As I believe I said in an earlier post, Patty was born into a well-to-do family in the early twenties of the twentieth century. How it became a well-to-do family is, at least partly, as a result of the American Dream.
My great-grandfather had the Dickensian name of Sam Weller. His father was a tollgate-keeper and Sam was one of several children. Oral history has it that Sam and his half-blind donkey started by making clay flower pots. In reality, he opened a small pottery, making clay flower pots but whether there was really a half-blind donkey isn’t mentioned in the official files. After several years, he and his young bride, Minnie, moved to the ‘big city’ or, actually Zanesville, which was a nearby town of a reasonable size. Minnie, along with her sisters – all fine seamstresses – set up as dressmakers while Sam grew his pottery business. After just a few years, the Weller Pottery was big enough that Minnie no longer had to work. The pottery grew and prospered, branching out into decorative items as well as flower pots. Sam and Minnie’s family also grew. In 1896, Louise was born and two years later, Ethel – Patty’s mother – came along. The family lived in a wonderful house on Market Street which I remember with great fondness. In 1900 Sam was the first man in Zanesville to own and drive a car in the town.
Finally, I hear you sigh!
Patty was good-looking and intelligent, like her mother. She grew up surrounded by fine objects, beautiful clothes, and a governess. The governess, Miss Keller, according to Patty, was horrible. If Patty couldn’t eat because she felt sick, Miss Keller would force the food into her mouth and hold her lips closed until she swallowed. I’m not sure how long Miss Keller lived with Patty but she definitely caused some of Patty’s later anxieties.Patty went to the local elementary school, played and had adventures with the local children. One story I can remember occurred during prohibition when Patty and her friend, also named Patty, I think, went around looking through people’s windows for signs of ‘hooch’ making. In one cellar they spotted lots of empty glass bottles which they decided must have been collected to be filled with illicit alcohol. I think they rushed to tell their parents who did what parents normally do when their children come to them with outlandish stories – nothing. Fred and Ethel divorced sometime in the early thirties, after their son, Frederic III, was born. Patty stayed with her mother in Zanesville while she was at primary school but seems to have gone to live with her dad in Los Angeles and went to the Douglas girls’ boarding school where she studied and also learned to ride and play polo and learned to shoot a rifle. When she left the Douglas school she went to Smith College in Massachusetts but was only there for a year before she got married. My mother was very bright and should never have had children! She should have stayed at Smith, gone on to an academic life, started painting, perhaps, or writing. She never really knew what she should do with her life and, after two divorces and three daughters, decided she would come to England and work as an architect for the US Navy. ( I wish I had bothered to sit and listen to my mother’s stories when I was younger but I had ‘stuff to do’ – as most young people have – and, by the time I would have appreciated and taken in the history of my mother, it was too late. From my thirties onward I began to feel a great antipathy towards her (with good reason!) which really lasted until she died when I was just entering my seventies, at which point it was too late anyway, as her memory was full of holes.)
Part two soon!