This year, 16 students from Lyons Elementary participated in the nationwide Grannie Annie Family Story Writing Celebration. They researched and interviewed their families for stories that happened before they were born, and turned these pieces of oral family history into written stories for others to enjoy. In doing so, they not only preserved family history, but strengthened family bonds and their own writing skills. These stories cover a wide range of themes–tragic, poignant, and humorous. The students committed themselves to this project. Much of their writing and revising was done outside of school on their own time. We hope you enjoy the stories as much as we did.
–Pam Browning, teacher
The Recorder will publish several of these stories weekly for the next few weeks.
A day in Whale’s Tale in the Hill District, Pittsburgh
by Clive Besen, fifth grade
You may have thought some of your ancestors had it hard but I bet it is nothing compared to what my mom went through. My mom was homeless on the streets of Pittsburgh as a teenager. You can’t imagine what she went through before this.
I walked down the street and counted my earnings, $23.78. Another day of being homeless is not another day you want to live, at least in Whale’s Tale in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. I am a homeless teenager from Pittsburgh my money might not even be enough to get dinner. When you’re homeless every day is a struggle, a fight for survival.
My friend Crosby’s parents should be picking me up soon though they had let me live with them for a bit but they couldn’t keep me, they said they would try and find a charity. I missed living with them, every day I still had a place to live. I wish I still had a home. I see a car coming down the road I think it’s Crosby I wave and run over but I realize it’s the wrong car and a person spits at my feet. Hunger claws at my stomach. I almost want to yell after them. This was my life. It wasn’t fun being homeless.
I saw Crosby’s parents driving down the street. I waved. Crosby waved back and got in the car, I asked where we were going, “It’s a surprise,” says Crosby’s mom. I couldn’t wait to know where I was going. I was afraid I might be disappointed so I tried guessing a bit. “Is it a charity?” “Not quite” whispers Crosby’s mom, my friend and me talk in the back while the parents drive.
As we arrive I see a sign saying “homeless center for teens” and I know for once I have a place to stay. That’s a feeling I haven’t had before. It feels nice to have a home.
by Brooke Bell, third grade
Unfortunately, my great-grampa Maurice died before I was even a particle in the universe. He was a great man and I would really like to meet him and know him.
My poor mum was a freshwoman in high school when he had a stroke. You usually think of it being rainy at funerals but at my great-grampa’s funeral there was a rainbow. His spirit was free!
He lived in Pittsburgh his whole life. He was born in November, 1909. He had to drop out of school in the eighth grade to work because his father died and he was the oldest of 7 kids and they had to put food on the table somehow. He had a passion for writing, literature and poetry. To make money, he would stand outside of the newspaper building waiting for an assignment. This was called being a “stringer.” He often wrote stories about fires because the staff reporters were out doing planned stories. He did this for a couple of years. He eventually got hired as a staff reporter. He did the crime beat and he knew everyone at the police station because he went there to get his “scoops.”
In 1934 he helped to start the newspaper guild of Pittsburgh because he felt that reporters were paid unfairly. A guild is like a union. A union always unites!
My great grandfather certainly hated injustice of any kind. He even helped to start a bank so that Irish people could get loans to buy homes. It was called “Brookline Savings and Loan.” Regular banks wouldn’t help them.
According to my mom, he was a very loving person. I’m very sad I missed him.
Caring is key
by Berit Larson, fifth grade
I vividly remember my Nana telling me all kinds of stories when I was younger. She would tell me the typical Prince and Princess fairy tales, but she would also tell me stories about our family’s past. Stories about a small act of kindness that started generations ago and that still has an impact today.
Back when the Great Depression started many men didn’t have jobs so they couldn’t feed their families. Too many people didn’t have jobs, food or shelter. During this time, men would travel from town to town living in train cars. At each train stop they would try to find a job, or a meal. They were called “hobos.” Today they would be referred to as “homeless.”
My great-great grandmother lived during this time. And even when times were rough for her and her family, there was always something she could do to help those who needed it. They didn’t have a lot, but one of her favorite ways to help was to always make enough food for an extra meal. When the hobos arrived in her small town of Carlton, Minnesota they would try to find someone that could give them a place to stay, or a hot meal. My great-great grandmother was one person that they could rely on. They knew that her house would always have a hot meal waiting on the back porch.
Soon she passed on this tradition of kindness and caring to my great-grandmother, Nonny. While Nonny was raising my Nana and her beloved sisters, she continued to leave hot meals out for those who needed them. Her delicious hot-dishes and her famous rye bread became well known among the travelers. When the economy changed, and the hobos stopped riding the trains, my Nana took the lessons from her mother and grandmother, and did whatever she could to help people that were less fortunate than her. And she still does whatever she can to help today.
This kindness is what our world needs today. To work together and help the ones who need it. Now it is my turn to continue the family tradition, and see others as my great-great grandmother did.
The suit of opportunity
by Audrey Voss, fifth grade
William squinted. He barely saw the faint outline of the harbor. When they pulled in, William thanked the gondolier, paid him, and was off on his way. William looked up at the tall buildings and down at merchants advertising their sales. Italy was perfect. He stopped and felt the brisk wind ruffle his chestnut hair. He let the feeling of the city sink into him.
He was here for one day until he was sent off to America to join his uncle in Chicago. So he had to make the best of it.
The next morning when William woke he didn’t feel eager about being in Italy anymore. He was starting to get concerned about getting to America all by himself. Italy was scary now that he was alone and only thirteen. What if he couldn’t find the boat leading to America? What if he got lost in this new scary country and couldn’t go to America? He decided to stop worrying, which seemed impossible at the moment, and go enjoy his last day in Italy.
William thought today he would look around Italy a little more. He peered into the first store briefly and decided not to buy anything there. The next store he couldn’t find anything that interested him either. Later in the afternoon after William had visited several stores and had no luck he was walking back to the inn when one store caught his attention.
In one of the windows there was a slick black suit. It was shiny and new and the buttons were pearly white. William stared at the silk tie and ornate collar. He strode in and goggled at how many deluxe and expensive suits and ties there were. He yanked the money that he hadn’t spent out of his pocket and went up to the desk clerk.
“Excuse me sir, how much is that suit by the window?”
“Twenty dollars, it’s on sale.” The desk clerk said.
William was shocked. He had exactly twenty dollars. But he shouldn’t spend all his money like that. That money was for the whole trip to America. What if he needed it? But didn’t he want to look good when he arrived in America? His mind was in a silent dilemma, and the desk clerk was clearly puzzled at the fact that William wasn’t talking and was staring off into space. Then William made up his mind.
The morning to come had been an exciting one. William got to wear his new suit down to the harbor. Despite his empty pockets, he was excited about getting on the ocean liner to go to America. When the fog horn blew and people bustled onto the ocean liner, my great great grandpa, William, looked out into the vast blue ocean where the great ship broke the surface of the glassy water. His life was looking better, and he was as well, and he smiled at the sight of opportunities in America to come.