Family HIstory

All The Farms

  • August 8, 2008

Back L–R: Peter Babij, Paul Babij, Anna Chuda Babij, John (Ivan) Babij, Henry Balboni, Olga Babij Balboni.
Front: Jimmy Babij


All The Farms

By Anne Spearman Chavez
August 8, 2008

Gramma and Grampa Babij were married in New York City. Grampa’s first name was actually Ivan. He always called Gramma “Hainka” which is a version of “Hanna”. Could it be there were not just two “Anna Chudas” and our Gramma’s real name was “Hanna?” (Editor’s note: There could be more than just two, however we must understand that “Anna” is a derivative of the given name “Hanna”, so maybe Grampa was just alluding to that fact when he called Gramma “Hainka”.)

Son Paul was born in New York City and Gramma was pregnant with Pete when they moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Pete was born in Cleveland during the worldwide influenza epidemic. Gramma contracted this flu and was deathly ill but survived. She suffered lung damage that plagued her the rest of her life. The small family moved to Detroit where Olga was born.

Estelle Babij Spearman was born August 19 (?), 1926 in Inkster. The house was the size of a garage. Grampa Babij worked at Ford Motor Company. Wages were $5.00 a day. Gramma Babij was very ill after the birth and Grampa had to care for Paul, Pete, Olga and the new baby whom he always called “Stephania.” It was Grampa Babij who had the birth registered and there are some questions about the exact day she was born and her first name. It is possible that Estelle’s name was really Stephanie?

The young family moved to Peck in 1929 when Estelle was 3 years old. Grampa knew Mr. Sklar who owned a coal yard. It was Mr. Sklar who rented the house to the Babij family. The house was across the road from the Potts farm on Peck Rd. This farm house was very, very big. Grampa built a “stone boat” which he used to haul stones from the fields. He even helped neighbors remove stones. The stone boat was also used to haul children through deep snow. The family would called Estelle “Malenka” which means “little person.”

It was on the Sklar farm that the Babij’s took in the Valentine Kresnicki family. During that time, Gramma received a letter from the Old Country which detailed her family’s troubles with the Polish people in the area. There were beatings and destruction of property. Gramma was very upset and bitter. Mr. Kresnicki pleaded with Gramma not to blame all Poles for this trouble and apologized for the behavior of his countrymen.

It was also on the Sklar farm that Estelle had a little dog she named “Jennock.” The dog was hit by a car on Peck Rd and died. She cried so much that Pete and Paul dug up the dog so Estelle could see him just one more time.

Yale Road Farm (from Google Maps)

Yale Road Farm (from Google Maps)

The next farm they moved to was a little yellow house on Yale Road next to the cemetery (next to Jack Kerrigan’s farm.) Estelle was in kindergarten by then. It was while they were living in this little yellow house that Estelle embarrassed her sister Olga at school. Olga carried Estelle’s half pint of milk to school and had forgotten to give it to her before classes started that morning. Estelle left her classroom and barged into Olga’s class demanding “Olga! Where’s my milk?” All the children laughed and Olga’s teacher gave Estelle a severe verbal reprimand for interrupting. The family would go into town every Saturday night and watch the free shows. It was not a bad time.

The next place was a farm near the Lynch school. It was during this time that Estelle met Helen Jermalowicz who would be her lifetime friend. Belva Sweet was a teacher at Lynch school and was a favorite of both Estelle and Olga. It was at this farm that Grampa was attacked by owls while he was walking home from work. They did not stay on this farm very long. The house caught fire from sparks that flew from the chimney igniting the roof. The neighbors across the road watched as the house burned and did not try to help. Gramma saved the “parena” (feather comforter) and the sitting hens.

The next farm was the Arthur Miller farm in the Aitken Road area on Brown Road. It was a good sized house. The family worked sugar beets to make ends meet. It was bad, hard depression times. Gramma gave bread and tea to a hobo which was considered a brave thing to do by the neighbors and a crazy thing to do by Grampa. Arthur Miller’s wife, Maggie, was very nice to Gramma and Olga. She was also a very brave woman. One of the young girls in the community came to Maggie and confided in her that her grandfather was raping her. It was Maggie who reported this crime and stood by the girl.

The next farm was the Johnson farm in the Aitken Road area near Buel along Brown Road near Stilson Road. Estelle was around 8 years old. The brick house was extremely cold in the winter and Estelle, Grampa and Gramma slept on a pull out couch in the kitchen. Snow would come through the cracks in the bedroom windows. Grampa had a Ukrainian story book. It had “baika” [байка]– folk stories. It was about 8 inches thick. Estelle does not know what happened to the book. Grampa would sit Estelle on his knee and read from this book on the cold winter nights. Olga and Pete went to Croswell HS during this time. Pete would take turns with the neighbors driving to school. It was on the Johnson farm that a neighbor, Mr. Hawks, had an extremely dangerous bull. Estelle was terrified of this beast which eventually broke lose and killed Mr. Hawks.

The next farm was the Albert and Mae McMurray-Miller farm. 160 acres that was one-half flammable muck. One time when it caught fire, it not only burned the fences but also the feet of Grampa’s mules. But here were the best of memories. It was in the Aitken Road area on Brown Road. Grampa and Gramma rented it for $120.00 a year. The Millers daughter had tuberculosis and the family wanted to take her to Arizona. Mr. Miller wanted Grampa to rent their farm and home. The famous family dog, Boots, came with this farm. Boots herded the cows. Grampa sold a horse but Boots was so attached to that horse that he followed the new owner. Boots stayed away from home for 6 weeks. Finally, he came back. The Babij family had dairy cattle and there was a cement tub in the milk house. Water was pumped into the tub to cool the milk cans so they’d be ready when the milk man picked them up.

It was on this Miller farm that the Babij children first met Aunt Anna (her maiden name was also Anna Chuda), her husband Ed and their children Toots and Walter. Uncle Ed called Gramma a “gospedenia” which is a “woman of means – grand lady of the house.”

Elsie Babij, Aunt Anna, Anna Babij

Elsie Babij, Aunt Anna, Anna Babij

Not only was the house and farmland wonderful, the family got their first car, a 1937 Chevy. Brand new. Paul was attending U of D and lived with the Devine family at 16802 Monica Ave, Detroit MI. Mr. Devine was a foreman at Chevrolet and Paul worked here while attending U of D. Paul also made $5.00 weekly pitching for the Deckerville baseball team. Mr. Devine helped Paul get the Chevy for Grampa. At the time, the Chevy workers were on strike and the baseball team manager was a Mr. Amey who also was the local Chevy dealer. Mr. Amey kept giving the new cars to other people. Paul mentioned this to Mr. Devine and miraculously, Grampa got his new Chevy.

There was a big garden and large cellar on this farm. Estelle says they always had plenty of potatoes. Gramma hoed up Mrs. Miller’s lost wedding ring in the tomato patch. Mrs. Miller was overjoyed that her wedding ring had been found.

It was on this farm that both Norm and Goldie Miller and Arthur and Maggie Miller went with Gramma and Grampa for their citizenship.

Wedding Party 1941

Wedding Party 1941

It was also on this farm that in 1941, Elsie and Paul were married on the same day as Gramma and Grampa’s 25th wedding anniversary. Yes. This was the farm with the very best of memories.

The last farm was on Todd Road. Gramma and Grampa bought it from Mrs. Williamson who was the grandmother of Gaylord Todd. It was the first home Gramma and Grampa ever owned and the house was beautiful. There was no running water inside this house. The water pump was outside and they always had to prime the pump to get water. When Grampa was renovating the pantry and dining room area, the hutch was discovered. It was 1941: the same year as the wedding and wedding anniversary. It was the first time they had electricity. Gramma and Grampa had their first refrigerator (Gramma called it the ice box). Olga and Hank bought it for them in Detroit and delivered it. Estelle met her lifelong friend, Alta Shockley, while living on Todd Rd. Estelle attended high school in Sandusky and boarded with teachers. It was this year that Estelle went to New York City to attend her cousin Toot’s graduation from Hunter College. The speaker at the ceremonies was Eleanor Roosevelt. WW II was in full force and both Paul and Pete were serving. There were no workers for the farms. The neighbors on Todd Road were unfriendly.

In was in 1942 or 1943 that Gramma, Grampa and Estelle moved to the house in Croswell. It had been the old J. H. Richardson Grocery Store originally established in 1883. That company name was stenciled into the front bedroom windows on the second floor. It was the first time the family had both electricity and running water in a home. Grampa secured a job at Mueller Brass in Port Huron.

This was the house of our childhood memories. This was where the yard started on Main St and went all the way back to Brown St. This is where we would run through the rows of corn in Gramma’s garden. This is where the old barn fascinated and frightened us. This is where a few pigeons came back year after year to the old coup on the second floor of that barn even though Grampa died by his own hand in 1950. We must remember all this and make sure we give this information to our children and our children’s children.

Anne Spearman Chavez and Estelle Spearman.

Originally posted August 8, 2008.
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