If anyone could put in a request for a great mother-in-law, they would ask for Mary Elizabeth Parry Ferguson. Born of Welch stock, she was born April 23, 1911 in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio. Her parents, Thomas Morgan Parry and Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell were first generation Americans, their parents being born in Wales. She was the third child of four. Her older sister Margaret was born in 1903, brother Howard was born in 1909, and her younger sister Jane was born in 1913. They were a close-knit family.
We know a bit about Betty’s childhood from an interview that her grandson Brian conducted for a college course in 1991. Betty was ninety at the time but mentally sharp. She remembered the false Armistice during World War I that took place on November 7, 1918. Her sister Margaret was fourteen, soon to turn fifteen, and was invited to attend a celebration of the Armistice. Not allowed to go the party, and very disappointed, Margaret soon found the war had not really ended; however the war would end a few days later.
Sometime after 1920 the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Betty remembered the family purchased a large, three-story, brick house close to the Missouri Botanical Garden. The girls shared a large front bedroom, while her parents shared the middle bedroom. Her brother Howard had his own room and a student, who studied Botany at the Missouri Botanical Garden, rented another room. The house had electricity, running water, and a coal furnace provided heat.
When young, the Parry children roller skated in the summer and went sled riding during the winter. Their mother Sarah read to the children at bedtime; as the children grew older reading was the biggest pastime, one that lasted a lifetime for Betty. Their father Tom built a crystal set, which according to Wikipedia, was sold and homemade by millions, and “contributed to the development of radio as an entertainment medium around 1920.”
Holidays were celebrated with family dinners. The family always had a Christmas tree. The children were not able to go into the room to see the tree until all the candles were lit. Santa placed oranges, apples, and nuts in each child’s stocking. Their mother made them a gift and each child received a toy. The social life of the family revolved around the Shaw Methodist Church. The children were in Christmas plays and Easter pageants. One year Betty remembered she was supposed to be a mean girl in a play. Everyone commented that she couldn’t make herself mean enough, and that was true of Betty.
When Betty was in the eighth grade, her grandmother Margaret Parry, sent each of the children one hundred dollars; a lot of money in those days. Betty bought a bicycle and a graduation dress with the money.
Betty attended Bryan Milanphy grade school and Roosevelt High School, a state of the art school considered a progressive model for other schools in St. Louis. She graduated from Roosevelt in 1928. Next to her picture was the poem, “Sweet and pretty, Gentle and true, she always has a smile for you.” No truer words could be said about her throughout her life.
During the depression the family survived by pooling their money together. Betty worked as a file clerk for the Frisco Railroad, Jane worked for Ralston Purina and Howard was a printmaker. During this time their mother, Sarah, suffered from colon cancer and died in 1937.
And then Betty met Russ on a blind date and their life together began.