HISTORY OF THE LIFE AND EXTENDED:
Family of Merle "Zib" Ackert, 1907-1980
by Merle "Chick" Ackert, II
Around the turn of the century, Peter I. Ackert and Sarah Groves Ackert made their first move from the rich family farm country of Pennsylvania, and headed for Florida; Florida, Mass, that is. A beautiful place, in the Summer. Winters there are even today harsh at best. I've often accredited the size of the family to some of those Winters. My father "Zib" was born up there Nov. 25th 1907. And thus my dad became one of the special dozen of kids that we owe our heritage to. They were Maude, James (Gil or Gus), Mortimer (Mort), Arthur (Dodd), Ethel (Tess), PeterI. Jr. (White), Robert (Toots), Daisy, Merle (Zib), Francis (Butch), Violet (Vi), and Vivian (Pood). My God, the stories in those names. The nick names for the most part have a mystery of their own. My dad had no idea where his came from, all he told me was "It's better than being called Silas." Typical Zib sense of humor.
After years up on the Mohawk Trail, enlarging the family, struggling to survive, and save, then Gramp came upon a way to make a living besides farming, that would be able to include the whole family. The fern industry. Where better than the then capitol of the fern industry, Vermont. Where in Vermont? Why the Danby-MT Tabor Area. Thus, this was to be the business for decades to come. And home.
For you nitpickers, let's get something straight from the git go, this is not meant to be a chronological correct and historical document, or clan history. But, rather I am trying to put together an assemblage of memories, second hand tales and accounts of personal, loving memories of a loving and unusual family in very hard times. A family dedicated to each other and very very close. Forgive me if at times your memories differ from mine. I'm trying to rush this along for the 25th Reunion, or until memory fails me completely. My recollections of my dad's versions of his childhood tales are few. He didn't tell many, but most were humorous. Like, in Florida, Mass, as kids when they worked hard all day, and tell Gramp they were too tired to do more chores. But when Gramp was out of sight he and Toots (Robert) would get a couple of barrel hoops and sticks and toll them until dark. Or walk a mile or two down . to the Housatonic Railroad Tunnel and a mile in and wait until a train to come through for kicks. Or the time he and Jim, and Toots had their first ice cream in a cone. Jim had told Toots the cone was poison and not to eat the cone part. So Toots told Dad he'd croak if he ate any of the cone. I laugh aloud each time I think of him and Toots diggin out the ice cream with a stick. Only to catch Jim eating the cones!
Most of the family remembers the Family in Danby. Gramp owning the Hotel and the Big House, then later the Little House in the rear. Aunt Maude and the Tavern. Later for many years after Maude it was ran by White and Dot.
But they spent many parts of the early years up in fern camps at the Old Job. Farming the ten kiln meadows. Again the boys found unusual ways to entertain themselves. Like at the Old Job when Toots the instigator had the boys and a couple of the girls haul a sulky quite a ways up the Shippyshanty Road. Then Toots was to stand in the front seat and steer the wagon down by the upright staves and Dad and someone else of the boys were to press sticks against the the rear wheels as brakes. Aunt Tess was an unwilling passenger. Well down they went and when Toots hollered "Brakes" the two brakemen piled off and shortly after Toots abandoned ship, leaving Tess to fend for herself. Well I guess there was a loud girlish scream as Tess deadheaded a large stump. Breaking Tess's collar bone or shoulder bone. Toots took all the blame, but Dad could never tell which he was most afraid of, Gramp, Gram, or Toots getting even with his AWOL brakemen.
If the men of this family had a fault it was their lust for drink. There's a zillion of these stories which I will not glamorize drinking in their telling. Take it from one who knows. However it must be said, that when these good old Ackert boys got together it wasn't an ice tea party. Specially when it was taboo to drink., like at a funeral wake. It was hid in back yard sheds, cars, etc. You never knew it was there, but they got high. Mort had it hid in the cone bins upstairs in the storage (unless Aunt Julia found it).
Francis Eduard Ackert. new he was the rarest of uncles. Born on Xmas day,what an Xmas present for Gram. Don't get me wrong, I believe most of my cousins will agree that many of their family memories were of Uncle Butch's follies. Is there a cousin who wasn't asked by Butch, "I've got 16 cents have you got the rest? Sneaky Pete went for 38 cents a pint. Or the time I am up picking ferns in Wildcat Mountain in Chittenden. Believe me, the nearest watering hole was ten miles away. We brought out our first fern packs to the truck at noon and to have lunch. Low and behold when we arrive at the truck Dad starts to give me hell for going to get Butch come beer or liquor. I thought he was having day dreams until I looked at Butch, sure as hell he was pie-eyed. How in Hades did you manage this I asked. After a bunch of little heehas and a couple of jigs he showed me a half bottle of Johnny Walker Red. Then he told me the strip ferns played out so he came out early in back of the pres. of the railroad's camp. Poking around the dump at the end of the woods he noticed a case containing empty scotch bottles, but we guessed the cleaning crew had not noticed one bottle was full and you know who smelled that one out. My Dad said Butch was the only man on Earth who could be put in the middle of the Sahara Desert and he could walk out with a jug in his hands.
But my Dad loved Butch as he did all of his clan. And his sisters were his life. Most especially Pood. Dad's greatest fear was he would be the last to go, he missed by one, Aunt Pood.
Pride in their trade I'll say. When it came to picking ferns man o man were they competitive. In his lifetime Zib probably picked the most. But Toots held the one day record twenty seven thousand. If you never picked ferns, well that is like swimming the English Channel to pick that many in a day. I've done 16 several time, and my brother John did 17 or 18.
Good old Zibber, he like Dodd ran fern packing plants for many years. So as a result of this they were well known in towns other than their own. My Dad took it all in stride, pick em, pack em, load and ship them down from Chittenden to the main storage in Danby. Day in day out. I hated it, but the money sure was wonderful for school clothes and let's not forget the Fair, the good old Rutland Fair. Work all Summer to blow it in two or three days.
But one thing Zib was good at, and that he knew how to find ferns that kept in cold storage, three time better than the Danby area ferns. And that was the Chittenden Dam Area, 7 miles North of Rutland. And just below the Dam was "Slab City" or more correctly Chittenden. In the Forties there were less than 20 residents. And a large number of these larger than life wonderful people would always be available to help us move into what ever structure we rented for the fern season. They were unbelievably kind. And that kindness is remembered today by my brother and I. There were the Mosseys, Potters and the Towns, the Spooners, the Bairds, Walkers, and the Clarks, Perrys, and oh the Kings along with the Newtons and the Francis's. Not to mention Old Lady Barstow (as the kids called her then). She who built a school for the town so modern an large for the era that it boggled the mind. Can you imagine leaving the one room school, all eight grades, wood stove, kerosene lamps and chemical toilets, no running water. The water jug was filled next door at the Johnsons or across the street at the Landons daily. This was what we left Mount Tabor at the end of the school season year. And being as the fern season in Chittenden lasted until after school season started each year, so I and my brothers went some each year in Frederick Barstow Memorial School. Wow, was it something then, science room, machine shop, wood working shop, home economics room, library, and Oh God, an auditorium and basketball court. We had a love-hate relationship for it. Hated to leave it each year and loved it when we we started each year. Thank you Chittenden and Mrs. Barstow. What does all this have to do with Zib you might ask? Plenty. Zib Ackert could barely read and write, and his math was lacking to say the least, until it came to money.
Back to fern picking in Chittenden. Dad taught hundreds how to pick ferns, not an easy task by no means. With about ten ferns and twenty various other look alikes such as brakes. But I never knew him to give up on but one man and his whole family. I only recall him as the Old German, I really felt so sorry for them. They wanted to learn and earn so bad. But try as Dad did, this man came in again and again with brakes, daggers and few ferns. It finally came to a head one night after we had packed over two hundred thousand ferns from the other pickers not counting our own crew. We had just sat down to eat, but Butch had treated the Old Man (Zib) toa few opos of one of his treasured hidden wine jugs. Dad was tired, hungry, and the wine had made him just a tad feisty. In pops the German and the whole damn family. "There," the Old German said, "Now tell me these ain't the finest ferns you ever saw." Well Dad tried to make a few bunches from them but it was useless. Finally Dad said, "Sir, how in the hell do you manage to find so many damn brakes? I have taken you to some of the finest picking I know." About then, the Old German asked him what he was to do with his so-called ferns." Dad said, "there is the rubbish heap, put it with the rest of the rubbish." As the German started to accuse the hot-headed Old Man he deceived him, well Dad grabbed one of the fern packs and shoved it against the man's chest. Just behind the Old German was a window three feet wide and about six feet high, just large enough for the old boy, the fern pack and all, to exit in one large whoosh and loud yell. Thank god there was only a screen covering that window. The battle resumed outsid, but about then a number of townsfolks gathered, seperated them and encouraged the German to pick another vocation. Oh yes, Dad did talk one of the siblings to take a couple bucks. It wasn't their fault their Dad was too stubborn to listen. We never saw the Old German again.
As to the two hundred thousand ferns packed in a single night, well, this really wasn't that unusual. The Ray Ponto amily, twenty kids, and the Kings, also from Rutland, eight kids. The McFee's from Chittenden. Oh god, how much I hated to see them all come especially on a Saturday afternoons when we were all looking forward to or weekly Saturday night jaunt into Rutland. Being the oldest of Zib's three children, I, Merle Wilfred Ackert Jr., John Edward Ackert, and my kid brother Lloyd Thomas Ackert, would pack and nail cases of ferns like no one ever saw before, on Saturday night that is. The only respite we all had from this getting ate up by bugs and torn hands and twisted ankles, etc. in those pretty wild woods in those days, was rain. Oh many a day you would hear Uncle Butch, John, or I yelling to the clouds, "Send her down David." Especially on Saturday if we had had a good week.
Now that I have given you a wide loop around some places, and some of the family members that made up this super family I will now try to concentrate on my Dad's life and events as I know them. Believe me if time and memory don't fail me I will certainly be mentioning many freinds some whom you may recall, and most certainly much more on other family members.
After Dad and the family came to Danby and the kids grew up there was a certain respect that grew even deeper for one family to the other. And this certainly prevailed for the life of the original family. And still does as far as I am concerned.
My Dad married Leda Mae Parmenter Oct. 25, 1932. I believe the fact that I was born Oct. 5, 1931 had more than a tad to do with their getting hitched. As I have learned over the many year, that Gram Ackert had more that a little to say about this happening. As once Dad informed me that he was having more than a little trouble with the situation and he went to Gram and told her he loved Leda but didn't know if he could handle it all (sound familiar anybody?). He was crying and steeped in self pity and trying to figure how he could in anyway support a family and make payments on his brand new Reo Speed Wagon Truck he had just went in hock for in the middle of the greatest depression the country ever knew. These were Grams' words to my father, after she slapped him across the face, and told him to think of me, and my mom and go do what was right. And as we all know he did. In March of 1933 my brother John was born and in Oct. 27, 1035, my brother Lloyd Thomas was was born, and thus began Zib's contribution to the Ackert clan.
But by this time severe tragedy had hit this large family. Gramp Peterhad died. I have no memory of him, but mom said I always asked how come Gramp had sucha pretty bed, at the wake, and why he kept sleeping. I'm sorry I really didn't know him. But I took it out on Gramp Parmenter instead.
After it became apparent Gram could not handle the business alone. (although she was known to pull strings to the end of her life). Then Uncle Mort took over the family business and made it even greater. And the family still worked with and for each other. Ferns xmas trees, and wreaths. But the new cold storage now became the focal point of the family, this and Uncle White's tavern. What happened to the Old Cold Storage? Well it was in the basement of the Old Hotel, a massive building for such a small town. Not so much used as an hotel for the major part of it was occupied by family. Including Mom, Dad, John and Myself. And how Dad used to speak of that building, the dances that were held there and the cars Gramp had like Pierce-Arrows and the like. And how the boys fought over using them. And the races they had. Believe me these lads didn't lack for excitement. All of which made them quite popular with the local gals.
But the Hotel and all came to a tragic end, it burned down. I can for years afterwards recall crawling around and through the massive pile that was left. In fact my brother John had almost been a victim. Mom and Dad hed left him in a basket on the porch as they scrambled to save what they could and then themselves. When it dawned on them where John was and they again dashed for their and his lives. Years later when John and I had our brotherly word fights, I would say things quite hateful, like "Ma should have left you on the porch." I've hated that thought all my life, but I temper it with the thought and recollection that John never failed to have an equal dumb thing to say.
Well that family survived as Ive said earlier as they do today. We were always a family of survivers. Thanks to each other, their wives and husbands. Oh yes, never, never forget them. I knew Aunt Maude's husband, but thank god I knew Aunt Maude Baker. He died as result of an accident, car crash and I to this day feel Dad was involved. He had many night mares involving the accident.
Aunt Bernie, whe was alwasy different that the rest, she and Uncle Jim. I was always drawn to them because of this difference. Specially when we were going down to Schenectady Jim and I, and he got the great idea that I'd better drive because he couldn't. I said sure and tried right in the middle of Albany on a Friday night. After I did my 12 year old rendition of Lucky Teter and raked the gears and snapped the clutch out and into traffic for about one block. My first encounter woth real policemen, mad policemen. I'm surprised Jim let me stay the week. I think Aunt Bernie did it to punish him.
Aunt May and Uncle Dodd. She was one of my favorites. A grand lady and a wonderful mom, real take-charge gal. And a great producer of one heck of a batch of daughters. Oh how I looked forward to the few times I got to meet them. As a youngster I couldn't help but believe they were all movie stars, and all had very strong extended family feelings. This was most noticed in the sudden and many funerals we all started attending. These gals were as much a reason for that first reunion 25 years ago as were Bud Earl and myself. More on this a little further down the road.
Aunt Pood and Archie Pecore, Poodie as the younger gal of the clan was easier to communicate with and always accessible and would lend an ear to us kids. Not to mention a cup of tea or a cookie, plus this always gave us a shot at talking to Gram Ackert, because it seemed where you saw one the other was close by. Uncle Arch, well he always seemed to be the out of place city boy he really was. God knows he tried, but some things aren't to be. But from this union came two more of my special people. Daphne and Joey. Lots of the family neverknew Joe was twins. Joe survived, but can you just imagine two of him? I can, and I believe it would have been super. No I didn't forget, hold your horses. Then along came Jim, Old Hob. My Dad got the greatest kick seeing a five six year old Hob (Jimmy) strutting around with a corn cob pipe in his mouth. I always felt Uncle White put him up to it. Much to the chagrin of Aunt Pood.
Can you mention Jim Pecore as a kid and not think of Peter Nearney? Why you ask? Well I think there was a time Aunt Daisy and Uncle Tom had thoughts alontg that line. Because both boys were late arrivals. For Aunt Daisy it was a miracle and unfortunately a short lived one. She developed TB, lost a lung. But even then she stayed around to do here thing. But not nearly as long as we all wished. With all her load she, like Poodie always had time for us kids. That was until Uncle Tom ame home with hsi Irish dander up. Of course, there were the other siblings. Patty, of the Don and Patty Sharons and another of my local macho cousins Tommy. I can remember Uncle Tom singing and doing a soft shoe shuffle. But his son Tom can be said to do his Pop proud in that area. Not to mention a whole family with much Irish humor and once again an endless supply of love. When Uncle Tom passed on, I never saw such an outpouring of love and appreciation as was bestowed upon him from the Nuns, Priests and parishoners of the church in Rutland he for so many years janitored with his unselfish devotion up until his passing.
Aunt Dot and Uncle White. I personally could write volumes on her alone, she was Mom not only to Dick and Bill, but damn near every other kid in town. Always a kind word, a snack and can any of us forget Uncle White's special western snadwiches? Secret ingredient? Bologna, yep. bologna. Can you imagine ten plus kids in the little living room listening to Terry and the Pirates, Crime Busters, Jungle Jim, and Dick Tracy, every afternoon after school. Until Uncle White would say o.k. Ackert, hit for Mount Tabor. And leg it Tom, John and I would. I was so amazed then years later to see the next generation doing the same old thing but T.V. instead of radio. And another generation of grand kids right up until her passing. Oh, there was more than time allows here, thank you Aunt Dot.
Aunt Julia and Uncle Moret, well here you went for advice and a chance to make a buck. Greatly revered, admired and loved. But Uncle Mort always seemed to disect and analyze what you may say. But he listened and made decisions later, usually next day,a fter Aunt Jude and he discussed it. I always looked up to him, and defied him when I felt cocky. He always was there when you needed him. But again I felt a deep loss when he became so ill and even a deeper loss for Gloria and Joanie. For we were close an they lost a special Dad ina very painfaul way. What a special relationship he and Dad had. When Dad would go off the deep end I could always get support from Uncle Mort and Aunt Julia. I feel a kind of relief knowing my lot in Scottsville is only two stones from them. My the memories we could share.
Vi and Ira Earl, where do I start. Special closeness began when the boys came home from the war (2nd World that is). To see Ira and Bud Nichols in their Gyrene uniforms and Archie in that other branch of the service, Ha. Oh were they cocky. and their wives so happy once again after so many years of war and worry. Their boys (Vi and Iras's) Bud and Mike would eventually go in the COrps, and then Mike's twin Michelle a nurse and then there was my special gal Sal. Sally will will always be special, oh sure we go at each other at the reunion auction, but I rather remember those early morning breakfasts her and Dick have put on for many years, and the price ain't half bad either. Thanks to Dick, Sal and her swell Adams family. Hope to see ya there Sal and damn right I will be auctioneer if God and the committee are willing. And I will give you a quick going going gone if you quarter me to death, ha. Oh, I can still see Sal at the first reunion, at the top hill in the field down at the south end (as that part of Mount Tabor is called). She celebrated the first and she was at the 24th. And if the Boss Upstairs has anything to do with it, I will see her at the next #25. Go for it Sal.
Aunt Tess and Sid Mason. Sid I knew little of. Except when he, Walt NEwton and Gib Foster would pull in with Dad and the hootch had been flowing, oh how they would all argue, boast and plain lie. But Aunt Tess (Ethel, yes Ethel, but you never wanted to let her hear you say it), well she could hold her own end of a party quite well. Uncle Sid had an accident that ended in a fatality, a rather rare thing in those days. Some time later her disappeared, to my knowledge no one who knew him ever saw him again. And no word, except for rumors. They had two girls, Timmy and SHirley (Shug). Another tragedy took Timmy's life. She was struck by a train not much more than 100 feet from her porch. The house was called the beehive. Although Tess had lived there, Pood, Toots and one time my Grandmother and Grandfather Parmenter, I never pinned down where and the heck the name derived from. Later, years after Shug married Bud Nichols and the and Tess had moved to Albany, Courtland Place and Tess had taken on a lifetime partner, Harry Kelly. Well no serviceman in the family ever traveled home without first stopping at AUnt Tess and Harry's. It was real great. Like home again no matter where you had been. Shirley and I this past year had communicated and struck up once again seeing each other, thanks to Tim and Marles. Tho it was only to last about eight months. We swapped a few yarns and favorite family tales. I will always remember her in Danby on the back porch of the Big House, waving to us Jr. Commandos playing war in the edge of the garden in the club house between the Big House, Uncle Tom and Daisy's, Jim and Bernie's and close to the Little House. Another Rita Hayworth. Her kids and grand kids can be proud of Shug, always.
I've said little about Uncle White and Less of the Jr. COmmandos, the what? During the 40s you had to combine the two of them. As patriotic young men we formed a Boys Club, a sort of military style gang that would save the town if the "Japs" or "Krauts" attacked our area. Well what we did was almost destroy our best benefactor, Uncle White. We sued his attic up over the tavern in inclimate weather. Or we did until we tried to make an old radio work with the help of an electric train (don't even ask). Several times were needed to convince us that it wouldn't work, but the real clincher was that each time we fired up, we closed the entire electric system to the tavern down. Down went the lights, the juke box and beer taps. About this time I'd heard a roar, "Is that damned 'radar' up there again?" As he would assist me out the side door with the help of his heavy left foot I decided we had to have another place for meetings, so we built a club house. We had about fifteen members, but the runts we wouldn't allow to ne even a Pvt. until it became obvious we couldn't dig a hole deep enough or remote enough to keep it from being confiscated by Joe Pecor and Bud Earl. Many times. But their memberships as "spies" was terminated when they burned down the tent we used trying to cook a can of spaget.
When our dues disappeared and we needed a fund raiser, we decided to have a raffle for a chicken. WE we had it. And when the cost of a chicken exceeded our take we were quickly in dire straits. So we held the drawing, and when that name came up didn't agree with us we drew again, finally on the third draw we came up with our cousin Olivine White. And we were going to give her the $1.25 and promise to get the balance some how. Were we relieved when she smilingly said "That's okay boys, keep it for some worthwhile cause." Well you know who the cause was.
The chain of command was General Dick Ackert, Major Chick Ackert and Capt Bill Ackert and Luits John Ackert and Shorty Millard. Oh there were others but most were Pvts and spies (were they ever spies). Its funny, but each year when we went to Chittenden (John, Tom, and I) we opened a bigger branch. Then I was the big shot, but always Capt (I hated the sound of Major). And I'd never dare call myself General. That was always reserved for Dick, and still is today. But I call him King since Dad's passing. But I'm next in line. I hope I never have to be called such. Long live the King!
Now I have to tell a couple of things that come to mind. Dad and Uncle Mort would occasionally go out to eat or whatever. WEll, this one time they left us at Mort's, with GLoria looking after Joanie and the three of us boys. When the old folks left with a specific time they'd be back and we were on our own, well it wasn't long before we got bored. Then Gloria said since she had an audience she would show us her singing and acting talents. She went upstairs and dressed up, and on cue Joanie put on the music, and down the stairway came Gloria came singing and twirling a scarf or boa around her head, well her much thrilled audience were applauding and showing our appreciation. When boom, the door burst open. And in the deepest Mort Ackert nasal tone I heard a voice say "And what do you think you are doing young lady?" While still trying to figure out what in hell was wrong, I heard another voice say "Get the hell out into the car." No one had to tell me who it belonged to, dear Dad. Until the day they all passed on, I don't believe any of them adults believed our innocence. Boy, if they all could see what's happening today.
Another one was when I came home from Korea. And like a true Ackert, I went to the tavern with Dad and Uncle White said the first "Dobler" was on the house. He put the bottle and that shiny tapered glass in front of me, and I poured the contents or most into the glass, and as the glass was about 1/4 inch from my lips Mount Vesuvius erupted. "What are you doing with that bottle of beer in front of you?" You guessed it, Aunt Dot. "Dick is nearly six months older that you and he has been legal only two months, are you trying to lose my license?" No Aunt Dot was all I could mutter. I had been immediately stripped of my manhood by this whisper of a woman. 3 1/2 years in the service, 19 months in Korea during the fall of 1950 thru the spring of 1952, and had consumed a couple truck loads of booze during this period and whamo I had been carded, reamed out and bounced before I could say hi Aunt Dot. Ha. She was really super. But as afar as the manhood thing well, I only had to walk to Danby Cash, see Bub, and order a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and immediately my cousins and friends made me forget the incident in less than 30 seconds. Thanks Aunt Dot, wish I'd listened a little closer.
As us boys started getting out of the service it became apparent that if you stayed a civilian long you became a drunk, a bum or worse, married. Or worse a married drunken bum, Ha. Just joshing.
damned fast in my life. Tho I regretted pulling such a sham, I would probably do it again. I next saw my Dad the next morning as the Rutland railroad train did something I never dreamed of, the train I was on to go to Albany on my way to basic training, stopped at the Danby train station. And who in hell do I see out the train car window?? No other than Zib Ackert, pushing the hand freight car towards the car in front of mine. Boy did the sweat flow. After ha and Henry Busher loaded aboard the ferns and the train started moving forward and Henry and my Dad did the thing they always did, wave to the people on the train. At that moment I got a surge of grit I didn't know I had in me. As he looked right in my face, I put up my envelope for him to see and saluted him. That is one expression I'll never in my life forget. I immediately was filled with fear, remorse, guilt, concern for Tom and John and only a little tiny bit of the relief I had expected to feel.
Well back to the coming home from Korea. As my friends got married and we were in the good old Eisenhower years, and in Vermont that always spelled doom to the youth in Vermont. No jobs, no relief in sight. So I joined the Marines. And here I stayed for nearly 9 more years.
During those years John married his wife Kay. THey never had children. But in time they divorced and John and Leona Campbell conceived a beautiful daughter, who bore my Mom's name, Leda Mae. Oh how John loved her and they were just truly in the stages of expanding that relationship when tragically John, who had given up drinking for nine months, was going to buy Tom and my share of the homestead. He died of a heart attack, Set. 11, 1981, less than a year since Dad's death.
Tommy married and had two boys Tom Jr. and Tim and the typical baby sister and mother hen Traci (Hey Trace, I spelled it right for a change). Tom and Ruth parted ways and later TOm married a swell gal named Sandy who has a son in Al.
In the meantime, I married someone I had known as a kid in Danby, Jan Alden, a sister to Dick's wife, Ellie. And through them I met Jan, and damned if I didn't get four kids to boot. Kathy the oldest, then 15, followed by Dale the boy, and Saundra, and finally the youngest, Jackie. (Jackie I later adopted with her consent). Jan was probably as instrumental as any of us in the first reunion. She put her heart into it, figuratively and literally. I will always be indebted to her and all her love and understanding how much this meant to me and many of you who may read this. Jan only got to three reunions. But she loved the format at the first that was held at Kritter Kamp. She felt the Kritter part fitted us Ackerts, ha. Thanks a zillion Auralie J. We will miss you as slong as ther is a reunion and long time afterwards. Jan passed away in August of '73. Not long after the reunion.
Four years later in 1977 there was another youngest Ackert honored at the reunion that year. Born to Merle W. Ackert Jr and HElen C. Ackert, and named very appropriately, Merle W. Ackert III. God forbid another one of them. I was 45 and Helen was 40. Quite a thrill for us and to his namesake also, "Zib." Dod got to see and hold Merle and wish he would give me as much grief as I gave him. I think his wish has been pretty well fulfilled, ha. Kidding son.
And this past Feb 2-17-95 Merle the III and Victoria Erickson had them a 12 week premie baby boy named Aryan Wilfred Ackert, who ame in at an amazing 2 lbs and 10.5 ozs. But as of this writing 6-11-95, my latest pride and joy is weighing in as a robust 9 plus lbs, and a set of Lungs to match. And now its my turn to say, "Merle III I hope he gives you only half the unusual moments you've given your mother and me," ha.
26 years ago Robert "Toots" Ackert passed on, at that wake the gals from Dodd's clan, Bud Earl, Myself and Jan resolved that never again was the only reason for a clan gathering going to be a wedding, sickness, and least of all a funeral. And we formed a committee to once and all find a place, a date and how this could be done. Several locations, New York, Mass., Conn., and Vermont were discussed. But with all I've written on previous pages made the Danby area the choice. Money wasn't a real issue at first, but became so real quick. When all you can afford is a place to pitch a tent, build a fire access to some water and an extension cord running 500 feet from my camp still only half built. So $2.50 was the fee. And through the efforts of Dick and Bill Ackert and the local fire department a large meeting tent was set up. And oh baby, let the games begin. It was super, we had two days like I never dreamed of. All the locals helped out, we hand mowed about ten acres of field, set up the big tent, got tables and chairs, set up lighting, a stero, made a few fire pits, set up individual tarps and made an outhouse. Raffle tickets and soda and kool aid for the kids and a keg for the older imbibers. Lots of food, food and more food. Slowly the cars and campers pulled in. The group grew all day saturday. By Saturday night it was truly a family reunion. The next morning tired folks assembled more bug-eaten, sunburned and frazzled a group I'd ever seen. I thought my oh my am I really related to all these folks? And as the day progressed that thought turned to a chest filling of pride and accomplishment.
I never dreamed of. All the locals helped out, we hand mowd about ten acres of field, set up the big tent, got tables and chairs, set up lighting, a stereo, made a few fire pits, set up individual tarps and made and outhouse.