Josephine Lyon was my mother Maternal Grandmother
By Carmen Schultz
Grandma Josephine (Krajenki) Lyon had come from a farm family, (seven boys and herself). Her family had come over from Europe. She wasn’t sure where, nor exactly what her heritage was, but knew the family lived in an area in Mid Europe where three countries came together and that her family spoke Polish, German, and Czechoslovakian mixed together. She said that their country had been taken over by a larger country. We’d tease her about getting English mixed up. She would say things like “throw over the fence some hay.” instead of, “throw the hay over the fence.” Instead of teasing her we should have realized she knew how to speak three languages plus English but kids don’t think.
Grandmas mother had died when gram was very young (three or four) and her father married right away. He needed help on the farm and someone to help raise the children (I believe there were seven boys and grandmother). Grandma never went to school, as she had to start helping her stepmother as soon as she was able. The Krajenki family had several hundred acres of land in the thumb of Michigan. Farm life was very difficult for adult and child alike but to be the only girl in a large family of men kept grandma working from morning until evening. She told a story about how she and her younger brother were left on the farm to weed the garden while the rest of the family went to town. She decided it would be faster if they first dug up the young plants, than plowed the garden and replant the seedlings again. Everything looked great, no weeds etc until her stepmother looked out and saw that all the plants that (unbeknown to her) had been replanted were now dead. Grandma got a good whipping for that one. Another time she and one of her brothers were playing near one of the machines and her brother got his finger cut off. She felt so guilty about it as she felt it was partly her fault. The brothers adored gram and she them but she did have a problem with her stepmother and as soon as gram turned sixteen she left the farm for Detroit.
Grams first job in the big city was rolling cigars. That job lasted only a short while because gram was a fun raiser and the first month out she hid in one of the huge barrows to scare one of her new friends. Unfortunately it was the boss and not the friend who lifted up the lid of the barrow and he, not the friend who got scared when gram hollered BOO. Grams next job was working in the boarding house she was staying at. She was used to making beds, cleaning rooms and she was a fantastic cook so this was a good job for her. Not long after Grandpa (Guy Andrew Lyon) moved to the boarding house and this is where they met. Grandpa thought grandma quite different from the city girls he had been used to dating. His family was straight-laced Lutheran people and they didn’t care for grandmas “hick” ways nor the fact that she was a strict Catholic girl. That didn’t stop grandpa Lyon from deciding gram was the one for him. Their wedding gifts were mostly from the people on the farm and consisted of farm goods. They were given two huge home made pillows made of down gotten from the farm geese, an ironing board and a rocking chair that her father and brothers had made from one of the trees cut down on the farm. My grandparents started out with a pantry full of home made canned goods given to them from the farm, and grandma kept that pantry full of home made canned goods until the day grandpa died and she came to live with us. Grandpa and grandma Lyons bought a house in Detroit and started to raise their family-one boy (Frank the eldest) and one girl, My mom Francis Mary.
Frank had changed the name from Lyon to Lyons when he left home. Frank married several times-he was wild and adventurous and couldn’t put down roots. This flying was new and he was one of the first pilots to do it. I remember mom telling me that he would give her a ride but she had to make sure where she stepped so that her foot wouldn’t go through the wing as she got into his plane. I believe at that time the wings were made of light-weight fabric. For a little while he made money flying “boot-leg” liquor over from Canada when it was against the law to sell it here in the United States. This naturally was against the law but it was exciting to him and he made money from it. Later, he got a job with an airline. Since he came in at the beginning of flying, he made this his career. It turned out to be an excellent career too and he later in life became a “big wig” in the field. He traveled all over the world and loved every minute of it. He would send grandma things home from Japan and other countries he visited.
His first marriage was to a girl named Pearl. Frank and Pearl separated but not before Pearl became pregnant. They were both very young and neither felt they could care for a baby so Pearl asked Grandma if she would take care of the baby. Grandma told Pearl to have the baby and keep him for a few months to be sure that is what she wanted to do. If after that time, Pearl still felt she couldn’t care for the baby, grandma would raise it. Six months after Howard was born, he had a new home and grandma had a new child to call her own. By this time my mother had married a young man she had met at a dance. His name was Noel and he was a drummer in the band. That marriage was also short lived. My mother who had just had a little boy (Noel Jr.) got divorced and moved back home with grandma and grandpa Lyon. Mother and grandpa worked and grandma took care of two new little baby boys-two grandsons, Noel and Howard who were raised like brothers.
When Noel was six, mom met my father, (Ralph Maria Castillo) at church. My uncle was the parish priest and the Lyon family went to church in his parish. My uncle, Father Louis, his mother, who was my other grandmother, (Anna Toros Castillo), his brother (my dad) and dads little son Louis, lived at the parish, after leaving South America and coming to the United States. My mother and dad married shortly there after and this really caused bad feelings with both families. The families both being of staunch Catholic upbringing, were very much against my parents marrying. They had each been married and were divorced. Dads’ first wife lived in Caracas, Venezuela in South America. They were divorced when Dad found out she was being unfaithful, and that is when he moved himself, and his son to the United States. Dad’s brother and mother moved back to Caracas. Bud and I never really knew dad’s side of the family well. His mother only spoke Spanish and with them moving to South America there was little contact. As far as I was concerned my grandmother Lyon was my only real grandmother and she was full of love for us.
Our new family consisted of mother, dad, Louis and Noel. I was the first child born to Ralph and Frances and my brother Bud (Ralph Guy Castillo) came along twenty-two months later. Although Noel was with our family a lot he was also with grandma, grandpa and little Howard because he missed his “other family” a great deal. After Bud and I were born, we (mom, dad Noel, Louis, Bud and I) moved down to Brownsville, Texas. One of the reasons we moved to Brownsville was because Dad thought he might be able to get a better paying job with so many other people also speaking Spanish down in the Valley.
When I was six, we moved back up to Fenton, Michigan just a few miles away from my grandparents and Runyan Lake. This is where I spent so many wonderful times and had so many wonderful memories. Most of these memories were given to me by my dear, generous loving grandmother Josephine (Krajenki) Lyon. She was truly a beautiful person inside and out and I am glad she was my grandmother. She has been dead many years now but still lives on in the fondest of my childhood memories.
The below is a response to the above from Ralph Guy Castillo — my my mother’s younger brother.
I just read Dave’s section you wrote about Gramma Lyon.
Great story, but there were several items about Dad that I got a different story from Mom, Father Louis worked in New York before moving to Detroit, that’s where Dad started working a slaughter house. I think
1) Dad left Venezuela shortly after he witnessed a machine gun killing at a busy streetcar intersection. The streetcar conductor was on top of the streetcar changing the control connections when a car drove up & cut off another car with some political people inside. Men with machine guns got out of the first car and killed everyone in the second car with the political people in. They saw the conductor had witness to the killing and killed him, they than strafed the streetcar with bullets so no-one would look out or remember their faces. Dad asked Father Louis to help get him out of Venezuela in fear of his life, which he did.
2) When mom & dad moved to Brownsville, the intent was to go into Mexico and build a Tourist Camp with cabins. Dad did not have the proper papers to move & live in Mexico so they stayed in Brownsville, that when the met Mr. Tomlinson and family. Opened the fruit stand on Elizabeth St and sold fruits & veggies.
The story gets kind of cloudy how & when Father Louis made it to Brownsville and was Parish Priest at Sacred Heart Church.
Love You Bunches