Friends The Keepers Of Memories

Back to camera my wife Sandy getting a hug from Betty while Shirley watches.  “Now that I have opened that bottle of memories they're pouring out like wine, crimson and bittersweet.”  ― Ellen Hopkins, Impulse

Back to camera my wife Sandy getting a hug from Shirley while Betty watches.
“Now that I have opened that bottle of memories they’re pouring out like wine, crimson and bittersweet.”
― Ellen Hopkins

 

A few weeks ago my wife Sandy was contacted by old friends (two sisters) that she has not seen since childhood. They had discovered each other on Facebook a few years ago but now the opportunity to meet face to face after all these years was possible. So my wife and I drove to nearby Syracuse to meet at the deli restaurant The Brooklyn Pickle. So over great sandwiches and conversation time seemed to disappear. Before we knew it, the afternoon had gone, and it was time to say our goodbyes.

Left to right. Betty Graves Martin, Sandra Lyon Moore, and Shirley Ann Graves Harris. "A time of Time it was, and what a time it was, it was  innocence, a time of confidences"... Bookends  P. Simon, 1968

Left to right. Betty Graves Martin, Sandra Lyon Moore, and Shirley Ann Graves Harris.
“A time of Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
innocence, a time of confidences”…
Bookends
P. Simon, 1968

On our drive home my wife was surprised at the memories her old friends had of her mother and father. Memories that she did not herself recall. One of the sisters was a few years older, and would at times babysit for my wife’s mother. She told how my wife’s mother (a school teacher) would help her with math and school work. Taking them shopping for school clothes, trips, and many other events that my wife could not recall. In those few hours my wife was to learn much about her parents and in particular her mother that she had forgotten or never knew. We spent hours talking about this over the next few days. I started to think about how our friends know so much about us as we do them. In many cases much more or different things than our cousins or even siblings. I came to the conclusion that old friends are an ignored source in our genealogy research. Memories of other old friends started to make their way into my thoughts.

My good friend Gary Short. "Our most difficult task as a friend is to offer understanding when we don’t understand." ~Robert Brault

My good friend Gary Short.
“Our most difficult task as a friend is to offer understanding when we don’t understand.” ~Robert Brault

 

Gary Short was my friend from grade school through high school graduation and too few years beyond. We had so many adventures together growing up that it would read like a slightly watered down Tom Sawyer. The picture above shows Gary holding a book we had both read that we borrowed from the public library. We used to go the library often to find books to read. Gary was from a large poor family. He worked hard to finish high school and earn his X-ray technician certificate. I was well aware of his situation, and I admit that I looked up to him and all that he accomplished.  Before I moved away from my hometown, we made plans to meet in four to six months, since he was taking a job then in a hospital nearby the town to where I was moving. It was the last time I was ever to see him. From what I was able to find out well after the fact was, he developed problems with addictions and ran into trouble with the law. Gary died in 1988 he was only 36. His obituary listed 26 nieces and nephews as well as 23 grandnieces and grandnephews. I hope they hear some of the earlier stories about Gary so that they will perhaps someday learn the good things about him like the stories I have. However, the stories he knew about me are now lost.

Pauline Bonnett Deloria my grandmother, family friend John Curtin, and my sister Veronica with her new doll.                             "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival." C. S. Lewis

Pauline Bonnett Deloria my grandmother, family friend John Curtin, and my sister Veronica with her new doll.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival.”
C. S. Lewis

 

John Curtin was a family friend. He always seemed very old to me. But in checking out facts for this post, I discovered he was 61 in the picture above. Since I was 12 when the picture was taken, I guess to me he was old. He was a retired brakeman for the D&H Railroad and had many stories he shared. His humorous prayers before family holiday meals were legendary. We had a steel bar that was installed in the doorway between the living room and kitchen in our house in which I used to do chin-ups. One evening several of us were doing chin ups when John decided he was going to do a few. He gripped the bar and with a great effort started to raise himself up as his trousers fell around his ankles. Good times. A few years later I was asked to be a pallbearer at his funeral.

 

James Davis on left and myself on Jim's wedding day. We were best man at each other's wedding. "But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away." ~Dinah Maria Craik, A Life for a Life, "Chapter XVI: Her Story," 1859

James Davis on left and myself on Jim’s wedding day. We were best man at each other’s wedding.
“But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~Dinah Maria Craik, A Life for a Life, “Chapter XVI: Her Story,” 1859

James Davis was one of the most brilliant and funniest people I have ever known. More importantly, he was my friend. In many ways, we were total opposites. He was a staunch conservative and I a liberal. This was at the time of the Vietnam War, Hawks, and Doves. We agreed on nothing political. However, that was not important to us. What was important was trying to win a point in our many debates. We were both working our way through school and worked in a large retail store called Grandway sort of the Wal-Mart of its time. I recalled one Christmas the store’s Santa Clause was very late in getting back from lunch. A special education class was there to visit with Santa. Jim was pressed into service to play Santa Clause. I decided to stay close by and watch so I could tease him about this later. The one thing we liked to do is to find something we could use to tease each other. So the sight of this reluctant college football player in a Santa suit was too good to pass up. However as he approached this excited group of special education children, Jim disappeared, and Santa appeared. This is the only was I can explain it. Jim did such a great job that was like watching a great actor work on stage or in a movie. The children loved him they squealed and laughed and had a great time. He spent about a half hour with them.  After he had gone back to the employee lounge to change out of the Santa suit, I went back there to tease him a little. However, I found him slumped against a wall crying like a baby. He turned to me with tears running down his face and said “all those dollars spent on the military we should find some to help them.” I did not say anything to him that I had planned to. Instead, I tried to cheer him up. Also, I never brought up his statement to him in our future debates. Besides, I always knew how big his heart was. My friend’s great heart gave out on him a few years ago. I got the chance to tell his children this story about their father and a few others they did not know.

 

Virginia Rice with my grandson. "Friends are relatives you make for yourself." ~Eustache Deschamps

Virginia Rice with my grandson.
“Friends are relatives you make for yourself.” ~Eustache Deschamps

Virginia Rice was like another mother to my wife and I and a grandmother to my children. We had just rented an apartment, and her apartment was across the common area from ours. At first, my wife was concerned that this might cause problems since we had three very young (all under the age of 6) children. However those fears were soon dispelled, and she quickly became a part of our family. Before long no family gathering was complete without her being there. For a long time every Friday night we would order take out food and play the card game Pinochle. We have many fond memories of her skill at this card game. Everyone wanted her as a playing partner. My daughter thought so much of her that she is Godmother to one of her daughters. Perhaps someday I will have the chance to tell one of her descendants about this World War Two veteran, card playing, Polish food junkie, funny and deeply religious person.

 

My advice to anyone doing family research is to try and find old friends if possible of the people you are researching. Even with people you think you know well. Old friends can share stories you may know nothing about. By talking with these people, you may learn surprising things that most likely you would never know. If you dig a little deeper, you will have an enhanced story.

 

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Whats in a Picture?. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Friends The Keepers Of Memories

  1. Melissa Moore says:

    Great job Dad! Please write your book!!!

  2. chmjr2 says:

    It has been started.

  3. judyg1953 says:

    Wonderful stories of your friends, thank you for sharing them.

  4. Anabel Marsh says:

    Very moving, particularly the story of Jim. Friendship is a wonderful thing.

  5. fionacalder2 says:

    Great post. I have gleaned more factual and anecdotal information from a friend/colleague of one of my more colourful relatives than all his next of kin combined! Great reminder, thanks!

    • chmjr2 says:

      So many times it is the friend who knows these great stories and is willing to tell them. The trick is finding these people so we may learn these stories.

  6. Truly from the heart and a very enjoyable read. Good advice, too.

  7. KerryCan says:

    This is a really nice post–the little paragraphs about old friends, the photos, the quotes, all come together perfectly. Very poignant, and you make a great point about what we can learn.

  8. So much great advice here! Beaut post. 🙂

  9. Amy says:

    Having just returned recently from a reunion with my three best friends from college, I found this post very moving. Although we didn’t know each other’s parents as well as your wife’s friends did, we all always talked about our families, and we still did at this reunion. Friends give us a chance to think and talk about family members, past and present. Thanks for this post.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Glad you liked this post. Our friends get to know us so well at different stages of our life. I am sure the stories your college friends could tell would be different from the stories your more recent friends could tell. The most rare would be a friend who has known us from childhood to our current age. They all have a part of our life stored in their memory.

  10. Barbara Neal says:

    Wonderful post, great subject. Well done! 🙂

  11. flamingdarts says:

    Charles, I don’t always take the time to read your posts (I should), but I must repent and begin to do so. This was very special. Please keep being more faithful to your blog than I am to mine.
    Steve

    • chmjr2 says:

      Steve, thanks for reading and your comment. I try to be faithful to the writing of my blog, but at times I do fall behind. It is finding the time to not only write a posting but try to do it well. Thank you for the encouragement.

  12. Jim McKeever says:

    Charles, what a wonderful post. You and your wife learned so much from friends, and you returned the favor with James Davis’ children. I’m sure they are forever grateful. You are correct, friends are a valuable resource in the genealogy world. By the way, I’ve joined ancestry.com and I’m enjoying the adventure when I have time for it.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for your comment. Be careful with ancestry.com. I find myself going on for a quick look up and then when I notice the time hours have passed by.

  13. Great post! This idea has been on my mind because I’ve been going through letters my Grandpa received during WWII. There lots of letters from my Grandma and plenty from other friends, neighbors, and family members. I’m fascinated by his best friend Mack. There are lots of letters from him that just seem to stop. I’m dreading the possible reasons for that. I guess I’ll learn more as I keep reading…

    • chmjr2 says:

      It looks like you have in those letters great family history. You are very lucky to have those letters. I have the WWII letters my father in law wrote to his mother. I plan to scan them and perhaps do up a booklet featuring them. I have also thought about donating them but not sure where.

      • I really do. They are incredible. I have started organizing them and will begin scanning soon. I plan to publish them into a book (or two, there are soooooo many) as well. It’s so incredible that they have survived all this time. They are wonderful.

  14. Thank you for this very good reminder. It’s important to consider every connection has two sides. If you can’t find one, try the other. Great blog!

    • chmjr2 says:

      We have to keep our minds open and always looking for ways to find information about our family. I thinks old friends are overlooked by most of us.

  15. Rowena says:

    I have been quite lucky. A pupil of my grandmother’s contacted me and has emailed me a scan of a sketch she’s done of my grandmother and a few photos and stories. I was absolutely stoked.
    I agree with what you say too about these people having some very valuable memories and anecdotes for our research.
    I am also quite interested in how food reflects our memories. I wrote a post about this yesterday. My husband grew up in Tasmania and loves Cornish Pasties but they’re not easy to find around here and they’re nowhere near as good as the original and so I decided to have a go at making them. Here’s the post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/desperately-seeking-curley-our-tasmanian-cornish-pasty/
    xx Rowena

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for reading my blog and your comments. I think food is a very central part of family history. Many of us have fond memories of family gatherings around the table enjoying our favorite foods. I had already read your post and enjoyed it very much.

      • Rowena says:

        Thank you very much. I have quite a few old family recipes handwritten probably 60 + years ago. I’ve made many of them but have come stuck on a couple which have been missing steps and written out more as memory joggers by someone who knew what they were doing.

  16. Sheryl says:

    This is excellent advice. It reminds me of when I was researching my grandmother. One of my best sources turned out to be a community member who had attended the same church as my grandmother.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Yes old friends can supply us with so much information that we would never get. I recall well your bog about your grandmother, it had some of the best writing on Word Press.

  17. How true. I too have spoken to old family friends over the years and have learnt little things about my ancestors that I would not have known.

  18. chmjr2 says:

    Old friends certainly can give us much in the way of information of our family that can give us a better picture of their times and who they were.

  19. Dear Charles, I have been meaning to read this since it came out, the very title intrigued me! You are so right about friends, and I am going to start pumping them for stories not just visiting in the present! LOL I have a few to share as well! Thank you for this delightful look into your own life,a nd for the suggestions! By the way, please tell Sandy that I am related to a lot of Lyons also, thorugh dna anyway, I don’t actually know them, but some are related to my Youngbloods! Small world! Helen

  20. chmjr2 says:

    The Lyon family has been trouble for me in my research. I can go back to Ambrose Lyon born 1812 in New York. But nothing past him. Also I bet some of those stories your friends have about you could be interesting. Perhaps you could share a few.

  21. Lovely, Charles. 🙂

  22. Hixton Grit says:

    I just recently decided to use a digital voice recorder the next time I get together with folks from my past. I just can’t remember all I need to, even with taking notes. I love this post because I have had similar experiences. I have LYON ancestors back to before the 1700’s – A Lyon in Woodstock, Windham, Connecticut. She married Ephraim Child. Finding posts like yours helps to keep me going after a slump in genealogy activities. Thanks for the inspiration. Looking forward to learning from you, my friend!

  23. chmjr2 says:

    A digital recorder is a great idea. I have used them and found that they are of great value. The Lyon side of the family has been trouble to research. This branch lived and worked around N.Y.C. and Rockland County in New York. I can go back to a Ambrose Lyon born in 1812. To make matters worse there’re two Ambrose Lyon in that time period in New York State. Thank you also for your kind words and I am sure I will be learning from you.

  24. bluewolfnz02 says:

    beautiful story….I myself have had similar experiences with friends after 15 years spent out of the country.

  25. Thanks for sharing your story and the powers of connection. Last year I attended my 50 year high scroll reunion and reconnected with friends from half a century before. It was a rich experience and I am now keeping up with many through Facebook and my blog. Thanks for sharing your story.

  26. Lovely post. I am always amazed by how differently people remember the same events/people. It can be a real eye-opener.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for your kind comment. I think people remember a shared event differently from each other is that it affects each of us in a different way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s