Monday, September 2, 2013

I Touched It, Now It's Mine

It's been a busy, busy couple weeks, and I haven't quite recovered yet.  Daughter and granddaughter flew in from Detroit two weeks ago.  My sister came by train the following Friday.  She had never had an opportunity to see her great-niece, and we kept the fact that they would be here a careful secret.  Sister came out of the gate at Union Station completely unaware and oblivious.  I had to nudge her into focusing on who was standing there.  It was a great surprise.  Made her do that hand-flappy thing to the face that some people do when they are choked up.

Son-in-law followed by SUV on Saturday.  And we were off to the 92nd Whetzel-Felton Reunion in Preston County Sunday morning.  There as usual we over-ate, visited with kin folk, talked a little history.  And somewhere along the line during the "official business" part, during which the ladies who have served as president and secretary for years stated their intention to step down, I asked if the positions were something that could be done long-distance.  I touched it.  Now it's mine.  And my daughter's.  She was sitting next to me and before she knew it she was secretary.

So now I have several things I need to accomplish before the last Sunday in August of 2014:  Find out where to rent a speaker and mike - that karaoke thing just doesn't do the job in the pavilion when people are yapping.  Fill in this year's information in the register that's been kept since 1949.

Scan same register and put it in the digital world before Something Bad happens to it.  Investigate the costs (and grants to cover the cost) of establishing a website.  And I think we voted to get two new picnic tables - I have to find the nearest branch of the bank our account is in and get a signature card.  Another trip to Preston County may be necessary.  Not that I'd mind.  More and more I'd like to get up there to see people more than just once a year.  Dad's generation in particular is getting frail, and we are losing them one by one.

We took food, but came home with a greater treasure.  An old trunk sat for years in one of the bedrooms at Grandma's house.  Many things disappeared after she died - Uncle Harold was apparently not clear on the concept of the contents of the house not being his to dispose of and Dad, the only sibling left, was living too far away to do anything about it.  The trunk remained, though, and, as far as we can piece the story together, since it had belonged to Uncle Lynn, when Uncle Harold died 20 years ago Mom and Dad packed it with the few things of Uncle Lynn's that were left in the house and left it with a relative-by-marriage in hopes that my only first cousin on that side would eventually pick his dad's stuff up.  It was not to be - John died in his sleep of a massive heart attack and the chest was forgotten, stuck in a closet in an unused room.  Until last year when it was unearthed and opened for the first time since its leaving.  This year, the chest came home with me.

I had thought it to be a WWII footlocker, but obviously it's from Uncle Lynn's time with the Civilian Conservation Corps. 

It didn't have much in it, but it did have treasures.  His graduation photo:

And his high school letters:

A few pictures of his CCC camp at Kingwood that will need scanned.  A couple bakelite art-deco rings of ladies we don't recognize:

Aviators gloves - those, I bet, came from Saipan where Uncle Lynn helped build Isley Field, the great airstrip from which our B-29s launched their raids during WWII.

The real treasure, though, is a box of letters. 

During the Depression, little work became no work in places like Preston County, and apparently Uncle Lynn had gone to D.C. for a job.  The letters are letters from home, a lot of them, written in 1940-1941.  They are long, and full of news:  the parties and picnics, who was dating whom, politics (they were NOT Roosevelt people, for sure), problems, and oddbits.  Harry (aka my dad) had his "eye on a skirt" in Terra Alta.  He'd cut Ike's hair and it was so filthy that he swore it probably hadn't been washed for 2 years.  Lillie thought Harold and so and so were going to get back together but they hadn't yet.  The men in the Settlement were "laying for Clarence" and if he brought his whiskey in he'd get a surprise.  And regular letters from a girl in Greencastle, PA, whose name we don't recognize.  Since she writes of preparing for graduation she would have been several years his junior.  Her letters are newsy and full of bounce and she thinks Lynn looks like Gary Cooper.

I have a LOT of scanning to do.

Monday after Reunion, Murphy's Law was gracious enough to take my son-in-law shooting.  I knew D. probably hadn't been since he moved to Detroit and thought he'd appreciate it.  Many thanks to ML for that, and I hope D. didn't rust up anything with his drool.

The  younger ones went off to visit with D.'s family in York, PA, for a few days, and my sister and puttered, making it over to Berkeley Springs, WV, and to Hillsborough Winery.

Everybody left on Saturday - the kids in the evening in hopes that Amelia would sleep through most of the drive.  She obliged them with sleeping through half of the drive and screaming the other half.  More flying may be involved for the next trip.

And now I'm picking up, trying to catch up on yard work, trying to get back to proper eating and sleep hours and as much as I love seeing everybody I must say that I'm appreciating the restoration of quiet.


  1. Isn't it great how the past reaches forward to touch our hearts and teach us the history of ourselves...congratulations on your new assignment, you will do well.

    1. We've lost the understanding that we know who we are by knowing who we WERE. One thing I'm going to plead, beg, and grovel for next year is for people to tell their stories - any stories they can remember from the Settlement, from family, and I want to capture them for the future.

  2. Glad it went well, and it DOES make sense for you to take the responsibility. You've got the experience and technical capability to do the right things!

    1. Don't know about the technical capability but what I DO have is a computer whiz bang son-in-law!

  3. If you print out copies of those old letters, they won't stand up to the test of time like those of 1940 did. Printer ink fades through time.

    1. I'm thinking more of putting them out in the digital world, although a few of my older cousins don't do computers - if they want to see them I'll run copies for them.

  4. PH, scanners are our friends, but I see you already know it. What wonderful finds!

    1. As much as I get aggravated at modern techy stuff sometimes, it greatly expands the ability to preserve our heritage.