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Grandpa Ross And His Prince Albert Tobacco April 26, 2013

By Pennee Murphree, Guest Blogger for Julie’s Fresh Air

I remember my great grandfather, Melvin Ross, so well because he lived with my mom’s folks and so did my parents and I for awhile. Grandpa Ross had his own room which had been built for him by my grandparents, Galen and Alma Ross Ward, off of the main house on their farm located in Story County, Iowa near the town of Gilbert. We lived in their upstairs apartment when I was a toddler. Running down the stairs and into his room was a great adventure which seemed like a long way when I was so little. 

Just like a great grandpa should he used a cane and smoked pipes. His pipe collection was the only thing off limits to all eight of his great grandchildren. The standard Christmas gift for Grandpa Ross was a can of Prince Albert tobacco. I can still see him dipping his pipe into that tobacco can and filling his pipe. It smelled good. 

Grandpa Ross fixed clocks. He always had about 10 clocks going in his room. Those old fashioned one that constantly ticked and looked like little buildings. He had them set to chime one right after another. There was one especially huge church clock that we never could figure out. The clock not only went back and forth ticking loudly on the wall in his room but back and forth between the Gilbert Congregational Church and his room. The clock would never run at the church but would tick along fine in his room. The church finally gave him the clock. 

All of the great grandchildren liked to watch him shave or give him a shave and put a clean shirt and tie on him. He had an old fashioned straight razor, a leather strap he used to sharpen his razor and a cup with a brush in it to lather up his face. You can imagine how much fun for a kid that was. I can’t believe he let us do that. 

He had one of the first television sets in the county and liked to watch wrestling. There wasn’t much else on but we still watched it with him. Above his bed was a picture cut from Time Magazine of the little Dionne Quintuplets as babies. They were celebrities in those days and featured often on the cover of Time Magazine. 

O yes, he also kept a chamber pot under his bed to use at night. He never quite got used to the one modern bathroom in the house. He would rather walk out to the old outhouse. By the way I remember the outhouse with the three different sized holes. And yes, the old Sears catalog was there. 

Melvin Ross was born April 9, 1864 and died on January 22, 1954. In his early years he was a farmer and a grain elevator manager. After the death of a son in 1917 and then his wife in 1922 he moved in with my grandparents. 




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1. Linda Wells - June 3, 2006

I remember when I had an ear ache Grandpa Ross would blow smoke from his pipe into my ears.

I can also remember one time when we were about eight or nine years old Jennifer and I talked him into letting us cut his hair and clean him up. Jennifer didn’t cut her side of his hair nearly as short as I cut mine, so it took some more trimming to make it look even. Then we washed his false teeth.

I do remember all the clocks chiming.

I remember being told about the grease fire accident. It was freezing cold outside and as Grandpa Ross was carrying a pan of oil that had been heated on the stove to put in a car so it would start some of the oil splashed onto Grandma Ward’s arm as she held the door open for him. When she went to the phone to ring for help the flesh from the inside of her hand was left on the telephone crank. It was a terrible burn but as it healed she would carry a heavy old iron for weight to stretch the scar tissue to allow her to straighten her right arm. It never did completely straighten out as much as her left arm. I remember her right arm being covered with white scars. The doctor had told her that she would never use her arm again but she did.