When Great-Aunt Myrtle lost her husband, Clarence, in 1950, she picked up the fractured pieces of her life and returned to work. For the next 36 years, she was the no-nonsense proprietor of McAllen Upholstery Shop in McAllen, Texas, a woman ahead of her time.
When Richard developed tuberculosis in the late 1920s, he moved his family to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to receive treatment. He recovered and the family decided to stay
The Hembrocks took Great-Aunt Myrtle’s father, Hans, and mother, Catherine, to live with them above the shop. According to the 1940 U.S. census, Great-Aunt Myrtle was a housewife. She and Clarence had no children.
A Family Affair Business
Great-Grandma Stolley hand-braided rugs to sell in the shop and Great-Aunt Myrtle offered sage advice and skillfully sewed drapes that their clients greatly admired.
She Went Out With ‘The Girls’
Great-Aunt Myrtle was active in the Firefly Garden Club, McAllen Business Women’s Club and a service group called the Zonta Club of West Hidalgo County. She continued Clarence’s commitment to offering top-quality products and service, plus she kept abreast of changing styles, trends and materials. All the while, Great-Aunt Myrtle honed her business skills.
Great-Aunt Myrtle’s nephew, Richard Jr., his wife, Grace, and their four children, who also lived in McAllen, always treated her with great kindness and respect.
She Never Forgot Her Sweetheart
Behind Great-Aunt Myrtle’s favorite chair on the shelves of the rack was a collection of miniature china shoes. She told me that every month when Clarence went downtown on a Saturday morning to get a haircut, he would stop by the drugstore. He’d buy his sweetheart a token of his affection. Although her last home was small, Great-Aunt Myrtle always displayed those shoes given to her by the love of her life.
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Here are more inspiring (and surprising) women’s stories I hope you’ll enjoy:
Reflecting my cherished Western Canada and Texas rural roots, I am irresistibly drawn to the stories of country people whose lives resonate with purpose, courage and hope. I invite you to read more about them at www.elainethomaswriter.com to see other stories I’ve saved.
Your Great-Aunt Myrtle was an amazing woman. She experienced many ups and downs, but there was no obstacle she could not overcome.
I agree, Becky. I’m sure Great-Aunt Myrtle must have wondered what was to become of her and her mother when Clarence died at such a young age. While Great-Aunt Myrtle had helped in the business that’s not the same as running it. Also, at that time, few women-owned businesses in small Texas cities thrived.
Beautiful and heartwarming story. You never stop amazing me.
Thanks, Judy! It was great fun tracing Great-Aunt Myrtle’s life. I was grateful to my mother-in-law for carefully saving the wonderful old photos, plus I was able to borrow several from Emil’s cousins for the story.
What a sweet tribute to an amazing, very strong women who obviously made an impression on you! Remembering our ancestors and their legacies is a wonderful gift for living family members, providing an insight into their lives and personalities, instead of only a name on a tombstone.
Aunt Myrtle would have loved meeting and visiting with you about the importance of sharing family stories, as well as keepsakes, Carolyn. In addition to the miniature shoes, she sent me home with six pink Open Rose Depression glass goblets that day. She was so kind and thoughtful.
How fabulous that these old photos still exist. Priceless.
Yes, the vintage photos really are very special. My husband and I were like a couple of detectives. We blew some of the pictures up on the screen so we could capture details that weren’t obvious in their small-size format.
Elaine, Your great-aunt Myrtle was quite an exceptional woman! Thank you for honoring her and sharing this significant story. Another remarkable woman was your mother. I love the astonishing story of Cecilia and the grizzlies in her chicken pen. It sounds like a tall tale, but truth is often stranger than fiction! Thanks to your particularly splendid storytelling, we have these stories preserved for the enjoyment of many!
Hello Deb and thanks for the positive feedback on Great-Aunt Myrtle’s story and Mom’s. Those two would have had a wonderful visit had they ever met. Both women reflect the phrase ‘When the goes gets tough, the tough get going.’ Of course, perfect ladies, too!
So many people of your Great-aunt Myrtle’s generation lived incredible lives, and I’m so glad you’re capturing some of their stories. It breaks my heart when I read an obituary that says, “S/he served in WWII” or something else that dismisses a life-changing event as worthy of a line or less. I remember going with my daughter to the funeral for her friend’s grandmother. We knew she was a talented weaver, and there were pieces of her art displayed throughout the small rural church that day, but neither of us had known she was a code-breaker in World War II. What stories she must have had!
Nancy, I couldn’t agree more. An elderly lady I used to sit next to in church was a “Rosie the Riveter” during WWII. By the time I got around to asking her if she would tell me her story of working in an airplane assembly plant, she declined. She told me if she told anyone about her experiences, it would be me, but she was too old and the effort was too great for her to try to recapture those long-ago memories. I was sad and disappointed in myself for not acting sooner. Another meaningful story that goes untold…
My daughter-in-law’s grandmother was a Rosie the Riveter and I had her come to our Columbus DAR and tell the stories; she loved it and the Daughters loved the stories. She was 96 at that time and she died in February 2023 at 98. It was truly a blessing hearing the stories.
Hi Marti! I bet that was a moving presentation. To learn about the war work by hearing the memories of an older lady who had made a significant contribution must have been fascinating. I have read that a lot of the girls who volunteered for factory work not only enjoyed it but were well suited to getting it done because of their strong work ethics.