Tag Archives: family history

In His Own Words: My Grandfather’s Diary

sam_1532When I was visiting my sweet cousins this past summer, cousin Jan came to me with a heavy-looking red book in her hands. She held it out to me, “I’ve read some of this. It’s Grandpa’s journal from his time in the army during World War One.”

Wow. Just wow!

As I flipped through it, I found some loose pages. I asked her what they were and she said she didn’t know.

All that afternoon, she and I transcribed what was Grandpa’s earliest recollections and his Christian testimony. I say ‘transcribed’ because his handwriting was nearly illegible. He was left-handed and his teachers taught him to write right-handed, you see. Some words we had to figure out letter by letter and then look up on the internet to try to decipher them.

So, I give you my Grandfather’s story, in his own words.

Early years

scan0011Father was a blacksmith.I was born in Raymond, Iowa and moved to Ladora when I was 1 years old. We moved to Crawford, Colorado when I was 6 years old. In Crawford, Father died in the spring of 1900. I was nine years old. Mother brought my brother and I back to Iowa that year, after selling the blacksmith shop and the house in Crawford. We lived with her folks a few months. Then she bought the hotel in Washburn and operated that for several months. When she married Frank Hemmer we moved to Caliofe, Iowa, near Hawarden, lived there a few months and moved to a farm across the big Sioux River to South Dakota. Continue reading In His Own Words: My Grandfather’s Diary

The Accent is Genuine

MTV interviewer Josh Horowitz (After Hours with Josh Horowitz) has some of the stars of the Harry Potter series repeat phrases with an American accent.   Of course I’m impressed. I can not speak with an English accent, although there is an English accent in my head. I’ve always loved anything English. To call myself an Anglophile does not begin to encompass my lifelong obsession.

It began in childhood. My mother was besotted with the Queen and everything English. Her grandmother was the third daughter of a titled landowner. With a child’s wide-eyed awe I listened to tales of my great-grandmother’s privileged childhood of having someone else do everything for her including brushing her hair (the ultimate luxury!) with tortoise-shell combs. And the stories didn’t stop there. She grew older and fell in love with a man who came from London, an indentured apprentice. They ran away together to America where they traveled by covered wagon to the wilds of Iowa. Their home included an “indian cabinet” a cupboard to hide in when the indians came to raid the pantry, though actually they were only after the pickles.

The truth lies somewhere in here. My great-grandmother was the third daughter of a titled land owner, who was actually a farmer. She probably did enjoy some luxury in comparison to others. The Orkney Islands of Scotland are cold a lot of the year. Relatives who still reside there must keep their sheep and cows in the barns for almost nine out of twelve months of the year.

My great-grandmother did fall in love with a man from London who was a plumber. She married and moved to America with her father’s blessing. And I imagine Iowa was still a little warmer than Scotland. I’ve seen the home they built. A three storied, multi-gabled Victorian. It may still be there in Mason City.

I know there is a lot more to the stories. The bit about the indians leaving one of their old people behind the fence where the body wasn’t discovered until the Spring thaw. The part about my great-grandfather’s family dying of influenza so he had to apprentice himself in order to pay debts and survive. I have a family history booklet created by some great-aunts and passed to the extended family where many of these stories are proved by eye witness accounts.

My mother’s family was from Scotland, but my father’s family was too. Does that make me doubly crazy about all things British? Yes.

I’ve immersed myself in British murder mysteries, classics, and television programming for over thirty years – or for as long as I can remember. If anyone could do an accent is should be me. In fact, after a car accident where I was knocked out, According to eye-witness accounts, I spoke in an English accent. They found it so amusing. Me? I don’t remember anything about it.

That’s why I say I think I have an English person residing in my head. I imagine this person sitting next to me wondering why I drive on the wrong side of the road. And asking what’s wrong with spotted dick pudding? But sadly I have not much accent. I can hardly do a “roight” right. Strange, really.

I used to have more of a Texas accent but can hardly remember much of it.  I still say Italian with a long ‘I’ as in ICE. Occasionally I add an ‘r’ to wash so it comes out ‘warsh’. And I add ‘fixin’ as a preface to what I’m about to do, as in “I’m fixin’ to throw my warsh at the IIItalians.” And that’s as genuine as it gets.