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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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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Gert Askew and daughters in S.F. Chinatown

1945 Chinese Skyroom p1Whew. 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.

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Happiest place on Earth!

While looking through a set of photos from the 1950s that once belonged to my grandmother, Dorothy (McMurry) Black, I found a fun surprise—three photos of my father and his family visiting Disneyland just one day after its grand opening day. Disneyland had its grand opening on July 17, 1955, but only press and invited guests were allowed in the park on that day. The next day—July 18, 1955, was the first day that the public was allowed into Disneyland, and these three photos were taken on that day.

My grandparents, Vernon and Dorothy (McMurry) Black took four very lucky children to Disneyland that day: their two children (Keith and Gary), their foster son (Richard Bearden), and their nephew (Jude Laspa). Richard, the oldest, was 14 years old. Keith was 12, Jude was 11, and Gary was 6. Vernon and Dorothy were both 38, but children for the day, I’m sure!

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