My Mother was Superstitious ~ Dreams ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend these next 3 weeks leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

Superstition -” A Friday night’s dream on a Saturday told will always come true no matter how old!”

Aunt Nellie

In 1966 while we were living in Tucson Arizona my Dad received a phone call that one of his twin sisters, Nellie, just had a heart attack. Apparently it was a bad one, and they didn’t expect her to live more than a couple of weeks. It was a Thursday evening and the decision was made to leave the next morning and drive to Seattle Washington as quickly as possible. Because of the urgency, my parents decided to drive straight through, with them taking turns driving. The next morning we left before the sun came out and started the long 1650-mile one way trip.

The Long Trip

We headed toward Los Angeles so we could take Highway 5 straight up to Washington. My Dad and Mom took turns driving for 8 hours each. First my Dad drove while my mom slept then my mom drove so my Dad could sleep and so forth. My sister and I sat in the back seat reading, playing games, watching the scenery and sleeping. About 10 pm that Friday evening my mom woke up and took the wheel and my Dad found a comfortable way to recline, and he was soon asleep. My sister and I also fell asleep. It was hard to stay asleep because my mom had a horrible habit of whistling. It was never a tune, just a sound and it was never loud enough to actually hear it, but it was loud enough to be annoying. In the quiet of the car it made sleeping next to impossible, at least for me.

I guess I finally did fall asleep at some point because all of a sudden we were all 3 jarred from our slumber by a horrifying scream. The sun was just coming up over the Western Mountain range illuminating the gorgeous pine trees and making the sky appear red. Of course it was hard to enjoy these beauties because there was my mom, sitting in the front driver’s seat, both hands on the wheel, holding it so tightly her knuckles were white. She had brought the vehicle to a complete stop, and she had a look of terror on her face like none I had ever seen before. She just sat there screaming to the top of her lungs. My Dad tried everything to try to calm her down, and he even tried prying her hands from the wheel. Nothing helped. Looking behind us there was a line of cars and trucks piling up for miles and some of them were honking their horns. Remember this was the mid 60s, and there was only a one lane road going in both directions. There were no passing lanes. My Dad climbed out of the car, walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door and literally picked my mom up off the seat. He had to yell at her to get her to turn loose of the wheel. Finally, he was able to carry her around to the passenger seat and put her in the car. He then reached into the glove box and pulled out a large handkerchief and made a blindfold out of it. Once he made sure it was securely in place he then got in the car, and he drove off. It still took about 10 minutes for my mom to quit screaming. All my sister and I could do was to hold our hands over our ears.

When we got to the next town we stopped at a rest area and my Dad had us all get out of the car. After eating sandwiches for breakfast my sister finally ask “What happened?” My mom just shook her head and looked pathetically at my Dad. He told us that she had always been afraid of heights and never liked driving through any mountains. That night we had driven over the Sexton Mountain Pass just north of Grants Pass Oregon which was about 2000 in elevation. My mom had driven all night through mountainous roads but because of the darkness she didn’t realize it. Once the sun started to come up she could see where she was driving and panicked.

My Dad then told us that this is not the only thing that had frightened my mom. Apparently about a month before this, on a Friday night, she had a dream that she was driving down a foggy road, and she ended up having a bad accident. As a result she lost her legs. She then told my Dad about the dream the next day. This is where the Superstition comes in. Mom believed ” A Friday night’s dream on a Saturday told will always come true no matter how old!” She was convinced that she was going to have an accident and lose her legs. It didn’t matter that in her dream she was driving alone and on a flat road, she had told her Friday night dream on a Saturday so she was doomed! From then on, all the way to Seattle and then all the way back home again, my Dad drove. We did stop for the night on the way back so we could rest. My mom rode the entire rest of the trip with the blindfold on.

My Aunt Nellie did get better and went on to live a long and happy life!

Here are some more Superstitions that my mother had:

If you lose an eyelash make a wish then blow it away

If you bite your tongue while eating, it is because you have recently told a lie

It is bad luck to open an umbrella inside

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ The 16-Year-Old Roller Derby “Star”

1971-ThunderbirdsIn the early ’60s and ’70s, Roller Derby was a very popular sport. It captured the heart of millions around the world. It was more popular than the NBA or NFL, at least it was in California. It even caught the attention of my Dad. Sports of any kind were not a part of my life growing up. My Dad never watched them on TV nor did he ever attend any game that came to town. We had just moved to Santa Monica, California in June of 1969 and our lives had changed dramatically. One evening he was flipping through the TV channels, all 8 of them, and he saw the Los Angeles Thunderbirds Roller Derby team skating around the high banks of the rink. My Dad, mother, sister and I were immediately hooked!

Olympic auditorium

We began watching the games every week and it wasn’t long before we decided to go see the game in person. They held the event at the Olympic Auditorium in Downtown L. A. on Friday nights and that was a straight shot east on the 10 freeway from Santa Monica. I was really surprised at how big the venue was and it was sold out! Seeing it live was so exciting, I began to dream of being a T-Bird one day. We had a two-car garage behind our house which we never used, not even for storage. I would take my record player out there, put on my skates, start the music and skate in circles for hours. Future Thunderbird in training!

Brownie Camera

We attended the game as often as possible. I would take my brownie camera and a couple of rolls of film and take shots of the skaters. My mother never left the house for the 5 years we lived in California, except for the 4 times that we moved. So I took the photos so she could see the skaters “in person”. I loved everything about the experience, the crowds, the screaming, the heckling, the action, it was amazing. Remember I was only 15 years old! I loved it so much my sister and I started the LA T-Birds newsletter. We would write first-person accounts of the matches that we saw. I included photos of the players and descriptions of the different plays. We actually did well with it and we had hundreds of subscribers.

Danny O'Reilly

When I turned 16 I found out that you could begin training to be a Roller Derby skater at that age. I talked to my Dad about it and he said yes! The training was done on Saturdays at the Auditorium. The first day I went I had to just sit and watch what was going on. After practice, I got to meet a couple of the team members. The instructor took me and a young man who was also there to start training into a room and taught us one-on-one some of the moves. I left there elated! I can’t believe that my Dad listened to my incessant talking all the way home.

Terri Lynch


The next Saturday on the way to training we stopped at a sporting goods store and I bought the 35-degree angle skates required to get on the track. The track was raised up and the banks were angled so with these I could skate around the track and still stand up straight. I was a little intimidated because most of the other trainees seemed to be experts at it. The first few times I tried I fell down, but I got up every time. By the end of the day, I had no problems with the banking. The next week there were a lot Ralphie Valladaresof new people there. Apparently, we were all “new” to the sport. Ralphie Valladares (one of the T-Birds) was our trainer. He explained about blocking the opponent, doing a can opener move and how to pass the pack. It was so much fun. Ralphie showed us how to do the Mr. Wilson. This move is falling onto your rear with your feet and legs straight out in front of you. This is the way Mr. Wilson always falls when he steps on Dennis’ skateboard. We were to start at the top of the bank, skate around 2 times, then perform the move. When the first person did it he hit really hard and yelled some obscenities. I have to confess I was nervous.

John Johnson

Then came the moment that stole my dream. There was a trick to this move and every move a skater does. Ralphie told us 95% of Roller Derby was fake and all the “moves” were designed to appear real but, in reality, no one gets hurt. I felt like he just took a large needle and stuck it in the big inflated balloon of excitement I had acquired. I finished out the day halfheartedly and I was so glad to see my Dad sitting in the lot as I left.

I never returned for training. I never attended another live game. I never watched another game on TV. I quit the newsletter. The illusion was gone. However, I did get a cool pair of skates out of it. I had them well into my 40’s and I still skated as often as I could.



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

A “Long Line” of Superstitions #52 Ancestors

superstitionsGrowing up my mother had a superstition for everything. First of all, she was a Triskaidekaphobe. What is that you ask? It is the fear of the number 13. She would not do business with any store where their address had a number 13 in it. She made my dad redo the trellis he built for our patio because it had 13 slats. But mostly she didn’t like me because I was born on the 13th. Her life was controlled by superstitions. We couldn’t tell our Friday night dreams on a Saturday because it would come true. She killed my pet parakeet that my dad gave me for my birthday because a bird in the house brings death. If someone gave us a plant we could never say thank you as that will cause the plant to die.

I always wondered why she was like this. Then I met my Grandpa when I about 10 Food plateyears old. He too had lots of superstitions. If you leave by the back door you have to come back in the same way. If you got up from a rocking chair and it continued to rock it would bring evil to the house. One of the strangest things he did was while eating. He had to have all the food on separate plates because food touching on a plate would make you sick and die. My poor Grandma had lots of dishes to clean.

Over the years I had many of my Smith family tell me stories of our superstitious ancestors. My 2x Great Grandpa James McGowan was Superstitious about his fishing, believing it was very unlucky for someone to ask a man on his way to go fishing where he was going. Any time this happened to him he would turn back because he knew the question was an evil spell.

spilled saltMy Great Grandma Asenath Walt believed that at night demons/ghosts would creep around her home and try to gain access. She kept a large container of salt by both the front and back doors for when visitors came. Upon answering the door she would take a scoop of salt and place it across the doorway. If the person was not a “demon/ghost” they could cross over the salt with no problem. The salt would have kept out any non-human who wanted to enter. I guess she never thought that a “demon/ghost” would probably not come knocking on her door, they would just come in!

My 2x Great Grandmother Elizabeth Marsh believed that Satan inhabited ALL snakes and she was afraid of them. She seldom ventured far from home on foot for fear of encountering one. If she did have to go somewhere she always carried a gun to shot them with.

From my research I found superstitions going back several generations. No wonder I adhered to so many of these growing up. 

Do you have any superstitions in your family?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

A Man of Great Character

Dad 1955I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. The only stability in that home was my Dad. He was the person who influenced my life the most while growing up. He showed me unconditional love, even through all the craziness of my teen years. I never really appreciated him until after he was gone. In honor of this remarkable man, this blog is to celebrate his life on what would be his 102nd Birthday.

Benjamin Douglas “Doug” Hughes was born in Pettis County, Missouri, August 18, 1915. The day he was born his Uncle who, was blind, died. His parents named him after this uncle. He was the 8th of 11 children born to Charley and Virginia Bell (Hayes) Hughes. They lived on a farm in rural Lexington, Missouri, raising all their food, and raising cows and award-winning horses. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s they were fortunate enough to not suffer as others did because they were self-sustaining. They shared what they had with others in the community and I believe this is where my Dad developed his giving spirit!

My Dad worked his entire life. He worked on the farm, planting and caring for the vegetables and fruit trees. He tended and milked the cows and he helped his Dad train

Dad and his horse

their horses. In 1934-35 my Dad participated in the Civilian Conservation Corp implemented by President Roosevelt. He served in Lake Tahoe, California. Here he learned to work with wood and stone masonry. These skills helped him the rest of his life. After the CCC he worked as a coal miner, worked on the railroads, he was a butcher and for the last 19 years of his life he worked in the construction field.

He was married 3 times; the first was when he was 22 years old in 1937. He married Mildred Shockley and they had a son Benjamin Benjamin died at 2 months old from Typhoid. Mildred was placed in a sanitarium and died 3 weeks later from the same thing. My Dad wasdad, mildred, lola devastated. He married a second time in 1944 to Mildred McQuillen. She had a daughter name Loretta whom my Dad accepted as his own. They never had children and I don’t know what happened but they divorced sometime before 1948. The third time was my Mother, Emmajane Smith in 1948. My Mother had a son, Gordon and once again my Dad took him as his own. My Dad and Mother had known each other for over 10 years because my Dad’s youngest sister Margaret and my Mother were best friends! My sister Mary Leella was born in 1951 and I was born four years later.

We left Missouri when I was 11 months old and moved to Southern Arizona. My parents bought a house on a corner lot in a new subdivision just outside the Tucson City limits. My Dad took pride in the yard. He taught me all I know about plants and landscaping. I loved spending time doing yard work and helping him build things. He laid bricks for planters, he built a large trellis for the patio. He poured the cement for the patio, he even made the lawn furniture and picnic table. I just loved being with him. He was always ready and willing to help any of our neighbors with whatever they needed. Everyone liked and respected him.  When I was 12 years old my Mother had a mental breakdown and the next 7 years were pure hell! My Dad refused to have her committed and he took care of her even through our moves back to Missouri for 2 years then out to California for 5 years. He showed me that you don’t give up on people because the situation is not ideal. He showed strength of character and resolve that I have always admired.

In the Fall of 1973 my Dad went to the doctor for a cough that wouldn’t go away. After many tests and x-rays we were told he had lung cancer. He had surgery to remove his right lung then endured several rounds of chemo and radiation therapy. He lived for 9 months and he passed away at home on June 24, 1974. He was 58 years old. This was 43 years ago and I still think about him every day. I still strive to be the kind of woman, wife, mother and Grandmother that would make him proud. I know that I am proud to be his daughter!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on and You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.