Saturday, December 26, 2015
It's been a busy year. Aren't they always? This was a year for working around the house to prevent it from falling into shards around our feet. Deck work, garage work, basement work, replacing ovens and microwaves and washers and dryers. You know, annoying stuff like that. Stuff that gets in the way of the important work like... genealogy.
But once in a while, you have to do a little 'maintenance', or water and wind will damage your genealogy materials and no one wants that.
I had been on a pretty good run scanning my photographs, I had made it all the way to 1989. I was feeling pretty good about my progress, but you know what happens when you get cocky. A few years ago, my father-in-law had passed away and my daughter had inherited her grandparents' photo albums.
She has begun the monumental task of scanning them along with the postcards and recipes and other such ephemera. As she's been doing those as well as her own original photos from her school days she has been passing the completed digitized files along to me. Then I fold those photos into the date-sequenced master digital photo albums I've been keeping.
Well, that sounds easy, you may think. Not bloody likely! Dating and identifying photographs was not a trait widely shared in our family. Once in a while, certainly, but only enough to be tantalizing.
From another direction, my brother who is MUCH older then I am (although slightly better looking) began passing me the digitized files of his slides which date back to 1965. And then to add a topping to that cake, my sister-in-law very graciously allowed me access to her photo albums and suddenly I am awash with a target rich environment.
After a brief bout with catatonic immobility, I asked my family which of the thousand things on my list to do next. My daughter's sound advice was to do those things which will deteriorate first and possibly be lost. Pretty good advice, huh?
So I reluctantly stepped away from photographs and into the loving embrace of analog recordings. The oldest items were some reel-to-reel tapes previously owned by my father in-law.
In November 1966, he had purchased an Astro-Science Concertone 804A Tape Recorder. This 47 POUND machine was used by his family for years but it had gone silent the last 10 years or so. When he died, I brought it home with his remaining tapes which were mostly music, but a couple marked 'family'. So I had stored it all away for a few more years thinking I would have to get the tapes digitized professionally as I had my own old tapes.
When I turned the Concertone on and it didn't work I wasn't surprised. However, further examination revealed the flywheel had been locked with transport screws. Once free, it started right up and operated like brand new. A nearly 50-YEAR-OLD machine without a single computer circuit in it and there were the 40-plus year-old voices sounding fresh and new! But why send the tapes away, if I could convert them myself? So, I downloaded a free audio product called NCH WavePad and digitized them. Fortunately, I had all the right connecting wires so I didn't have to buy a thing. It had all just been waiting there for me.
Next, I turned to a pile of cassette tapes. For a few years, my mother-in-law had gone through a phase of taping her phone conversations with her relatives so others in the family could hear them as well. These tapes were even easier to convert, also using WavePad.
The last big hurdle was VCR tapes. There were vacations and school function hiding in there that went back to the eighties as well as some work-related tapes that I had appeared in. The solution I chose here was Diamond One Touch Video Capture which is an inexpensive hardware and software combo. I just dragged one of my old VCRs up next to my computer, sent the video signal through the little hardware converter and was able to see the image on my computer screen and used it to know when to stop and start. Since I had only eight or so tapes to convert, this worked well for me. I'm sure some people have hundreds and it wouldn't work as well for them.
So, now the delicate, fragile, soon-to-be-lost stuff is done! Yay! Now I can return to photographs with a (relatively) clear conscience. Happy 2016!
Friday, December 26, 2014
I mentioned in a previous post that the last time the family visited Disney World, we took the opportunity to 're-create' some of the photos we had taken in previous visits. In some time travel stories, it is a major plot point that someone going into the past MUST know the geography of where the traveler is going. You wouldn't want to show up inside the wall of a building that used to stand in that park you're traveling from. Nope.
That makes Disney World a pretty good destination because, while changes are made, generally, it is pretty stable. They're not going to take out the whole Magic Kingdom and start over. And if you did go back to 1971, as you can see in this photo, you would find things were a little sparse in places. Florida hadn't had the opportunity to fill every inch with vegetation yet.
So we went over the forty-two years of Disney World photographs we had last year and chose some to re-create.
Here is Deb from 1972 on the left and 2013 on the right standing on the bridge by the castle gate in the Magic Kingdom. You can see they added some pointy things to the rail to keep people from sitting on it and some filler in the holes to keep children from falling through. Thanks, Walt.
This one is Deb on the bench by Cinderella's statue in the courtyard of the castle. In 1972 on the left, she's holding our daughter Leah while she naps and on the right in 2013, she's holding our granddaughter, Grace. Looks like the same bench!
And in this photo in the little courtyard by the first aid station by the Crystal Palace, Deb is holding Heather while Leah looks on in 1977 on the left and 2013 on the right.
And in that same little courtyard, the same three people pose first in 1990 on the left and 2013 on the right.
Over in Epcot, a random photo of Deb, Leah and Heather on the bridge leading to France was easy enough to reproduce. 1990 on the left, 2013 on the right.
It wasn't so easy in England since they had removed the little chairs and tables, but we made do. 1996 on the left, 2013 on the right. My, how the hedges have grown!
We had to push people aside in Germany, but once I cleared a space, everything worked out. 1987 on the left, 2013 on the right.
We tried everything to find the same flower in Mexico, we had the staff searching in their storage area, but no luck, but Heather had NO trouble locating the hat. 2004 on the left, 2013 on the right.
Not everything worked out, however. We wanted a shot at our favorite table in Columbia Harbor House in the Magic Kingdom, but they had turned it into a serving station. I was going to pull the station out and move a table in, but my family stopped me because they wanted to come back to Disney World at some point. Perhaps next time. 2004 on the left and 2013 on the right.
And, yes, of course there will be a next time! Yay!
Thursday, December 26, 2013
It is a common occurrence to hear of people making New Year Resolutions and then either never achieving their goals or keeping their resolve for perhaps an hour.
1. Post a Blog Entry
Well, I achieved the heck out of this one, didn't I? Here it is in all the glory I can muster.
2. Stay in the Main Building of the Grand Floridian
My family has been to Disney World a lot. I mean a LOT. We were there in October 1971 the month it opened. Both of my daughters were only a year old when they first went, so technically, they've been going all their lives. And we've stayed at the Contemporary, the Polynesian, the Disney Inn (when it existed) and even the Swan and others.
3. Recreate Certain Photos
It is a popular craze now to recreate classic photos and see how people have aged and deteriorated. There are places in Disney World that are exactly the same as they've always been, so we used our trip this year to recreate some of the thousands of Disney photos we have. The results will be the topic of another blog entry.
4. Get a New Video Camera
The video camera I had works JUST FINE! But like me and everything else based in technology, it's old now. It takes beautiful images, but it stores them on mini-DVDs. That's right, those little round things that you have to buy, store, document, load into the camera, initialize, finalize, pry out and store again. And they only hold about a half-hour of video. So, after watching one particularly troublesome finalization process, my wife suggested (!) that it was time to look into a new camera. Naturally, she was right. Now, I just turn it on and it's ready to go, for about five hours of HD video.
5. Add a 20th Year of Financials to Quicken
For those of you unfamiliar with Quicken, it is an application that stores and analyzes your financial data. I have been keeping all of my finances on Quicken for 20 years now. And by 'all', I mean every single transaction in banking, credit cards, cash and any other way. This allows me to budget with a fair degree of accuracy and remember things from 20 years ago. If I want to recall when and who replaced my water heater, or trend my electric bill over the last 20 years, it's a snap.
6. Reach a Financial Goal
I have more time to watch my financials now and I have diversified so much, I never expected to reach a particular goal in one of my categories that I had set over 10 years ago. Well, 2013 turned out to be a bit of a surprise and I reached that out-of-reach goal. Yay!
7. Buy Bicycles
8. Exercise the Snow Blower
This is the fourth winter we've had a snow blower. The first season, we used it once, then for the next TWO YEARS it sat unused because the Delaware Valley never produced enough snow to even crank it up. This year I was going to HAVE to start it just to keep it in operational order. But no worries, the first predicted dusting of snow turned out to be ten and a half inches. I just put some gas in it and whammo, it started right up. Now, hopefully, it can rest for two more years.
9. Stay in the Willard
The Willard Hotel in Washington is one of those national treasures you just have to visit. It's a hotel where Lincoln lived for heaven's sake and
We'd been there to visit on other trips and had their famous mint juleps at the Round Robin Bar (where Walt Whitman used to drink) but never actually stayed. Well, it's just as great as we imagined and right in the middle of everything just a block from the White House.
10. Restart my Photo Scanning
After you scan for a while, you get a little scanned-out. I have 40,000 (estimated) more photos to scan and it gets a little daunting to think about. The Disney Trip this year got me restarted because I had to scan all the Disney photos across the years so we could do our recreations (see #3 above). But I'm going again now and all the way up to the birth of our first daughter. Yay! Here's Deb bringing Leah home from the hospital.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
I am pleased to know something of my genealogy, my... 'family tree'. This knowledge is in sharp contrast to what I knew when I started a limited quest back in 1975. Following the death of my mother, I asked my father questions about his family hoping to get a grip on his side of my ancestry.
Unfortunately, if you look up the phrase 'close-mouthed about family matters', one of the first images is a photo of my father, Leon David Kleylein b. June 29, 1903, d. Dec. 29, 1992.
I didn't discover until years later the really good reasons he had for being so reticent, but that was no help getting me started at all. For example, I didn't even know my own grandmother's maiden name until the discovery of a marriage record in the Maryland State Archives twenty years later.
My daughter, Leah, was poking at me for information about my family and I literally had nothing to offer but about twenty names of relatives. I guess we could have turned to the Internet, but there were only about 10,000 primitive websites and newsgroups (remember newsgroups?) in 1994. It is estimated that in 2012, the number of websites will reach 582 million. Several of them will be about genealogy. (!)
So, instead, in those dark ages, we launched a succession of trips to the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis and the National Archives in Washington DC. Microfilm became a close friend. And so it came to be that on December 29, 1994, it was determined by means of a marriage record that my paternal grandmother's maiden name was Harrison.
Now, it is seventeen years later and I have 11,148 names in my family file with 7,467 of them connected to my grandmother Hallie Violet Harrison.
Hallie was born Oct. 9, 1886 in Mt. Airy, Carroll Co., Maryland and died Sept. 9, 1971 in Miami, Dade Co., Florida. As research went on, it became clear that she is related to nearly everyone in Maryland. It's a very close-knit state. Apparently once you move there, you often stay.
In the case of my Harrison connection, it's been nearly 400 years in the new world. Hallie's mother (my great grandmother) was Sarah C. Watkins. Sarah was a direct descendant of James Watkins who sailed with John Smith.
Yes, that John Smith of Pocahontas fame, the John Smith who founded Jamestown in 1607, a full thirteen years before those latecomers finally got to Massachusetts on the Mayflower. I picture my ancestors waving to them from the shore.
Well, Smith and my tenth great grandfather James also sailed up the Chesapeake into the Maryland area. Watkins Point on the Chesapeake is named for my ancestor.
Just a few years ago, we could have celebrated our... whaddayacallit... quadricentennial? Don't forget, the King James Bible hadn't even been published at that point, it was a long fricking time ago!
There's no documentation that James Watkins, my ancestor, had any interaction with Pocahontas. This isn't an actual photograph of her, by the way. I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that if she DID look like this, history would have gone in a markedly different direction.
Which leads us to what I will never have in the genealogy world.
Not that I don't have lots of connections to the American Revolution. The Harrison ancestors arrived soon after the Watkins ancestors along with Lewis, Moxley, Carter, Fitzgerald, Randolph, Saffell, Waugh, Becraft, Norwood, Holland, Shipley, Stevens, Lucas, Chamberlaine, Landon, Burwell, Smith, Ludlow, Isham, Beverley, Peyton, Gassaway, Lamb, Tydings, Green, Beall, Hungerford, Howard and more.
Two of my direct ancestors, Kinsey Harrison and Jeremiah J. Lewis were soldiers during the war. Two other directs, Jeremiah Watkins and William Shipley took the Oath of Fidelity. And one direct ancestor, Nehemiah Moxley Sr. has a very special place.
Everyone is taught
This seems to me a bit more direct and confrontational than some wimpy costume party with folks dressed up like Pocahontas, but what do I know? I wasn't there.
So, sure, I can be a Son of the American Revolution many times over but that doesn't really have the cach
Friday, December 30, 2011
I'm afraid this post might annoy some people but that's what I do so I can't help myself. My theme today will have to contradict one of my favorite people, Thomas Jefferson who is only one of the greatest thinkers EVER!
And I really do think a lot of him. I carry my camera in a black leather bag that I bought at the Library of Congress in Washington. The inscription on the bag is one of my favorite Jefferson quotations: "I cannot live without books."
Apparently, he could for a little while at least. After the original Library of Congress was burned during the War of 1812 (thanks, Britain), Jefferson sold his entire library of 6,487 books to the United States to start a NEW Library of Congress.
It is no accident that the main building of the Library of Congress is called the Thomas Jefferson Building.
So it pains me to contradict one of Jefferson's most famous writings, that "... all men are created equal..." Sorry, but they're not. Not even if you throw women in there, too.
One cannot simply select someone at random and have them play linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Most people would be killed during the first play. Not just because of the missing years of experience and training, but they just wouldn't be physically capable of that kind of punishment. If it were me, it wouldn't be my helmet that comes off, it would be my head.
The same is true of advanced mathematical thinking. Some people can perform such specialized cognitive leaps and stretches and others... can't. One branch of humanity is not necessarily better than the other, just different. But certainly not equal.
You can't just pluck someone out of a crowd and make them the leader. I've actually seen that tried and the results are usually a dismal failure. To be a good leader, you need empathy, strength and well... for lack of a better word, leadership. Arrogance, bluster and bullcrap can get you by for a while (I proved that), but you can't fool everyone forever.
But before some of you gentle readers respond by saying, "But Jefferson was saying men are equal under the law." Yeah, right. That's why some people can steal ten million dollars and get six months of house arrest and another person can steal groceries for their starving family and get thirty years of hard time. Give me a break.
We know enough about genetics now that we know our DNA has an awfully lot to say about what we're going to be like. Eye color, propensity toward certain diseases, muscle density, etc.
But I believe the most important differentiating factor among humans is their level of conscious development. Are we conscious of what is going on around us? Are we conscious of the future results of our actions? Are we conscious of the impact that our words and deeds have on the lives of others?
I'm convinced that there have been times in my life when I have been completely unconscious. Living, working, sure, but living life like a goldfish. Three minutes at a time, with nothing in the past and looking barely beyond my footsteps.
I like to think that I've improved, but who knows. I like to think that my consciousness breakthrough came when I finally realized I was unconscious, but perhaps I'm still not conscious.
For the sake of honesty, Jefferson must have known he was exceptional. He must have seen instances in his life where others thought to present themselves as his equal and known that they weren't. I have seen these pretenders, those wishing they were something they are not, annoyed by the success of others in doing things they could not.
Jefferson could have shot such men down with an offhand turn of phrase, but instead, he chose to embrace them. He included them and all of the rest of us. We are all equal because we can all exploit the gifts we have as long as we are conscious of those gifts we have and those we do not. By such writing, Jefferson proved that he was more than equal.
See? I told you this post would annoy you. Yay!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
This is an anniversary of sorts. It has been three years since I've been using this blog tool thingy as a mental dumping ground. Sometimes the dumping comes rapidly and sometimes there are breaks, but as people do with any good dump, I always come back.
The pressure to write builds up and finally explodes out onto the keyboard and into cyberspace. I have found it interesting (appalling, actually) to note that people all over the world have read entries in this abomination. Often it's the historical or genealogical topics that draw people, other times it's just the blatherings. Clearly, people need more work to keep them busy.
I try to imagine someone who grew up in a vastly different culture than my own (from, say, California) trying to make sense of these scrawlings. I can't make any sense of them, why should they?
I write when something strikes me as it did recently when I went to the dentist.
The lady (I presume she was a lady) cleaning my teeth announced to me that my mouth (teeth included) was 'clean and healthy'. Without knowing my history, she had no idea how hysterically funny that was.
My mouth was clean and healthy?? Pbffffffft! I smiled and thanked her while my tiny but hyperactive brain tried to reason how I had gotten myself into such a situation.
Clean and healthy??? Neither of those circumstances prevailed the first time I ever went to a dentist. I was seventeen at the time and the only thing that forced me into the dentist's tender mercies was that one of my molars had rotted so badly that practically the whole top had disappeared.
You'd think I could remember his name, but I can't. I recall his office was in Miami (obviously) on NW 7th Avenue somewhere in the vicinity of 135th Street on the east side of the street. I remember that and the fact that he had the hairiest hands of any person (man, woman or child) that I had ever seen even to this day.
This was not the era of gloves, I don't remember any gloves. I remember hair brushing against my mouth and cheek, but no gloves. I'm pretty scarred by the whole experience, I'll tell you! Nowadays, people sue for less.
But Dr. _________ had a saving grace. After he dug out what remained of the root of that once-upon-a-time-tooth, he demanded that I keep coming back until he got my teeth brought into at least the nineteenth century. Fortunately for him (and me) I was working full time at Royal Castle and bringing home the princely sum of $32 a week. Wow!!!
So every week for however many months it took, I journeyed to 7th Avenue to have hairy hands jammed into my mouth. He also taught me about proper brushing and flossing technique. And I'm sorry to admit I was lax about flossing for another five years or so. But now that it's part of my routine, I have to floss every day or nothing feels right.
You may be asking yourself why I was seventeen before seeing a dentist for the first time. The answer involves frequent use of the word 'no'.
No money, no insurance, no family history of seeing doctors or dentists and in the case of my mother and father - no teeth.
One of the earliest memories of my father is having him disconnect his top 'plate' and then sticking it halfway out of his mouth. Charming. Have I mentioned the scarring? But that's what people did in the days when there were only three channels on television.
So my 7th Avenue doc saved the rest of my teeth. The only other extractions I ever had were the two wisdom teeth I had pulled. Yes, I only had two! Not everyone is blessed with four useless, extra, unnecessary, often painful teeth that come in after all the rest of your teeth have properly set. Actually, a large percentage of people don't develop any wisdom teeth. Consequently... no wisdom.
And all my original silver fillings are long gone, replaced by composite materials that are probably killing me in different, bizarre ways than jamming molten metal into my head.
It has occurred to me more than once that with no flossing, poor brushing technique and a mouth full of less than healthy (OK, rotten) teeth that my breath must have been staggering!
I didn't realize it at the time, but I could have been a super hero! I could have easily dispatched crooks and villains with a single, quick puff of breath. As Captain Plaque, I could have quickly ended the war in Vietnam and gotten Richard Nixon out the White House (relatively) painlessly.
The generation after mine, my kids, have barely had a cavity. They probably wouldn't even get misty-eyed over being told their mouth is clean and healthy. What else? That's just normal.
And with my usual impeccable timing, less than two years after all that dental work I joined the Navy. While in boot camp they went over my teeth again with a fine tooth comb (get it?) and I could have had all that work done for free. But like I said... What else? That's just normal.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Every human has their own set of imperfections, some benign and some monumental. And our animal friends are not allowed to stand over to the side and cast stones either. Some of them are nuts too.
A case in point is a female cardinal I know. We're discussing the animal kingdom here, so please don't conjure up an image of Cardinal Richelieu wearing a dress. Actually, this outfit looks quite a bit like a dress, doesn't it? Hmmm?
No, I'm talking about the cardinal bird. Lovely plumage... oh, wait, that's the male. Unfortunately, the female is a bit drab and perhaps that may be the root cause of this whole tragic affair.
For weeks now, this dumbbell descendent of dinosaurs has been trying to get into the house.
She pecks at the windows. She storms the windows. She flutters and hovers at the windows pretending to be a hummingbird. All day, every day.
My wife's theory is simple and straightforward. The bird has a wire loose. I have a different theory. It is my theory, which is mine. If you didn't get that Monty Python reference, you really need to get out more.
My theory is (!) that since we've been providing food and water for these creatures right at this location for more than twenty years, the birds now want the house and this little twit is testing our defenses.
It's been hot this summer and the birds know air conditioning when they hear it. It's been hot all over the US and people are saying there's never been anything like it.
Historians, naturally, are dubious of such sweeping statements. Even my own poor knowledge of history makes me aware of the New York heatwave of 1896 which killed 1,500 people. That's right, 1,500 documented deaths which means there were likely a boatload more.
People couldn't even escape to air conditioning in such rugged days. Mr. Carrier would not be completing his invention for another six years or so. But invented or not, a lot of us po' folk still wouldn't have air conditioning seventy years later. It was just too expensive.
None of the schools I went to for all twelve grades had air conditioning as I was growing up. Keep in mind that I attended school in Miami, Florida where the humidity was sky high and temperatures were sometimes... unfortunate. The combination of the heat and humidity often made me sad. We had windows we could open, but that's not always the same thing.
We had no air conditioning at home until I was in my mid-twenties. We bought this house for a staggering $12,500 and I installed a used air conditioner. Whoo-hoo!
It wasn't so much for the cooling, but I had to keep the windows closed because I was working the midnight shift at Eastern Airlines and I had to sleep during the day. You can get used to anything, if you have to.
Notice in this photo that the sidewalk and street are wet but the sky is already clear. Is that Miami weather or what!
Notice also the 1965 Oldsmobile Delta 88 in the driveway. That was my first air conditioned car. Until then, it was 'rollin' down the windows'. They called it 4-60 A/C. Four windows down at sixty miles an hour. Hah!!
The used window A/C unit I got was a big one, big enough to cool the whole house. But I hated the way window units looked and they were noisy and drippy. So I installed it on an inside wall exhausting into the utility room. I cut a hole to drain the water and voilà, the system worked for me for years.
Here's a photo of Deb striking a pose and you can see the air conditioner stuck right in the concrete block wall in what we laughingly referred to as the 'dining room'.
Alright now, take a moment... stop and think what it would be like with no air conditioning and remember that it's only been a few years that we have had this luxury. Gave you a little chill, didn't it?
Saturday, July 23, 2011
A Parable for Our Time
He was a peculiar little boy, an odd little boy. What made him peculiar... odd... was that he was so ordinary. Perhaps a bit taller than average, perhaps a bit thinner than 'normal'. He did not intuitively know how to play the piano, he had no linguistic skills and there was no way he was going to be hitting any balls out of any parks.
In a crowd, he would simply fade into the background.
His friends would prefer to watch paint dry rather than spend a lot of time with him. He was well on his way to downtown Dull.But by happenstance, he noticed one good feature, one limited positive attribute. He was pretty good at remembering stuff. No, not a photographic memory (actually it's called eidetic memory) but wouldn't that be cool? Imagine a genealogist with an eidetic memory! Whoooaaaa! The connections would be fast and furious! No, the boy's memory was only slightly better than average. But since he had no creativity or raw intelligence, he determined to parlay this tiny advantage to the best of his 'ability'. So he memorized things in school and by dumb luck stumbled into the one occupation where he could really exploit his memory.He was too dull (see above) to take up card counting in gambling games so the only thing left was computer science. His memory and the use of that memory to recognize patterns made the boy a prime candidate for geekdom. His accidental entry into this field is probably the only thing that kept him from the poorhouse (do they still have poorhouses??) and a steady diet of cat food.
It's possible he couldn't have even afforded Fancy Feast. It's more likely the generic store versions would have been on his menu.
So his memory carried the boy into sort-of-manhood on its shoulders, dragging him part of the way when it needed to. It saw him through computer programming and analysis and even a primitive kind of management where he could remember who did what well and then told them to do that.But time passes. Arteries harden. Synapses poop out. It's a thing.
His neurotransmitters began to stay at lunch longer and longer. Sometimes his post-synaptic density became... how-you-say... a bit too dense.
The boy's memory wasn't what it was. His one positive attribute was going the way of all flesh.
The boy thought, "Crap!"
But then an event occurred which altered his perception. He was doing some genealogy work digging into his days as a student at William Jennings Bryan Elementary School. One of his favorite memories was about his first grade teacher, Mrs. White. She was his first teacher and it was such a positive experience that his whole view of school may have been properly set by this woman. The boy had remembered her through all these years and years and she had actually come to his mind occasionally and he would wonder how she was and what she was doing.But he didn't know who Mrs. White really was. What did she look like? He recalls that she was impossibly old, but since he was six years old, what did that mean?
The only thing he recalled for certain was that she had white hair, but that hardly narrowed down the pantheon of possibilities.
So the boy went back to do what research he could. Here's his photo from the first grade. He also found his first grade report card to look for clues. Would you like to know what he discovered?
The idiot had her name wrong. The smartypants who presumptuously believed that his memory was good and was only now beginning to fail due to physiological issues beyond his control had mis-remembered a crucial fact for decades!
Her name was not Mrs. White, it was Mrs. Marjorie S. Knight. So, the boy realized in a flash of clarity that he had never had a memory worth a damn, it had always been bad. In a bizarre way, this was comforting. He wasn't losing his memory, he never had any!
With his soul refreshed, the boy turned to his crack genealogy toolkit to research Mrs. KNIGHT. He discovered she was born August 28, 1910 possibly in Texas where her social security number was issued. She had married James Weldon Knight in the early forties and had a son Jimmy in 1945. James Weldon was born in 1907 and had lived in Amarillo solidifying the Texas connection. They divorced in 1954 so it is possible that she was going through this rough period while the boy was her student in the 1953-54 school year. He then used all the math skills at his disposal to cypher that when she was teaching him, Mrs. Knight was 43 years old. He had been right! She was impossibly old!
During that period, she had lived only a few blocks from the school. Here's an aerial photo of North Miami from 1952. If you click on it, you can make it larger. In 1984, she moved to Ft. Lauderdale and died there March 20, 1991, twenty years ago. This was also oddly non-stressful to the boy, since he had not just missed her by a week which would have been really annoying.
This is the apartment where she lived and this is the door she went through nearly every day of her life in North Miami. The boy still doesn't have a photo of Mrs. Knight, but that's only a matter of time.
Somewhere little Jimmy Knight who is now 66 years old carries a part of Mrs. Knight with him. Let's hope he is carrying on her tradition.
By now, some of the more clever readers out there have divined that this boy we've been discussing is actually ME! How about that! Quite a little twist at the end, huh?
So, what's the parable I referred to at the opening? You can't lose what you never had, so shut up and enjoy yourself. You can take that to the bank.
Update 06/19/2013: I told you the boy would get a photo of Mrs. Knight eventually and so he has.
Thanks to the collaboration of the wonderful people on the William Jennings Bryan Facebook page, we now have this image of Mrs. Knight from June 1952.