Jan 10 1919 Douglas Isle of Man, d2001 Sussex England
Anthony Humphreys, b Oct 6 1921 Douglas Isle Man, m May 30 1953 in Rosemont
Methodist Church, DOuglas Isle Man, d 1998 Sussex England
is from a personal letter written by Ann Humphreys to her American family
MY AMERICAN~ FAMILY
- Having an American family as well as a small manx one was a great
consolation when I was growing up as an only child. My Mother
was Annabel, daughter of Silas and Annie Sknlner, and she had
settled in the Isle of Man because she had met my father there
while on a visit from California with her Mother. I had few
cousins on my Father's side, only one of whom was near my age so
my childhood was rather solitary, but it was enlivened by Mother's
stories of her childhood on the ranch with brothers and sisters
and pet animals, and by the letters and parcels that kept arriving
for Christmases and Birthdays from her relations in America.
- America, especially the West, seemed very remote from us all the
days before air travel and mother at times missed her family very much. So,
although it was a two-week journey by boat and train to Berkeley, California,
my father arranged to bring us twice
to visit Grandma Skinner, in 1921 when I was two years old and in
1924 when I was five. Some of my earliest memories are of Grandma
and Aunt Mona who lived with her, and of Aunt Carrie and Uncle Lew
Nortoil and Ruth alld Dan who lived in Napa.
- Grandma Skinner was good-looking, slim and very erect. She was
always calm and settled any little domestic crisis without
fuss. I remember wanting to wash doll's clothes in her kitchen.
Mother said "No", thinking I was too Small and would make a mess.
Gradma gently over-ruled her and told George the Chinaman to
bring a box for me to stand on so that I could reach the sink.
How wonderful to find such an understanding Grandmother!
- On our second visit to Berkeley Mother , who had done a year's
medical training at Stanford before changing to teacher's training,
arranged for a Doctor friend of hers to take out my tonsils and
adenoids. At that time it was thought that tonsils were liable
to become infected and cause various diseases, and mother always
believed that American medical care was in advance of British.
Going into hospital was a surprise and shock; but when I came
home there was Grandma standing at the bedside with a bowl of
her chicken soup and everything quickly became all right again.
To be fair to Mother she had her own tonsils and adenoids removed
by the same doctor afterwards and had quite a bad time. I
remember going to see her in hospital, and strings, perhaps tying
off arteries, were hanging out of her mouth.
- Aunt Mona was short, plump and cheerful. She was then unmarried
and was teaching math at a High School in Berkeley. She drove
us around in her car very competently. In the evenings she
enjoyed playing cards with my parents and Grandma.
- Ruth Norton, who was studying at Berkeley University, came to see
us quite often at Grandma's. She held some office in her sorority
at that time and of course went on to become Assistant Dean of
Women and Dean of Housing at Berkeley.
- On both visits we stayed some of the time in Napa. Aunt Carrie
and Mother were very close. They both enjoyed socialising -
calling on the Imries and Sacketts and dressing up and entertaining
in some style. Mother was quick and vivacious, Aunt Carrie more
serious and would always think of something nice to say about everyone.
- As Uncle Lew was a church trustee they went to many church
functions, where Aunt Carrie carried off prizes for her grape
jelly, which was always perfectly set, pale lavender and delicious.
Uncle Lew was tall and slightly stooped, with a large high-cheek-
boned face, a little aloof but very kind. He would get up early
in the morning and busy himself in the yard and kitchen before
going off to the Tannery. Dan was at High School and already
having articles and poems printed in the school magazine - the
first step in his distinguished career which led to the Professorship
of English at Charlottesville University. He was very nice to me,
reading stories and letting me help him bath his floppy-eared pup
known affectionately as "The Flea-Factory".
- Unfortunately, for my Father at least, I caught whooping-cough on our
second trip just before we were due to go back to the Isle of Man,
which meant that Mother and I had to have our visas extended for
several months and he had to go home alone. As I had
passed my sixth birthday when I recovered, it was decided that I
should go to school in Napa for a few months. I went with two other
little girls who lived near Aunt Carrie and remember standing in the
back of a car with them and singing proudly "We're in the First Grade"
while beating time on the back of the seat in front of us - or maybe
on the driver's shoulders!
- On these visits to America in the 1920s we did not go to Oregon, so
I did not meet the Oregon-based members of the family. That had
to wait until after the war in 1947.
- Before passing on to that I would like to mention that there have
been some disadvantages in having an American family as well as a
British one! The first was discovering when I started school in the
Isle of Man that the way I pronounced words like "Tuesday" and "new"
and "tomato" was considered wrong so I had to re-learn them. Then
Mother did not at first believe that I needed a school uniform
because American children did not wear them. She sent me to school
the first day in a dress and all the other girls were wearing regulation
gym slips and blouses and I felt terribly conspicuous and embarrassed.
- In time we settled back into British ways. School and University
and growing-up pushed into the background my awareness of being
part American. The next reminder of it did not come until I came
home in 1940. The war was on though there was little sign of it
in the Island, except for the shortage of young men who were away in
the Forces. Because there were not many girl graduates on the Island
at that time and also perhaps because my Father was a Member of the
House of Keys (the Manx Parliament), the Governor's Secretary asked
if I would like to become his Personal Assistant. Of course I was
absolutely delighted, but my euphoria did not last long. In just
a few days he wrote again saying he could no longer offer me the post
as he had learned that my Mother was American. America at that date
had not entered the war and the official reasoning was: those who are
not with us may in the future be againet us! It was very disappointing.
However soon afterwards "H.M.S.St.George" a Royal Navy Boys' Training
Establishment was evacuated to the Isle of Man and I joined the
Women's Royal Naval Service and started five year's interesting work
which took me to postings in Scotland and England and almost to
Australia- but V.J.Day happened while I was on draft leave.~
- In 1947 my parents and I made our third trip to California to see
Aunt Carrie and we also saw Uncle Willl and Uncle Tom, who had motored
down from Oregon. Norman and Beata Owings were driving them back
to Oregon and kindly took me with them. At last I was to have the
opportunity of meeting the cousins whose photos had been sent to us
down the years. They had seemed remarkably good-looking and relaxed
in outdoor settings very different from Manx or English ones and I
was worried that we would not have much to say to each other, but it
did not turn out that way. They were all very friendly and Kirt and
Johanna quickly made me feel at home at the ranch. It was wonderful
to have the company of so many cousins near my own age. I found that
our different ways of looking at things added interest to our relation-
ships. A number of them were married and had their own homes which
it was fun to visit. I thought the girls were working quite hard but
they had the advantage of possessing refrigerators and washing machines
and other labour-saving devices which were not then generally installed
in English kitchens. Entertaining was much less formal than in
England and the food - all that meat and fruit and ice-cream - was
sumptuous compared to our post-war rations. The sheer numbers of my
American relations had always fascinated me, but from 1947 I knew them
as individuals and friends.
- In subsequent years air travel has made it much easier for English
people to visit America and for Americans to come to Europe. My
husband and children and I have taken advantage of this several times
and we have had the pleasure of welcoming some of our American relations
in England. We hope that the exchange of visits will increase and
will enrich family life on both sides of the Atlantic.
- The Skinner family tree has indeed flourished and spread in many
directions in the century since Silas and Annie planted it in Oregon.
I am proud to be a small far-flung part of it and to recollect that
Silas and Annie were born, like me, in the Isle of Man and that they
travelled all the way back to Andreas Isle of Man for their wedding.
In fact their romantic association had started in Andreas twenty-four
years earlier, When 12 year old Silas had been sent to fetch the midwife
for a Mrs.Callow who gave birth to a baby girl who was named Ann Jane.
This was an unusual beginning to a partnership which stood up to all
the rigours of pioneering in the West and founded a remarkable family.