Thursday, September 16, 2010

All in the Family – Winona Myra Alice Lake Brobst

My grandmother, Winona Myra Alice Lake Brobst is the oldest child of Robert Lee Lake and Fannie Isadora Stevens Pyle Lake, but she was younger than Fannie’s sons with her first husband, Joshua (Jack) Pyle, Robert’s relative.

The story goes that Robert had moved from Kentucky to help his cousin, Jack, on their farm. After Jack died, Robert and Fannie married and had two children of their own, Winona and Florence Ethel, plus raised the three sons she had with Jack. (Bert Franklin, D’Earle, and Ben Harold Pyle)

For a short time in the first three years of her life, Winona lived in Houghton, South Dakota, where her sister Ethel was born. A great storm ruined her papa’s crops, convincing him they needed to return to Indiana.

In her own journal Winona records, “A way back in the days when gas derricks were popping up in the middle west like mushrooms, I was born on the family farmstead in central Indiana.(Point Isabelle, Indiana) I was a very imaginative child; never played with dolls, but preferred doing creative work, either with needle and thread, or hammer and saw. In my idle hours during summer, I swayed back and forth in the rope swing, pretending all the great persons I had ever heard of were my friends. In long winter evenings, I listened avidly to the philosophical discussions of kinsmen, many of whom had degrees trailing after their names like the tail of a kite or a comet.”
“When I was nine, we went to the city to live. (She likely means Elwood, Indiana) My health had never permitted me to enter school, but I entered that winter. I romped on the commons and went to school with the other children on the block. When twelve, I wrote my first novel, if it could be called such. (Okay, anybody see anything familiar here between me and my grandmother?) Later, I enjoyed academic training in English, journalism, analysis of the novel, drama, psychology, mathematics, and speech. In eight years I completed the twelve years of grammar and high school and won the first scholarship ever awarded our school.”

Winona graduated from Elwood High where she attended with former presidential candidate Wendell L. Wilkie who was a great friend of her sister, Ethel.

She knew how to play the piano and was addicted to correspondence courses, especially psychology, philosophy, and religion. “I have read very little recent fiction, only collections of best short stories by various editors. I have been interested in home economics, gardening, and poultry raising. In fact, I not only studied correspondence courses in each but have had years of experience in these lines of endeavor.”

She wrote poetry and published a poem about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 in the Chicago Tribune.

“I have worked in an office, and when the linemen were called to the army during the World War, I patrolled the lines on many a dark, stormy night in those troublous times.”

Winona stayed one semester with her son Gene in Lafayette so she could attend classes with him at Purdue University. She was so enamored with education, she thought she might like to be a teacher. She and Gene also traveled the U.S., and she said, “I have traveled from Canada down into Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but know the middle west best.”

Winona loved to crochet and made afghans of various patterns. She was an excellent cook and baked pies and cobblers from the fruits Grandpa Brobst grew. She canned homegrown items and made jams and jellies. At Christmas she made chocolate covered cream candies and fruit cakes with dark rum soaked into them that I remember as the best Fruit Cake I’ve ever had. Every day she would prepare a lunch for Pearl to take to work. The fare was always a Canadian Bacon sandwich and a thermos of coffee.

She and Pearl are the parents to three sons: Loren Allen, Robert Ellsworth, and Ervin Eugene Brobst.

About her own life, she stated, “I have known joy, sorrow, heartache, disappointment; illness unto death almost. I have assisted at births, I have helped to lay out the dead. I think I have run the gamut of human emotions; yet withal, I seem to know so little.”

Winona died in 1980 at the age of 92. She was member of the First Christian Church.

(The child in the photo is Eugene's oldest son, Travis William Brobst. This was taken in the middle room of the Roe house where Winona spent much of her time.)

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