Twice in the 1950s we drove all the way from Ohio to Texas to visit my Mom’s family. This was before interstate highways, so almost all of it was on two-lane roads, going through the middle of every town. For our first trip in 1952 Dad removed the back seat from his Ford coupe and put a small mattress on the floor, so we could sleep, play, and bounce our way to Texas. Nothing unusual about it in those days! Long before seat belts.
We visited our great-grandma Ritter (Tex Ritter’s aunt), Uncle Harold (who later lived with us), and a multitude of aunts, uncles, and cousins. The highlight of the trip was getting to ride one of Uncle Harold’s big horses all alone! Don had to share his horse with Dad.
We played with our cousin, Donnie Dale Rogers, and were awed by teenage cousins Mike & Pat Birmingham. I still have a news clipping recognizing them as the most “unidentical twins.” Mike was tall and hefty, while Pat was short and slender.
I remember being shown a chimney, the only evidence of my Mom’s home that burned in the 1930s. After the fire, their neighbors assembled two friendship quilts, with each family making a block and embroidering their name on that piece. Many of the blocks were recycled flour sacks. Our family wore out one quilt, using it for many years. The other had never been finished, so we never used it. I still have it (see the adjacent photo).
Yes, Mom was a second cousin of Woodard Maurice “Tex” Ritter. I’ve spent 50 years researching genealogy, and have the Ritter clan well-documented. There are many interesting stories there. Tex was already a successful actor/singer by the time Mom was ten, but he did return periodically to visit the family. [Only thing I inherited from the Ritter side were my ears!]
Three or four times Tex passed through Lima, and Mom, Dad, Don, and his wife Mary would go meet Tex for coffee or lunch. Every time he visited, I was at college or on vacation. But I do have a Tex Ritter shrine in our basement, with Tex Ritter movie posters, comic books, and an autographed photo he gave Mom. (Yes, John Ritter was Tex’s son). This photo shows Tex with my great grandmother, Lula Pass Ritter.