Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett

Archive for the tag “pratt”

So who are these people?

If I’m going to be serious about writing this blog – and I am, and if I want you to be serious about reading it – and I really do, I think I should make it easy to figure out who all these people are and how we are related to them.

This is my mother’s pedigree chart showing four generations.  You just figure out how you’re related to Joyce Verla Pratt Berrett, and then follow the pedigree lines to see how you’re related to the rest of the folks.  Simple, right?

joyce pedigree ancestryI hope that in time you’ll become familiar with these names and begin to feel a connection with all of these families.  I know I have!  Maybe you’ll even find a name for your next child . . .

Stay tuned for the same chart for the Berrett family.



Making time for family

Pratt Family about 1950 Frank, Janet, Madalene, Judy, Joyce

Pratt Family about 1950
Frank, Janet, Madalene, Judy, Joyce

As we know, Pop started work at the General Motors factory when he was 16 years old.  All of his working life, until the time he retired, he always worked the afternoon/evening shift at the “plant,” completing nearly 40 years working for Chevrolet.  As a result of this schedule, Pop wasn’t home in the afternoon and evenings when his daughters were there and didn’t have a lot of time to spend with them except on weekends or vacations.  In order to make the most of possible family time, Gram fixed the big meal of the day at noon, and Joyce, Janet and Judy all came home from school at lunch time to eat with the family.  Even when the girls reached high school age they continued to come home for a family meal.

As the girls got older, some evenings they would still be awake when Pop returned from work.  The ping pong table in the basement was a real draw for many of the high school crowd, and it wasn’t unusual to have several young men waiting for a chance to beat Mr. Pratt in a game of ping pong.  Pop and his sister, Nonie, played a lot of ping pong together, and even won some city tournaments.  As Pop’s reputation as a winning ping pong player got around, several of the high school boys were anxious to challenge him for a win.  So even though he was no doubt exhausted from a long shift at the factory, Pop usually accepted the challenge and nearly always beat the boys!

Michigan winters offered other family activities.  While living on Vincent Avenue, Pop built a big and very heavy sled that they called a bobsled.  Sitting up high on big runners with a steering device made from pipes, 5 or 6 kids could ride the sled together.  Their house was at the top of the hill, and the Pratt girls and their friends spent a lot of snowy days racing down the hill on that big sled.  Unfortunately, the sled was so big and so heavy that the kids who rode it down weren’t strong enough to pull it back up and had to have a parent help them get it back to the top for another run.

Also during the winter, city officials flooded a nearby park and turned it into an ice rink.  The Pratt girls loved meeting their friends at the rink on winter evenings.  Their house was close enough to the rink, that Gram could turn the porch light on as a signal to her daughters that it was time get home.  When they saw the porch light, the girls often would gather a group of friends and bring them home for hot chocolate and  ping pong.  Gram was always willing to have a big pot of hot chocolate ready for the chilly skaters, and the kids usually stayed until Gram insisted that the evening was over!

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both
useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the
worth of time
by employing it well.
Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets,
and life will become a beautiful success.”   
-Louisa May Alcott

Modern Conveniences

Christmas, 1950 Frank, Madalene, Judy (front), Janet, Joyce

Christmas, 1949
Frank, Madalene, Judy (front), Janet, Joyce

Pop and Gram settled into their new home on Myrtle Avenue.  The Depression had eased, Pop had regular work at the Chevrolet factory, and they were able to live quite comfortably raising their three daughters, Joyce, Janet and Judy.  The house was small – about 20′ x 30′ total and had just two very tiny bedrooms which opened directly off the living room.  Neither of the bedrooms had closets built in, so Pop  enclosed the back porch which was then always referred to as the shed, and he built a closet in that room so the girls had a place to hang their clothes.

For a number of years, the Pratt family didn’t enjoy the luxury of an electric refrigerator, but had an ice box in the porch/shed for keeping food cold.

Vintage Icebox

Vintage Icebox

Iceboxes were made like cupboards with inner linings of tin or zinc and insulated with material such as cork or sawdust.  Closing with hinged doors, they were built to hold blocks of ice on an upper shelf, allowing cool air to circulate  through the lower food and drink cupboards below.  A hose ran down through the ice box, and as the ice melted it dripped out of that hose into a container.  Some of the better models had spigots for draining the melted ice water from a catch pan or holding tank, but families using the cheaper units (like the Pratt family) placed a drip pan under the box which had to be emptied at least once a day.  After many times of SOMEBODY forgetting to empty the drip pan, and cleaning up water that had overflowed all over the porch floor, Pop drilled a hole in the floor and put an extension on the hose so the water would run directly on to the ground outside.  That was real convenience!  I can only imagine their excitement when they finally purchased their first electric refrigerator!

The little house was complete with a basement which Pop kept clean and whitewashed regularly.  The basement housed a huge coal furnace, into which Pop had to shovel coal all winter long.  It heated the house through a complex mess of pipes that came out of the furnace at varying angles and lengths.  Because of the pipes running haphazardly in every direction, these furnaces were often referred to as “the octopus.”  Along with the furnace, the gas hot water heater was in the basement.  Any time the family wanted hot water, someone had to go down and light the heater with a match and then wait about 30 minutes for the water to heat.  Although that process sounds extremely tiresome for us today, in the 1940s it was considered a great convenience to have hot running water “on demand.”

Gram’s wringer washer was also kept in the basement beside a set of double laundry tubs.

Wringer Washing Machine

Wringer Washing Machine

Every Monday was wash day, and Gram would light the hot water heater and then fill the washer tub with hot water.  She filled the double tubs with cold water and then got down to the business of dirty laundry.  Sorting the laundry into loads, she would start with the white clothes in the washer and turn it on.  When she determined they had washed long enough, – no automatic cycles on that machine –  she would put each piece of clothing through wringer into the first tub of cold water for rinsing.  She then repeated the rinsing in the second tub of cold water, finally running the clothes through the wringer and into a basket to be hauled upstairs and hung on the clotheslines in the backyard.  That process was repeated until every load was done.  Every load was washed in the same water beginning with the whites and working through to the last load of dark clothes, probably Pop’s dirty work pants and shirts.   If the weather was bad, they had to hang the clothes in the basement to dry which meant about 2 days of drying time, so everybody hoped for good weather on Monday!

I know Gram had this washer for a number of years, because I remember “helping” with the laundry when I was young.  I was fascinated with the system and thought it lots of fun!

Judy and Madalene - 1948 Doesn't this look like Catherine Sanders Fairall?

Judy and Madalene – 1948
Doesn’t this look like Catherine Sanders Fairall?

Obviously, no-iron fabric and steam irons were not available when the three Pratt girls were young, so their dresses were starched before being hung to dry and then had to be sprinkled and ironed very carefully.  To reduce the amount of laundry, the girls changed out of their school dresses every day as soon as they got home and wore the same dress for several days each week.  The girls learned to handle an iron when they were in their early teens, and then became responsible for doing their own ironing.

 My life sure seems easy!


Happy 87th Anniversary!

Mr. and Mrs. Francis Taylor Pratt
23 April 1927

Frank and Madalene Pratt on their wedding day with Frank Stone and Connie Roberts

Frank and Madalene Pratt on their wedding day with Frank Stone and Connie Roberts

Marriage License and Certificate

Marriage License and Certificate

The Marriage License lists Pop’s age as 21, but in reality he had just turned 20 on April 18.  A few years earlier, he had lied about his age to get permission to work, and it appears he kept that story at the time of his marriage!

107 Years Old!

Pop's birthplace in Wolverine, Michigan August, 2010

Pop’s birthplace in Wolverine, Michigan
August, 2010

107 years ago today, in the little village of Wolverine, Michigan, Francis Taylor Pratt was born to Iva E. (Compton) and Nonie P. Pratt – their first child and only son.

I’ve never been able to locate an actual birth record, so I’m supposing that recording births in Wolverine in 1907 was probably casual at best.   This is a very poor copy of his application for a birth certificate made 3 November 1939.

Application for delayed birth certificate

Application for delayed birth certificate

This is the birth certificate he received in response to that application.

Copy of delayed birth certificate

Copy of delayed birth certificate

Somewhere I’ve heard (maybe from my mother?) that Nonie and Iva were living in a boarding house at the time Pop was born.  I’ve often wondered what kind of experience that was for Grandma Iva – it couldn’t have been great to give birth in a boarding house.   Aunt Judy and Uncle Dave identified this home as where Pop was born.  In his short history, Pop described his birth home as “made of sheet metal and simulated glass.  It looked like a black house, but really it was sheet metal.”  These pictures certainly don’t match that description, but it’s very possible that the house has undergone major renovation over the years.  Or it’s possible that this isn’t the right house!

Regardless of whether this is the actual house or not, I like being able to connect an event with a place, and Wolverine is a great little village to connect with!

Beautiful big trees surround the house

Beautiful big trees surround the house

Old, but reasonably well maintained

Old, but reasonably well maintained


You can always go home

5396 S. Linden Road August, 2010

5396 S. Linden Road
August, 2010

As we pulled in the driveway that August afternoon, my first thought which I may have spoken aloud was, “It’s not as big as I remember.”  I don’t know when Pop and Gram moved to the house at 5396 South Linden Road in Swartz Creek, Michigan, but it’s the only house they lived in that I remember well, and as a result it was high on the list of places we had to visit when Carolyn and Dad and I made a trip to Michigan in August, 2010.

Breezeway between the house and garage

Breezeway between the house and garage

My grandparents’ house of my childhood, seemed to have shrunk over the years!  I especially noticed the size of the breezeway – the screen porch that connected the house and the garage.  In my memory it was huge, or at least large enough to have a crowd of people sit and visit for an evening.  In reality, it looked as if two or three chairs would have easily filled the space.

Granddaughters on the front porch

Granddaughters on the front porch – August 2010

And the porch that accommodated all of the grandchildren for an Easter picture, really wasn’t very big at all.

Gram and Pop with grandkids - Easter, 1963

Gram and Pop with grandkids – Easter, 1963

Of course the house has changed over the years.  New siding, front porch railings and a big bay window were the obvious exterior updates, and I’m sure that the inside had been spruced up as well.  A stranger answered our knock on the door.  After all, Gram and Pop have been gone for more than 30 years. But that house is at the heart of many of my cherished childhood memories, and even though it looked a little different than the last time I was there, when we pulled  in the driveway the memories came flooding back.  Carolyn and I got a little giddy with our reminiscing, and we were laughing and talking over each other as we listed the good times as fast as we remembered them.

  • “Do you remember the closet in the den where the Life game was?”
  • “We always took baths in the laundry sink in the basement!”
  • “And what about the basement toilet that flushed up?”
  • “Wasn’t there a creek that ran behind the house?  Yeah, we weren’t allowed to go back that far without somebody with us.”
  • “Pop always had the basement fridge full of Vernor’s (ginger ale) and Red Pop.”
  • “But don’t forget the food room where Gram kept all the Christmas treats.  That room was like a secret hide out.”

Do these pictures stir up your memories?

In the kitchen - 1962

In the kitchen – 1962

The copper bottomed pots and pans always hung above the range top.  Occasionally we would get to shine the copper bottoms with a special sponge and cleaner.  Work was always more fun at Gram’s house!

Front yard at 5396 S. Linden Road

Front yard at 5396 S. Linden Road

The front yard seemed so big, and it was bigger than an average lot in town, but not as huge as my childhood memory indicates.  Linden Road (behind us) was a well traveled route and as a result we weren’t allowed to play in the front yard much.  And I was totally rocking my skinny jeans in 1966!

New red coat - November, 1972

New red coat – November, 1972

I was always fascinated with the interior shutters on the living room windows.  Clearly, Gram was very fashion forward in her home decorating.  And that round table in the corner now sits in a corner of my house.  I think I’ll find a more prominent place for it.  After all, it is a piece of my history!

What do you think of when you remember Gram and Pop’s house?

Home, Sweet Home

After living with Pop’s parents for a time Frank and Madalene were able to get a home for their family and move out (probably about 1935.)  At the corner of Vincent Avenue and Wolcott Street in Flint, they moved into a house next to the house owned by Pop’s sister and her husband, Nonie and Ted Vaughan.  Pop and Gram had a close relationship with Pop’s sisters and their husbands, and they spent a lot of time together.  I know they played a lot of cards as a family, and after their kids were all grown they traveled together sometimes.

These pictures were taken several years later in 1946, but they show these two couples having fun together on a bicycle built for two.

Ted Vaughan (front) - Frank Pratt, August 1946

Ted Vaughan (front) – Frank Pratt, August 1946

Frank, Madalene Pratt (front) - Nonie Pratt Vaughan (back)

Frank, Madalene Pratt (front) – Nonie Pratt Vaughan (back)

Financially, Pop and Gram were still recovering from the Depression, and had to be very careful how they spent their money.  A home telephone was not in their budget, but Pop and Uncle Ted ingeniously designed an extension line between the two homes.  The men ran a wire across the vacant lot that separated the two homes, rigged a buzzer system, and installed a rather crude extension phone.  When callers wanted to talk to the Pratts, they called the Vaughan’s number and Aunt Nonie would buzz the Pratt’s home and someone would answer on that extension.  No doubt that system was probably illegal or against regulations of some kind, but it worked very well for the time needed.

Some years later Frank and Madalene bought a home at 127 E. Myrtle and lived there for a number of years.  They paid about $1800 for the house, but took about 15 years to pay off the mortgage completely.  They never failed to make a payment, but the small monthly installment didn’t add up very fast.

Lynnette on porch at 127 E. Myrtle Avenue

Lynnette on porch at 127 E. Myrtle Avenue

When they finally sold that house, they made a huge profit because real estate prices had jumped considerably.  As a result they were able to buy a nice home in Grand Blanc, a suburb of Flint.  These pictures were taken at that home.

Lynnette - Yvonne - David Easter, 1957

Lynnette – Yvonne – David
Easter, 1956 or 1957


David - Yvonne - Lynnette April, 1957

David – Yvonne – Lynnette
April, 1957


David - Lynnette - Yvonne April, 1957

David – Lynnette – Yvonne
April, 1957

I have vague memories of this home – mostly centered around the kitchen eating area that had a bench built into the corner.  Do any of you have memories of the house in Grand Blanc?

Dressing the part

Pop ice fishing, January 1938

Pop- all dressed up for ice fishing, January 1938

I came across this picture in a letter to Mom from Aunt Nonie (Pop’s sister).  My, how times have changed!

” . . . when the men went fishing even alone, with no women, they always wore white shirts and their ties.  I am sending a picture of your Dad ice fishing.  Also they wore their fedora hats.  I miss seeing all the white shirts and ties.  When we started to golf, us women wore dresses, as there wasn’t anything as slacks.”

The Great Depression – Living the reality

Gram and Pop married in April, 1927, just about two years prior to the Great Depression.  At the time they were married, Pop worked at the Chevrolet plant and Gram had a job at Flint Mosaic Tile Company. They lived near many family members in Flint, Michigan which was a fairly large industrial city.  The arrival of the auto industry was a huge boon to Flint, and Pop and many of his relatives spent their entire working careers in “the plant.”  I would guess that they had a comfortable living

The newlyweds made their first home  in an apartment upstairs from some friends.  After a while they bought their first home which, according to Pop’s sister, was little more than a shack!  The house was very small, and so to increase the size, Pop dug a basement by hand.

Michigan basement with partial cement block wals

Michigan basement with partial cement block walls

He began shoveling dirt out from under the foundation and hauling it away in a wheel barrow until he had created a dirt floored cellar, or what they called a “Michigan basement.”  A Michigan basement is usually shallower than the normal basement and is considered a step up from a crawl space.  It was common in older homes built with low foundations, and it was very popular in the roaring twenties when credit was easy and families wanted more room for storage.  Sometimes the walls of the basement were reinforced with cement or cinder block, but I don’t think this young couple lived in the house long enough to upgrade!

he Michigan basement was probably accessed from outside the house.

Their basement was probably accessed from outside the house.

I can only imagine how tedious the work was, and how long it must have taken to complete, but Pop and Gram were very proud of what he had accomplished.

The first child to join the family was my mother – Joyce Verla Pratt.  She was born on 2 October 1929, and on October 29, 1929 the stock market crashed, officially beginning the Great Depression.  I don’t suppose Pop and Gram immediately realized the effect the crash of the stock market would have on them, but it wasn’t long before they began to suffer the repercussions of that infamous day.  On one visit to their home in probably in the winter of 1930, Pop’s father noticed that the house was cold.  He questioned Gram and Pop and quickly realized that they simply had no money to buy coal to heat the house.  Grandpa Pratt was very upset to realize that they were living like that, especially since they had a young daughter.  He left and quickly arranged for a ton of coal to be delivered to their house.

Madalene with baby Joyce - summer 1930

Madalene with baby Joyce – summer 1930

Frank and Madalene had purchased this first home on a contract for less than $1000, but as the depression became worse, they knew they could not make their house payments.  Pop was finally able to get rid of the house by paying a man about $100.00 to buy the contract from him.  They felt fortunate to be able to do this so they did not have to declare bankruptcy and ruin their credit.  During the year that they lost the house, Pop worked every day that any work was available and still made less than $600.

After relieving themselves of the debt of their house, Pop and Gram and little Joyce moved in with his parents.  Located at 305 Stone Street, Grandpa and Grandma Pratt’s home was very near the auto plants and surrounding railroad tracks.  In recent years, that area has deteriorated to the point of being unsafe even in the daytime, but in the early 1930s it was a neighborhood full of working class families living the American dream in homes of their own.  The house was very modest, with just 3 little bedrooms and one bathroom and a small living/dining area.  At the time they moved in, at least one of Pop’s sisters still lived at home, so the living conditions must have been very cramped.  But in spite of the challenges I expect that they were grateful to have family willing to share their little home.

After a few years, their financial situation improved, and Frank and Madalene were able to once again purchase a home of their own.  Stay tuned . . .

Frankie Pratt – A dog of the first water

Frank and Madalene Pratt on their wedding day with Frank Stone and Connie Roberts

Frank and Madalene Pratt on their wedding day with Frank Stone and Connie Roberts

Pop and Gram met about 1925 when they were about 18 years old.  They dated for a couple of years, and then married in April 1927 just after Pop turned 20 years old.  Gram was six months older than Pop, and throughout their marriage she took a lot of teasing about being an older woman!

The little information I have about their courtship is from the tape recording we made with Pop, so once again – in his own words:

I met Gram at a dance.  We met through a mutual friend, Jay Hardman’s wife, Tootie.  She wanted Madalene to go down to this dance to meet Frankie Pratt who was supposed to be a dog of the first water!  Well, I had a motorcycle and two cars, and it made my mother mad.

Frankie Pratt (1927) - a dog of the first water

Frankie Pratt (1927) – a dog of the first water

I had a brand new 1925 Ford Roadster.  It cost $425.  I had a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a Chevrolet touring car.  After all, a man about town – you have to have wheels!

1925 Ford Roadster

1925 Ford Roadster

Madalene came down to the dance, and I was stag.  We had a lot of dance [couldn’t understand what he said] in those days – no beer or anything.  I had a girl out on the fire escape, and I wouldn’t let her back in the dance until she kissed me!  Of course, she didn’t fight me too hard.  That’s where I met my wife.

Madalene Pratt and Tootie Warren

Madalene Pratt and Ellen “Tootie” Warren

I was introduced to Madalene by Tootie.  She wouldn’t go out with me for a long time.  Her father wouldn’t let me meet her.  We went around together for a couple of years.  I used to go out there to her house when I was just monkeying around on my motorcycle.  But when I wanted to take her out, I took my roadster.  Her parents were Mormons, and her father was just an old fogie, and he didn’t believe in that sort of thing [motorcycles.]

In a letter to my mother, Pop’s sister, Nonie wrote a little about Pop as a young man: “I know Frank had a motorcycle and rode it recklessly.  He went out to see your Mom (Madalene) and passed a car, fell off his bike and slid on his arms, and had them both bandaged up.  Anyway, he couldn’t even dress himself.  I don’t know who unzipped, or probably unbuttoned, his pants!”

And so the wedded bliss began!

Frank and Madalene - perhaps on honeymoon, 1927

Frank and Madalene – perhaps on honeymoon, 1927

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