Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Summer of Silliness

It occurred to me this morning that this summer, 2014, is truly the “Summer of Fun Filled Silliness.”  In the past month, I have had the pleasure of having my head shaved as part of a fundraiser for the Sherburne County History Center in Becker, Minnesota and I had the pleasure of playing a really bad, but historically accurate, game of baseball. 

I lost my hair when I challenged the Sherburne History Center group to raise $3000 and I would shave my head.  The early reactions to all of this included people asking about my sanity.  I received one particular e-mail that asked: “Are you in your right mind?”  Well, just call me baldy.

Last weekend, July 13, I had the good fortune to participate in a Vintage Baseball Game, playing by 1860s rules.  My wise brother has always maintained that Brubakers, especially me, we have no business participating in any type of athletic endeavor.  Well, he is right but I didn’t listen.  At my first at bat, I managed to hit a decent fly ball, just out of the reach of the shortstop.  I instantly discovered a significant genetic failure: Brubakers, especially me, we can’t run 90 feet.  I fell on my face about 20 feet short of first base.  Needless to say, I was out.  You won’t see any pictures of that fateful tumble, I have threatened the staff: if photos appear, I will fire them all!  But, there it is.

The County Fair is coming up.  I can’t wait to see what I tumble into next!

Here are photos of my beautiful bald head and my intimidating stance in the batter’s box.  If Babe Ruth were alive, no doubt he would be worried.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Revelations From Their Love Letters

Okay, we have already read about Mom and Dad’s first date.  After an evening of dancing, Dad asked Mom out on a date and then promptly stood her up.  Well, I have been reading some of Mom and Dad’s love letters they wrote to each other in the two years before they were married.  And some interesting details can be gleaned.
On June 24, 1953 Mom wrote to Dad that “last Saturday” was their sixth month anniversary.  By using a perpetual calendar, I can calculate that their first date was right around December, 20, 1952.  That would have been a Saturday.
Now, if you use a little conjecture and Mom’s recollections about how they met, then we can guess that they first went out dancing with a group around the first week of December.  Give Dad a week or two to stand up Mom and then regain her favor, and you have a first date on December 20, during the Christmas holidays.
As I read these letters I gain some new insight into Mom and Dad.  They have become more than these two people that worked so hard to give me a good life.  They enjoyed movies, going out, drinking beer, and sharing the company of each other.  They really had a beautiful life.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mom Was Hiding Her Talents

You've heard the cliché “don’t hide your talents under a bushel basket.”  As I am researching the Hislop line today, I am finding new and interesting details about the life of Mary Jane Hislop Brubaker.  As I search more and more, I am realizing that Mom really didn't say much about herself, or I wasn't listening.

The Ogden Standard Examiner newspaper in the 1930s and 40 covered the news and happenings of Huntsville, Utah and the Hislop clan showed up often.  In these pages and reports I am discovering that Mom was very active and very talented.

When she was about 12 years old, in the middle of the war years, Mom (along with every other woman and young girl in Huntsville) was volunteering for the war effort.  I've heard stories about the rationing and the recycling to provide material for the war effort.  But Mom didn't ever tell about baking cookies for the USO.  But on June 6, 1944 (a day no less important than D-Day) Mom and a group of young ladies are baking cookies.  The Standard Examiner reported that the “Primary girls of the LDS Huntsville ward baked 25 and one-half dozen cookies for the USO” during the day.  And, Mom was in the middle of it.  She was 12 years old at the time.

A few years later, when Mom was 16, there were regular reports of Mom entertaining at community programs as part of a violin duet.  I remember Mom telling us how she played the violin, and she made her children take violin lessons with the same instrument.  I also remember her talking about playing the organ.  But, who knew she had enough talent to perform in front of community groups?  Mom was hiding her talent.

And, more details are coming out with every search.  I just now found a news report dated 1937.  Mom was about 5 years old (17 October 1937) she broke her arm.  The Standard Examiner reported: “Jane Hislop, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hislop, is confined to her home today following a compound fracture of the arm.  She received the injury when she attempted to jump from a table.”  Okay, Mom’s talents did not include gymnastics, but as the research builds up, I am discovering a new person that I really didn't know.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A New View of Dad

There are so many records and documents available on the internet, it is amazing the new details about life that we can learn.

I found this photograph of Dad in a digital copy of his Nampa High School Yearbook.  This is dated 1946. Perhaps the most eye opening detail is that I don't think Dad ever mentioned that he was on the Student Council in High School.  I always thought of him as too introverted to be active in many groups.  But here he is.

According to the yearbook, the Student Council worked to raise money for a new piano for the school.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Family Health History

I was recently reading an article about hereditary diseases and I started to think about the multiple diseases I should be looking at in the Brubaker line of the family.  In his own history, in addition to the regular childhood diseases, Dad had whooping cough at about age five.  He suffered from diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.  He also suffered from heart disease that prevented him from having back surgery in his old age. 
The Parkinsons is an interesting consideration, because the verdict is still out on whether or not it is a hereditary disease.  In the case of the Brubaker’s: Dad had it, I think Uncle Jack and Uncle Bud had it.  I think Grandma Brubaker also suffered from it.  So what is going on?  One theory, the idea I like to call the “Pure Crapola, Theory” of Parkinsons is that maybe the family lived on farms and was exposed to multiple pesticides and fertilizers in their early lives.  The theory says this may have caused the Parkinsons.  I read about this theory in the Minnesota newspapers because there seems to be an increasing number of Parkinsons sufferers in the Upper Midwest.  This theory seems to be along the lines of when in doubt blame someone else for your troubles.  Anyway, that is all just rambling thought.
A point to consider is the heart condition of the Brubaker family.  It is not intended as some great compliment to say the Brubakers had great hearts.  The reality is that, although they may have suffered from heart disease, I don’t think any of them died from any type of heart disease.  Did they?
The point of all of this is that maybe we should be tracking diseases in the family.  It might help us in the future.  A new line of investigation in the family might be to record the diseases and the medical history of the family.  Maybe it will enlighten us in the future.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Photograph with Uncle Dean

After posting Uncle Dean's mission diary, it occurred to me that a photo of Dean might add something to the blog.  So, here is a photograph dated August 1985 with Dad and Mom, Mom's sister Allie, and Mom's brother, Uncle Dean.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Uncle Dean Hislop’s Mission Countdown

Another diary I received as a Xerox copy is (I think) from my uncle, Dean Hislop.  The first date of the diary is dated Monday, December 13, 1943.  I don’t know if this is the actual date or if this is simply a handy diary for Dean Hislop to use.  This appears to be a countdown of the missions flown by Dean Hislop in the European Theater during World War Two.  I hope you find this to be an interesting document as I provide transcripts from time to time.

“First Raid” Target—Bremen  Got up this morning at 2:30 had breakfast & went to briefing (.)  Got target, ship no., and position, which was 2nd in 1st element which was good (.)  Went out to ship & radio was out.  They put in new trans. but it didn’t work so took off without one (.)  Just at take off I noticed my gun was busted and it took me until we were almost to Germany to fix it, we went into the target over the north sea which made the Raid a 6 & ½ hour run (.)  We test fired our guns & all were working which made us feel good (.)  We encountered flack when we were over the target which was only about 5 min & not to(o) heavy (.)  Only half our bombs would release and we had to take them back to the north sea & drop them (.)  Going out P47 were with us all the way which was good (.)  Saw no enemy fighters(.)  …I had my face frost bitten, Reposh (?) got the back of his hands burnt (.)  Other than that all went well (.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Grandma’s Trip to New York

Some time ago I received a Xerox copy of a diary, the memoirs of “Mom’s Trip to New York.”  I don’t have any details about the trip.  Based on the content of the diary this was post World War Two.  It contains some interesting information.  I will let you draw your own conclusions, but the personality of Ruth Harmon Brubaker comes through in this diary.  Over time, I hope to provide more and more of the transcripts of  this trip.  And I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Left home wed. nite at 9:30—Some send off too—it was swell.  Went right to sleep and had a nice restful day.  Will get into Laramie at 4:30—We have swell friends, haven’t we?  & swell family.  Thurs. –8 o’clock: Dad got on the train and its sort of nice to have him—he’s going clear to Omaha.  He managed to get a double berth and we had a nice supper in the diner—we are sure traveling fast—will cross the whole state of Nebr. in the nite.  Get into Omaha at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning. 

Well, here I am on the train for Chicago—this is a swell coach—You can ride anything here abouts on a pass—never had a bit of trouble—I’ll get into Chicago at 11:30 8.  This train really travels--& pretty smooth too.  I’ll eat my lunch and eat a meal in the diner tonight.  I sort of crave coffee—our breakfast cost $1.25 per—our dinner last nite $1.65 per.

We are going thru a town named Missouri Valley that just had a real flood—I see chicken houses & sheds flipped over & great fields of corn about 8 inches high—just drowned—I hope the road bed is o.k.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Few Quick Words on Name Changes

                       Recently I have had several discussions about name changes taking place as immigrants enter the United States through Ellis Island.  Let’s bottom line this: it didn’t happen.  The Immigration Service maintained a staff of bilingual clerks at Ellis Island in order to accurately record the names of immigrants as they passed through the various check points.  In addition, ship Captains kept a very accurate passenger list or manifest with the names of passengers.

After immigrants entered the country, it is very likely they may have anglicized or simply changed their names.  A case in point here is Sherburne County is the man who decided there were too many Andersons in the area.  He went through the county court and legally changed his name.  Later his son went through the same process because the son was born before the name change and so also had to legally change his last name to fit the new name of his father.

Furthermore, don’t let a different spelling of a last name discourage your family history research.  I don’t know who said it first, the quote has been credited to Mark Twain, or Benjamin Franklin and a host of other men, but it is worth remembering (and forgive the paraphrase):  A man who spells his name only one way is obviously not a gentleman.

In the case of Brubaker, I was recently introduced to an alternate spelling of “Brubacher” in the 1850s.  I guess the family is slowly working itself towards the title of Gentleman.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dad’s Lunch Box

Dad worked for 40 years for the Union Pacific Railroad.  Each day he would line this lunch box with wax paper, make a sandwich, bag up some potato chips, and a twinkie or a Ding Dong.  On a good day he would make the sandwich of egg salad, or possibly tuna.  On a busy day, when he didn’t have the time to make a sandwich, it was bologna with mustard on white bread.

He would always go to work with his lunch bucket in his hand, wearing blue coveralls, and carry a coat, mittens, and lantern.  The mittens were heavy duty things.  I think one pair probably lasted several years.  He always maintained that with mittens you could move your fingers around and keep them warm.  So he always wore mittens.

That will always be Dad.

This lunch box is the ultimate image of Dad working on the railroad.  When he retired he wanted to drive over it with his truck and flatten it.  I begged him not to do it.  I’m glad he didn’t. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Value of Maps

Just recently I was evaluating the value of maps in family history research.  As part of a program, I reflected on a story Dad used to tell:

His grandparents, John H. Brubaker and Ellen Tiernan owned land in western Nebraska.  The farmers and ranchers in the area had decided that they would collectively pay for a school teacher.  A school house was built nearby and all of the children were sent.  The Brubakers had three sons, all very handsome and charismatic.  According to Dad, for three years in a row, the school had to hire a new teacher because each woman that came out to teach would inevitably marry a Brubaker boy.

Until recently, I had never given much credibility to this story.  But, I was able to visit Alliance, Nebraska.  The museum there is really quite nice.  Inside the museum/archives in Alliance I encountered a plat map of the area.  There on the map was my grandfather’s land.  And just south and west of his land was a school house!  Maybe Dad’s story is not such a stretch after all.

Here is a copy of the map.  You can make up your own mind.  Regardless of the veracity of the story, the discovery on this map was exciting.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jane Hislop Brubaker--Growing Up in Huntsville

Another bit of oral history from Jane Hislop Brubaker.  “Daddy” is Charles Henry Hislop and “Mama” is Mabel Hislop.  These are some of Jane’s earliest memories of growing up during the Depression in the 1930s

Daddy was a sheep-herder until ’35. I was about three years old when he came home. He was sick. And the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him. Anyway, he came home, and he was home for a couple of years.  We didn’t have anything, because Daddy was sick and Mama bought some chickens. She rented a chicken coop when we were there, in back of the house. We raised chickens, but then one day the chicken coop caught on fire and all the chickens burned up.

We didn’t have anything when Daddy was sick. We were really poor. But he had, Daddy had, he was so tired all the time, and he just didn’t have any energy. We went to the doctor, and the doctor said it was his teeth. His teeth were rotten. They might have been. But anyway, they pulled all his teeth. He was still sick. So one of his friends came over and made him go to a different doctor. And he went to that doctor and he had Anemia.  So they put him on iron pills and he got better. But he was really, really sick for four or five years there.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mom and Dad's First Date

This was edited from an oral history I collected from Mom (Jane Hislop Brubaker) in 2008.  Mom’s birthday is coming up, she would have been 82 years old.  I’m posting this because I am thinking of both her and Dad.  Happy Birthday Mom.
We had a party one night. We decided to have a party at one of the girls’ homes, but we didn’t have any men to invite, because we didn’t know any. So Mary Marvella brought over all these boys from Nampa. Which, Eddie was one of them. We went to a bar. I remember we were dancing. I mean, we were there, and everybody started dancing except I wasn’t dancing. And here comes Eddie and says, “Dance with me.” So I said OK, and I danced with him. And then he spun me around, and when I got back around I couldn’t find him. I’ll never forget that. He had a coat rack in his arms. And he was dancing with that and he said, “Oh, Janie.  Janie, you’ve lost so much weight.” And I thought, “Oh, God, how funny a guy he is!” That’s how I met him.
After that, well, I didn’t see him again for a long time. And then instead of Eddie calling me, Willy Marvella called me and asked me to go out.
Finally Eddie called me one night and asked me to go out with him. And I said, yeah, I would. But guess what? He never showed. He stood me up!  He didn’t show that first time. And the second time he called me, he asked me to go out with him, and I went. He told me that he had to be home because his brother Pat came to town. And he was in service, I think, or something.  I didn’t put up a fight with him or nothing. I just said yes. And he showed. I don’t remember where we went. 

Mom, I think all five of your children are glad you gave Dad a second chance at a date!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Some Insight Into Immigration

I am reading the Vilhelm Moberg series: The Emigrant Novels.  He provides an interesting perspective on the push/pull forces the drive so much of immigration to the United States.  In his historic novels we have eight characters that for a variety of reasons immigrate to the United States from Sweden.  We have the farmer looking for more, better farm land; his wife who is running from the emotional trauma of losing a child during the starvation times.  We also have the two young men who are running away from their labor contracts with a cruel farmer.  In the novel there is also the group seeking religious freedom, and the woman who is a social outcast with her illegitimate, teenage daughter.  And, finally we cannot forget the man who hates his wife and is fleeing an unhappy marriage “after the children have grown.”

All of these characters are moving to the United States seeking a better life.  But each of them illustrates a different personal reason that either pulls them to immigrate, or pushes them out of Sweden.

Moberg originally published this series in the 1940s and 1950s.  There are four volumes.  He is rich in detail and creates a set of unique and entertaining characters.  The books are very readable, but more importantly, they seem to be well researched and, although historic fiction, they are accurate.  The push pull factors are not the only memorable details of this story.  They are simply the first of many that slowly are emerging from these pages.

Yes, the books are somewhat old, written more than 60 years ago.  But the story line and the messages presented here are worth visiting.  We will visit Moberg again as the story unfolds.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Some Memories About Growing During the Depression

Watching a train with some coal cars pass by the other day I remembered a story Dad used to tell about growing up during the Depression of the 1930s.  Dad was born in 1928, so he was maybe 8 years old when he did this:  In order to heat the house in Idaho, the kids in the neighborhood would listen for the trains to travel by.  As the train would lumber by, the kids would throw rocks at the locomotive and the cars.  In response, the engineer and the fireman would throw wood or coal, whichever they were burning, back at the kids.  The kids would then gather up all of the coal and wood to take home and burn in the stoves or furnaces.  There was never anything malicious about this daily event.  Everyone, the trainmen and the children, understood that this was a way to help everyone in the neighborhood.  Afterall, the entire country was suffering from the depression, this was simply an informal way to give to the less fortunate in the community; to provide a free resource to heat their homes.

Still, another way to heat the house, a man in the neighborhood went to every house and explained how to by-pass the gas meter. Then when the gas reader came by to read the meter, one neighbor would stall him while the rest of the neighborhood removed the evidence of the by-pass.  Dad remembered that the man that introduced all of this went to jail.  But the rest of the neighborhood continued to survive.

The lesson in all of this is that the community worked together for the survival of all.  There was no “survival of the fittest” mentality.  It was more of a “we’re all in this together” concept.

We hear about the depression era mentality when then generation of Americans hate to waste anything.  I also wonder if there isn’t a greater sense of charity and compassion in that same generation because they all grew up working together to insure the well being of everyone in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review of Northern Slave Black Dakota by Walt Bachman

The Sherburne History Center is hosting a monthly book club. As we read the books for the club, I will try to post some thoughts about the book. This coming month, in March, we are discussing Northern Slave Black Dakota The Life and Times of Joseph Godfrey by Walt Bachman.

Walt Bachman presents some interesting ideas with this book. Perhaps the most startling of his many thoughts concerns the treatment of blacks in Minnesota before the Civil War. We all know from high school history that Minnesota was part of the Northwest Ordinance and therefore slavery was outlawed. Bachman makes the point that just because it is illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Joseph Godfrey, the focus of this book, was a slave in Minnesota until he escaped and lived with the Dakota Native American group. Although this seems to be common sense after all Dred Scott was a slave in Minnesota and inspired the 1850s lawsuit. But Bachman, in this book brings home the point very well. To further reinforce this, he makes the point that Godfrey was in fear of his freedom beyond 1862! And because he participated in the Dakota Uprising he was imprisoned until 1867.

Also interesting is the point made by Bachman that Joseph Godfrey is neither a free Minnesotan, nor is he truly Dakota. Joseph Godfrey doesn't belong; he is alone in the world. And his story is a tale of one man simply trying to survive in spite of impossible circumstances.

There are some interesting ideas and thoughts in these pages. The author challenges us to rethink our history and possibly reconsider some of what we have learned.

Published in 2013, this book is a fascinating bit of research. Although a bit difficult to obtain, and expensive, if you can borrow this book from a library, or a friend, it is well worth the read. The cover price is $34.95 for the hardback copy. Many friends regard me as overly frugal. I generally don’t spend more than $20 on a book. The publisher needs to bring the price of this book down.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hi, I am back again

Well, it has been almost two years since I last posted anything.  I hope to resume posting on a regular basis.  I guess, I'm back!