Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Searching for Billy Walker - Part 4


The year 1899 saw the death of Winifred Walker.  Her husband Isaac died nine years earlier. And now I wondered about that mythical note of condolence written by William Walker listed in those family notes.  While it was a nice thought, it was doubtful at best . . . but I decided to poke around and see if I could find anything that might have given rise to that belief.   Again, I was astonished to find that not only did it exist, but that it had been published in the Frankfort Review newspaper.

Since several subsequent censuses indicated that William could not read or write despite  going to school off and on, I have to assume that he had help, maybe from Cordelia, writing this tribute.  As Winifred's descendant, I admit I am filled with emotion when I read this knowing that William was treated kindly and with love.  There is a warm heart and loving nature hidden behind her stern exterior.  The image of them taking her body from the train station with relatives and friends walking behind, including William, is also powerful.

Around the same time, the Walker and Golden families moved to Kansas City . . . as the family notes said they did!  Now I thought it might be difficult to follow them, but it turns out that the families always either lived together or next door to each other and between the Federal census, the Kansas State census, and the City Directories for Kansas City I was able to find William and his family.  When they left for Kansas City, William and Cordelia had eight children. They settled in at 1012 Oakland Ave. along with her parents and her sister's family.  There were 17 people in the one house.  The house has been torn down now. I know because I looked for it using Google Maps hoping to help me visualize that many people in one house, but all that is left is an empty lot overgrown with grass and weeds.

A few months later, Cordelia's father, the listed head of the household, died.  The American Citizen is a newspaper that served the African American population of Kansas City along with several other newspapers, but the availability of them online is limited.  While the 1900 census indicates that they rented the house, later census records state that that John's wife Letitcia Golden, owned the home.  She and her extended family, including William and Cordelia, lived there for many years. Tommie arrived in the family about 1904 but sadly died of pneumonia in 1907.

When I found a January 1902 article about William in the Frankfort Review, My reaction was shock, sadness and disbelief. To try and verify it I immediately looked on the Kansas State Historical website because I knew they had prisoner listings for the state prisons.  Sadly, I found a William Walker from Wyandotte county who had committed highway robbery in 1901. So it looked like it was true.  The only bright spot to this record was that it indicated his record  included a mugshot.  So assuming it to be William, I sent off for his prison record -- along with a $20 check of course. When it arrived, I tore it open and instantly looked for the mugshot.  Now, I paused . . . because I was looking at a big burly black man who claimed he was from Australia and had been sentenced to 20 years but was let out in 1912.  My William had his toes frozen off as a child and was supposed to be blind in one eye.  This couldn't be him, could it? What are the chances there were two William Walkers from Kansas City who committed highway robbery in the same manner in 1901?  I realized that it was possible since there were multiple men named William Walker living in Kansas City at that time.  I made a weak effort to find out but discovered little more.  After that my research on William went into an extended hibernation.  

Recently however my interest has been rekindled, and I don't really know why. I think Black History month makes me think of William. I have always wanted to write William's story, but I kept waiting until I found "all" the answers then I finally admitted to myself that it may never happen so on a whim one morning I started to write. 

I have now found William and Cordelia in the Kansas City Directories along with Federal and State census records as follows:

1902 - Walker, Wm (c) driver r 1012 Oakland

1903 - Walker, Wm M (c) janitor  r 1012 Oakland
            No Cordelia listed but Tommie was born Abt. 1903-04

1904 -  Walker, Wm M (c) cook  r 1012 Oakland
            Walker, Cordelia (c) laundress  r 1012 Oakland

1905 - Walker, Wm (c) lab  r 1012 Oakland
            Walker, Delia (c) cook  r 1012 Oakland
1905 - Kansas State Census shows all the people living at 1012 Oakland Ave.  It was a busy place!
1907 -  Walker, Wm  lab r 1012 Oakland 
             Walker, Delia  cook  Home Hotel  r  1012 Oakland

1908 - Walker, William  lab r 1012 Oakland
            Note: Cordelia does not show up but several of his children are working

1909 - Walker, William  lab r 1012 Oakland av
            Note: Cordelia does not show up

1910 - Walker, William  lab  r 1012 Oakland av
            Note: No Cordelia
1910 - U.S. Federal census gives another glimpse of the household and includes Cordelia working as a dishwasher in a lunchroom while William is listed as having no job.

1911 - Walker, William  lab  r 1012 Oakland av

1912 - Walker, William  r 1012 Oakland av  Notice he no longer lists a job.


I did not find William listed in any city directories after Cordelia's death in 1912 at 1012 Oakland Ave.  Did he move in with one of his adult children? Did he also pass away?  These are questions with no answers.  I contacted the person who manages Cordelia's memorial at Find A Grave, and she said that the records for this cemetery are in a mess so she had not seen anything for William. 

And so his story ends.  I kept hoping I would find out when he died and where he was buried but it has not happened.  This part four may be way more detail than anyone wants to read but I wrote it for myself and for other descendants of Isaac and Winifred Walker who want to know what happened to the child they took into their home. 

 I don't know what kind of man he turned out to be . . . religious, loving, kind, generous, hardworking, moody, lazy, or angry.  I do know that he was NOT a thief and that the reporter at the Frankfort Review was wrong. If that paper was still in business I would demand a retraction! 

I hope William has descendants . . . lord knows he had enough children . . .who would also like to read his story.   

And I will continue to search for that law.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Searching for Billy Walker - Part 3

  The next time I find Billy in a record is in the 1880 Federal census . . . actually I think he is in there twice.  There is a William Walker (B), age 22, working as a farm laborer for the Hugh Trosper family in Rock Township.  Remember. . . the Walker family also lived in Rock Township.  According to the census, he was born in Missouri and his parents in North Carolina.  This census was taken on  08 Jun 1880 and he was identified as single.

But wait, a William Walker (B), age 22, is also listed as working herding cattle for the Lee Hambilton farm in Guittard Township. This William Walker is listed as being born in Arkansas and no information about parents.  This census was taken on 02-03 Jun 1880 so could this be the same person working two jobs?? It was also two different census enumerators.  How many black men named William Walker age 22 and single do you think lived in this sparcely populated area of Kansas in 1880?  While we will never know for sure, I believe that they are the same person -- our Billy, who grew up to be William and with the surname of the family who took him in.

 Several years ago, I made a genealogy research trip to Marshall County, Kansas.  I have always intended to go back but life got in the way.  One of the places I stopped was at the Marshall County Historical Society research library and museum located in the Historic Courthouse on Broadway.  They were very nice and patient with me as I asked asked millions dozens of questions and found many records for my many ancestors who lived in Marshall County. 

It turns out that 1880 was a busy year for William. The most surprising record that I found was the marriage record for William and his wife Cordelia Golden. I gave the record a "golden" border just for her.  There is just one little problem.  Do you see the name of the groom?  Yeah, it says William Watkins. Oh, dear! They insisted that it could not have been a mistake, but anyone who has worked with genealogy records know that mistakes happen.  All of the subsequent census records indicate that this is William Walker, and I couldn't find a William Watkins anywhere in the area. The 1885 Kansas State census lists Cordelia married to William Walker with two children, Garfield, age 3 and Sadie, age 1 living next to her parents. It is interesting that in a 4-5 year span of time William is 4 years older but Cordelia is only 2 years older. Hmmm. . . there are several explanations for this.

 But by the 1895 Kansas State Census, they had moved into the city of Frankfort and their family had grown considerably.  In addition to William and Cordelia, there was Sarah/Sadie, Freddie, Henry, Willie and David.  Garfield was no longer there.  That pesky problem with Cordelia's age is still around but I will let you do the math!  Hint: Garfield was older than Sadie.

But 1895 wasn't done with the William Walker family yet.  The state census was taken the first day of March 1895.  Then look what happened the end of July!!

Welcome Phebe and Nettie!   

Between the 1885 and 1895 census records William occasionally showed up in the local newspapers.  He worked with his brother-in- law, Will Piner and must have been a regular church goer because he was baptized in 1893 in the river by the railroad bridge.  Lucky is the family historian whose ancestors lived in a small town because everyone and everything  makes it into the newspapers!

The year 1900 would bring big changes to the William Walker family but that will have to wait for part 4.  It is amazing how long it takes me to write these posts.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Searching for Billy Walker - Part 2

  I have spent quite a bit of time trying to decide how I want to present my findings.  Do I show them in the order they were found . . .or . . . should I present what I know of Billy's life in the order of his life?  I have decided on the latter, but be aware that my research discoveries sent me back and forth in his life often finding events that I did not have enough information to discover earlier.

  I want to begin with a quote by L.P. Hartley.  "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." I believe this is important to keep in mind as family historians. Sometimes the language used by newspapers and individuals or the values they espouse do not seem appropriate by today's standards just as ours will not by future generations.

  I started my research using the information in the family notes that had been passed down. After all, that's all I had, and it turned out to be quite a lot.  My first question was how did he fail to show up in either the Federal Census or the Kansas State census, and this is where I discovered a black hole in my records. While I thought he had slipped between the census enumerations, it turns out that there is not an 1865 Kansas State Census OR an 1870 Federal Census for Rock Township, Marshall County, Kansas online. How did I not realize earlier that all of my Rock Township ancestors were missing the 1870 census? The Isaac Walker family lived in Vermillion Township in the 1865 census but Billy was not listed with the family.  I will update this when I receive responses to my inquiries.

  So the story of Billy Walker begins with his arrival in Rock Township, but, alas, there are conflicting stories.  The first is the one left in family notes: He was hiding in a cave on a farm adjoing the Walker property with other slaves who were making their way north to freedom in Canada. When he became sick and the severe cold caused him to lose several toes from frostbite he was left behind.  He was discovered there by Isaac Walker and taken into his home. It sounded like a family myth, but later, I found two newspaper articles that mentioned this child.  One was published in the Frankfort Review, Friday, 24 Feb 1899, page 4 and subsequently re-published in other local newspapers.  It tells a complicated story of a dying black man asking a Union soldier to find his family and check on them. When he did, he found the child starving and living with a struggling family after the death of his mother. The article then went on to talk about some "pious gentlemen" arguing over the fate of this poor child.  The "pious gentlemen" argued so forcibly that ". . .friends had to separate them to prevent bloodshed". "The result was that the child was adopted into the Isaac Walker family."  I like to think that Isaac was one of the friends and not one of the "pious gentlemen".  Regardless, this story seems very convoluted but maybe the truth is a bit of each.  I invite you to read the lengthy article for more details.

And then there was the 1899 obituary of Winifred Walker, Isaac's wife which also confirms that they did indeed take a young African American child into their family but the circumstances that brought about this event vary. I have tried to determine  how old this child was when he joined the Isaac Walker family. Later records indicate that he was born about 1858, but I believe that he was more than likely a bit older.  Realistically, he probably had no idea how old he was, and I picture him as frail.  

Those newspaper accounts included additional information which led me to a sad and dark part of Billy's life. After he came to live with the Walker's they decided that Billy should go to school.  Winifred Walker had a great interest in schools and had worked with her sister-in-law, Mary McKeever Barrett to organize the first school in Marshall county - the Barrett school.  I haven't been able to definitely determine which school Billy attended yet, but it couldn't have been too far a distance from the Walker farm.  One 1899 newspaper article describes its location as "six miles northwest of Frankfort in what was known as the Walker district".  This would put it near Winifred, Kansas.  "The school district at that time (Abt. 1863-1870) was 15 miles long by about seven wide." While the Walkers and others in the south part of the district felt that schooling would be good for Billy, there were others in the north who violently opposed it.  Now I am going to include a lengthy quote from an 1899 article in the Frankfort Review because I could not do it justice by summarizing it.  So Billy was sent to school, and he was barely seated when people in the north found out about it . . .

Another article written in 1901 by my great grandfather, David B. Walker, for the 15 Nov, 1901 edition of the Marshall County news titled "Early History of Marshall County" describes the events in this way.

The first article above in the 1899 Frantfort Review tells us, "The building has now been razed to the ground . . . yet around this old building clings an incident which gave life to a law now upon the statute books of the state which provides that all children, whether white or black, shall not be denied admission to the public schools of the state."  However, the 1901 Marshall County News article says that the law was voted on BEFORE the attack. Was it a state law or a local law?  I have not yet found that law but I keep searching.  Somewhere else I read that the law came after the attack but for the life of me, I cannot find it now. This is why I wanted to write a blog post.  I needed to document and organize this history because I am not the only descendant who never knew the story of Billy Walker.

In part 3, Billy grows up and becomes William Walker.


Friday, February 25, 2022

Searching for Billy Walker. . .


I have been searching for Billy Walker since before I knew his name.  

  It started one summer evening when an offhand remark by a newly found genealogy cousin sent me on a quest.  She was a descendant of Isaac and Winifred Walker as am I, and she invited me to her home - 7 hours away -  to discuss our common ancestors and share family information.  I, of course, had no stories to share since my parents divorced when I was seven years old, and I never saw that side of my family after that.  All of my information came from my research, but I am a damn really good researcher and had already found a pile of information about the Walkers and the Barretts. In fact, I smugly thought I had found the whole basic structure of the family and just needed to fill in photos, newspaper articles, and maybe some land information - you know, the fun stuff.  I had already read stories online and even a book about the Walker and Barrett families during those early days of Marshall County, Kansas.

  We were having a great time comparing records. She shared some wonderful photos of my ancestors who had only been names on paper up to that point, and I tried to help with her computer genealogy program. Then that night with papers and photos spread across the floor, she casually said, "I was told that Isaac Walker adopted a black child."  WHAT. . . wait a minute!  I had never seen that in the stories online, in the census records, or in newspaper articles about the family.  I knew they took two boys from the orphan train and that was a shock, but I had never heard about them adopting a black child.  She continued. . ."I heard he had been left behind by a group of slaves that had been hiding in a cave near the Walker farm, and he had frostbite so severely that he lost several toes." Isaac Walker, sometimes called "Free Soil Walker" was a staunch abolitionist who had been raised a Quaker and supported the underground railroad as slaves came through on their way north.  I asked his name but she had no idea and had no documentation. It was just a family story. You know. . . probably not true.

  Time went by and I searched a bit but could not find evidence for this family story. After all it is difficult when there is no name.  Then I made an online connection with another cousin who also descended from Isaac and Winifred and while she lived across the country, she happened to live only one hour from my son and his family.  So the next time I visited, we made arrangements to meet.  As usual, it was so interesting to hear about family squabbles and secrets in addition to some new photos and documents. We chatted for a while, and then she and her daughter smiled at each other and said, "Did you know Isaac Walker adopted a black child?"  My mouth dropped open as I told them that I had heard that from another descendant.  BUT they had notes that had been left by earlier family members!  This was just too much of a coincidence.  There had to be something to this story . . . some bit of truth, and I wanted to find it.

   But now from their notes I had a name . . . Billy Walker!   

  In addition, the note had multiple other tidbits of information.  

  • It also said he moved to Kansas City.  Oh dear, I could imagine that there were many men with the common name of William Walker in a town the size of Kansas City. 
  • It also said, ". . .this little boy was found in a cave nearly frozen while the rest of the slaves moved on to Canada. They left him behind."  "He was hungry, blind in one eye, and toes frozen off."  While this was not exactly the same, it was very similar to the story from my other genealogy cousin.
  • It said that he wrote a letter to the editor expressing sadness and love for Winifred Walker when she died in 1899.  Now this did sound like a myth! 
  I now felt like I had something to work with but, in my usual fashion, I was easily frustrated by brick walls and sidetracked by other interesting family ancestors so Billy's story has languished inside my computer in a folder titled "William Walker".  
 His story is not finished, but what I have discovered is more that I could have imagined yet always less than I hoped for.  Research findings in my next posts. . .


Monday, October 26, 2020

Thank You Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and Others!

There have been a lot of news stories recently following the death of Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. She was a giant who fought for the equality of all citizens but particularly women.  As I have listened to the stories, it made me reflect on how I experienced that inequality in my lifetime.  Justice Ginsberg is not the only woman who fought this battle, there were many others, but her passing has encouraged me to tell my story.  I am an ordinary woman who has had an ordinary life.  If that inequality impacted me, then it impacted us all.  I don't want the current generation to take for granted the current environment for women, nor do I want them to be satisfied with partial equality.

  I was born in 1947, the beginning of the baby boom. My parents divorced when I was seven. I graduated from high school in 1965 and earned a teaching degree from Purdue University in 1969.  I married in 1970 and had three children between 1972-1977.   These are some of the experiences that I had.   Some of them chafed at the time.  Some were just the way it was, and so I didn't realize how unfair it was until the times changed, and I could look back.  Some still can make me steam. Some were little things but some were big and still impact my life. It was a time when men opened doors for you, pulled out a seat for you to sit in but sat and read the paper at the end of the day while you made and cleaned up dinner, then helped the children with homework and baths because he had "worked" all day!

  I don't remember much from my early years so we can skip that, but once when I told my middle school students that we couldn't wear pants to school, they shrieked and couldn't believe it.  In typical middle school fashion, they proclaimed that they would do it anyway!  I never thought about it at the time because it was just the way it was.  There was no school rule, and I don't remember being troubled by it except when I waited for the bus in winter. It didn't have to be a rule because it was the style of the times. My students considered it unbelievable!

  But that awareness changed when I went to Purdue.  At that time, Purdue had a rule that women could not walk through the Union unless they were wearing a dress or skirt.  While I grumbled about what a stupid and unfair rule it was, I went back to my dorm on several occasions and changed before meeting a friend at the Sweet Shop there.  I even had a Textile Technology professor who required all female students to wear a dress or skirt to class.  Again, it was winter that made me aware of the complete unfairness of this, and as styles changed, I had more pants/jeans in my wardrobe.  Luckily, this was eliminated during the time I was there because I don't think I would have remained so willing to abide by these rules.

  Another situation that astounded my students was the fact that there were no girls sports teams in my high school.  "So what did you do then?" they shouted at me.  Well . . . we got to cheer for the boys.  Hmmm . . . I knew I could run as fast as many of the boys on the track team, but there was no team for me to join.  My mother was embarrassed when I joined GAA (Girll's Athletic Association) and started playing intramural basketball against other schools. At that time, it was half court - a strange variation of the regular game.  Thank you Title IX.  Today's girls have many sports options and the scholarships that go with them. 

  Now back to Purdue.  During my freshman year in 1965, female students had "hours".  That meant female students had a curfew, and we had to be back to our dorms by a particular time or we would be locked out.  The male students had no such curfew, and we were told that they didn't need one because once the girls were in the boys would be too.  Obviously, the men making these rules didn't remember their youth very well. This changed in 1966.

  Some random situations that I witnessed at Purdue and that friends had to endure:  1.) During this time period, the Vet program at Purdue required females to have a higher GPA than males to get in because they assumed that females would marry and leave the profession and they were limited as to how many they could graduate each year. I guess it never dawned on them that you could do both. 2.) A female engineering senior wondered why her job offers were so much lower that her classmates when her grades were outstanding and she had been president of the engineering association.  Then an interviewer told her that they always offered women 10% less!  Wow, not only were they discriminatory but unafraid to admit it.

  After my graduation, I took a teaching job in South Bend, Indiana.  My first contract was for $6300/year.  I was renting a room from a sorority sister's mother and paying for my first car - a used monster size Oldsmobile Delta 88.  I wanted a Mustang ,but my father thought the Olds would be safer, not to mention cheaper. Money was tight, and so I applied for and received a Sears Credit Card.  My reasoning was that I could buy panty hose with the credit card if I was out of money before I got my paycheck.  Female teachers in 1969 always wore skirts or dresses with hose and panty hose were usually preferred for comfort. This worked well until I got married and needed to change my name on the card.  It turns out that Sears automatically made my husband the primary on the card, and I now had to get his permission to use it. Now, he never had to give them his financial information, but he was the primary and my new card had my name change -- Mrs. Robert Soderberg!  My name is not Robert!  A couple of years later, when I used the card to purchase some type of tool for my husband but then needed to return it, I was told that only the "primary" user could do that.  After I called corporate from a store phone and screamed at them for a half hour, I cut the card in pieces in front of the male clerk and let it drop to the floor.  I think they eventually changed this policy, but they lost my business long before that.

   Of course, I also ran into the usual "Why don't you bring your husband back so we can talk." when I went shopping for a new car, and the wife's income was never included when applying for a mortgage.  WHY??  

  Then in 1969 I was hired by the South Bend Community School Corporation to teach 7th and 8th grade Home Economics at Harrison Elementary/Jr. High. I loved teaching and enjoyed my students.  I spent most of my childhood in a small town and South Bend felt like a big city to me.  There were many situations that I found frustrating and unfair during my three years teaching there, however, there is one big problem that I am still living with.  At this time South Bend had a policy that women had to quit teaching when they were 4 months pregnant or before.  I married in 1970 and was pregnant with my first child who was due late October 1972.  At this point, I would just be slightly over the 4 month cut off policy.  Another teacher, a couple of rooms down from me had to quit the beginning of May due to this policy.  I guess they picked 4 months because they assumed that no one would know your were pregnant yet.  So I stayed home through the next year - they did not hold your position for you.  When I tried to look into returning there were no openings and it remained that way for several years.  I was frustrated but resigned to the situation and went on to other things.  During this time South Bend had been taken to court for this policy and naturally they lost so they could no longer compel a female teacher to quit when she was pregnant. I celebrated this victory despite it being too late for me. 

   I had two more children, but when I finally returned to teaching in the South Bend School system, I discovered their policy would forever impact me.  They had a two tier seniority system - years teaching in district and years teaching out of district.  BUT, if you had taught less that 5 years with South Bend, those years were in the "out of district" column.  So multiple times I lost out on positions to people with fewer years teaching in South Bend than I had because three years of my SB experience were in the "out of district" column.  Finally, near my retirement, there was a calculation for retirement monies based on our years of service - but they only counted in district years!  Of course, I came up three years short!  

   I wish I had been more politically active, but my nature is to be a rule follower.  Some might say a complaining rule follower but . . . I am grateful for all of the women before me who raised their voices and fought for equal rights.  My children and grandchildren, both male and female, are the better for it, but we are not done yet.  The fight goes on.






Monday, June 1, 2020

When Were You at a Historic Event?

   It has been a long long time since I wrote anything on this blog, but over the years I  would go back and write down an idea that I had for a blog post, thinking that when I started writing again I would have some topics to get me started.  Sadly, it has been so long that I am not sure what I was thinking for some too many of the topics.  This should be a lesson for me to write a bit more that just a title in the future. However,  the idea of  being present or involved in a historic event has always interested me.  As I research my ancestors, I always find it interesting, and sometimes uncomfortable, when I discover them at a historic event such as the San Francisco earthquake, the surrender of John Burgoyne at Saratoga, or the saddest, the Sand Creek Massacre.  Most of us intersect history at some point in our lives, and I believe we should record our experiences for our descendants because history does not tell the story or experiences of the common person during these times.
    For me it was April of 1968 and the recent events have encouraged me to write about my experience during Spring vacation of my junior year at Purdue University.
  Let me preface this by telling you that I was always the Good Girl.  I was the oldest in my family, a good student and definitely a rule follower! My mother never learned the truth until several decades later.
   Early in 1968 as winter was winding down one of my sorority sisters, Christy Fisher, planned to visit Washington D.C. over Spring vacation and begged everyone trying to find someone to go with her.  I don't remember her exact reason for going, but I agreed to go with her.  The question was how could I sell this to my parents? I went through several options but then I went with the tried and true method - I lied!  Christy was driving her car so the transportation was cheap affordable, but what about where we would stay.  We found out that there was a chapter of our sorority located at American University in D.C. so we told our parents that we would be safely staying at their chapter house.  The only problem was that they didn't have houses, and they lived in the dorms. So the first thing we had to do when we got there was to contact them in case our parents called - but why would they - and that way they could cover for us.  We actually stayed in a very cheap motel outside of D.C. in Maryland.  I still remember the sign out front, "Truckkers Welcome".  No that is not a typo.


At first everything went well, and we did the usual tourist stuff. We went to the Lincoln Memorial, and climbed the Washington Monument taking the elevator for the trip down.  I strongly suggest you do it the opposite way. We even went to the Capital and met with our local senator who at that time was Vance Hartke.  The weather was beautiful, and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. We took our photo in front of the White house and planned to visit the next day.  Ahhhh, the best laid plans . . .

  Early that evening we learned that Martin Luther King had been shot, but we kept on sightseeing.  What can I say . . . we were foolish and young.  It seemed quiet and that evening we even walked up to a White House guard building and started flirting with the guard.  He flirted back and then got coffee from inside the White House for us. We stayed downtown as everything appeared calm but had little money for dinner so when we saw a bar that advertised free cheese and crackers with a drink order, we decided that cheese and crackers sounded like the perfect dinner.  Then it got weird when the middle-aged owner of the bar and his friend joined us uninvited.  We stuffed down as much cheese and crackers as we could while we nursed one beer each and made our exit quickly.

 Now Washington D.C. was ahead of the times with roundabouts in 1968.They had many of them and the same street didn't always go off directly opposite from where you got on.  Somehow, we always seemed to get off our intended route.  Admittedly, I was the navigator and was not the best map reader at that time.  So the next morning we again headed back into D.C., and as I was gazing out of the window, I noticed a building that had burned and casually remarked on it, but then there was another, and by the third one which was still smouldering, it finally dawned on me what must have happened.  Christy and I were both nervous at this point but continued on into D.C. following an African American soldier in a car ahead of us who waved for us to follow him.  Remember we were young and foolish.  Once in D.C. we sadly discovered that our White House tour was cancelled.  Actually the White House had barricades and armed military around it. We saw tanks rolling through the streets!  The military was everywhere.  Of course, we continued touring D.C. but there were constant fire trucks as the day went on.  On the back of one photo of a fire truck it said, "One of fifteen fire trucks in 15 minutes".  We wisely decided to cut short our day and head back to our motel early.
  Now in addition to a ungodly amount of roundabouts, the street names are also a confusing mess.  There are two 1st streets - First street NE and First street NW and that pattern continues numerically.  The cross streets are similarly named alphabetically - F street NE and F street NW.  Remember that I was the navigator, and somehow I read the map wrong because we ended up going in the exact opposite direction that we needed to travel. I just didn't realize it. The traffic became heavier and more and more fire trucks went by announcing a curfew from bull horns as they
went through.  We saw more evidence of riots and burned buildings.  Several of the buildings had been boarded up and the message on them said, "Soul Brothers and Soul Sisters work here. Please don't put us out of work."  I was frantically turning the map round and round trying to figure out where we were as the fire trucks announced earlier and earlier curfews.  When they said all men women and children should be off the street by 4 p.m. I decided we needed to turn around because we were definitely NOT headed toward our hotel. Christy agreed and immediately turned into the closest business parking area.  As I looked across the lot to the destroyed building with broken windows I realized it was a liquor store that was currently being looted by two young men who paused momentarily to stare at us.  I remember screaming at Christy to get us out of there - very loudly and multiple times!  The traffic was bumper to bumper as we drove north.   I finally realized the confusing naming pattern for the streets as we passed 2nd street twice!

Remember when I assumed that our parents would never need to phone us - oops!  Luckily, we were saved, by the fact that all of the phone lines were overloaded, and so there was no way to call in or out of the city.  I think I had a total of $1 in my purse at the time, and Christy didn't have much more.  We found a McDonalds, and we each got a 25 cent hamburger and fries.
  I don't remember much about the trip home.

 The photos were taken with an inexpensive disposable point and shoot camera which was standard for the time, but there was no zoom and the quality is terrible.  I thought I remembered other photos but these are all that I have found.  It was a historic time and place.  

When were you swept up in history?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Girls of Providence Identified . . . I Think!

Wow, it has been so long. What are my excuses?  I have none . . . or at least nothing earth shaking. My life was hectic, and I thought I would just take a short break from writing this blog.  That short break has been almost three years now. If my style seems a little stilted, you are probably correct.  I felt comfortable with my "voice" before, but now don't know if I can regain that comfortable feeling.  Regardless, I HAD to write this post . . .

Text Box: 1940 Providence High School Yearbook
Intermittently since then I have received emails from individuals who read an old post and wanted to contact me about a connection or opinion.  I ALWAYS responded.  As you can imagine though, they are few and far between.  Then last February while I was sitting in a hotel room in Tucson on a short vacation, I opened an email from Tony that left me very excited - I am downplaying this as I have a vague recollection that I screamed!  He had read my post, The Girls of Chicago's Providence High School  . . . What Became of Them? His email explained that he had a friend who graduated from Providence High School in 1943 and she had a 1940 yearbook. My mother and her friends graduated in 1942 so they would definitely be in that yearbook, although two years younger.  After multiple emails, he very generously offered to send me scans of the pages with photos of the sophomore class to see if I could identify the girls in my mother's photos - no problem, I thought!

So began my arduous task of trying to match the faces in my mother's photos to the younger girls in the yearbook.  I THINK I have matched most of them, but it was so much more difficult that I thought it would be, and, of course, there are a couple that seem similar to five different girls so making a decision is impossible.  Even a couple of those I have "identified", have been done with my fingers crossed.  My process was as follows:  I cropped all of the faces from my mother's photos and labeled them as girl 1, girl 2, girl 2b (for those in multiple photographs), girl 3 etc.  This way I wasn't distracted by the other girls in her photos and, in several cases, had multiple views of a particular girl.   Then I began my comparison by opening one window with the cropped faces side by side with another window which had the yearbook pages enlarged so I could see 6-9 girls at a time.  I then scrolled through the 5 pages of sophomores in the yearbook scans Tony sent me.  Confidently, I started but soon realized this was going to be difficult.  I often had to look for hairlines, chins, eyebrows to try and distinguish between multiple possibilities.  Girls change in two years and as an example, here is my mother, Gloria Kennelly, as a sophomore and as a senior. 



 I invite you to refer to my previous post to see the complete candid snapshots of these girls not just at a pivotal time in their lives but also for our nation.  For many their dreams would have to wait as their world turned upside down with the start of World War II, but the photos my mother took were before all that happened. This was the time in their lives when all things were possible.

Here are my identifications.  Please correct me if I am wrong. I would love to hear from you if you know or are related to any of these Providence graduates.

Girl 1 – Lorna Doone

Girl 2 – Patricia Lee

Girl 3 - Marie Gagnon

Girl 4 - Manetta Caulkins

Girl 5 - Anne Donohue

Girl 6 - Rita Mae Miles

Girl 7 - Jayne Shine

Girl 8 - Evelyn Gibbons

To help you realize how tough this was will you help me decide?

Is this Kathleen Keane or Merle Nickels?

Kathleen Keane
Merle Nickels

There are some, just a few, that will remain unidentified, either because the photo is not clear enough, they have heads turned, or there are way too many possibilities from which to choose.  But, I feel so satisfied to have identified the girls above and that will have to do until I find a later yearbook or a relative contacts me.  

Many, many thanks to Tony who had a friend, who had a yearbook, saw the connection and contacted me, then scanned the yearbook pages making it possible for me to identify these young ladies.  The stars aligned . . .

A lesson for all - identify the people in your photos!