May Your Holidays Be Filled with Light and Love

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, whatever you celebrate, here’s wishing you the very best.

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May the joy of the season lift your spirits.

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May you find and celebrate your roots.

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May you illuminate the souls of others.

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May you rejoice in the timeless beauty of Nature.

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May you journey under the hand of Divine protection.

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May you always find light to guide your way home in the darkest hour.

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May you be blessed with memories to sustain you all the days of your life.

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May your heart be filled with light, peace and love.

Surviving the Holidays

When children are young and lives are vibrant – with Santa visiting, gifts around the tree and family arriving for festive gatherings, the holidays are wonderful.

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But that’s not the case for many people, nor is it necessarily the case for those same people later in life.

As the lights of the people in the photo of that family gathering wink out one by one, the family shrinks, especially if the family does not expand to include new members – not that anyone can be replaced. Lingering sadness often replaces joy.

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Eventually, these people who were once young and eagerly awaiting Santa and grandparents mature into people who have sustained significant loss in their lives.

I know. Not only are my parents gone, but so are my cousins and siblings. Their children are busy with far-away lives of their own, with little connection and even less in common.

Flickering holiday lights become painful reminders of what has been lost, and of the people now absent from the holiday table.

If you’re not one of those people feeling blue, it’s easy to offer well-meaning platitudes such as, “Well, focus on what you do have,” but that’s not always possible nor helpful. On the receiving end, it feels like a rebuke, a criticism and is inevitably the end of the conversation.

Unfortunately, those types of well-meaning comments only make things worse, because they, intentionally or not, infer that the person is somehow substandard, ungrateful or not trying hard enough.

That’s often as far as possible from the truth.

Some pain is hidden, not put on display for others to see. Internal family strife – marriages hanging on by a thread – painful memories of being omitted from or forgotten at the holidays.

There’s little more painful than being the only family member at a gathering to not receive a gift of some type – not because you’re unliked, but because you’re simply inconsequential – irrelevant. Forgotten. My mother always kept an “emergency gift” in the house for the situation or someone showing up with an extra guest.

No wonder people dread holidays where they feel obligated to show up, smiling, all the while making themselves vulnerable for more painful memories in the making.

For some people, these memories stack up like a hay mound, While they push them aside most of the year, unwelcome memories come rushing back in November and it wouldn’t take much to push the person over the edge. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The political divisiveness within the US these past few years, and especially recently, regardless of which “side” of it you’re on, is brutal. Families forever divided. Worse yet, what used to be some level of politeness and decorum has pretty much disappeared as can be seen in any social media thread on FaceBook.

Those words and attacks are cumulative and hurt too.

Reading and seeing hatefulness targeted at people, things or principles that you love is further depressing – as is a steady diet served up daily of the same.

Then, there’s the literal coldness, darkness and greyness of the season. No color other than grey and white if you live in the north.

Companies make cutbacks in December, trimming the budget for the upcoming year. It’s very difficult to celebrate not knowing how you’re going to eat or make the house/car payment next year.

With all of this combined, it’s no wonder that depression and suicides increase during the holidays.

People are hurting.

What Can You Do?

How can you help or at least not make things worse for someone? Remember, people are very good at hiding the fact that they are suffering – so you may be entirely unaware of the negative impact of your comments or actions.

Historically, there has been a great deal of shame associated with mental health issues, including depression – having been viewed as a weakness, defect or character flaw. During the past few years, words derisively thrown around like “snowflake” have made things even worse. Since when did name-calling with the intention of making someone feel bad convey any benefit at all?

But guess what? It’s up to every single one of us to make a difference and assure that love wins.

Please reach out to caregivers, the elderly, people who live alone, who are disabled or live in precarious circumstances.

If this is you, and you’re the one sufferring, please read on. There’s help here – for others to be more cognizant and help for you too.

20 Things

Here are 20 things you can to do help yourself and others get through this tough time. Please feel free to share and post this article widely.

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  1. Live Love – The number one thing you can do is to say and demonstrate to your family and friends that you love them. And yes, actions speak louder than words.

You never know which time will be the last time you get to do that – but inevitably, one time will be. Don’t lose the opportunity. Share love in your own way.

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If you can’t say those exact words, that’s OK. Tell them by finding a song that represents how you feel about them and send them a link or post on their social media timeline. (Ok, maybe “You’re So Vain” is not a good idea.)

A few years ago a friend told me that this video, Humble and Kind, by Tim McGraw is how they think of me. I cried. Notice that all these years later, I still remember her kindness, what she said, my sister of heart. She will never know how much I needed that on that particular day.

My life is so blessed to have her in it, and when I feel down, I play this song and remind myself that she loves me. And how much I love her. Then, I feel better.

Music touches our souls in ways nothing else can.

2. Soften Your Words and Count to 10 – People are on edge at the holidays and sometimes say things they don’t mean. That means you and other people too. We’re all guilty on this one.

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Softening your words won’t hurt you one bit, may well help someone else and avoid unintentional hurt feelings.

For example, it’s probably not a good idea to refer to someone as an idiot. Even if that’s your honest opinion, it does not need to exit your mouth. Something in that vein is not going to be well received and you’ll  alienate them along with other family members, probably forever.

Don’t let frustration or anger cause you to say things that aren’t helpful. I count to 10. If that doesn’t work, I count to 10 again, more slowly, breathing deeply with each number. If that still doesn’t work, I probably need to leave, at least long enough to gain perspective. Sometimes that means forever.

Consider alternate ways to convey what you have to say that is loving, more likely to actually be “heard” and unlikely to push the listener away. “You seem really unhappy lately. I’m really concerned about you. What’s going on?” is a much more positive and caring approach than, “What’s wrong with you, you’re acting crazy?”

Can’t do that? Then silence might be a good option and less damaging than toxic words that can’t be recalled. Unfortunately, there is no rewind and it’s even easier to err on social media than in person.

At one time or another, we’ve all been on the receiving end of something like this. Hateful words really hurt.

If someone hurts you, especially repeatedly, consider several of the solutions later in this article.

3. No Manipulation – We’ve all seen it – the passive aggressive manipulator in the family.

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That’s bait to draw attention to themselves and to get your goat. Avoid them if possible, and if not possible, don’t bite. If they are making you angry, you’re not in control of you anymore and they are in charge. Learn to recognize this behavior so you can avoid it.

I always think of my Dad’s Hoosier farmer advice. “Never mud-wrestle with a pig ’cause you can’t win. You get muddy, the pig enjoys it and the spectators can’t tell the difference.”

Don’t take the bait.

4. Find Your Happy Place – If you’re feeling stressed, find music that you enjoy and that is calming. Make a playlist. Singing along can be downright joyful.

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Intentionally find an activity to calm yourself. (This excludes drinking alcohol😊)

Transport yourself to a feel-good place of beauty, even if it’s only in your own mind. The power of the mind is amazing!

5. Make Nice Noises – A customer told me about “nice noises” years ago. At first, I thought she was disingenuous, but then I realized this was actually a brilliant coping strategy in situations that can be awkward but that are NOT personally endangering or violating. Like when you get stuck beside someone you really don’t want to interact with.

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Just smile, nod, take a bite of something and make nice noises. Politics is not a “nice noise,” just in case you were wondering. Generally, neither is religion.

Conversation hint: Ask about something THEY enjoy. They will love you and it gets you off the hook for saying much at all.

6. Draw the Boundary Line – This one can be tough, but you absolutely need to.

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If lecherous Uncle So-And-So intentionally grabs your behind (unless you are his wife or partner and behind-grabbing is acceptable in your relationship in that venue), all bets are off. Say what you need to say (NOT nice noises), with dignity and grace, and remove yourself from the situation, and probably the premises. Do not go where Uncle So-And-So will be in the future.

Full stop.

This occurred in my family. My (step)Dad playfully grabbed my Mom’s behind while passing behind her as she was cooking a holiday meal at the stove. She turned around with a cast iron skillet ready to wallop him, thinking it was his brother who was in the house and had inappropriately touched her in that manner in the past. She stopped herself just in time, stammering that she was sorry, she thought it was Uncle So-And-So.

My Dad knew in a heartbeat what was happening and asked my Mom directly. She affirmed. I walked in the door right about then, a teenager. Dad turned and asked me if So-And-So grabbed my behind. Startled, and not knowing what was happening, I shook my head yes.

Uncle So-And-So was in the living room. My Dad retrieved So-And-So and went outside where they had a rather noisy discussion that I desperately wanted to hear. Mom would not let me crack the kitchen window open to listen, and the bathroom window was painted shut.

Uncle So-And-So left, never to return to another family gathering.

Dad asked Mom and me why we didn’t tell him before. We explained that we didn’t realize Uncle So-And-So was doing that to each other too, feared we might not be believed nor did we want to rock the boat and cause family drama. In other words, we just wanted to get through the day. As a teenager, I was terribly embarrassed on several levels too.

If I had that to do over again, I would have dealt with this in an entirely different way, drawing a very firm boundary, and much sooner. Ah, the benefits of age and hindsight.

Mom apparently had drawn that line and thought Uncle So-And-So had violated said boundary. Of course she had no idea that he was inappropriately touching me as well or there would have been hell to pay.

Thank goodness Dad caused the situation never to occur again. HIS boundary worked.

7. Give Yourself a Mental Vacation – If your family is accepting of or makes excuses for Uncle So-And-So’s behavior or is otherwise toxic to your wellbeing, reconsider your relationship with those family members.

Hint: It’s often situations like this that underlie holiday depression surrounding loss. We grieve not only people we love and lose, but also situations and people that turn out to be different than we thought. We grieve what we thought we had along with unfulfilled possibilities. In a way, it’s the death of the living.

The “loss” should be borne by Uncle So-And-So, not you, but that may not be the case. Spend time with the people who are good to and for you.

If you need to terminate relationships, create something new for the holidays – even going someplace different entirely.

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The Caribbean is nice this time of year. I could walk on the beach alone on Christmas Day without a second thought. There are much worse things that your own company on your own terms.

8. Start a new Tradition – This year, we began a new tradition and celebrated the feast day of St. Lucia to celebrate light emerging from darkness.

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Of course this speaks to the winter solstice as well. This lovely tradition is practiced in Sweden (you can see a video here) – and now in my family too.

Next year, we’ll sing as we walk the labyrinth with our candles, perhaps with lovely snow.

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The labyrinth won’t always be in our family, but I hope we are creating wonderful memories while it is.

9. No Bullying – Avoid the bully and avoid being the bully. Bullying is not always physical. Learn what constitutes bullying, recognize the signs and commit to avoiding it in relationships.

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Many people don’t realize that there is a fine line between teasing someone and bullying them. Be cognizant so your well-meaning behavior doesn’t slide into something you don’t intend. Hurting others, human or animal, isn’t fun.

If you see bullying, intervene in the best way you can.

10. Be a LightWorker – Reach out to others who need assistance or can’t help themselves. Giving back is a wonderful way to elevate your spirits.

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Someone once said, “When times of darkness arise, look for the lightworkers.”

We all have days when we need to seek the lightworkers, and other times when we can be the lightworker.

11. Pitch In – Offer to help with family holiday gatherings.

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That might include cleaning in advance, decorating, cooking, having the gathering at your house, hosting the gathering at a restaurant, purchasing food, shopping or anything else to be helpful. Often the best memories aren’t as a “guest” but as an involved family member, laughing and chattering as you do things together.

12. Give of Yourself – Defocus on money and gifts. Think about gifts of time or involvement.

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Give someone a gift of a day helping in the yard, a day helping to downsize, a lunch out together at a favorite place, their favorite meal frozen into lunch portions, a class together – something that says, “I love being with you.” For older people especially, these gifts mean the world.

Consider gifts such as pet supplies, a gift card for prescriptions or a fruit box delivery. If your loved one is a genealogist, maybe a DNA test or a subscription to a service like MyHeritage or Ancestry that can bring them pleasure every day. These types of gifts keep on giving and improve the life of the recipient throughout the year.

13. Gift Heirlooms – As you get older, consider giving heirloom items such as Christmas ornaments, jewelry, mementos and such to the next generation, along with an accompanying story, of course.

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Spread the love.

14. Practice Gratitude – Tell people why you appreciate them.

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“Aunt Susie, you always make the best pie,” or, “You’ve always been such a positive influence in the lives of my children.” You don’t know when your words may lift someone from a dark place.

15. Be a Compassionate Listener – If someone tells you they hate the holidays, there’s a reason (or two or three.)

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Don’t try to tell them otherwise or why they shouldn’t feel that way. Just listen and be supportive. Sometimes the question, ‘What can I do?” says it all – conveying that you care.

16. Be Kind & Share – All creatures, all the time, not just at the holidays.

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Need and humanity know no season.

17. Don’t Drink too much. Just look what it did to Kermit!

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Never, ever, drink and drive. Not even “just one.” You can read more here and here

So many regrets are born of celebrations gone awry. Tongues loosen, social filters are lost and reflexes while driving are impaired. Seriously, sometimes you need every second possible behind the wheel. I’ll spare you the convincing photo of my now-deceased friend’s car.

You can help by being a designated driver or calling an Uber.

18. Practice Self-Care – Cry if you need to. We all do. Then go to the gym or engage in a physical activity requiring movement to get the endorphins flowing.

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Pamper yourself. Take a walk or a bath. Rub wonderfully scented lotion on your skin. Treat yourself to your favorite meal. Buy flowers, bubble bath or maybe lavender oil.

What do you really enjoy that makes you feel good?

19. Remember the Animals – Pets depend on humans, even those who neglect or abandon them. They have no choice. Animals feel confusion, fear, emotional and physical pain, coldness and hunger.

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Make a difference in the life of a sentient being that came to depend on someone who betrayed them and can’t help themselves.

Thousands of animals die in shelters and worse every single day. Don’t purchase pets as gifts. When the time is right, save a life – rescue an animal in dire need.

This isn’t entirely altruistic, because while you will literally save your furry friend’s life,  you will also be amply rewarded all their days an this Earth. An animal’s trust, loyalty and love is undying and will lift you up. I promise.

20. HALT Depression and Suicide

The holiday season is a really, really tough time of year. People we think of as strong are fragile. We, as humans, are all more or less fragile all of the time.

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Depression is the darkest of places, with no light, hope or escape. It’s like descending into the cave of doom entirely alone.

People who commit suicide don’t necessarily want to die, they just want the pain to stop. People who consider suicide feel like there is no other viable way to relieve their pain.

They often feel like no one cares or that people may care, but they are beyond or unworthy of saving. They feel that the situation in which they find themselves is both devoid of hope and irreversible.

If this is you, on the cliff edge – HALT.

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HALT reminds us to take a deep breath, a step back and ask ourselves if we are feeling too:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

It’s very easy to get spun up and upset about something and these 4 factors cause our emotions to spiral out of control.

Depression is a black, devastating hellhole – but, please, don’t do anything that can’t be undone. Instead:

  • Eat something
  • Walk, run, go to the gym or someplace to release anger or pain in a non-damaging way. (My friend calls me the weed terrorist because I weed the garden when I’m upset.)
  • Talk to a friend, suicide helpline or just go someplace to be among people.
  • Go to bed or take a nap.

Pretty much everything looks better in the morning.

If you’re considering harming yourself, or you know someone who is, please reach out and seek help. You and they are not alone.

It’s better to be “nosey” and wrong than right and too late.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Suicide Prevention Helpline – 800-273-8255 (veterans press 1)

Text – 741741

1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433

LGBTQ Suicide Hotline (Trevor Project) – 1-866-488-7386

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) lists resources, lifelines and crisis centers worldwide

Deaf Hotline – 1-800-799-4TTY

Facebook groups:

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Please share this article widely. You just never know who could use a little help.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

GeneaCreations – Unique Genealogy & DNA Products: Shirts, Fabric, Jewelry & More

These beautiful, unique genealogy gift ideas by GeneaCreations will be a big hit with the creative crowd.

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I met Jeanette, founder of GeneaCreations, two years ago at Rootstech. Jeanette loves to design, create and sell wonderful genealogy themed items and suffice it to say, I cannot get out of her booth without purchasing several things. I’m serious.

Meet Jeanette, holding my “What’s Your Haplogroup?” t-shirt. Her love for her creations just shines through, doesn’t it!

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I also bought a DNA ribbon bow for my hair.

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DNA ribbon, along with other ribbon is available by the yard.

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I can think of all kinds of ideas for using this ribbon, including making Christmas ornaments or for hanging ornaments on the tree. What a great way to help kids learn about ancestors. I try to slip that in wherever I can (wink.)

Geneacreations jewelry

I bought a DNA necklace at Rootstech too. How could I not? Love that subtle double helix tree.

I’m really REALLY excited about the double helix charm zipper pulls that Jeanette is making for me for my purse, backpack and luggage. (Oops, did I let that slip???) She would probably make some for you too.

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Jeanette has added lots of new styles to the GeneaCreations line over the past couple of years,  including double helix stud earrings, not pictured, if you prefer that style.

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Another great idea would be to purchase a charm for every state where your ancestors were from, or states you’ve visited hunting for ancestors. It would make a wonderful gift for a daughter, sister, aunt or granddaughter too.

Jeannette also does custom work, like her “Genealogy Bling” shirts. I just adore these.

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You’ll be seeing me sporting one of these lovelies one day at Rootstech 2020 in Salt Lake City, but of course customized for my mitochondrial haplogroup, J1c2f. Merry Christmas to me.

If you’re not comfortable buying a gift for yourself, just think of it as being from your matrilineal ancestors, because that’s the mitochondrial DNA inheritance path. Or paternal ancestors for Y DNA. Repeat after me, “My ancestors want me to have this.”😊

You can obtain your full mitochondrial or Y DNA haplogroup (Y chromosome for males only) at Family Tree DNA.  Those tests are also on sale now, here.

Jeanette will customize this Mayflower shirt with your Mayflower ancestor’s name.

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Shirts are available in a wide variety of styles and colors.

GeneaCreations offers printed shirt styles if bling isn’t your thing. These are wonderful for family reunions.

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For quilters and crafty genealogists, you can purchase pedigree chart fabric which can be made into quilts, vests and wearable art.

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Don’t want to make something? How about a ready-made tote – just use a quilter’s fabric pen to fill in your ancestors’ names. (I’d use a pencil first, lightly, and retrace with the pen.) What a great gift idea for a genealogy buddy. Genealogists never have enough canvas bags. Trust me.

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This year at Rootstech, I bought a denim shirt from GeneaCreations. I love these for when you need something lighter than a sweater or want something that washes up easily. They’re durable and travel wonderfully. I wear these on planes all the time.

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There are lots of genealogy embroidery designs to choose from – more than are shown here.

Here’s just a sampling of the design categories that Jeanette offers:

  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Cartoon
  • Civil War
  • Genealogy
  • Organizations
  • Religious
  • Vehicles
  • Winter

There is literally something for everyone.

DNA Fabric

I saved the best for last, because Jeanette JUST ADDED her brand-new DNA electrophoresis fabric through Spoonflower, here. This geeky-cool fabric is what your DNA looks like as it’s processing in the lab.

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You can order this lovely cotton fabric for quilting or sewing, or you can purchase it in different kinds of fabric or as wallpaper, wrapping paper or ready-made home décor items.

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This DNA fabric must be purchased directly through Spoonflower, but I received an unlock code discount for signing up at Spoonflower in addition to free shipping because it’s December.

I’m not going to spill any beans, but you might, just might see this fabric again😊

Free Shipping

GeneaCreations is a small business and her website shopping cart doesn’t have the ability to process coupons or discount codes, but, if you e-mail your order to Jeanette directly and tell her that you ordered because of this article, she will either not charge shipping, or refund shipping if you order through the website.

You can reach Jeannette at customheirlooms@yahoo.com

Enjoy!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

The Farewell Tour – 52 Ancestors #264

Sometimes, you just need to say goodbye.

Call it closure, resolution, moving on, or what have you.

Some things just need to be done.

This door closed, ever so gently, but not before wandering around one last time.

Smiles, tears, laughter and oh-so-many memories – along with an amazing surprise.

I did it all in the summer of 2018.

Recently, my daughter-in-law mentioned that my grandchildren are interested in where grandma grew up.

When I drove away for the last time on that Sunday morning in the summer of 2018, I had no intention of ever returning.

For two days, I did a driving “Farewell Tour,” which I’ve now transformed into two articles. Not only is this for my grandkids, but I realized, especially since my family left no descendants in the city where I grew up, it’s especially important for me to document my memories.

Otherwise, they die with me. Mom’s already gone.

Perhaps your family would enjoy a similar article about your memories.

Return to Kokomo

I left Kokomo, the town in which I was raised, almost 40 years ago now, for all the reasons that seem so familiar in my ancestors’ stories. Better opportunity, education, higher wages, hope for my children.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this wasn’t just a relocation, but a huge fork in the road. Actually, more like a sharp turn than a curve.

I not only left the location behind, but the culture, the people and everything that went along with it. Good and bad.

Until my parents passed away, I returned fairly often, so it didn’t seem like a dramatic departure, more like a new job with different scenery.

However, I slowly grew distant from all things Kokomo. After my stepfather, then my stepbrother, then my mother died, there was nothing left to go back to – so I didn’t.

By that time, everything having to do with Kokomo was about death and loss – estates, attorneys and battles. Deceit and lies. Not good memories.

Reunion

My high school class hadn’t been terribly active in terms of reunions. There was a 10-year reunion, which I attended.

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I had just finished my master’s degree, was working in research and was proud of my hard-won accomplishments. I hadn’t stopped to realize, until I arrived at the reunion, that I couldn’t afford senior pictures – and I hadn’t kept in touch – so my nametag literally had NOTHING on it except my name.

I was incredibly glad to see my friend Kim who had finished her medical degree, against astounding odds. Back in the summer of 1970, she and I had studied together in Europe on a scholarship. I don’t know about her, but that experience had changed my life forever.

The 20-year reunion in 1993 occurred on the same weekend that my (now) former husband had a massive stroke.

I think there were other reunions after that, but the years following that stroke consumed every ounce of my time, money and patience. I happened to be in town for one other reunion, dropping in briefly, but I don’t recall when.

Then, in 2018, classmates began planning an informal get-together at a local craft brewery. Alright, my kind of event.

Plus, there were a few people I would really like to see. What happened to them? Would Kim be there?

I hadn’t been back to visit Mom and Dad’s graves for several years. They weren’t, and Kokomo wasn’t, on the way TO anyplace. I thought a combined trip to visit Mom and Dad at the cemetery and meet-up with my classmates would be fun.

What I didn’t realize was that I would be taking a trip down memory lane.

Literally driving into, and through, my past.

And…that this would be my last trip.

My own version of a rock star Farewell Tour.

There is truly, truly nothing to go back for now.

The tiny tendrils that initially held me have dropped away one by one.

Now, I’m free.

The Cemetery

No trip home is complete without a trip to the cemetery. My only immediate family in Indiana lives in cemeteries now.

I wanted to visit Mom’s and Dad’s graves, even though I know they “aren’t really there.” Their physical remains are, and that’s as close as I can get for now.

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They rest side by side but with separate headstones. My stepfather’s first wife is buried beside him. I always laugh, thinking about him between both of his wives keeping a watchful eye on him.

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I know this sounds bizarre, but I took my small car quilt and had a picnic with Mom and Dad.

My stepsister who died as an infant and my stepbrother who died in 1999 are buried there too, as well as the father of my friend, Peggy.

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I stopped and bought flowers for all of them.

Peggy

Peggy was my long-time friend. Our mothers had worked together and we were close friends in high school, and after.

We hung out, got into trouble together (oh yea!), and eventually supported each other on our life’s journeys as we both experienced joys and tragedies – pretty well summed up by the phrase, “life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

We visited each other in multiple states across the county.

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Peggy saw my Facebook posting that I was planning to visit Mom in the cemetery in Galveston, and she replied that her dad was buried there too. I found his grave, recorded two videos for Peggy so she or another family member could find it in the future, and left flowers on her behalf.

Little did I know that Peggy, who lived in Alaska, would pass away just a few months later, in January 2019.

I’m incredibly glad I recorded Facetime live at her father’s grave and posted it on her timeline for her family – albeit with a quivering voice. It was such an emotion-filled day for me.

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Mom, below at left, with Peggy and me at Highland Park in Kokomo having a picnic the last time were all together, about 20 years ago.

Peggy and I never did tell mom all the stories. I don’t think she would have appreciated them – certainly not in the way Peggy and I did.

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The Kokomo Speedway

After I left the cemetery, I drove south from Galveston past the Kokomo Speedway – a hangout of mine at one time.

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I never raced at the Speedway, a dirt sprint track.

My racing days began on drag strips and ended a few years later when I rolled a Datsun 240Z while pregnant.

Kokomo Datsun 240Z

My Datsun looked a lot like this one that’s for sale today, except mine was “souped up” with spoilers, an air dam, pin striping and different tires – not to mention a roll bar which is probably what saved my life and that of my unborn child.

Truth be told, I didn’t actually roll the car racing, but doing doughnuts in a vacant shopping mall parking lot one Sunday morning after a snow. I spun into the snow bank (more like a mountain) left by the plow, slid up the bank with enough momentum to flip the car. I can’t tell you how mad I was at myself – not to mention I couldn’t get out of the car until someone noticed my predicament and called for help. That was long before the days of cell phones, but I digress.

I decided at that point that maybe racing, at least for me, probably wasn’t such a good idea anymore. Having children changes your perspective. The only thing, other than the car, that had been hurt was my pride, but it was a close call. Too close.

My favorite events at the Speedway as a child were the figure 8 races, often on the 4th of July when racing was accompanied by fireworks. The stands were always full that night.

A lot has changed here over the years. I wouldn’t have recognized it as the same place.

B&K Rootbeer Stand

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Right down the road, the B&K Rootbeer stand looks almost exactly the same. Memories of frosty mugs served on trays hung on the edges of rolled-down car windows as we parked under the drive-in canopies. The canopies appear to be gone, but the building itself remains, although didn’t appear to be open.

It was here that I remember, on a very nervous first date, saying something that caused my date to accidentally snort his rootbeer up his nose – and back out again. I desperately tried not to laugh but it’s difficult to pretend rootbeer running out of someone’s nose isn’t happening. And yes, there was a second date. Meet Eddie – you’ll see him again.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Eddie would one day be at my wedding. But not as the groom – as the best man. Now THAT’S a story:)

A block on further down the street was a local favorite – of teens and adults both – for entirely different reasons.

Ray’s Drive-In

Even the sign at Ray’s Drive-In is the same today.

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As teens in Kokomo, we “drove around,” meaning we piled into cars – mostly owned by our parents – and cruised through several locations popular with teens. We wanted to see who was riding with whom. Who was sitting “close” to whom? Were girls sitting right next to boys on the bench seats, with no one in the passenger seat? If so, they were a couple. Or were they a couple and NOT sitting side by side? Were they arguing? Who was absent from cruising meaning they might be on a date?

Inquiring minds wanted to know!

So much to observe and interpret – and of course we didn’t want to miss ANYTHING!

Kokomo Ray's drive in.jpg

Ray’s Drive-In, just a block from B&K Rootbeer remains a drive-in today. Ray’s was famous, literally, for their huge elephant ear tenderloin sandwiches and their frozen custard. I’m drooling just thinking about it. They are still on the menu.

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I discovered after moving away that these fried tenderloins are a regional treat. Translate – you can’t get them elsewhere.

You also can’t get another regional favorite, Sugar Cream pies, and try and I might, I CANNOT get them to taste right.

Northwest Park

The next stop on the teen cruising circuit was Northwest Park, a half mile or so west of Ray’s on Morgan Street.

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The last time I visited Northwest Park, in the 1970s, I played frisbee in a field of grass that you can barely see behind the tunnel of trees that had just been planted at the time. They were about 3 feet tall. You always remember things the way you saw them last, so imagine my surprise.

North-N-Tavern

Driving east on North Street, I passed this *historic* tavern, pronounced “North End Tavern.”

Kokomo North-N-Tavern.jpg

Some places are iconic. I’ve never been IN this tavern, but it has always stood on this corner, and has never looked great. It was always a known “trouble spot,” not where kids gathered, but regularly on the police scanner on weekends. It was close to the north Delco plant and several smaller factories that paid lower wages.

What’s that old saying. “In good times, people drink, and in bad times, people drink.” This neighborhood watering hole seems to prove that adage.

If I was going to go to a bar in Kokomo, it was going to be one with music, preferably a live band. Drinking wasn’t my thing, but music certainly was.

For the most part, when I lived in Kokomo, my time was consumed by college, family, work and children.

Quilts

I learned to quilt at home and in the Missionary Circle at church, but I wasn’t a quilter, per se, back then. Things have changed!

I was thrilled to discover that a quilt show was being held the same weekend as the reunion. In fact, that might have been the tipping factor to convince me to go😊

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When my Mom married my stepdad, we moved to the farm. The farmhouse had been constructed by the Amish who lived quite prevalent within the community.

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Amish are prolific quilters and maintain beautiful gardens.

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I learned to love flowers in Kokomo. Rose of Sharon blossoms remind me of the beauty of flowers blooming their hearts out on the farm.

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In fact, farm life and flowers often appear as a theme in my quilts today, influencing the choice of fabric, design and color selection.

Not everything in Kokomo was beautiful though.

Universal Steel

Kokomo was an industrial, automotive, manufacturing and steel-town. Many people from Kentucky, Tennessee, western Virginia and West Virginia moved north to work in the factories, creating a microcosm of all things Southern. This explains my accent. My father’s family was from Tennessee and we didn’t know we had accents. We talked just like everyone else!

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Many factories sprang up, as did an entire secondary layer of service industries. While I was in college, I worked at Universal Steel, a recycling steel company where I gained experience outside of college on computers. My first management job, I was responsible for their entire system that managed everything from inventory to accounting to payroll.

To make life interesting, episodically the “frag” machine that shredded cars would blow up if the gas tank wasn’t entirely empty, often causing the office building across the “yard” to lose power. That’s death to computers and caused no end of problems for me.

Computers and education were the path to a better life. Hard to believe my professional computer science career started here, a place where I had a flat tire almost daily.

It was Universal Steel that sent me to classes at the Burroughs training center in Detroit. From there, I was on my way.

Wildcat Creek

Creeks and rivers were central to the lives of our ancestors. I didn’t realize it, but the Wildcat Creek, located only a block or so from the house where I was raised was ever-present in my life too. I could literally see it between the buildings in the distance.

You’ll notice throughout this article many references to Wildcat Creek.

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Shortly after arriving in town the day of the reunion, I met with my classmates for lunch at a restaurant located on Wildcat Creek, a couple blocks from where we went to high school. From the parking lot, I could see the old iron railroad bridge. Today walking trails span the banks of the Creek.

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I’m amazed this old iron bridge still exists. It was old when I was young. At that time, only railroad tracks crossed this bridge. Today there’s a pedestrian path.

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Wildcat Creek was never beautiful. Slow-moving and green – it was never inviting. Yet, it holds such good memories – mostly because of the parks along its length. The Wildcat flooded often. Where you can’t build structures, you build parks.

Foster Park, along the river, was where David Foster, an Indian trader first located in a cabin reportedly belonging to Chief Kokomo. I waded along the riverbanks here as a child.

I walked with boyfriends as a teen.

The older part of town is found along the creek. To the north, on hills above the floodline, the historic Victorian homes. To the south, the older, less opulent homes that were sometimes flooded.

I started my driving tour when I left the restaurant after lunch.

Ghosts of Places Past

The main drag east and west on the south end of town was Markland Avenue.

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Stopped at the corner of Markland and Main, I spotted the old triangle shaped factory building, located along the now-defunct railroad track, so important to shipping in the late 1800s and early 1900s when these factories were built.

I hadn’t thought about his oddly shaped building in years.

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Elwood Haynes, automotive pioneer, built factories and brought industry to Kokomo. Many buildings like this one, scattered throughout town, harken back to that time.

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When I lived in Kokomo, these buildings housed smaller factories that produced supplies for the automotive industry. The structures have been repurposed several times since then.

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This one was at one time a maintenance facility for the interurban railways, or trolleys. They were gone by the time I lived in Kokomo. Today, this building appears to be used for storage.

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Driving down the street, you can see the ghosts of businesses past in the long triangle-shaped building along Main Street.

I had a boyfriend, we’ll call him “R,” who worked either in this building, or the next one south, now gone – then Kolux. I used to walk the mile and a half or so from home and meet him when he got off work in the summer. No AC in those buildings, so he was always drenched with sweat. No mind – I didn’t care. We’d roll the windows down in his red 65 Chevy SuperSport 4-on-the-floor, also with no AC, and drive to Ray’s Drive-In or B&K Rootbeer for refreshments.

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Across the street to the right, my favorite pub still exists – even though I drank very little. Always a factory town, the Corner Pub was a family place, famous for their steaks and drinks. I always had one, just one, Apricot Brandy Sour. They certainly had the best plate-sized New York Strip steaks in town at the time.

Yum!!!

Mid-States Electric

A few blocks on south at Defenbaugh and Market, I found the building that was once Mid-States Electric, a supplier to the automotive manufacturing industry, where Mom used to work.

Kokomo Mid States.jpg

Mom’s office as the bookkeeper was just inside the door sheltered by the right canopy, which didn’t exist at the time.

Mom ran the office in addition to being the bookkeeper. Inger, Peggy’s mother, sold light fixtures when they added services for builders. The lighting showroom was in the door under left canopy, above.

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The electronic parts were stocked in the rear where the contractors entered, the red area today on the side, above.

I remember the old Coke machine back there. Cokes were 5 cents each, in glass bottles that you slid out of their row.

Mid-States’ claim to fame was that one or more of their parts were incorporated into the early space capsules through Delco Electronics which manufactured some of the components.

After my father’s death, and before Mom met and married my stepdad, she eventually dated the owner of the company. Let’s just say that didn’t end well. It seldom does for the woman.

Thankfully, it did end and as a result, Mom landed a better job elsewhere a few years later.

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Looking north from the parking lot, I can still see the old factory water towers in the distance.

It wasn’t a short walk to our house, probably a couple miles, but I walked it often. We didn’t worry about kids being kidnapped back then.

Mom worked at Mid-States for at least a dozen years and I worked there as well from time to time on Saturday mornings to help out and earn some spending money. Mostly, I carefully addressed envelopes by hand and did filing.

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Mid-States was a supplier to Delco Electronics and was strategically located a block away. The huge Delco plant was 3 or 4 blocks long and as wide. Imagine my surprise today to find green grass and nothing else.

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Ghosts of train-tracks past, partly paved over, leading now to nothing and no-place.

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Delco may be gone, but many old factories are still in use. This is the water tower I saw from the Mid-States parking lot, now part of an automotive recycling facility. It may have once been Kokomo Opalescent Glass, now located nearby.

Pictures like this graphically explain the term, “rust-belt.”

Kokomo Opalescent Glass

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I remember Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company quite fondly, the current factory shown above.

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In business since 1888, they produce amazing art glass and it’s quite affordable in the gift shop. I do own a couple of pieces.

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I bought this plate in the 1970s at the Treasure Mart.

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Of course, ashtrays are out of vogue today, but that wasn’t always the case. This ashtray, about 5 or 6 inches across,  has an interesting backstory.

Mom was a very attractive lady.

Mom Graduation color

Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company purchased electronics from Mid-States Electric. A man named Bill was the vice-president and sales manager, at least eventually.

Bill paid an awful lot of attention to Mom. He brought her gifts, and when a dog bit me on the playground at school, he bought a goldfish for every hole the dog’s teeth left in my hand. Of course, he didn’t give the fish to ME directly, but took them to Mom.

I do recall that Mom and Bill had a couple of dates, but something happened and not only was she angry with him, but avoided him henceforth. Whatever happened, she was madder than a wet hen.

All I know for sure is that she was NOT discussing this with me.

In 1966, Bill made her a custom one-of-a-kind ashtray.

At that time, every home had ashtrays sitting on the tables.

Kokomo Opalescent bottom of ashtray.jpg

I didn’t realize Mom had labeled this until I flipped it over just now to see if anything was written underneath.

Today, this graces my desk, holds my thumb drives and makes me chuckle thinking about the memories.

I would like to have purchased another piece of Opalescent Glass while I was there. I was hoping for a colorful butterfly signifying metamorphosis.

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Maybe something like this.

Now I wonder if I could talk them into making a double helix. That would be stunning! Hmmm.

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Unfortunately, the gift shop was closed, but the factory was operational. I found the trash while walking through the parking lot.

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This is the trash heap. Just wow!

This was one of my favorite parts of my Farewell Driving Tour. Beauty is where you find it.

Highland Park

Driving back past the building where Mid-States Electric used to be, west on Defenbaugh Street, with the railroad tracks down the middle of the street for the full length, to Highland Park.

Today, the tracks only run for a couple blocks and then center flower containers that form a median barrier are located where the tracks used to be. The tracks became useless when Delco was no longer at the end of the line.

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There’s still an essence of Mom there – both in that building and in Highland Park where she often took me as a child.

Highland Park

There were three main parks in Kokomo.

Northwest Park, the “new” park where I played Frisbee and the pine trees are now tall. We already visited there.

Foster Park, along the Wildcat Creek downtown, which we will visit shortly, and Highland Park, in the south part of town.

Highland Park was by far the largest with lots to see and do.

Kokomo Highland Park shelter.jpg

Today, both Old Ben and the old Sycamore stump are housed in this building. When I was young, the Sycamore stump stood outside and Ben had a small building that vandals broke into and damaged Old Ben’s horns and tail.

Who is Old Ben, you ask?

A mammoth, iconic steer.

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I know his name is “Old Ben,” but I distinctly remember everyone calling him Big Ben – because he was HUGE!

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Ben doesn’t look bad for being over 100 years old now.

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I remember marveling at Ben as a child, pressing my nose against the window to get a better view.

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This Sycamore stump, housed in the same building, is massive too – more than 57 feet in circumferance.

It was very difficult to photograph with the close proximity and glass. The stump was actually a phone booth when I was a child and probably 20 people could have easily fit inside.

Kokomo Sycamore stump sign.jpg

Nearby is an old shelter that used to house a well.

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We pumped water with the handle on hot days when I was a kid.

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The stonework is original, but the well is now defunct.

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When I was a child, the main playground area had 2 sections. One was smaller and fenced. When I was about the age in the photo above, the officer on duty approached mother and suggested that we needed to play in the smaller fenced area. I was “too dark” for the white playground, on the “non-colored” swings and merry-go-round.

Of course, the smaller fenced area’s swings and other items weren’t nearly as nice. They were the “colored” area – and the sign said as much.

Mother was furious. I now realize that in part, she didn’t want anyone to see me playing in the “colored” playground because I could not have attended the “white” school where we lived. In fact, we couldn’t have lived where we lived either. So being sent to the “colored section” was about a lot more than appears on the surface. As a child, I clearly didn’t understand. I just wanted to play.

We left, despite my protests, and I don’t recall that mother and I ever went back to that particular playground.

It was only shortly thereafter that desegregation was legislated and the issue disappeared, at least officially, as did the secondary playground which then became a special protected area for young children.

Highland Park is a park because it’s low, sits in a bowl of sorts, floods often and you certainly can’t build there

Across from the main playground area today are many picnic tables scattered along the length of the creek as it zigzags through the park.

Kokomo Highland picnic tables.jpg

Unfortunately, the curved iron table legs stick out beyond the edge of the seats as the iron curves up underneath the seat. Many years ago, Mom got her foot caught in one while carrying a dish at an Avon picnic, fell, and broke her pelvis in 3 places. I would think they would have changed the design, but looking at Google maps today, I noticed it’s still the same.

Kokomo picnic tables curved.png

Maybe a lawsuit would have hastened a safer design, but mother would never have done that. I made that suggestion to the powers that be, and didn’t even get so much as an “I’m sorry.” Not exactly heartwarming when your mother is hospitalized and incapacitated.

Amazingly, she eventually recovered.

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This footbridge leads to a small island skirted on all sides by the creek. As teens, we used to cross onto the island and sit on the banks of Kokomo Creek. People driving by can’t see you, but they can see your car in the lot.

Intrigue!

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Kokomo Creek is much more inviting that Wildcat Creek, in part because it’s shallow and there are no polluting factories.

Kokomo Creek.jpg

As kids, we used to catch crawdads here in conical shaped paper cups after having Sno-Cones at the concession stand, still standing in the distance, above.

We never kept the crawdads – always let them go. I never wanted to hurt a living creature. The fun was in the wading and catching! There is no joy in killing.

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Looks like kids still take off their socks to wade!

Back then, there was a child-sized amusement park too.

Today, the child’s train and other children’s rides are gone, but they were so much fun at the time.

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That’s me in the second car with the pigtails above, and right behind the engineer, below!

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The train used to run along the banks of the creek from one end of the park to the other, blowing its whistle. I don’t know when the train disppeared, but it was gone before I had children.

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This little child-sized ferris wheel was so much fun, and not frightening at all. You could only ride if you were age 5 or under.

I was so disappointed when I was too big.

I vaguely remember another picture that I didn’t find in mother’s box of photos.

Near the old Sycamore stump was a small children’s play area. There were a few swings and 3 slides of varying sizes. You can see several of these pieces of now-known-to-be-dangerous playground equipment in this article, but the slide I’m referring to is the second photo into the article.

It had small edges about 3 inches tall and a hump near the top. The author calls it the “metal slide of doom” and I can vouch for that.

I climbed to the top of the BIG slide, sat down, and started sliding, only to hurtle over the side from the top, falling onto the ground with a dull thud.

I vaguely remember hearing my mother scream, seemingly distant, then nothing.

Apparently my father ran up to me and snatched me up off of the ground to him – terrifying my mother even more, in case I’d broken my neck.

Kids are pliable, and I, thankfully had broken nothing.

However, I forever thereafter hated slides. Still do.

I rememer once after that having to climb back down the steps, with kids in the way.

I never did THAT again either.

The Covered Bridge

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Indiana is the land of covered bridges. Thankfully, they disassembled this bridge in the countryside and brought it to Highland Park instead of tearing it down.

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Today, it graces Kokomo Creek near ancient trees.

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Couples used to hold hands and sneak kisses in the privacy of the bridge.

I remember. (Teehee.)

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Today, I’m alone here with my memories.

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A time traveler of sorts, peeking backwards.

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Viewing life through the knotholes is somehow fitting.

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The park was also on the teenage cruise path, because there were several places that couples could park their cars and take walks.

Mom sometimes ate lunch here on her Avon route, and I used to come and sit at the picnic tables and pen letters to my merchant seaman penpal, Robin.

The other end of the park sported a dam and a pond.

A little later, back at my hotel, I realized I had forgotten to drive to that part of the park. I returned, because I wanted to take one last walk there.

The Dead, Raised

The sunshine was warm and lovely, with very few people. I parked the car and began strolling along the creek, lost in thoughts of old friends and exciting times like when I slipped off the algae-covered dam into the creek and emerged, both abashed and completely drenched.

Of course, I was in trouble because I wasn’t supposed to be ON the dam in the first place.

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I see the geese are still residents. I used to feed the geese and have fond memories of coming here when I was pregnant, walking my rescue dog, a small Sheltie named Lady.

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These geese are VERY tame.

One time, Mom, me and a very handsome boyfriend named Eddie brought popcorn one Sunday afternoon to feed the ducks.

Eddie wanted to impress both of us, but he could do nothing to convince a duck to eat out of his hand. He tried calling, talking, chasing – but absolutely nothing worked.

Mom sat down on the ground, and within a minute or so, the ducks were not only eating out of her hand, they were in her lap.

Several ducks!

Then the geese joined in. Eddie gallantly rescued Mom from the Great Goose Ambush. Or maybe I should say that Mom allowed herself to be rescued😊

Of course, that rescued Eddie’s hurt pride too.

This is the park where Mom, Peggy and I were last together.

Where Mom tripped over a picnic bench leg and broke her pelvis when she was in her 70s.

I was lost in memories here, having drifted back in time, when I noticed someone else in the distance. Other than the two of us, this part of the park was empty, and I didn’t want to disturb her.

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The other person was playing a guitar and singing. Lovely, just lovely. And Carly Simon too.

You’re So Vain

“You probably think this song is about you.”

One of my favorites from my years in Kokomo and seemingly written about a beau.

“You gave away the things you loved…”

Be still my aching heart.

Then, Janis Joplin. Me and Bobby McGee.

Music speaks to my soul which was experiencing a full range of emotions.

The tragedy in Janis’s voice, and life, mirrors my feelings about Kokomo perfectly.

Tears welled into my eyes and slipped down my cheeks.

I needed to cry.

My life there was so hopeful…until it wasn’t anymore.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Oh God.

“I let him slip away.”

This truly, truly harkened back to my life there.

“I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday.”

This lady’s voice was hauntingly familiar.

I closed my eyes and strolled quietly along the water, hoping that she wouldn’t see me and stop singing.

My heart needed this.

Many of my Kokomo memories are extremely sad. Soul searing.

I stood completely still, eyes still closed, letting her aching voice float me back in time.

She finished that song, and another.

Then she stopped and didn’t start again.

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I opened my eyes to see that she had stood up and was walking towards me, slowly, hesitantly, gingerly.

“Uh-oh,” I thought.

I wrenched, lurchingly back to the present.

She peered at me questioningly…and said my name. Not Roberta, but Bobbi, my nickname used among friends.

I was utterly stunned, but stammered, “Yes. Yes, but who are you?”

“Carla” she said.

And together, we both blurted out, “what are you doing here?”

Kokomo Highland me and Carla.jpg

We grabbed each other, hugging and crying.

Carla was one of my best friends in high school.

We had lost track of each other entirely – 45 years ago.

In fact, at the last reunion I attended, I had been told that Carla had passed away, so imagine my shock!

I thought I had seen a ghost and it took every ounce of self-restraint to NOT blurt out, “but I thought you were dead.”

I presumed she was here for the reunion too and was SO VERY GLAD because I had lost track of nearly everyone, and I knew that a couple of the people I really wanted to see, like Kim, weren’t attending.

“What reunion?” she asked.

She was in town to visit her brother.

We sat and talked for some time, catching up. Time flew. I told her I was going to the reunion and where it was being held. Thankfully, it was not a reservation affair, so she could attend too. We traded information and I told her I hoped to see her that evening.

I still can’t believe how fortunate we were to be brought back together again for that instant in time. The stars aligned.

Truth truly is stranger than fiction.

What a beautiful gift.

But now it was time to go.

Continental Steel

Leaving Highland Park the back way took me past the old steel mill, now defunct, vacant and a hazardous waste site.

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This toxic land probably reaches a mile in each direction. A solar farm occupies part of the acreage. The once loud, booming steel mill now eternally silent.

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I remember, as a child, riding by the steel mill in Mom’s car and peering inside to see if I could see the red-hot molten steel being poured from huge vats.

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At night, liquid metal cast an ominous orange glow over everything. It was both exciting and frightening, seeing the eerie orange men, just feet or inches from molten death.

The entire neighborhood for blocks in every direction had layers of gritty grey dust that constantly permeated everything – for decades.

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Across the street where this building stands today was a tavern that catered to the steelworkers called, you guessed it, The Steel Inn.

More than one wife went to retrieve her husband from the Inn’s clutches on payday. They cashed checks!

Many Kokomo husbands and fathers worked at “the mill.” The pay was good, even though the work was hot and miserable. In the end, those families lost their pensions due to corruption and mismanagement.

The Seashore Swimming Pool

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Driving on north toward Foster Park, the old Seashore Swimming Pool is now known as Kokomo Beach.

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The Seashore was one of my favorite places. I remember it as huge, of course.

We bought a season pass so I could swim daily in the summer. I walked to the babysitters in the morning, then to the pool after lunch, walking home when the pool closed at dinner.

These were some of my best memories of Kokomo. I loved to swim and bake in the sun by the hour.

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I swam and dove and danced.

Of course, I avoided those “metal slides of doom” 😊

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Kokomo Beach has a lot more to offer today than when I was a kid, but we loved it just the same. Summers were hot and the water was cool.

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Not to mention that the pool was also on the teenage circle cruising tour to see who was talking to whom and wearing what. Or not wearing what. Bikinis were in, but I wasn’t allowed to wear one! I did however “adjust” my two piece a bit. Ahem.

At that time, you could drive around the entire pool in a circle, half on the street side, the other half being the circle driveway that also passed the dance hall.

I tell you what – that open air dance hall with the juke box was HOT, and I don’ t mean the weather, and only accessible from inside the fenced pool. However, those crusing by could clearly SEE the dancers and watchers through the chaink link fence.

Anyone who was anyone made an appearance there, preferably daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the pool was open. And if you were wearing a very cool bathing suit, all the better. If you were a guy, you fed the juke box quarters to keep the girls dancing. Mostly, girls danced with each other, except for slow dances. Very few boys had the self-confidence to dance quite so openly. Except one boy whose mother was a dance teacher at Arthur Murray. He could dance up a storm!

Mother didn’t want me to go IN the dance hall, but she really couldn’t keep me out since she was at work. In the dance hall? Who, me? Noooo, must have been my evil twin!

A pedestrian bridge now connects the pool property to Foster Park, across the Wildcat Creek, but when I lived here, we had to walk the long way.

Kokomo Beach walk.jpg

A beautiful fountain has now been installed in Wildcat Creek, definitely improving the appearance.

Kokomo Beach bridge over Wildcat.jpg

This was a welcome surprise as I walked across the pedestrian bridge.

Kokomo Wildcat at Foster Park.jpg

Looking up the Creek, I can see the bridge over the main North/South street, Washington, in the distance. Across Washington Street used to be a long-abandoned gravel pit with a high fence. That place with its rusting abandoned equipment was ghostly and frightening.

I mean, what if you fell in and couldn’t get out? No one would know. You would die there. No thank you.

Today, the gravel pit has been filled in and there is nothing but mostly-forgotten memories and grass where residents walk their dogs.

Foster Park

Named for David Foster who first settled here in 1842, trading with the Miami Indians along the Wildcat, this park was only a block from the house where I grew up.

Kokomo Sycamore house from Foster Park.png

In fact, today from Superior Street along Foster Park, I can still see “my house,” between the buildings. As a child, we used to cut between the houses on the hill where the gravel leads to the lower church parking lot today.

It’s on that hill, walking to the pool one day, that I found a half dollar coin dated 1852 in the dirt.

It was also through this gap between buildings that I watched the Palm Sunday tornado tear across the south part of Kokomo on that devastating Sunday afternoon in 1965, not realizing what I was seeing.

Kokomo Foster Park tennis.png

Here’s roughly the view of Foster Park that I saw from my bedroom window, except from higher and a block further distant. Softballs diamonds were located where the tennis courts are today. Playground equipment is to the left, and Wildcat Creek is just the other side of the drive, in the trees, at the rear of the photo. I could see the Creek from my bedroom window, because the house stood on a hill. When the Creek flooded, it never flooded beyond the park, but it looked like a massive lake.

I played softball in Foster Park (poorly), swung on the swings (joyfully), played miniature golf (terribly), and it was here that I sat in the car with my friends on July 20, 1969, listening to the moon landing.

Kokomo Foster Park tank.png

This tank has “always” been in the park in front of the playground area and kids climbed on it when I was young. They obviously discourage that today.

Foster Park houses the log cabin that was the Girl Scout office. We had special meetings here.

Kokomo cabin Foster Park.jpg

At that time, the cabin was one room and heated only with a large fireplace. I remember the wonderful wood-smoke smell so vividly.

Kokomo Girl Scouts.jpg

It’s apparently still a Girl Scout building with at least one addition. I’m sure it has central heat and probably air too.

Progress.

While the log cabin is still there, many places in Kokomo aren’t.

Lord-Jon’s Tacos

My favorite Kokomo food place, Lord-Jon’s Tacos has been closed for years now. The owners sold the recipe to another local business, and while the tacos aren’t the same, they’re better than *not* Lord-Jon’s at all.

I found a photo I took some years back when I introduced a friend to Kokomo’s best.

Kokomo Lord-Jon's Tacos.jpg

Lord-Jon’s started out in a small restaurant and then moved to a tiny fair-type food trailer when I was a teen. We often drove there for lunch in high school.

There was no eating in, so we often bought our tacos by the bagful, then drove down the street to the A&W Rootbeer. We pulled into the drive-in area, ordered icy rootbeers and ate our tacos and rootbeer. To this day, I still think of those two unlikely food items going together.

I craved these tacos when I was pregnant for my children. Thankfully, they were 3 for $1 at the time.

Later, Lord-Jon’s would purchase two buildings, one on the east side of town, one on the west, and discussed franchising. I don’t know what happened, but not only did franchises not happen, they closed both locations and sold the recipe.

Kokomo Handle Bar.jpg

Today, the Handle Bar in Kokomo offers something similar, although I understand that they’ve now changed hands too. Sadly, each change moved those tacos further from the originals.

Kokomo Tacos.jpg

Just the same, my mouth is watering just looking at these.

We’ve tried to reproduce Lord-Jon’s tacos, to no avail. The tortillas appear to be deep-fried masa flour, but I really don’t know – and no one is talking.

More Memories

Lord-Jon’s isn’t the only thing that’s gone of course.

So are the drug stores, restaurants and groceries that I remember as a kid.

The old A&P grocery store had coffee grinders by the checkouts that ground coffee beans by the bag, dispensing ground coffee back into their own bag. While Mom shopped, I offered to pour coffee beans into the big grinders and push the button for people because I loved the smell. I still love the smell of coffee.

Outside the A&P, in the parking lot, were tie-ups for horses for the Amish families. There were always horses and buggies there. We thought nothing of it.

The “other” drive in restaurant was Frisch’s Big Boy on the south side of town.

Kokomo Frisch's.jpg

You can see the drive-in canopies in the rear in this 1962 phone book ad. This was the southern point of the well-worn teenage cruising circle. Over the course of the evening of cruising, around and around and around, you had to pull in and purchase something at each place, at least once. It was necessary to see who else was driving around. Otherwise, you might miss something!

In Forest Park, the shopping plaza on the west side of town, the Ben Franklin store. In the building to the left, Haag Drug became the Huddle Restaurant and eventually, the Dairy Queen.

Kokomo Forest Park.jpg

Mom’s job after Mid-States would be located about where the National Grocery was in this photo. This photo looks to have been taken in the 1950s or 1960s and Mom worked at Kokomo Land Company in the 1970s.

Upstairs on the second level, we played Bingo. I was pre-school, but I got my own card and was I ever PROUD, especially the first time I got to jump up and shout BINGO. Legitimately – for myself I mean. I shouted bingo all the time. If someone bingoed, they let me shout!

My Jobs

I began babysitting when I was about 10 for the neighbors across the street, with mom nearby. By the time I was 12, I was experienced and in demand.

Kids could work part time at age 14. That was a rite of passage.

Kokomo Hutto Drugs.jpg

My first “real job,” the summer I turned 14 was covering for vacations at the lunch counter at Hutto’s Drug Store.

I was so VERY excited. I learned all about making flavored cokes. Yum!!!

I remember getting my very first quarter tip and how thrilled I was to have a tiny cache of change in the cup bearing my name under the counter at the end of the day. I didn’t know about that part in advance.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I saved my money to buy my boyfriend, “R,” a birthday present. She didn’t like that at all. I also used to call him from that phone booth out front and ask him to come and give me a ride home. She REALLY didn’t like that. She didn’t like him at all – and as it turned out, she was right.

About 2 blocks down the street from where we lived, Scotty’s Hamburgers opened a couple years later.

Kokomo Scotty's.jpg

I worked at Scotty’s in high school. We always contributed food to the police officers and firefighters.

Kokomo old police station.jpg

The old police station and fire station was just across the street in this old “castle.” The arched doorways housed the fire trucks. The doors were always open, and the firefighters sat just inside or outside on the sidewalk in chairs. They were always ready to leave on a moment’s notice and also loved to talk. Kids visited with them often. At Christmas, they made and collected toys for children in the community and made sure Santa visited everyone.

If you were a child and your toy broke, they could, and would, fix it. They fixed my doll somehow. I was just sure they could fix anything!

I don’t think this was meant as community outreach, but it surely was!

Kokomo praying mantis.jpg

Today, there’s a Subway and praying mantis on the corner.

I don’t know, so don’t ask. (I think it’s supposed to be art.)

One of my favorite places was the Treasure Mart. In today’s vernacular, it was a resale shop. It had a little of everything. Scratch that. It had a lot of everything, except clothes. No clothes.

Kokomo Old Treasure Mart

Located at Sycamore and Delphos, it too was a huge repurposed building. Located on the main drag, it was always convenient to stop by and see what they had.

Across the street is Crown Point Cemetery where my friend, Marianne, was buried following a tragedy that that ended her life, and others, far too soon.

Kokomo Crown Point.png

Cristo’s Club – My Guilty Confession

Ahem, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I used to love Cristo’s. It was a bar, but more specifically, a dance club type of bar – and I loved to dance.

The difference between Christo’s and other bars was that Christo’s had live music. The only other location within 50 miles with a band was an upscale place beside Delco that catered to Delco employees – which I wasn’t.

Cristo’s could also be a bit “rough” from time to time. I never had a problem, and I did things I would never do now – like leave my purse on the table while I was dancing.

I went there with dates, without dates, with girlfriends – it didn’t matter. I was comfortable regardless.

Disco was in. Eventually, I danced in competitions with a specific partner – one of my college professors.

If I die of lung cancer, it’s because of the second-hand smoke from Cristo’s😊

I wondered, does Cristo’s still exist?

Kokomo Vaile.png

I drove down Vaile Avenue and spotted the old PPG (Pittsburg Plate Glass) plant.

Kokomo PPG.png

Cristo’s was located across from a factory, like most of similar establishments in Kokomo. We’re getting close now.

Kokomo Cristo's.png

This is, or was, it.

The building was in bad shape back then, so I’m not surprised that it’s gone. But what great memories!

Celebrate, Celebrate – Dance to the Music

I suddenly feel like dancing!!!

The Kokomo Tribune

After high school, I worked as a proofreader at the Kokomo Tribune – a building that took up an entire block after purchasing the building on the end that used to be a funeral home. I remember walking through the embalming room before the new purchase had been remodeled and integrated into the Tribune building. There were instruments hanging on the wall. SCARRY!!!

Kokomo Tribune.png

The Tribune was located across the street from one of my favorite places, the library, and believe it or not, I actually checked books out and read them in lulls when I wasn’t proofreading.

The old Carnegie Library was been replaced with a contemporary building in 1967.

Kokomo library.png

When I was 11, I was invited to display my salt and pepper shaker collection in the old library building, just before the new library opened. I was VERY excited, because the newspaper reporter came, took my picture and interviewed me!

When you’re 11, that’s a VERY big deal.

The Post Office building remains across the street from the Tribune, below. I worked there for a few months during the Christmas season one year, sorting bags and bags and bags of mail. I remember seeing the bag being set aside for a special delivery to Santa at the North Pole.

I laugh every time I see this building.

Kokomo post office.png

As teens, we could leave high school to eat lunch. One day on a lunch errand with two girlfriends for someone’s mother, we just happened to be following an old farmer wearing overalls up the steps into the Post Office when his suspenders snapped and his pants fell to the ground, around his ankles.

Quite startled, he tried to hobble up the stairs, but could not with his pants preventing him from walking or climbing stairs.

He had already seen us behind him.

He tried to hobble while attempting to pull his pants back up, but couldn’t do that either.

In the mean time, he dropped the mail he had been carrying. We wanted to help him, but couldn’t bring ourselves to approach him, in part, because we couldn’t control our laughter.

Even funnier were the boxer shorts he was wearing – with large red hearts.

We progressed from laughing to howling.

I can just hear him saying to his wife that he didn’t care, he wasn’t going to let a perfectly good pair of shorts go to waste.

Or, maybe, that was her saying that to him.

In any case, we laughed until we cried and couldn’t breathe. We sat down on the steps because we could not go inside and face him – after he finally GOT inside. Tears streamed down our faces.

Finally, we had composed ourselves at least somewhat, figuring he had exited out the door on the other side. I would have.

We continued up the steps and opened the door, only to run smack dab into him face-to-face.

He hurried out the door. We hurried in and the hilarity began all over again.

We noticed that the clerks didn’t need to ask why we were laughing and they were trying to compose themselves too.

It was a hopeless endeavor.

That poor man. I wonder if he ever told his wife.

I bet he threw those shorts away AND got new suspenders.

The Newspaper Route

College required lots of money, especially when you also have to pay for child care. In addition to my proofreading job, I needed extra income to make ends meet. My husband and I both decided to adopt a driving newspaper route. The routes paid fairly well and only required 2-3 extra hours per day, 7 days per week. The most difficult part was getting up extremely early to pick up your bundles of newspapers at 5 AM on weekends. The newspaper published in the evenings during the week, but in the morning on holidays and weekends.

Kokomo Tribute carrier.jpg

Originally, we shared one route, but eventually, we each had our own. We paid off our car loans, student loans and bought a house.

On Saturday, I would come back from delivering the papers to go to work proofreading for the Sunday paper.

Then, in an instant, life changed.

One October day during mid-terms in college, when the corn was full height but harvesting had not yet commenced, a woman ran a stop sign at a country crossroads.

Kokomo accident location 800W 500N.png

I couldn’t see that she was approaching the intersection due to the corn, and as I began to enter the intersection, she shot in front of me at high speed. I knew I was going to hit her, so I slammed on the brakes, threw the transmission into reverse to slow my speed as much as possible and then it happened.

BOOM!

I remember the impact and my car flipping end-over-end over her car, airborn, into this field. Again and again and again.

When my car finally landed, I was upside down and the front of the car had been crushed into me. I was hanging by my seatbelt with sheet metal and glass all around me. I drifted into and out of consciousness and vaguely remember seeing someone, who turned out to be the other driver, peering into the windshield – then screaming.

It was a pretty awful sight.

Suffice it to say that the neighbors who lived on the corner went to our church and called my parents who lived a few miles down the road. Next, I remember hearing my mother screaming. That would have woke the dead, believe me.

Thank God I had just left my son with Mom because he would have been killed. That was before the days of car seats and he played in the back of my Pinto wagon while I drove the route, delivering papers.

The neighbor had the presence of mind to take my son into the house so that he wouldn’t see me like that.

I survived, obviously, but that accident began a chain of events that would eventually lead to me leaving Kokomo – not immediately – but a few years later.

The butterfly effect.

Let’s talk about something else.

The Gas Tower

Every city has landmarks, and Kokomo was no different.

People could see the gas tower for miles in any direction.

Kokomo gas tower mom me.jpg

The tower was “always there” and for many years, I didn’t realize what it was. It looked like a trash can we had at home, so as a small child, I thought it was just a very large trash can.

Kokomo gas tower 2.jpg

The gas tower stored natural gas which had been discovered in the area in the 1880s. This gas boom encouraged industry and was directly responsible for Elwood Haynes establishing his automobile business in Kokomo.

The tower was constructed in 1954, 378 feet tall, storing 12 million cubic feet of gas.  Looking back, I realize it was a huge bomb just sitting there on the south side of town.

Eventually, maintenance costs became atrocious – $75,000 per year and a million for a paint job. In 2003, the tower was demolished, leaving a vacancy on the horizon.

I remember when I was about 10, my great-aunt visited. She wanted to see the town, so we drove around while Mom was at work and promptly got lost.

I had her pull over into a parking lot, and as soon as I could find the tower on the horizon, I could orient myself and knew how to get back to something familiar.

While everyone in Kokomo was familiar with the tower, I had never been in the old train depot before the reunion, at least not that I recall.

The Reunion

After changing into my “skinniest” clothes, it was time to join my classmates.

Kokomo Depot.jpg

The reunion itself was held in the old train depot, now a craft brewery, located on North Buckeye. I love the original bricks on Buckeye Street.

Kokomo Depot inside.jpg

The reunion consisted of buying a beverage and sitting on the patio. Given the informal nature of the event, people wandered in and out, and it was impossible to take a photo when everyone was present. Fortunately, we did have a photographer among us (whose name unfortunately escapes me.)

Kokomo reunion at depot.jpg

The less-formal environment was lovely. Clearly, the majority of the 300+ classmates didn’t attend.

I was initially surprised to discover that many of my classmates are retired, until I thought about the factories and remembered that they have 30-and-out retirement plans.

While going to college, obtaining degrees and “living the American dream” of business ownership seemed like a great idea at the time – it’s with no small amount of envy that I realize had I simply stayed in Kokomo and continued working at Chrysler, then I too would be retired today with a full pension.

There is no pension, ever, when you’re self-employed.

Of course, I clearly wouldn’t be writing this blog, or involved on the frontier of genetics – so only occasional tinges of regret about that road not taken.

Kokomo restaurant.jpg

The building across the street from the depot had been transformed into a beautiful restaurant. I would have eaten there, except I wanted either Pizza King pizza or Lord-Jon’s Tacos, or at least a close facsimile!

Unfortunately, Lord-Jon’s Tacos is gone, but Pizza King isn’t!

Kokomo Pizza King old.png

The Pizza King, an Indiana franchise, used to be located in this building on Phillips at Taylor. Mom and I used to order a pizza very occasionally for a special treat. Eddie, that boyfriend I mentioned, used to work here and he would call us if they had a pizza that was burned a bit or someone didn’t pick up their order.

Today, the Pizza King has moved across the street and down half a block into the building that used to be the old Hansel Coal Company that dated from the 1920s. No one has heated with coal in decades and I’m actually surprised that the building remains.

Kokomo Pizza King now.png

Unfortunately, they were closed and I didn’t get pizza after all☹

Kokomo Pizza King pizza.jpg

I grew up on Pizza King pizza, and like Lord-Jon’s Tacos and Ray’s tenderloins, this is the best pizza EVER!

The next morning, I would leave Kokomo for the last time – but I had one last thing to do first. The hardest part of all.

For the rest of this story, click here to read The Farewell Tour: The Morning After.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

 

Colorize Old Photos

I know this isn’t about DNA, but it is about ancestors and old photos. What’s not to love!

My friend sent me a link where you can upload an old photo and it’s colorized, for free. (Thanks Chris!)

I’m having so much fun, I just have to share with you.

https://colourise.sg/#colorize

The photo below is my Mom from during WWII. I think she looks a lot more real in the colorized version, at right.

Mom colorized.png

The technology works best with high resolution, in-focus photos. That doesn’t mean it won’t work with others and it’s free to try.

It works great with groups of people too. Here’s my Dad with my sister’s kids.

Dad colorized.png

Have fun!

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

A Heartfelt Thank You to a Wonderful Community!

In the past few days, I’ve had the honor of working with the family of Navajo Code Talker William Tully Brown to assure that he had the funeral he deserved which meant that funds needed to be raised quickly, using both GoFundMe and a Facebook Fundraiser.

This is not a solicitation, as those are both closed now, but something much different that will warm your heart.

A’hee’he, Thank You

Today, I want to say a huge thank you, from me and from Vee Browne-Yellowhair, the daughter of Navajo Code Talker, William Brown. In Navajo, A’hee’he means thank you.

William Brown thank you from Vee.png

Vee’s comment about “the scientists” is referring to many Family Tree DNA employees who contributed personally when they became aware of the circumstances, as well as the broader community. I explained to Vee that “the scientists” as well as others were rallying around her after her father’s passing, and indeed, so many people did.

As you know from my article a few days ago, William Brown passed away. Unfortunately, the family was unexpectedly short funds for the funeral. My family knows never to tell me you have a problem if you don’t want me solve it, so that’s what I set about to do.

In this case, the amazing genetic genealogy community came together to raise the needed funds in just over 24 hours.

I learned a lot about both GoFundMe and Facebook Fundraisers, neither of which I had ever set up before – but better yet, I learned a lot about the hearts of people – including perhaps you. Many contributors are my friends, family and followers and I was overwhelmed by their generosity, especially given what I know about some of their own circumstances. I shed many a tear as I saw the list of contributors. People from different countries, religions and walks of life.

I intentionally did not publish an article, nor did I invite any of my friends individually because I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or like they were being pressured. I posted the fundraisers on my own timeline, and thankfully, people began sharing. Not just sharing the link but contributing very generously.

  • The GoFundMe page had 928 shares, 72 donations and raised $3464.
  • The Facebook Fundraiser garnered 53 shares and 64 donations totaling $2319.

Both fundraisers have been discontinued. After the funeral yesterday, the family requested to turn the fundraisers off as they had at that time received the support they needed.

The family will receive all the funds less whatever small processing fees are withheld by GoFundMe and Facebook’s processing agents.

The Funeral Brochure

Today, Vee so kindly shared the brochure from the funeral and asked me to share with others, thinking those who contributed might appreciate a copy.

William Brown funeral brochure

William Brown funeral brochure 2

William’s Military Funeral

If you’d like to participate in William’s funeral virtually, Judge Sam Crowfoot videoed the military funeral and shared on his Facebook page, which I’ve shared publicly on mine. Thank you, Judge Crowfoot, for preserving this historic event for posterity and allowing us to participate. You can watch at the links below.

I must say, the service was perfect and beautiful in the lovely Arizona sunshine, the land that William loved with mountains in the distance.

I was incredibly impressed with William’s great-grandson and great-granddaughter, in uniform, both proudly following in his footsteps by serving in the military. William’s great-granddaughter read the poem in the funeral brochure written by her grandmother, William’s daughter, Vee, graveside. I’m sure William was smiling down, beaming with pride and showering love on all of his family.

Rest in Peace, William Tully Brown.

“You’ve reached your Rainbow.”

Veterans Benefits

Prior to this week, I didn’t have a reason to understand veterans’ burial benefits. I was surprised to learn that many people believe that the military or the government pays everything for a veteran’s funeral. The only way that happens is if the individual experiences a service-related death.

If you’re interested in the burial benefits for any veteran who does not die as a direct result of their service, you can read the government document here regarding burial compensation.

The burial benefit is much lower than I expected. For someone like Mr. Brown, it would be $300 in addition to a tombstone. He was buried in a military cemetery.

A friend recently received the $300 veteran’s burial benefit for her husband who was a military retiree after 22 years of service, but then was not able to collect his $250 Social Security benefit because she had received the $300 veteran’s benefit. Hardly fair, but it’s the sad reality.

A Pickle

No one ever wants to find themselves or their family in a pickle like this – and I’m extremely grateful to the genetic genealogy community for coming together and solving this problem.

The last few weeks in the genetic genealogy community have been difficult due to a chasmic divide that has generated lots of hurt feelings, but I was relieved to see many people sharing and giving without regard to those issues.

Perhaps this has been the beginning of healing.

It feels good to reach out and help others.

I realized by the end of the day, as I saw donations rolling in, that I felt better than I had in weeks. Perhaps William Brown’s legacy includes yet one more thing. 😊

Thank you everyone for all love, contributions and the respect shown to Veteran Brown and his family. Every bit helped!

You’re amazing!

A’hee’he

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Childhood Christmas Memories

This is the time of year, of course, that families gather.

But families change, sometimes slowly, and sometimes abruptly.

Slowly as babies are added, one by one and children grow.

And abruptly when people depart this earth, leaving behind that empty chair and its accompanying empty cavern in our hearts, having carved great gashes with the roughhewn saw of grief.

For some of us, when the here and now become a bit overwhelming, there is a happier place to visit in that space of our childhood. Those first Christmas memories when we dreamed all starry-eyed of what Santa would bring. No matter what was wrong, everything would be alright – because after all – Santa was coming and we had been (relatively) good.

Your Earliest Memories?

What are your earliest memories of Christmas?

Roberta second Christmas

I was too young to remember anything in this photo, but this is me in the first recorded Christmas photo at my grandmother’s house. This would have been my second Christmas and I was probably full of energy; bound and determined to get into that attractive distraction called a Christmas tree.

That’s my ornery brother, John on the right side of the photo, and my cousin, Mike on the left. Mike’s sister, Nancy is holding me. I wonder what was going on, because both boys are eyeing me askance. I do believe that’s called the “stink eye” and brothers excel at that!

Christmas Tree Special Delivery

At our house, Santa Claus also visited a week or two before Christmas and put up the Christmas tree. I waited daily, for days and days and DAYS until that fateful morning when Santa would have arrived secretly during the night. As I cracked the door open, the Christmas tree stood silently waiting with its lights twinkling and its tinsel gently swaying with the air currents in the living room.

I KNEW when Santa arrived one year, because I HEARD him. Not in the living room, mind you, but on the roof. I was just positive and sure enough, I discovered the next morning that he had in fact been there. If I ever doubted, I was convinced.

Roberta Christmas age 4

I do remember the Christmas in this picture when I was age 4. See that tiny piano against the wall – I LOVED that piano. I think I loved it so much that it disappeared or maybe I loved it to death!

My father was present that year, because I was holding his little dog, Timmy. Dad’s arrival, with Timmy, would have been the best present EVER. Kids are so exuberant.

My Dad bought that rocking chair for me and I still have it, although I clearly haven’t sat in it in decades. But my children did and bears with quilts do now too.

Roberta rocking chair

I also recall my absolutely favorite gift that year.

A drum.

Yes, that’s right, a tin marching drum. Somewhere I know there was a photo at one time, but that photo apparently disappeared.

I’m sure my mother wished she could have made that drum disappear too. I’m positive that my much-beloved father brought me said drum, because I’m equally as positive that my mother would NEVER have bought me that noisy thing. NEVER!

I distinctly remember proudly parading around the house in my new too-big brown bathrobe gleefully beating with all my strength on that drum, much to my mother’s chagrin.

Grandmother’s House

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go.

Our version was a tad bit different, but we did indeed go “home” to grandmother’s house every Christmas. For mom, Christmas wouldn’t have been Christmas otherwise.

As you can see, my brother was by that time a teenager and had begun to drive. He didn’t have much use for his pesky little sister.

Roberta Christmas age 4 grandmother's house

I don’t recall this particular day, or Christmas at my grandparents. Christmas, the holiday, was overshadowed by what followed.

My grandmother suffered a heart attack, collapsed on the floor and died just a few days later, on January 4th.

Roberta Christmas grandparents

This photo of my grandmother and grandfather, with Nancy’s son, Bruce was taken that Christmas. I notice that the photo was printed in July, and it must have pained my mother greatly to open that packet of photos when she picked them up at the drugstore.

My grandmother loved Christmas and the fact that her grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren were all gathered together at home. My mother inherited that from her as well.

I’m in the corner of a second very poor photo taken at this same time. I remember the throw on the back of the couch. I could put my fingers in the little inverted popcorn-like shapes. The couch was brown and made from scratchy rough fabric. It’s amazing the memories these photos trigger.

While I don’t specifically remember this Christmas, or any Christmas at my grandmother’s house, I do have very fond memories of my grandmother herself. In particular, she always ran to hug me.

I also have very vivid memories of the heart attack, her laying on the kitchen floor, and the aftermath. For a young child, it was a frightening time. Not only was something wrong with my beloved grandmother, but my mother and everyone else was a wreck too, and I didn’t understand why. My understanding of “sick” was that you threw up, and I kept looking at the floor for evidence of her being sick.

Sick meant something else altogether. Sick meant our life was about to change forever.

I’m glad we had that final Christmas together.

Suffice it to say, my mother was never really “alright” with Christmas again, although she made every effort to hide that fact from me.

Over time, as her grandchildren began to gather in her home as well, enough Christmases had been put between her and that devastating year that she could smile and sing again.

But that didn’t happen for a very long time.

Change Cometh

Christmas and our family traditions changed dramatically at that point in our lives.

I have only vague recollections of the next several Christmases. My grandfather was still living in December of 1960, but would have been ill in December of 1961. I remember that he asked for peanuts for snacks and I was so pleased to give him a can of peanuts. The kind with Mr. Peanut on the side.

My grandfather passed away in June of 1962 and by that December, the house my mother had grown up in had been sold. Mom took her portion of the inheritance and purchased a house. We moved in, you guessed it, on December 23rd.

I was in first or second grade that year, and I was quite worried that Santa wouldn’t be able to find us at our new house.

Would he know to come on the night of the 23rd to put the tree up?

Yes, mother asserted me, Santa was magical.

Would we have to do without a tree that year?

“No, of course not,” mother assured me.

I wasn’t very reassured.

Not only that, but I couldn’t sleep very well in my new bed in a strange new house and I heard a strange “rustling” in the living room, right beside my bedroom.

Sure enough, the next morning, Santa had somehow managed to find us and put up that tree among the boxes of our still-packed household.

What a sight, boxes and boxes and a fully decorated Christmas tree.

All was well in my young world again. My mother, however, was incredibly sleep-deprived for some reason. Apparently, she had been up waiting for Santa too!

Three Years Later

The next Christmas photo I have was taken three years later in 1965 sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace and the Christmas tree. In fact, there’s my rocking chair again.

I’m hugging my mom, who is dressed up for Christmas Eve, and my sister-in-law is to our right. My brother is partially visible behind her. They didn’t have children yet at this point, so it would have only been our small family gathered. My father had passed away the year before. I think my Mom’s boyfriend must have taken the photo.

Mom always decorated the fireplace mantle with the Christmas cards we received after faithfully writing any changed addresses on the Christmas card list.

Roberta Christmas age 9

At the time, I didn’t realize of course that my grandmother’s tree had merged with our own, but looking at our Christmas tree now, I realize that’s exactly what happened. Of course, today my tree and Mom’s have merged too.

The Ubiquitous Camera

In that day and age, photos were rarely taken and then only on very special occasions. It wasn’t unusual to go for years with no family photos and one roll of film often lasted several years. So long that you had no idea what photos were actually going to be printed.

The next Christmas photo was taken in 1970 when my mother just happened to have the flu on Christmas Day. She opened her packages laying on the couch. She’ll haunt me if I publish that one.

Roberta Christmas age 15

Grandchildren’s pictures are on the table, of course, with the ever-present Christmas candle choir in front. God help you if you decided to light one of those candles.

By this time, our tree was artificial but still dripping with tinsel. Artificial trees were so much easier. In fact, I think that tree itself was a gift one year.

I have several of these ornaments on my tree today.

This was the first year that Christmas photos were in color.

Roberta Christmas Snowball

What memories – the “record player,” our old television, the stuffed Santa that I still own and our rescued cat, Snowball. Um, now that I think about it, I might still own that record album too.

These photos sure bring back memories of what life was like then.

Roberta Christmas age 15 gifts.jpg

In case you’re wondering what the heck was in that huge package, I had saved my money for weeks to purchase Mom this “painting” at Woolworths. Did she want this? I have no idea, but it hung in her house for the next 25 years. I surely hope she liked it!

The small framed item was a print I had purchased in Paris as an exchange student. Mom had the set of prints framed for me. I still have those as well.

Of course today, we’re used to taking digital pictures with our cell phones and photos are just a daily fact of life. Instant gratification, no printing costs and delete them if they don’t turn out well.

Of course, finding them in another few years, or decades – well, that might be quite another matter because today’s photos aren’t printed and in most cases, aren’t archived either.

Poof, the phone or computer is gone and so are your photos.

What About Your Family Memories?

I bet by now you’re thinking about your own childhood Christmas photos.

  • Where were they taken?
  • Who was there?
  • What year was it?
  • What gifts did you give or receive?
  • Do items in the background jog any forgotten memories?
  • How did life change in the following years?
  • Was that photo of a first or last something?

The best thing you can do with your photos is to get them out of the box and share them with your family this Christmas, as you gather.

If you have siblings or older family members, ask them to share their memories with you.

As they tell their stories, write them down.

If you ARE that older family member now, share your memories with others. They might not appreciate them today, but they will be polite and humor you. (If they don’t, just cast that stink-eye in their direction – just like my brother did.)

Then, do them a favor – write down your memories. Include the photos.

Some day they will wish desperately that they had paid attention, and you can leave them the best gift of all!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Vote, Vote, VOTE!!!

I may be in Norway for this election, but I voted absentee before I left. That’s my ballot in the yellow envelope in my hand. Voting is a right far, far too critical for anything else to take precedence. Neither rain, nor snow, nor Oslo:)

It profoundly saddened me to walk beneath the flags at half-staff to honor the Jewish people slaughtered in Pittsburgh in order to cast my ballot, but it reminded me in dramatic fashion why voting is so incredibly important.

People Died for Your Right to Vote

February 3, 1870 – that’s the day that the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution guaranteed black people, people of mixed race, or people that had once been slaves the right to vote. Yes, every sort of intimidation tactic imaginable was used to prevent this body of Americans from voting.

This 1869 Thomas Nast cartoon shows everyone at the Thanksgiving dinner table portrayed as equals…well, except the women at the table still weren’t able to vote, nor would they be for another half century.

Why? People in charge were afraid of the outcome of how women or “people of color” might vote. They feared that the sheer number of “other” people’s votes would outnumber their own if those disenfranchised individuals were allowed to vote for representatives and policies that benefitted them. In other words, if everyone that was not a male of pure European descent were able to vote – the control that men of purely European descent exercised over women and everyone of mixed ethnicity would either be diminished or disappear entirely. You can read more about voting rights in America here.

When you discover that your ancestors with so much as “one drop” of non-European blood passed for white as soon as possible, and hid other lineages – this history might give you a clue as to why. Other terribly discriminatory laws and practices related to employment, property ownership and many other rights persisted until as late as 1965 and even though the laws became obsolete then, the practices did not. Even today, the political practice of gerrymandering routinely structures voting districts in a fashion to benefit some and disadvantage others.

Native American people and voting rights – that history is even worse. In order for the original disenfranchised inhabitants of this land to obtain the right to vote, they were required to give up their tribal lands beginning in 1887. However, their right to vote was consistently challenged. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 created to enforce the 14th and 15th constitutional amendments should have ended all controversy, but since then at least 74 lawsuits have been filed with the intention of disenfranchising Native American Voters.

August 26, 1920 – that’s the day in the US that the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution guaranteed women the right to vote.

If you think any of this came easy, it didn’t.

There were marches, protests, jailed protesters while picketing the White House, violence, beatings, lynchings and widespread intimidation. In fact, here’s a gallery of Suffragette prisoners.

If you get the feeling that voting rights are always at least marginally in some form of jeopardy, I’d have to agree. It seems there is always a group of people who would be all too happy to remove the right to vote from another group.

Disenfranchisement is still way too close in my family.

Neither of my grandmothers were allowed to vote until they were adults. Ollie Bolton would have been 44 in 1920 and Edith Lore, 32. I hope they both proudly voted.

My father wouldn’t have been allowed to vote, and neither would his Estes side of the family if the truth were known about their mixed race lineage. They were painfully aware of this situation. Neither would my mother’s grandfather’s line. He was mixed too.

That leaves just my paternal grandmother’s male line and my maternal grandfather’s Dutch and male German lines with the ability to vote. Of course, my Dutch great-grandfather was the immigrant who, ironically, arrived like so many others due to religious discrimination back home.

In other words, more than half of my tree was disenfranchised because they were women, and of the remainder, another half would have been prevented from voting because of their heritage. At one time, only white male property owners over the age of 21 could vote, on top of the other restrictions. More than 75% of my ancestors were disenfranchised one way or another, and that’s not counting the ones who were living in other countries or deported from Canada in 1755 because they were Catholic.

Historically, it seems that voting wasn’t really a right after all, but a privilege restricted to the while, land-owning elite. By and large, they intended to keep it that way too.

I have the ability to vote, thanks to a very long history of sacrifices, and it’s my responsibility to do so.

The Long Road

So here we are, 98 years after women obtained the right to vote, facing a difficult election.

The 2016 US election was the most contentious in living memory, at least in my life, with a very divisive outcome. The sitting president ascended to power not with the majority of popular votes, but with the votes of the electoral college. Translated, this means that based on political districts, in the US, one vote really does not equal one vote today because some districts have more electoral votes than others. You can read more about the electoral college and how it works here.

Regardless of whether we like the system we have in place today, regardless of who wins or loses, it’s what we have to work with. It’s incredibly important that everyone who has the right votes. Apathy is simply putting your future into the hands of the party that happens to get elected, without even so much as a peep out of you. My rule – if you don’t vote you don’t get to complain.

If everyone who didn’t vote in the last election HAD voted, then perhaps either there would have been a clear winner by popular vote (as well as electoral college,) or a different outcome might have occurred altogether.

If everyone who voted for a third-party candidate had voted for one of the two candidates who was going to win, again, either there might have been a clear popular winner, or a different winner. Either outcome, I think, would have been less divisive.

Voting rights were too difficult to obtain not to cherish and utilize them.

Everyone who descends from a Revolutionary War soldier is descended from someone who fought in order that they, and their descendants, would have voting rights, fair representation and a say in their own outcome.

Descended from slaves or Native Americans or soldiers who fought for the North during the (not so) Civil War? They voted with their blood for your right to cast a ballot today.

Family members who fought in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm or the military actions since? Those men and women are commanded by the President, a person voted into power through the votes of you and me.

Voting is the political Facebook. Talking isn’t enough. Nothing matters except for your vote.

People shed blood and died for your right to vote. Your ancestors may have given their lives or served their country in order to preserve that right. Our service members today are doing that very thing.

Honor them.

Vote like your life depends on it, because it may. The lives of our service men and women certainly do. The lives of your descendants will.

It’s your right and your responsibility.

November 6th, for the honor of your ancestors and hope for our collective future…

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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John McCain: Maverick

The last time I cried when a politician died was, well, never.

I feel for Senator McCain’s family of course, but my true grief is for the American people who so sorely need his leadership now…as he has slipped away from us.

Today, in Berlin, I stood in front of the American embassy and saw our flag, my flag, the flag John fought for, served for and nearly died for, at half staff as his body lie in state in Washington. Being so far from home, in a foreign country, standing on land that had once been held behind a wall by the Communist Party, I openly wept.

The Brandenburg Gate, standing beside the American Embassy, divided Berlin into communist East and free West and stands as a historical reminder of the grimness of division. Bullet holes are still in evidence on the columns, standing in silent testimony to those who sought to escape to freedom – and failed.

The remnants of the Berlin Wall stand as silent witness to what humanity can never allow to happen again. How did humans ever hate this much? Ever sanction those atrocities?

As the graffiti on the wall asks WHY, I too wonder why, and how this atrocity ever came to pass. Why didn’t someone, many someones, step up and stop this train before it became an avalanche.

I was sorely reminded of why we so desperately need John’s vision to unite. To refuse to hate simply because villianization is easy.

He respected those with whom he had political divisions – as he did President Barack Obama when John was questioned on the campaign trail about then-candidate Obama’s religious affiliation. The easy answer and easy road was never the path John selected by default.

We need what John stood for. His dignity, his statesmanship, his honor and humanity. John McCain was a Maverick alright, standing tall when others failed to do so.

We need heroes to look up to.

We need hope that we as a nation, can heal. John gave us that.

I didn’t always agree with John.

I didn’t always disagree with John.

I always respected John.

A prisoner of war who was willing to lay his life down for America, every single day for many, many years, through unrelenting torture that surely seemed unbearable, through disfigurement, throughout every humiliation he endured.

For you.

For me.

For all Americans, of every color, faith, gender and every combination of all of those.

We are all diminished by John’s passing.

In John’s final statement that would become his legacy beyond the fact that he asked both Republican and Democratic former Presidents to provide eulogies at his funeral, he said this to the American people:

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”

Now that John is gone, it’s up to all of us, personally, individually, to make it so.

Rest in Peace John McCain. You already saw Hell in Vietnam and deserve nothing less.

May each and every one of us carry your torch.

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Research

Facebook and Psychographic Warfare – You ARE the Product

And I thought the Equifax security breach last year was bad.

The situation exposed this past week with Facebook is not a breach, it’s intentional, has lasted for years and it’s called “psychographic research.” If you are a Facebook user, and what genealogist isn’t today, it has already affected, read targeted, you. Facebook intentionally collected and allowed the collection of various types of information from their user’s profiles that enabled “others” to construct an extremely accurate psychological personality profile for each Facebook user. Those profiles allowed bad actors to tailor content intended to manipulate each individual Facebook user for their own nefarious purposes.

Facebook exploited the trust of every single one of their 1.8 billion users. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Of those, 214 million are located in the US.

Most genealogists use Facebook routinely to maintain links to family, share photos and participate in various groups that support our genealogy addiction. Unfortunately, while Facebook users receive camaraderie and social media makes our world smaller – we have been being used as unwitting pawns in a heinous psychological experiment.

I’ve always said there is no such thing as “free,” and I know full well that Facebook supports the “free” platform with advertising revenue from advertisers hoping to reach people who like cats, for example, are in my age group or perhaps my geography. I never knew that they were stealthily gathering my information and selling it to unethical companies and organizations whose intention was to manipulate me psychologically and more specifically, attempting to manipulate my vote.

The full intention of these manipulators is to do whatever is necessary to mold your mind, including distribution of incorrect information, remaining blind to infiltration by “bots” and allowing Facebook users to be targeted with the intention of sewing divisiveness. As a result, we have the most polarized, hate-filled and divided country I’ve known in my lifetime.

This wasn’t an accidental security breach, nor even a security breach due to negligence. This was a planned act, sanctioned and even abetted by Facebook. They are complicit.

Without allowing this article to dip into the toxic brew of politics, suffice it to say that the intention of various “bad actors” was full well to sway our election and undermine our democratic system by whatever methods worked, regardless of ethics or morality, and Facebook was a full-on willing partner. User information was sold not just to the highest bidder, but every bidder, who just happen to be the devil(s) incarnate. Not one of the people who did this had “your” best interest at heart, which in and of itself is enough to tell me whatever they want is a bad idea.

What Happened?

If you’re unaware, please educate yourself on what has happened and fully understand that this DOES affect you. Even if you personally have never played a seemingly innocent Facebook game, like Farmville, or clicked on one of those “personality profiles,” “what is your movie star name” links or answered those “tell me 10 things about yourself” postings, one of your Facebook friends surely has…and your data has been collected and used both against you and the underpinnings of our very democracy. While I’m an American, there is evidence that these same shady characters were also involved with manipulating the highly volatile Brexit vote in the UK along with elections elsewhere in the world.

Even more unfortunate, many of the people on Facebook, especially those focused on genealogy, are of or near retirement age. 26% are age 55-64 and 21% are over 65. These people tend to be the most trusting, the least technologically savvy and the most likely to click on those fun links or answer those “20 questions” challenges posted by friends – never suspecting that they are exposing themselves to targeted psychological manipulation by people who are willing to pay to have their poison information planted in your newsfeed.

That total of 47% means that the private data of over 100 million US people of AARP age has been gathered. In 2017, the entire population of the US was 325 million, including children, so roughly 30% of the entire US population has been targeted and unknowingly manipulated by God-knows-who-all.

Think about this for a minute. Look at the things you’ve “Liked” on Facebook over the past few days. For me, it’s been cats, quilts, wildlife, photos, genetic genealogy, DNA articles and my friends and cousins’ feeds. To many Facebook users, a “like” is the online equivalent of waving at your neighbor when you see them drive by.

Nothing revealing in what I “liked”, you might say, but that’s not true. You can tell that I’m both empathetic and science focused. You can tell by looking at the race of my friends along with articles that I “like” that I’m certainly not prejudiced. Combine those things together, along with whatever else Facebook has collected by reading my posts and private messages, and you can easily tell what kinds of propaganda to plant in my news feed to upset me.

Think not?

Post just one article about animal abuse in my feed, and I’m on the phone calling someone to emphatically demand change. For example, the dog last week who died on a United Airlines flight. I’m certainly not flying United if I have any choice whatsoever.

Racism, discrimination, domestic violence or child abuse…same reaction. Now, do you still think you’re not predictable by the trail of psychological breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind?

Ever forward one of those, “If you love Jesus, you’ll forward this” pictures because you certainly didn’t want anyone to think you didn’t love Jesus, or felt obligated or guilty if you didn’t forward?  Well, you were psychologically manipulated and you just told the exploiters about your religious beliefs so you can be targeted and so can everyone of your downstream friends and family members.

Up until now, the viruses we worried about were viruses implanted on your computer.  What Facebook did was to pave the way for these exploiters to plant viruses in your brain without your knowledge.

Even worse, Facebook recently made changes in their algorithm to limit the things you see in your feed, and the ONLY way for you to increase the things you like to see is to “like” even more, or tag the page or account to “show first,” providing Facebook with even more information about you to sell to whomever.

I feel somewhat responsible at this point, because I wrote an article just 10 days ago telling you exactly how to do just that – never suspecting the clandestine information collection that was occurring, or why. So yes, I’ve been exploited too. And I’m furious.

If you thought “Big Brother” was the government all along, you’re wrong. It’s Facebook who will apparently sell to anyone including the devil himself.

Is Psychographic Profiling Accurate?

If you’re doubting the accuracy of psychographic profiling, as I was, take into account the compiled research information about Facebook “likes” by a grad student at Cambridge University. The inspiration for this whole debacle was inspired by this research which indicated that by gathering:

  • only 68 Facebook “likes,” your skin color could be predicted with 95% accuracy
  • 68 likes – your sexual orientation predicted with 85% accuracy
  • 70 likes – they would “know you” better than your friends
  • 150 likes – know you better than your parents
  • 300 likes – know you better than your partner

Massive surveillance designed to capitalize on your emotional and psychological vulnerabilities in the hands of those who do not have your best interest at heart.

Take this one step further and imagine that if it’s obvious that you are strongly opposed to sex trafficking of children, someone who wanted to deter you from voting for a particular candidate might make up a story about that candidate engaged in a sex ring trafficking children. Would you dislike that candidate? If you were on the fence, would it knock you right off? If your answer is yes, then psychographic profiling and manipulation worked. Does it matter whether the information is true? No, not as long as it works. A vote now is worth being caught in a lie later – or at least that’s the theory.

And we were worried about what our DNA might divulge. Absolutely nothing, comparatively speaking.

Educate Yourself

I’m listing a few articles here that describe, in horrifying detail, the inside workings of the stealth Facebook operations by shady operators and the companies, like Cambridge Analytica. They utilized harvested user data by collaborating with Facebook to control what users see and targeting users through their emotionally vulnerabilities. In other words, you were fed information specifically aimed at making you feel one way or another.

Former Facebook operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, yesterday, in a Newsweek article stated that most of Facebook’s users likely had their information acquired by companies exploiting the same terms and conditions that allowed Cambridge Analytica’s data gathering through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” While only 270,000 people had played that game on Facebook,” the data of over 50 million was collected from the friends (and friends of friends) of those 270,000 people through exposures exploited by that app with Facebook’s full knowledge and consent – in just 3 months time.

This is both terrifying and nauseating.

The NYT podcast is especially enlightening and explains the timeline and methodology of how a bright young man devised a methodology to harvest Facebook data with the explicit intention of influencing voting behavior to reshape American politics. Realizing his discoveries had become a monster out of control, he resigned in 2014. Now he has become the whistleblower that blew the lid off of this scandal of unprecedented scope and scale, a magnitude undreamed of…at least by most of us. This is the most detailed of all of the resources I’ve found and explains the path from what seemed a relatively innocent and interesting discovery initially to a weaponized massively deployed fear-based political exploitation tool just three years later.

Protect Yourself

Ok, now that you know what’s happening, what can you do?

Many people are leaving Facebook and deleting their accounts. The #DeleteFacebook movement is growing.

Be aware that this doesn’t mean that what you’ve already done is gone. Your postings and comments on people’s pages and in other groups will still exist. It’s just your own account that is removed. At least you can’t be manipulated by what is fed to you anymore, but you also won’t be able to connect with family members. For many, and especially older people, Facebook is where friends are and connections make people feel a lot less isolated, especially when mobility or distance is an issue.

Furthermore, the cow has already left the barn, and “they” already have a psychological profile of you, meaning whoever has gathered or purchased your data. Believing “they” will delete that information and never use it is foolhardy.

Yes, you can leave Facebook. That’s clearly the easiest and most direct approach and I’ll show you how to do that in the next section.

If you don’t want to leave Facebook, there are precautionary steps you can take.

First, stop interacting, meaning “liking” things. Yea, I know. Double edged sword.

Second, don’t take any quizzes or post any personal information, at all. Ever. There’s a reason why people with high level security clearances aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts.

Third, do not, EVER click on those “clickbait” things that give you something interesting for free. I don’t care how great you’ll look airbrushed and all glamoured up on the cover of a fashion magazine, and yes, my friend did look fantastic, BUT – DON’T DO IT! It’s an entryway for the rats. Same with “what would you look like as a woman?” or man, or bald, etc.

Ask yourself when you see something like this – why would someone want to give you something for “free?” Free is often a clandestine trap for the unsuspecting. The more interesting it looks, the more suspicious you should be.

Just. Don’t. Click.

Fourth, take steps through Facebook settings to protect yourself from application platform sharing. Of course, this does nothing to affect what Facebook itself is collecting in order to target you with focused ads. Ever wonder why something you googled outside of Facebook now appears in your Facebook ad feed almost immediately? It’s not coincidence. It’s your digital trail of breadcrumbs.

Here are some great articles about Facebook security and privacy, and how to shore yours up.

I strongly recommend the following FaceCrooks article that not only tells you what to do to protect yourself, but why.

Fifth – do not sign in to applications through Facebook, which provides your Facebook user data to that application, potentially exposing your friends’ data too. These articles explain how to get rid of those pesky apps, including an article by Facebook itself.

Strengthening or Deleting Your Account

I’m going to check my own privacy settings, so come along and then use this same technique to check your own.

Go to Settings by clicking on the down arrow on the top right of your blue bar. You’ll see a dropdown list that includes “Settings.”

Click on Settings.

If you are going to leave Facebook, you can download a copy of your data through the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” link, at the bottom of the list.

By clicking on “Manage Account,” you can delete your account.  Note that delete means permanently.

Don’t want to delete your account and leave Facebook?  Then let’s improve your privacy.

On the left hand side, click on “Privacy” which shows your various selections.  Lock this down to only your friends and allow “only me” to see your friends list.

Next, on the left hand sidebar, click on “Apps.” At the top, you’ll see which applications have access to your Facebook account. I didn’t think there would be any other than WeRelate, the Ancestry app, but I was wrong.

It appears that I have indeed logged into a few sites through Facebook.

Most of these I at least recognize, except one. Who the devil is Hub One and why are they in my account?

Clicking on the pencil icon by the app shows you your options, below.

Looking at what the apps have access to is enlightening. Apps have access to both my profile photo and other public profile information, plus my e-mail address.

Neither the link titled “Choose the Info This App Can Use” nor “Learn How Apps Can Use Your Info” tell me what this app is doing or even “who” this app is.  Both just link to an article. Not useful.

The “Remove Info Collected by the App” simply tells me to contact the developer by clicking the X in the bottom right corner after opening the app. Three strikes, Facebook.

I still don’t know who Hub One is, nor what they are doing, nor any way to find out what data they’ve collected. I couldn’t contact them if I wanted to, because I don’t know who they are.

I resorted to Google and discovered that a company called Hub One says they are a document management company, but Googling a little further, look what I found.

Interesting, a company that says they are an “integrator of mobile and tracking solutions for 4500 enterprises” shows up on my Facebook account and I have no idea why.

Of course, this might not be the same company. The logos don’t look the same, and I have absolutely no way to know. Facebook certainly isn’t telling.

Furthermore, how does one figure out HOW to contact the company that has weaseled their way into my Facebook account. Clearly Facebook knows, because they approved this app for their platform, but they aren’t divulging AND they are putting the onus back on you to figure out who they’ve allowed to weasel in.

Hub One, whoever you are, you’re gone!

I certainly don’t want Bing collecting data about me from Facebook either, which probably explains about those ads mysteriously appearing on Facebook right after I googled “witch costumes” for my granddaughter. To delete, I click on the little X by their app, then continue in the box in the corner.

I use Skype, but why would it want access to my Facebook account? Same question for Norton Safe Web.

Next, click on the square box labeled “Apps, Websites and Plugins.”

You can disable all of the applications. I would suggest doing so by clicking on the bottom right on “disable platform.” That means no application can interact with Facebook by effectively shutting the door entirely. If you’re a blogger, and your blogging platform interacts with your Facebook account to post, you might not want to do this.

Next, click on the square box “Apps Others Use.”

By now, it should be pretty obvious that you’re really only as safe as your most exposed friend – same concept as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

I suspect I’ve disabled some of these options in the past, but look at what’s exposed now. This is the data that can be (and probably has been) scraped from my account through the accounts of my friends who use those apps that allow me to be targeted.

Not anymore, they are all gone now. Don’t forget to “Save.” For some reason, I had to repeat this process two or three times to get it to “take,” so check your selections afterwards. I’ll be generous and call it a glitch or a bug and not cynically suggest that maybe Facebook is trying to retain my “open door” settings.

Dear Facebook

Bottom line.

There is no excuse. Period.

You knew and intentionally betrayed every single one of the people who trusted you by luring your subscribers into a false sense of security. You never told us that WE, our minds, are the commodity that you are selling. You never disclosed the truth. Your behavior is utterly reprehensible, especially given that your small act of contrition in your Facebook posting today only occurred after you were called onto the carpet, very publicly, years into this deceptive behavior.

Kind of reminds me of the unfaithful spouse who has been sleeping with half the town for several years. Finally caught, they’re very sorry, of course. Much like the betrayed spouse, I have lots of questions.

  • I want to know what has been harvested from me.
  • I want the history of what apps, if any, I interacted with, ever, that gathered or might have gathered my information. Don’t make me hunt for it like you made me hunt for the Russian bot information. Put it right there in my feed where I can’t miss it, you know, like you put the other articles you planted for me to read.
  • I want to know who exposed my data.
  • I want to know the identity of the apps on my account. You owe that much to your users, instead of making the victims attempt to figure out who that app is and how to contact them.
  • I want a list of which apps you’ve determined to be acceptable for any Facebook user, who they are and what they are really doing. I want full transparency. Now.
  • I want you to stop manipulating me either through ads or targeted psychological profiling as a result of surveillance designed to determine what to “serve” me in my newsfeed. Stop making me the unwilling victim in your information meat-market.
  • I want to know what you’re doing for your users to right this wrong?

Just like I used to tell my kids, remorse after getting caught isn’t remorse about your behavior, it’s only remorse that you got caught.

Kindergarten rules:

  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
  • Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.

I guess Facebook and their compatriots in this psychographic war have removed any question about integrity. Now all that’s left is the cleanup, or divorce, your choice.

As for genealogists, make your decision about Facebook. If you stay, spruce up your privacy, protect yourself and one way or another, continue with your valuable genealogical research.

Please feel free to share the link to this article with anyone; friends and family, groups, and especially any Facebook page!

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