Thursday, April 5, 2018

SHE TOLD ME IT WAS OK

MIV SCHAFF
Date of death - August 6, 1998
Big Lagoon, California

Miv was a writer.  My path crossed hers (thought she didn't know it) when back in the mid-1970s I decided to change from the very-conservative newspaper in Orange County (The Register) to the LA Times, which was right up my alley - in all ways.  And I always read it cover to cover.

It wasn't long before I discovered that my favorite of all things I read was her weekly column, "Writing for Yourself."  I never knew what she would have to say each week, but it was always interesting, touching, surprising and special.  Whether it was about family, houses, music or hobbies, after I finished reading it I always had something to think about.  Her column reminded me that this kind of writing is what I always had wanted to do.

I can't pin down the year but it was probably in the late 1980s that I went to a talk she gave at UCI called "Writing for Yourself."  I sat spellbound as she shared how it was that she came to write such a column and why it was important to her to do it.  It was far and away the most life-changing talk I'd ever heard.  I knew she was talking to me.

I have always written.  I think I had a pattern to follow: from my earliest years I can remember my mother at her old typewriter "writing."  In my files I have a copy of a 1941 letter of acceptance sent to her by a religious publishing company for an article that would appear in a handout to Sunday School children.  Along with this letter was clipped a crisp $1 bill.  This was the only thing she ever published, but she kept on writing all her life.

She also told me of my great-grandma Louise Hall Ryland being the ghost writer for a book on Caldwell, Kansas, where she lived.  The family was very proud of her (although later critics called it 'purple prose.)

My younger sister also was a writer; her first recognition (and last) was winning $200 at a Forest Lawn-sponsored writing contest while a student at George Pepperdine College.  She was far better than I at writing, but she had no drive for it.  Yet when I did my self-published Istanbul cemetery book she edited it for me and it was oh, so helpful.

I have always written.  The other day in tidying up my files I found once again all my school report cards from 1st through 12th grade, which had been bundled up and saved by my mother.  I looked through them again and was shocked at how many of them had teachers' notes to the effect that I was "a good little writer." (Well, in the later years they didn't use "little"!)

It was Miv Schaaf who gave me permission to write for myself without waiting to publish.  My first husband, who was lazy, always nagged me to write a novel so we could have more money.  I don't think in "novels".  Non-fiction was always my love.  But I felt there was not much of a market for someone as mundane as I was, and I certainly was never a "creative" writer or thinker.  But oh, how good I feel when I write something I like!

I think my kids are "sort of" aware that I do a lot of writing.  I hope when I'm gone they will want to tackle some of it to see just who their mom was.  But alas, I suspect I will fall in the category of Rev. Abner Peet as expressed in Edgar Masters' Spoon River Anthology.

I had no objection at all
To selling my household effects at auction
On the village square.
It gave my beloved flock the chance
To get something which had belonged to me
For a memorial.
But that trunk which was struck off
To Burchard, the grog-keeper!
Did you know it contained the manuscripts
Of a lifetime of sermons?
And he burned them as waste paper.

Nevertheless, I owe my pleasure in writing directly to Miv....her legacy to me was making me understand that writing for myself was OK!


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

COUSINS - OF THE VERY BEST KIND



DONALD RABERNE PUCKETT
9 Feb 1930 - 11 May 2004

In the late 1980s I was at a Family History Center on my lunch break, hoping to get a photocopy of some old marriage records on microfilm, showing 3 Puckett men marrying 3 Corel women in Tazewell County, Virginia in the early 1880s.  I wanted to take these photocopies with me when I went to a Corel family reunion in a few weeks.

The fellow at the History Center, of whom I had requested them, insisted that I come with him into the adjacent LDS church because there was a fellow in the church whose last name was Puckett – and he thought we should meet.  I advised him that I was on a lunch hour and needed to hurry back, but he was insistent.

Rather grudgingly I followed him into the church, where I saw a man vacuuming the carpet.  “Brother Puckett, I have someone you’ll want to meet.  She might be a cousin!”  and with that, he introduced me to Don Puckett, a man volunteering some time at the facility. 

Don said his Puckett was from Virginia, and I said mine was too.  He then said his Puckett was from Tazewell County….and surprising both of us, I answered “Mine too.”  I began unfolding the photocopies of the marriage licenses I had asked for, while Don, now wide-eyed, said “If you say his name is William Puckett, I’m going to faint.”  In a kind of unchurchly-type voice I said, ‘No, Don, but it IT IS William’s wife, Louisa Corel Puckett that I’m looking for” and I handed him the papers showing that William Puckett and Louisa Corel were married on Dec 18, 1842.” 

That made Don and me instant cousins, and after we gained our composure over such a fortuitous discovery, we exchanged phone-numbers and from that moment on, Don and I, and our spouses became fast friends and constant researchers.  Every find we made in the Puckett and Corel families for the next 15 or so years  was sheer fun….for him, it had religious connotations and for me it was a great hobby.  Those differences never stood in the way of the wonderful kinship we had discovered.

Don was a smart, dedicated, charming and very funny man, who turned every genealogical “hunt” into a great event.  We spent lots of time on the phone puzzling over a half-dozen Nancy Pucketts and which family they belonged to.  We shared problems and we shared finds.  All were made with more laughing that I’d ever done before or since.  Don was a great cousin, a great friend and a fantastic researcher. 

I am so thankful that the little man in the Family History Center overrode my desire to get back to work on time. (I was only a little late that day!).  

Don passed away in 2004, and I am so thankful that we shared “cousinship” for those 15 years.  


And in case you are wondering, we were 4th cousins  -  the very best kind.

Monday, February 26, 2018

NOT ONE TO GIVE UP!


BLANCHE LANE TOMPKINS
July 6, 1923 -  April 30, 2013

When you come late into a person’s life, you rarely have much of an idea about his or her background.  I met Blanche in 2000, when I retired at 65, moved from Orange County and joined the San Bernardino Genealogical Society, of which she was a long-time member.  I came to know her as a friend and mentor who was knowledgeable about everything San Bernardino-ish, having lived there as an adult for about 50 years. 

She died in 2013, and it was in her Obituary I learned about her “other” (than genealogy) life.  She was born in New Mexico, and at the age of 4 contracted polio, which left her crippled in spite of many treatments, surgeries and exercises.  She spent her life in braces and crutches, but that didn’t stop her from becoming salutatorian at her high school and then graduating from University of New Mexico with a BS in Biology.  In 1948 she passed the California State Board Exam for Clinical Medical Technologist and subsequently the exam for Microbiologist.  Her first job, which she held for 10 years, was at the San Bernardino County Hospital, and then she spent another ten years as a microbiologist at Saint Bernadine’s Hospital, also in that city. 

During this period of time she married Albert Elwood Tompkins and they added two sons to the family, Walter and William.  Albert had served in the US Army during WWII, landing in Normandy on Utah Beach in September of 1944.  He proceeded through France and Belgium and into Germany, meeting the Russians in Berlin.  

In San Bernardino, Blanche was active in the Presbyterian Church, serving as a Deacon, member of the Session, Moderator of Circle of Hope and Presbyterian Women.  And she was the one who invited me to a most interesting "Kirkin' O' The Tartans" service, after she learned that my distant ancestor in 1804 was ordained  a Presbyterian minister. 

Blanche was a lovely woman, warm, helpful, and smart.  She knew every square inch of the California Room at the San Bernardino Library.  I was lucky to spend five years of working with her as a volunteer; I did not know her background then, as she didn't spend any time talking about herself.  She was there to help others.

I am glad I was counted as a friend and she certainly fits well in "Immortal Nobodies."  I surely won't forget her.

Monday, January 8, 2018

WHO KNEW OF THE JAZZ MAN?


Rudolph Onderwyzer
1929-2017

     If I had to characterize my first impression of college, I would have to be honest and say that my matriculation to George Pepperdine College, which took place in the fall of 1953, was the real beginning with my love affair of Progressive Jazz.  

     I did not know of Mr. Onderwyzer, who over time was the owner of three jazz clubs - Shelly's Manne Hole, The Lighthouse, and Hop Singh's.  But what I did learn yesterday is that it was he who brought the venues into being featured progressive Jazz in Los Angeles.  It was new, and trendy, and cool, and it touched my soul then and has stayed there for well over sixty years.  

     I was lucky that my college was so close to these venues.  I saw musicians like Shelly Mann, Charlie Bird, Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Cal Tjader, Oscar Peterson, Chet Baker, Chico Hamilton, Herbie Mann, Freddy Katz - and others make music that is still my choice of listening pleasure.  I'll venture to say that there are many others beside me who still feel that cool jazz running through their veins.

     Mr. Onderwyzer later was aware of the changes in the music market, and when the cool jazz market changed, he retired as a Jazz club owner.  

    I did not know of Mr. Onderwyzer until his picture and bio ran in the Los Angeles Times yesterday announcing his death on October 10, 2017.  I wish I had been able to tell him what an impact his life and love of music has made in my life. His family, should they accidentally stumble over this blog as they nose around online, will understand my feelings for Rudolph Onderwyzer and it is true, as his obituary ends with.. "He will be remembered by not only his children, but all the people whose lives his Jazz clubs and the music touched. You will be missed, Rudolph Marco Onderwyzer.  Rest in Peace."

      Mr. Onderwyzer really is not an "Immortal Nobody."  He definitely is a Somebody, but I just didn't know it.  

Thursday, January 4, 2018

THE FAMILY STORYTELLER


      DOROTHY DOBBINS KRETSCHMER

20 May 1904 - 15 October 1997


               My dad's older sister, born in Las Animas Colorado, became the family storyteller.  I'd like to share a bit of her written legacy - bits and pieces of what it was like growing up in the dry land farming area.

               My parents, Maude McConnell and Scott W. Dobbins, were married December 28, 1898, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  They met the year before when Papa and his brother Gaston were members of the Midland Band in Colorado Springs, playing during the summer in Stratton Park.  His family lived in Las Animas, Colorado, his father a rancher.

                The wedding was held in Colorado Springs at the home of Lillie McCammon, Mama's widowed sister, with family and friends present, her mother Frances McConnell, brother Bert, Aunt Lillie's children, Hazel age 10, Floyd 8 and Frank 6.  Papa's brother Gaston was there.  His parents were unable to come because of illness.  The young couple would live in Las Amimas on the ranch.

~o~

               Ranch life was a new experience for Mama, different from farm life as a child and city life as a young woman.  She would become an expert in the ten years they lived there.  I arrived on the scene May 20, 1904, Dorothy Caroline, and was born in town rather than the ranch.  My grandfather had died early in 1904 and Grandma soon moved back to Kansas to live.  Uncle Gaston married Sophie Swanson in 1901.  She was born in Sweden, came to Omaha, Nebraska when she was 22 years old.  She had a friend in Las Animas whom she visited and that is how they met.

                Papa raised hay and grain for the stock, and garden vegetables and melons.  Mamma's very graphic accounts of ranch life never failed to entertain us, the one most exciting was of a bull snake who shared the kitchen with the family for a very short while!  It was an adobe house and over the kitchen door was a hollowed out place where he lay at times.  Mama's ultimatum was "Either he goes or I go", so Mr. Snake went.  There was a pet goat and sheep always into some sort of mischief.  One year Papa raised some prize melons which he planned to enter in the county fair.  A day or so before the fair opened the goat got in the melon patch and took a bite out of every one of the choice melons!  Papa was so angry he could have killed him.  By the time he caught up with him his anger had cooled.  Lucky goat!

                We had two dogs, Beppo, a large shaggy spaniel type, and Tatters, a little short-haired Mexican dog.  Both were my constant companions.  One day I took a walk down the road, wandering too far.  When I was missed, Papa got on his horse and found us near the river!  That was a no-no; a whack on the seat of my pants was a reminder not to venture so far away again.

~o~

               Nearly every Saturday night Papa and his orchestra played for country dances held in various places.  Papa played the cornet, Ed Simons the piano, his brother Clyde the violin.  Everyone young and old were there.  The little ones were bedded down at one end of the dance hall, older children amused themselves or watched the grownups dance.  Hazel was about sixteen when allowed to dance.  The boys thought it was boring, Mama said!  Papa didn't dance.  Mama said she always had plenty of partners for dancing. 

                The years passed.  Papa decided to give up ranching and moved the family in town in the early summer of 1908.  A new baby was expected; my brother Scott Walter was born July 1st.  Everyone was happy.  Mama said I went to all the neighbors, telling them about my baby brother.  I called him Buzz, as did the family.  He carried the name on into late life, he is still Buzz to me.  As a little boy he had curly golden hair and brown eyes.  As he grew older his hair was dark brown.  My hair was brown and straight as a string, my eyes brown.  Mama had black curly hair, brown eyes and fair skin.  Papa had blond or light brown hair and blue eyes.  I think I resemble his family and Buzz our mother's.

                Papa continued playing in the orchestra.  They did the dances and in addition they played at the moving picture theatre five nights weekly.  When we were old enough to go, our friends envied us.  We got in free.  Papa worked in a furniture store for several years and later was in real estate for dry land farming.  I remember going with him in the horse and buggy out south of town to see some of the farmers.

               Grandma McConnell (Bonnie) came to visit us in Las Animas often, usually staying a month or so.  She always brought her featherbed rolled up, wrapped in canvas and tied with a rope.  What a treat for Buzz and me to snuggle up with Bonnie in that feathery heaven.  Once in a while Grandma Dobbins came to visit while Bonnie was with us.  There was some rivalry between them but they usually enjoyed each other.  Since we saw more of Bonnie we felt closer to her.  Bonnie lived in a little three room house half way up the alley from the Wheelers. Uncle Charlie owned a lot on the street north of them.  He built a house to sell and on the back of the lot he built Grandma's house.  I spent many happy vacations visiting them.

                We had a variety of pets, dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, chickens, ducks, fish, guinea pigs, polliwogs who lost their tails and became little toads and hopped away.  One summer the little ducks followed the dripping ice wagon and we had to gather them up and take them home.  Hortense, a large black and white mongrel whose favorite pastime was climbing a tree in front of our house.  A nameless cat I loved to dress in my doll clothes and wheel about in my doll buggy.  One episode ended when a strange dog came along barking, scared the cat who jumped out of the buggy and climbed up the nearest light pole, clothes in shreds.  During the melee, dog barking, me yelling, cat yowling, Papa came to the rescue of the cat.  Then my ever-patient father lost his patience and I got a spanking but good.

                A favorite chicken, Josephine, grew up to be a beautiful rooster, who any time the screen door was left ajar, came in and made himself at home on the couch.  Wow! that made trouble for chicken and kids.  Towsie, a beloved mama dog who kept us supplied with puppies, a mama cat who abandoned her five babies and we were unsuccessful as foster parents.  Freckles was a battle-scarred reddish cat that was really a rogue.  He would be gone for days, dragging himself home to recuperate.  Mama would nurse him back to health, only for him to repeat the performance time after time.  Our last dog followed Buzz home one day.  He named her Sport.  We soon learned she would be having puppies.  She was a beautiful tan and white, short-haired, nondescript breed, a big dog with a happy disposition everyone loved.  She followed Buzz wherever he went.  One Saturday night he went to the picture show and when he came out Sport wasn't there.  When he got home Sport was having her puppies.  By morning there were four darling puppies looking much like their mother.  They thrived with Sport's loving care and the attention of family and boarders.  We had no trouble finding homes for them.  

(Watch for future installments.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

FAMILY STORIES - A LOT OF FACTS & A LITTLE FICTION, MAYBE


AGNES SALATHIEL HALL
1881-1956

     Agnes Salathiel Hall and I shared second great grandparents.  Agnes' mom was the niece of my great-grandma Nancy.  Any way one tries to explain these generational things, it is easy to get confused --  but less so as one becomes more familiar with genealogical research.  I didn't know Agnes herself, but early on in my hunt for "family" I was fortunate enough to come into contact with Joe Cullen, also a relative of Agnes, and he shared with me a paper she had written about her ancestors – all of whom were my family too. 

     Like all of us who deal with "oral" or "written" histories, some of what is written is true and some is close but not exact.  Half the fun of genealogy is "proving" what one finds – and then absorbing it into one's understanding of the family.  Here's what I mean:

1.  Agnes wrote that one of her ancestors had seen George Washington and that the Indians could not shoot him, because they believe he led a charmed life.  Arrows could not touch him either

     I wondered where this idea had come from.  From a bit of research I learned that during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) at one point Washington advised  General Braddock not to march into the wilderness because of the Indians.  Braddock did it anyway and the outcome was known as "Braddock's massacre."  It was in later testimony regarding Washington's warning that for the record it came out that the Indians did, in fact, think Washington was bullet-proof, because they had tried many times to shoot him, but to no avail. 

2.  Agnes wrote "In her childhood Mama had seen the chemical match and baking soda introduced."

     In research I learned that "Strike anywhere" matches were first developed by John Walker and Samuel Jones in England in the early 1830s, and "Safety matches" were not invented until 1844.  Agnes' mom, Jemima, was born in 1842 and it's likely that starting life out in Western Virginia she did witness this arrival of the match.  Agnes also said her father struck fire with a flint and steel, and that the first stoves, called "step-stoves," made their appearance.  In an oral history by Dellie Norton (1898-1993) she writes: "We cooked with one of these old kind of step stoves…It had four eyes on top and a little apron out in front.  And just a place where you put your bread in.  And really, it was very small, but you could cook good on them.  There was a door there at the little apron where you put your wood in.  You don't ever see none of them no more."

3.  Agnes wrote that her grandma Corel "remembered the fall of the stars.  They thought it was an omen.  Scientists have since found the cause."

     This refers to the great meteor storm of 1833.  During the 4 hours which preceded dawn on Nov. 13, 1833, the skies were lit up by thousands of shooting stars every minute.  Newspapers of that era reveal that almost no one was unaware of the shower.  If they were not alerted by the cries of excited neighbors, they were usually awakened by flashes of light cast into normally dark bedrooms by the fireballs.  Many people believed that it was the end of the world.  Some people ran out to watch, and other people crawled under their bed or ran into the closet.

4.  Finally Agnes told how her family left Tazewell County, Virginia, in the late 1840s.

     "Henry Corel, my mother's father, and brothers and families, their stock, etc., came to Kansas from Virginia by flatboat down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  The boat foundered and they unloaded at Wyandotte and drove by schooner to Westport, Missouri using ox teams.  Mama was seven years old.  Kansas City was not started then.  They began a homestead on Little Blue, now Kansas City's famous Cliff Drive.  But finding themselves in slave territory, they moved on to Lawrence, the main seat of anti-slave activity.

                                *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 


     This paper of Agnes Salathiel Hall, even with its little errors, is what has me putting Agnes herself into the Immortal Nobody category.  Look what she left me and all her other descendants!  How would I ever know that these things happened in my family?  That historically they even happened?  And she could not imagine that in 2017 someone would be blessing her for this little paper.  

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A WITNESS TO BLEEDING KANSAS


REMINISCENCES OF HENRY HIATT OF TWIN MOUND
Kansas State Historical Society
February 6, 1897

Toussaint La Hay settled in Douglas County before I came to Kansas and built a nicely finished pine house of three or four rooms, plastered, painted, and on a raised foundation.  His claim was half a mile east of what is now known as Sigil Bridge, a little post office at the crossing of the Wakarusa, eight miles from Lawrence.  Gabriel Markle, who married a daughter of La Hay, still lives on this place.  The house was one of the nicest ones in the country at that time, and was perhaps put up in 1855.  Mr. La Hay had a wife, two sons, and two or more daughters.  His boys were pro-slavery and rough and always ready to fight.  I think he owned one or two slaves.  His boys were both large enough to hold claims, and I think there must have been two or three quarter sections of land in the family, good bottomland.  La Hay was a man of wealth and influence among his people.

Sometime in 1856 a party of free-state men, supposed to have been residents of the vicinity, but whose identity I never learned, robbed his house of furniture, clothing, etc., and burned it to the ground.  La Hay was not intimidated by this outrage, but immediately put up a log-pole hut with dirt floor, when he lived for some time and until he built a better frame house than the first.  I think he left our neighborhood shortly before the war, going south.  I think his daughter married Mr. Markle about the time he left.

I felt indignant when I heard of the robbing and burning of La Hay’s house, although I was a free-state man and had come to Kansas with the intention of doing my part in the struggle.  I remember of calling on La Hay early in our acquaintance and expressing my desire that we should be neighborly.  I told him that it was only the circumstances of our bringing up that made me an abolitionist and him proslavery; had he been residing north and I south, our views would have accorded with our environments.  He seemed greatly pleased with my overtures of friendship, and we always got on well together.  My wife and I attended the marriage of one of his daughters during the time the family lived in the log house.  The young man whom she married worked in my saw mill.  (Claims, 1861, p. 1536).

I had another neighbor by the name of Geo. W. Ward, who had been a member of the first border ruffian legislature.  He had a comfortable double log house.  For reasons of personal safety he left home in the fall of 1856, leaving his wife, a woman of perhaps sixty years, in charge of the premises.  On the night of September 7th, some free-state men in our neighborhood, Alfred Curtis, A. E. Love, and one other man I did not know, went to Ward’s house, and not finding him at home proceeded to carry away bedding and clothing.  Then they piled the furniture together and set fire to it.  They had ordered his wife to leave, but she would not go until the fire drove her out.  They took some cattle, hogs, and chickens.  The cattle they killed and offered it for sale in the neighborhood.  Some time after the fire Mr. Ward returned and rebuilt the house, remaining a year or two until he could see it, going south before the war.

The men who committed these depredations were our free-state neighbors.  I told them that it was our duty to behave ourselves.  If we acted as badly as the Missourians, plundering and murdering, our friends in the east would have no sympathy for us, and would leave us to our fate. (Claims, 1861, p. 1735-1737.)



Permission to use this document courtesy of Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society