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Me and my Dad

My Dad died 28 years ago. He had a massive heart attack when he was 60 and lived for a couple of  days after it. My husband and I hit the road to drive back home as soon as we heard that he was in the hospital, but we got there right after he died. My baby son was 2 months old and we stopped often on the road so I could nurse him. We ran into fog and was behind a 9-car pile up on a Tennessee  highway and we stopped for the night because traveling wasn’t safe. We called home before we left the next morning and heard that my Dad had died overnight. I didn’t get to say goodbye. My Dad didn’t get to see my baby son. He would have loved that. I would have loved that even more.

My Dad was the best dad. My Mom told the story that at my Dad’s 40th class reunion, each classmate had to get up and tell what accomplishment made them the most proud. All other men mentioned their career, or the car they drove, or the house they lived in. My Dad talked about his children and how well we were doing, how smart we were, and how happy he was. It was pretty progressive for a man of his generation to speak of his children. She said he even choked up a bit – maybe because he was nervous. But Mom wanted us to know what he had to say about his life and his accomplishments. He was telling his truth, even if it meant exposing some emotion.

My Dad saved a man’s life once. At age 58, he worked on top of a stack at an oil refinery. He used high-pressure air hoses to clean the stack. While working beside my Dad, a co-worker fell into the stack. Without company training, my Dad instinctively knew that his co-worker wouldn’t live long inside the stack without air. There were poisonous gases inside the stack and getting oxygen to him was critical. My Dad took one of the air hoses and pointed it into the area that his co-worker fell. His quick thinking gave the emergency response team time to climb the scaffolding to the stack and rescue the worker. My Dad received a citation and a plaque from the company for his quick-thinking. His photo was in the newspaper. Not only was he my hero, but in the eyes of his co-worker’s family, he was Superman.

A dance with Dad

My Dad enjoyed his organic garden ( My Dad – The original organic farmer.) , telling corny jokes ( Knock-knock) , playing with his grand-kids, and getting to know people – especially new acquaintances. He lent money to friends who were going through hard times, even when he endured going without work himself. He volunteered as a football coach for “Pee-Wee” football (Football Boogie ) in our community. He spent extra time with my blind cousin to make her feel special whenever he saw her. He taught us to dance  Saturday night in the living room when the Grand Ole Opry was on TV. He worked hard to provide for us as best as he could. He was essentially the laughter and soul in our family.

Even though he was one of 14 kids in his family (Being a Middle Child, #7 of 14), and grew up in a family were affection wasn’t really shown, my Dad somehow knew how to let us know that we were special. He parented us better than he was parented for sure and our lives were much better than he knew as a child.

Father’s Day used to be a tough day for me. But now I just spend some time with the memory of my father and the rich feeling that I am truly blessed to have had the father that I had.

My Dad

For my father’s funeral, we read a poem by Emerson that described my Dad exquisitely. He wasn’t a rich man, or famous, or prosperous in his career by any means. But he did triumph at being a father. He truly did the best that he could.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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I have a plethora of  first cousins – 58 at last count. My Dad was one of 14 children (See Being a Middle Child, #7 of 14) and most of his siblings had several children each. Most of my cousins lived in my home town and I had regular interactions with them. I also have several cousins from my Mom’s side of the family (See Archiving Photos, and Telling the Family Story). They lived in another state and we didn’t see them very often.

Several of my many cousins

On Sundays, my Dad would take us kids for a drive  and we would drop in unexpectedly at his numerous brothers & sister’s houses – as well as his mother’s.  I remember making the rounds when my mother had a baby and was in the hospital for a few days. He threw us in the car and we visited between 8 or 9 of his siblings that day. He told the same stories and details to each family and all the cousins were impressed with the idea of a new sister. We played with all of the cousins’ toys and games and returned home with new appreciation for the fun of playing with cousins. There was something special about it. We didn’t know them that well (there were so many), but they seemed to like us and treat us in a way set apart from other childhood friends that we had. The connection was  a mystery to us – we were bonded to each other in a way we didn’t really understand.

My Grandmother's House - My Dad and his family

There was always another family or two at my Grandmother’s house. There were several cousins that I didn’t know well, but it was like a school playground in her backyard. We climbed trees or played some kind of ball while waiting for our parents to visit. We went there unannounced and it was a surprise to us to see who might be there.  I knew the cousins that lived closer to us much better than the ones that went to another school. But they were all interesting to me. There was one other cousin that had red hair as I did and it intrigued me to see how she handled the teasing. Sometimes I felt like I was looking in a mirror. There were 4 boy cousins within a year of my age. Their antics were very impressionable to me when I was about 7 years old. They decided to have a peeing contest to see who could pee the furthest from behind the line. I couldn’t figure out how to participate, but observed that their antics looked like they were having fun.

My grandmother started a tradition of a family reunion 55 years ago. There was not room for all family members to meet at one location, so someone reserved a park shelter and we all met there. Every one would bring a casserole or dessert to share and the kids were usually treated to ice cream or popsicles. There were some organized games for the cousins, but the best fun was the impromptu activities that occurred on the playground. I didn’t know who were brothers and sisters with each other and didn’t know who their parents were, but it didn’t matter. It is still a tradition even though the older generation has mostly died. It is mostly just the cousins and their offspring that attend now. The connection still exists. Our histories are forever entangled.

My parents lived around the corner from my Dad’s brother Jim and his wife Mid. They came over to our house each weekend to play pinochle and my cousins Brian and Shelly came with their parents.  Brian was exactly a year younger than me and Shelly was 3 years younger. Sometimes we played our own card games to play, but usually we found more interesting activities. We went outside for hours until late in the night to shoot the basketball. Several times the ball would hit me in the face because it was too dark to see it. To this day I can beat anyone I know in the game of H-O-R-S-E. Brian worked on his ’56 Chevy in his high school years and I hung out with him and observed his hobby. In college I changed the oil in my own cars and changed out the water pump when it malfunctioned. In our activities together, Brian became my brother. The photos of my antics with my cousins may have faded, but my memories have not. These memories are the essence of my childhood in a very large family.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

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To an outsider, Mom probably appeared to be a dour person. She was nice to people, and she always taught us to be respectful. But unless she had a reason to really be friendly to someone, she didn’t necessarily smile. Now to her family and friends, she laughed more often. But to people who she didn’t know, she gave a grave impression.

My Mom Smiling

Part of the reason for this was because her childhood was difficult (See: Archiving Photos and Videos – Preserve the Family Story). Another reason to keep an austere demeanor was that she was ashamed of her smile. She feared dentists from a very bad childhood experience. I recall a story about the dentist in the mountains where she grew up wasn’t a dentist at all, just a town barber that owned a chair that would tilt back. The only remedy for a toothache was to have it pulled. Out of fear, she simply didn’t visit the dentist. My mother conserved her smiles and laughter.

But when my mother did find something funny  –  Oh My! – laughter would erupt out of her. She had no control over it. One event that triggered this was someone falling down. She couldn’t help it. She wasn’t mean, in fact, she would empathize over the embarrassment and certainly hope they weren’t hurt. But if someone fell, particularly an awkward fall, my mother would start to quiver. She’d bit her lip, her eyes would start watering, she’d hold her side and then explode with laughter. She would laugh for a long time. Just as she would get it under control, she would catch someone’s eye who was enjoying this spectacle, and she would start all over again. It could go on for what seemed like an hour. We grew up in Ohio and the winters were icy. There could be several episodes of people falling on ice each winter. She was never able to control herself. Each time was like the first time that she had ever seen someone fall.

Another instance that would elicit this outburst of laughter from Mom was someone mixing up their words while speaking. Actually, Mom did this quite more than most people, and she laughed at herself as well. If, for instance, someone said “amn dapple”, meaning to say “damn apple”, she commenced into another spell of uncontrolled spasms.  Man, she would crack up. An hour later, she would return to her serious expression, as if her portion of humor was over for the day. That is, unless she tried to relay the story to someone else. She would start laughing all over again in the re-telling.

I remember when I was about six years old an event that made the top of the all-time story-telling list in our family. My younger sister and I were playing on the swing set in the back yard. My 5 year-old sister wore corrective shoes and one shoe was larger than the other on the sole of the shoe. There was an old tin coffee pot in the back yard (perhaps used to water plants) and while we were playing, my sister ran and accidently put her shoe into the coffee pot. Her foot wouldn’t come out of the shoe and the shoe wouldn’t come out of the pot.  My sister was crying because she was walking around very awkwardly with the coffee pot stuck to her shoe. I ran inside to tell my Mom what had happened. When Mom saw the predicament that my sister was in, she started laughing so hard that she could not do anything but convulse into laughter onto a swing on the swing set. She couldn’t  help herself. She was hysterical.  Eventually, the neighbor man saw that something was amiss and came over to cut the coffee pot off of my sister’s foot with tin snips. My sister was fine. There wasn’t a thing he could do to help my mother.

My Dad a few weeks before he died

When my father died unexpectedly at the age of 60, laughter was Mom’s best medicine.  She mourned and cried to be sure. She weeped uncontrollably many times. But two episodes happened during the course of the funeral that caught her off-guard and the laughter started. She didn’t mean to be disrespectful – in fact, my father would have enjoyed the circumstance. He agreed that laughter – even through tears – is the best emotion.

At the funeral, Mom stood at the casket and greeted the MANY people who came for visitation at the funeral home. As the night wore on, a trio of ladies that she didn’t know came into the room. They seemed to move in one unit as if they were tied together. They all had scarves tied under their chin and huddled together as they approached the casket. The site of them was humorous. Mom stood the side, and waited to talk to them. One of them said while dabbing her eyes, “Boy – he must have been really sick for a while.” (Pause) Another one said, ” Yes, this just doesn’t look like him at all”. (Longer Pause) The third finally said, “Wait a minute, this isn’t John – we must be in the wrong room.” Mom heard all of this and just started laughing so hard that she started crying and couldn’t stand up straight. She summoned me to come over and escort her out of the room. She thought that people would think she was crazy because she was laughing so hard, so she pretended to be breaking down crying. She left until she could compose herself. It took several minutes for the laughter to stop.

A few weeks later, my two sisters and my Mom went to the National Monument Memorial Stone Company to pick out a headstone for my father’s grave. My father received a flat military stone for his gravesite (See: The Front Line) , but my mother decided that she wanted a headstone as well. On the way, they started talking about some of the “memories” of Dad and they started laughing. As they pulled up to parking lot, they were already laughing pretty hard. Then my sister opened her door and caught her foot and fell out of the car.  My mother witnessed it and you can guess the state she was in. As they walked into the place uncontrollably laughing, the fellow that was trying to help them was fairly perplexed. I imagine that was the first time anyone came into his store acting like that. They really tried to stop and gather ourselves before we went in but it was impossible. Somehow they managed to purchase a double headstone for both my father’s grave and one that would serve in the future for my mother’s as well. It had my father’s name, his date of birth and his date of death. On the other side, it also had my mother’s name, her date of birth and a placeholder for the future date of her death.  I would have liked the grave stone to also say “A smile starts on the lips. A grin spreads to the eyes. A chuckle comes from the belly. But a good laugh erupts from the soul.”

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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My Mother told some stories that were just a bit difficult to believe. Now, I’m not saying that she was fibbing or anything. They are, certainly, her stories and her history. I’m just saying that they seemed a bit far-fetched. Several years before my mother died, my sisters and I persuaded our mother to travel with us to Tennessee. We wanted to hear the stories that she told in the environment that she grew up in. We wanted her to point out where her houses used to be, where her father’s schoolhouse was located, and mostly we wanted to re-live her childhood years with her. What an adventure for us all.

The Creek

The House by the Creek

We had always heard about the creek that ran behind my mother’s house when she was growing up. We knew my Mom was terrified of  bodies of  water. She reasoned to us that when she was 4-5 years old, the creek behind her house flooded.   Her Dad couldn’t swim and her brothers Warren and Bill had to break the pigs out of their pen.   The next morning, the water ran very swift between their house and their neighbor Nan’s.   Warren swam across the swift water, got Nan’s horse, and rode everyone across to eat. It was necessary to get to Nan’s house since she fed the family after my Mom’s mother took off with another man and robbed a train (See: Living on the Edge ). They would have a big breakfast at Nan’s and then she would pack their lunches — sandwich of cold biscuit and cold meat or pinto beans and cornbread.

When we traveled to the site of this infamous story with my mother, my 3 sisters and I could see where her house had stood and couldn’t see a creek or river of any sort. We questioned our mother about her version of the story and perhaps the creek was only a few inches deep (but probably seemed deep to a 4 year old), it started to rain. The rain  flashed off the mountain and filled the ditch behind the homestead in a hurry. Perhaps there was merit to her story after all.

Rufus

The SchoolHouse

While we were standing there at her old home site, she pointed up the road where the one-room schoolhouse used to be where her father taught (See: Campbell Mountain). It was a gravel road and the road was named “Campbell Road” after her father in honor of  his years of teaching at this school. My mother started relaying the story about going to school with her father when she was four years old. There wasn’t any childcare at her home since her mother moved out. The desks in the schoolhouse were 2-person desks but she had her own desk and her own schoolwork to do. That is, unless one of the older students misbehaved. In that case, the misbehaving student was moved to the empty seat at my mother’s desk. Rufus, it seemed, occupied her desk as often as he did his own. And when Rufus was at my mother’s desk, he tormented her relentlessly. My mother got in trouble then for the commotion that was caused.

She told us this story and she was getting intense in the re-telling. Her arms were flailing as she was standing on the side of the road with us. And as she spoke, an old model Ford – perhaps a 1955 – drove slowly down the mountain on the stone road. This car slowed down and peered cautiously at this group of women  – my sisters, Mom, and I – by the side of the road. He said, “Mary?”. My mother remarked back, “Rufus?”. We couldn’t believe that Rufus, the tormentor was there in person. It must have been a set-up, we thought. Again, she proved that this story indeed was historically correct.

Wearing Bibbed Overalls

Mary Jean in a Skirt

My mother was the youngest child in her family, with 4 older brothers. During the Depression, she told the story about never having a dress to wear. Instead, she wore hand-me-down bibbed overalls from her 4 older brothers. According to her tales, she was 13 before she owned a dress. The week that mother died, her older brother came to spend some time with her and with us. As my mother slept, I asked my Uncle about this particular story. He said that it wasn’t the same memory that he had. My mother had twin cousins who were 2 years older than she was and they had some money in their family. They donated their dresses to my mother throughout her childhood. He said that my mother was a tomboy and that she refused to wear the dresses that were given to her. I later found a photo of my mother when she was 8 years old. And she was wearing a dress and leggings.

As Frank Delaney says in Tipperary “Memory is a canvas – stretched, primed, and ready for painting on. We love the ’story’ part of the word ‘history,’ and we love it trimmed out with color and drama, ribbons, and bows. We always decorate our essence.” My Mom was entitled to the ‘story’ part her family ‘history’.

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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For every story told in my family, there are innumerable mysteries. I wish I had asked more questions of my relatives when they were alive to get answers to those burning questions I have now.

My grandmother

For instance, my father’s mother – the one who had 14 children (see Being a Middle Child, #7 of 14)- once told me when I was a  teenager that she traveled in every state in the United States, except 2. She died in 1981 at the age of 84 and to my knowledge she lived in poverty for most of her life. My grandfather died in 1962 and my grandmother never re-married. I don’t know when or how my grandmother did her traveling. I don’t doubt that she did it, but it surprises me that she had the desire to see our country and that I never heard of her travels.

Ruby

I went to visit my mother’s mother in Washington, D. C. in 1983. Ruby left my mother’s family when my Mom was  a baby. She reportedly robbed a train and served 3 or 4 years in prison. (see Archive the Photo AND Tell the Story: Ruby)When I visited my grandmother, the woman who I only saw 2 previous times in my life, I was polite with her, caught up on her current life, let her visit with my 18 month old son, but didn’t ask her too questions about her life. For example, what she did after her prison sentence, what her life was like when she was growing up, how she met her husband – my grandfather, and was it true that she was a secretary for a congressman in Washington, D.C. She did tell me that she grew up Catholic, and that her childhood wasn’t a happy one. She had a doll baby that belonged to my mother that had a ceramic face – and I didn’t ask how it survived her years in prison. I wish I could have that visit over again.

My father - World War II

My Dad was in World War II (see The Front Line) and his war experience at the age of 20 in Europe in the midst of war, must have been incredible. My sisters and I asked him several times about his war years, but he refused to talk about it. We knew he was injured 3 different times (see blog), but he would only talk about the funny things. We have re-created his trek through Europe and the battles that he must have been in, but it would have been rich to hear his impression of this  personal, but historic adventure.  I relished the 50th anniversary of World War II when veterans of this war finally talked about their years in the war.

All Skate

I came across a website a few months ago that features the untold story.  http://www.AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com accepts personal family photos and stories that leave the website visitor wondering about the circumstances surrounding these submissions. For example http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/2010/02/28/all-skate/ shows us a family skating at a local ice rink. I can only wonder about the tradition leading up to this photo.

<Ancestry.com® is having a contest called The Ultimate Family History Journey™ to help their customers find answers to their family mysteries. The winner gets $20,000, 8 hours with a genealogy expert, and additional experts to fill in the blanks. Perhaps that’s how I might get some answers to my questions.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

  • VHS or reels to DVD
  • Scan your photos or slides
  • Preserve your Memories.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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So You’re the Family Archivist

It isn’t easy being the family archivist and in charge of database of the family stories, documents, photos, and videos. It takes years to research, collect, and verify the family stories, photos, and videos. It also is a mammoth effort to organize this information with a timeline and familial relationships to  give to generations of family members. Where do you start and how do you get a handle on this task? Take a look at these tools that will help you as you take on the role of family historian.

Gathering The Information

Scan photo

Kimmy

Start by asking around the family for stories and photos. Interview your older relatives. Let them know that you are starting the project of gathering and archiving the family story. My Aunt Bert passed along letters that my Dad had written her in World War II when he was just 19. And the only color photograph of me as a child was given to me by my aunt after my parents died. If your relatives don’t remember what might be in that memory box in the closet, ask them to look. Or sit down with them as they go through the box and ask them detailed questions about those photos, making notes as you discuss or set up a video camera to record the details of the conversation.

Look online. The internet is a haven of great information. Cyndi’s List of Genealogy sites has a plethora of links that will help you in your search to find the missing information and also tools to help you organize it. Genealogy Bank is the largest database of historical newspapers from around the country. I found an article from 1897 about my grandfather as a teenager. I also found about 25 articles about my father growing up. It is not a free database, but they do have short-term subscriptions.

Article from Newspaper Archive

Some software packages enable accessing online databases, such as census information. Here is a review of the features of the Top Ten genealogy software packages for a PC and here is a spreadsheet with a listing and features for the Top Ten genealogy software packages for a Mac. Don’t forget about the Ancestry.com as well. It is probably the best known aid in online searches for information. They have discussion groups that allow access to family members only.

Get your kids involved. The Unwritten – Saving your photo Stories for the Future is a website that focuses on children. This website has excellent tips and teaching components for children.

If family members live around the country, set up Google Docs, which is a sharing site where all family members can access the same document. Use this document to write about your ancestors and family and encourage others to add to it. Emphasize that no one is right or wrong about the information – that each entry is just a piece of the puzzle. Everyone thinks differently and has a separate point of view because of his life experience. Pose questions and allow all to answer. Some software programs also allow private forums or discussions that will allow the same sharing among family members.

Organizing It All And Share It With Others

Tell your Story and archive your photos

Picture This! is a company in Austin, Texas that provides a professional service that helps you sort through your heritage photographs. Picture This! digitizes and restores your photos with extreme gentle care. After Picture This! completes the scanning, they return a DVD  with folders of organized heirloom photographs. Often family members add a .pdf document to the folder of photos to complement the photos with the family story.

Videos – reels and tapes – are also digitized by Picture This! for archival purposes and to share with family members. DVD slideshows DVD slideshows and Memory Books are also great options and gifts for family members.

Blogs are great way to pair the family story with photos. It might be cumbersome to write a book, but taking each family story, one at a time, and presenting it in a blog to share with family members is manageable for the writer and for the reader. Picture This! has a blog called Sharing Your Family’s Memories dedicated to telling the family story. Other examples and helpful tips for writing a blog is found at Writing Your Memories and Genealogy Wise. Triggers for writing about family stories is found in a booklet called “Memoring my Memories” by Emily Aulicino. WordPress and Blogger are both free online blogging software sites.

iPhoto is a Mac photo software package that enhances photo organization with facial recognition and editable metadata. This software organizes photos by album, by event, or by person.

Memory Miners goes one step further and uses genealogy software to integrate heirloom photos into the timelines and family tree. There are people views and map views and it creates a GEDCOM family tree complete with photos. Add audio and video recordings with text annotations to complete the family story.

Story Corps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening. They collect stories across the country. They have a list of questions to use when getting started with your interview, and they have a mobile bus that travels from city to city with equipment to make a recording of your family story.

LifeStories Alive makes personal history videos for families using their heritage. They create family heirloom in video – digitally mastered records of life stories with personal accounts, photos, and mementos of family history.

Tell me Your Story is another company that preserves your family history. Located in Austin, Texas, this company produces a book from oral interviews that are audio taped. Photos and documents complete the pertinent story. An embossed hardback book on archival paper is the finished product. Contact them directly to get more information.

Back It All Up

After doing all the research and organization, don’t forget the last step. Put this information on reliable media and have it stored in more than one place. Archival DVDs  last 100 years if stored properly. Make sure to back up any information that you have online. Make duplicate copies of photos and videos to a DVD or hard drive. Send this second copy to a place outside your house (sister’s house or safe deposit box) in case of fire. Don’t rely on photo sharing websites for  your backup. The images stored online are usually small and not large enough for archival purposes.

Generations from now, our children and grandchildren will not tiptoe into our closets and retrieve “the box” of photos and documents that tell our story. With a bit of concentrated effort and some guidance from these resources, our stories will be richer and more accessable for those who are seeking their family story.

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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It was Scottish tradition that when the patriarch died in an Scottish family, the oldest son inherited all the land and the others received nothing. And, as luck would have it, my Scottish ancestor was not the oldest. My great-great-grandfather left Virginia and moved to the Appalachian mountains with his family. The mountains of Tennessee reminded the Scottish people of their native land. They set up their homesteads despite the rugged terrain of the land.

Campbell Mountain

My great-great-grandfather was given a land grant in 1830 of 250 acres and my great-grandfather was given a total of 1200 acres, perhaps for in return for their Revolutionary War service. This area is known  as Campbell Mountain.

1830 is right after the treaty with the Cherokee to move them to Oklahoma, and 10 years after Daniel Boone roamed the area. Davy Crockett moved from Tennessee in 1834, after being defeated in his seat for the US representatives. He disagreed with President Andrew Jackson about the Indian Removal Act and angrily left for Texas. Jamestown, Tennessee, a mountain town, was established in 1828.

Timothy's birthplace

My grandfather Timothy grew up in a house in a valley next to Campbell Mountain close to a mountain spring. Farming was his family’s livelihood. He stayed on the mountain after he grew up and became a vital part of the community. My grandfather helped with the family farm, but also was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse.  He stayed there until he and his brother lost the land during the depression. (See: Living on the Edge ) He started a grocery store in a building next to their house. Timothy worked as the Justice of the Peace — he had trials and received no salary.   He was able to keep a percentage of the commission from  the fines and fees collected.

Justice of the Peace Decree

My mother grew up on this Campbell Mountain in eastern Tennessee. It was Appalachia, not only in geographic location, but in extreme poverty and way of life.  Not one thing was easy for my mother living in this part of the country. We heard as children about walking to school in the snow barefoot. But it wasn’t until we returned to the area with her that we realized that this was exactly how she got around the mountain and traveled to school. It was not exagerated. We had more respect for her when we realized that it was also uphill all the way.

Because my grandmother left her family (See: Archiving Photos and Videos AND Telling the Story ), my mother was in charge of the household and did the family laundry in the nearby spring, cooked dinner over the wood stove, and read at night by kerosene. My uncles who were older than my mother, ran moonshine through the mountains during prohibition. They knew the mountains better than the revenuers and were able to outwit them. This area of Tennessee didn’t have electricity or running water until after World War II in the late 1940s.

My mother left this area for college, but returned  after graduating from Martin Teacher’s college in 1941. She taught at a nearby school in  a mining community called Stockton, teaching all 8 grades and 72 kids in a one-room schoolhouse.   Many of the students were older than she was and disobedient.  She stayed there 2 months.   Her brother had taught there and had carried a gun back and forth to school with him after being by a parent there.

Her father lived 3 miles  out-of-town, and was  teaching at neighboring Round Mountain, at the same time my mother taught in Stockton 8 miles away.  There was a corduroy road in between the two towns and the logs broke in the road and the car fell in. During the war, tires were scarce and my mother drove down the mountain on the rims. The stick shift came off into her hand while she was driving down the mountain and panicked about how continue her travels. It was treacherous traveling around the mountains.

It was also treacherous living there. In 1955, my grandfather died at the age of 68. He returned to his homeplace on the foothills of Campbell Mountain in the Campbell family cemetery. Buried next to him is my mother’s sister-in-law – her best  friend – who died in childbirth delivering her 7th child at home on Mother’s Day 1953. Her baby girl also died and lays at her side. And next to her is her husband – my mother’s brother – who when burdened with the remaining 6 children and a problem with alcohol, died of a broken heart one year later.

For those who are born in the  mountains, the struggle can never end until their lives end.  For the ones who manage to survive, a feisty zest for life remains after the lesser parts are scraped away.

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