What I Have Been Doing

For those of you still hanging around out there hoping that (or curious if ever) I’d return, this is a momentary re-emergence from the overwhelming task this excavation of my mother’s papers has turned out to be.

I won’t go into detail here, but you can see some preliminary fruits of the effort on the site I’ve begun to build:  Emily Josephine (Bates) Haynes.  Included at one of the links is an enormous number of photographs, including many dating from the 19th century and of interest especially to those who love seeing examples of older photographic technology (including some enhanced tintypes and daguerreotypes).

There is also a link to my genealogy, which currently encompasses over 3,500 individuals.  I’ve been building it using Family Tree Maker software, with research on Ancestry.com, but a great deal of information for several generations of my family has come via documents brought here from Mother’s house.  If you are a paid member of Ancestry.com, you can gain access directly from the link; otherwise, if you are interested in seeing the genealogy, post a comment or drop me a line and I’ll enable your access (you need to join Ancestry.com, but don’t have to pay anything).

So that’s it.  I continue to read, watch and listen with an eye to civil liberties violations — the book The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties (Vintage) has been especially interesting and chilling.  And I continue to refuse to fly out of U.S. airports (we did fly to Mexico in February, but via Toronto, Canada).

And I look forward to a possibility of resuming the blog at some point, but when cannot yet be forecast.

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A Puzzle Within the Puzzle

Erin M

The task presently engaged in involves bundles of letters in envelopes (thankfully, since most letters are undated, saying only something like “Sunday eve,” so the postmarks permit me to date the letters), most from my grandmother, but many also from Grandfather and Mother’s three siblings.  So, I came across an envelope from her sister Barbara (also deceased) which I determined to be dated July 29, 1934.  Inside were torn scraps of a letter.

In fact, the six-page handwritten letter had been torn in half, and then in half again.  But then the scraps saved!

What might this be?

I could have pieced the scraps together and reassembled the letter with tape, but I also wanted to preserve the original emotion inherent in the torn bits.  The solution was easy:  scan the individual scraps (sometimes both sides of a scrap) and reassemble the letter digitally in Photoshop.

Here’s page 1 of the result (including the above fragment):

I’m forbearing from loading all six pages because, well, they are rather family-private, a bit salacious, and definitely rather scandalous.  Use your imagination!

In any case, the question remains:  what was the actual situation that led my mother to react so strongly to her sister’s letter as to tear it up, apparently in rage (I’ve found no other letter similarly treated), but then she stuffed the torn up pieces back in their envelope to be saved with the hundreds (thousands!) of other letters?  Amazing!

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Cashing In


When going through my father’s files (he’s been dead since 1975, but this is the first time anyone other than my mother has looked through his stuff), I found a folder from his time with the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation (predecessor to the FBI).  Therein, numerous letters to him signed by J. Edgar Hoover, dated 1930-34.  They have little other than curiosity value for the family, and for the information they contain a copy is as good as the original, so I’ve decided to start offering them on eBay.

The timing is somewhat propitious, since next week the movie J Edgar arrives in theaters.

I offered the first two on eBay yesterday, and they may be seen here and here.  Each has already garnered a bid, so now we’ll wait to see how high they may go.

More adventures in inheritance land.

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Tidbits from my grandmother’s and others’ letters in the 1940s:

Shades of “1941″! Letter from Aunt Barbara to her parents, December 9, 1941:

“So glad we didn’t move to San Francisco! I can scarcely believe that Japanese planes were on our coast last night.”

If this sounds outlandish, consider this from

“As these and other forces took up their defensive positions, coastal communities suffered from an ‘invasion fever’ which first showed itself with the calling of an alert in San Francisco on 8 December. In the afternoon of the 8th, rumors of an enemy carrier off the coast led to the closing of schools in Oakland. That evening, while residents of the Bay area were having dinner, radio broadcasting suddenly ceased, and this was followed by a blackout which lasted nearly three hours. in the absence of adequate preparations, sirens on police cars were used to warn the people, and self-appointed neighborhood wardens rushed from door to door to help enforce the blackout. Reports reaching Washington of an attack, on San Francisco were regarded as credible, but news dispatches soon characterized the affair as a test and announced that California had ‘caught its breath again.’ The Army, however, insisted that radar stations had tracked airplanes approaching the coast from a distance 100 miles at sea. The continuity of the tracking convinced officers that the planes were hostile, and Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt of the Western Defense Command strongly denounced those who treated the alert lightly. In the San Francisco News of 10 December he was quoted as follows: ‘Last night there were planes over this community. They were enemy planes! I mean Japanese planes! And they were tracked out to sea. You think it was a hoax? It is damned nonsense for sensible people to assume that the Army and Navy would practice such a hoax on San Francisco.’ Newspapers, impressed with these statements, carried banner headlines announcing that the ‘Army Warns City Danger Near.’ A similar message had been carried to a national audience on 8 December when Fiorello La Guardia, head of the Office of Civilian Defense, told the radio public: ‘I do not want to unduly alarm my fellow citizens, but I want to be realistic. The situation is serious. We must not underestimate what happened twenty-four hours ago.’

“Disturbing rumors of enemy threats continued to mount on 9 December. Early that morning unidentified planes were reported off southern California, and the Eleventh Naval District ordered preparations made to repulse a raid by sea or air. Later the Navy relayed to the AAF a ‘red hot tip’ which announced that thirty-four enemy vessels were standing off the coast near Los Angeles, waiting for the fog to lift before stage an attack. Army planes were dispatched and found that the alarm had been occasioned by the presence of a group of American fishing boats. Later in the day a report told with convincing detail of a ‘Japanese cruiser 20,000 yards off the west tip of Catalina Island.’ Other witnesses insisted that a cruiser and three destroyers, flying Japanese flags, had been spotted off the coast. This of course was the period when whales were mistaken for enemy submarines, and when floating logs were bombed by inexperienced and overeager aircrews.” 

Grandma writing Mother in March 1942:

“I went for a second time to see the great movie ‘How Green is My Valley,’ ['How Green Was My Valley -- 1941, by John Ford w/ Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O'Hara] receiving an uplift in thought not to be measured by the 22 pennies I paid for admission!  Aunt My & I enjoyed it together at the local cinema.  Crowds were there, way into the street.  The old Welsh discipline & the wholesome family life is a good lesson for today’s youth.  Grandpa Jackson would so have enjoyed it, since he was brought up with Welsh neighbors in Racine & often told us of their wonderful singing voices.”

Grandma writing 1/22/1942, from Wilbur-by-the-Sea, setting forth the Bates (Puritan) work ethic:

“I am starting this before breakfast on a cold morning; …  Sun shines brightly and really the cool crisp air is much more conducive to energy.  I feel full of zip.  Bion and I carry on most of the house activities.  Lyda leads such an inactive, useless life.  She says she has been babied ever since she was born, the seventh and unexpected late arrival in the family.  I guess she’s right.  I get so disgusted and boil inwardly to think that anyone should degenerate so, even if they have the chance.  Her disposition is better since we have stayed put and she can stay in bed more hours.”

Grandma to Mother, 1/10/1943:

“Pop is working today at the office with the pictures of Ovid’s old landmarks, trying to make them into slides for the Club entertainment of next week Monday, ‘Ovid — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’.  You would enjoy looking at these old relics.  They are most interesting.  A story I never heard concerns the driving out of the Salvation Army by the Carriage factory gang!  The inside dope was that the six saloons were suffering patronage and the wives of these factory men (Mrs. Jenks among them) were neglecting their families to attend the revival meetings.  Some 300 persons were converted.  One day the seats in the old skating rink, later Hubbell’s blacksmith shop as I knew it, were thrown into the street, the Bible & U.S. flag hurled on & a match touched to them!  A kindly rain put out the fire.  People came from miles around to see the fracas.  This all happened in 1887, four years before we came to Ovid.”

There’s more than photos to be mined from them thar hills.






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Early Days In Wisconsin, 1864


Another tale from my great grandfather’s youth:

The Jackson farm was located one-half mile south of the Beebe School on the Lathrop Road. The house was built about 1842 by Jacob Jackson who was the writer’s great-grandfather. It was built of logs and was boarded inside and out.

The outstanding feature of this house was the fireplace at the south side of the living or main room. The cook stove stood just opposite. As a boy, I often wondered if the stove was to keep the fireplace warm or vice-versa. The fireplace was a great heater, and different from most grates, it scarcely ever smoked. It was my duty to lay in the night’s supply of such small wood as I could handle, but the getting in of the back log was a man’s job. Sometimes it was so large that it took several men to handle it. The back log could not be larger than a flour barrel or over four feet long. The other wood could be five or more feet long.

Such a place to crack nuts, (we could sweep the shells right into the fire) and to pop corn. Parched sweet corn, apples, and sometimes other vegetables were roasted.

“There was the low beamed ceiling.
In that mansion used to be
Free-hearted hospitality.
Great fires up the chimney roared,
The stranger feasted at its board.”

The stranger in one case was a tramp, the first one I  ever saw,  There was a foot or more of snow on the ground. This was New Year’s Day, 1864. On this day, it was quite warm in the sun when the tramp came along, and we boys were out in the barn playing “High Spy”. The barn stood near the road at that time.  It was a warm and sunny forenoon and the cows, pigs, and a flock of sheep were enjoying the bright sun to the utmost. The king of the bunch of sheep was Levi. He was the most ornery, vicious beast that ever wore horns. He was to be looked out for, and such a wallop as he carried, believe you me, I know.

When the tramp came out and went south down the road past the barn, we boys stood in a small door overlooking the yard and indulged in some more-or-less personal remarks to him. He, being a wise man, refrained from giving any response. Then John Fletcher jumped down into the yard, ran to the lower end of it, threw a. clod at the wanderer, and started back on the run, completely forgetting Levi. This was a sad case of overlooking a prime factor, for Levi just gave him a good one square in his lap, or it would have been his lap if he had been facing the other way.

Oh my! The impact was soul satisfying, that is, to Levi. It sent John about ten feet towards the small opening under the barn where, at the moment, several pigs were enjoying their siesta. I’ll never forget the look of amazement on his face as he got onto all fours. Levi wrinkled up his nose, made another pass, and caught John just at the center of gravity. This collision put John head and shoulders under the barn just as he ejaculated his one byword, “Godfrey”.

John started to back out among the pigs, but he noticed Levi backing up, wrinkling up his nose and saying, “Maaaa” in a most significant tone; not very loud, but well-filled with meaning, so he made up his mind to stay there for a time. There was no other opening so he had to remain. It was a good thing his head did not strike the sill, or that Levi had not given him a blow on his head.

Of course, we had to rub it in on John.. We called, come on out, John. He won’t hurt you. He is only playing. Come on and play “High Spy”, I’ll blind, come on.” But John seemed to like it there and the invitations all brought the answer, “I donwanna”.

It was a case of Horatio holding the bridge.

We fooled around a while and then went into the house, had dinner, cracked and ate some nuts on the hearth and finally went out to investigate the prisoner, but he had made his escape.

(Footnote:  The “Beebe School” mentioned in the first paragraph has considerable significance for our family tree.  These stories are of my great grandfather Jackson’s youth.  He married Lizzie Keys, whose father, Horatio Nelson Keys, had married a Beebe girl in Holley, NY.  But there were Beebes in Racine, Wisconsin, and in the 1870s Lizzie Keys went to visit her Beebe relatives in Racine, where by chance she met Chester Jackson.  Their affair proceeded apace, including Chester’s 50-page 1879 love letter to Lizzie, parts of which I posted here earlier, and concluding with their wedding in 1881.  Thereby lies direct lineage to me.)

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Discoveries and Surprises


Some amazing stuff has surfaced since last I accounted for discoveries and surprises found among my mother’s effects.  Here are a few:

First, a longstanding mystery for my brothers and me has been the chronology of my father’s WWII military service.  Going through his files, however I found he saved every official communique from the Navy during his three-plus years of service.  Using those papers I was able to put together a chronology that appears accurate to the day.  Most astounding of all, I discovered exactly what he did in the Pacific theater, as a Pharmacist’s Mate.  He had several times requested that he be given a commission and attend Navy OCS.  The Navy repeatedly refused, but finally sent confirming orders on July 3, 1944.  The orders contained a clue, since it was addressed to:

Ellsworth D. Haynes, PhM1c, V-6, USNR
Air Force, PACIFIC FLEET, Acorn Twenty-Two,
c/o Fleet Post Office, San Francisco

I searched Google for “Acorn Twenty-Two”; no results.  So I searched for “Acorn 22,” and there it was — a long web page, 93rd Seabees Battalion, WWII Naval Construction Battalions, in which was embedded:


Commissioned at Camp Peary Aug. 12, 1943, the 110th Battalion moved through Gulfport, Miss., and arrived at Port Hueneme on Oct. 23, 1943. On Nov. 10 the outfit was officially attached to Acorn 22 at Hueneme. The first echelon traveled to Oakland, Calif.. and embarked Nov. 22. On the same date the second echelon embarked at Hueneme. Both sections arrived at Pearl Harbor Dec. 1, 1943. The two echelons embarked at Iroquois Point, Oahu Feb. 10 and 12, 1944, and landed at Eniwetok on Feb. 22 and 24. Sailing westward again, this time in five echelons, the men went ashore at Tinian on Sept. 9 and 18, and Oct. 1, 9 and 20, 1944. At the end of the war, the outfit was still on Tinian.

This filled in some gaps, and especially confirmed what Father had told us, that he had served on Eniwetok.  He was a Seabee!  Thank you, Google!

Next, I found a large white envelope stuffed with papers.  Drawing them forth, my jaw literally dropped — here was a pile of original, handwritten letters, the most recent of which was dated in 1880.  Two of the letters were dated 1802, like this one from my four-times great uncle Pardon Keys to his brother Ezra dated August 25, 1802:

(Immediately after scanning these letters went into sealed, archival, polystyrene bags.)

Ezra Keys’s son was Horatio Nelson Keys, and he also had a son named Ezra.  The only thing we knew of Ezra was that he volunteered for the Union Army (a NY unit) and marched off to die in 1862, at age 21 in the Battle of Fredericksburg.

I thought I had finished working on really old photos.  Then I opened a wooden box marked “Keepsakes” on the lid.  Inside were a bunch of regular letter-sized envelopes, some of them containing more very old letters (although dated no earlier (!) than the 1860s).  One envelope, however, contained a framed tintype of a soldier, and a note identified him as Ezra Keys!

No one in the family had ever seen it or a copy of it before.

Then, and finally, in just the last couple days I’ve been working on a large volume of collected writings by and about my great grandfather, Chester Jackson.  From 1878 to 1889 he was U.S. Consul on the then-British West Indies Island of Antigua — this we knew, and I’ve written briefly about that already.  In the volume I’m scanning and OCRing, however, were some sketchy consular transmittals from Chester to the State Department, collected by a cousin from National Archives microfilm in 1984.  Well, kiddos, we’ve come a long way since then.  So I plugged into Google “consular dispatches antigua jackson” and up popped four fairly lengthy and substantive reports, all imbedded in Google Books results, one of them entitled “Pushing American Trade in the West Indies.”  Following the substance of Chester’s report was a list of American-made goods that were to be seen by Antiguans in the Consulate’s “sample-room,” including such notables as Ice Cream Freezers.  Now, in those days, you couldn’t make ice cream without a modest amount of ice (and rock salt).  The rock salt was easily to be acquired, but ice in 1880s Antigua?  It is, after, a Caribbean island where snow and ice haven’t been seen for tens of thousands of years, if ever.  A little checking, however, (also Google) showed that at least as early as the 1850s ships would carry ice from the United States to all sorts of tropical destinations, where — according to one report — it was sold for $0.50/pound — nearly $13/pound in today’s dollars!

Around such stuff has my life revolved in recent days!

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Study In Natural History On The Jackson Farm


Another story from my great-grandfather’s youth:

It seems as though there never was such an opportunity for the study of wild life as there was in the summer of 1867, especially in the hay field. There was no limit to the creeping, flying, stinging, buzzing, jumping, gliding, running things.

We sometimes read about a general gathering of all the wild things. Well, this was one such a case. Perhaps a constitutional convention or ecumenical council was being held in that hay field. In the work of getting the hay off the ground, I feel safe to say that at least every sixty seconds, some live thing was in evidence.

There were meadow mice with bob-tails at one end, and little half-hid eyes at the other. Now and then there were house mice, and deer mice — sometimes called kangaroo mice — with a little white belly and a long tail. They jumped like big grasshoppers. There were frogs, green or moss-colored, little fellows with stripes, big ones with spots and stripes, all cold, wet, and clammy. There were hoptoads and snakes, striped snakes, beautiful emerald green ones, and water snakes whose homes were in the small creek that is crossed by the road half a mile south of the Beebe school.  The snakes were in the grass after the frogs and mice. Some of the water snakes were quite large. Perhaps they were milk snakes. They were yellow and brown.

One time, I saw a very dark brown one which had a white ring around his neck, going like blazes with his head held nearly a foot high.

These were the conditions when we went to rake up the hay.

This was before horse rakes were in general use, and we went after the hay with hand rakes. It was spread out, covering the ground thickly, and it was good and dry. Was haying hot work? Well, yes. The writer, the kid in this case, taking the first place, was barefooted, and dressed in short Kentucky jean pants, a hickory shirt, a straw hat, and a coat of tan. I raked what I could at one rake, throwing the raking, a small windrow, to Charley, sixteen years of age, who also was without shoes, and who wore long loose pants, a hickory shirt, a straw hat and a smile. He in turn, raked his hay and mine, to Chet, eighteen years of age.

Now Chester was more particular than we were, and wore a pair of shoes. He was that finicky that he did not want to have mice and snakes crawling over his bare feet. Some folks are so particular!

Then came my great grandfather, bare footed wearing jean pants, a hickory shirt, and a stovepipe hat, just such a one as President Lincoln is often pictured as wearing. He always wore it to church at Mygatt’s Corners, to prayer meeting at the Lake Shore Church, to Racine, to milk the cows, or to dig potatoes.

Well, here we were, all lined up when what must have been the bishop of the synod came along. He was a whopper. I. had raked him up to Charley. His snakeship crawled partly through Charley’s windrow, right over his bare feet, and passed on. Charley made a slash at him, regardless whether he broke his rake or not. All at once, Charley let out the most agonizing howl I have ever heard. He dropped his rake, made a grab for his lower pant leg, gave another yell, made a grab for higher up.

This is what had happened: A great cold, wet, clammy, spotted frog had made a jump, and had landed up this loose pant leg. Charley, not seeing it, thought, of course, it was a snake. He became somewhat excited, evinced his emotional nature, and yelled some more. He seized his leg below the frog, which gave the batrachian a good vantage point from which he made another jump, cold and wet. The frog went up across the parallels of latitude promptly. A yell! There was enough sound to make several welkins ring if any were around, but who could blame Charley! Across the Tropic of Capricorn went the frog. More ejaculations! Up to the Equator! Oh, oh, and at this time the way that young man proceeded to arrive from the interior of those jeans was most abrupt, to say the least.

Of course, we were all frightened at such yelps and howls, for Charley was not given to such emotional acts, and nothing short of something serious could induce him to such a performance. But when that cold, wet thing jumped out we all felt better. So much so, that Chet just lay down, regardless of consequences, and rolled and screamed. Grandfather’s stove pipe hat came off, and was waved as only a man loving a joke could wave it. I got my tee-hee in, and Charley made a kick at Chet, made a pass at me, and wanted to know what I was laughing at. He seemed to be peeved at something as he lit out for the house.


Always anonymous, always voluptuous.

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Butter And Plug Hats On Jackson Farm In 1866


Since I’m presently editing the family book of my great grandfather’s and his brothers’ and cousins’ childhood stories, and noticing once more how very humorous they really are, I thought I’d share them with you.

They are tales of a different age and different lives than today’s hectic existence.

Here’s the first:

Butter And Plug Hats On Jackson Farm In 1866

This farm, some four miles south of Racine [Wisconsin] on the Lathrop Road, was not the most lonesome place in the world while the two sons, Charley and Chester [my great grandfather], were about 15 and 18 years of age. The writer was some years younger. There was something doing all the time. This was one reason why the Bush boys, Roll and Cash, were so fond of visiting the farm at each opportunity. (They lived in a house which [in the 1990s] is still standing on College Avenue, facing the park.)

One of the favorite performances was to bell Levi, the Merino ram.  This just made him furious, a veritable raging demon among the other farm animals. He was bad medicine at any time, but with the bell on, he was more belligerent than usual.

Usually, the first thing after being released he made desperate efforts to get after his tormentors who had to flee to the tall timber a fence, or the feed rack in the yard. Failing in not getting back at us, his next move was to go through the flock, hunting anything that stood still an instant, or looking for Rudolph. That was another Merino ram, not as pugnacious as Levi, but able to stand up to him for about three rounds, after which he would make a run for safety. I surmise he had been injured in his head or neck at some time so that, although heavier, he could not stand up to Levi.

Now Deacon Jackson, my mother’s grandfather, almost always wore a high hat, as was customary in those times. President Lincoln wore one of the same kind. This hat was just to grandfather’s liking, and he wore it on any occasion.

On the afternoon I have in mind the cows were in the stable, and the sheep in the yard, and all unbeknown to us, the boys’ father had gone in at the north door of the stable and had started to milk, having on, of course, the plug hat. We boys had got the sheep huddled up in a corner so there was no room for Levi to fight. We got hold of him, the cow bell was strapped on, and I made a jump for a feed rack: there was not an instant to spare. Levi came against it with a crash. Then he went looking for Rudolph, butting anything he could reach, until he found him. They squared off and charged, head on. My! What a bump they gave each other, but Rudolph got all he needed and ran.

We were having a whole quart of fun watching the excitement, when the wind blew the east stable door open. Rudolph, with Levi right behind, ran right in where Grandfather was sedately milking the cows in their stanchions. He rushed in behind the cows and then to the other end of the stable. Being cornered, he turned to fight it out. The cows did not seem to approve of the program, and began kicking. One foot came up and got into the milk pail which was slammed against the side of the barn. The next instant, the foot caught grandfather behind his neck, throwing him with the stool bang up against the fighting rams. The plug hat, pail, stool, and the rams made a great setting for the aged patriarch, veteran of the War of 1812, deacon of the church. It was some mix up, and that cow bell was going strong all the time.

Of course, when the rams went into the stable, we followed as far as the door but halted aghast when we saw the turmoil with the deacon in its midst. As far as I was concerned, it was no place for us. The Bush boys left, too. The Jackson boys went in and separated the various articles, animated and otherwise. The hat came through in fairly good condition, which was more than could be said of the milk pail and grandfather’s temper. I do not remember seeing this most excellent man angry, but this affair was almost too much for him.

The Jackson boys went about the next few hours bearing sedate countenances, and their father was not singing his usual “‘Tis the old time religion, and it’s good enough for me”.

–But the hat did service for many a day after being in a mix-up with the “butter”.


One of my favorites; now married, leaving me with only memories.

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Reflections Of The Morning After


by Herman Lee Meader [my father transcribed this from Meader's early 20th century collections of epigrams -- it verges on misogynistic, but he felt it important enough to save it for about forty years -- found in his files thirty-six years after his death ].

The Foreword –

The following thoughts were never intended for publication. They were scribbled-down from time to time for the same reason that a man leans over the rail of a ship on his first sea voyage. He is not interested in fish-culture, and has no grudge against the ocean but simply feels that he has something that he must give up.


Light-headed men are welcome at afternoon teas, because they never make the rest of the company feel like idiots.


Don’t count the number of your friends by the number of people that accept your dinner invitations.


Life’s longest span is short. The mysteries of what went before and what may follow remain unsolved; but we know that fate deals out more pain than joy, so let no pleasure pass untasted.


The quiet man you see taking tea and toast in the far corner of the restaurant may be a millionaire, but the hearty fellow who is shouting for terripin and canvasback is probably earning a hundred and fifty a month.


Nothing is more depressing than remorse. Nothing is more weakening to the moral fiber than good resolutions that are likely to be broken.


If dissipation interferes with your business, give up business*


They say whiskey inflames the stomach, beer produces Bright’s disease, brandy ruins your kidneys, burgundy brings on the gout, and absynthe destroys the brain. Now we know that typhoid lurks in water and tuberculosis in milk, so what is the thirsty man to drink?


Some women wish honestly to be respected, but a far greater number prefer being loved. The preference of the majority makes a man’s life worth living.


What a paradox is woman. Her strength is her weakness. She challenges by faltering, she fights by yielding, and she conquers by falling.


A woman who once yields to the natural impulses of a great love is an outcast from society, but if to gain wealth and social position she grants herself to a man she hates, a clergyman’s benediction makes her a respected matron.


To be physically pure and mentally corrupt is little better than no virtue at all.


The best way for a man to make his face look unlike that of a dog or an ape is to keep the hair shaved off.


The man who eats the most is not the fattest, neither is the one who talks the most the wisest.


The best club for a married man is an armchair in front of a big fire-place at home.


No matter how poor and mean a man is, his friendship is worth more than his hate.


The hardest work an energetic man can do is to loaf.


Some men are poor, lots of them are stupid, most of them are ugly, all of them are conceited, but nevertheless they are as indispensable as bread.


The man who swears continually loses all the value of his profanity.


When a woman lifts her skirts men peep. That’s curiosity. If they continue to stare it’s admiration.


The prude that won’t let her fiancé kiss her until they are married is like the man who won’t try his new bath-tub until Saturday night. She foregoes a lot a pleasure for the sake of a doubtful principle.


Some wine is sweet, but none so sweet as a woman’s kiss. Some wine is delusive, but none so delusive as her glance. Some wine is bitter, but none so bitter as her falseness.


To make a man happy, love him. To make a woman happy, let her love you.


Edith in a striking set in the basket.

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The Great Divide


Apologies for the extended absence from these pages. It won’t be the last absence, however, as my priorities have definitely shifted – at least temporarily but for an extended period – toward continued intense concentration on family matters, family history, the still amazing discovery of family photos new and old, and related matters.

In fact, other than the usual discoveries, some of which I’ll detail in a future post (including a surprise ability to piece together a detailed chronology for my father during WWII leading to his marriage to my mother), a major portion of recent days has been devoted to what I’m calling The Great Divide – the division of my mother’s effects among her heirs – my two brothers and I.

Some of you undoubtedly have experienced similar exercises, and I’m sure the family dynamics involved cover as many permutations of emotions, trauma, and pathos as might be imagined. When you live 100 years, and all sorts of people pre-decease you, you will accumulate a great deal of Stuff! So the problem is, what to do with the Stuff! Some people call in the estate sale folks, preferring not to deal with the minutiae of dividing up an estate and hoping for some extra cash from the knick-knacks, the crystal, the silver, and the furniture. Others I suppose bicker. I’ve heard horror tales of in-laws making midnight raids and hauling off the most valuable possessions, with no apologies and no accounting to proper heirs. It can lead to family dissension and even long-standing family alienation.

In this regard, we have been extremely fortunate.

The process actually began in 2000, when my mother asked me to prepare an inventory of her effects. The result was a list of about one hundred items, including most of the heirloom silver (some of it dating back more than 100 years), with the associated stories or identifications. After Mother’s death, however, I discovered just how inadequate the inventory was – to the tune of over 200 additional items, some of them major. In the week of her death, and then on a return visit to her home in September, I finished the list. I also photographed each item, loaded photos to an online compilation, and built an Excel worksheet listing them all, with descriptions and comments as appropriate, and linking from each to the online photo! As you will appreciate, a massive undertaking. But good preparation for the actual division.

My brothers and I set a date for The Great Divide, in advance of Thanksgiving so things my daughter wanted could be taken with us to California when we go visit her. It was just this past weekend, when my two brothers and I (and wives of two of us) came together in Beulah to engage in a round robin.

First, however, the ground-rules. Since I am my mother’s executor, I had the was able to set some preliminary rules. Some of them were:

  • Grandchildren had to request items through their parents;
  • Items I had designated “Heirloom” had to be taken “in trust” for the rest of the family – meaning that if someone tired of an item it had to be offered to others in the family without charge, and that no one could sell an item without likewise first offering it (and I will be sending all family members a list of who took Heirloom items);
  • Parents had power to order their children’s requests as they wished, and parents’ choices had priority;
  • Certain items, namely two complete silver sets and a complete set of Haviland china, would not be inherited whole, but would be divided, and could only be acquired by the grandchildren – i.e., none of them could be acquired by a parent (and direct heir) (without going into detail, my philosophy is that the grandchildren should all receive something of value from their grandmother’s estate, but that if they wished to have a full set of, say, silver, they’d need to fill out their place settings from sources like replacements.com);
  • Another few sets of quite old Heirloom silver would be divided equally among the grandchildren, assuring that these precious family items would receive as many homes as possible; and
  • Other items would go to us brothers in a round-robin division.

It actually worked fairly smoothly. Two precious furniture items went immediately – a large glass-door cabinet to one brother, and a chair that had belonged to my great grandfather to us. After that, I’d say people got what they most wanted and there were few disappointments: one brother, recently divorced and living in a small apartment, wanted end tables and similar smaller furniture items (and his list, even including his sons’ requests, was relatively brief). The other brother, who is likely to purchase Mother’s home from the estate, wanted to fill it with furniture already there, so the furniture was his and his wife’s major priority. Other than the chair, my wife and I were mostly interested in things that reminded us of Mother, including several other Heirloom items and things we knew were precious to her.

As this posts, we are in a fully-stuffed Honda SUV, driving back to Minneapolis with a part of our portion of The Great Divide. Left behind are five boxes of books that may have antiquarian value – since the Honda had no room for these I photographed the spines and title pages so I can determine if there is a market for them, and stuff to be taken to another daughter in NYC on another trip.

We are carrying Great Grandfather Jackson’s chair, however.


A one-time model, modestly successful.

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