-Charlotte Merriman Olmstead
1899 - 1985
This delightful poet was named Charlotte Louise Merriman at her birth on 13 April 1899 in Beloit, Wisconsin. Her parents were Dr. Chester C Merriman, a dentist, and Clara May Bernent. The Merriman's welcomed a second daughter, Rebecca, two years later. But this happy family was, sadly, to break up at some point prior to 1910 when Clara Merriman is listed in the census as living with the two girls at the home of her mother, Sarah Bernent, while the Doctor is listed as living alone in South Dakota.
By 1920, Charolotte was boarding at the home of the Dustrude family in Beloit. Romance must have blossomed at some time during her stay there, because Charlotte was married to the Dustrude's son Theron, known as "Dusty", in November of 1921 when she was 22 years of age. They settled there in Beliot, Wisconsin and started a family, having three sons by 1929. Dusty is listed on the census with "screw machinist" as occupation.
Beloit, Wisconsin early 1900's
Auburn Street Bridge, Rockford, Illinois
By 1934 they had moved to Rockford, Illinios. But the new home did not bode well for the Dustrude family, and Charlotte and Dusty divorced sometime in 1934 or 1935. While Dusty apparently moved back to Winsconsin, Charlotte remained in Illinois where she met and married Ralph R Olmstead. The couple apparently had a son a year or two later, but as I could find no death record for him, meaning he may still be living, we will leave that speculation where it lies.
It was during this period of Charlotte's life, while married to Ralph Olmstead and living in Illinois, that Charlotte published her little poetry book, Stray Leaves, in 1943 when she was 44 years old. She had the small book printed by Daily News Publishing back in her home town of Beloit, Wisconsin, but there is no indication of how many copies she had made. (the book being printed in Wisconsin makes me wonder if she went back there for a period of time) There is no forward or biographical notes about Charlotte in the little book, but my copy is inscribed with "For your reading pleasure" and signed by her.
Ralph and Charlotte appear in the Rockford phone listings as living first at 512 North 3rd street (1940), then at 708 Anna Ave From 1945 through 1959, but I lose track of the couple after that year and don't know when Ralph Olmstead passed away. However, Charlotte moved to California at some point, where her sister Rebecca lived in her later years as well, and she died 12 January 1985 in Los Angeles. She must have been a woman of both faith and good humor, as her poems are reverent and amusing in turn.
by Charlotte Merriman Olmstead
With summer smiles still in the air
Gay autumn begins to lost her flare
Poised, charming, unconcerned, she knows
Her radiant reign is near its close.
Ere she lay her tawny head to rest
In reconciled sleep, on winter's breast
She hesitates for one last fling
Then colorfully wafts, "Farewell, till Spring!"
The good times that one has
Can't be taken away;
Just remembering them
Relives them today.
The kind words that one says
Like the blossoming rose
A sweet fragrance imparts
Where ever one goes.
And each thing that we do
And each thing that we say
Becomes part of ourselves
And part of each day.
Because, I know somehow, somewhere
Is a happy land and no battles there
Where right is might, and truth supreme
And the ways of peace are a realized dream.
And though the watches of the night
May seem dismal dark and eternal long
We'll wait in quiet hopefulness
The eventual victory over wrong.
And when at last night's dark gives way
To a dawn of peace and the light of day
The all clear sirens will sound once more
And forever silence the ways of war.
I attended our family reunion,
The kind that is held once a year,
In a park or the wide open spaces
With relatives distant and near.
I had wished to know more of my forebears,
From those folks whose forebears were mine,
But the thing that I learned was appalling,
And certainly way out of line.
I'd had visions of knights in full armour,
At least folks of unquestioned degree,
But I guess they were nothing but monkeys
'Cause they talked of their family tree.
I often wish I were a poet
Or writer of renown
Or even just a little man
Known round the about the town,
For something perhaps that he had done
Both neither here nor there
But just enough to warrant him
A sophisticated air.
But guess my yen for recognition
Will always stay a wish
Cause inspiration comes when I'm
About to wash a dish.
My housework even turns aghast
When I'm about to write
Instead of looking apropos
It always looks a fright.
Outside my kitchen sill I see
A tiny, jewelled, cherry tree
A thousand dew-drops deck each limb
A thousand pearls in precious trim.
And as I gaze, in wonderment,
A robin red-breast, pleasure bent,
Spies Fairyland, and nestling there
Drinks in his fill of morning air.