Remembering Lola and Hattie Pope on Mother’s Day





Hattie and Lola Pope were sisters who grew up on the edge of the prairie near Fort Scott, Kansas. Born nine years apart, their father and mother were William David Pope and Elizabeth Ellen Smith. Down the road from them lived two brothers, Walter and Thomas Ferguson. Their parents were Thomas Bunn Ferguson and Mary Elizabeth Baker. The two families were destined to be intertwined when Lola married Tom and Hattie married Walter.

Lola, the younger sister, married early at the age of eighteen. Hattie married at the age of thirty-two. They were both tiny women. In a time when babies were born at home, Lola delivered six children; one died in infancy. Hattie delivered three children; all died. We don’t know if the children died at birth or in infancy, but how sad for Hattie. And while her children thrived, it must have been sad for Lola to see her sister lose one child after another.

Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914 and by the mid-1920s people were wearing red or white carnations to honor or remember their mothers. On Mother’s Day, Lola’s children wore a red carnation to church to honor her and a white one to remember her in later years after she was gone. While Hattie was loved by her husband and extended family, no children would wear a red or white flower for her. Was Hattie sad to know there would be no child to remember her when she was gone? Perhaps she was, or perhaps she accepted what life gave her.

Today people are more likely to send their mothers flowers for Mother’s Day or get together as a family to honor Mom. Hattie and Lola are gone, as are my mother Bonnie and my mother-in-law Betty. So Happy Mother’s Day. We love and miss you everyday. And this white rose is a symbol of our remembrance, especially for you Hattie, you are not forgotten.

Mary Elizabeth Parry Ferguson…Sweet and Pretty

Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Parry

Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Parry

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.

The Ferguson Kids … Introducing Russel Carrol

Russ Ferguson's Baby Picture

Russ Ferguson’s Baby Picture

I first met Russ Ferguson when I attended a family bar-b-q in 1965. I was dating his son David and it was the first time I was to meet my future in-laws. The family was warm and welcoming and I loved them at first sight. When introduced, I was asked to call him Russ and his wife Betty. Even though they were more like mother and father to me, rather than in-laws, I always called them by their first names.

Russel Carrol Ferguson was born December 16, 1912 at the family home in Webster Groves, Missouri. The fifth child of six born to Thomas and Lola Ferguson, he lived in Webster Groves at the beginning of his life and the end of his life until his death in 1990. He had two older sisters, Mildred and Dorothy, an older brother Clyde and a younger sister Mary.

In 1914, as the city of St. Louis was celebrating its 150th anniversary, people were moving to the suburb of Webster Groves. Webster Groves, about eleven miles from downtown St. Louis, was dubbed “Queen of the Suburbs” by developers and was a fast growing community. By that time the family had lived in the community for several years. I’ve seen pictures of Webster Groves at the beginning of the 1900s and many of the roads were still unpaved. In fact, Grandma (Lola) Ferguson stated this in a history she wrote about Webster Groves. It was a great place to raise a family; the houses were large and away from the smog filled skies that plagued St. Louis at the time.

Russ went to Avery Elementary School, which was one of the first schools in the area to have a kindergarten. Russ was left-handed, and the teachers forced him to write with his left hand. His father tried to get the teachers to let him write with his left hand, but they refused to listen. This gave Russ a bad taste for school and he eventually dropped out of school in the 11th grade. He worked as a soda jerk for a local pharmacy which allowed him access to “premium” liquor during prohibition. Apparently doctors could write prescriptions for “medicinal” alcohol. I’m sure Russ was the hit of many parties as he pulled out his “Bottled in Bond” whiskey while everyone else had home-brewed alcohol.

Betty and Russ

Betty and Russ

Russ and Betty met each other on a blind date to Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, an Indian burial grounds across the river from St. Louis. Russ knew Bob Wood; Betty worked with Esther Church. Bob and Esther knew each other and set them up on the date. They liked to party and many times went dancing and gambling at a place called the Whitmore in St. Louis County.

Russ married Mary Elizabeth Parry on September 4, 1936. They married in the parlor of the home of a minister in Union, Franklin County, Missouri. They were able to keep their marriage a secret for several years. During those times it was likely that a woman would lose her job if she married. Betty’s mother was ill with cancer and Betty, her sister Jane, and brother Howard, lived at home and helped financially provide for their mother. Unfortunately Betty’s mother died of colon cancer in 1937. By 1940 Russ and Betty were living at 231 Oakland Avenue, a four-family flat, in Maplewood, Missouri.