Tip of the Day: Details Matter

I took another box of mixed media from the house, the house my father last lived in.  Most of the holiday cards I threw out, their messages meaningful only to Norman.  Many of the photographs were ones I had sent him, or copies of pictures he had snapped and sent to me years ago.  Several letters from my uncle I sent on to my cousin, sure that she would appreciate the insight into her father.  Letters from my grandmother, Florette, I saved for a rainy day read.

Methodically I sorted the box’s contents, pausing now and again to hold a memory tight.  And then, just as I thought there was really nothing new here, I came upon an envelope postmarked 1985.  Pearl Freeman had shared a few photographs with my father.  Without annotations or a note of explanation, I don’t know the relationship but apparently this stranger was sharing adolescent memories.

To date the photographs I pulled out a few key details that my father had shared about his high school years.

  • Norman, like his three brothers before him, attended Chase City High School, in Chase City, Virginia.
  • Chase City High School went up through eleventh grade.
  • Norman graduated in 1945.
  • My father began to smoke at the age of 17.
  • Chick, as my father was known by his pals, drove one of his father’s school bus routes.

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Norman is front row, third from left. These teenagers appear posing in their best outfits, in front of a brick building that may be the high school, with adults milling around in the back. I suspect that this is the Class of 1945, posing after Chase City High School’s graduation ceremony.

Norman Strickland and friends

Here Norman sits on what appears to be a bus’ fender, reveling in female attention. His peak bus driving years were the mid-1940s.

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Norman relaxes.  The cigarette dates the photo as around the time he graduated, at 17. 

Norman Strickland, Car unidentified

I am still researching the make and model. Because this capture was included with the other photographs, I am betting that this smile is of teenage-driver Norman.

If Pearl Freeman, or a descendant/friend, is reading this post, I hope you will leave a memory in the comments!!!

 

 

By 2 o’clock

Deadlines are my friend.  Deadlines are my friend.  Deadlines are my friend.

2 o’clock.  That is my latest deadline.

Computer time–1:39.

Twenty minutes to sift through my busy brain  and find some compelling story or intriguing information that is worthy of a reader’s time.

I got nothing.

Or maybe I am just procrastinating a bit of discomfort.

Oh, dear…I am.

Very late last year I made a commitment–to myself–to share my family’s history of enslaving with Coming To The Table’s Shared Legacies project.  And I did share a first draft,  a typical family historian attempt to craft story from facts and conjecture.  However, with feedback I realized that the Shared Legacies were to be a first person point-of-view, a narrative about how my ancestors’  enslaving linked to my own life experience, or, better yet, a narrative of how I discovered the descendants of the people my 4th great-grandparents enslaved.

Well, I don’t have any of the latter.

And I can’t write succinctly about why the Revolutionary Era Dodsons haunt me.

I have four more minutes…to convey to you, dear reader, that I have a shit-ton of White Folk Work to do.  And I will make a commitment here, today, to peel away excuse after excuse, and sit with my discomfort.

I hope you will join me as I examine how liberty became a race-based right in my family.

 

 

 

 

 

Tip of the day: WordPress Bloggers Can Help Get Out The Vote!

I am a proud citizen of the United States of America.  And I am registered to vote.

In most states the deadline to register for this privilege is fast approaching.

Us WordPress bloggers can help GET OUT THE VOTE for this important election by adding a subtle reminder to our sites.  Here’s how:

Navigate to your website’s settings>your profile. The last option under your profile is US Voter Registration Form.

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Check the box below to “Encourage your US-based users to register to vote…” and return to the top of the profile settings to SAVE this change.

Your page will now display in the lower right hand corner a subtle text, “Are you registered?” A click on this message will reveal a dropdown box with directions. The reader can then confirm registration and/or learn how to go about registering in their state.

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Spread your love of democracy!!  Encourage your readers to vote on November 8!!!!

 

 

 

Taking The Past Exit

My husband and I were returning from vacation, northbound on Interstate 81.  The highway made a backwards question mark, cutting into the southern anthracite fields of Pennsylvania.  Signs indicated distances to old patch towns–Tremont, Minersville, Donaldson, Port Carbon. As we passed the Tower City exit our conversation took a genealogical turn.

T: “My mother’s mother’s people came from Tower City.”

Me: “The Monahans or the Carrolls?”

T: “The Carrolls. The Monahans were from Shenandoah.”

Me: “Hmmm…That’s a good 30 minutes up the road, even longer back in the 1870s.  How did Margaret Carroll and John Monahan meet?”

T: “I never thought about that.”

We traveled on, but my curiosity took the off ramp into nineteenth century Schuylkill County.  Once home, I burrowed down into Monahan and Carroll genealogy warrens before hazarding any guesses into how T’s great-grandparents met and married in 1878.

The story starts, as so many Irish tales do, with the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s.

Martin and Margaret (Kelley) Carroll made the trans-Atlantic trip by 1848, finding work and community in Minersville, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of their first child.  Margaret, the future Monahan matriarch, was their third child, born in 1854. The family moved west during the Civil War, to the coal seams surrounding the town of Tremont.

Map of Schuylkill County, Minersville to Tremont, 1854

Map of Schuylkill County, 1854. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C. (Minersville is on the far right, and Tremont on the far left.)

Thomas and Bridget Mona(g)han left Ireland about the same time as the Carrolls, living for a few years in Liverpool, England, where Thomas earned the family’s fare as a laborer on the docks or the railroad. In 1854 the couple boarded the Andrew Foster with their little boys–the future Monahan patriarch, John J., and Michael–and crossed the wintry ocean to New York City.  By the end of that decade, the Monahans lived among the residents of Swatara, a patch town south of Broad Mountain, and a bit east of Tremont.

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In 1870 both the Carrolls and the Monahans lived in the area serviced by the Swatara post office.  Margaret was helping her mom make a home; John was an underground laborer alongside his dad.

Patch towns had collieries, schools, stores, and churches.  Surely there was ample opportunity for John to meet Margaret.  Perhaps the young folks lingered after mass or danced together at the wedding of a mutual friend.   I find it perfectly reasonable to presume that Margaret and John flirted, courted and wed because of geographic proximity.

In the last decades of the century, the Monahans and the Carrolls drifted, with various members settling in different towns nestled among the Appalachian hills.  By the time T’s mother was old enough to have memories of visiting, aunts and uncles were centered–the Carrolls in Tower City and the Monahans in Shenandoah.  But that is story for another day.

 

Thankful Thursday: Sing A Song

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The impeded stream is the one that sings.  ~~Wendell Barry

I have not written much on this blog since my mother died.  The daily exercise failed to distract my grieving brain.

Instead I hopped into a genealogical burrow and nosed around through its labyrinth of story lines, tumbling out in previously unknown family territory and time.  The research begged for more than a cursory post.  I drifted for a while, before I befriended a deadline, and realized how important these “time to stop writing” moments are in the process of developing a story, of finishing thoughts, of discovering what emotional responses to ancestral tales actually mean–to me, today.  An article has been published in my local genealogical society’s newsletter.  I drafted a 3000 word essay, that still sucks, but is the transformative story before the story, the first baby step in confronting my family’s legacy of enslaving.

Now I return to the blogger community, to embrace daily prompts, tiny deadlines.  This community is my channel, the place where my stream of words can bounce up against the research rocks, and rush over and under branches of “what ifs” and “whys”, to sing the past into the present.

Thank you for listening to my songs.