What if you had an unexpected chance to hear your long-deceased grandmother’s voice again? That hypothetical question became very real for me in the last couple of weeks. I chose to do what I could to hear her voice, and the voices of several other deceased relatives and to do my best to share them with you.
My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black has been gone for over 23 years, and I haven’t heard her voice in that entire time. As far as I knew, there were no surviving home movies of her, and no surviving recorded interviews of her voice that I could watch or listen to. Her family films were silent vacation reels that appear to have focused on recording beautiful panoramas for the folks who weren’t there. The audio recordings were merely note-taking aids that were reused once they were transcribed. Or so I thought until this week.
For today’s post, I’d like to share another home movie that my father Keith Black digitized and that I recently found on his computer.
This home movie is composed of footage shot between May 1968 (just before my sister was born) and the summer of 1970 (just after my sister began walking). It captures Michael Black, Jill Black, Keith Black, Polly Black, Vernon Black, Dorothy Black, Gary Black, Mala Gayer, Bill Prettyman, Harriet Prettyman, Dan Prettyman, Jerry Young, Sue Mawer, Bob Mawer, Jimmy Mawer, and others. The fashions—especially my paisley pants and Harriet’s bold print dress—are really something. Sideburns also feature prominently.
I’ve written up a guide to the scenes below, but please leave me comments about anything I missed or may have gotten wrong.
As I was making drinks for my wife and mother last night in our home tiki room that I named after my grandfather Bill Prettyman (“Prettyman’s Atoll”), my mother reminded me that the previous day (March 1) was Bill’s birthday. I’ve never been good with birthdays, but I can remember years, and so when she said that, I realized that March 1 was the 100th anniversary of Bill’s birthday on March 1, 1919. Had he lived, he would have turned 100 years old on Friday.
I feel like the 100th anniversary of his birth calls for a post, but as these posts usually take days to write and I only have a few hours before I return to the workaday world, I’ll see what I can do. I’d love to write a full biography of him, but given the short time I have, I will instead present a short sketch of the first twenty-five or so years of my grandfather’s life.
I was going through a box of photos my mother had saved from her childhood and early marriage years, and I came across this collection of photos from Lake Odell in 1962 and 1963. As Lake Odell brings back fond memories for many in the Askew, Prettyman, Flaten, and Montgomery families, I thought I’d share them with you.
Odell Summit Lodge was run by members of my family until it was accidentally burned down in November, 1971. It was owned by my grandmother Harriet (Askew) Prettyman’s two brothers and one of her brothers-in-law—Bob and Frank Askew and Howie Flaten. The three men and their spouses lived at the lake year-round and together with help from other family members, they ran a lodge, rented out cabins, ran a store, rented boats, and served up meals. Every summer, members of our extended family would travel up to help run the lodge in the busy season in exchange for a nearly free vacation.
I’m gradually accumulating enough info on the decade-long run of the Odell Summit Lodge to write a history of our period of its history, from its purchase by members of the Askew clan, to the building of a new lodge, to the accidental burning of both old and new lodges, to a last-ditch effort to rebuild the resort after it burned. But that’s too much for a lazy Sunday. For today, I’ll just present the photos from 1962 and 1963. Continue reading →
Dan and Polly, this one’s for you. For those of you who are regular, long-time readers of my blog, you know I’ve got a sweet spot for Disneyland history. I’ve previously published two posts (this one and this one) on photos I found of my father, uncle, cousin, and grandparents visiting Disneyland on opening day on July 18, 1955. So you can imagine how happy I was when I stumbled upon some new photos of Disneyland in the 1950s.
This time, they’re photos taken (presumably by my mother) in July, 1959, just four years after Disneyland opened its doors to the world.
Unfortunately, my mother took photos as I did in my teens—careful to make sure none of those pesky family members got in frame lest the shot be ruined. Sigh. Teenagers. Amiright? Continue reading →
My dear, sweet grandmother, Harriet Eva (Askew) Prettyman, passed away at 9:00 pm tonight, December 14, 2017. It was not unexpected, as she was 95 and had a rough last few years, but her loss leaves an empty hole in the hearts of all those who knew and loved her.
I’ll share more of her life story and our memories of her in the coming days and weeks, but for now I just wanted to share a few photos of her as part of my way of saying goodbye. Continue reading →
My grandmother, Harriet (Askew) Prettyman, attended Wadena, MN, public schools from kindergarten through her high school graduation. While organizing some of her old photos, I came across her Wadena High School yearbook from 1941. She had apparently taken it with her to her 40th high school reunion, as there are photos and other materials from that reunion, and she had written “deceased” next to the yearbook photos of all of her class members who had passed away. Other than that and some scotch tape to fasten several of the photos, the yearbook appears to be in pretty much the same condition that it was in when she first received it.
Whew. I like to write a post or two per week, but it’s been a busy several weeks since my last post. My time has been stretched really thin over these past weeks, primarily between travel, family, a bad cold, and writing a $500k NSF grant. I’ll do my best to get back on the family history blogging rails. Towards that end, I’ll see if I can get a few posts written this weekend to get some momentum built up again.
For my first post today, I present this charming souvenir photo I found recently while continuing to organize my grandmother’s photos.
I’ve recently seen a few color photos from World War II, but I thought that must have been a rare, expensive, and exceptional technology. Today I found a small (2¼ by 3¼ inch) color photo of my grandmother, Harriet (Askew) Prettyman, from around 1942.
The photo is of Harriet (on the right) and an unidentified woman (perhaps Valborg Marie “Vollie” Berdahl) with an unidentified man (perhaps Harriet’s half-uncle and Vollie’s future husband, William Leighton “Bill” Askew) between them, sitting on a sandy beach. The women are are barefoot and are wearing two-piece swimsuits, and the man is wearing trunks, a white t-shirt, sandals, and has a towel over his neck. The two women are each holding a slice of watermelon. There’s a bottle of what is presumably tanning oil next to Harriet’s feet, and a pair of sunglasses to the left of the other woman. Continue reading →
My grandfather, William (“Bill”) E. Prettyman, and my grandmother, Harriet E. Askew, may have known of each other before they each separately left their shared small home town of Wadena, Minnesota, but they didn’t truly meet until their paths crossed in Oakland, California.
My grandmother came out to the San Francisco Bay area around 1941, when she was 19 years old. She came out with her sister Mary and Mary’s husband Howie, as Howie was looking for better work, and Mary was excited to go west, but didn’t want to go without someone in the family to go with her. Harriet thought the idea of California sounded great, so she agreed to go with Mary and Howie.
At some point in 1944 or shortly before, Harriet’s half-uncle Bill Askew (who was only four years older than Harriet, so he probably felt more like a cousin) was on shore leave while his ship was docked in the San Francisco Bay. He wanted to pay a visit to Harriet and her parents—his half-brother, Clyde, and his wife Gert (who by now had moved out to Oakland as well)—and he took along a fellow Wadena native he knew, Bill Prettyman. The two hit it off, and saw each other whenever he was able to get leave.