Front row George, Clara, Grandpa, Olivia,
Back row Squibs McGovern (adopted), John (Cookie), Bill
Anna & Peter Theobald
Cookie's Mom & Dad
Mum's Brother And Sisters
Uncle Paul, Aunt Louise, Lil, Aunt Marie
A Brief History
John 1888 to 1971, Lil 1892 to 1980
Lilly and John Theobald
Lil and John Off On Their Honeymoon In Style
My mother and father, Lilly and John Theobald were married in 1911 and had twelve children,
six girls and six boys. Five of each grew to adulthood in the old homestead
at 58 Mullooly Street, Pittsburgh Pa. Number 13 of the "Baker's Dozen" was
my brother-in-law Cliff Spratt. Cliff's parents died at a very early age, and Cliff was welcomed into
our family when he married my sister Rita. As with other families during that period, there
were some pretty tough times. But this large family was able to put a positive
spin on most situations.
Cliff and Rita
Cookie and Cliff 1937
At Cliff and Rita's Wedding
An important part of John's life was spent as a blacksmith for the coal mines
in and around Pittsburgh. Even though he was only five-feet six, his well developed
arms commanded respect from his peers. Although muscles had little to do with
it, he was also well-respected and loved by his family. And devil-the-man who
would disparage him around any one of his sons. John spent the last 35 years
of his working life as a railroad accountant, and a most respected accountant
Things were tough for everyone during the Great Depression,
so many resorted to innovative and often somewhat illegal
methods to eke out added funds for food.
I was told that several of the men in our neighborhood
including my dad, got together and built sparrow traps.
Although each of these tiny birds provided only a tidbit of meat,
many hundreds were trapped for food. Everyone had much more
time than money, to prepare their catch.
During the 1920's prior to the Depression, the Volstead Act
(Prohibition) had been enacted and street gambling
stayed in full swing through WWII. I only vaguely remember some of
the activities in the late 30's. Much of it didn't make sense to
this young lad, but as I got older I began to understand.
Most of the few men like my father, who had a steady albeit modest
income, would wager some of it on the "Numbers". It was similar
to today's Lottery, but the profits went mostly to organized crime.
A three-digit number was played with a bookie and payed off, at least in the late 30's,
according to the daily results from the Gulfstream Park Racetrack
in Florida. My dad not only played these daily numbers but
because his job took him to town every day and in contact
with many others, he also wrote (booked) numbers for a small
percentage of the take. Yes it was illegal, but times were hard and the Law
looked the other way, for a small cut of course.
Dad had a five-gallon whiskey still, for making his own moonshine.
This was perfectly legal, as long as it was made in reasonably
small amounts for family consumption.
Typical Small Home Still
Even the conscience of my sainted mother Lil, was steeled
to bend the rules of Prohibition in order to help support our big
family. Dad wore a large overcoat to work every day covering
his three-piece suit, and into this coat Lil had sewn at least
four hidden pockets for transporting pints of homemade
hooch to sell to dad's co-workers. The Theobalds never had
much extra money, but we never went hungry either. I was
told that when Prohibition was repealed, dad loaned the still
to someone to steam off wallpaper and never saw it again.
As a young girl, Lil had worked in a candy factory, and put those skills to good
use at home. In order to help make ends meet, she made delicious peppermint
candy to sell in the neighborhood. Everyone who was old enough, pitched in on the
task. Along with the frequent baking of fresh homemade bread, the peppermint
oil made our home the best smelling place in town. John did most of the dough
preparation and the muscle work in pulling the taffy, so it didn't take long for
him to aquire the nickname "Cookie". From that time on, "Cookie" was how he was
addressed by everyone except his children.
I was the youngest of the twelve, so I relied over the years on stories
from my siblings to form a picture of their youth. So far, I've included in my site
a few of my personal remembrances, and one or two passed on to me. I hope that
you enjoy them. I'll add more as time goes by.
Eleven of Twelve In 1933
Front - Theresa 2nd Row - Betty & John
3rd Row - Me, Bob(holding me), Mary, Grace, Cookie
Back Row - Lil, Harry, Rita, Chuck, Larry
Nine of Twelve In 1975
Front -Bob, Me, Theresa, Grace 2nd Row - Mum
3rd Row - Rita, Mary, Betty
Back Row - Harry, Chuck
Seven of Twelve In 2000
Chuck, Theresa, Betty, Rita, Mary, Pete
Bob in Front
Three of Twelve In 2009
Bob, Rita, Pete
Apple Butter Cooking, An Annual Family Event
My Sisters Betty & Rita, Sis-In-Law Lucille, Mum
Hilda, Rosina, Stella Mrs Obringer, Mum
Betty, Mary, Sis, Rita Mum, Lucille, Little Phyllis