The Old Quilt

We visited my sister right after Christmas.  Among other things she was recovering from a fall which chipped a bone in her foot, so we didn’t get out much, but we had a good time anyway.  Jim and I went hiking in the Red Rock recreational area, especially the Calico Hills:

Calico Hills

There are more Calico Hills photos in my Christmas 2013 gallery.

I also got a couple of photos of hot air balloons near the house:

Hot air balloon

But this is about the quilt, which we found on the bed in the spare room, in case the 2 quilts already on it weren’t enough (even though Las Vegas, like California, was one of the small parts of the U.S. not affected by the Polar Vortex in December 2013).  Here’s the quilt, folded up:


If you look at it closely, it’s obviously entirely hand made.  Those red yarn scraps are hand quilting.  The hemming is hand stitching (see below).

Quilt detail

So I said to Sue, that quilt looks hand made.  Yes, she said, Grandma made that.  (This would be Elvira Ivy, our paternal grandmother, who died when I was about 10.)  I don’t remember if I asked, but she continued, “She made it for Doc.”

We need a genealogical aside here for you to understand who Doc was, and why Grandma Ivy made him a quilt.

James and Elvira Ivy had five children:  Raymond, Bertha, Thelma, Verna, and Lestle, in that order.  Lestle, my father, was the youngest.  Thelma, the middle girl, was born in 1901; and in 1921, she married Orville Otho Hicks in El Paso, Texas.  We know very little about Orville Hicks’ early background; I think he was in the army in Texas when she met him.  The marriage was a mistake.  He beat her up regularly.  (All these people are dead now.)

Orville Senior and Thelma had two children, Orville Junior (born 1922) and Bonnie (born 1924).  I only knew Orville Junior when I was a child and he was an adult, and I never heard him called anything but “Doc.”

So why would Elvira Ivy make a quilt for her grandson?  She was a poor woman.  She left her husband (for reasons I won’t go into here), taking her five children, in approximately 1910; they reconciled a couple of times but it didn’t last.  My sister tells me this incident happened during Prohibition, and after the Depression started; from other evidence I think it was in 1930.  Dad and his mother were living in (we think) Kansas City, Kansas, where Dad was a driver for the local bootleggers; in his youth they called him “Wild Bill Ivy.”  Elvira worked in a railroad cafeteria, and they lived in a railroad house, which was probably a shotgun house.  But when Thelma and her two kids left Orville after a particularly brutal beating, Elvira and her son took them in.  With such a small house, Doc, who would have been 8, had to sleep in the shed, and she made the quilt to keep him warm out there.  It weighs a couple of pounds; I hope it kept him warm.

I’ve explained the quilt.  But I have to tell the rest of the story. This is real history of how life in the Depression was, even though I have only heard it orally.

Thelma was Orville’s wife and he wanted her back.  So he came around to Elvira’s house, the day after Thelma left him.  At that time Dad was dating Orville’s cousin, and when they returned from a date they found Orville walking up the front steps.  Dad took out his gun, which he had because of his job, and took a bead on Orville.  The cousin yelled out to Orville, “You’d better put up your hands and leave, because Bill’s got you sighted, and he’s going to shoot you if you don’t leave.”

Orville left, and they didn’t see him again for another 10 years.  Thelma tried to work; Dad put the two kids through school.  But after a while Thelma felt she was being a drag on Dad, and she said she’d go back to Orville, if he’d stop beating her.  So Doc and Dad confronted Orville, and Doc (now 18) told his father that if he laid a hand on Thelma again, Doc would kill him.  He never did. They lived together until Orville Senior died in 1971, of Parkinson’s.  My sister attended his funeral, and says that my Dad looked up at the sky as he left and said, “That’s one man that’ll never hit a woman again.”






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3 Responses to The Old Quilt

  1. Ike renfeild says:

    Wonderful personal and local history.

  2. Trish Hicks-Braudrick says:

    thank you for the story, sad but true, unfortunately I didn’t have my grandma or my dad in my life very long so I appreciate the history, I had heard stories that my grandfather was a terrible man.

    • hedera says:

      Glad you appreciate it, Trish. Knowing family history is always good. Yeah, unfortunately, your grandfather was pretty awful (I didn’t include half of what I know in that post!), but he managed to produce some pretty nice descendants, so maybe we should just move on.

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