One of The Best People I Have Known In My Life

Started by gitano, March 14, 2023, 09:33:11 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Perlina Webber Mckenzie, my maternal grandmother. AKA "Big Mamma". EVERYONE but her kids, called her that. She died a day before her 100th birthday.

Her folks emigrated from Ireland in the 1870s after the Potato Famine that struck Ireland. She married my grandfather, Oscar Murphy whose parents also emigrated from Ireland. I knew my maternal great grandfather, Henry McKenzie, the man in the picture, but not well as my mother was the youngest of seven children. He was already in his 90s when my folks got married. He made it to 100. His life was hard. These folks were genuine pioneers of the American West. They migrated seasonally from Oklahoma to Texas, fought (losing battles) with Indians, were raided by Jayhawkers from Kansas, and much more. The story is, (and backed up by a newspaper article that I have never seen), that Henry killed one of the last grizzly bears in Oklahoma. WITH A KNIFE!

Big Mamma 'ruled the roost'. Her sons were still afraid of her when she was in her 90s. :laugh: It was funny to watch these grown, fairly gnarly men, acquiesce to her. Seems consistent with Irish women, or so I have heard in recent years. She knew more about the plants of the American West than any of my botany professors. She could make "stuff' from them that you would find hard to believe. "Cough medicine" was honey and whiskey. She probably used more than a gallon of Merthiolate  and Mercurichrome on me in my 'wonder years'. I never saw her hit any of us grandkids, but she could pinch your arm 'til you yelped! She was a staunch Baptist, but this was before the fanatics got hold of that denomination. She didn't wear her religion on everyone's nose. I loved that woman.


PS - I forgot to mention that Big Mama married an Irishman - Oscar Murphy. Immigrants tended, (and still do), to marry within their culture. Mostly because that's who they 'hang around with.'

Be nicer than necessary.


And a happy (American) St. Paddy's Day to the folks of THL, who are so inclined on this fine day, to partake of some corned beef and cabbage or a pint o' the finest Irish ale.
Or mebbe both!
(I'll be doin the former, but alas, not the latter)

I never would have guessed that with the name Skvorc, you were the least bit Irish.

Sounds like there musta been an Eastern European(?) somewhere in that family tree.
Or is it derived from Scottish/Gaelic?
QuoteRestrictive gun laws that leave good people helpless, don\'t have the power to render bad people harmless.

To believe otherwise is folly. --  Me


My paternal grandfather emigrated from Croatia in 1910. I'm not sure when my paternal grandmother's parents emigrated from Croatia. My Granddad was a great guy. Kind of the male counterpart to Big Mama. Again because my Dad was the youngest of 7, I didn't get to know my Granddad as well as I would have liked. He was quite a guy. Came to America without speaking a word of English. First job was in a library in New York City. That didn't last. :laugh: He ended up in the large Croatian community in Chicago where he went to work for my grandmother's dad driving a beer wagon like those horse-drawn Budweiser ones you see on TV. When he married my grandmother, they moved to Oklahoma City, where he went to work for the Ford Motor Company. Family legend has it that he was responsible for the "running board". When he retired from Ford, he opened a cobbler/watch repair shop in a spare room in his house. He and I spent our time in there, or in his barn. I would always leave his house with an armload of "stuff". Much to my parent's disapproval.

Neither family, my mother's or my Dad's, were happy when they got married. Dad's family was Croatian Catholic (my Dad was an alter boy for many years); mother was Baptist AND DIVORCED! :eek: Almost polar opposites! Nevertheless, both families liked each other's spouse... or never let on otherwise.

My mother, all Irish, was the spittin' image of Maureen O'Hara. I kid you not. Red haired, blue eyed "Colleen". (Her name was Mary Kathleen.) My Dad, all Croatian, was a VERY handsome fellow. Jet hair and hazel eyes. Was locally known for his singing voice; Oklahoma Golden Gloves champion in his weight class (Welter weight if I remember correctly). He set several state athletic records in Track and Field, and football. (His dad wouldn't let him go swimming until he learned how to swim. :laugh:) He was a sparring partner of Rocky Marciano. (I have some Marciano memorabilia from those days.) My mother didn't like my Dad boxing, so that didn't survive the marriage. (Best, probably.) He worked as assistant manager of a Piggly Wiggly where he met my mother. After they married, he went to work at Tinker Air Force Base making bomb sights. He then got drafted into the Korean War. He spent 32 years in the Army, ending up as a Colonel. I THINK he was a 'spook' in his later years in the Army because he had some very 'interesting' postings. Like the US embassy in Ethiopia for one - where he hob nobbed with Hailie Selassie. (That, not family legend, as I visited him there in Addis Ababa, and was party to some of that hob nobbing.)

So, genetically but not culturally, Irish and Croatian, I am. I don't 'claim' either, although I think there are culturally genetic remnants! My mother was known for her temper, and my siblings and I seemed to have inherited some of that. Also, Croatians aren't exactly known for their mellow dispositions. Family legend has it that my Grandfather and his brother HAD to emigrate because my great grandfather killed some guys that were "cat calling" my great grandmother - and was thereafter HUNG!

My paternal Grandfather - Ivan Pavl Skvorc, AKA "Thithic" - LEFT Croatia, and apparently had no regrets. He wouldn't allow his children to speak Croatian, even though both he and my grandmother did around the home. I think that by the time my mother was born, most of the Irish had worn away from the McKenzie clan. Most of the immigrants of that era LOVED America, and wanted their children to be AMERICANS! Not Irish-Americans or Croatian-Americans. Having lived "over seas" for many years, I can say unequivocally that I'm an American through and through.

However... :grin: My daughters are named Erin Kathleen and Caitlin Marie...

Be nicer than necessary.


Talk to yourself. There are times you need expert advice.