I Miss My Mother

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s birth, the first March 27th I haven’t made a call, or sent a card, or prepared a surprise.  Motherless.  No matter how complicated or difficult the relationship, the mother-daughter bond is irreplaceable.  Irreducible.

We are all just bits of love.”  ~~ Marilyn Minor Strickland


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A Positive Negative

Norman Strickland circa 1947

I love technology.

I love scanners, and computers, and on-line software, and blogs, and pack rat ancestors.

Oh, they are not technology. BUT I get to peek into their lives BECAUSE they were pack rats and I have technology.

Within a brown envelope of the Roanoke Photo Finishing Company, Roanoke, Virginia (just opposite the Post Office), saved by my father, were negative images of my dad, his brothers, his parents, and a little girl, just able to stand at her daddy’s knee.  That dates the group portrait with my eldest cousin to 66 years ago.  Now, IF all the other negatives belong to that same roll, the above image of Norman Scott Strickland was taken by a friend in 1947, presumably one of these folks:

Norman S. Strickland (19), second from left.
Norman S. Strickland (19), second from left.
Norman S. Strickland (19), with friend
Norman S. Strickland (19), with friend

Anyone have any clues about the photographers’ identity, please leave me a comment!  And anyone knowing about 1940s cars, what make and model do I have here??


Eugene Adams Strickland: Military Monday

Eugene Adams Strickland was born on a farm in Louisburg, Franklin County, North Carolina, on November 12, 1893.  Baby boy Strickland was the seventh child of Elizabeth Ann Coppedge and Sidney Nicholas Strickland.  For three years, the large family met challenges together, then tragedy struck.

In February of 1897, the children lost first their father, then their mother to complications of influenza.  Elizabeth’s mother, Laura Coppedge, struggled to keep the children together or at least with family.  But within a short while, the large brood found themselves torn apart.  Sixteen year old Cleo took five year old George (my grandfather) and three year old Eugene, and joined her grandma in the household of William Coppedge, Laura’s son.  The four middle kids, Luther (15), Norman (11), Polly (9), and Laura (7), were admitted to the Mason’s Orphanage in Oxford, North Carolina.  George also went to the orphanage when he was old enough; but Cleo and Eugene remained in their Uncle’s home at least until 1900.

When Eugene was old enough, he hired himself out to local farmers, living with these families as he learned the machinist trade, and eventually found his way to Washington, DC, where he worked for Cragg Manufacturing.  In 1917, the handy mechanic found himself drafted into the United States Navy.  During his service Eugene was gassed.

No record exists of what the veteran did between his discharge and his enlistment in the United States Coast Guard in 1924, but once there, Eugene served as Chief Machinist Mate until his discharge in September of 1926.  In 1930,  the single man was working as a machinist in a garage in Manhattan, living at 3155 Broadway.

My father (1928-2006) remembered Uncle Eugene visiting the Strickland farm outside Chase City, Virginia in the early 1930s.  It seems that this visit was the last chance Eugene had to see his family before being admitted to the Veteran’s Field hospital in Castle Point, Dutchess County, New York, with tuberculosis, around 1934.  By 1940, Eugene had been transferred to the Veteran’s Administration Facility, in Millington, Somerset County, New Jersey.

Eugene Adams Strickland remained in one of these two Veteran’s Hospitals, until his death from tuberculosis February 25, 1953.  His brother, George, was notified of the loss, by the Quartermaster General, who requested permission to conduct an autopsy before having the body interred in a national cemetery.  Having consulted with Cleo, Luther, Norman, Polly, and Laura, George gave the family’s consent to this request, and on March 3, 1953, Eugene Adams Strickland was buried in plot 24, lot 147 in the Raleigh North Carolina National Cemetery.  A marble headstone from Vermont Marble Company was put in place by July of that same year.

Sources for this story available upon request.


When Negatives Are A Positive

People may call me a hoarder, a sentimentalist, a pack rat. But I prefer to think of myself as a Keeper of the Lore, continuing the work of my brilliant ancestors who kept receipts, photographs, letters, cards, documents, books, and negatives.  


Today, I felt like fossicking through my closet  family archives, and was rewarded with the discovery of 1950s negatives, treasured by father.  Let me demonstrate why a negative is worth a thousand words.

Original Negative, scannedScan the negative, like it was a photo (jpeg) file, and then use your scanner to modify the file before saving it to your computer.

Adjust color for a negative, scanned.Find the tab for adjusting the color of the photo/negative, and INVERT the color.

Inverted Color NegativeLike magic, an image has appeared without chemicals or dark room!!  Save this jpeg file to your computer, and you can spiff it up with a bit of photo editing.  I prefer to use the online service, PicMonkey.com.  Ultimately, I end my morning with this great shot:

Mystery Man from negativeSure, I don’t know this particular dude, but I do know that he was important to my father.  Even the tiniest peek into his past gives me a shiver of connection.

Anyone else have some negatives to share???

Where is the Story?

Her palms hovered just inches from her ears, fingers-spread.  As if a metronome, my mother’s hands rocked back and forth as she spat, “You are JUST like your father!”  I never needed a decoder to understand that this phrase conveyed a mother’s disappointment; her eldest child, and only daughter, carried on the mannerisms and point of view of a barely tolerated ex-husband.  My parents’ divorce was amicable as formal separations go.  Since all the children were fairly grown up, no custody duels were overtly fought.  But the covert competition for our allegiance and love was ceaseless throughout my adult life.

You cope, when your parents are divorced.  You just cope, raising your own children as best you can, fending off the birth family battles with as much panache and courage as you dare, navigating the second marriages and blended family get-togethers without losing your mind.  And finally you start feeling a bit old, mortal, and you set out to reclaim your childhood, your birth family, your ancestors.  Or that is what you do when you get bitten by the genealogy bug.

I wandered the shoals of family memory, curious about how and why !?! my parents ever got together.  There was a college romance.  At RPI in Richmond.  Norman transferred to VPI (Virginia Tech) and they got married.  In Greene County, Pennsylvania. Then they lived in Blacksburg.  Norman got a job with General Electric, and they moved to Boston, where Lyn finished her degree at Tufts. GE transferred the couple to Roanoke.

I had to DIG for this stuff, people.

Finally, late in life, my father admitted that he would always love the girl he married.  Which plants the question: was Norman ever Lyn’s beloved? I would never hear the profession from her lips.

What was once lost has now been found

The letters

My father mailed a letter from Virginia Tech Station, Blacksburg, Virginia, to my mother’s dorm at 819 Franklin, Richmond 20, Virginia, every day from January 28, 1953 until May 28, 1953.

And my mother saved. them. all. *

The love letters chronicle the spring of their engagement; the Barnes Junction rendevous, unreasonable professors, wedding dates, and rambling musings of twenty-somethings. Sometimes the story is not left in the ink of a letter.  It is inferred by the mere presence of that artifact.  The words speak of my parents’ love for each other, once upon a time.  The preservation of this seven inch stack says my mother always loved the boy she married.

It matters to me that my parents married because they wanted to, because they were in love, and optimistic, and happy to be together.  It matters to me that I was welcomed with delight.  Perhaps, after all, my mother was a teeny bit glad that I turned out to be just like my father.


*Norman S. Strickland, Blacksburg, Virginia, 1953, Letters to Marilyn Minor; Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection, archived with the author.