Fooled by a mystery photo

2011-10-30-010About five or six years ago, my mother gave me an 8 x 10 print of a group of poor but spirited children standing in front of what I assumed was their house. The print appeared to be a fairly modern one (I’d guess it was made within the last 40–50 years), and there was no information written or printed on the back. I had never seen the photo before, and my mother said she thought it was probably family, although she didn’t know who the children were.

About two decades ago, my aunt and uncle made modern prints of some older family photos, so I thought perhaps they made this print and would know more about the identities of the children who were pictured. When shown the photo, however, my uncle said he had never seen it before.

I scanned this photo over two years ago, and since then, I’ve shown the image to most every family member I’ve visited. No one has so far recognized the photo or known the identities of the children in the photo, although some similarities were seen between my paternal grandmother and the girl on the viewer’s right, and my maternal great-grandmother and the oldest girl at the top center (neither of whom met the other until my parents got engaged).

Continue reading

Veterans Day

US_Flag_BacklitNinety-five years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later—after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and to the Korean War—the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.

Continue reading

Pre-crash plane photos

Gary and his training plane (it later crashed)In my recent trip to Washington state to see my father and do some family history research, my father gave me some older black-and-white negatives that I’ve been scanning and archivally rehousing. Quite unexpectedly, I found eight photos from 1965 or 1966 of my uncle Gary with the very plane whose crash claimed the life of his flying instructor and very nearly killed my uncle as well (for details on that crash, see my earlier post on the topic).

I compared the plane’s registration number (easily visible in several of these new photos) to that on record in the NTSB report of the crash, and saw that it was an exact match—N5472E. It was eerie realizing that this was the same plane that would almost take his life just a few months, weeks, days, or perhaps even hours after these photos were taken.

Continue reading

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.

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.

Continue reading

My uncle’s plane crash

My uncle Gary was in a fatal plane crash just a few months before I was born. He was only 17 years old and he was taking flying lessons with the hope of earning his pilot’s license. It must have seemed a perfectly safe and reasonable choice to his parents, as they lived close to the Van Nuys airport and his father was also a licensed private pilot.

Gary and his instructor took off from Van Nuys airport in the single-engine Ercoupe on Saturday, January 22, 1966. The Ercoupe has only two seats—Gary was seated in the left-hand seat and his instructor, Donald K. Carey, was seated in the right-hand seat. On their approach to the Santa Paula airport from the northeast, their plane apparently ran out of fuel just short of the airport. Their plane sputtered and lost altitude. The plane hit a eucalyptus tree in a residential backyard, and nearly hit two houses before it crashed into electrical and telephone wires. The plane made a hard landing on its right side, crushing the right wing and causing fatal injuries to Mr. Carey.

Continue reading