At home with the Allens

Johnsburg Historical Society

Pictured are Harriet and George Allen with daughters Stella (left) and Gretchen (right).

Pictured are Harriet and George Allen with daughters Stella (left) and Gretchen (right). David Braley

A remarkable couple was interviewed by the Living History program of Johnsburg Historical Society November 9, 2012. George and Harriet Allen of Barney Hill Road, Bakers Mills are typical of Johnsburg’s strong work ethic and at the same time extraordinary in their unwavering commitment to family, work, church, community and each other.

The interview was conducted on George’s 82nd birthday. Also present to add their own colorful stories were his brother Lee and two of George and Harriet’s daughters, Gretchen and Stella.

One of nine children (eight boys and a girl), George was born in the Bartman district of Bakers Mills. His father, a lumberman, was a sawyer all his life. Harriet’s father also worked in a sawmill for a time, as did George as a young man.

Harriet (Ross) was born October 7, 1931, one of seven children who were raised at the Izzy Richards place off Garnet Lake Road. As a four year-old, Harriet followed her older brothers to school, walking behind them to the one-room schoolhouse for eight grades on South Johnsburg Road. Amazingly the patient teacher, Mrs. Shortsleeves, allowed Harriet to stay, and even found time to teach the four year- old to embroider.

Mrs. Shortsleeves became a lifelong friend and always called Harriet “Sister” like her siblings did. Gretchen remembers Mrs. Shortsleeves visiting the family at Christmas with presents for all. The teacher, a sister of Ed McKee and Fayette McKee, remained friends with the family all her life.

“ A Lickin’ Every Day”

George and his brother Lee’s school experience was not as sweet. Male teacher Jack O’Donnell would take Lee aside and give him a “lickin” every school day, for no apparent reason (according to Lee). George told Mr. O’Donnell that their Daddy said that the lickins had to stop, or he would come to school and give the teacher a lickin. Lee was never bothered again.

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