Tuesday, August 23, 2011


My sister Strawn is selling her condo and moving to Florida. Some of the Strawn Family legacy will be lost. My sister is looking for a place to live close to St. Augustine, Florida. She will not have a place to hang these portraits that she inherited from my Dad. She had two huge gold framed pictures of our great, great or is it our 3rd/ 4th generation great grandparents. They came to our end of the Strawn/Livingston Family after my Aunt Estelle Strawn Middlemas, sister to my Grandmother Francis Strawn Livingston, passed away. The Middlemas Family used to reside in Jacksonville, Florida. She died in Asheville, NC.. Evidently, the family did not have a place to hang these paintings and sent them to Dad, Theodore Burroughs Livingston. He hung them in our living room/office at the King Cotton Motel and later at their Santee Lake house in Summeron, SC. (Now owned by Gay Buddin) Unfortunately we have lost contact with the Strawn Family. We did not know if any of the family would have been interested in these portraits, nor did we know how to contact them. They are large portraits, and I have no idea how Strawn could have preserved, much less kept them.

I do know that my sister Strawn would have gladly GIVEN these pictures to a museum or family member, but unfortunately she sold them to an antique dealer recently in St. Augustine. Unfortunately I was unaware of this until today. I wrote this initial post differently. I have rewritten it frustrated that I was too late to save these pictures."One my memories of these portraits still gives me chills. When I was in the same room with these pictures, I did not want to do anything to bug my whatever great grandfather for it seemed that wherever I moved he seemed to follow me."

If the Perrys, Strawns, Middlemas', Livingstons, Parrs, Sheards see this blog you may be interested in this little bit of history.
My grandmother, Frances Strawn Livingston was born in Ottawa, Illinois. She had three sisters: Estelle Strawn Middlemas, Del Gracia Strawn Sheard, Isabelle Strawn Perry and an older brother by twenty years, Lester Herbert Strawn. (Lester Strawn’s only son was Taylor Strawn.)

Their Father was Henry Clinton Strawn who married Mary Elizabeth Powell. Her grandfather was Jeremiah Strawn and he married Hannah Boucher. I believe the Strawn’s came to Pennsylvania around 1690 and migrated to Ottawa, Illinois. Jeremiah Strawn, at that time, was a wealthy farmer. My grandmother Frances was born in Ottawa, Illinois.

My grandmother’s maternal grandfather was Thomas Powell from Abergavenny. Wales.
He married Elizabeth Day. He was a Baptist preacher who founded 400 Baptist churches in Illinois during the pioneers’ days.


Frances Strawn Livingston

In a single thread we cannot see
The rich design of a tapestry.
A passing life is a thread of the whole,
The timeless one, the evolving soul.
Whence do we come?--Where do we go?

Are we drawn to earth again and again,
Or from planet to planet, plane to plane?
Have we hailed from darkness, from Pluto’s shore,
Carriers of hate and global war?
Whence do we come?--Where do we go?

Does affinity shape our course to the stars?
Are happy warriors drawn to Mars?
Do bitter curmudgeons toil toward Saturn,
Their experience curdled to a sour pattern?
Whence do we come?--Where do we go?

Do the winged feet in the mind’s domain,
Flash away to the speed of Mercury’s plane?
Is the moon a magnet for those who feel
The spell of dreams, to mystics, the real?
Whence do we come?--Where do we go?

Is the rapture felt a dim reflection
Of Venus, abode of love’s perfection?
For Jupiter’s sons, does the violet ray,
A dazzling radiance, light their way?
Whence do we come?---Where do we go?

When death hails the dawn of recurring lives
Of the ethos, the essence that lives and survives,
Is the Sun the farthest goal in the flight,
The glory, the source of being and light?
Whence do we come?--Where do we go?

In a single thread we cannot see
The rich design of a tapestry,
A passing life is a thread of the whole,
The timeless one, the evolving soul.

Author’s note: The title is taken from a painting by Gauguin, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Published by American Poetry Magazine, Official Organ of American Literary Association, Inc. 83rd. Street.-Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. March April 1947

Evidently, talent ran in the Powell and Strawn families. One of my grandmother’s sisters painted beautiful plates and dessert dishes. I inherited four from my grandmother along with copies of the poems my grandmother Frances wrote during her life time. (Each of my grandchildren will inherit a plate.) Earlier, in one of my posts, I published one of Grandmother France’s poems and I will add another one here.
Elsie Strawn Armstrong used to write lyrics as well. Elsie Strawn Armstrong has a book written about her “The Life of a Woman Pioneer” by her grandson James Elder Armstrong. Elsie Strawn was the daughter of Isaiah Strawn who was eighth in a family of twelve. His grandfather was Jacob Strawn who came from England as an orphan and settled in Pa. I am not sure if Jacob, Isaiah, and Elsie Strawn were my ancestors, but the book was a great read. She sure looks like one of my ancestors and the book was part of my Grandmother’s and Father’s library.

“Let’s Walk Together”---1787 and 1944
Frances Strawn Livingston

The portrait, called “Lady With a Nosegay,”
was a Copley, lovely Dolly in a violet gown.
She was a reigning beauty, in her day
the favorite toast of Philadelphia town.

Her diary recorded, in a delicate hand,
the troubled times that followed the Revolution.
Her quality of mind could understand
the vision and new concepts of the Constitution.

Her friends said change must bring catastrophe:
nonsense to say that unity may expand:
unsound to attempt to join, yet keep states free,
But here it worked! Why not in many a land?

The people doubted if men (whom all might see
were like themselves) could be great enough to plan
a united government with pliancy,
and strength, and liberty for every man.

“Impossible! Utopian dreams,” they cry,
harping on worn-out phrases of negation,
and heaping scorn on seers, they will deny
the increasing urge for a world-wide federation.

Contagious thought will spring from mind to mind:
and Dolly shared a dream with the strong who dare
to heal the wounds of war, and in unity to bind
free peoples, states, and nations everywhere.”

Author note: This poem was written after reading “U.S.W.” by Clement Wood." Let’s Walk Together" received the Volker award, shared with Clement Wood.
Published by Kansas City Poetry Magazine, P.O. Box 14, Kansas City--10 Missouri July 1944

I have vague memories of meeting Lester and Taylor Strawn as a child at the Martin Sherwin Motel and the King Cotton Motel that my Father owned and operated. I remember trips to Asheville to see Grandmother’s sisters. To know that there are many cousins of Strawn, Middlemas, Sheard, Parr, and Perry families that are" kin" and unknown to each of us is sad….Genealogy is one way to bring names together, but not the faces.

Addendum: I personally would have cut those "rascals"
out of the frame. When Strawn sold the frames, they had tried to remove the pictures from the frame. You must remember that each of "the four sisters" are different, seeing things from a different view point. My husband reminded me that I had my window of opportunity to save these pictures when they were in my storage locker. Upon emptying my storage locker, I returned her pictures not realizing she would act so fast on selling them.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Before I continue, I must identify what I meant by “black sheep,” “black balled and “black list.” The typical meaning of “black sheep” is a worthless member of a decent family. Since, I do not think I am worthless, the typical definition does not apply to me, nor do I think it applies always to other black sheep . The use of “black sheep” in some cases is used too literally/harshly or it is used incorrectly unless explained. An example, would be our great, great, great uncle James Burroughs that served in the Cival War. He became a hermit living in the woods in SC across the river from Savannah, Ga. (His family lived in Savannah, but some members migrated to St. Augustine during and after the Civil War.)  James' vivid memories of the killing in the Civil War of his friends, family and fellow comrades left him riddled with guilt and he suffered back flashes. Dad says, as a very young boy, he remembered visiting with his uncle several times in his encampment in the woods. He described him as a good man who seemed very sad and lost.  James could not cope with society, but many in the family associated him as being a " black Sheep."
                                                               "There is a black sheep in every flock"....Proverbs

In my case “black sheep” refers to…, one that is very different from the norm, in comparison to my other three sisters. I am the “bad” sister that was the troublemaker, the mouthy/bossy one, who had to have the last word. I was the opinionated one, who did not necessarily judge, but felt she needed to relate how she saw things from her point of view. Of course, that point of view was not always appreciated or viewed in the same manner, especially if it hit a negative vibe. Sometimes the "manner" upon which that opinion was delivered wasn’t exactly acceptable either. (Anger, sarcasm, under your breath, written???) I sometimes cannot let go of what bothers me or forgive too easily, especially if I have been “dealt a card from the bottom of the deck.” Thank goodness, for the most part, I forgive/forget pretty fast these days. To put it mildly, my youngest sister, from the time she was a child until her adult years, found my antics/views extremely annoying or hard to swallow. She especially disliked it when I shared these view with everyone. This leads to the next definitions….”Black Balled/Black List.”

     "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind”...Santiz


“Black list” is a list of persons who are believed to deserve punishment. “Black Balled” is defined as ostracized. In my case…removed from existence from an e-mail account, therefore placed on a “black list”. Since, this is exactly what happened, I will go with the dictionary's version of both words. If said “sister” knew about this blog, it would be ostracized and maybe I would be too. Then too, a lack of interest in computers, internet, blogs, facebook, etc.  will keep me safe for a while. The rest of my family does not realize I have returned to my blog. Consequently , I do not have to worry about the rest of  them ostracizing me yet. It is only a matter of time time before they become aware of my transgressions, for I always get caught. As you can see, I can be a very naughty girl. Eventually, I feel sure that someone I know will end up reading this and will think I have lost it. In actuality, I suppose in later years, it might serve as an entertaining read. I can hear it now, “I can’t believe she is actually wrote all this crap” etc.

Now, as mentioned above, I have been put on my own sister’s black list. I guess I should be upset that I created this sisterly blowup, but instead, I find myself laughing. I will not go into detail about what transpired to begin this “black ball” situation. Technically I did not start the process; I simply reported the facts. It is not every day you get black listed by your own sister. When I think back on what happened that Thanksgiving Day, I would have reacted in the same way now as I did then. Part of the humor was that I really wasn’t extremely upset. I was just reporting what her husband told me to do when he loudly went out my back door. He raised his voice and said "Now make sure you talk about me when I leave" or words very similar in nature. I responded that he could be sure that I would do just that.  Since, I always do what I say;  I followed through and BANG trouble began in "SISTER City". Am I regretting this…NO…but I have been put in the position that for the sake of family, I  need to back off from a few mixed family events, for the importance of peace. Although, ALL my sisters and their children are welcome in my home any time.

Since I, Susan Livingston Thompson, have written this on my blog, I guess it is an example of my not completely letting go...I AM WORKING ON IT. (Any grammical, verb, spelling and puncuation errors were deliberate.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


When I look back on my childhood I wondered what events molded me into what I am today and why. I can remember tales of mischief told to me by my grandmother, MaPa, Shep (A very dear friend of the Livingston family who moved with us to SC many years ago.), Aunt Alta, Cousin Gay, Unk, Dad, Mom and Aunt Emmy. Some of those memories I vaguely remembered doing, some I don’t. Some memories I remembered in a different perspective than their version. This is part one of a three part series that I will present periodically throughout my blog.

Shep loved to tell me the story of my diaper years when he helped Mom clean-up the most ungodly scent and mess he had ever witnessed. He said what made the reeking event even worse was my mischievous face. He swears that I knew exactly what I had done by the spark in my eyes and the cocky smile that was displayed on my very smelly, dirty face. He said that when they entered the room, I was standing in my crib smearing brownish/green mucky “number 2” in an artful manner all over the wall. It was literally in slow motion; the way I looked at Mom and him, dug into my diaper, came up with a handful... I smiled, looked them in the eye, threw it on the wall, and started squiggling “dunk” everywhere . He said the worst part was Mom yelling for Ted, my Dad, who entered and after seeing the mess started laughing which in turn started Shep laughing too. Shep indicated that Mom was livid at the two of them for she knew I would get sick or poisoned by the gunk that was hanging from my mouth, face, and body. They were, also, encouraging “said” behavior by their laughter. Needless to say, it took the three of them hours to clean-up. I joyously giggled and played without a care in the world while they grumbled and gagged. Maybe Mom was right, this possibly may have been the beginning of my shenanigans that tempered the Livingston family of my presence.

While Earl Sheppard is on my mind; he, Dad and Mom would drink "highballs" while listening to all types of music from opera, operettas, to classical music. On occasion, they would take Peggy and me to Charleston and Columbia to hear, as well as see the performance of many of these operas. I thank my parents and Shep many times for instilling in me a love for ALL types of music. I bless Shep for getting me through the 1st grade that I failed due to persistent discipline problems with the Nuns. “When I was in the 1st grade I went to the Catholic school in Fredricksburg, Va. The nuns used to send notes home to my parents that I was NOT supposed to wear pants to school. I would hide these notes. I left home in a skirt and changed on the bus to pants that was hidden in my satchel. One day a particularly mean Nun, that I did not like, grabbed me real hard; and she demanded that I change my attire. I broke loose and started running from her. I looked ahead and saw this huge mud puddle.  When I got to it, I stopped in the middle of it and started laughing.  I quickly dodged as she grabbed for me. She slipped, and fell face first into the puddle. I was looking at this very muddy-faced Nun with her long black habit dripping in gunk. You can imagine my surprise and delight; and I doubled over laughing. Needless to say, when my parents found out about what I had done, they were furious. I got double punishment, a spanking and “sent to bed.” That was one of those times being sent to bed did not bother me. I laid in my bed and smiled as I relived that entertaining moment in time. Every day after this my satchel was checked. Thank goodness after the 2ND  year, we moved to SC."  I have to admit, I also failed because of my lack of patience with the learning process. Shep had to tutor me the whole summer so I could move with my class to the 2ND grade. Between Daddy, Mom, and Shep, I not only learned to enjoy reading; I also learned to appreciate all types of subject matter and reading material. Until I got my Kindle, I was NEVER without a book in my purse/pocketbook. I never got bored if stranded for I had my book for entertainment. I am a lucky person in that I can read while riding in a moving vehicle.

MaPa was always telling me the story of her placing me in the “NO” Chair.” Evidently, spanking did not seem to bother me so Mom and Dad came up with the idea of defining a particular chair that I had to sit in without moving for certain periods of time depending on my offense. MaPa unknowingly placed me in this chair to change my clothes and all “hell” broke loose for I started hollering and yelling MaPa “I good, I good” over and over again; and banging my hands and head against the chair rattling it back and forth. Dad and Mom had a terrible time trying to explain to me that my MaPa did not know it was the “bad” chair. Ma Pa used to say that my temper tantrums were so bad that I would start biting the side of my hand in anger. For years into my adulthood I would bite the side of my hand to keep from losing my cool. I guess by punishing myself I managed to calm down.

The worse thing my Mom and Dad could do to me, discipline wise, was to limit my activities by sending me to bed, denying me the use of my bike,  not hanging out on my swing, etc. There is no one on this earth I adored more than my Aunt Janet. I named my daughter after her. "She had this parakeet named Whiskers, I think. My Mom would dread when a customer came into our motel office if Aunt Janet's room door was open. Whiskers would bellow out “King Cotton, no damn good!” The bird was most realistic sounding and had a very good vocabulary." Anyway, Aunt Janet liked to remind me of my bike that Dad would hang up a tree outside her bedroom window. It tickled her that she was the first one to know whether I got to ride my bike on a given week. He used a pulley rope to move my bike into an upward position in the tree when my grades or behavior were not the best; and he would return it to the ground as a reward for improvement. Again limiting my favorite thing to do, riding my bike. I am NOT complaining for these were inventive ways of managing their very stubborn daughter who was NOT particularly crazy about school. These methods I would have used on my own kids, but I was fortunate NOT to have too many discipline problems with my son or my daughter. Maybe, biting my hand scared them "shitless". Yep, I am laughing at myself…sorry!

I could not wait for Aunt Emmie to come visit. (Aunt Em was Theodore Burroughs Livingston's, my grandfather, sister. Aunt Em had a fixation when it came to our Chinese Chest that was in our living room at the King Cotton Motel. She would spend hours searching in every conceivable place for the secret drawer that she knew lay hidden in its structure. Although quite elderly, you never knew when she would be lying on the floor under or behind that chest pushing, pulling. or gliding her finger across the chest looking in frustration for the secret compartment that she knew held a treasure. (All four of the Livingston Sisters would look, but we never found that drawer. I have always wondered, and keep forgetting to ask Gay, if she and her family ever take the time to look.  (Maybe we should have taken all the drawers out and look behind them.)

Also, I was the lucky one, if they needed a fourth at Bridge, Hearts and Canasta. Aunt Em would come from St. Augustine with Aunt Alta, Aunt Gertrude and Unk, or Cousin Gay. Not only was I the oldest, but I loved playing cards with them. Not to brag, but I was also very good at cards and caught on quickly. For some reason when I sat down to play cards I clammed up, kept a straight face, and focused on the game; three traits that I normally do not possess. It bugs me to this day when too much talking occurs while we play games or cards. My big problem was I did not like to lose. My Mom did not play Canasta and Bridge; therefore, she would get real upset when I showed signs of impatience or made “sour or negative” comments between game sets, etc. Dad would shake his head with his finger to his lips for silence, and informed me that it was just a game. He would remind “Margaret” that she was not playing and he would handle it. He would proceed to shake his head in a negative manner, again, and l would lip read; “Now Sue, please behave yourself.” My aunts would smirk and Mom would throw up her hands in frustration. I hate to say this yawl, but I learned from the best.

Thus, I have come to the end of my 1st Edition to the Molding of Sue. I will simply say some learn, while others do not, from events that took place in the past.