Sunday, December 7, 2008

Extra Pedigree Ornament No. 4A, My Adopted Grandfather

Robert William Kramp, born 1873 in Papritzfeldt, Kreis Stolp, Hinterpommern (Pomerania Province, Prussia), now Pomorskie Wojewodztwo, Poland; died 1963, Edinburg, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.

Image: My little brother and I pay a summer visit to our adopted grandfather, Robert William “Pop” Kramp, near Ramey, Pennslyvania, about 1948. (scanned 35 mm Ektachrome)

No, this is not a major deviation from my plan to include just my direct pedigree in this ornament project. My previous entry in this series presented my biological grandfather, Otto Streich (Ornament No. 4). However, I feel the need to also include my father’s adopted parents, Robert William Kramp, and his wife, the former Martha Strike. Actually, Martha was my father’s aunt (Otto Strike’s younger sister); so, there is in fact a biological connection. Robert W. Kramp and Martha, born Strike, had five children before they became foster parents of my father. These children were really my father’s first cousins, since Martha and Otto shared the same surviving parent, Mrs. Henrietta Streich-Wagner, born Hohnke. But Dad never knew the Kramp children by anything other than his brothers and sisters, at least while he was growing up in Ramey, Clearfield County, PA. There were two boys in the Kramp family, one of whom died of diabetes in 1925 when Dad was about six years old. The other step-brother was 15 years older than my Dad and the others were girls. So, Dad turned to the neighborhood boys for companionship. And I heard that between home chores, they had a great time playing sand-lot baseball, hitching a ride on the “Pennsy”, steam-driven train, into Houtzdale to see cowboy movies. Then when they returned home, they brought out the guitars and sang cowboy songs.

Mrs. Martha Kramp, born Strike, died in 1933, when Dad was only 15 years old. So, my brother and I never got to see our adopted grandmother (actually our biological grand aunt). But we did get to know Pop Kramp. He lived to the age of 90 years. Our family would usually make the trip from Bethesda, Maryland, up to the mountains of PA, to see Pop in the summer when school was out.

Pop Kramp sold his homestead in 1941 and then lived with his children for months at a time until the 1950s. He did not live with us however, mainly because we lived too far from his “home” area in Pennsylvania. But when he did come to our house to visit for a few days, my brother and I knew exactly what to do. We brought out our piggy banks, sat on the floor in front of his chair, and started to slowly count our hundred or so pennies. Then with a chuckle, Pop would throw out a couple of dollar bills on top of the pile pennies- to our immense delight.

Pop eventually settled down with his oldest daughter, Florence, for the remainder of his life. I recall that aunt Florence made the best home-made apple pies and bread. As I got into High school and beyond, I did not travel up to see Pop and Florence very often. Pop died the year before I graduated from college. Unfortunately, Aunt Florence died only four months before I decided to take almost a year off in 1992 to research my roots. Most of us have probably gone through the same loss of an elderly relative and with that the loss of a precious source of our family history.

Thus, in 1992, I returned by myself to the old homestead and blacksmith shop where Pop Kramp once lived and worked and where my father spent his childhood. I knocked on the door and told the present owner, an aged man, who turned out to be the late Mr. Shunkwiler, that I once knew the former inhabitants. He invited me in to look around the old house. He told me that he used to come down to Pop Kramp’s blacksmith shop behind the house to have his picks re-sharpened. Coal miners were responsible for keeping their own tools maintained. One day, Pop surprised him by offering to sell the house if he was interested. Shunkwiler responded that he didn’t have much money. He wound up buying the house for $900 (that’s nine Hundred dollars) and Pop Kramp went off to live with his children.

Image: The late Mr. Shunkwiler tells me how he came to own the house my adopted grandfather once owned. I asked Mr. Shunkwiler If he hunted with the shotgun standing by his bedside. “Not much”, he said, “I just keep it around to run off prying family historians”.

Believe that and I’ll tell you another one. The gun WAS real though.

No comments: