|CLARA MARIA GRANADOS (1909-2003)
Memories of Mom
Mother was born on September 1, 1909, in Seville,
Spain. She came to America at the age of two with her mother,
brother Luis, and sisters Rose and Connie. She died peacefully in
the early morning hours of June 19, 2003, at her second home in
Deale Beach, Maryland, at the age of 93.
In February 1918 when she was nine years old, she moved to
Riverdale, Maryland, with her parents and siblings . Mother lived in
Riverdale until her late 80s when she found it necessary to move to
the Deale Beach house because it had no stairs.
Mom remembered attending third grade at the little red schoolhouse
next to the Calvert Mansion in Riverdale. Some days were so cold
that she and the other children went down to the furnace room and
huddled around the stove. When the great flu epidemic struck in 1918
many people died, including her third-grade teacher.
Her future husband, Charles Howard Koch, also lived in Riverdale
with his family. Charles’ sister, Gladys, and Mother were
classmates. Because he was a year older, she was well aware of his
existence. Their relationship did not blossom until 1928. About that
time they began to drive to work together in Washington, D.C. in
Charlie’s car. On weekends he played banjo in a small band and she
accompanied him to the dance halls along the Chesapeake Bay and the
surrounding area to hear his band play and to dance. She married
Charlie on January 21, 1930.
When Mom and Dad married, her parents approved but some of her
family members did not because Dad was Protestant. Their oldest
children, Clara and Carl, were staying in their grandfather’s home
in Riverdale while Mother was in the hospital giving birth to
Barbara. While she was in the hospital, her father died and Clara
and Carl were returned to their home on Charlotte Avenue in the care
of Aunt Beano. They were never again welcomed to visit their
grandfather’s house. In fact, Mother’s name was not included in her
father’s obituary (Evening Star, June 23, 1937). The same omission
occurred in her brother Luis’ obituary in 1992. About a year before
she died it was suggested that she might like to make contact with
the church. With fiery eyes, her answer was a resounding "NO".
Charlie and Clara had four children: Clara, a retired
comptroller/business woman in Bradenton, Florida; Carl, a retired
university professor in Annapolis, Maryland; Barbara, a private
piano teacher and faculty wife in Lincoln, Nebraska; and Charles, a
law professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg,
When they first married, Mother and Dad rented a house in Riverdale.
When she became pregnant with Clara, Mom stopped working, giving her
additional time to spend with her own mother. They would usually
visit at lunchtime but on one rare occasion the two of them went to
downtown Washington to buy baby clothes and see a movie. Mother and
some of her siblings tried to accumulate enough money to send their
mother to visit her former home in Spain. It bothered our Mom for
the rest of her life that the dream of sending “Abuela” to Spain was
Later that year, Mom and Dad moved to 6120 58th Avenue (formally
Charlotte Avenue) in Riverdale Heights to a house just a few doors
away from Charlie’s brother, Will. Mom’s brother and wife, Ramon and
Kitty, moved to a house nearby on Quintana Street. Her brothers and
sister, Johnny, Beano and Tony, would often visit when in the area.
Rose’s daughters, Dolores [Hagerty] and Shirley, spent the night
there in a pinch as did Lola’s daughters, Dolores and Donna.
Riverdale Heights was an unincorporated town and the volunteer fire
department was the center of civic activity. Ramon was the Chief;
Charlie was usually the Assistant Chief. He also taught courses in
fire fighting, first aid and civil defense. Mother belonged to the
ladies’ auxiliary and helped with social functions. A photo of the
annual dinner of the Riverdale Heights Volunteer Fire Department for
1945 showed five of the ten first-generation Granados siblings in
attendance. They were: Ramon and Kitty, Clara and Charles, Connie
and Arthur, Beano, and Tony in his Marine Corps uniform.
Mother and Dad had many friends in Riverdale Heights. They
frequently played cards and had coffee gatherings. They always had a
vegetable garden and raised chickens for eggs. We loved the fresh
eggs but when a hen stopped laying, it became Sunday dinner. Mom
also regularly made jelly from the available fruit. Once she started
to crochet a dress for Barbara. A problem arose because Barbara grew
faster than Mom could crochet. When Mom did catch up, the dress had
a very long skirt.
The house had one big grate in the center for heat. Coal would be
delivered to the basement through a window. Barbara remembers that
on cold mornings while Dad was dressing for work, Mom would go to
the basement in order to stoke the furnace . There were only two
bedrooms in the house so the four children slept together in one of
them. Dad finally built a small bedroom in the attic for Carl.
When Dad was gone in the evening, Mother and the children would
gather around the radio for Lux Radio Theater, the Judy Canova Show,
and other popular programs. Occasionally Carl would be sent to
Patrick’s Drugstore for candy. Mother’s favorites seemed to be Baby
Ruth and Butterfinger. There was a frequently used wind-up Victrola
and records in the home. Mother was also fond of “Taylor’s” ham and
sometimes fried bananas for herself after everyone else was in bed.
In 1948 they moved to 4711 Ravenswood Rd. in Riverdale in a house
formerly owned by Charlie’s sister, Helen. They were not involved in
the fire department there nor did they develop the strong lifelong
relationships with neighbors as they had in Riverdale Heights.
Perhaps the relationships forged during a depression and a war were
not easily duplicated under normal circumstances.
When the children matured and left home one by one, Mother returned
to the work force; first, at the High’s Store [a 5 and Dime] in
downtown Hyattsville. When Prince Georges Plaza opened she took a
job at the hosiery counter in Hecht’s Department Store. This placed
her in sight of the entrance and she was able to visit with old
friends and relatives. She loved that. During these twenty years, we
suspect that she knew everything that was happening in the northern
half of Prince Georges County. She often walked to work (a long
walk), because she did not drive.
She was very proud of her Charlie. Without a high school education
Dad began his career as a union linotype operator at a local press
and then at the Government Printing Office but retired as a
permanent staff member of the Judiciary Committee of the House of
Representatives . He taught a variety of courses for the University
of Maryland Extension Service and, until his late eighties, played
Mom was intensely devoted to Dad, and she thought he could do
anything. They took camping vacations so Dad could fish. Several of
their grandchildren remember camping with them along the Pocomoke
River. Eventually (1964) they built a cottage at Deale Beach,
Maryland, where they enjoyed their summers crabbing and talking to
the neighbors. Eventually this house became their principal
Mom had beautiful hands and nails and remained surprisingly young
looking. Well into her fifth decade people were incredulous to find
out that she was a grandmother. She always had that excellent soft
and supple Granados skin. She had sparkling dark brown eyes, a ready
smile and an expressive personality. Mother was a breast cancer
survivor. In 1958 she had a radical mastectomy but no further
problems developed. In later years she suffered from surgeries to
her knees and shoulder.
Mom made wonderful crab cakes and we enjoyed them as often as
possible. Dad had a live-box for soft shell crabs but we seldom were
able to persuade him to share them. The family loved to meet Dad at
the Bay to check the crab pots and bring in the blue crabs. Mom
would wash them off, steam them, heap them on the table on the porch
and we would eat until we were stuffed. They were so delectable. One
time the crabs got out of the pot and started running all over the
kitchen causing much screaming and laughter.
After her children were gone she began to watch sports intently with
Dad. She was a Washington Bullets [now the Washington Wizards] fan
and her favorite players were Kevin Greevy and Mitch Kupchak. Mother
and Dad also watched the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Redskins,
and the University of Maryland basketball and football teams.
Mom had little desire to travel since her family and home were the
most important part of her life. They did go to St. Petersburg
Beach, Florida, every winter for about 25 years. Often, they would
visit Aunt Rose and her daughter Dolores Hagerty while there. They
traveled with Clara and her daughter Carol into Canada, down the
West Coast (visiting Clara’s daughter Ellen in California) and
across the South to home in 1978. They traveled to Germany with
Barbara and her husband, Ben, in 1987. Dad had an intense desire to
go to Germany and she gamely accompanied him.
When Mom died on June 19, 2003, her ashes were scattered at Dad’s
favorite fishing spot on the Chesapeake Bay where his ashes had been
previously scattered. She never dreamed of outliving her Charlie but
she did, by nearly 5 years. To her last day, she missed him
COMMENTS FROM GRANDCHILDREN:
Granddaughter Carol Claeys Hagerman, daughter of Clara Koch
Claeys, writes: I spent a lot of time with my grandmother in
Riverdale and Deale. When I was very young, Grandmother and I would
run up to the railroad tracks in Riverdale and count the cars as
they went by until the end of the train. This is how I learned to
count. We often walked to Prince Georges Plaza--a very long walk.
I remember my Grandmother brushing my hair every night, counting
with every stroke until each tangle was gone. I also remember her as
always encouraging, saying "you can do anything that you put your
mind to." Grandma made me feel very special and unique when I was
with her and I love her very much.
We went to many functions at the Deale Beach Community Center and
attended many bingo games. We rode our bikes together all around
Grandmother liked to tell the story of when we were left in charge
of the soft shell crabs while Grandpa was gone overnight. We went to
check the crabs as instructed. One time while checking the crabs at
night, the flashlight dropped into the Bay. We could see the light
under the water. I grabbed a net and fished it out. Grandmother
wanted to dry it out so she put it into a warm oven. We then had a
Granddaughter Anne Rader (m. Ken Gatter), daughter of Barbara
Koch Rader, says: I remember my grandparents visiting us in
Lincoln, Nebraska, after Granddad retired in the mid ‘70s . My
fondest memory is of my grandmother taking me on a long walk to get
ice cream at the Baskin Robbins store. We both loved ice cream!
Grandson Steve Rader, Barbara’s son, writes: Sometime (in my
pre-teens?) I visited at the Beach Place by myself. I recall that
Grandma Koch would force me to take an afternoon nap (I thought I
was too old) and then she would treat me to a cold root beer
afterwards. I'm not sure if those naps were for her benefit or mine.
I also distinctly remember Grandma once pulling in a stingray when
we all went fishing. I don't think I had ever seen her get
agitated--she was "cool as a cucumber"--but this stingray caused her
to go into absolute hysterics. She screamed at "Daddy" (Grandpa) to
knockout that stingray before someone got stung. It wasn't even in
the boat. I wonder how many times that scenario played out.
Prior to that visit, when I was much younger, we went for a walk in
the Beach Place neighborhood. I walked right into an open sewer
ditch! I didn't realize the lush green on top was a mat of algae.
Grandma had me strip naked, and hosed me down with the harsh cold
water from a garden hose. She thought the whole affair was very
amusing. I think she often retold that story (at least to me!) in a
truly loving way.
The Koch family