of the remodeled apartments all the years my father managed them. After they were sold, my parents bought a home on Emerald Avenue on the south side. They lived there until my father's death in 1965.

My mother Nola Nye Quinn's ancestry, by comparison, is rather extensive and quite colorful, so I will only provide some of the basic information here (some of the younger members of my family have actually done some family tree work on where much greater detail can be found about the Nye family).

The first Nye descendent arrived in this country in 1635 on the ship, Abigail, that sailed from England. Benjamin Nye was from Bidlenden, England. He settled in Sandwich, Massachusetts, one of the first early towns on what is now Cape Cod, where he married Elizabeth Tupper who along with her father, a prominent clergyman, had also been passengers on the Abigail. The Nye House is a historic site in Sandwich that is open to the public during the summer months.

My mother, Nola, is a 9th generation Nye who was born to Walter Hinkley Nye and Mable Alma Wood in 1893. They came to the Chicago area by way of Cincinnati. They lived in an apartment on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Walter worked at a large department store called The Hub in downtown Chicago. Alma (she went by her middle name) was a seamstress and a milliner. They also had a son, Harry, about four years younger than Nola.

Both parents found it necessary to work, so by the time the two children were old enough to go to school, Nola was in charge of taking care of her little brother. Both of the children inherited Alma's beautiful red hair. Harry hated his and put grease or something on it to make it less red.

Both children were good students and Nola attended college. She met Jack Quinn at a party and they were married in 1916. Nola's mother Alma died of tuberculosis in 1927. My mother said she tried many different ways to treat her problem including a vegetarian diet at one point for which my mother had prepared many very good vegetarian recipes.

I don't know why, but as long as I remember, Mother had a strained relationship with her father, Walter Nye. I always wondered if she blamed him for not seeing that her mother had better care during her illness. Whatever the reason, you could feel the tension when Grandpa Nye was visiting. At one time during the '30's Grandpa Nye lived in our house as a bedridden patient. I heard someone say he had a nervous breakdown. He was there about a year and eventually got better; then married a woman name Clara. Clara was a secretary at a large advertising firm in Chicago. We called her Aunt Clara and mother certainly didn't like her at all. But still, Mother invited them to dinner about once a month. They lived in an apartment in downtown Chicago, but I don't remember ever visiting them. Grandpa Nye was well along in years when World War II started but there was such a shortage of workers anyone could get a job; he got a job at a hotel on South Shore Drive as a bellman.

Chapter Two

ROOM 2 My Parents

I will take time here to tell you a bit more about my father and mother. As mentioned, Father was born in 1889 the youngest of John Quinn's four children with first wife, Beatrice Pollock. Since his father was a musician, he insisted that all his children learn to play an instrument. Jack played a French horn. He had no desire to play music as a career, but he did use his talent to help pay for the tuition to attend University of Chicago High School. I have a year book from University High School from 1909. He played football in high school and in one game he got his nose broken, an injury that caused him problems later.

After graduating he thought he would go to the University of Illinois, but he got a job downtown in Chicago that he found very interesting. It was with one of the steel companies. I don't know which one, but it could have been U.S. Steel because he lived in Gary after he was first married where the company was based. He was a very fast learner and he quickly absorbed all the information available about steel. Between 1909 and 1916 when he met and married Nola Mae Nye, he became recognized as a metallurgist and even had articles published in the steel trade magazine. When he married Nola he was considered very knowledgeable about Bessemer Furnaces (a new product to the U.S. market). He and Mother traveled to Bethlehem, PA where he supervised the installation of these new furnaces. The next installation was in Birmingham, Alabama. In between these assignments Jack and Nola lived in Chicago where their first two girls were born (Betty and myself). When his job took us to Troy, NY, Barbara was born in 1921.

Betty Adele was born in 1917. She married Robert Brinker and they had two children: Judy and Rob.

Dorothy Louise (me) was born in 1919, married Robert Pence in 1941 and had four children: Pamela Jean, Barbara, Anthony John and Christine

Barbara Virginia was born in 1921. She married Edward (Bud) Caulton and they had six children: Nancy, Greg, Bill, Janet, Jack and Carol

Now for a somewhat difficult part for me because I should have asked more questions because somewhere along the way, my father became deaf—due to that broken nose he got while playing football in high school. That injury caused an infection in his ear canals that destroyed most of his hearing. Exactly when this happened I don't know. My sister Betty says she never remembers a time when Father was able to hear well. Sister Barbara thinks the infection happened when the injury happened and the loss of hearing at that time was minimal. Over the years it just got worse.

I remember hearing the story that he was working as the assistant to the CEO of the steel company when he became aware that he could no longer hear what was going on. He didn't know what to do about it as hearing aids had not been invented yet. When he was being sent to steel plants to supervise installation of Bessemer Furnaces he had to be able to hear well. One day he took a telephone call for his boss, but didn't hear the message. An executive's assistant had given him a message by phone that he did not hear and failed to pass on to the CEO. He got fired for it and couldn't find work for a long time.

Previously, my father had always had good, well paying jobs in the steel industry when he was young. We had a nice home and a car. My mother never worked outside the house although she made most of our clothes and during the depression she sometimes made clothes for other people. Mother was a genius at making do with whatever was available.

I think that Father's loss of hearing and of his job happened in 1929 or 30. Of course 1929 was when the stock market crashed and the depression started and many people lost their jobs. My dad bought our house at 129 Morningside Ave. in Gary the day the market crashed. I don't think our family had money in the market. They were very conservative as far as financial matters were concerned. I'm sure they had saved money through the years. Of course, that didn't mean a lot in the depression because some banks went broke and when people made runs on banks to withdraw their money the government declared a "Bank Holiday" (all the banks were closed). Many people were losing their houses because they couldn't make mortgage payments, the government declared a kind of "Loan Holiday".

My parents did lots to save money. Father stopped smoking cigars, Mother made all of our clothes—some out of old dresses given to us by Auntie Maude and Auntie Louise. Although both parents disliked President Roosevelt, his policies probably saved their house in Gary by letting them refinance it.

Somehow or other the government refinanced mortgages so home owners like us had smaller payments. It was a very stressful time and didn't come to an end until World War II started. I'm sure we survived the depression in part because of the "Aunts". I do remember Auntie Louise bought a new washing machine for the family when the old one died. No one realized the depression was over until World War II started and many jobs became available since people with good jobs had to serve in the military.

Father was out of work for several years, and then about 1935 someone invented the hearing aid. One of the aunts bought one for Father. It had a battery pack about the size of a thick book.

There were lots of cumbersome wires and an ear form that had wires leading to a speaker that collected sounds and increased the volume. It was very primitive compared to hearing aids of today. Father turned it off a lot of the time because it increased the volume of all sounds, such as doors shutting and chairs being moved.

Finally, father was able to get a job at one of the steel companies, but he always had other business deals going on.

During the depression radio shows like the Lone Ranger were very popular. They would offer free items for a proof of purchase of whatever cereal was sponsoring the show. For example, Father made a deal of some kind with one show for Indian arrowheads. In addition, when World War II started it was impossible to buy golf balls because all the rubber was going to the war effort for tires. Father found a place in Chicago that would re-cover golf balls. So he would buy beat up balls from driving ranges, have them re-covered and then sell them to sports clubs that most big companies owned. This was all a mail order business called Quinn Golf Ball Company. After a few years he expanded his catalogue to include clubs, bags and fishing equipment. The company was still going strong when Father died in 1965. My son-in-law, Larry Kelly who was an avid golfer, ran the business for about a year or more because there were still orders coming in.


Excerpted from The Rooms of My Life by Dorothy Louise Quinn Pence Copyright © 2012 by Dorothy Louise Quinn Pence. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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