Age is a Relative Thing

April 24, 2010

So here we are, still celebrating birthdays. You know how each family has a month that’s just lambasted with birthdays? Well, years ago April was that month for our family. And because Easter often was in April as well, my mother would combine all the birthdays with Easter for a big family gathering.

Here’s a bulleted list of birthdays for you. I do this because, as a graphic designer, I’m skillfully aware that a vertical list of many items is visually more pleasing to the eye than a horizontal (how’s that for a shameless business plug?)

  • April 3:     Rebecca (my sister)
  • April 4:     Harriet Amos (my paternal step-grandmother)
  • April 10:   Diahann (me)
  • April 24:   Emma (Hornburg) Hooge Arendt (Ruth’s mother, my great-grandmother)
  • April 27:   Gladys (Gulick) Amos Klotz (my paternal grandmother)

April 24. That’s today.

And today was my great-grandmother Emma’s birthday. So today we’re talking about her.

As you know, Emma was born in 1884 to Charles and Wilhelmina Hornburg. As a young woman, she married Carl Hooge, a Chicago policeman, and together they had two children, Carl and Ruth. In 1917 Emma’s husband died, leaving her the single mother of an 11 and 8-year-old.

A year later, Emma married Rudolph Arendt and together they had a daughter, Charlotte. They were married 37 years before Rudolph died in 1955. Emma lived another 23 years, many of them residing with her daughter, Ruth, and her final years with her daughter, Charlotte.

Emma died in 1973 when she was 89 years old.

All of this seems rather factual and impersonal, doesn’t it? But the truth is, I remember very little of my great-grandmother. From my childhood, the only image I have of Emma is her sitting in a chair by the window. She lived with my grandmother at the time and whenever we visited, there she was sitting in her chair.

She sat. And sat. And sat. Besides needlework, I wonder if she did anything else?

You know, age and time are funny things.

As a young child in the 1960s, I thought Emma was a very old and ancient woman. Yet 25-30 years later, when I was an adult and Ruth had reached that same old age, somehow Ruth didn’t seem ancient at all. She certainly didn’t sit around in a chair all day.

I guess age is a relative thing. Children naturally think everyone is old. And for each generation, the average life expectancy and quality of life exceeds the one before it.

Ruth (Hooge) Larson, 1909-2006

Pretty in pink, here’s Ruth standing by her granddaughter, Cheryl’s, car. It’s 1997 and Ruth’s 88-years-old. Don’t let the cane fool you—she did pretty good getting to wherever she wanted to go!

Emma (Hornburg) Hooge Arendt, 1884-1973

Flashback to 1968. Here’s Emma (Ruth’s mother) sitting in her chair. She’s 84 in this picture. This is the same spot she was sitting nine years earlier…

Emma (Hornburg) Hooge Arendt, 1884-1973

…in 1959 at age 75.

Wilhemina (Behrendt) Hornburg, 1854-1939

Going back even further to 1934. Here’s Emma’s mother (Ruth’s grandmother). She’s 80-years-old in this picture—this is the woman who had 12 kids!

So, of course, there’s more to Emma than her just sitting in a chair. What memories do you have of her? Can anyone fill us in? Please do!


Picnics and Togetherness

April 15, 2010

This Saturday is a big day here in Madison, Wisconsin—the Dane County Farmers Market opens for its summer season on the Capitol Square. And then, come June 30, Concerts on the Square begins its season.

The market and concerts are both cultural traditions that bring Madisonians in hoards to the lawns of the State Capitol. They shop, they eat, they drink, they listen to music, they kick back and play with their kids. It’s a great communing of families and friends, all who enjoy getting out and spending time together.

So, what does this Madison togetherness have to do with my grandmother Ruth?

Well, not a whole lot.

Except that it reminds me of two books I’m currently reading. They’re about Chicago’s history and they both mention the German people’s love of community.

According to “City of the Century,” by Donald L. Miller, Germans were Chicago’s largest ethnic group during the 19th century. Between 1840 and World War I, they comprised 25 percent of the city’s population. They lived together on the North Side, the Northwest Side, and in industrial areas along branches of the Chicago River.

“Rich and poor, Catholic and Lutheran, Bavarian and Prussian, Germans lived together in these virtually self-sufficient urban villages, where German was the language of common discourse,” writes Miller. “Germans seemed to do everything together, and on warm-weather Sundays they would gather in festive beer gardens within the German colony or march together, hundreds and sometimes thousands of them, to picnic grounds on the edge of the city.” (1)

Recently, I pulled out an old VCR tape we made back in 1990. On it, I’m interviewing Ruth and with only a few questions to prompt her, she does a fascinating recollection of events throughout her life. Coincidentally, she talks about picnics she had as a child with her Hornburg cousins.

“We used to go on truck picnics,” says Ruth. “We used to put benches on either side of the truck and away we’d go. My Uncle Ed, the undertaker, he had a baseball team called the Hornburg Colts. All my cousins were in it. We girl cousins used to go and root for them. We used to have a lot of fun that way.”

Ruth also talks about the church picnics they had. By that time, she had moved with her parents and brother to the south side of Chicago. But they still came back to Holy Cross, the church where she was baptized, for its picnics.

“Holy Cross Church was in the old neighborhood,” says Ruth. “They had a school and my cousins all went there. Whenever they had their picnic, they called it the Holy Cross School picnic, and they would march from the school to the train. They had a band. They all got on the train and drove out of Chicago to a grove, and they used to have big picnics. They used to have beer and they’d have, well, a swinging ball like bowling, only you swing the one big ball and hit the pins.”

“My one aunt, she was real good at it,” remembers Ruth.

I ask which aunt this was.

“That was my Aunt Minnie Hornburg, Uncle Eddie’s wife,” she answers.

Then she goes on into a familiar litany of family relations…about her other Aunt Minnie, from her mother’s side, whose first husband died and she married Minnie Hornburg’s brother Bill, so a brother and a sister married a brother and a sister, and they’re both named Minnie…you can tell by my “oh-h-h” in the background that I’m totally lost.


You’ve gotta remember there were twelve kids on the Hornburg side. Just think of all those Germans picnicking, drinking beer and swinging the bowling ball. That must have been some train ride back into the city.

Ruth Hooge, age 17

My video photgraphy skills were pretty bad back in 1990. Poor Ruth, I sat her in the shade but with the sun in the background she looks like a talking silhouette. This shot is the best it’s gonna get.

I’m planning to transfer the VCR tape to my computer. I can then insert clips into the blog and/or burn CDs—let me know if you’re interested in one.

(1) Miller, Donald L., “City of the Century,” Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1996, pg. 468-469.

daffodil from J&K's yard

Today’s my birthday. My 39th.

Oh. Yeah. Since I’ve previously mentioned I’m 50 years younger than my grandmother (who would have been 101), I guess that line isn’t going to fly.

So, today I was thinking of kindergarten with my teacher Miss Lehmann. I remember she called me to the front, turned me over her knee and gave me six birthday spankings. Can you imagine that happening today?

Then I wondered if I’m remembering that right. Perhaps I was actually being disciplined. Terri? Dave? Do you remember getting birthday spankings?

Anyway, today is my birthday and this morning when I awoke (besides reminiscing spankings), I thought how blessed I am. I love the life God’s given me. I love my family and friends.

And since today’s my birthday, I get to call the shots. That’s the deal in our house (to which my husband says is no different than any other day). So what I’m asking is that you each respond with a comment telling who you are and how you’re connected to Ruth. Remember, this blog is for historical purposes and will be interesting someday to future genealogists (if you’re a bit shy and only want to give your first name, that’s fine—it’ll give them a research challenge).

Have I mentioned today’s my birthday?

Do it. Click on “Leave a Comment,” just below this posting. Do it now.

“In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.”
— Irving Berlin

The title and verse are somewhat tongue-in-cheek because I have no fashion sense whatsoever. But my mother and my grandmother did, and they brought it out in full bloom at Easter.

This is a fashion fête in memory of them—four years (out of many, I’m sure) of delightful Easter bonnet adornment.


My grandparents, George and Ruth Larson, with my sister Terri. Note the jaunty feather in Ruth’s hat (not to mention those cool glasses).


My mother Carol (George and Ruth’s daughter) and my sister, Terri. There’s Terri, standing all cute and coy with her trendy sailer cap and purse. Little does she know her idyllic, only-child world is soon coming to an end.


Obviously, hat fashionistas go back many generations in our family. Eyeglassware, as well. Here is my great-grandmother (Ruth’s mother), Emma (Hornburg) Hooge Arndt.

Note the lace doily in the background. Certainly it was crocheted by someone in our family.


Here’s Ruth with her grandchildren; David (my brother), Diahann (me, without the hat—by now my mother has probably sensed I’m going to be a fashion-challenged child) and Terri.

I think I’m about to burst forth with a smart comment about my grandmother’s, well, “unique” hat.


Can you find a truer picture of late 1950s-early 60s Americana than this? I think not. Note the classic ranch homes set in a perfectly aligned subdivision. Today they’re back in architectural vogue and we call them “Atomic Ranches.”

Speaking of en vogue, here is my mother Carol with her Jacqueline Kennedy Pillbox hat. And isn’t Dave adorable with his double-breasted peacoat and cap? While he wasn’t able to escape my mother’s stylish standards, he certainly got off easier than Terri and I. That pretty dress poking through my coat was bouffanted by a scratchy, starchy underslip.


Just wanted to give you the full affect (no, that’s not wind billowing those dresses). And check out our purses. There’s a story to them…stay tuned in the months ahead.


Here we are, four years later; Dave, Cheryl, Diahann and Terri. And no Easter hats. Possibly sans sombrero is now the fashion, but most likely the chaos of getting four children ready for Easter Sunday necessitated simplicity.

Happy Easter everyone! May you have a blessed day as you celebrate our Savior’s love and resurrection.