Why is this car grinning?

author Phyllis Wheeler discusses the family car, Monster

Monster the car is grinning. He thinks he won. I've been fighting with this car ever since we got him, nearly ten years ago. Took him home, and our mechanic discovered somebody had put antifreeze where the brake fluid ought to be. The car … [Continue reading]

My mother, mom and opera singer

Jane Ruth Elder, my mother, grew up in Tacoma, Washington, during the Depression in the family of a teacher. In those days, teachers were paid little. It became apparent that her parents could not afford music lessons for her, even though that is … [Continue reading]

My father, engineer

This slide rule belonged to my dad, the engineer. Eldred W. Hough, although he was the oldest son, wasn't named for his father, Thomas C. Hough. Instead, his younger brother got the name Thomas Hough. So, why did the younger one get the … [Continue reading]

Thomas Hough, immigrant and entrepreneur

Thomas Hough, an enterprising young man, was born in 1844 into a lower-class family in Yorkshire, England, and didn't like his prospects. His education stopped at the sixth grade, and his dad was a wagon driver. He got a job at the local  cotton mill … [Continue reading]

Granny Jennie’s mother, stuck on the prairie

This is about Granny Jennie's mother Mary Jane, who dominated the Illinois prairie around her in the late 1800s but may have longed for a trip to ... Switzerland? My great-grandmother, Mary Jane Robertson, always wanted to go to Switzerland, or so … [Continue reading]

Granny Jennie, a genteel lady

Phyllis Wheeler's family heirlooms

My Granny Jennie, born in 1885, hand-painted this pitcher in an art class in college. She had a college degree, rare for her generation, especially for women. I remember her the best of all my grandparents, because she traveled south to live with … [Continue reading]

My grandfather, a surveyor

I am sorting stuff from the attic and basement. I ran across my grandfather's precision surveying instrument. Later on I knew his wife Granny Jennie -- she was as mild-mannered as they come. But I never knew Grandpa Tom. He died before I was … [Continue reading]

The tale of Granny’s punch bowl: where next?

When I was a kid, Granny had a punch bowl in the middle of her dining room table. She was an old lady, with feet in the Victorian era. So the punch bowl is flowery and Victorian. It probably had belonged to her  mother, a high-society lady for the … [Continue reading]

Am I a racist?

Racism is a topic that my heart keeps returning to. What is it? What causes it? Why is it so hard to escape? Why do many white people from outlying areas of my city avoid driving in predominantly African-American sections? Answer: They tell each … [Continue reading]

My project: novels for tweens

I've been up to a lot of things lately, and one of them is a series set in the fictional St. Louis suburb of Sugar Creek in 1969 or so. One protagonist is Ollie (left), a 15-year-old musician who just moved to Sugar Creek from New York. He's … [Continue reading]