Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ollie's Story: Part 2

Olivek Christensen Myers was Janet and Honoria's nursemaid. Her story is one of the few from Clermont's servants that we are lucky enough to know. I wrote up much of what I could find on Ollie in August. Born in Denmark, entered America at age 25 in 1906 and employed by Alice as her children's nanny until her marriage to Christopher Myers sometime before 1920.

But it pretty much ended there. Where did Ollie go after her marriage to Christopher?

As I mentioned in the previous blog, we have a sizable stack of Ollie's post cards (about seven or eight inches thick, actually), and I had go looking through them today. They are packed with images of towns like Portland, Maine, Atlantic City, or any of several Connecticut locations. Many come from assorted vacations or travel in Europe or western America or Florida or Mexico. Some come from friends and relatives in Denmark. I had never really noticed, but they date from around the time of Ollie's move to America all the way to the 1960s. That's well after her marriage to Christopher and move away from the Livingstons.

Ordinarily I avoid looking at the backs of the post cards. The tiny, cramped handwriting--always, always in cursive!--is just a headache waiting to happen. Some are even written in Danish, which I have no training in whatsoever.

For once however, my eye was caught today by large cursive handwriting on the back of an unassuming postcard of London Tower.

There it is: "For Oli, from Janet," dated 1921. The Livingstons had taken off for Europe earlier that year, and here is eleven-year-old Janet remembering her nurse Ollie on a jaunt to England. From the address it appears as though Ollie and Christopher had returned south to Brooklyn in the Cobble Hill area.

A few years later, Honoria remembered her old nurse as well and sent her a postcard of Clermont (newly remodeled in the mid 1920s with the removal of the 19th century porch).

"We thought you might like one of these as they really make one see the house as it is know [sic]," Honoria wrote.

The most exciting postcards that I found however, suggested Ollie's family life after her years caring for the Livingston children. I found quite a few mid-century postcards addressed to "Aunt Ollie" from another girl named Ollie. Young Ollie traveled by steamer to Europe and wrote her aunt almost a dozen postcards from her numerous northern European destiantions. It was 1958, and Ollie had moved to the Bronx. In the postcard below, sent from the Swedish American Line vessel, young Olie confidently states that she is "not seasick." I wonder if Olie the elder had held on to some sickening memories from her own jounrey fifty years before...

I also found two postcards adressed to "Granny." These brief messages refer to vacations in the Catskills and Florida. "The children" are having a lovely time, the writer assures Olie, and they are visiting with a friend named Helen (I found a lot of Helen's postcards too, but her handwriting is much harder to decipher). I hope that these two postcards are from Ollie's children and grandchildren, enjoying some family vacations. The year is 1955, and a child born as late as 1922 would be old enough to have their own young children by then.

Personally, I like the thought of Ollie finally having time for children after her job with the Livingstons ended.

Sadly, the short nature of postcard notes gives us very little information, but at the very least we have the pleasant thought of Olie retrieving a little stack of mail from her front door, sorting through it, and smiling to receive the notices of her friends and family.

The latest postcard I found was dated 1966. Olie would have been about 85 years old. Was this end of her life? And how did her postcards make it back to Clermont? Many questions still remain.

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