Ruth Winnefred Hamilton-Fullmer

Ruth (Hamilton) Fullmer

Years ago, Mom (Grandma Joan) asked Grandma Fullmer to write down anything that she could remember into a notebook. What resulted was a fantastic resource. The following is a transcript from those notebook pages, including her memories from her childhood, her pets, her grandparents and a little about her relationship with Grandpa Fullmer (James Ira Fullmer). Enjoy!

When I was about five years old, Vera Alexander helped my mother (who had a heart condition) in the summer. Vera was on eighth grader. It seems I would get up in the morning and couldn’t find my clothes. Vera said to go back into my room and say these words, “Shirt, shirt, you little flirt, show me now your little skirt.” Naturally I looked about and found my clothes. I thought those words were magical and I thought Vera was a great person. She let me brush her hair.

On February 22, 1922, we had a severe ice storm. It started by raining first and then getting colder and freezing on everything. The next morning it was crash, bang all the time. It was a school day and I was determined to go to school. We had so many trees, my parents wouldn’t let me go as I would have to walk through them. Then I saw Charlie and Tena Lyon going across the marsh to the school. Then I really was upset. They were the only ones who got to school and had to turn around and walk home as the teacher didn’t make it.

Bruce Hamilton said the Hamiltons in Scotland were hunters and fishers (salmon and herring) near the River Clyde. They went to Northern Ireland. He said they came t New York state then to Canada where they lived for a while — long enough to bring a golden crabapple tree with them. Jung’s sell the tree now. George Klingbeil is the one who was interested in the tree and is responsible for Jung’s having it. It’s called the Golden Nugget and is used for pickling. The Hamiltons then came to Fox Lake, WI via Detroit. I don’t know how long they stayed in Fox Lake or what they raised in Fox Lake. They then came to Russell Flats which was a good hunting area. The Russells came one year before Hamiltons.

Isabelle Russell told me that the early settlers of Russell Flats had the following menu for the day:

Breakfast – oatmeal

Dinner (noon) – potatoes, meat and a vegetable

Supper – Tea and toast

As told by Isabelle Russell:

Great, great grandfather Hamilton had to borrow $100.00 to see him and his family through the first winter in Wisconsin. Great Aunt Mary couldn’t go to school that first year as she had no shoes. Her mother made boots out of blankets. The next summer after her father had paid back the $100.00, he bought Mary a pair of shoes and had tears in his eyes when he gave them to her. Great Aunt Mary said she didn’t mind no going to school as she didn’t like school anyway. Children went to school all year in Ireland. They came to Wisconsin in 1852.

As told to me by Ellen Wheelock (a cousin):

Uncle Eldon and Len and Tom Hamilton and another cousin Bill Russell lived in the house on Main Street (now owned by Dahlkes, 707 S. Main) when they went to High School. They did their own housekeeping and cooking.

Told to me by my father:

My father went to high school when he was 16 for three years. (It was a 3-year school then.) He had a room and got his own meals and worked at Hamilton’s Hardware after school. Uncle Jack and Uncle Hugh Hamilton were partners in the hardware then.

When I was a little girl I had a playhouse outside. The rooms were marked off by stakes and binder twine. Furniture was orange crates, stumps, etc. I remember having an old buggy seat, which I used for a couch. Dishes were old and chipped and tin cans used to make mud pies, old silverware found at home in my playhouse. Other girls in the neighborhood had playhouses and when we went to visit we played in each other’s houses.

We were married when people began to recover from the Great Depression (June 6, 1936). Jim was making $18.00 a week and I $78.00 a month, plus food and lodging. Jim was managing a service station on Whitewater Avenue, Fort Atkinson. There were benefits from his job — car equipment and gas at cost. We lived in an old, large house next to the station. I worked at UW Hospital (Madison) until Christmas after we were married. Spent my days off in Fort and sometimes other times when I wasn’t on call. I was a Gyn & Ob surgical nurse at UW Madison (Wisconsin General Hospital).

Dogs — 1936, we had a black and white bulldog (bull terrier) named “Bob” (he was named before we got him). Later we had another bulldog “Mitzie”. 1963 we had a cocker spaniel named “Sandy” and a black Lab named “Blackie”. These were our special dogs.

Told to me by Hazel Fulmer, 9-25-82:

William Fullmer was a blacksmith at a logging camp somewhere between Antigo and Merrill when he received word of his daughter’s death (Kathleen F. Neale). In order to take the train home, he had to walk several miles to either Merrill or Antigo. He had a lantern and was walking at night. The wolves were all about him, but because of the light from the lantern they didn’t attack. It was a frightening trip.

He had his own room at the camp. When one sat down to eat — they just ate — No Talking — or you didn’t get much food.

Grandpa Fullmer was a handsome man, a large man. He was also a tool and dye maker. Did this in Milwaukee. He weighed over 300# and was tall and all muscle, no fat. He was very strong.

September, 1943, Parkers wanted to rent or lease the station (then Phillips 66) south of town as Leo and Les were going to the service and Parker was working all year round for the county road crew. The County shop was up back of the station. So we came from Watertown to live in Andrew’s house across from the station, Jim, Mary, Jean and I.

Jim learned vulcanizing from Andrew and took over Andrew’s little shop plus the station. As new tires were almost impossible to get (they were needed for the war, WWII) vulcanizing became a very good business. Jim worked long hours doing vulcanizing after he closed the station at night.

A large group of gypsies came to camp at the fairgrounds . They were only allowed to stay a couple of days. They bought recapped tires. They traveled in trailers. They also had many tires vulcanized which Jim did after he closed the station. They were a noisy bunch — babies crying, etc. The neighbors I’m sure were glad when the gypsies moved on. The leader had a big roll of bills and paid for tires and vulcanizing in cash.

About the area where Paul Slowey’s new modular home is located [this is just west of the farm Ruth grew up on] is where I lost four upper baby teeth jumping in a gravel pit. My knee hit my mouth and out went the teeth. Perhaps they were already loose. I surely missed them until the new ones came in.

I rode my pony (Peggy) to school. It was three miles around the road. In the late fall and winter when the crops were taken care of and livestock either in the barns or in small enclosures, gates were opened so I could take a short cut (1 1/2 miles). Kathryn and Evelyn Slowey rode their pony Pudge, also Anna and Roberta McWilliams rode their pony King. We must have smelled pretty horsey. On VERY stormy or cold days Jim Russell (Margaret Bennett’s dad) would meet us at the school and take our ponies to a calf shed that we rented from him. Our parents had to furnish hay. Charlie and Freddie Lyon had a pair of ponies. They kept their ponies at Ted Hamilton’s.

Rural electrification came in 1939. Ken Johnsons first wiring job was for my parents’ house and barn. Jim, Mary and I went out to Grandpa and Grandma Hamilton’s for supper. The big thing of the day was turning the current on. My mother was a staunch supporter of Pres. Franklin Roosevelt as he made rural electrification possible. Mary would have been about one year old.

My Aunt Jennie and Uncle George Hawes lived on a farm now on Highway 22 not so very far from Waupaca. The farm is now being divided into lots, and the house remodeled. When they sold the farm and retired, they bought a home in Almond. Mary Redfern (my cousin) and I stayed overnight with the Hawes and slept in the spare bedroom upstairs. I awakened wheezing and having trouble breathing, so I went downstairs, where in a short time, I was all right. Found out we were sleeping on a feather bed. I was allergic to the feathers.

North of our farm buildings were almost all woods. In the winter trees were trimmed and some cut down for fuel. Consequently there were quite a few brush piles of twigs and small pieces of wood. I made believe the brush piles were Eskimo igloos and I would hitch my pony to a sled and go visiting my Eskimo friends, Toby and Elegant. The names stemmed from a story about Toby, who was an elegant young fellow. I had to be careful that the sled didn’t run up to my pony’s hind feet and hit them. As the sled had no brakes, my feet had to be the brakes.

Jim and I went to UW basketball and UW boxing matches. One bought coupon books in the fall for all UW sports. We often gave away football tickets, as Jim couldn’t get away during the day on Saturdays. Basketball and boxing were held at night. Boxing was especially interesting as Ralph (Pledge) Russell was doing well. He was the husband of Ethel Johnson Russell of Westfield. We lived in Fort Atkinson at that time.

Isabelle Russell told me that my grandparents, James and Maria Nesbitt Hamilton met in the evening at the Oak Hill Cemetery for courting. Maria lived where Cummings live now and James where Don Hamilton lives now.

Aunt Jennie said her mother told her that she, Aunt Jennie (James and Maria’s first child) would have frozen the first winter of her life if they had not kept her between her parents at night. They were living in a log house west of Don Hamilton’s. My Dad was born there also. He always said he was born in a pig pen as the log cabin was used as a pig pen later. There was a log cabin on their home farm that they lived in before the house was built (where Bruce Hamilton now lives). I can remember the log cabin. There was an upstairs for sleeping. There was an outside ladder to get to it. Must have been pretty cold going to bed in the winter. It was later used as a blacksmith shop — forge, fireplace, etc.

My grandfather Hamilton was a farmer and also a carpenter. Uncle Jack Hamilton kept grandfather busy with carpenter jobs so my father said he had to do a man’s work when he was 14 years old. My grandmother felt that her sons had to do too heavy work for their age. She helped in the fields. Grandfather Hamilton made a chest of drawers (Mary and John have one) made out of ash wood.

In September, 1934, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison school of nursing. In August of the same year we had graduation with other UW grads. In those days we had to have completed so many 8-hour days before the state would recognize your readiness to write state boards. If you didn’t pass all subjects the first time, you could retake subjects failed the next time state boards were given. Luckily I passed first time. Three of us were asked to work during freshman orientation and general registration at the student infirmary taking histories, etc. Earning some money and lunch. You also had to do so many hours of private duty before your RN was OK’d by the state. It was when the nation was recovering from the Depression. I thought I was fortunate to get private duty for four hours a day. Miss Denare [sp? I think], our superintendent asked me if I would like staff duty. I surely was happy. Now I could support myself. $78.00 a month plus a room, food and laundry.