Editor’s Note: To honor her grandmother Mildred Knight’s 100th birthday, Shelley Ordoyne wrote about her grandmother’s life in the mid-1900s, and her love of reading and learning, which led her to move to Titusville to acquire a high school education because of transportation difficulties.
“She takes honor in reading The Titusville Herald every day,” Shelley said. “It instilled a lifelong interest in reading, for her and all of her children.”
Following is the article Shelley wrote to honor her grandmother:
“Walking a mile knee-deep in the snow to get to school.” I am sure many of us have heard this statement at least once in our lives. If you grew up in the 1920s, you experienced this reality. 1920s? Wow! Yes, that is 100 years ago and that is when my grandmother, Mildred Lola Morris Knight, was born; Jan. 27, 1920. Some winters were so bad that her dad, Clifton, would walk ahead of his children to reduce their fatigue from treading through knee deep snow. You know what the weather is like now with our modern conveniences. Can you imagine life without automobiles (personal and public), electricity (and all its associations), minimum wage, social security and public school transportations? These “hardships” that were everyday life to Granny and her family developed strong, independent characteristics in her generation that is unbeknownst to the current generation.
She was born days before Prohibition that we read about, and alive for half of what we learn in our American history books. She was born when family history was handed down verbally and personally without the use of technology, as is today. Sometimes I wonder how much more we would understand if our centenarian family members would teach our youth American history. I am privileged to have my granny awake, alert and oriented, sharing oral family history with each of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchild.
One fact that is vivid in my memory is Granny’s desire for education. She feels privileged to have had the opportunity to attend high school. It was not common or required in her youth. Schools were not as logistically accessible as they have been since post-WWII. She and her younger sister, Treva, had to move 12 miles from home to live with cousins living in Titusville near the school. They compensated their hosts by cleaning the house and babysitting before and after school. Can you imagine having so much motivation for a high school education that you would leave home and work to show your appreciation for the opportunity? Her love of learning was handed down to her children, even if to simply learn something new each day. Her keen memory is exhibited in excellent and accurate recall of births, weddings and deaths of all her families faster than internet search engines. I believe her love of reading was birthed from her father’s own love of it. As far back as she can remember, Granny’s dad subscribed to The Titusville Herald. She carried on this tradition by subscribing to it since she was a young adult. The time of delivery to her dad at the turn of the century was not guaranteed due to the horse delivery. Wow!
One hundred years before her birth, Granny’s American paternal progenitor James and Ann Inskip immigrated after the death of King George III. He followed his married children to Rome Township from the New Jersey area. Here started the lineages of our families; Morris, Harrison, Shaw, Gregory, Smith, Best, Elderkin, and Wallaston. Many of her ancestors kept track of family history by physically visiting England for accurate records that go back to the early 1500s. Written genealogy was shared at family reunions. Granny was taught to be proud of her heritage and to sustain it for the future. In the far corner of the Harrison homestead still stands our family cemetery called the Old English Settlement/Harrison Family Cemetery. Remnants of the Richard, Inskip and Clifton Morris homesteads are all still standing with Clifton’s home being renovated and inhabited in Rome Township. Granny reminds us to be honored by the skill, intrinsic motivation and independence of our heritage and to explore opportunities of the future.
Mildred Lola Morris was the sixth of eight children born to Clifton and Bina Mae Smith Morris, her siblings were Marie, Geneva, Howard, Lois, Freda, Treva and Granville. Growing up, she said they didn’t have much, but she didn’t know that because no one else did either. Her dad ate bacon every day (must be where she got the habit), yet he didn’t die of high cholesterol. Uncle Sam tells her that she needs to be careful of high sodium and fats in her diet. She makes a joke by saying that “if it is killing me, then it is taking it’s time doing so.”
She married Kenneth B. Knight, with whom she raised three sons, Kenneth, Charles and Sam; and one daughter, Karen. She may not have given birth or raised Aunt Jeannie, but she has been a daughter-like daughter-in-law for 50 years. Granny and Grandad celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1989. The years were not any different for them than they are for any of us today, yet, they persevered until his sudden death in 1997. They didn’t have electricity until their second child was born. Their mortgage was $80 a month, which was over a week’s wages. During times of rationing, she and her neighbors bartered their farm goods. So many things in her life that were commonplace are considered impoverished in today’s socioeconomics.
Over the years, Granny shared her life of quilting, solving puzzles, cooking, canning/preserving, gardening and family stories with each of us nine grandchildren – Billy, Kendrick, Shelley, Ramona, Brenda, Cheryl, Deanna, Joel and Missy. She lovingly handcrafted quilts for each of her children’s weddings and grandchildren’s births. With travels across the country, she welcomed each of her 13 great grandchildren – Dylan, Chandler, Ethan, Cole, Colleen, Madison, Parker, Hunter, Mike, John, Isaac, Isabelle, Kiera and Kenzie. She traveled across the country to visit and care for her family. Due to age, Granny could not travel to meet her first great-great-granddaughter, Zoey, so Zoey traveled to meet her. Her care and consideration are not reserved for just the family. For decades, she has made herself available to help the Centerville Baptist Church families, Amish families, countless friends, and neighbors with food preparation, sick visits, well visits, transportation, etc.
Granny has observed and experienced more history than most of us will even be taught. With all the modern conveniences to make our lives easier and to save us time, she ironically grew up in a time that allowed for more quality time. This slow-paced pattern has permitted time for hobbies with her sister of 97 years, Treva Kerr. They quilted for many years. Aunt Treva continues to quilt with members of Bethel Church and drives to visit Granny on clear weather days to work on puzzles. They have shared life events together over nine decades despite their common personality and character differences.
In honor of nearly 10 decades of sisterhood, it was important for Aunt Treva to be acknowledged alongside Granny at her 100th birthday party. Due to the usual January inclement winter weather, we celebrated Granny’s 100th day of life in July. Since her 95th year, she has celebrated half-birthdays every July. She said at that age, it is her privilege. Therefore, we used her half-birthday as the time to host her commemoration family and friends, of new and old, from near and far, traveled to venerate her life.
From all of your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-granddaughter, WE LOVE YOU Granny.