More About The Rockwells
By Frank Boyd
Let me tell you some more about the Rockwell family. In particular, your great great-grandfather Lewis Rockwell, father of Frank Lewis Rockwell my maternal grandfather.
As I have indicated before, your greatgranddaddy Frank Lewis Rockwell, whose middle name is after his dad's, was born in Fairchance, Fayette County, Pennsylvania back in 1889. He was one of seven children to Lewis Rockwell and his wife Elizabeth Conn. That was your great great-grandmother Conn. They lived there in Fayette County in the Fairchance area for many years. I'm not too sure what the circumstances were, but Lewis and Elizabeth divorced. I get into the story I guess, my recollection or memory or memory as I fancy it, of course was when I was a very young boy, probably about 1937, when I would have been about six years old.
Great great-granddaddy Rockwell, Lewis that is, at that time was living with his daughter and her husband. His daughter, Frank's sister Jenny, her real name was Virginia but everybody called her Jenny. I guess a bastardization of Ginnie. Anyway Jenny was married to a man named Les Moser, and they were living on a big old farm out in the country. My recollection is, that it was something, I think I had heard that it was like 100 acres in size.
It was back off the road up a dirt road, back off the main road. We have not been able to find this farm yet, but your Aunt Peggy and I are seriously investigating it and the next time we go up to Uniontown, we are going to try to get into some of the old land deed records and find out about it.
But in any event, Uncle Les and Aunt Jenny were living there on the farm and your great-granddaddy Lewis lived out in the stable. They would not allow him into the house. What he did was, and I think it either had to do with the fact that he made moonshine back in the woods and partook of his own product I might add, or it had to do with the stigma that was related to divorce.
But in any event, they treated him somewhat less than human as far as I'm concerned, in reflection now looking back.
The things that I remember were that he lived there in the stable. He had taken one of the stalls in the stable. He had a bunk built into one wall and he had his table and his chair and his shelves. He had nails driven into the wall that he hung various articles of clothing on, and he slept there in the stable with the horses. He took his meals out on the back porch in the back of the house. Aunt Jenny would make his meals and she would call him or ring a bell that was out there on the back porch, and he would come down to the back porch and sit on the back porch and eat his breakfast and eat his dinner. My recollection is that they didn't feed him but twice a day.
In any event, my remembrance of him is that he was, for me, a tall man, broad-shouldered. I can see now, looking back where his son Frank took his build from. Basically, these men were built like large fireplugs, if you will. Great-grandpap Lewis would pick me up and carry me around on his shoulders just about everywhere I went.
His dress was interesting. In the summertime he wore long-handle underwear; the kind that have the short arms and short legs, with the trap door in the back and a pair of bib overalls which were tucked into knee-high rubber boots. He had a full beard and moustache, which he kept trimmed with sheep clippers that he had there. He had a piece of mirror up in the stable where he stayed, and when his beard or his moustache got too long to be comfortable, he would take the sheep shears to it, hand-operated shears, and he would clip it down to where he was comfortable with it. His hair was worn in a big long braid down the middle of his back and he always had a headband. I don't remember what it was or what it was made of, but he always had some sort of a headband on.
Now, in the wintertime, he would wear long-handle underwear, with the trap door in the back and a flannel shirt and of course, the bib overalls. Only now, if it was really cold, he would wear his canvas jacket. And as far as his foot covering was concerned, he had a kind of a felt shoe that he wore inside of the old rubber galoshes that he buckled up; and those were the clothes that he wore.
Now, the way it worked was that twice a year the folks would go out and buy him a new pair of overalls and a new set of underwear and he would go up into the stable and change into his new duds. I don't think he ever wore any socks by the way. He would bring out the old overalls and the old underwear and he would drop them out in the middle of the barnyard and uncle Les would pour coal oil over them and set them on fire, and they would burn them. I understand now what the reason was, apparently he never took a bath. He smelled of tobacco and whiskey. As a child, I never knew of him having an offensive odor, but he did smell like the animals that he was around and spent so much of his time with.
One of the very interesting anecdotes about him was that in the wintertime he would come out of the stable. He would get up in the morning and he would walk down to the watering trough, which usually had a skim of ice on it in the wintertime. It would go below freezing and there would be ice on it. And he had a big old marble enamel dipper that was hanging on a nail there at the watering trough; and he would crack the ice on the trough and take a big dipper full of water. He would drink it down and he would walk over to the hog trough, the hog pen and do a sort of a gagging action, and he would empty his stomach out into the hog pen. Now, why he did that, I'll never know, but I do remember seeing him do it and I remember Grandma Louella saying that was how he cleaned his stomach.
Grandma Louella's relationship with her grandfather, cause that's what Lewis was he was her grandfather, was rather interesting. When she got her check from the government while dad was gone on the third expedition on the Antarctic Service Expedition in 1939 to 1941.We were living there in Uniontown and she would get her check on the first of the month, I guess it was or the 5th of the month. She would go into town and she would cash it. If I wasn't in school, she would take me in with her and she would go into the tobacco shop and she would buy a number of cans of Skoal snuff, the old wintergreen snuff and that sort of thing.
She would buy maybe a half-dozen packages of Red Man chewing tobacco. I seem to recall that in those days the chewing tobacco and the snuff were bout a nickel apiece. She would then go into the Woolworth five and dime, and she would buy bags of these little pink and white lozenges; they were a candy. In those days, Woolworth sold candy by the pound. You could get chocolate covered peanuts and chocolate covered raisins and a whole variety of different candies. But, one of the popular things was that these pink and white lozenges. I think one tasted like mint and the other was something like spearmint.
But anyway, after she gathered all of that up, she would load me up in the car. She had an old Plymouth two-door coupe that she had bought second-hand. And she would drive out there to the farm and she walked up and there was like a little table or some sort of an apparatus or something there at the side of the door to the stable. She would put the snuff and the chewing tobacco and the candies there and leave them. When I'd ask her who those were for she would say they were for great-granddaddy Lewis.
Copyright © 2001 - Frank Boyd