Mabel Annetta Smith Thompson

Mabel earliest photo

Mabel in front with her cat

Happy Birthday Mom!

Although no longer with us, today, July 2, 2013, marks the 102nd. birthday of our mother, lover, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother, sunday school teacher, high school bookkeeper, friend, caregiver, citizen and many other names known and unknown.  In each and all of these capacities Mabel excelled. In fact, if asked where she would rank in any of the aforementioned capacities, I am sure that she would be ranked as “the best”. Perhaps the only criticism that  could be made about my mother: She over-cooked the vegetables.

Mabel Annetta Smith was born in Knox County, Indiana on July 2, 1911.  There are no pictures of her as an infant.  Perhaps because of the poverty of  the family into which she was born. Perhaps because she contracted Spinal Meningitis as an infant and had to be carried around on a pillow for the first six months of her life.  In any case, she arrived poor and sick.  Her illness resulted in her left leg being partially paralyzed. She learned to walk with the aid of a leg brace and crutches.  The first picture of her and her family is taken on the land where her family lived. There is no house in the photo and the three children are without shoes.

In some ways this photo captures the best of poor rural America in the early 1900’s.  Notice the wheels of the buggy, the RFD mail box, the happy looks on each person’s face. My grandmother, Sarah, who died long before I was born, looks much more like the mother I knew than does the little girl with the cat in her arms and the brace on her left leg.

Mabel with bandanna

Mabel with a bandanna

Mabel’s father was a carpenter. Thomas Jefferson Smith  was a descendant of the early  settler’s  of Knox county, Indiana.  Her mother was Thomas’ second wife, who he married after his first wife died.  She raised his four children from his first family, then started their second family which consisted of my mother and her two brothers, John Paul and Rutheford.

Mabel parents

Thomas Jefferson Smith and Sara M. Smith

Mother’s family lived in many houses, as her father travelled throughout the county, building school houses for the ever expanding population. Often their house was sparsely furnished with no running water. When Mabel was nine years old her father built the family their first house with running water.  Her mother was happy to be living in such splendor.

Mabel sarah's last house

Smith family in front of the Vincennes home. This was their first and only home with running water inside.

Unfortunately my grandmother Sarah Hogue Smith died in this house shortly after she moved into it. Mabel was nine years old and without a mother.  Her father sent her to live with relatives.

At ten years of age, she was taken by relatives to St. Louis, Missouri where an experimental operation was conducted to try and allow her left foot to lie flat to the ground.  Bone was taken from her leg and transplanted to her heal.  The tendons in her leg which connect to her foot were stretched and her entire leg and foot were put into a cast.  She told me she had to lie motionless for six weeks.  After the cast was removed her left foot was smaller than her right, as during the time when the cast was on she had grown. The toes on her left foot were all the same length and smaller than on her right foot.  But she could now walk without the need of a brace. The operation was a success!

Mabel with father and bro's

Smith family shortly after Sara’s death

Mabel growing up

Mabel outside the Vincennes home

She began to do the things other children did.  She ran, she walked to school each day.  She learned to play baseball.

At 14 her father moved the family to Tampa, Florida.  His dream was to find land on which he could  raise his family. Unfortunately, the land he bought was under water.  They would never live on it.

Mabel graduated high school  at 15, having completed a commercial course of study, allowing her to get a job. The following year, job obtained, she reenrolled in evening high school, this time taking a college preparatory course.

Mabel graduating from highschool

Mabel graduating high school in Tampa , Florida

She worked first at a dime store and then began working  various jobs as a secretary.

She joined a women’s baseball team and played “short-stop.”  This was an aptly named position as Mabel stood only 5 feet, one quarter of an inch, as she would often boastfully recount.

Mabel  on baseball team

Mabel with her softball team mates

Mabel on baseball closeup

Closeup of Mabel

She lived with her aging father, her  brother, his wife Elwin and their infant son, John Paul Jr.

Mabel with Paul Jr.

Mabel with her nephew, J. Paul Smith Jr.

In 1933, Mabel’s father, then 76 years of age, died.

At the age of twenty four, mom was working for the United States Rubber Company, as a secretary.  My father was a test driver for the same company.  Each winter his group traveled to Florida where it was warm and they could continue their tire testing.

Mabel Ells test fleet

Ellsworth’s Test Fleet in Tampa. Florida

Mabel Ells test fleet closeup

Closeup of Ellsworth

They met and fell in love.  They courted during the spring of 1935

Mabel Ells falling in love

Mabel and Ellsworth outside the Test Fleet headquarters

Mabel courting

Mabel Annetta Smith

Mabel Ells courting

Ellsworth Walter Thompson

After three weeks of courting, my dad asked my mother to marry him.  They were engaged.

Shortly thereafter my dad had to return to Michigan where he lived and my mother prepared to join him in June of 1935.  The engagement commences!

Mabel wedding announcement

Mabel wedding announcement

Mabel shower announcement

Mabel’s shower announcement

They were apart.

Mabel Ells on couch

Ellsworth on Grandma’s daybed

Mabel looking out window

Mabel looking out window

Mabel shopping 1

Mabel shopping

Mabel shopping 3

Mabel shopping. What a babe!

And they wrote letters back and fourth:

Mabel letter pg 1

Mabel letter pg2

Mabel letter pg3

Mabel letter pg 4a

On June 16, 1935, my mother, Mabel Smith, boarded a Greyhound Bus – destination Detroit, Michigan.  She arrived Tuesday, June 18, at 10:00 AM. On Saturday, June 22, 1935, Mabel and Ellsworth were married.

G&E wedding Ells&Mabel

Mabel and Ellsworth Thompson’s wedding photo

This, of course, is not the end of Mabel’s story.  It is however, the end of this entry.

Happy Birthday Mom!


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