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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Borchers Stories - Part 2 - Ellen and Minnie Flanagan (Mary McLaughlin)

Napa, California can be a small place.  When you go back 70 or 80 years, it becomes even smaller.  The people living in this town and even on the local farms knew everyone.  I think that is now becoming clearly evidenced by my family history research.  In one instance, I find Kate Flanagan commenting about Thomas McLaughlin in letters that she wrote to Ireland.  Thomas was her son's (John Francis "Jack" Flanagan) father-in-law.  In a small town, everyone knows "everyone".

It continues to surprise me though when people quickly throw out a story that was totally unexpected.  In fact, the story can come and go faster than you can even grasp the words.  A good example is my other Aunt Borchers.  I will refer to her as Aunt MV Borchers.  She too is a living relative.

Somehow the conversation at Christmastime went to wearing the same clothes.  Aunt MV Borchers talked about how she tends to wear the same clothes all of the time.  She has a few items that she wears depending on the occasion.  From that, Ellen Flanagan's name came up.

So the story goes (and was being told by my Aunt MV Borchers) that Ellen Flanagan wore the same clothes all of the time (or at least the same jacket).   Ellen's mother, Minnie Flanagan (Mary Elizabeth McLaughlin), told Ellen one day that she really wished that she'd buy a new jacket.  Minnie told her that if she did not get a new jacket that she would take that jacket, hang it on the light pole outside for all passerbys to say, "Hi Ellen".

I had to chuckle at this story.  I'm not sure that my mom had ever heard it before now.  Mind you Ellen was my grandfather's (Richard Flanagan) sister and Minnie, my great grandmother.  The Borchers are only related by the marriage of my grandma to my grandfather.   Ellen was my great aunt.  I really did not know her except by way of cards at my birthday.  I had to ask my aunts if they knew the Flanagan's.  They did.  That was really no surprise. 

What was interesting to me is that they did know my great-grandmother, Minnie Flanagan (Mary Elizabeth McLaughlin).  The timeframe of the story would have been circa late 1930s, early 1940s, after Jack Flanagan had passed away in 1936 and my great-grandmother, Minnie, was living in the house on Polk Street.  From there my questions flowed.

My Aunt ML Borchers said that she knew Minnie Flanagan.  She said that she was a very, very nice lady.  She often found it interesting that all of her children called her "Min" rather than "mom" or "mother".  Minnie was, in fact, her nickname.  This was an "ah-ha" moment for my aunts.  They did not know that my great grandmother's nickname was Minnie and that's where "Min" came from.  To them, she was Mrs. Flanagan. 

I also asked about the house on Polk Street.   It was the house that my mom grew up in by the way.  After Jack passed away on the Flanagan Ranch in 1936, his brother Richard Flanagan and his family took over the ranch.  Minnie moved into town and lived in the house on Polk Street for a time before she moved to the Monterey Peninsula. 

After Minnie left Napa, my grandparents (Richard and Dorothy Flanagan) moved into the house on Polk Street.  I would assume that my grandparents owned it at some point.  When my mom was in college, they bought a different house on Spencer Street in Napa.   The Polk Street house is no longer.  It was torn down years ago to create a bank parking lot.

These brief stories are so fun for me to gather.  I am attempting to do them justice as I write them down here in my blog/diary.

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