“The Life and Times of Irene Violet (Anspach) Wolfe”
By her son Larry E. Wolfe (edited and compiled by his brother Brian A. Wolfe)
It was the day after Christmas in the year 1922, and even though it was the day after The Lord Jesus Christ’s birthday is celebrated, one of the greatest gifts to me, next to my wife and The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, was born into the world. It was the day my mother Irene Violet (Anspach) Wolfe was born!
Born to Margaret Soliday and Clarence Anspach near Indiantown Gap, PA she was the first of their seven children, five girls and two boys. Mom’s Mother, Grandma’ Anspach was the glue that held together their family and Mom learned much from her Mother and her steadfast Christian faith which she learned from her Mother Grandma’ Soliday.
Mom, the oldest, was educated in a one-room schoolhouse along with her siblings, Minnie, John, Wayne, Dorothy and Betty Lou (Mary Anne [youngest] died as an infant). The school only accommodated the first eight grades! Did I say only? Eight grades with one teacher seems like an impossibility but it was the right combination for learning as these schools produced many top notch students, which if I may brag a bit on Mom, she was one of them.
She showed us her ‘Straight A’ report card many a time when we, me and my brothers, were draggin’ behind! We still have that report card of hers and the school picture to remind us of her determined ‘Get the job done’ outlook on life. You can almost see it in her expression in her eighth-grade picture!
Her name, Irene, means ‘Peace’ in the Greek language, but peace never seemed to be something she possessed. Her life since I can remember was filled with turmoil, for the most part due to her father, a reckless sometimes ruthless man, and her husband, a wayward veteran of World War II, my father Warren A. Wolfe. Although Dad was described as a friendly, likeable guy by those who knew him, he definitely came home from the war, a different guy, with a multitude of bad habits including a dependence on alcohol. Drink and the surrounding lifestyle it brings wrecked our home for it was his priority, not his family.
Mom had to go to work to pay the bills and put food on the table before I was in school, and that was only the beginning! We lived in Fredericksburg, PA then, although Dad and Uncle, my mom’s Uncle John, tried to make it in D.C. working in a large supermarket, while we commuted, movin’ on, from an apartment in D.C. to Fredericksburg. The ’41 Buick Mom drove back and forth on the weekends was the first vehicle we owned that I can remember, and Mom knew how to get us home in that ‘ol straight eight, the first car she dubbed: ‘The Jet’.
My twin brothers, Bruce and Brian, were born in October of 1951 while we lived in Fredericksburg. My oldest brother Warren Jr. was eight years old and I was six. We lived in a right nice Brick Rancher which they bought with G.I. Bill money. You had a choice, higher education or a lump sum of money. They chose the money for a down payment on our beautiful brick home.
We walked to school through the town of Fredericksburg, past one of the first cut-up poultry plants in the USA, but it wasn’t long until we moved to Ono, PA where ‘Butch’ later nicknamed ‘Pooch’ (Warren Jr.) and I walked to a one room schoolhouse just across new Rte. 22. We lost our home in Fredericksburg through a storm window scam which caused us not to be able to make the mortgage and the payment on the windows. So, our home was sold, and we used the minimal equity to buy another place in the area.
The twins were still in their high-chairs, just one-year old babies, when we arrived in Ono, only a few miles from Fredericksburg. Pooch and I didn’t realize it then, but Dad was now ‘On the run’, owing money to other creditors! Before we knew it we were living in Annville, renting a house on Sheridan Avenue, no longer owning our home as Dad drank away the money from the sale of our house in Ono. All this in just a few short years…the spring of 1952 to the winter of 1953!
We stayed in Annville for only a couple of months it seemed, and suddenly one day when we came home from school, Dad and Mom were packing up for yet another move, throwing ‘stuff’ into cardboard boxes! The dreadful toll it took on Mom was beginning to surface. She lost most of her lovely belongings and all of her dreams in just a few short but tragic years. It was now the summer of 1954 our next destination was a two-story frame house ‘In the curve’ back in Greenpoint, a few miles from Dad’s home and birthplace.
December 14th, 1954 Mom had a ‘Nervous breakdown’ and was committed to Wernersville, the state mental institution! Pooch was eleven and I was almost ten, and we moved in with Grandma’ Harriet my Dad’s mother who lived in Greenpoint. The twins just turned three years old and they went to Mom’s family. She was released six months later and briefly moved in with her parents, Grandma’ and Grandpa’ Anspach and my Aunt Betty mom’s youngest sister who was just a few months younger than Pooch. This was Mom’s attempt to get away from Dad, and, of course us four kids went with her.
Dad and Mom were now separated. A few weeks later we moved into Billy Stichler’s ‘Trolley-car like’ three rooms in a row cabin in the Appalachian mountains just a mile or so from Grandma & Grandpa Anspach’s place. No running water, just a spring out in the woods, a woodstove, and plenty of wood to chop for us young-uns’! I can still remember the Christmas we spent there in 1955, Pooch’s most memorable he told me recently.
He and I went out into the snowy woods looking for a Christmas tree that would be suitable for Mom and us kids. We topped a few hemlocks after we couldn’t find anything else, and finally, chilled to the bone, we dragged (one of the topped hemlocks) home. With scarcely any of her belongings intact after the harrowing experiences she had gone through in just the past couple of years, Mom gathered ‘Her boys’ together and we had a Christmas regardless of how the outward circumstances seemed!
But, Mom wasn’t really in the best mental/spiritual condition after her stay in Wernersville, and the ‘Cabin experience’ was really hectic with Mom driving Pooch and I to school in Hershey, saying that the ‘One room school’ where she went to school wasn’t good enough for her boys. Her old one room schoolhouse a couple of miles down the road is where Pooch and I were going to school at the time. The twins turned four while we lived there and finally got rid of their baby bottles, throwing them out into the deep snow one wintry afternoon!
I remember Dad visiting on one occasion driving a black ’40 Ford four door sedan, and after the dust cleared, he went on his way with one half of the windshield broken thanks to Mom’s kitchen pot which she threw at him as he backed out the driveway! Mom and Dad somehow reconciled, and eventually they got back together early in 1956. Mom was only thirty-three! What a life!
We were movin’ on, on the road again, moving to a huge farmhouse north of Annville we called Herr’s, which was the name of the other family that rented the opposite side. It was while we lived there in the spring of 1956 that Grandpa A. J. Wolfe (Our Great-Grandpa who owned the store in Greenpoint) died! It was the first death in the family that I can remember and it had a somber effect on us all, especially me as I spent a few summer’s day at Grandpa’ and Grandma’ Wolfe’s place enjoying the beauty and blessedness that was there.
We stayed at Herr’s less than a year, once again movin’ on, on the road again, moving into a garage on old Rte 22 near Ono that had an upstairs where we slept. That’s right…a GARAGE! The downstairs was wide open, concrete floors, with a garage door on one wall. I distinctly remember waking up one morning and all of us were covered in soot! Black faces and all! Obviously, our crude oil furnace had malfunctioned during the night. Our guardian angels must have been working overtime for Irene’s Boys!
It was now the winter of 1957 and Mom’s fifth child, my brother Frederick John, was born on February 21st. Pooch and I treated Freddy like a new toy when he was in his playpen, flashing the camera causing him to throw back his arms…he hasn’t gotten over it since, HAH! Grandma Harriet was there to help Mom during the first few weeks of Fred’s life, and handily caught Pooch and me playing hooky from school to boot!
The twins would turn six in October so off to school they went in September. You guessed it, a one room school was where they started, about a quarter of a mile from where we lived on old Rte.22. I’ll never forget the day Mom dressed them and they just walked out the door, by themselves, off to school as though they had been doing it for years! But, that was life in the ‘50’s.
More of Irene’s life story to follow!
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