Family mementos form memories for life

2013-03-02T21:00:00Z Family mementos form memories for lifeJOANNE FOX jfox@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal
March 02, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

SIOUX CITY | When you never throw anything away, you need to find new uses for your stuff or ways to display it.

That's what Kay (Thayer) Moffatt and her husband Frank Moffatt decided to do after accumulating items from their marriage and extended family members. It's the kind of display you might see in Country Living magazine -- a veritable walk down memory lane -- chronicling the history of two area pioneer families.

For example, one of the first pieces of memorabilia that catches one's eye is the large wedding certificate on the wall, dated 1903, of Kay's maternal grandparents, William and Corona (Chase) Cowell. By the certificate is a smaller photo of her maternal great-grandmother, Susie Chase; her grandmother Corona Cowell; and her mother, Charlotte Cowell, as a young child.

"It's probably my favorite thing in the whole house," Kay Moffatt said with a soft smile, despite the serious faces of everyone else in the photos.

Another small display on the wall illustrates the life of Moffatt's maternal great-aunt Izetta Chase.

"She was a piano player for the silent movies that would come through Getty, S.D. and the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City," she explained. "The keys in the frame also belonged to her."

Kay Moffatt did not play the piano and neither did her mother, Charlotte (Cowell) Thayer.

"However, my grandmother Corona Cowell and great-aunt Izetta certainly did. I found her original piece of sheet music to 'Sioux City Sue,' that belonged to Grandmother Cowell and came out when I was just a young girl," she said. "Coincidentally, I also had 'hair of red and eyes of blue.'"

While others may have given household items to friends, relatives or thrift stores, the Moffatts chose to hang onto them.

An unusual, quite large, antique clothes washing stomper with a wooden handles measures around 44 inches in height and was used by Frank Moffatt's mother, Esther. It hangs on the wall in the laundry room of the Moffatts' home.

"No, I never had a reason to use it," Kay joked and that also went for the washboard and rug beater on display.

Esther Moffatt didn't use a steam iron to press clothes. She instead used a unique iron with a gas holder on the side. It sits on a table in front of a framed photo of Kay's mother Charlotte at 4 years of age.

"Most of the pots and pans hanging on the wall were used by Grandmother Cowell," Moffatt said. "I was very close to my maternal grandparents. In fact, I was raised by them until I was 6, because it was the Depression and my dad was working for only a dollar a day."

Also represented, but not quite at the same level, is Kay's paternal side of her family.

"This clock on the piano was a wedding gift to Orson and Rose (Rolfe) Thayer," she explained. "They were my paternal grandparents."

When Kay Thayer married Frank Moffatt on Feb. 3, 1956, a hubcap that graces a well was on the wheel of their 1953 Ford.

"As I recall, it was a brand new hubcap," Frank stated proudly.

The Moffatts originally owned eight-and-a-half acres in Sioux City and used John Deere equipment to tend to the acreage's agricultural needs. So, it makes sense to show their John Deere paraphernalia and Frank's collection of John Deere farm equipment.

Kay recalled the full-size 1937B John Deere tractor -- obviously not on display in the house -- the couple owned until 2011.

"We bought it in about 1960 from my husband's brother Alan, whose son (Lyle) currently owns it and has just restored it," she said. "I must admit I shed a tear when Lyle drove it up the driveway, still pop-popping with that original two-cylinder John Deere sound."

Kay estimated the collection began in earnest some 25 to 30 years ago, when she made the decision to display the items rather than have them sitting in boxes."

"I'd get out a little over time," she said. "A piece here, a piece there."

Almost all of the items on display at the Moffatts' home have some personal connection to the couple.

"But this poster, I purchased because it was interesting and fits in with my Mason jar collection," Kay said, of a woman scrubbing a jar with Old Dutch cleanser. "I'm pretty sure I didn't give more than a dollar for it."

Kay salvaged a dance poster she found in a trunk.

"This poster invited people to a dance near Milnerville, Iowa, on property owned by my great-grandfather Lyman Chase and my great-great-grandfather Obidiah Quint," she said. "Obidiah played the fiddle and banjo and they would have brought an organ over to this dance by horse and wagon."

Kay does not display what might be her oldest personal possession.

"I have a quilt that my great-grandmother Emma Cowell created," she said. "She raised the flax, soaked it, spun it into thread and weaved it on a loom in the late 1800s."

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