Roots: Grandpa Ross & His Prince Albert Tobacco August 16, 2013
By Pennee Murphree, Genealogist and former farmer
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.
Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in Julie’s Fresh Air in 2006. We republish here to celebrate our roots once again.