My grandparents were special people in my life and I was lucky to have them for as long as I did.  My father’s parents lived in Oklahoma City during my lifetime and we drove over to see them every week when I was little.  Daddy worked for his father and they discussed business with my uncles while we played with our cousins.

My grandmother’s name was Agnes, but we knew her as Aggie.  She was born into a large Catholic family in Uniontown, Kentucky…a rather poor family.  Some of her siblings became nuns and priests, some to escape poverty.  Grandad was James Clay Hamilton, known as Clayton.  He was also from a large family in Uniontown, but his family was Episcopalian and a little further up the income scale.  Grandad went to college at the University of Kentucky, was a Sigma Chi and majored in mechanical engineering.  I guess Aggie graduated from high school, although I never heard.

The story is that when Grandad took Aggie on the train to get married, he brought her a fur muff.  She was embarrassed as she didn’t even own underwear.  I wish I knew more about them when they were young…that’s the only story I ever heard.  My father was the oldest child, born in Grandad’s family home in Uniontown.  Then they had another son and a daughter in the next couple of years.  The youngest son was born a couple of years later.  I know they moved to Ohio and eventually to Oklahoma City, where Grandad opened J. C. Hamilton Co., an automotive parts warehouse.

They raised the kids and there are infamous stories of my father’s rebellions.  But he turned out ok and went to work for his father, also becoming a champion bowler and golfer along the way.  He’s another story.  All the boys and their son-in-law were in the service during World War II.  My grandmother never got over the sorrow of losing her youngest son, shot down over Germany and buried there.  She took her anger out on F.D.R. and would never even buy a stamp with his picture on it.  In later years, she developed arthritis and it was attributed to the anger she held inside.  She kept in touch with her son’s girlfriend for many years.

But, the Aggie and Grandad I grew up with were delightful grandparents.  I loved to stay at their house with the old furniture, antiques.  In their first house, there was a room across the back, behind the kitchen.  On holidays, the adults would eat around the big table there, while the youngest of the nine grandchildren were at a kids’ table in the kitchen.  Grandad had a workshop in the garage where he made beautiful things from wood.  I can still smell the sawdust and see the piles of shavings on the floor.  They had a tall bed in one of the bedrooms and we would hide under it in our endless games of hide and seek around their house.

July 1949

Aggie got a parakeet when those were the new fad.  He would ride around the house on her shoulder, talking to her and giving her a peck on the lips.  She loved that little bird.  One day, she stepped out the back door, forgetting he was with her, and a noise startled the bird and he flew away.  She had other birds, but never like that one.

Aggie was very involved in her church – she’d had to convert to the Episcopal church since she didn’t marry a Catholic.  At Easter, they took oatmeal boxes and made them into intricate Easter baskets that they sold to raise money.  I can’t even begin to describe these baskets with their flowers and petals made of crepe paper.  They are works of art.  I have a couple of them that I keep wrapped up.  You can see them in this Easter picture of my family.

Hamilton Family   Easter 1953

When her friends would call and ask for Agnes, my cousin and I would start giggling and call for “Agnes” to come to the phone.  She just smiled at us.  Grandad wasn’t as involved, although I know he left the church a lot of money.  That pretty little church later became a nightclub.  I wonder what they would have thought of that!

Grandad was a bird hunter and I can picture him suiting up with my father, leaving early in the morning with the dogs and returning with quail for us to eat that evening.  Hunting and building were his hobbies outside of work.  He invested well in the stock market and was one of the wealthiest men in Oklahoma City for money you could put your hand on at one time.  You would never know it.  Nothing much changed around there.

They eventually moved to a newer house, but nothing changed there either.  It was a place of stability.  They had recliners when those were new and would stay up on Saturday night to watch wrestling on TV with Aggie furious with the bad guys.  We never stopped giggling over that.  Aggie fixed us the same breakfast…two pieces of bacon, prunes, probably toast or cereal.  On Sunday nights, they had crackers, cheese and sardines.  I never liked the sardines.  There was always candy corn in a dish on the coffee table in the fall.  Around the holidays there was that sticky ribbon candy.  She had a finger that she couldn’t bend.  She had been cleaning a toilet with the harsh chemicals they used in the old days and some got in a cut in her hand, causing blood poisoning.  I picture that crooked finger, bent with arthritis in later years.  She made wonderful cookies which were always in the jar in the kitchen.  I have that jar in my kitchen window now and it makes me smile.

As they got older, they discovered the cafeteria.  It was a very nice one near their home and the entire family would drive over there, sitting at a big table.  Aggie never learned to drive, but she could tell Grandad how to.  The grandkids would be giggling in the back seat as she told “Dad,” as she called him, to go faster.  I’m sure he got pulled over for speeding, but most of the police knew him and let him go.  There wasn’t as much traffic then, so I don’t think he was much of a threat.

When we stayed with them, I explored or giggled with my cousins and siblings.  I went through and read their books, opened the drawer of old photos, hung out in the garage watching Grandad make things or sat in the kitchen with Aggie.  It was peaceful and safe.  In later years, I remember being there for a weekend when I was in college.  I was engaged that year and more aware of them as a couple.  Grandad was sitting in his recliner and Aggie stood behind him, combing his hair.  It was the sweetest thing ever.

Grandad helped a lot of his family members who hadn’t done as well as he had.  He opened branches of his company for his sons, sons-in-law, and even grandkids through the years.  The traveling they did was to visit relatives, mostly in Oklahoma and Texas.  My mother, a great housekeeper anyway, said their visits were a terrific incentive to get everything in shape.  One time they went to Hawaii, maybe for their 50th wedding anniversary.  They looked so out of place, Grandad in his suit and Aggie in her sensible shoes.  I loved that they took that adventure at their age.

Agnes & J. C. Hamilton

Mostly, I remember their laughs and how much they loved each other.  I know their life wasn’t always the picture perfect vision we saw as children, but they had the marriage we all wanted.  They loved each other and they loved us.   Perfectly delightful!

Aggie & Dad