Thursday, September 22, 2011

"My Highest Ambition"

I found this tonight and really wanted to share it.  On the back Grandpa wrote, "Just a little daydreaming by 'Pop' De Vore on one of those 'uncomfortable' afternoons in the Pacific."  Next step: figure out who "Pop" De Vore is and share this with him and/or his loved ones (he is the artist, not my grandpa)!  He must have been on Grandpa's boat, so that's a great first clue.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

These Moments of Connection are the Best

 This whole family archive ride is such a wild one sometimes!  I have been on a vacation visiting the hub's side of the family, so I've been out of the groove of these archives and was a bit reluctant to dive back in because I can get so lost in it all.  However, dive I have, and I am having such fun again (and once again totally lost in a good way)!

I've been going through more WWII letters to and from Grandpa, and will be for some time I think.  The first thing I scanned tonight was a letter from January 1945, which Grandpa wrote after the biggest battle his ship participated in, and after not receiving mail for two months. Imagining what that might have been like is incredibly difficult for me (as I just now run downstairs to soothe my kiddo as she sleeps and kiss my husband).  To me, my grandpa was not a violent or macho person or even one to mention his war experiences particularly, so it's strange to read his accounts of things and hear the necessary hard edge that I would imagine he would have to have gained quickly to get through it.  That, too, must have been strange for him.  And then in the next line after describing his war duties, he reminds my grandma of how much he loves her and misses everyone.  I am incredibly grateful to get to witness the nuances of his experience and personality at the time. 

As I was pondering all of this, the next document I came to was a timeline of sorts of his ship, the LCI (R) 226, which was a Landing Craft Infantry rocket ship.  I didn't even know that much at the time, but do now because as soon as I started reading his timeline I started googling.  I almost lost my mind for a moment because as soon as I started searching I was finding pictures of his ship, other people's timelines of the ship, and other odds and ends like that.  I could actually compare his timeline with some of the others and see them match up.  I can't quite recapture why exactly it blew my mind, but it was a really wonderful moment of connection that has come to be one of my favorite things about going through these archives.

This was the first thing I found:
That's his boat!!

I'm still a little amazed, and not feeling fully coherent about why this is so exciting, but for now I'll work on it in my head some more, and leave you with another picture.  The first picture was of the crew of  the LCI 226 on August, 1945.  This bottom picture is of the Illinois contingent, with Grandpa's caption for names.  Grandpa is the oldest of the bunch (most likely), standing on the far right.

[Reads: Illinois members of the crew of LCI (R) 226.
Left to right:
Back row - Hurley - Chief Pharmacist Mate.
                  Warwick - Ships Cook 1/c
                  Goodwin - Quartermaster 3/c
Front row - Zelinski - Seaman 1/c
                   Hoffman - Fireman 1/c

Taken aboard ship somewhere in The Philippines, April 21, 1945.]

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Living by Our Wits Since the Early 1900's

We had our family reunion on Saturday and it was wonderful to see everyone and I did get a few answers from my Aunt and Great Aunt, with the results of the answers to come later.  I also was entrusted with some more treasures to scan and catalog, which is always exciting.  Until I get the huge box of stuff home and look at another stack of pictures, some labeled, some total mysteries, and... phew.  This is going to take a while.  I have some funny things that I've found that I thought you'd like too.  One has to do with Uncle Dow again, but I need more time to get that all scanned.  The one I have for you today is a picture with an inscription from my Grandpa G on the back.  Here's the picture and the inscription, with transcription below:

Ed Boles was a cousin of my grandmother (your great-grandmother) G.  He was a hobo who would come to our house occasionally to see Grandma G who lived with us.  He was intelligent, well-travelled, well dressed, and adverse to hard work.  He lived by his wits.

A cousin at the reunion told me that Grandpa told a story about how Ed would buy bars of soap, cut them up into smaller pieces, wrap the pieces in tin foil, then sell them as spot remover until he was run out of town.  The story makes me think of Harold Hill, which makes me like cousin Ed.  I don't know what happened to cousin Ed. tells me he was born in 1872, but I don't have information about his death, and I don't know what the story with the sign is - is this a photo studio or a real train or what??  Any guesses?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Finally, A Visual Anchor for You

Most of my posting thus far has been related to my Grandpa G's side of the family.  That's the place where I started because he was careful to preserve documents and pictures, so the bulk of my information comes from him.  I got into some pictures tonight because it's Labor Day weekend and Friday, and pictures tend to be easier than letters, I think.  I love that I can get from these pictures a more lively image of some family characters who are still a little flat to me.

I hope that these pictures will help us all get some visual anchors for all of these other stories and tidbits.  So, I give you now my Grandma and Grandpa, back together after the war, in 1945 with their three children.  My dad is the one on Grandpa's lap. 

Oh - and I have looked for a photo of Dow, who wrote the letter in the previous post - but have been woefully unsuccessful thus far.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tell Her Not to Give Up Until She Has a Good Education

I have been enchanted with this letter from my Grandpa's Uncle Dow (his dad's brother, who was born in 1858, and was 18 years older than Grandpa's dad - another topic for another day there).  He mentions Liz, one of his sisters who was eight years younger than Dow, and Newt (full name: Isaac Newton - yet another next topic) and Joe are two of his brothers, 12 and 18 years younger, respectively.  Dow would have been 36, Liz 28, Newt 24 and Joe 18.  Phew.  Adding calculators to the long list of modern conveniences they didn't have then.

In the letter Dow mentions "Young Peoples Papers" as being something Liz should be reading.  I'm trying to figure out what those are, and google is telling me I'm going to have to dig deeper than a few pages of results, so I'll get back on that.  In the meantime, dear reader, do you happen to know?

The thing I love most about this letter, which I will put below with only this further ado, is his encouragement of Liz's education as well as the boys.  My gut tells me that it might be a bit less common for a woman to be urged to study, and less common for all of them as they were in rural Illinois on the farm, I believe.  I also don't know whether the book Dow mentions is the same thing as the Young Peoples Papers, or if they're different, and I really hope I can find out.  He mentions a book in another letter and urges his reader to read the book several times, so I wonder if he had one book that he tried to encourage everyone to read, or whether he just generally encouraged everyone to read books.

What do you think?

If you'd like my transcription, just take the jump.  Anything I'm uncertain of or my own comments at the end I put in [ ] or use a [?], so feel free to suggest what you think might be missing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Word About Procedure

So I’m trying so hard to figure out a method for getting these documents catalogued and organized in a way that makes sense, is easy to use, and that is universal enough that my aunts and uncles and cousins won’t have any trouble getting to these documents and using my system.

It turns out that is so much easier said that done.  The first night I started with scanning into tif files of 600 ppi, because I read that was a good resolution for precious documents like this.  However, that makes for a huge file, so now I have to figure out how to make a second set of all of this that is much smaller in file size for just general perusal.  I haven't found a good method to do that yet except re-sizing each file to a jpeg in Irfanview, so if you have ideas I'd love to hear them!

I'm also transcribing everything in a Word document that is getting the same file name.  I figure I may also want to tag the files themselves, but I'm not yet sure how I want to do that.  

I realized tonight that I should be printing copies as I go so that I can make notes and keep track of my questions and whatnot on those copies.  However, my printer cartridge is low (I hate mundane things like that which must be tended to but always at a time that's inconvenient!), so I think I'll print them in town in a couple of days.  Until then, I have lots more to figure out, so I'll probably change plans five more times before I even have a chance to print the files.  

Ultimately, I'm hoping to have pictures, letters, Grandpa's book excerpts, comments from relatives clarifying and illuminating things, recordings, and anything else I come upon, all together in one digital place.  What do you think?  Is that possible?  Would I have to be a museum to do it?  Speaking of museums, I will have a question for you about museums tomorrow!  Come back so you can give me some answers!

Full Steam Ahead into World War II

My Grandpa G served in World War II in the navy.  When he left he had two children and a wife whom he adored, and a third and unexpected child on the way.  Grandpa was a school teacher in a one room schoolhouse in Edgar County, Illinois, which he took very seriously, enjoyed quite a lot, and I think excelled at (though we always want to think that of our ancestors, right?).  He was a very sincere man with a strong sense of loyalty to family and his country, and he had a great sense of humor.

I have a lot to learn about his particular ship (and would love to hear what you know about it!), but he was in the little ship that went in front of the bigger boats to clear out the beach and make it safe for the army to land.  I believe he may have been a "bazooka boy," but I'm not certain of that, and it's not anything I think he ever would have called himself.  He wrote a story about their biggest event, called The Little Lady Grew Angry, and I look forward to sharing that with you.

Getting into the war letters is a little daunting.  There are a lot of them, to and from various people, including his wife and kids, and they are often long.  They also seem to be in no particular order.  They are pretty honest, it seems, and it's just hard to imagine and hard to think about, especially now that I have a child and husband myself.  My mind is constantly on the families who are going through it now.  Grandpa is always thanking people for writing and encouraging them to write again, and sometimes ribbing them to write more often. I don't have close friends overseas right now, but it makes me wonder if I should be trying to find a soldier who needs a pen pal.  It must be different in the days of email, and I wonder what his correspondence would have been like over email.  As it is, he sometimes uses v-mail, which I also don't yet know much about except that it's very hard to read because it's so little!  Can any of you shed a little light on v-mail?  I'll post a picture of one soon.

Here's your cliff hanger for the night: Grandpa says in one letter to his good friends that the war experience has changed his values completely, but he doesn't go into it further!  I hope that in the diary he kept during the war or other letters I will learn more about his change.

Scanning Begins

I could hardly wait for my daughter to go to sleep so I could get into scanning my new treasures!  I fretted about turning on the air conditioner to keep the documents safe (the documents that had been in my mom’s unheated and uncooled garage for the past few years), but the weather is so mild and we’ve been so happy leaving it off that I couldn’t bring myself to turn it on now.  I decided instead to bring the dehumidifier up to the office.

My palms would NOT stop sweating because I was so excited, so I did a lot of hand washing that night.  I worked from about 9:00 until about 1:00 a.m.  The letters were mostly between my Grandpa G’s parents while they were courting, from 1903-1905.  My Great Grandpa Joe and Great Grandma Nelle wrote to each other through the week, maybe?  And then seemed to see each other on Sundays sometimes, and maybe other times as well.  They began each letter with “Dear Friend” and closed with “yours only” or “ever your friend” and similar.  They seemed to have a sense of humor (or what seems like a dry sense of humor is really them being crabby – but I’m pretty sure it’s the former).  They didn’t get flowery, but there does seem to be some flirting happening in a subtle way.  I’ll put my favorite from each below - once I get my procedures figured out.  The large files are making my computer move like molasses, so once I make them small we'll be in business and you'll get a peek!

A Big Box of Stuff

I went to my mom's house this weekend and asked if she had the old box of stuff from Grandpa G that I seemed to remember she had.  She pointed me in the right direction, then took off, leaving my husband, my daughter and I to check out the box.  And my daughter is two years old, so that mostly consisted of us finding cool stuff (woah - look at these medals!) then quickly prying them out of her grasp or hiding the pretty shiny things from sight.

The box has pictures from the late 1800's and 1900's, letters from various relatives from the same time period, relics from World War II, and other odds and ends.  Some of it was so old I was too scared to really get into it until I was at my home with the scanner nearby, so I'm not even sure of what is there!
I decided to take the box back home to scan what I could, and started researching how to take care of these old things.  I’ve never tried to do any of this before, so it’s all new to me.  I called the Indiana University library in case they had someone who could help me scan.  They were incredibly nice and gave me some links to resources, but unless the documents are in their collection they don’t have the resources to work with them.  Because my relatives on that side are all from Illinois, the Indiana University library isn’t generally interested in our stuff. 

So I read up on how to scan and preserve precious documents, and started to dig in!