This is written in memory of my grandma, Marilyn E. Williams (October 1936 – November 2017) and based on stories she told us.
One October day in 1936, as the leaves started to gently change color in the Appalachian mountains, a little girl was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Her parents, Reverend Charles V. Elliott and his wife Mabel, were going to name her Laura Catherine after her two grandmothers, but her grandmother Laura said, “You’re not gonna call her Laura.” She went out from the house determinedly and sent out birth announcements that a baby by the name of Marilyn Elaine Elliott had been born. Thus her story began.
Marilyn’s father Charles and his twin Robert were child number ten and eleven in their family of twelve children. Marilyn only met four of them because they all moved out of town. Their mother, Catherine, thought she was going to die when she birthed the twins because she was a tiny woman and the babies both weighed about eight pounds. They grew up to be totally opposite. They couldn’t have been more different. Charles was jovial, outgoing, and athletic. Robert (Bob) was thin and very shy. He would never talk.
Their mother was Welsh and Scottish. Their father, Thomas, was a miner of Irish descent. Unfortunately, when Charles was only four years old, his father was killed in a mining accident, so Marilyn never knew her Grandpa Elliott.
Marilyn’s mother Mabel was born to William and Laura Black. When William was ten years old, he quit school and started working at the glass factory. He carried his lunch pail, a black rectangular bucket that had a rounded top on it like a loaf of bread, to work each day. He was short for his age, so his bucket almost touched the ground. Years went by and he married Laura Soles, who was of German descent. They had two sons, William (Bill) and Crawford. Their next two children died during birth, but after that, Mabel was born. Mabel was spoiled, but she turned out well anyhow.
Marilyn often visited Grandma (Laura) Black, who she called “Mum.” There was a couch in the large dining room along the side wall. Crawford would lie on the couch to take a rest. When Marilyn was a toddler, he would let one leg fall off the side of the couch and say, “Help. I’m falling. Help me get back up.” Marilyn would happily come over and struggle to get his leg back on the couch. Then he’d say, “Oh, thank you.” But as soon as Marilyn walked to another part of the room, she would hear her Uncle Crawford call, “Help, I’m falling.” She would come back to help him over and over. It was a funny game, since he was quite capable of getting his leg up by himself.
Laura’s mother was Molly Soles. She was a tall, severe-looking, gray-haired German woman who was very stern. She would make Laura and her sister go out and get themselves a switch. It didn’t matter what they did; they got a whipping every day. When Marilyn visited her great-grandmother Soles, Grandmother Soles would flick her long, bony finger and hit Marilyn’s head as Marilyn walked by her chair. This made Marilyn cry, and Uncle Crawford got very angry at Grandmother Soles. Laura grew to be the opposite of her mother. She did not want to lay a hand on any of her children.
Marilyn’s Grandfather (William) Black, known as Pa (pronounced puh), took her to the park one Saturday afternoon. She swung in the swings and he took pictures of her. With a loving, godly family, this little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl was ready to see what the years would unfold.