Hazel and Nellie 1939
It seems like everyone is having twins these days - Julia Roberts, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt. My mother was a twin. She and my Aunt Hazel were born in 1925 in rural southern Ohio. Aunt Hazel is thriving today at age 86 - a strong, sassy woman who is always up-to-date on all the latest happenings in world news and celebrity gossip. My beloved mother, however, passed away almost 13 years ago after undergoing heart surgery. Mom was (physically) the weaker twin, having developed a heart valve defect when I was born. She was also more quiet and shy than her sister, Hazel. She said her Mom used to always tell her, "that's okay, because still waters run deep." Twins were not nearly as common in the 1920s and 1930s as they are in today's world. I used to spend hours talking with Mom about her early life, and now spend hours on the phone with my Aunt Hazel. They both shared bits and pieces of their lives with me during our talks and in letters that give a little slice of life of the era, as well as what it was like growing up as a twin in the 1920s and beyond. In their own words:
From a letter from my Mom dated December 25, 1993:
I answered some of your questions when we talked on the phone, so now I'll answer more and give you a little information on my childhood days. Dad worked for a Mr. Spurlock and delivered milk door-to-door, as they did back then, and he also drove a school bus when Hazel and I were born. As he left to pick up the kids one evening, he had to first stop and send a doctor to the house as Mother was in labor with us. The doctor told Dad, "if there's one baby, I won't charge anything for delivery, but if there's two, I'll charge double!" Mother told me in later years that she thought she got me and Hazel mixed up, and I may be the one named Hazel, and Hazel may be Nellie. When Dad knew there was already one baby, he said, "I'll name her Nellie after Mr. Spurlock's daughter!" So then Mother said, "well, we'll name the other one Hazel after his other daughter." I remember we lived in a big, two-story white house by the Ohio River. In the backyard, we could walk way back and there was a bank, looking out over a hill to the river. We would sit there and watch the paddleboats and river boats go up and down the river. There was a big lighthouse with steps going up to it that your uncle had to light it in early evenings to help the boats on foggy nights. When I was in the first grade, I fell off the steps at school and cut my forehead and broke my leg. So I couldn't finish school that year, and they made Hazel stay home, too. This seems odd to me now because it was like we were one person (don't you agree?)
From a letter from my Aunt Hazel dated January 8th, 1999:
One of my earliest memories is when we were five years old and started school. Mother had made us long-sleeved yellow and white dresses that had little elephants all over. Both our favorite color is yellow. I remember us being scared the first day and Nell hid behind a door and started crying, so I started crying too. All the kids were staring at us because twins were very rare back then. An older boy said, "why are they crying?" Another one said, "One is crying, because the other one is." Later that year, Nell fell off the outside fire escape. It was winter and the stairs were covered with ice, so she fell into the snow below. We used those stairs to go to the outhouse because our school room was on the upper level of the building. All the kids heard her scream and I knew right away that it was Nell, because we always knew where the other one was at. There were no emergency numbers or vehicles back then, so the teacher wrapped Nell in a blanket and took her and me home. When we got home and Mother saw us getting out of the car, she started screaming. Nell had cut a big gash in her forehead and broke her leg, so they kept her in a big chair for about six months and she wasn't allowed to walk. I don't even remember her having crutches, but I do remember Dad pampered Nell a lot! One night he came home from work and gave her some red beads. I was so jealous and always hated the color red after that! Anyway, Nell carried a scar from that fall on her forehead and that's one way people would tell us apart.
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