Back to their Kansas roots

1953?- Entering KansasToday’s post isn’t so much a post as it is a visual travelogue. While scanning hundreds of loose negatives that once belonged to my grandparents, I’ve found about 40 photos that appear to document two trips that Vernon Black and his sons Keith and Gary (and probably his wife Dorothy, too, although she doesn’t appear in any of the photos) made from California back to Vernon’s childhood home in Kansas.

For those of you who didn’t previously know about these trips, please enjoy the photos. For those of you who either went on the trip or were among those who hosted and/or visited with the Black family on their travels, please spill all you know about these trips in the comments section below. Whether you remember details of the trips, can recognize any of the Kansas relatives in the shots, or can help fill in the story of these trips, please share that information with the rest of us!

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The Delamart “superette” (part 1)

000000T3x7068000V&DB (1)After my grandfather Vernon Black returned from France in World War II and was discharged on February 13, 1946, he got into the grocery business in Olympia, Washington.

He quickly went from working in a grocery store, to designing a grocery store, to building and owning a grocery store, to owning a small chain of grocery stores. According to Vernon’s son (my father Keith), Vernon’s desire to succeed in the grocery business was a large part of the reason he moved his family from Washington state to California, first to Santa Barbara, and then to Van Nuys.

In this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned so far about the origin of his unique Delamart chain of grocery stores. I’m just at the very beginning of my research on this topic, so I welcome any help you may be able to give. Please share any information you may have on the Delamarts in the comment section at the bottom of this post.

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More Disneyland opening day photos found

1955-07-18- Disneyland 11In an earlier post about my father and his family getting to see Disneyland on the day it opened to the public (July 18, 1955), I shared three photos I had just found that my grandparents took on that landmark visit. These photos may not seem like much (and, granted, they have their fair share of technical shortcomings), but they’re a rare treasure to those interested in the history of Disneyland. In what is certainly the biggest online collection of Disneyland photos (davelandweb.com/disneyland/), the photos I found merited their own special section of the website.

In the nine months since I wrote that post, I’ve kept my eyes open for more photos from that historic day. I felt confident that they didn’t go to the opening day of Disneyland and just take three photos. Last week, while visiting with my father in Washington state, he gave me several small stashes of black-and-white negatives. When I looked through them, I found the negative to one of the prints I had already seen. It was mixed in with photos of a circa 1953 trip to Kansas to visit relatives. The more I looked through the negatives, the more I realized that at some point, they had all been mixed up and then later incorrectly grouped with other negatives.

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Clyde and his union shop

2011-11-22-024 (1)Another loose photo I found among my grandmother Harriet Prettyman’s old photos. It’s a photo of Clyde Askew, my great-grandfather, and fellow employees at his place of work in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I believe my grandmother said he worked as a machinist at the General Electric plant the utility company (PG&E?) that was just down the street from where they lived in Oakland, CA, at the time.

As with the majority of the family photos I have, this one has no inscription on the back, so I’ll have to rely on details contained in the photo for hints as to where and when the photo was taken.
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You’re in good hands with Bill Prettyman

1967 ?- _____I’ll be away at a conference in Portland for the rest of the week and weekend, so I wanted to get one last post in before I left.

My grandfather, William “Bill” Prettyman spent much of his post-World-War-II career as an insurance salesman for Allstate Insurance. Here I present a number of newly scanned photos of him during his years at Allstate. The dates I present are approximate, so please feel free to correct any incorrectly assigned dates. In fact, I don’t know yet what year he began working for Allstate and when he left Allstate. I suspect I’ll find his retirement date in papers I’ve yet to go through, but if you know when he started for Allstate, please let me know.

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Clyde Askew’s autograph book

Front coverAmong the items that document our family history is this autograph album that belonged—at least at one time—to Clyde L. Askew (1896–1967). The author(s)/owner(s) of the album are not easy to determine, as entries appear to have been made during at least three different time periods. The first period is probably around the turn of the century, perhaps 1897–1900. At this time, a young child drew in the album.

The second period of the album’s life is comes in 1907, when Clyde gives the book to his aunt Fanny, doing so with an inscription. A possible third period is in 1927, when Ed Young added his name to the album. The fourth period comes decades later (possibly in 1955), after the book had been stored away for some time and then was rediscovered. The (presumed) wife of the finder then writes a letter to Clyde across two of the pages of the book, and another letter across eight additional pages of the book.

In this post, I’ve tried to see what I could learn about the author(s) and the recipient(s) of the notes contained within this wonderful album, but several questions were left unanswered because I don’t have all the facts. I’m hoping that one/some of you will be able to help me with some of these unknowns, so at the end of this post I’ve posed a list of questions that I’m hoping you can help me answer. Continue reading

A Death Greatly Exaggerated, part 3


Warning—the conclusion of this post is now known to be incorrect.  See the “He’s dead, Jim (or, Down a blind alley)” post for details.


In part 1 of this story, I explained how my inherited last name should have been “Scherer” or “Shearer,” but my grandfather, Vernon, refused to use that surname because his birth father, Zyonia Ray Shearer, abandoned him and his family when Vernon was only 4 or 5 years old. But then I looked briefly at Zyonia’s (Ray’s) childhood and found that he, too, had lost his father when he was only 4 or 5 years old. Family tradition held that Ray’s father, Gilbert Michael Scherer, died shortly before 1900 due to traumatic injuries he sustained in an accident:

“Gilbert Shearer was building a home in Missouri.  He was working on the roof when he fell off across a tree stump, bursting his abdomen open.  He fell from his house while shingling his roof.  He was taken to a sanatorium, but died four days later. He was buried in Edmond Cemetery, 4 miles north of Powersville, MO.”

In part 2 of this story, I introduced Gilbert Michael Scherer and his wife Mary Belle (Coddington) Scherer, and tried to present everything I know (or thought I knew) about Gilbert, his short life, and his death. At the end of part 2, I presented the first piece of evidence that Gilbert was still alive long after his supposed death.

In this third and final installment, I’ll make the case for Gilbert not having died when, where, or how the family tradition maintains he died.

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