My father died in 1932, when I was nineteen months old. This was during the depression, and a time when most women did not hold full time jobs. Also, because of the depression, not many full time jobs were available for men or women In my small home town. Because of financial difficulties, my mother, sister, my maternal grandmother and I moved into my paternal grandfather's home. My grandfather was basically a farmer, and I spent lots of time with him., and he is at least partially responsible for my love of reading. He had a set of book shelves on one wall in the living room, filled with books. I still remember that he would not allow me to read Steinbeck's novels. (Maybe he considered them too hard for me?) Even though he was not an educated man, he was capable of solving any of our high school math problems, taught me to read, and helped me to grow up. This story is a brief picture of his life.
Frank Eugene Denslow, the son of Jerome and Asenth Denslow, was born May 9, 1871 in Woodstock, Michigan. He married Mary Rose (Mamie Hotchkin, daughter of Noah and Eva Hotchkin, in Benton Harbor, Michigan on June 16, 1896. They made their home on Cedar Street in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Frank was a large man, six foot tall at least, and a "man's man;" Mamie was a small woman of about five foot and very quiet and mild mannered. But she could control Gene (and her grandson) with just a glance. Frank and Mamie had two children, a son and a daughter. Both children died young; the daughter at the age of 23 and the son at the age of 34.
Frank was always known as "Gene." As a young man he had worked at Ensleys Flour Mill in Saint Joseph, Michigan. His job required that he carry bags of flour up three flights of steps, and it was here that he sustained a serious hernia, that prevented him from continuing that line of work. He became a part time employee at various establishments and a full time small farmer, raising gladiolus , basically for the reselling of the bulbs. However, during the summer months he also sold the flowers, both to increase his income and to get rid of them. Both my sister and I became very good salespersons during summer vacations, and we knew just about every house and every family in Benton Harbor, because of selling flowers door-to-door. During the winter months he would sit in the basement and clean and count bulbs to fulfill the orders he had received. Because I was too young to go to school, I would sit beside him and he taught he how to count, and how to read the orders and how to print tags for the bulbs. So in effect, I was home schooled on these subjects.
Gene was seldom seen with out his pipe; he always smoked Prince Albert tobacco .Because of his habit of dropping hot ashes from his pipe, there was only one chair in the house that he was allowed to sit in when smoking, and I don't think we ever had a car that the front drivers seat was not burned out and stuffed with gunny sacks.
Grandpa taught both my sister and I how to drive. However, he insisted that both of us learn a little "auto mechanics," like how to check the oil, the water, the tires, how to change a tire, and how to "jump start" a car in case of battery failure. He also required that we pay for our own gas when using the car.
Every Sunday the entire Denslow family attended the First Baptist Church on Pipestone Street in Benton Harbor, and after Sunday dinner, during the summer, we would take a car load of flowers and decorate the graves of my father, my aunt, and many of the family's friend's graves. Frank and Mamie were active in the church, and they did not approve of playing cards or drinking alcohol. Sunday was a day of church, family dinner, visit the cemetery and rest. However, Sunday evening we could play a game called Flinch, supposedly because it did not use a regular deck of poker cards. Grandpa also managed to stop at Parson's Parlor during the week to pick up the daily newspaper....and probably to have a quick glass of beer, without Grandma knowing about it. At least she never let on that she knew about it.
I never heard my Grandfather raise his voice in anger, nor did he ever argue with my grandmother, but you always tell when he was angry. He often bit the stem off his pipe when things got to him. Also, my grandmother looked forward to the trip to the cemetery every Sunday afternoon. If Grandpa was upset with her, he would come into the house and tell her that they could not go riding because the car was broken down. Seemed strange that with no effort the car was fine that evening.
Grandma Denslow hoped to live to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, which she did; June 16, 1946. She died on September 9, 1946. "Gene" died on March 15, 1949. I was serving in the Navy and was aboard ship in the Mediterranean sea when my Grandpa died. I was unable to get home for the funeral. They are both buried in the family plot in Crystal Springs Cemetery, Benton Harbor, Michigan
Return To The Berrin County Home Page
Return To The Biography Name List
This page was last modified <9 January 2008>
This website is created and copyrighted 2006 by Bev Edwards