Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rosemary Reaber's Scarlet Fever

Rather than highlight a person or a family in my tree, this week, I thought I would highlight a story from my tree.

My great-grandmother, Rosemary Christine Reaber Findley, could tell the most amazing stories. She is the person who gave me the genealogy bug (even if she never officially had it herself). Even though she lived just 30 minutes down the road, I didn't meet my great-grandmother until I was in high school. She was about 90 and living in a nursing home.

I don't remember if my autobiography (which turned into a short personal genealogy) sparked the first meeting, or if it was shortly after our first meeting that I was assigned the project, but I decided to interview her about her life and our family to get some background information on the people who came before me. We became instant friends!

I would often accompany my grandparents on their trips to see her, and I would listen to her stories from her childhood. My favorite of which being the story about her scarlet fever.

Rosemary told me about how she had beautiful long, curly hair as a child. She told me when she was coming up in middle school, though, all of the men were "coming back from the War" (World War I) with young, beautiful French girls. She said she envied the beautiful women and their short haircuts.
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She asked her mother if she could cut her hair to resemble these beautiful women. Her mother flatly said "No." But Rosemary didn't let that stop her. She said, one day, after school, she made a detour to the local salon and had her hair cut against her mother's wishes.

Her mother was furious. (She supposedly had quite the temper.)

Not long after this incident, however, Rosemary came down with scarlet fever. In the course of the illness, she ended up losing most, if not all, of her hair. I can't find any reference to this being a symptom of scarlet fever, but I wonder if it was a reaction to whatever treatment she was given as a result of the illness. Still, I can only imagine what it must have been like as a teen losing her hair.

Rosemary got over her illness, and her hair finally started growing back in, But, instead of growing back in curly as it had always been, it grew in straight! 

Her mother, obviously remembering her prior act, said, "That's what you get for having disobeyed your mother!"

Rosemary's hair never did regain its old curl. She, therefore, scheduled frequent perms to keep her hair curly all the way up until she died.
School photo of Rosemary
  • Photo of Rosemary provided by Thomas Cardenas
  • Rosemary Reaber Findley, relation: self

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