alice ehemann

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I remember my Grandma telling me that my Mom was one of the first women programmers at IBM, and this photo sure seems to back that up. This class that she graduated from took place in Chicago and was probably sometime between 1966 - 1968. IBM was kind enough to take this photo and stick it in a Lucite frame as a gift to its employees. Though you think it would have dawned on someone to put a date on this thing. As you can see she was only one of two women in this course. (My Mom is wearing the dark dress.) 

Sadly my Mom passed away right when I was entering adulthood. Thus it never occurred to me back then to ask her what it was like being a woman in such an obviously male dominated profession especially at such a revolutionary time. I’m sure she had some interesting stories.  

Many many years ago my Grandma Alice showed me these rings and said they were her “baby rings.”  I never really thought about them much, that is until I recently discovered this photo of her.  Low and behold the rings can be seen in this studio portrait.  (You can also see a little book she is holding and a heart shaped locket, neither of which I know anything about.)  

From what I found on the web there was a trend that began in Victorian times of having babies wear rings.  Now being a parent myself, and having a healthy dose of paranoia, the thought of babies wearing little choking hazards makes me a bit uneasy.  Thus I’m going to guess that the rings were only brought out for special occasions, like having a portrait taken.  Anyway, she was born in March of 1908 (the same reason they kept the 1908 Chicago license plate) and appears to be less than a year old.  So apparently this trend carried into the 20th Century and even to some extent still exists on a very small scale.  

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This tool case sat in the family basement for my entire childhood. I knew it was my Grandpa George’s because his name is on it, but other than that it was just something else collecting dust. As I got older I came to recognize the beauty of this box and took it into my own home. George was a Master Machinist and the tools inside were a good indication of his skills. I've read that some schools made their students build their own cases as a final project, and I believe that may hold true here. There are no company names anywhere and the bottom is unfinished. This would date the case as being made in 1941. So I’m sticking with that story.

The case itself is 12½” high, 20” across, and 9” deep and appears to be made from oak with a leather handle on top. All of the drawers are felt lined except for one which has a metal base. I don’t really know why but I’m going to guess it was for really sharp items that would have torn felt to shreds.  To open the front panel you have to first open the top which releases two pins that keep the panel in place. Then you take the panel out and slide it under the drawers for safe keeping. A pretty slick design.

Today it sits on a shelf in my closet front and center. I store my own various ephemera in there along with a few of the smaller items I’ve posted on this site. All of the tools were moved out and put in a cheap plastic Tupperware-esque container. I hemmed and hawed on removing his tools but then it occurred to me it would be much better to actually use the case than just creating something else to dust around. I did leave the items on the inside of the lid as I found them, which includes photos of my Mom and Grandma Alice along with some notes for work. I thought that would be a nice touch and a good way to remember my Grandfather.