Happy Father’s Day, 2018

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there, whether living or amongst the ancestors.

My own father, Keith V. Black, died a little over two years ago. I miss him sorely, but he left a lifetime of memories that will keep him forever alive in my heart and in the hearts of those who loved him. My dad was a complex person with several sides to his personality. He was always young at heart—in many ways, he was a teenager well into his seventies. He was an outdoorsman, an enthusiastic participant in the car culture of 1950s Van Nuys, an aspiring photographer, a businessman, an enthusiastic early adopter of technology (he computerized his business in 1978), a passionate fan of music of all genres, an artist, an avid learner, a solitary recluse, and an outgoing man who made friends wherever he went.

He was also a father who was terribly proud of his kids. We may not have always known just how proud he was of us, but as I’m going though his papers I’m learning just how much he defined himself as being the proud father of two children he loved more than we knew.

Here are a few shots that capture my dad doing what he loved more than almost anything else—being a dad. Continue reading

More early Disneyland photos

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

So, you don’t legally exist?

Imagine that you were born in a rural area to poor parents in the back room of your rented house. Your parents moved a lot, and they never told the county officials that you were born. So no birth certificate was ever registered. And then your dad leaves your family when you’re five years old, leaving your mom alone with you and two younger siblings. You’re upset about that and change your last name to that of the kind man who married your mother and stepped into the father role in your family. But for whatever reason, you and your family don’t make the adoption legal, nor do they inform the county or state officials of the name change. And then for unknown reasons, you decide to change your middle name, too, from the traditional Dutch Cornelius to the hip, modern “Curtis.” And again, no government agencies are informed. We’ve all been there, right?

This presents no problems for you for most of your life. You get your Social Security card, you enlist in the Army and serve in World War II, you pay your taxes, you work until your early 60s and you’re beginning to think about your retirement. And then you apply for your Social Security retirement benefits and discover that—poof—you have no proof that you are who you say you are.

What do you do now? Continue reading

Mayflower descendancy, part 3

Today’s post will be a short one to update you on my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or “Mayflower Society). In part two of this series, I mailed off my Preliminary Review Form for the California Mayflower Society and sent off requests for four certified birth certificates. I got a phone call on Tuesday from Thurston County, Washington, saying that two of those birth certificates were on their way, but I haven’t received them yet.

What I did receive just yesterday was the oldest of the four birth certificates that I’ve so far requested—from 1860. I thought this would be the hardest of the four to secure, yet I received it first. Without further ado, here it is: Continue reading

Keith Black’s early childhood (1942-1949)

Keith at 16 months

This series of posts will provide a chronological overview of the life of my father, Keith Black (1942–2016), who passed away on March 8, 2016. My aim in this first installment is to give an overview of his first seven years, from his birth and early childhood in Washington state to his entering elementary school after his family moved to Santa Barbara, California.

If you have any stories to share about my father, whether privately or stories I could share publicly, I would be grateful. Please do so by leaving a comment below (comments stay private until I publish them).

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Happy Easter, 2014!

1971-04- Easter on Hamlin (10)I’d like to wish all of my family, old and new, near and far, a wonderful Easter and happiness throughout the Spring.

Because I couldn’t find any vintage Easter-related photos that I haven’t already used (I went a little overboard with last year’s Easter post), I’ll leave you with a few Easter photos of me, my sister Jill, my mother Polly, my father Keith, my uncle Gary, my grandmother Dorothy McMurry Black and my grandfather Vernon C. Black taken by by father at my grandparents’ home at 13846 Hamlin Street, in Van Nuys, California, on Easter Sunday, April 11, 1971.

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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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A lost history, found

GeorgeWBailey1Lately I’ve been spending a couple of hours each weekend day reorganizing our family history archives. In the yet-to-be-organized portion of the archives, I’ve got a dozen large, plastic storage boxes, each of which holds hundreds of papers, photos, mementos, and other items judged at some point as worthy of being preserved.

One of these boxes is filled with memories and keepsakes from my great-great-aunt Dorothy Mary (“Dot”) Bailey and her husband Clarence Humphrey Bailey. You may know Dot as the young girl pictured at the center of my site’s header photo. Dot and Clarence were distant relations (third cousins; although they apparently didn’t know this when they met) and had the same last name before marriage, so I can’t be sure whether Dot adopted Clarence’s “Bailey” surname according to tradition, or whether she was an independent maverick who bucked tradition and kept her own “Bailey” surname.

I was lucky enough to have known them both as a child and to have known Dot until I was a young man in college. They were incredibly thoughtful, gentle, intelligent, and modest people, but for whatever reason, they never had children. My grandmother, Dorothy McMurry Black, their niece, was like a daughter to them and she was their sole heir. Their tangible memories have now passed to me, and I’m making my way through them.

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Why Nampa?

map-idaho-nampaThis is a post that’s been sitting on the back shelf for over a year, as I’ve been hoping to uncover more details before posting the story. I’ve made some headway, but not as much as I’d like, so I’m putting this post out there today in hopes that some McMurry or Chilson relative will be able to fill in some of the missing details.

I recently learned that my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, lived in Nampa, Idaho, when she was very young. She never mentioned this to me while she was alive, and I had never heard about her or her parents living in Idaho before. I knew that her grandfather, Arthur Webster McMurry in Nampa, Idado, on November 17, 1917, after moving there in December, 1916. Arthur’s daughter (and my grandmother’s aunt) Maud “May” Belle (McMurry) Jeglum was living a few miles south in Bowmont at the time of the 1920 census, having moved there with her husband and three children at some point after 1914.

The evidence for my grandmother having lived in Nampa comes from two sources. First is this short mention published on page 6 of the Friday, December 20, 1918, edition of the Olympia Daily Recorder:

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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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