Aunt Grace Norris Bailey
A Page from the Scrapbook
I thought I knew quite a bit about my Great Aunt Grace. A few years younger than my grandfather, she graduated from college and became a school teacher, eventually being voted into the Kettering (Ohio) Teachers Hall of Fame. She married my Great Uncle, Harrison (Red) Bailey and they built a house on land ajacent to that of my grandparent's. Though they remained childless, they shared their home with their "family"; a beloved succession of bulldogs. Her name was quite fitting for a woman who carried herself with an air of style and elegance. Yes. I thought I knew quite a lot about this woman. That is, until yesterday when my mother brought me a box full of mementos that had belonged to Aunt Grace and I learned something quite surprising. My aunt was a diva.
There in the old box, among the scattered postcards, photographs, and blueprints, I found an old, dusty, ragged scrapbook. Inside were pasted newspaper clippings detailing recitals and appearances where Aunt Grace performed as a singer. The articles called her a "dramatic soprano". Under each clipping Grace had lovingly described the event, listed the songs performed, and even detailed what she had worn, such as "a peach taffeta dress" and "an orchid chiffon". Even though my mother remembered her aunt singing in church occasionally, she had no idea of the scope of her singing career and we were both surprised as we read of her accomplishments. Several pages into the book, on the side of the page she wrote, "been having a terrible time with my throat this winter so haven't been able to do much. Don't know if it will ever get better." On the following pages there are a few other clippings and then underneath a church program she wrote, "Solo at church one evening. Got through it all right, but don't know how it sounded to listeners". Then, on the page following the clipping that I have attached to this post, she wrote "Ralph Thomas gave another recital on June 2. He was quite angry that I did not sing but finances said NO! and so did Dr. Sullivan, my nerves are very bad. This Fall I hope to study earnestly - I can notice my voice is getting rusty."
After this, the scrapbook ends. Did her voice fail her? Was this the reason why her career went no further? Was this when she decided to become a teacher? How I wish I had known about this portion of her life! How I wish she was here now to answers these questions and so many more! I am very grateful that she never threw this scrapbook away and I wonder if there were times when she opened the book to remember those days. The box has revealed many treasures that I will share in the future, but I had to begin with this discovery and the revelation that my Aunt Grace was a diva!