World War I—the “war to end all wars”—was ended by an armistice that took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson gave an address to the nation on what had come to be called Armistice Day in the U.S. and allied countries. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday, and in 1954 the day was renamed “Veterans Day” to honor all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, not just those who served in World War I.
My family has a proud heritage of serving our country. My father Keith V. Black served in the Navy immediately before the Vietnam War. My paternal grandfather Vernon C. Black served in the Army in Europe during World War II. My maternal grandfather William E. Prettyman served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. And many, many more of my ancestors and relatives have served in the many wars our nation has engaged in over the past 400 years.
I present this list to honor their service and their memory.
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.
Exactly one hundred 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 then 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.
This is a revised version of a post I did five years ago. Since then, some family members have died, and I’ve discovered twenty-seven additional family members who served our country. Note that I have included only relatives who served the United States or the colonies that would eventually become the United States.
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 →
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.
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.
In the 1970’s, my parents were given a number of antiques from my paternal grandfather’s side of the family. These were said to be old objects from the sod house that my adoptive great-great-grandparents, Lewis J. Black (1839–1901) and his wife Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black (1841–1915), built in Jewell County, Kansas. My grandparents made a trip back to that area in the 1970s with their motorhome and came back with these and other items.
I’d like to take a closer look at these items to see what I can learn about their origins and history. The items include a coffee grinder (the subject of the current post), a chopping knife or ulu, a coin purse, a rocking chair, a kerosene lamp, and two pendulum clocks—a schoolhouse regulator style clock, and and a tabletop style clock. They’re all in rather poor condition and would have almost no value as antiques, but to me, they’re priceless.
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.