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In Memory of the Grandfather I Never Knew

June 16, 2018

My grandfather Ivan C. Stauffer. Note the glint of mischief in this mostly serious face.

Another Way for week of June 15, 2018

In Memory of the Grandfather I Never Knew

The other week I wrote a column responding to my oldest grandson’s query to his mother, “Mommy, what did you do when you were little?”

That column inspired my mother, Bertha, who reads my column in The Goshen News (Ind.) to sit down and write a letter responding to my ending question, “What did you enjoy doing when you were a little girl or boy? Write your own letter for your children or grandchildren.”

I love the letter she wrote in response, mostly about the fun things her father created or brought home for pennies during the depression years of the 1930s. I am happy to share those memories. Her letter is especially poignant for me because her father died in a terrible car crash seven months after I was born. So I never had the chance to know my grandpa Ivan Stauffer.

Ivan C. Stauffer, circa early 1900s.

Most of Mom’s memories of playing revolved around her dad (three children in the family). Usually her mother was too busy with sewing, gardening, or housework to join in, but had more time to play with them in the wintertime.

Here’s Mom’s letter—which I offer as a tribute in her own words. I’ve added my comments in parentheses.

We played croquet, a lot. Dad would get bargains at sales and bring them home (such as the croquet set). He got my first bicycle at a sale for 25 cents.

Dad would “knock out” flies with him at bat, and me catching on Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember if my sister (Florence) played or not, Mom never did. Daddy made us a basket to play basketball, out of an old bucket with the bottom banged out. I could even make baskets standing backwards. You didn’t know that, did you? Ha!

Florence and I, after a rain on the bare ground under the swing in the cherry tree, played our own game. She took a stick and drew pictures in the damp dirt, and I would “buy” what she drew on the ground in pictures. I bet few kids have ever done that. Cheap toys!

My mom, Bertha, far left, sister Florence, and toddler brother Paul.

(Aunt Florence became quite a renowned artist in the northern Indiana area who won ribbons in numerous art shows.)

Dad made all kinds of stuff for us. He made a merry-go-round out of a wagon wheel, quite big, with seats for us. It was lots of fun. We rode down our barn hill with a big cart he made from some more old wagon wheels—very exciting. We played like we were cooking catalpa tree beans and pretended to have lunch.

(Our own children also played with catalpa long bean pods “making dinner” on a pile of rocks under the tree.)

In winter, we played tic tac toe on a real slate blackboard with chalk, or Hangman—which was good spelling exercise, if you remember how to play Hangman. We made our own Authors card game using old cardboard.

None of this cost anything. Last of all I remember Dad making a chair swing from the wringer of an old wringer washer, and putting a round piece of old broom handle on a chain from the tree. I would climb a ladder and swing out over the gravel lane. What fun. That didn’t cost a cent either. I was a depression kid! We played hopscotch a lot when we could find nice cement. Indoors, we often played jacks with neighbor kids.

I do remember my sister playing piano; I used the piano rolls that came with our used piano. I spent hours pumping and listening to great music.

I love this portrait of the grandfather I never knew. It makes me sad though too, that we never knew him. But that’s life. Right now, I’m just grateful to still have my mother, and for her to write these things down, so I have at least these snippets of the creative and fun-loving father my Grandpa Stauffer was. I salute all the dads (my own dad and husband included) who created great toys and fun for their children and took time to play! Ask my grandkids about the wagon with seats and cushions Stuart made to haul them around the yard behind a lawn tractor.


A few years ago, I also wrote about Grandpa Ivan Stauffer here.

Do you have memories from your father or grandfather to share? I’d also love to hear! Comment below,


Or send to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  





  1. Ann Brandt permalink

    The only thing I remember about my grandfather is that he was in the Spanish American War.

    • My other grandfather on my father’s side would have been old enough for that war in 1898. Thanks for chiming in and sharing this snippet–sad when that’s the only fact remembered but not surprising for many of us.

  2. What special memories you have of a grandfather you never knew. I’m glad your mom wrote that letter, sharing some of these fascinating family tidbits with you. What a treasure!

    • I agree Trisha about my joy at Mom’s letter. Now I can’t wait to find out what she thought seeing it in the paper. I know she’ll tell me there were things I got wrong!

  3. I admire the attention to family record keeping on display here. Your mother is quite an inspiration. My Grandpa Longenecker died when I was five. I have two faint memories of him: Buying me a Pepsi when I asked how to spell the word, and killing a scary snake in the grass.

    • I love your memory of a grandpa buying you a Pepsi. … and that reminds me of trips to the livestock salebarn and restaurant there where we silently begged for Dad to buy us a soft drink in a bottle, and he usually did. Such a treat, and can we imagine now that being such a special and remembered treat? Thanks for checking in.

  4. Beverly Silver permalink

    I have many memories of my maternal GF, and some of my paternal GF. I spent more time at the MGF (and MGM- staying with them in summer when my mother worked in a downtown Drs’ offfice, and later lived across the street from the MGF and MGM. Rather than start to relate the memories here I think I will start an essay about them. Thanks for sharing and giving me the idea and impetus to start!

  5. Excellent, Beverly! I’m excited if Mom’s letter with some of these details gets you going also! Blessings, Bev and will enjoy reading it if and when! Some of Ben’s and Andrew’s children someday (Lord willing) may enjoy! It was great to spend time in their home Sat.night and catch up among us old timers!

  6. Athanasia permalink

    I remember both my grandfathers well.

    My father’s father was a Methodist minister. He was a bit older as he married later, then his first wife died young leaving him with one son. Of course we have many pictures and stories of her and their son was my father. Then my grandfather married a widow with 3 boys and they went on to have 4 more boys I know they moved around often all around the country serving one church after another. Nana was from Boston and she never lost her accent. They finally settled out here for their final assignment and one after the other of the boys entered the State Teacher’s College. After retiring he became chaplain at a , now, United Methodist aligned nursing home. He was a good musician and played violin and piano. He was even more talented at singing and had a great memory for singing hymns.

    My mother’s father was a carpenter and always smelled of wood. He liked to tell jokes and silly stories and pop his dentures out to entertain the little grandkids. He built the house I grew up in and that my oldest daughter now lives in with her family. He and my grandma raised 10 children there..5 boys and 5 girls. They were both Swiss in heritage with a family tree full of dairy farmers and cheese makers. My family lived with them growing up and they were a great and good influence on the 6 of us children. The house became my mother’s, then mine. My grandparents lived almost 60 years together in that house…Grandma died first and Grandpa followed shortly after.

  7. So many things to love here, Athanasia: this line popped out (like your dad’s dentures–“always smelled of wood. He liked to tell jokes and silly stories and pop his dentures out to entertain the little grandkids.” But how wonderful to have that long happy history with the house he built and you grew up in. Beautiful stories and thanks for writing!

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