Sunday, 31 July 2011

Oklahoma City

Given that I spent the first 35 years of my life in Oklahoma City, it goes without saying that I had a number of people to see while we were in town.  On the other hand, not a huge number of people have bothered to stay in touch these past 20 years.  I do what I can, they do what they can, but life is busy these days, right?   Knowing that I don't have the stamina I once did, I was fairly select in the people I made 'dates' with.  I aimed for one, maybe two a day, thinking I'd have loads of time to do some shopping, see some sights, run errands, etc.  The energy and initiative was entirely sapped by the toothache and nothing extra went on. 

Somehow, in spite of all that, I managed to visit with people and we talked.  I visited my cousin Mona at her daughter Joanne's house.   Between that visit and today, Mona spent 12 days in hospital with all sorts of ups and downs from treatment of an infection.  Thankfully she's home again, but every time I'm with her I can't help be aware that it might be the last time; then again we could say that about almost anyone, couldn't we?

We stayed a couple of nights at Don and Doris's house and Doris and I had loads to catch up on.   Don and Doris have known me since I was a teenager; they are almost like second parents to me.  They even call me one of their kids!

They invited several old friends for dinner and we all talked for ages.  I played my first checkers game in probably 40 years with Brooklyn, Doris's adorable great-granddaughter.

We went over and had a lovely lunch at Rick and Joanne's house.  If you read this blog very much, you'll have 'met' Rick and Jo before.   We recently got to watch them on American RVer's 'Friends across America' (Webisode 61: July 2011).  I've known Joanne since the 1980s when we worked together.

The next place we stayed (after the "Homeless Shelter" on 39th Expressway) was at Jan and Jerry's house up in Edmond, but I'll tell you about that later.

For now I want to show you the quilt that my Aunt Rita made for Belmont and Mona, for - I think - their 70th wedding anniversary.   Rita took photos of their life together and had them printed on squares of fabric incorporated into the quilt.  It now has pride of place in Mona's bedroom.

I know Rita would be pleased to know that.

Also, you should meet Buddy Joe and Bridgit Jeane, Bill's two new best friends.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Coal County - Day Two and a Half

Sunday morning we did two things:  go spy on the Lehigh Merchant's Bank and visit the "Dead Centre of Town": 

what Bill can't resist calling the local cemetery... every... single... time we pass one - I'm glad he enjoys himself, aren't you?

We walked all the rows and columns of the section that the genealogical society's records indicated - the top left corner was easy enough to identify.  It was to the left of where the road ran out into ... nowhere. 

However, the only grave we found was for two infant deaths in the early 1900s, the earliest of the graves we expected to find; and it was in the next section over.  

Given it was in such good shape, I was sure more recent ones would be also, but we couldn't find them. 

Mind, it was around noon and the temperature was in the high 90s; I could feel my blue-white skin pinkening (but it didn't, really; for one so fair my skin is amazingly resistant).  We'll have to tackle that project another time, armed with sunscreen and better info.

When I said we 'spied' on the Lehigh Merchant's Bank, you'll see it was an apt description of our activity.   

What else is there to do when the object of your desire is locked up practically out in the middle of nowhere.

There were some houses around, but none at which I cared to go knock on the door and make inquiries.  Just call me a chicken, but sometimes I think folks who live way out in the boonies like this maybe don't really like other people very much.

That's just a supposition on my part, mind.  

What I can tell you for certain is that this bank has murals painted on the wall,

a large suspended ceiling fan,

stairs leading up to the next floor,

decorative metal work around the entrance and a beaten metal ceiling (silver-coloured, but surely not silver).  

One day, I hope to go inside and see it for real.

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I guess 'Boyz' just wanna have fu-un...

We passed the Coal Miners' museum again in Coalgate on our way to Oklahoma City. There was a guy sitting on the front porch. Turns out a bike tour was passing through and they would stop for lunch there. The man was guarding the food until the ladies came along to open the building. Sadly, we were expected in OKC and so couldn't wait a couple of hours for that.

We'll definitely have to schedule those delights for our next trip to Lehigh.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Coal County, Oklahoma - Day Two

We only had another day and a half to spend in Coal County before the schedule said we had to be in Oklahoma City.  My list included a trip a few miles north to Cottonwood.  Talking about life in Lehigh, Mom's cousin John Jr, had told me his father (that's the big land-owner) always had time to go up to Cottonwood and chat with the old men there.  

The Cottonwood General Store

When we arrived, there was in fact an old man out in the heat of the day with his dog.  The dog perversely seemed to want to cross which ever road we were trying to drive on. I was committed to avoiding the dog, but the man seemed annoyed that we were taking up space in his little town and I wasn't brave enough to roll down my window and speak to him, not that I had anything to say (other than would he please get control of his dog.) 

We turned the car around very carefully headed right back to Coalgate, but I did manage to snap this photo of the Cottonwood General Store.  That's what says it right there on the window, partially obscured by...plants. I imagined John Sr rocking with the town's old men on the porch of this place. I have a pretty good imagination, don't I?  We left the dog barking up a tree; I hope he was happy.

When John Jr, or more rightly his daughter Colleen, gave me the photo of Patrick at his mine, we were told he owned this mine.  We four cousins have often pondered how a person could go from being a lowly miner in Scotland to being an owner in Oklahoma and it's a mystery that remains today.  

It so happens that the Oklahoma Historical Preservation Society did a review of old mines and included the location details for these, which included the Shamrock (isn't the internet wonderful?).  

See that hill?  Bill says that's old mine tailings... 

Just like we had hunted down and found the likely place that these same ancestors had lived in Dalry, Scotland, we thought we'd look for Shamrock Mine. 

My rules were No Trespassing and No Wading in Grass More than Ankle High; I remember insects and snakes from my childhood. Also we were looking for a pit mine. I had a mental picture of Bill falling down a great hole and me trying to figure out how to get a British mobile to ring who knows where for help. So we only got a lot of very general photos, unlike those in Dalry.

It's a good thing that Bill likes doing this sort of thing. Being involved in town planning / real estate / surveying / building assessments and all sorts in his first career, he has loads of useful knowledge. We both like a puzzle to solve as well. 

I enjoyed the driving around (as much as I could with a toothache) for reasons other than finding a specific plot of land.  I discovered that SE Oklahoma was pretty in its own way.  

Also, though there were some older run down houses around Lehigh, there were also fairly prosperous looking cattle ranches and farm houses.    I was delighted to see what looked like Scottish thistles.  Also, Black Eyed Susans and Daylilies are flowers I associate with my Mom, who will have spent her early childhood in this area, where her parents met and married.  She always had a large bed of Daylilies in her back garden (the leaves make great rooster-tails) and the Blackeyed Susans are one of the first flowers for which I learned the name.  I was probably just delirious with fever or something, but between those and the Scottish Thistles, I practically felt my ancestors were speaking to me.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Coal County, Oklahoma - Day One

Bill adores Small Town America.  Rather than drive the Interstate, he'd far rather meander through every small town along the way.  I normally hate this, time and money being limited and having Things to Do.  This trip, post retirement, was a bit different.  There were financial limitations, sure, but not so much time constraint, having scheduled for said meandering.

In this case, I was the one wanting to visit Small Town America:  Lehigh, Oklahoma, where my Mom was born.  It's in the aptly-named Coal County, with Coalgate as the county seat.  I'd been to Lehigh once briefly but had no time to wander and no plan about what to find.  This time I had a plan. 

We stayed at a Best Western in town about 10 miles south of Lehigh, called Atoka.   That was the only place to stay that Bill could find on the internet; turns out there were many other choices but they haven't all discovered the web yet. 

We obviously were in a good neighbourhood out there on highway 75:  look at our neighbours.

Here I will put in a plug for the Coal County Genealogical Society  (CCGS), not that you need to know about them specifically.  

There is a limit to what can be found on, impressive as it is.  At some point local knowledge is needed and that's where your county historical or genealogical society is at their best.  For $15 a year, CCGS send me a fat newsletter several times a year.  For a donation they'll look up various pieces of information they have on hand, such as the school census records (1918-1968), naturalisation records, baptismal records, and the like. 

Now, Lehigh is practically - but not quite - a ghost town.  In the Census of 2000, the population of this 1.6 square mile town was only 315; back in 1910 there were over 3,000 people there.  The railroads and the coal mining were active back then, with coal production at its peak around 1915. 

So, what did we find to do?   First we (obviously) visited the CCGS, housed in the Coalgate library.  There I found adverts placed in the 1918 Coalgate High School yearbook by my great-grand uncle Charles, originally from Dalry in Scotland near Glasgow.  I found out that he and his brother-in-law, my great-grandfather Patrick, had a hardware store together there in Coalgate. 

Bill reckons this red and white brick building is likely that old hardward store.

Also that Patrick was listed in the Oklahoma Mining Board's Registry; he was a Pit Boss (foreman). 

Great-grandfather Patrick and his crew.

He took his license at age 60 in 1915.  The photograph above was given to me a couple of years ago when we visited another branch of this family in Michigan.

Another grand-uncle on the other side, Atmer, was a Hoisting Engineer (licensed 1920, age 24). 

We also looked through the naturalisation register to see where various ancestors had legally changed their alligiance in the early 1890's.  Queen Victoria's loss, eh?  I bought two heavy volumes of Coal County history which listed some information about my family members who immigrated to Oklahoma from Scotland in the 1880's as well as loads of other information about the county in general.

One of the Coal County history books mentioned that Patrick started the first brickworks in the area, so I took notice of a newspaper article that talked about the town's first brick building (no longer there) and - as Bill pointed it out - the brick road in Coalgate.

Sadly the Coal Miners' museum was not open (museums in small towns often are only open if you can find someone with a key, or call ahead). Vernell, from CCGS, had a key and offered to let us in, but we only had a few hours and the County Courthouse was a higher priority. I hope to go back to the museum one day. Oh yes, Lehigh / Coalgate is going to be visited almost as many times as we've been to Barcelona, Prague or Paris.  We'll have to get some bumper stickers along these lines:

Anyhow, we went over to the County Courthouse and were shown the ledgers of land purchases.  What we found amazed us:  beginning in the early 1900's through the 1940's virtually every page had a listing for one or other of my paternal grandparent's family.  Not that I was in line to inherit.  It was just exciting to see how well my great-uncle John and others prospered.  A very rough estimate suggests he bought around 670 acres, but we've not double checked that. 

You haven't lived until you've had someone read out the details of a piece of land:  the SE quarter of the SW quarter of the NW [giggle] quarter and the East half of the NW quarter [more giggles] of the SW quarter of Section 23, Township 1S, Range 9E.  (I didn't make that up; Bill found those descriptions very amusing.)  Think of an Excel spreadsheet with the townships instead of columns and the ranges instead of rows; each (township) square has 36 sections and each section is a square mile, or 640 acres. 

We were there til the Courthouse closed. It was the highlight of the Coal County trip for me, those land records. It meant that moving all the way from Ireland to Scotland to Oklahoma, leaving behind family, friends and homeland, had paid off for them. 

I just love stories with a happy ending.  Don't you?

Monday, 25 July 2011

Bernard's Birthday

Once again, 25 July has rolled around and so I will tell you a bit more about my Uncle Bernard.  It seems really appropriate to talk about him, not just because today is his birthday, but because he was born in Lehigh, Oklahoma, just like my Mom and her father.  And we're going to Lehigh next, aren't you excited!?

Thanks to I am able at times to reach back into the past and find pieces of the puzzle that was the life of my ancestors and family members before I was born.  For example, in the Shreveport, Louisiana phone book for 1938, Bernard is listed as living at 1810 Cresswell.  His occupation is a salesman; he will have been 18 years old.  What he sold, I don't know.  That was also Grandmother's address.  Her beauty shop - her life long occupation so far as I know - was on 444 Olive in Shreveport.

Interestingly, that is also the occupation and address given for his brother-in-law, William, Mom's first husband.  So Mom and her first husband lived with Bernard and Grandmother back in 1938. 

In 1937, Mom and William had an apartment of their own and Bernard was a salesman living with Grandmother.

In 1939, Mom had her maiden name again, manager of Grandmother's Beauty shop and it was now located at 130 Lister, which was also their home address.  Bernard was still a salesman.

I often heard about the beauty shop on Olive, but never the specific address.  And of course with Google maps, I can 'go' look at those places.  How cool is that? 

Happy birthday to Bernard!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Year of Style - July

This month's theme is 'Summer Chic'.  I would be in heaven if I had chic any time of year, but for some of us, summer is an especially difficult time.  So here are my favourite of Frederic's hints:

Think about getting a great wash-and-wear cut.  He says that this is the definition of a really good haircut, actually, that it doesn't need much styling at all.  Can't say I've had that many of these, can you?

Got a new haircut and hate it?  Change the color of your lipstick.  A brighter shade will bring out the character of your face and make the cut less important.  Thankfully, I've not had very many of these either.  That said, perhaps this is the trick when I'm long overdue for a cut...

Keep a pair of scissors in your glove compartment to cut wildflowers along the roadside (but be sure to leave some for others).  I have a fat picture of me telling Bill to pull over so I can cut some flowers, but it's a lovely idea all the same.  Maybe you still have a car...not that I really miss it that much.  Mind, since reading this I've been eyeing some of the weeds I pass on my walks!

Grow basil in a pot all summer long by keeping it on a sunny windowsill and watering it often.   When we were visiting Norma I had to admire to beautiful purple basil plant out on her deck. 

When the temperature rises, simplify, simplify.  You don't have to get 'dressed up' to have style.  Some of the best style advice I've seen is from the Small Notebook, her three piece ruleBrilliantly simple.

Make Turkish-style grilled chicken, marinated in yogurt and fresh cumin seeds.  I wonder if old cumin seeds would suffice?

Make Moroccan iced tea by mixing mint tea with orange juice; serve over ice and use orange slices for garnish.  Norma told me one of her favourite drinks was an 'Arnie Palmer':  half iced tea, half lemonade.  Bill's always turned his nose up at iced tea, but our welcome basket in California included bottles of cool green tea and all the sudden he's a convert.    Yea!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

July in Retrospect

We're going to take a short break here before we continue on to the next thrilling location in our holiday to publish some July-specific posts.  We will return in just a moment to our regularly scheduled programme...or are these the regularly scheduled programme?  Never mind, just read on...

Are we ever creatures of habit!  I've just realised that we've been on holiday during July in the previous three years.  We would have been again, but for needing to be here for the race.  [It went very well, by the way, with 19 teams instead of the 8 we had the previous year, and - on paper anyhow - we made a small profit.  I think it will continue to grow.]

This is the year in which Bill turned 60.  He celebrated by inviting 11 friends and family members (from the UK and Australia) to join in on an RV tour of Route 66 and other cool places in the US he wanted to show them.  I spent the first week of this holiday in Oklahoma City dealing with family stuff to do with the death of my Aunt Rita in October 2007.  On the whole, unless you hope to recreate this epic journey, I recommend you just look at the pictures.



Friday, 22 July 2011

Claremont Metro Station

The last thing Sandra and John took us to see was very nearly my favourite place of all, for several reasons.  It was beautiful,

it was historical - built in 1927 (the interwar period!) and it had to do with travelling by train!

Claremont Metro Station just took my breath away!

Apparently this decorative style is called 'churrigueresque', which is 'Spanish baroque'.   I think it is absolutely gorgeous, in small doses, just like they used it here.

I've not figured it out, but apparently one can get to the airport in LA via

 not to mention the Pacific Ocean.  Definitely worth exploring further, I think!

I was quite sad to be leaving the next day by plane to Dallas.

Sad to be leaving Sandra and John, sad to be going by plane and not train.

However, we had a schedule to keep.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

More around Claremont

So, what else did we do while we were visiting Sandra and John? 

One day we drove up around Rancho Cucamonga and they showed us where they lived before they sold up and moved into Claremont.  That was on the way back from visiting Mount Baldy. 

There was a cycling race (Stage 7 of the Tour of California) from Claremont up Mount Baldy, which Bill was sad to have missed.

We stopped by Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick us some coffee.  We were both staggered at the number of choices available.

We also played our photo shopping game,

Clever idea, not that I need this.

spotting things Amy Dacyzcyn

Tell me, please, people aren't really this lazy!

might have tagged

You still have to turn the page yourself...

'yuks' or 'yeas'.'s not the skillet that makes you skinny.

One afternoon we met up with some of John and Sandra's friends in the village square for tea.  It was just a bit cool so we ended up in a pastry shop near there.   Whilst out in the square I was trying to get a shot of some kids riding a horse - no doubt part of the festival I showed you yesterday.  What I accidentally got was a rather good photo of Bill.