McKim Studios - Ruby Short McKim Revival



















Written for Grandaddy,1969

Kim McKim
Son of Ruby Short McKim

Kim McKim
Written by Kim McKim in 1979

Even though much of the focus of her attention had shifted from quilts and needlework design to the area of antique dolls by the time I was born in 1933, still my childhood memories are filled with a patchwork, if you will, of recollections which relate to her career and activities in the field of quilting and design.

As a small child, I can recall the big hall closet that contained heaping stacks of Mother's own original design patchwork quilts as well as many made in the traditional designs which dated back even then for many generations. My bed in the big old three-story house where I grew up, as well as the beds of my two sisters, always boasted a handmade quilt as the top cover. It is worthy of note that these same quilts have now been passed down in the family, not only to the McKim children, but on, in many cases, to their children, and hopefully they will remain a beloved family heirloom for many generations yet unborn.

As a youngster, I can also remember Mother and Dad working together in the evening at the big table in the library lined with its hundreds of rows of beloved volumes and decorated with Mother's own two beautifully designed hand-painted murals, depicting the McKim family at work and play. The projects over which they lovingly labored encompassed an unbelievably wide range of needlework designs. Mother's imagination and creativity were indeed limitless. And Dad, who was a talented and creative writer, helped her prepare the descriptions and directions for making literally thousands of homemade, handicraft articles.

She was a lady of great charm and gentle wit. Her inquisitive mind and ability to research added greatly to our knowledge of early American quilt patterns. Her willingness to share the fruits of her talents with others is legendary.

As a person, she was artistic, articulate, talented and generous. I remember her as a devoted wife, and loving mother whose high ethical standards have been and will continue to be an inspiration and guideline to me as an individual.

By Barbara McKim Frohoff

Grammy & Granddaddy were married in 1917. As a boy, Granddaddy injured his hip while ice-skating on a pond and falling through the ice. His family didn't have money to have him medically attended to, so he was lame for the rest of his life. The Drs. thought he wouldn't live past 21, but Grammy had other plans. While they were courting (and in a hammock), Grammy convinced him to marry her - fortunately - and they were a wonderful team, married for 50 years.

The big old yellow frame house on the corner, when I came along, held the Studio on the whole first floor with two apartments upstairs. Each of the McKim children - Betty, Marilyn, Kim and I - lived in an apartment starting out when we first married. Only a driveway separated the Studio from the big stone house, so I was in a good place to go across to their house for lunch sometimes. Anna, their housekeeper, would sometimes get meals started. It was surprising Grammy was such a good cook and entertained a lot because with her father being a traveling circuit rider preacher, they lived on whatever parishioners donated and left on the porch. Oatmeal and potatoes nearly all the time, and fresh produce in the summer. They were REALLY poor.

Grammy wasn't an especially big person, but she had a beautiful, straight carriage and presence. Her jewelry was mostly earrings and always a brooch. Expensive stuff by then, but her dresses got made over and over. I was standing there when she laid a dress on the bed and took the scissors and just started cutting. I was horrified. My mother was an excellent seamstress, but she always used some kind of pattern. The dress turned out perfect, and free-handed at that.

For years we all went to Grammys for Sunday dinner, there must have been 12-15 of us, and she did it all. She set up on the refrectory table in the library.

I was in a perfect place next door, and Grammy really finished raising me. I really got the best of her, and saw her everyday. Marilyn and Betty were busy with children and committees and such. I had no other obligations, so I spent all the time I could with her when she wasn't at her desk. She always made time to spend with me. She loved me, and though I didn't know it at the time, I just adored her. She always called me 'darling' in conversation and I treasure those times that I had with her.

With Grammy and Grandaddy, I learned how to do lavish Christmases, not a good thing probably, because it was hard to do it as well as she did. That meant presents for 6 adults and 10 grandchildren. It was their want to give big presents - like blankets for the grandchildren's beds, coats or a Bill McKim picture for the adults. There were lots of presents for everyone. So wrapping all those was a job and a half! One room was set aside as the "Christmas room" and nobody could go in there, ever - not even adults. Grammy would take a hitch at wrapping after work or in the evening. All that paper was expensive, so she saved what she could, and for name tags she cut the fronts off of old Christmas cards, matching them to the color of the wrapping paper, more or less, and then writing names and maybe a little sentence like, "I hope this keeps you warm" or "treasure this picture now and for the future". How right she was. I still cut the fronts off of old Christmas cards and use them like she did and it makes it a unique package, I think.

By Merrily McKim Tuohey
Youngest Granddaughter

Grammy was a loving and attentive grandmother, she adored children. She would have 1 grandchild come spend the night at a time, blessing us with her full attention. Coming from a family with 5 children, it was a true gift! I always stayed in my dad's old room. It was quite small but felt like a snuggly little cabin on a ship. Grammy made the curtains for his room herself. I could always hear the train at night, singing me to sleep.

We could wander around the grand old house, anywhere we wanted, except Aunt Marilyn's room, where stockings for Christmas were filled all year long. The house was so big it was quite an expedition. We had our own "hidden" cabinet filled with crayons and coloring books, as well our own collection of beautiful, unique children's books. There was a small scale home, a playhouse, in their back yard. It was just our size, all you needed to take in with you was your imagination. We would spend what seemed like hours out there, lost in our own world.

We were a very close family with daily contact. Lunch at Kelsey's Restaurant was on everyone's daily schedule. Whoever could show up was expected and would be there. We would always have a huge table full of Aunts, Uncles and cousins, and of course Grammy and Granddaddy - eating, playing and visiting. Granddaddy would butter up our dinner rolls and sprinkle them with a little white sugar, it was quite a treat! Plus, we were allowed to drink the cream from the little cream pitchers for coffee, there was never enough to go around. Granddaddy won the "Father of the Year" award in 1962 with a big write up in the local paper and photos of us all at Kelsey's.

Family holidays were the same, first there was Church and then everyone gathered at G&G's - eating, playing and visiting. Our traditional Christmas breakfast was oven-baked eggs (fondly known as rubber eggs), ham bacon and sausage, fruit compote and blueberry muffins. I can remember Grammy making her buttery homemade melba toast, old fashioned custard (which my mother still makes) and vegetable soup. Her favorite ice cream was butter brickle, and if we were very very good she would fix us up! I'm sure that's where I learned, "You scream, I scream, We all scream for ice cream!"

Grammy did not teach the grandchildren how to embroider, but she was very interested in teaching us other things. I can remember sitting at the booth in the library, with the "McKims at Work" and "McKims at Play" murals towering over me, learning to write my name in cursive. Grammy would tell me I was doing a fabulous job. She painted the murals and fortunately they are still in the family. She would tickle our backs, making up different ways to do it... Knuckles, Karate Chops, Twisty Pinches...we would always beg for more! She used to read to us from her amazing collection of children's books, and would even add her own illustrations to the pages. Grammy often bought me interactive art books as gifts, recognizing my interest in art early on. She may have even been the motivation behind enrolling me in art classes here and there when I was young. She never once suggested we color inside the lines, everything we did was perfect, because it was ours. We were allowed to be free as children, but expected to have good manners.

Grandaddy passed away in 1967 when I was 9. Grammy had a difficult time staying in this world without him, and was finally able to be with him again in 1976. She was 85 when she passed, I was 18. Theirs was a true love story, an amazing lesson in love to us all…

I have felt Grammy guiding my heart all my life, and now she also guides my hand on this wonderful journey. Her love and guidance are the most beautiful gifts of all!

By Christina Fullerton Jones
Eldest Granddaughter
Memories of Grammy…The first one that comes to mind is spending the night. Whether it was just Bill and me or also with the twins, she made it so much fun. We would usually come for supper which might be homemade beef hash or tomato soup or some other concoction she would put together. Then we would play outside until dark if summer time or solitaire in the game nook if winter. She taught us hundreds of variations. If there were several of us we would play Authors or Go Fish. Granddaddy would be reading in his big chair in the corner of the study and she would sit at the library table playing solitaire. Near bedtime she would make us a snack…cream cheese stuffed dates/prunes, dried apricots, nuts, slices of cheese and sometimes fancy crackers. We could have this with milk or iced tea or water…never soda or kool-aid. When we were VERY young, she would make us girls a doll out of a sock and tea towel…drawing on the face with pencils (red for the lips, of course). The next morning these could be washed and put back into more mundane usage.

Going to bed upstairs was also an adventure. I and/or the twins would share the Jenny Lind bed in the room by the attic stairs. It sat between two built in bookcases and faced two watercolor pictures done by Leo Politi, a famous children's book author and artist (I have these in my study now). Bill would sleep in Kim's old room in the funny little built in bed. Before turning in we would have a made up story. We each would pick 1 thing (2 if there were only 2 of us) and she would weave a story around them. Of course we would include a princess, a cowboy, and various animals…as we got older we would try to stump her and include really ridiculous items like the Pacific Ocean and Mars. But she never hesitated and would start right in with a funny tale that would last about 10 minutes. If only we had had a tape recorder back then!

The next morning we would go down for breakfast if she were cooking (usually buttermilk pancakes with corn meal in them), but if it were a weekday, then Anna, the housekeeper, would bring up a breakfast tray to their bedroom with toast points and jam, maybe an egg and bacon, juice and coffee. We would sit on the floor while they would sit in chairs in front of the electric/gas fire and with the tray between them. After eating, Granddaddy would read a chapter or two from whatever book they had going and she would sew on something. We would just sit and listen. Then up and dressing and off to wherever.

By Jane Mallinson
Daughter of Ellis Short, Grammy's First Cousin
As told to Barbara McKim Frohoff:
When she was a little girl and would be over at Auntie B's with Marilyn (they were nearly the same age) for the afternoon, Ruby would have a project in mind. She always had some art project in mind for them. One time, she gave them material and had them draw stars on it in a repeat pattern. The girls then colored them in with wax crayons and ironed them to set the color. In Kim's bedroom, the little closet didn't have a door, the room was so small it was like a ship's cabin. The material with stars drawn on it was used as a curtain for his closet.

With Love,
Ron and Wink, Family Friends
Ron and I have been trying to think of some special thing about Ruby we could share with you, but then everything about Ruby was special. She was just a fine lady and so good to everyone. Ron said he was always treated the same as Kim just like he was her child. I remember when Laurie was born and your Mother and Dad were moving out of the studio to the house on Short. Barbara was still in the hospital and I was visiting with her when Ruby came in the room after looking the new house over. She said, "There isn't a cobweb anywhere in the basement, and that is a sign of a very good housekeeper." I have always remembered that and I don't think I have ever allowed a cobweb in my basement.

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