A Meeting of the Senior Gray Cousins (1998)

Transcription with [comments] by
Larry Pearce
5/9/98

[Recently, as I was looking for material to publish on the E-Gen: Gray website, I came across a cassette tape that my parents, Ralph and Ruth Pearce, had given me concerning the planning of the 1998 Gray Family Reunion. The committee had decided to tape a meeting that included many of the senior clan members. See “The Descendants of Robert P. Gray” to understand who the speakers are. What follows is a transcription of that tape recording with comments and explanations in brackets for those who may not be familiar with our family reunion protocol. Unfortunately, we’ve had to insert question marks (?) where either the speaker’s identity or the words were indiscernible. Far from trivial, the memories and stories here express the lifestyles and values of our ancestors:]

JANET: Hi. This is Janet Grubbs Flora and my husband, Bud.
BUD: Hi. At last year’s Gray Reunion, we were railroaded, I mean we were unanimously chosen to head up the Gray Reunion for 1998. We very reluctantly found ourselves with the job. The reunion, by the way, is on August 2, 1998, at Bairdford Park beginning at 2 p.m. with dinner at 5 p.m. As Janet and I worked on plans, Janet said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the senior Grays get together,” When Janet ran it past her mother [Ella Mae Grubbs], she said, “That’s a good idea,” and Mom has helped us get it going.
JANET: I was encouraged when Mom said everyone she talked to agreed it would be a good idea. We were looking forward to May 9th, so today, May 9th, has come and as we are gathered together we’ll tape our conversations on “remembering” so that we can share our conversations with those who couldn’t come.
ELLA MAE: This is Ella Mae. I had remarked to our Janet when I started to think about remembering that when Olive and I cleaned out Grandma’s [Bertha Bonin Gray] trailor, there were so many nice cards, letters, and sayings of Mom’s. Olive said that she didn’t want them, and Janet said, “I’ll take them.” At that time Janet carefully sorted through the stuff and put much of the memorabilia into a scrapbook and albums. They are here if anyone wants to look at them. Here is part of a letter from Aunt Mary Brice [sister of Bertha Bonin, Mrs. Will Gray, Grandpap Paul’s sister-in-law]:
Sunday, October 26, 1937
Dear Bertha,
If you could have heard my voice every time I have thought of you and your family, I think you would be tired. Cold weather is here, but many of the trees have not shed their leaves. I have heard it is a sign of a hard winter (so get ready). The furnace here is fine if there is coal in it. You and Will can be happy parents with such a lovely family. They will be so much company. Even little David [now the Rev. Dr. David Gray] will be lots of company when the rest are in school. I know I am lonely all by myself in my rooms. I am thankful I am so far able to attend to my outside work. I am getting narrowed down, and then what? I have always found God has a way in every emergency. I have faith that He will continue to provide a way.

ELLA MAE: Then she talked on about Bertha Paul [the other Bertha, my Grandfather Paul’s wife], Mrs. Dempster, Anna McComb, Mary McDonald, and she closed this way:
With much love for all the family. I will hope for a letter from you soon.
[signed] Aunt Mary [Brice]

JANET: This is Janet again. In the trailor were many pieces of paper in Grandma’s [Bertha Bonin Gray] own handwriting, like:
Life has been wonderful; the promise of God, precious; the eternal hope, glorious.
[signed] BLG

Another one:
Wherever the Lord has placed you, you must blossom in His honor.

And then there’s another:
I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth (John III 1:4).
[signed] Mother

Another is:
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to gather in unity.

My mom [Ella Mae] often quotes her dad, William Gray, as saying, “Anything to keep peace in the family.” That was very important to him and also to Grandma Gray. Right under Grandma’s writing is something that she cut out of a magazine and it says:
Home – the sweetest, dearest, purest, and most precious spot this side of the Pearly Gates.

Grandma sure loved her family and her home. I can remember when we would go down to her place at the trailer on Sunday for dinner with Grandma and Aunt Ann. Grandma would get her plate full and all ready and she would remark, “Now, isn’t that beautiful!” She would mention all the different colors of food on her plate. As I am planning a meal, I so many times think of the different colors as I’m planning. There was a part of a letter that my Aunt Ann wrote, and I rather imagine it was to Colleen [Miller, Chuck Gray’s daughter], because Colleen is a teacher. It is written in Ann’s own handwriting [Anna was mentally challenged, never married, and lived at home with her parents he entire life]:
I guess it is still dry outside. They say it is supposed to rain. We sure will be glad to get some. Guess you are busy teaching school. I Wish I had good health like you. I would like to have done some good work. I should be more thankful than I am. I still am glad that I am as good as I am. I guess that will be all. I hope to see you soon. Yours truly,
[signed] Anna Gray

WILSON: This is Wilson [Grubbs, Ella Mae’s husband]. There was a letter from Rosa McConnell, age 87, from New Wilmington [PA]. Dave [Gray] and Jim Luinny [?] stayed with her:
Thanks for the best melon I ever ate and for the cabbage. Dave is certainly a fine, good boy. His parents will never have to worry about him. Jim is wonderful too, but Dave is so serious. I have the two finest boys in college.

There was a Mother’s Day card [among the trailer memorabilia] with a picture of a rabbit on the front: To my favorite aunt.

Inside, Roberta [Keller Welsh] wrote:
Dear Aunt Bertha,
I love you. I remember the pet rabbit Uncle Will gave me years and years ago.

Then, there was a letter from Chuck, in the Army in 1951:
I received Anna’s box of candy. All the boys said it was very good. Thanks a lot. Also, I received your card and letters. The fellows cannot understand how I receive so much mail and hardly ever write. I was 25 years old yesterday and am beginning to feel like an old man. I got my first Reader’s Digest the other day. That was real nice of the church to buy the subscription for me. That is a very educational book. Tell everyone that I said hello, and tell Dave that I received his picture. That’s really a good picture. The boys want to know why he is so good looking and me not. Just joking. Love, [signed] Chuck

BUD: This is Bud again. This is a paragraph from Robert P. Gray’s [our great-grandfather 1844-1928] composition. It was several pages long and in his own handwriting. The subject was “Little Things:”
A Penny is a small piece of money, the smallest of the American coins. Yet, a penny will buy a tract. A tract is but a small leaflet but may fall into the hands of someone unconverted. And, by the blessing of God on it, may bring him to the ark of safety. One truly converted will tell to some other one, and with God’s blessing the good work goes on and on from one to another til eternity alone can tell the grand results.

Then Harold Robert Gray [oldest son of William G. and Bertha Bonin Gray], in his letter from California speaks of pennies. Harold went to California with the Michaels from church:
We took 50 pictures, but will not get them developed here because they want too much. The sales tax here counts up pretty fast. You need a pocket full of pennies when you start to shop here. Trinkets out here cost lots of money and you get cheap stuff. I have shopped around town and each one got something. I have $7 left to spend, and I’m coming home.

CHUCK: There’s one story that I did want to tell. I always remember about my mother [Bertha Bonin Gray]. Probably about a year before she died, I’d go up in the evening once in a while and visit with her, and every Sunday we’d be there. Whenever she got a little older and a little more frail, it got to the point where we had to stay with her day and night, someone needed to be there. She was very talkative this one evening, and she wanted to know where I stood spiritually. This is a little hard to say, but she had attended a little Methodist church down in Bairdford and preachers would come in riding on horseback. This one Sunday, the fella gave an invitation for anyone in the church who wanted to accept Christ as their personal savior. She said she was 14 years old, and she got up, and she went up – they didn’t have a rail at that time. They had what they called mourning benches – and she was up there and she made that commitment to Christ. She said she had no idea who was in that church or what was going on other than between her and God. She said she came back [to her seat] and she’s been serving Him ever since.

SARAH C: I want to say that I really appreciate being asked here today. This was one of the greatest decisions that was made for all of our family members. I want to thank Janet and her husband and Ella Mae and her husband for their hospitality.

HAROLD ? I don’t have too much to say. I’m just an old man who lives from one day to the next and I look forward to the next morning to make me feel good.

CLARA ? This is a letter from Bertha Paul [my grandmother, Bertha Ione Campbell Gray, married to Granpap Paul Gray] to Bertha Gray [Bonin. They were sisters-in-law]:
Dear Bertha,
It’s been so long since I’ve heard from you, but don’t forget, you are still one of my best old pals. If I only had a day with you, I think it would fill a book. Last Tuesday night Betty [her daughter-in-law, son Merle’s wife] took me to the foot doctor and then to Howard Johnson’s for supper. Who came in but Pearl and Chuck Thomas, and that brought back memories of Harry and Annie. It sure does one a lot of good to see someone that we know. I think of the good old school days and the music lessons from Annie. I can still play some of those dear old songs from memory. My fingers are a bit stiff, but I have always liked music so much. There’s just not too many of us old codgers left anymore. Better stop and get this in the mail. Write and tell me how you are. Love, [signed] Bertha

And then there was a letter from David [Rev. Dr. Gray, William and Bertha’s youngest son]:
November 21, 1953 Sunday, 10:00 p.m.
Dear Mom, Dad, Anna, and Folks,
We have just had an evening of very hard rains up here [Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA]. Jim took a gospel team to New Castle this evening in my old jalopy. He got caught in one heavy rain, and I guess quite a bit of water came through the roof and the windshield. We had a very fine chapel service this evening. Dr. Shoup from McKees Rocks was the speaker. He spoke on Thanksgiving. He really made us think about the blessing we have and how ungrateful we are for them all. Right now, I would like to thank my wonderful mother and father, who have given up so much so that I may have some of the better things in life. I sometimes feel bad about how inconsiderate I have been to the two of you at times, but all I can say is, “Thank God for your love, patience, and understanding.” I thank you and I thank God that I have been raised in a Christian home with a Christian background on which to build my life. I praise the Lord and thank Him for all the blessings He has given me. Most of all for His son Jesus Christ, our Lord, in whom I have found a wonderful salvation of joy, contentment, and peace. Even though we have tests, hard studying, and a good bit of work to do here, when I look at it from the Lord’s point of view, I realize I live a life of luxury. I really praise the Lord for His mercy to me here, and I pray that in the future I might serve Him more completely and abundantly. I guess I’d better have devotions and roll in for now. See you all Wednesday around 5:00 p.m. In Christian love, [signed] Dave

OLIVE ? I had some written down, but it’s in my purse. But anyhow, I remember Dad being patient, and I learned a real good lesson from this. If I made a mistake, he’d say, “That’s alright. We’ll correct it.” I’ve always tried to practice that through my life.

MERLE: This is old Great-grandpappy Seven [son of Paul B. Gray]. I’m very honored to be here today. It’s going to be a memorable day that we’ll never forget, reminiscing over these pictures, some of them over 40 to 75 years of age and they’re still good. It’s amazing how we can recognize each other yet in our later years. I have eight wonderful grandchildren, four boys and four girls. And, I have seven wonderful greats-grandchildren. We’ve been married coming up 53 years and have had a very fruitful life. Again, I’m honored to be here today reminiscing about the past, and we certainly hope when we can all meet together again this August 2nd, the 44th annual Gray reunion being held at Bairdford Park. I would hope that we could get more and more attendance. Seems like when the older ones shy back and die off that the young birds are not taking the bull by the horns and keeping it rolling. That will improve. Thank you.

______? Well, I’m not a very good speaker, but I do remember a lot of good times with the Grays, especially when Grandma and I got together. Always loved her. We would always talk. So, al I can say is we have a real nice family, and they’re all doing well. I just hope we can get together again.

DAVID: Phyllis [his wife] is going to pass. She has a sore throat. But, let me say two things, one about Mom and one about Dad. One thing that Mother left the biggest stamp on me was her sense of “you can always do it.” You can always take a step up and achieve. Dad, like Olive, “Patience.” In fact, I mention this to my class once in a while. And also, “Generosity,” especially toward the neighbors.

BETTY: [Merles’ wife] First of all, I want to thank Janet and Bud for having us in their lovely home. I know your parents are all gone. They would be smiling down on you for remembering them and remembering all their children. Especially, Edna [Gray, her sister-in-law] would be smiling down on us because her family meant so much to her.

DOROTHY: This is Dottie [Stone, Russell Stanley Gray’s daughter], and what I appreciate about this day is that we’re all cousins, cousins that grew up together. And I would like to see my grandchildren and my family feel the same way that I do about my cousins. Today, I think, the families are so spread out, I just hope that everybody can stay close together. I feel that I had a wonderful childhood. Talk about people going back in their childhood, and they say, “This was bad, and that was bad.” I didn’t have anything that I can remember that was really bad. I feel that I was really blessed.

CHUCK: I was just saying that we would not be here today if it weren’t for the past reunions that we’ve had. As Dottie said, we were always close simply because we all got along. Everyone really loved each other as they should. I’m sure we did a lot of things wrong, but we did a lot of things right too, or we wouldn’t be here today. So in closing for myself, I just want to say that there was a lot of love and humor, and as we get together, as Harold said, “We’re getting older,” and I think of the story when Mother died. When Mother died she was the last of that generation, and Harold was standing by the casket and I walked up to him and I said to him, “You realize now, we are the older generation.” So time goes on, and we’ll pas on and our children will be the older generation.

MERLE: That’s exactly what I tell our boys up around home there. We’ve only got one left in the neighborhood, and that’s Eric Augustine. You know he carried me to first grade at school and he carried Robert Merle to first grade at school and he carried Alan Robert – three generations, he drove school bus. He’s the last. When he’s gone, Dean Park and Wayne Park and myself . . . we’re the last generation.

JANET: Hi, this is sometime later. It’s going to be almost two weeks now since we had gotten together. We are just trying to fill up the tape here. May 9, 1998 was a beautiful day. This spring there’s been so much rain and warm weather that things were coming out early. The trees and the flowers were very beautiful this year. We were pleased that so many could come. I’ll list the names because some did not speak on the tape:
Clara and Harold Gray
Merle and Betty Gray
Chuck Gray
David and Phyllis Gray
Sarah Choura
Olive Thompson
Dorothy Stone
Wilson and Ella Mae Grubbs
Bud and Janet Grubbs Flora
We missed Roberta. She had a physical problem, and Roberta had remarked when we had invited her, “That sounds like fun!” She is our oldest senior Gray and she is 84. Ruth and Ralph Pearce were out of town, and we missed them. May 9th was Wallace Hull’s birthday and he and Janet were at their camp in Brookville.

ELLA MAE: It was an afternoon of remembering. This is a story Merle told us about his father taking the family to Erie for a vacation and it was not on the tape:
We went in the truck. It was a large, stake body truck. Dad put a lot of straw in it and a large tarp to cover the whole truck bed, and that is where we slept. It is the only time I can ever remember my dad taking the family anywhere on vacation, but it was one I’ll never forget.

Sarah related that Uncle [Russell] Stanley at times would take her with them when he took Ann Elizabeth [Ferguson] or Jean [Burnett] to Tarentum Hospital for nurses training. They became our aunts.

JANET: I also remember my nursing school at Citizens General Hospital, New Ken, for three years. Either Mom or Dad would pick me up on Friday night and then Sunday night they brought me back to the nurses residence. Always Mom had prepared four good meals for me. All I had to do was heat them up. The residence had a kitchen with refrigerator for us to use, and there were times when someone might want to “share” some of your food, let’s say. I always put mine way in the back so it would not be as visible.

ELLA MAE: In those albums [of her mother Bertha Bonin Gray], from old correspondence of relatives, the early years of the senior Grays compared to the present times, what was so clearly different was the value of money. For instance, I worked at McDonalds Funeral Home doing domestic work for $5 a week with every other weekend off from Saturday noon. In Lulu Gray Canning’s [a great aunt, Mary Luella, the daughter of Samuel Alexander Gray, Robert P’s brother, of Missouri] letter to Janet Gray Kellar [the oldest of Robert P. Gray] she wrote:
We had a hand at $2 a day for 10 days.

And the other outstanding thing about the letters that I noticed was the love they had for each other and the desire to keep in touch. Aunt Lulu wrote a letter to Aunt Janet that she heard of the death of R. P. Gray [Robert Patterson, my great-grandfather] and knew that he had been confined to bed for nearly four years:
As long as he could see, he wrote to me and told me how he read my letters over and over. He was remembered every day at family worship. I miss him so much. I never want to lose you folks, so let us keep the love fire burning.

Then she asked in the letter if she ever heard of the car that was stolen from him. Now, changing the subject, I can remember Clara telling me – in fact, I would see her reading the Bible because Olive and I often stayed with Clara at nights when Harold was in the service – Clara read Psalm 91 every day, and she prayed God’s blessing and protection for Harold who was on a PT boat in the Pacific. For instance, verse 7 says, “A thousand shall fall at thy side, ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come neigh thee.” It is so satisfying and assuring that we have a great God. We know that God took care of Harold and brought him home safely. In fact though, that was true of all the Grays at all times who were in the service. He protected them and brought them all home safe. For many, like Clara, were married with little children. Others were single guys in the service. It was brought up, and I think it was our Grandpap Gray [Robert P] and his father [William S or could she mean his brother Samuel A in the Civil War?], who were in the service at the same time.

JANET: These are some of the Bible verses that Grandma [Bertha Bonin] had written, and they mean so much more to mean because they were ones that she had written out herself:
Draw neigh to God, and He will draw neigh to you. Cleanse you hands you sinners, and purify your hearts ye double minded (James 4:8)

Whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15)

The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee (Psalms 55:22)

Even a child is known by his doing, whether his work be pure and whether it be right (Proverbs 20:1)

ELLA MAE: We sure want to thank Janet and Bud for thinking about us and for planning such a nice afternoon. They sure were busy getting their house and yard ready. Also, the “make your own sundae” was a very tasty dessert.

JANET: I also want to tell everybody to tell their family – their children, their grandchildren – to make sure, if they can, to come to the Gray Reunion, August the 2nd, 1998. Please mark your calendar. It will be at Bairdford Park, West Deer Township. It starts at 2:00, and dinner will be at 5:00. Then we’ll have some games and so on. So, please be sure you tell everybody. May 9th was a day of remembering, and we want to continue to remember things on August 2nd.

ELLA MAE: We know that if there was anyone who wanted to be here on May 9th it would have been Addie [Adah Kellar Hagan, daughter of Janet Gray Kellar]. Here is part of a poen she sent to me just several weeks ago. The title is “Hugs:”

TYPE FROM NOTE TO R & R

JANET: In closing we want to use the Mispah Benediction:
The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from the other (Genesis 31:49)

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