Family Matters

A site for me to tell you something about our family

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Yes, it has been quite awhile since I last posted here. I had the feeling (correct) that no one in the family was interested. That may still be the case.

In the meantime, to catch up, I have made contact with two second cousins. Or they contacted me. That's more like it. They are both granddaughters of two of dad's uncles. And we had the privilege of meeting Mary, one the two, in a face to face sit down with coffee and pictures. She lives nearby...well, in the same county and that counts as 'nearby'. We sat and talked for about three hours and learned that dad's uncle had lived in Los Angeles at the same time he did. I don't believe he knew that his uncle was close by. And he was alienated from a lot of the Duluth folks. Although...he did make a trip back there in the late thirties, just before he married mom. My sister has some of the letters that dad wrote to mom while he was traveling. Those letters revealed a great love of his grandmother. I need to ask my sister to scan those letters when she has a chance. Now those letters would be a great addition to this blog!

We hope to meet with Mary again in the near future. I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


A poor set of maps to indicate the travels of our family over the years. Above, sort of where we all are now...except I forgot to add a red triangle just south and east of Sacramento. That would represent Zach/Michelle/Rory and Colum. Darn!
(Above) Here all were back in the 40's - 70's
(Above) 1900 - 1940
(Above) Pre 1900

Friday, July 21, 2006

Trying Again

It's been a long time since I last posted here and I suppose that's because I really have been busy doing all those things that constitute "life" these days. And I must admit that my interest in genealogy waxes and wanes. I'm a big fan of the "story" of my family members but not a fan of collecting all the pertinent facts.

But, since it has been awhile since I did some searches on the Dunn, Fifer, Seymour and etc, names...there may be some new stuff out there for me to discover. Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Good news!

Once again I've heard from my 3rd cousin, Susan Drake-Johnson (From Vancouver, BC) and she has given me some updates and corrections for this blog. Plus, I now have her current e-mail address and she has we can continue to share info as we find it.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Amazing Grace

Imagine that! At the tender age of 66 and 62 respectively, we are about to become great-grandparents…what a privilege! Our grandson, Zachary shared the news with us the other day.

Hello from the Gold Country!
I wanted to tell you some news.
You are going to be a great-grandpa soon!
I just found out today and wanted to let you know...
Love to you both!
Your grandson,

And according to what we have found out…”soon” means sometime in December. And so the family grows…

Thursday, April 13, 2006

More Pier

Here's the pier in 1937. I could have been found here ten years later.

More growing

Was it the perfect place to grow up? I can’t compare Manhattan Beach to many other places and so I have to say yes. It was a distant suburb of Los Angeles. The majority of the residents were middle class, working at the aircraft plants located north of the city. As far as I knew, there was only one family in town that had the wealth to be able to afford a swimming pool.

And why would you need a swimming pool? We had the Pacific Ocean and it was only a mile away. We had the freedom to come and go almost at will. We did have to tell mom where we were going and when we would be back. And we got in trouble if we didn’t remember to do it. You were expected to be home for dinner; naturally. At the age of eight, I walked all over the town and sometimes as far as the next town, Hermosa Beach. There were sand dunes everywhere, not just at the beach itself, so we could play any time and almost anywhere. And we were barefooted almost all of the time. Shoes were something you wore to school and shopping, otherwise they stayed in the closet.

If there was any crime, we were unaware of it. Manhattan had 3 policemen, with one on a motorcycle, which he would take home at night. The fire department was all-volunteer. There was one factory in town; Metlox (Poppy Trail) pottery and once a week the train would make its way down the rusty tracks to the factory. The only traffic signals were located on Sepulveda Boulevard, the main north/south artery and we were told to always cross at the signal!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Pier

Since I started this blog, I have purchased a few Manhattan Beach history books, complete with old photos and they have generated some reminiscing. So, if you don’t mind, I may just meander around in my memories for awhile…hoping not to repeat myself.

One of the notable landmarks in Manhattan Beach is the pier. The main east/west road (Center Street) traveled directly to the pier and its location defined all locations in town, you were either north or south of the pier.

As a young boy, age 7, I would often walk down to the pier to go fishing. You didn’t need a pole or even a license. Most fishermen my age would use a simple gadget, a square wooden framework that held about 50 feet of deep green cotton fishing line, a lead sinker and a hook. Holding the wooden frame loosely, you could let the line revolve off of the frame. To retrieve the line, you wound it back on, a few inches at a time. Not at all high tech, but you could buy one at Oscar’s Bait shop for about a dime. And another dime would get you a package of sardines for bait. Or you could patrol the pier and easily find enough abandoned sardines to cut bait from.

My favorite place to fish was out near the end. Close by, there were wooden steps that led down to a floating dock. This had been used for a shuttle boat that took fishermen out to a barge, anchored further out and in prime fishing waters. Since the barge was no longer operating, you weren’t allowed to descend the stairs, but I enjoyed watching the waves swirl around the dock. And I imagined that the fish would be hanging out near its shelter.

I would spend the entire day on that pier if I could. Usually catching perch and mackerel. Once in awhile I would catch a Sand Dab, but those were only caught close to the surf line and that made keeping your hook baited problematic.

The big attraction for fishermen on the pier was presence of the halibut. And they were only caught at the end of the pier. There had been stories that small boys had caught very large halibut with just the same kind of fishing rig I used…though I had never met one of those boys. But I could certainly dream!

When one of those halibut were caught, we all ran, men and boys, to the spot where the lucky fisherman was battling his catch. A large round net was always available to slide under the fish and someone would always help the angler to get the fish from the water to the top of the pier, a distance of 20 feet or more.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Coppertone Life

We didn't spend every summer at Lake Tahoe, living the life of the rich and famous...sometimes we stayed home all summer and went to the beach each day. We certainly weren't rich, but the beach was free and Manhattan Beach was very much a middle class suburb at that time.

We walked to the beach of course, in fact we walked everywhere! Mom didn't drive and so we really didn't think it "abnormal" to be on foot.

And at the beach we began to make certain class distinctions. There were "us" and there were were "tourists" or "Turistas". And those we made fun of. Certain beaches, such as Marine Avenue, attracted certain types and Marine Ave. attracted tourists. I was a member of the group that went to 15th Street, a premier location! From 15th Street you could barely see the tourists congregating beneath their beach umbrellas, sitting on their beach chairs and walking across the sand in SHOES! (shoes were for sissies!)

I could also mention that the Marine Ave. beachgoers were universally pale and white. No hint of a tan. We, being superior beings, were bronzed to perfection!

Life at the beach in the 1950's was perfect...just like our tans.

Monday, April 10, 2006


As noted...I have been neglecting this blog for some time now. So this morning I reformatted the blog to show 100 posts instead of just a week at a time. Now I have to begin where I left off - in November of last year!

I was reminiscing about Lake Tahoe vacations at the time. And I suppose I can continue with the same theme. Let me think about it...

And what I think I need to do is to search out some old vacation photos to scan. That should revive some of my memories.

It's working...I just flashed back onto some memories of fishing at lake Tahoe with dad.

Our first year of fishing at the lake didn't gain us much in the way of dinners. We really didn't know how to fish this lake at all. It required long lines and slow trolling to capture the Mackinaw trout that lived at such great depths. The second year, dad decided to hire a guide; Hunter was his name and he had a boat that was designed for Tahoe fishing. We observed everything. And we caught fish every time we went out with him. Hunter used braided copper line on large reels that were not mounted on poles, but on the side of the boat. We would troll the largest Dave Davis or Ford Fenders made, with a Tahoe "Shiner" minnow on the hook behind the blades. The fish were found at depths of 300' or more and when you felt a tug on the line, you had to reel in to find out if the tug had been a strike or just the blades passing over a rock. You might have a thousand feet of line out and it would take quite awhile to get it all in. If it had been a fish, the fight didn't last very long, as the fish's air bladder had grown so large that it protruded from their mouth...because of the rapid change in depth.

Back and forth, we would troll slowly. We were usually just about 1/2 a mile off of the shore at Homewood, fishing in a deep canyon. And we would usually come home with 2 or 3 of the large, orange fleshed Mac's.

Now where are those pictures?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dinner and Dates

We’re having dinner tonight with Alicia, Karlee and Kyle. This should be fun as Karlee needs to interview me about my relatives, specifically; when did my relatives come to this country? It’s a school project for her. So now I need to browse through my genealogy data this morning and see if I can find some dates to give her. I know that on my Seymour side, there are some from the 1600’s. Here’s one version. Robert Seymour, my 10th great grandfather was born in England in the year 1573 and died in Norwalk, Connecticut in the year 1637. My 10th great grandmother, Elizabeth Waller, was born in 1578, but there is no more information about her. Their daughter, Mary, was born in England in 1620, so the family hadn’t made that long trip across the Atlantic until some time after that. I would guess that they arrived in Connecticut between the years of 1621 and 1637.

OK, that’s one version and now I think it’s somewhat suspect. Here is another version; more probable. (And this becomes one that I need to do more research on.) Here is what I read about his mother and father; Edward Seymour and Elizabeth Champernowne. Edward was High Sheriff of Devonshire, England. My earlier research gave me the Robert Seymour/Elizabeth Waller connection. Now I’m not sure about anything beyond Richard.

Richard Seymour was born about 1604 in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, England. He immigrated in 1639. He died in 1655 in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was buried in Norwalk, Connecticut.

He was married to Mercy Ruscoe (daughter of Roger Ruscoe and Sarah unknown (Ruscoe) on April 18, 1631 in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, England. Mercy Ruscoe immigrated in 1639. She was born in England. She died in Connecticut and was buried in Connecticut. No dates are found.

Although not an original proprietor, Richard Seymour was an early settler of Hartford, his name first appearing there in 1639. (After settling his father's estate in England, he undoubtedly came to Hartford to live with his former friends and neighbors.) His lot was no. 70, on the north side, near the cow pasture. He was elected chimney-viewer in 1647. ABT 1650, Richard Seymour's family moved from Hartford to Norwalk. Seymour's will is dated 29 Jul 1655. Richard came to America about 1638-9, probably after settling his father's estate.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Once More

Once again I must ask for your indulgence. I guess I am not in the mood to write about the family history...but I will, soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Something New

I ran across some new software and you might want to check it out for yourself. It's called Personal Historian ( ) I have had it for a few days now, using up some of the free 30 days in the trial version. It's actually a full version, with all of the bells and whistles...but it shuts down after 30 days. This is so much better than trying to evaluate software when they only give you "crippleware" to try.

And since it lets you import from MS Office, anything you already have written can be added quite easily. Plus, images...although I didn't notice if it allows sound files? (But why not? It's the same process.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Jill Spicer

As I was walking today, I thought about my cousin Jill and the fact that we have lost touch with her altogether. That's a shame. She is our only cousin and it would be wonderful if we could find her again. The last information that I heard about her was that she had divorced and was living in Key West, Florida. There was some mention of the Hemingway Museum and the Salvation Army? I have done Google searches and tried a few e-mails. The Hemingway musuem reported that they hadn't known any employees with the name of Jill...and I don't know her last name anymore. Did she keep her married name or has she reverted to using Jill Spicer?

Perhaps...she might be found by way of this blog? People do searches all kinds of reasons and maybe someone else is looking for "Spicer's". I will use an old trick here and include her name half a dozen times at the bottom of this message, but I will keep the text small and use white for the text will hardly notice it, but some search engines will spot the text and record it.

jill spicer jill spicer jill spicer jill spicer jill spicer jill spicer jill spicer jill spicer

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lake Tahoe Memories III

Saturday night movies at the theatre in Meeks Bay. Saturday night movies in the theatre at Chambers Lodge…very fancy! Swimming in Lake Tahoe during a thunder and lightning storm. The water turned an intense blue color. Stories of the bear that wrecked one of the cabins at Cedar Shadows, exiting right through a wall in the kitchen. Eating dinner at the Swedish restaurant in Tahoe City. Large windows in the restaurant to see the lake, the forest and also to see the crowd at nearby “Fanny Bridge”. Displaying our own fannies as we looked over the side of the bridge and were shocked (each time!) by the size of the fish we saw there. 4-wheeling up to Grant Lake in Joe’s old Willy’s, the one with a U.S Postal Service sign in the back window.

On the trip to and from Lake Tahoe.
Stopping alongside a stream near the little town of Independence and Nana cooling her feet in the water. Stopping at Schatz (sp?) Bakery in Bishop, and then stopping again at the Sierra Bakery in Bridgeport where mom would buy sheepherder’s bread for a picnic along the shores of the Bridgeport Reservoir. And stopping at various gas stations where we would beg Dad to buy us a Coke. The Coke was usually swimming in a frigid bath of ice water and you would hold the bottle by the top and propel it along a metal maze until it came to the latch that required a dime to open it. Old restaurants out in the middle of nowhere, actually the Mojave Desert. Screen doors and fans to cool the restaurant. Canvas water bags that hung from the hood ornament and were important for the long climbs up into the Sierra’s. The long grade from Bishop up to Crowley Lake and the water wagon for overheated cars, courtesy of “Tom’s Place” and located halfway up the grade. Driving by Mono Lake, which held water in those days. Lots of water! Seeing a house floating in Mono Lake; the victim of an avalanche. Stopping to look at the Mono County Courthouse for the umpteenth time!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lake Tahoe Memories II

Lake Tahoe Memories II
Joe and Francis Gardner were the owners of Tahoma’s Cedar Shadows resort. I’m not sure of the exact tie to our family, but I believe Joe and dad had gone to high school together.

I remember five cabins that made up the grandly named “resort”; the office cabin for Joe and Francis, a 2 bedroom cabin, a two story cabin with 4 bedrooms, and two others with 2 bedrooms as well. It should be noted that these resort cabins were built for summer occupancy only and even during a summer night, a fire was sometimes needed in the stone fireplaces. They were all furnished with, shall we say…comfortable furniture? The cabins were all situated about 50 feet away from each other and there were chairs and lounges outside to use when enjoying a quiet time in the shade of the forest.

Joe and Francis were great hosts, and I remember one summer when Francis stopped by our cabin and told me that she was going to cure me of my asthma attacks. Right that afternoon! I’d had asthma since I was 3 or 4 years old and although I was pretty much reconciled to the fact, the thought of being free from asthma seemed like a pretty neat idea! Until she told me how she was going to do it. She was going to stand me up against one of the tall cedars near the cabin, and with my back to the tree, she was going to stretch out lock of my hair and then use her axe to cut the hair off my head and embed it in the trunk of the tree. She explained that this would remove my asthma and give it to the tree. I stood still, very still and very nervous as she held the axe in one hand and my hair in the other. She muttered some magic words, then she swung the axe and I closed my eyes. I felt a sudden ripping pain and heard the axe hit the tree, just above my head. The pain was caused by a dull axe simply pulling the hair out, not cutting it cleanly as advertised.

No, the “cure” didn’t work and the next year, Francis wanted to try it again, but I came up with some excuse not to. I wonder if my hair still resides in the trunk of that tree? About 30’ up now?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lake Tahoe Memories

Lake Tahoe Memories (1)
This begins a collection (in no particular order) of some of my Lake Tahoe memories.

Trips to Obexer’s Marina in Homewood, where we would walk out on the long pier and look at the beautiful Garwood and Chris Craft speedboats that were tied up and waiting for someone to rent them and go for a ride. They were expensive, but once in awhile, if Dad had been lucky at the Northshore casinos, we would be treated to an hours worth of excitement. There is no sound quite like the deep burbling of the speedboats exhaust as it idled while we climbed aboard. Once we were all safely in our assigned seats, we would slowly drift away from the pier until Dad thought it was safe to accelerate. Then there was a deepening roar and we would all be pressed back into the seats as the bow of the boat lifted into the air and we flew across the once still waters.

We would usually head north so that we could pass by Henry J. Kaiser’s estate, pretending for a moment that we might just drop in on our “good friend”, Henry…you know, share a few laughs, and maybe have lunch with him?

And as we passed the point where the Kaiser pier jutted out, I would remember the story of the postman. Local legend said that the postman was rowing from that point, on his way to Homewood, when a sudden storm came up, swamping the boat and drowning him. And…it was said that when the water was exceptionally clear, you could look down and see the postman, still sitting at the oars, with the mail sack between his knees. (OK, I know…why would the postman deliver mail in a boat? Especially since the road went right by the Kaiser estate.)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

New Orleans Memories

I guess this qualifies as a proper subject for this blog. It's a memory of mine and I'm part of the family.

In 1957, my friend Mike Buffett and I decided to go to New Orleans. As it turned out, deciding to go and actually doing it were two different things. And here's how this all came about. Mike had an older brother; Richard Buffett and he was an artist. A fine artist in fact, painting portraits for a living. Richard was a very "cool" guy and Mike and I were fascinated by the stories he told us of his time spent living in New Orleans and painting the portraits of jazz musicians from the "Storyville" area of New Orleans. Musicians like George Lewis and Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau. He had their portraits hanging on the walls of his little Hermosa Beach bungalow. The floor in the living room of the house had a beautiful Turkish rug painted on it...(I told you he was "cool".) Since Mike played the clarinet, he was very much interested in the jazz scene in Hermosa Beach and we spent a lot of time hanging around the front door of the Lighthouse jazz club where Howard Rumsey and the Light House All-Stars played. But Richard's stories convinced us that the "real" jazz was to be found New Orleans. And you didn't need to be 21 to go in a bar and listen to jazz in the state of Louisiana.

Our plan was simple; we were going to buy a vehicle that we could live in (campers hadn't been invented yet) and work our way across the United States, stopping to work whenever we ran out of money. Once we reached New Orleans, Mike would use his musical skills to get a job in a jazz band and since I had skills as a dishwasher...success was just around the corner!

We found the perfect vehicle, a 1947 Divco, last used as an Orowheat Bread truck. We bought it for $500 and then sold the bread racks for $100. Then we remodeled the truck, painting the interior an odd, but free, shade of orange. Then a friend's parents blessed us with their old front room furniture. We really wanted beds, but gladly accepted two chairs and sofa, plus one coffee table.

It was about this time that I decided that I should tell my parent's of our plans. Somehow, I had to explain this large truck sitting in the driveway. Strange...but neither one was wild about the idea, and my father was quite emphatic in his denial of approval.

It took a few weeks of friction before it really sunk in that our trip was never going to happen. And that was when we decided to make the truck into a mobile "Party House"! And it served in that capacity for about a year or more...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Comment Spam

Comment Spam. That is a pesky problem with blogs and so I have added protection by using Blogger's "word verification" for comments. If you comment, you will see a series of letters that only a human can see... and you will have to type them in to post the comment.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Update and Corrections - Riddle

An update. Yesterday, I heard from Sharon Little, our relative from the Riddle side of our family (In Iowa) and she sent along some additional information. It seems that her daughter found this blog and let her know about it. That means that there is a chance that others will find their way here as well and perhaps we can add to what we already know about the family.

You can see the original information in the June Archives...

Please change one thing. You have Frank Malcolm b) 4 April and d) 21 June 1943. It's Frank Riddle NOT Malcom. He is buried in Elmwood beside his parents William and Mary Florence Petty Riddle.

Thomas M. Riddle died 3 August 1841 and is buried in Elmwood Cem. I believe his wife and twins are buried in City Cem. I believe also that George Riddle is buried on the grounds of the mental hosp. in Mt. Pleasant,IA. I can't find Margarets burial anywhere.But haven't given up hope. There is probably things I need to send ya,not to sure when that will be. Some up dates on people I have found or has been given to me.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The old days

This postcard was made in 1948 and shows the dining room of the May-Ah_Mee Lodge.
The other photo is a more current view of the pier at the lodge. Usually, the water was high enough to cover the rocks you see under the pier and came to with a few feet of the top of the pier. Sometimes the water covered the lower section you see at the end.

Class Warfare

The smells associated with our vacations at Lake Tahoe will never go away. When driving up from Manhattan Beach, we would first get a hint of that wondrous aroma when we passed through Truckee. And then when we turned off the highway in Tahoma and went down the dirt road to the cabins, the smell of the incense cedars became intense. We always arrived at night and quite often we were the first vacationers to use the cabins that season. So we could smell the musty odor of a long winter and the smell of cold ashes in the firplace. It was all quite pleasant and we instantly knew were in our summer "home".

The residents of Gardner's Cedar Shadows were given beach privileges at the May-Ah-Mee Lodge, located right next to the Tahoma store and post office. I believe this was one of the first times that I experienced class distinctions. I don't think it was my imagination; the residents of the "snooty" lodge treated us as interlopers that must be accomodated. It was obvious that we were from the "wrong" side of the highway.

Picture this: 4 children, all floating in large inner tubes next to the May-Ah-Mee pier. 1 Great Uncle, (Len) standing ankle deep in the water, cuffs rolled up and wearing a ribbed undershirt. To top off the picture, he was smoking a cigar. Oh yes! We were definitely from the wrong side!

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Kitty asked me to write something about our childhood vacations at Lake Tahoe and as I remember them, they certainly included most of the people I have been writing about lately. Back in June of this year, I posted a photo of the family car and a short note about the trips to Tahoe (June 29th). Now I will try to elaborate on that story.

Although the car was a1947 Oldsmobile, I don’t think we made our first trip to Tahoe until 1949 or 1950. I remember Dad telling us that he had an old friend who had recently bought some vacation cabins at Tahoma and that we were going to get a reduced rate on a stay there. After a very long trip in the backseat of that “Merry Oldsmobile”, we pulled into Tahoma quite late at night. Dad found the road up to the cabins, which were about a mile above the highway and the lake. I don’t remember much about that first night, as we were all tired and quickly in bed. The next morning we were up early and quickly exploring our vacation home. The first year we were in the “Big Cabin” as it was known. 2 stories tall and with 3 bedrooms; plus additional sleeping in the large living room. This mini-resort was known as Gardner’s Cedar Shadows and the owners were Joe and Francis Gardner. I think there were 5 cabins available to rent and we tried out at least 3 of them over the years. But the “Big Cabin” was always my favorite, with its knotty pine décor and a big stone fireplace.

Outside, it was quickly apparent why they chose the name “Cedar Shadows”, we were deep in the forest and the sun was always filtered by the huge cedars surrounding the cabins.

I will continue with these memories, but first I need to find a photo from those times. Hmm? I can't find one, so I will have to scan one for you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I seem to have hit an impasse here. Writer's block...I'm looking for a suggestion as to where I should head next in this exploration of our family history. We can even re-visit old ground!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

More memories of Uncle Len

One of my many memories of Uncle Len was of the trips he would make to downtown Los Angeles. I was taken along on a few of those and found them fascinating, First, he didn't have a car so we would take the bus from Manhattan Beach, transfer in Inglewood and then arrive at the downtown terminal. From there we would walk to the financial district and the offices of E.F. Hutton where Uncle Len would study the "Big Board" before talking to a broker. I was fascinated by the "Board" itself; all kinds of numbers being changed each minute by a group of men with ladders. No electronics in the 1940's! After Unlce Len finished his financial business, it was time for lunch and we would go to one of many restaurants in the distict. Most were long and dark, with booths lining the paneled walls, The ceilings were quite tall and the lights dim. I remember that there were waiters only and no waitresses. The waiters all carried a towel on their sleeve and were very serious. The food? My memory is of a short rib lunch and it still sounds good! After lunch we would walk to a movie theatre where Uncle Len knew the projectionist and would go up the narrow stairs to the projection booth itself. There I would watch the movie through a narrow slot in the wall while Uncle Len chatted with his friend. Of course I loved watching all of the projection equipment at work, the whirring of the reels and the flickering lights.

After an exciting day downtown we would head back to the bus stop and then home. It's only now that I realize what a wonderful gift of memories my uncle gave to me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Here we are in the galley of the dredge that Uncle Len worked on. I would guess that that I'm about 7 and Julie would be 4 in this photo. Kitty, being the baby, would be in someone's arms while the picture was taken.

Uncle Len

The recent post about the Statler and the comments about Clifton's Cafeteria reminded me of our Uncle Len; Leonard Earl Seymour and Nana's younger brother. That made him a Great Uncle, but he was always just Uncle Len...

A little history: He was born in October of 1890. I don't know if his birthplace was Duluth or if the family still lived in Tower, Minnesota. I also know that he served in World War I as a spotter in the Balloon Corps of the Army. He would go up in a tethered balloon and observe enemy movements, an altogether dangerous job! After the war...and at what age, I don't know...he became a cook. When I was born, he was a cook on an Army Corps of Engineers dredge. He seemed to work all up and down the west coast, wherever a dredge was needed. He remained with the Army Corps of Engineers till he retired in 1955.

Some early memories: Uncle Len bought the house we first lived in, the one on Pacific Avenue in Manhattan Beach. It was a very simple, quite small, cottage on the sand dunes. It seems as if Uncle Len, who never married, had adopted our family as his. Whenever his ship was in port, he would come and spend some time with us.

Pickled pigs feet. That is one of the things that I think of when I remember Uncle Len. When he arrived, he would open his "Gladstone" (a small piece of luggage) and take out all kinds of marvelous foods, exotic foods! Salamis and braunschweiger, artichoke hearts and pickled pigs feet. These would be spread upon the table and loaves of various types of rye bread would be opened for us to make sandwichs. Of course there were all the spreads to go along with it...horseradish, mustards and other "exotica". The table would look like a delicatessen!

Another item in his Gladstone would be his knives. A cook never went anywhere without his knives! He wouldn't leave them on board the ship for someone to misuse. And his would be carefully wrapped in newspaper, then taken out and put on the counter for the duration of his visit.

I still find it amazing when I think about all of the "stuff" he would pull out of that Gladstone.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Statler Days

Here is a photo of the Statler Hotel...

This was the site for birthday lunches with Nana. We would be dressed up as if we were going to our very best, for the Statler was an exremely fancy hotel with a very fancy restaurant. I remember that all of her grandchildren were always present for these lunches, cousin Jill included of course. I also remember that the waiters/waitresses hovered all around us, giving us the best of the Statler service. The napkins were heavy linen and the silverware all matched. It even had an "S" engraved on the handles.

Judging from the age of the cars in the photo, I would guess that this was taken in the early 1950's.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Brick House

Reminiscence...That last post made me think of that odd house that we lived in for a just a few years. It was, as I say, a brick house and the only one in the whole city. It was located on Center Street, now Manhattan Beach Blvd. It was close to the school and there was a huge vacant lot on the west side of the house, with plenty of room to play. This house also featured a basement and that is where the washing machine was located. In the kitchen, one cabinet was designated as the vegetable cabinet and the bottom of that cabinet was screened and open to the basement below. This allowed cool air to circulate around the vegetables. It also allowed us to communicate with mom when she was doing the laundry; we would open the cabinet door and yell out our requests to her. Out in back, and attached to the garage, was a covered patio/room, complete with a brick barbecue. Beyond that was a small fruit orchard and the pen that held a neighbors pig. Oddly enough, I can't remember much about the inside of the house, as I was usually ill with asthma and spent a lot of days sleeping on the couch in the front room. I do remember that room quite well.

I remember that the vacant lot, owned by Gianini Construction, was used for making great fortresses, complete with secret passages. We would dig trenches in the sandy soil and cover them with cardboard and sand. The weapon of choice for defending a fortress was a dirt clod or dirt bomb. You would grab a choice weed, with plenty of soil attached to the roots, pull it up and fling it high into the air, hoping it would land on your adversary. Those "enemies" were the kids from 12th Street, just above us. It's amazing that none of those trenches ever killed or injured any of us, as they were always collapsing and had to be rebuilt often.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Here's a photo that is titled, "Dunn's" and I don't know any more than that. Who are these people? Is one of them William Bernie, my grandfather?

That question brought back some memories of a time in the late 1940's, when I was 9 or 10 years old. I remember standing in the driveway of our house on Center Street, the brick house, while dad talked to his father. It wasn't a pleasant conversation and I can remember the tension in the air. In my memory, I can't quite see my grandfather's face...I see a tall and thin figure, standing next to his car, there is a lady in the car.

Later, when our grandfather had left, there was a brief explanation from mom; that Auntie Jay had sought a reunion with her father and dad was very unhappy about it. I remember a story about our grandfather having a farm in Oregon? I wish I knew more!

And then...just the other day, as Laurae was sorting photos, she ran across two notes from Grandpa Dunn. He had written to congratulate Laurae and I on the birth of Denise and of Alicia. There were no envelopes with the notes, no way of telling where they had come from. I then remembered when those notes came, and the fact that Auntie Jay had supplied him with our address.

Now I can only wish that I had been more curious and asked more questions of mom and dad.

Make a note to yourself...ask those questions now, while relatives are still alive!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Another Photo

A very small photo...sorry. This is Margaret Thorp and her daughter Ruby Elizabeth. Margaret was Nana's aunt, and Ruby, her cousin.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Here is a photo of 3rd Great Grandmother Phebe Jennings...She looks somewhat stern, but you have to remember that having your photo taken in the 1800's was serious business!

The Canadian connection

Let me try and explain this, as clearly as possible. If you’re up to speed on the Seymour family, it will be easy.

But first we have to go all of the way back to my 3rd great grandmother, Phebe S Jennings, born in July of 1815. She married Simon Crammond and they had one child, my 2nd great grandmother, Elizabeth Patience Crammond, born in October of 1842. Unfortunately, Simon died one month before his daughter was born. Phebe later married Leonard Terry and had at least 3 more children.

Elizabeth Patience Crammond married Andrew J. Seymour and they had 5 children, John Leonard, Libbie, Fanny, Charles and Frederic. The last 4 are great grand Aunts and Uncles; John Leonard is my 2nd great grandfather. All clear so far?

Let’s follow great grand Uncle Charles family. He married Margaret Thorp and they had one child, Ruby Elizabeth, born in 1889.

Notes: Ruby Seymour was born in Duluth in 1889. Her father, Charles, was 26 and her mother, Margaret, was 32 at the time of her birth. When she was young, she contacted Scarlet fever or Typhoid fever and after the doctors had given up hope, a lady came to the door and asked if she could try to heal her through Christian Science. When Ruby survived, the family became Christian Scientists and Ruby practiced her faith all of her life.

In addition, when young, her father (Charles) abandoned the family and went off to California. (What? Is this some family curse?)

She would become Nana’s Cousin Ruby. She married James Robertson and they had 3 children, Bruce, Margaret and Ruth; all my second cousins, one time removed. Now let’s follow Margaret, who married George Drake and they had 3 children, Sally, Susan and Bruce. And it’s Susan that contacted me when she saw some inquiries I had made about the Seymour family. Susan, now Susan Drake-Johnson, lives in Vancouver, British Columbia and was kind enough to send me photos and other notes regarding our common ancestors. Susan Drake-Johnson is my 3rd cousin.

I will post some of those photos that I just mentioned.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Don't Give Up On Me

I'm just taking a break from this blog. I will get back to posting as soon as I have some free time. Right now, between the garden, the orchard and practice for the marathon...I'm out of time.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

More Memories of Nana

Another memory came to me this morning as I read yesterday's post that mentioned Auntie Jay. In the late 1940's, Auntie Jay, Uncle Rocky and Jill, our cousin, lived in Glendale and right across the street from Nana's apartment building. So when we visited Nana, we visited our whole immediate family. And in the house right next to Nana's building, lived Jill's grandmother. This was a great old Craftsmen Style house with a huge front porch, complete with a "glider", a swinging seat, suspended from the ceiling of the porch. We all loved to sit on the porch and swing on that glider, often late at night, while our parents were across the street playing cards at Auntie Jay's house, which was actually a duplex, or maybe even a triplex?

And of course I have to mention Nana's apartment. The first thing you noticed was the smell. It wasn't simply smelled like Nana's, and I have never smelled anything like it since. You entered a small lobby and the stairs were to the right; very elegant and wide stairs. Nana's apartment was 2 doors down from the top of the stairs. She had two doors to her apartment, but the front door was the second one. The aprtment was quite small, a living room, a bath and a kitchen. The walk-in closet had a Murphy bed, which fascinated me! I would bet that the apartment wasn't bigger than 200 square feet, at the most. Only one person could be in the kitchen at one time and the closet was bigger than the bathroom. And just down the hall was the trash chute. I would always volunteer to take the trash out so I could open the door to the chute and toss the trash...where did it go? And this building was quiet! You automatically lowered your voice as soon as you entered the had that kind of power over us.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

How Old?

Here is Nana at an early age...I'm going to guess that she is a teenager in this photo. And I'm sure that this was taken at a commercial photographers studio, as the backdrop and props seem stylized and out of place. Date?

There are all kinds of discrepancies about dates and ages associated with Nana. I have a birth certificate for dad, (1915) and on it it says that Nana was 26 years old and this was her second child. That would make 1889 her birth year, not 1887 as most other records show. William Bernie Dunn, her husband, is said to be 30 years old at the birth. Later, when Nana was working at Robinson's, she began her employment by telling them she was 10 years younger than she was and so she was still working at the age of 75. Manipulating the dates was obviously hereditary as our Auntie Jay, born in 1912, always insisted that she was dad's younger sister.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Here is a photo of the Seymour family. And all 8 children are present so that means Kittie Ann, the youngest is in this picture. Great grandparent's John and Flora take up positions on the lower left and right. Nana, the eldest daughter is centered. Leonard Earl (Uncle Len) is second from the left on the top row. Wait a second...there should be 4 girls and 4 boys. Margarette Patience is missing and I wonder about the guy behind John Seymour. He looks too old? If I were to guess, I would say Kittie is to the right of Nana and Grace to the left.

Odd, I never noticed that about this photo before.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Beach Memories

It’s still a time for sharing stories of Nana. You will have to excuse the disjointed fashion in which I post these stories; without an index and in no apparent order.

When we were growing up, maybe in the early 1950’s? Nana left J.W. Robinson’s and began a short-lived career running a gift shop (The Jade Tree) in Laguna Beach. I remember being disappointed as we wouldn’t be seeing her as often, but also excited because we would be going somewhere different on those weekends when we would drive down the old Pacific Coast Highway to faraway Laguna to visit her. And going to Laguna meant that we would have a chance to wave at the “Greeter” of Laguna Beach. He was an old gentleman with long white hair and beard and he stood near an intersection in downtown Laguna, waving at every car that passed. (That's him in the photo)

Here’s a comment from someone from that era.

Eiler Larsen was known as The Greeter of Laguna Beach, but to us the Laguna youth of the '50s and '60s, he was only Mr. Larsen. He stood at the corner of PCH and Forest Ave, sometimes under the hanging gate, but mostly on the beach side. He heartily waved to every passer by. He called out "Hello there" in his deep voice. He gave people his crooked smile. He was happy when he greeted people, he was happy when he did the light gardening for the north end residents, he was happy almost all the time. He loved people; he loved the outdoor, the sun, the wind, and the beach. One thing he did not love was people who were rude and pointed at him. We never did. We all said “Hi Mr. Larsen” when we passed by him, we all loved him and respected him as our parents said we should.

I remember that we would start talking about waving to him long before we arrived and it was almost anticlimactic when we waved and passed him…but we had another chance to wave on our way home!

Odd, but I can’t remember where Nana lived while she was in Laguna. Perhaps an apartment came with the position? Laguna Beach then, as now, was not a cheap place to live. Only the wealthy and a few artists lived there…

I do remember going to the gift shop and being quite proud that our Nana was in charge of this marvelous place, much nicer than the dusty old lamp department in Robinson’s.

For reasons now unknown to me, the venture was soon over and Nana returned to her position at Robinson’s and life in her old apartment in Glendale.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

More News

Another interesting day...Kitty had found a link to the Duluth Public library where they had clippings of news stories about our Great Aunt Kittie Ann Hagstrom nee Seymour. It was only a matter of a few hours and Kitty had the clippings as PDF files. And then she shared them with me. I am now sharing the files with my children and grandchildren.

The story of Aunt Kitty's career is a great one and we should all be proud to be related to her. She was one of the founder's of Saint Louis County Federal Saving and Loan association back in 1922, when it had assets of only $8,000. In 1956, they had assets totaling over $20 million and she had a hand in every part of the business. She was the only woman on the board of 15 directors for the association. When she retired in 1972, she had spent 50 years with the company and she was elected to the office of Director Emeritus upon her retirement.

To us, the kids that knew her as Aunt Kittie, she was just one of the highlights of summer, a funny lady that could make you laugh and best of all...she made our Nana happy.


Anonymous writes about how she remembers Nana as “classy” and she was definitely that. But my favorite memory…OK, just one of my favorite memories of her was when we had first moved to Manhattan Beach and she had come to spend some time with us. (It was only a two bedroom house so I imagine that she slept on our couch.) My sister Julie and I had gone out with my red wagon to collect bottles for the refunds. Yes, littering has a long history in California. Anyway...somehow Julie and I had managed to attract the attention of some older kids and if I remember correctly, they wanted our bottles, or we had been poaching bottles on their turf. The resulting argument soon grew more heated and my thoughts turned to flight, so Julie and I raced home with our wagon, the other kids following close behind. As we approached the house, Nana stormed out the front door, in her housecoat, with her long hair flying and she began to yell at the kids, as she picked up the garden hose and turned on the nozzle. “Shoo! You kids, shoo!” She had saved us! Now that was classy…

Monday, July 11, 2005

Google Mania

It’s been an exciting morning. First, I read that my sister Kitty had found a reference to our great aunt Kitty; her namesake. The Duluth Public library may have some information for us. And then, as Kitty and I e-mailed some bits of information back and forth, I would stop every once in awhile and do a google search on different names. I searched for Aunt Grace’s information on my own computer and found that she had married Ben Olson and had a son named Seymour Olson. Apparently, he is still alive and lives in a trailer park? in Stillwater, Minnesota. (Correction: Seymour passed away a few years ago...)

With google as a tool, it’s sometimes amazing…even to me, what can be found in a short time. I was soon looking at Seymour’s house via Google satellite images. And I also found another Seymour website and have contacted the author of that one…hope I can add to the story!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sisters (Photo)

Here's a photo of the sisters taken during one of their annual visits to see Nana.
Nana on the left, then Kitty and Grace on the right.


I guess I should include a few stories about Nana's brothers and sisters, as they were certainly memorable! I only knew Uncle Len, Aunt Kitty and Aunt Grace.

For instance: Aunt Kitty, who was married to "Putty" Hagstrom, was the Secretary of Saint Louis Federal Savings and Loan (Duluth, Minnesota) ...not a secretary, she was the corporate officer Secretary. And as a corporate officer, she had a new company car every year and every year, Putty, Kitty and Grace would make a pilgrimage to California to see their older sister. Stopping, just coincidentally, along the way in Las Vegas for a little gambling.

Aunt Kitty and Aunt Grace were both quite large, Grace being more rotund and Kitty just overall "big". And they were funny! Kitty had the sharpest sense of humor and could devastate anyone who dared to be pompous around her. Grace was always laughing about something...I never saw her without a smile. And Uncle Putty was a serious looking guy, never smiling...but he was funny, always trying out practical jokes on the unsuspecting.

When I turned 13 or 14, I remember that they came out one summer and decided to go to the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles and to see a television show being made. So off we went in Kitty's big new Buick; Putty doing the driving. I remember being quite embarrassed, surrounded by these large and very loud midwesterners. I mean, it was obvious that they were from Minnesota! Uncle Putty would wear those ribbed undershirts without a shirt over them and Grace and Kitty had floral print dresses on. I would hang back in the crowd, hoping that people would think I was with some other group...any other group!

You know...I miss them!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

John and Flora Seymour

Here's a photo of Nana's mother and father...I don't have a date for it. They appear to be fairly young, perhaps in their 30's?

Nana's Family

Nana was the first born of the Seymour children. The others were, in order; Donald John, Leonard Earl, Margarette Patience, Archie Robert, Andrew, Grace Saloma and Kitty Anne, born in June of 1901. A full house for father, John Leonard and mother, Flora (Boyd).

Surprisingly, or maybe not...the Seymour side of our family has given me more information than any other. With just a simple search, I can find our way back to the time of Henry the VIII and the unfortunate Jane Seymour. And beyond, all the way back to William De Saint Maur, our 22nd great Grandfather (1260?)

Anyway, back to the 19th century. I like to think of the immense changes that Nana saw in her lifetime. When she was born, the automobile wasn't seen on the streets of Tower; only horses and buggies. And when she died, in 1977, man had gone to the moon and back.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Here is a school photo of Nana at an early age...second row up, third from the left. (short hair) Must have been taken in the 1890's.

A little background on Nana…

Eava Lena Seymour was born in 1887, on the 11th of July. (That’s 118 years ago.) She was born in the little town of Tower, Minnesota.

As you can see by following the link above, Tower is still very much a small town. And note all of the other data, especially the temperature in January and February!

There is some dispute in the records I have seen about the spelling of her name. Some have it as Eva and that was the way she pronounced it. Either way, she became our Nana and that was the end of it…except for our Aunt Jay and cousin Jill, who insisted on calling her Na-Na.

If you look at a map of the area, you will see that Tower is located on the shores of Vermillion Lake and very close to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s also about 30 miles from the Canadian border. ?) I think it’s great that we all have a link to this small town. And one more thing to note…it’s only a few miles from Embarrass, Minnesota, and that town is even smaller than Tower. (How did that name come about?)

What do people do in Tower today? Apparently it is still iron country, with lots of mines still in operation. It was a logging town at one time, but I think that has ceased.

Want the scoop on what’s happening today in Tower? Check out this website…

I will try and find some more data and a few more pictures of that area.


Here's that picture I promised. It was taken in 1939, about 8 or 10 years before our many trips around the block.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Change of Pace

I have spent some time now relating stories of dad and so I think it's time to change subjects and write something of Nana.

Without a doubt, she was our favorite grandmother. And she would often come to spend the weekend with us. Dad would come home early and then tell us to get in the car on a Friday afternoon; we were going to pick up Nana! That involved a long trip through traffic (no freeways) all the way into downtown Los Angeles. She worked in the Lamp Department at J.W. Robinson's, a very upscale department store. Unless dad could find a parking spot near the employee entrance, (not likely) we would circle the block until Nana made an appearance. Mom usually stayed at home to make dinner and I would get to sit in the front seat, with Julie and Kitty in the backseat. We would kneel on the seats, our faces against the windows as we searched the crowded sidewalks for her familiar face. Around and around we went. With many false alarms..."There she is!..."Oh, no, I guess not" until she finally made an appearance and I quickly crawled over the seat and into the back, so she could sit down, up front with dad. Of course we all got hugs and kisses as well, and all the way home, she devoted all of her attention to us.

I actually found a photograph of the old Robinson's parking lot and I will post it as soon as I can locate it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


I'm taking a couple of days off to get my garage/glass shop in shape and do some other things that are needed around here.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Here is a photo (from the net) that shows you the type of tower I was writing about.

An electrifying story

Here are some more memories of Dad. As I told you earlier, he once worked as a lineman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Bureau of Power and Light. And during those times as a lineman, he worked on the power transmission line to Boulder Dam. I think he really enjoyed that job, because most of his stories were about those days, much like I enjoy talking about my own career as a “Sheetrocker”.

The story, in a nutshell, was that the line originated in Los Angeles and that is where they began constructing the tall towers. They would drive, cross country, in utility trucks specially built for the task. These trucks became their homes and were known as “Crummy’s”. They had no concrete trucks to bring them cement and they had no cranes to lift the steel into place. The footings were dug by hand and the concrete mixed and poured at the site. The towers were built out of sections of steel and were simply bolted together. I say “simply”, but I doubt that that was the case. Remember; they had to climb them to bolt them together. Once they had a tower complete, they would move on to the next site and start all over again.

One of dad’s stories was of a time when a new crewman showed up at the site and was told to help the crew bolting up the uppermost sections of the tower. The man climbed until he would go no further. He clung to the steel and couldn’t go up or down. Dad said that after trying, in vain, to talk the man down, he climbed up past him and hung a block from the “horn”. That’s the part of the tower that projects sideways. He had a rope and that was thrown down to the crew on the ground. He then fastened the rope to the safety belt of the clinging lineman and pried him loose from the tower. The crew let him down safely, but when the man’s feet touched the ground, he took off running. Dad saw the rope quickly ascending to the block so he grabbed the block and threw it down. The man continued to run until he had disappeared over the hill. The crew went after him and after awhile they came back with the belt, the rope and the block. That was all they found and never saw the man again.

That must also be one of my favorite stories as well...I'm sure I have told it dozens of times.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I tried posting this yesterday but ran into it is, better late than never.

This is a 1947 Oldsmobile sedan and it closely resembles the one we used to make our vacation trips in during the late 1940's and early 50's. Ours had a visor over the windshield and these are the same colors as I remember them. Now imagine a couple of canvas water bags hung from the grill. That was how we looked as we drove north from Manhattan Beach on our way to a cabin at Tahoma, near Lake Tahoe. Now imagine 8 people in that car for close to 12 hours, potty stops included. Dad, Mom, Nana and Auntie Jay in the front seat and Cousin Jill, Julie, Kitty and myself in the back seat.
Posted by Hello

Monday, June 27, 2005

Another Memory

I just had another memory appear from most memories do.

During one of dad's business ventures, a time came when he and his partners were making a lot of money. This was when he was doing Navy work, replacing the firebrick in the boilers of Navy transport ships. Most of this work took place in San Diego, with some work being done in San Pedro as well. Dad, being quite the fisherman, had always wanted a boat and he wanted a big boat of course. The business venture allowed the company to buy a boat for "business purposes". They bought a 40'+ cabin cruiser, an older boat but all teak construction. And it came with a Captain as well. Dad and his partners would take clients out for fishing and drinking trips. The boat had a dock space in San Diego and rarely went north to San Pedro, so the family didn't get to see it very often. I remember being on it one time...

And what happened to the boat? It seems that the Captain had gone out drinking one night, using the boat to make his way to some harborside bars...and on his way back to the dock, the boat began to sink, for some reason never clearly explained. The boat settled onto the bottom of the harbor and since it wasn't that deep, the Captain simply stayed on the flying bridge and settled himself down on some cushions and went to sleep. That's where the Coast Guard found him the next day.

With insurance delays and other bad luck, the boat stayed under water far too long and the swollen wood made it a complete wreck. A disaster.


…Yesterday, as I was going through my collection of business cards, I found one of dad’s old ones. It was for the Dunnell Construction Co. - Refractory Contractors. I don’t remember the name so I will have to assume that it was short lived. And I don’t remember who his partner could have been, represented by the “ell” portion of the firm’s name. The office was located at 202 North Rose Street, Compton, CA. And the phone number was NEvada 6-9632. And the card had our home phone number on it as well, FRontier 2-4949. Now that number brought back some memories!

I know that dad went into business for himself at least twice. And neither venture was successful. It was the last one that had the worst possible luck, as he had a contract for the boiler work on the brand new Stardust Casino in Las Vegas. That was back in the days when the Mafia owned Las Vegas and their plan was to have the casino built while avoiding as many payments as possible, and then declare bankruptcy in the final days of construction. The assets, the casino…would be sold and the buyers would be the same people (under a different name) that had built the casino. Surprise! Almost every subcontractor on the project went bankrupt, dad included.

Friday, June 24, 2005


Not a good picture of a comptometer. I thought they were fascinating! All sorts of whirring and clicking would go on while the numbers revolved in the little windows. Finally, there would be one last, and grand "thump" from the machine and the answer would be displayed. Was it right? Posted by Hello


I didn’t travel with dad to all of the places he worked and could only go with him if it worked out with my school vacation times. But he did take me to work with him at times when he was going in to the office on a Saturday. And once in awhile I would get to spend the whole day with him during a regular workday; going to lunch with him and the other men in the office. Swally’s Key Club was the favorite hangout for lunch. And I remember dad buying a Racing Form newspaper just before lunch, studying it and then placing bets with a bookie in the club. (The bartender)

Sometimes dad would bring his work home over the weekends and take over the kitchen table with a pile of plans, his trusty comptometer and stacks of paper. And that work would include refractory product catalogs, which I always enjoyed looking at. The most common catalogs were those of the Gladding McBean Company, a name that I found to be comical for some reason.

(And I remember a patio that dad had built for his sister, Jay, at her home in Tarzana. He used firebrick for the patio and most were stamped, “Gladding McBean”.)

After awhile it was no longer a funny name, it was just part of what dad did for a living. So you can imagine my surprise when I found the Gladding McBean factory was located just a few miles from our house in Roseville.

Swally's? I looked it up on Google and found nothing at all...although I think mom was still using black Swally's ash trays until the very end of her life.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Industrial Furnaces. Quite a catchy name isn’t it? The company was owned by Mr. Fr*****r and his name was soon known by all of dad’s children. We heard his name at dinner, when dad was home…and that always depended on Mr. Fr*****r’s plans. We heard his name morning and night, weekends, vacations, Christmas, and always we wondered; why did dad work for him?

(It’s strange that my first memory of this time in dad’s life would include Mr. Fr*****r. Obviously he wielded a great influence in our lives.)

But I do think that dad enjoyed his job, the job outside of the office and away from Mr. Fr*****r. When I was younger, I would look forward to the end of school as that meant that I would have a chance to go on a business trip with dad. I didn’t get to go on all of them, but I certainly remember the ones I went on.

Dad had a major account with the U.S. Gypsum Company and that meant that Industrial Furnaces was always engaged in the relining of the calcining ovens at one or more of their plants. Calcining is the heating of the crushed gypsum ore, breaking it down into plaster. These plants were located in some very odd places and so it was a real adventure to go on a trip with dad. Let’s see…Gerlach, Nevada was one site, Plaster City was another.

And while I was traveling with him I got a chance to see how much he enjoyed the fellowship of the men that worked for him. And it was quite obvious that they enjoyed working for him. I was told, more than once, by bricklayers and hod carriers, that my dad was “great guy”.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


More on Dad's careers...

Dad didn’t stay with the DWP, although I think he regretted that; as he told me more than once that I should get a job with them, or with Southern California Edison. He also told me that I should avoid getting into construction. The point being that DWP, or any utility, represented security and construction didn’t. I have a suspicion that he left DWP for a higher paying construction job, but I don’t know that for sure. (Good point...ask your parents those kinds of questions!)

I do remember him telling me that during the early years of World War II, he worked on a project to camouflage the North American Aviation plant in Burbank. That is now the Burbank airport. His job involved covering the entire plant with a special netting that made it appear as if the plant had disappeared and been replaced with acres of open fields, roads and trees. He told me that they placed artificial trees, cars and trucks upon artificial roads on the roof to protect the plant from the possibility of being seen from the air.

Other than that, I don’t remember any of his other jobs until I was 8 or 9 years old. That was when he was working for a company called Industrial Furnaces. He had a job as estimator, engineer and project manager; all in one. This company specialized in the relining of boilers and furnaces for commercial applications, such as power plants and steam generators.

This became his career and I will add some of my memories of those days tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Part of the success of the project was the spectacular Boulder Canyon project, now known as Hoover Dam. The DWP, manager of its own hydroelectric power facilities along the Los Angeles Aqueduct, was instrumental in the struggle to gain federal approval for the project which combined flood control, water supply, and energy production for the three states that form the lower Colorado River basin.

Los Angeles, as primary consumer of the power, guaranteed its power purchases against the federal government’s costs for the dam. Completed in 1935, the dam began furnishing power to the city the following year over a 226-mile transmission line built by the DWP.

The story of Dad's work on this project also included working on the lines from Boulder to Phoenix. It seems that Arizona had negotiated a contract with the Department of Water and Power (DWP) to build their lines as well, since DWP had experienced crews.

1936? Dad was 21 years old.

An Imperfect Memory

When I began this series on my father's life, I thought I knew more than (apparently) I do...Dates that I should know, escape me and I look everywhere in my files, hoping to find more information. When did my mother and father marry? I have a photo of that day, but no date? I have even lost the date that he died; though I know that he was 65 at the time and that would have meant 1980; but what day and what month?

I will continue as best I can and then fill in the dates as I find them...if I do.

For some of the dates I can use historical events to place Dad there. For instance, I know that he worked for the Department of Water and Power, Bureau of Power and Light for the city of Los Angeles. He was a lineman and during his career, he worked on the building of the transmission lines from Los Angeles to the site where they were completing Boulder Dam. - "In 1938, generators N-5 and N-6 were installed and placed in operation. Generators A-7 and A-8 followed in 1939, bringing the capacity of the powerplant to 704,800 kw and making it the largest hydroelectric powerplant in the world - a distinction held until surpassed by Grand Coulee Dam in 1949." We have photos of Dad in those days, showing him working high above the desert floor as they built the transmission towers and I will try and scan a few of theose for posting.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Dad, at 19

Dad and his sister, Jay. Dad is 19 in this picture. Posted by Hello


A brief view of my father’s life…from my imperfect memory. Part One

I never knew much about Dad’s early life in Minnesota, but one of the things that I do remember him talking about, was the weather. He said he would never go back to live there. He said the winters in Duluth were brutal; and as far I know, he only returned once, just for a brief visit. (The next photo shows Dad and Jay in the summer!)

I do know that Nana, (his mother) his sister Jay and his father, William Bernie came to San Francisco in the 1920’s. And that was where they were abandoned. According to the very vague stories I heard, Grandfather Dunn, said something like, “I need to find some work…I’ll be back” and then disappeared, leaving Nana to raise her two children all by herself. He was heard from much later, but that's another story...

One of the memories I have is of the time when Dad told me that he would sometimes steal food (vegetables) from vendor’s carts on Market Street in San Francisco. He wasn’t bragging about it, he was simply telling me how life was then. This was in the late 1920's and early 1930’s; and the Great Depression was in full swing. He said that he would tell his mother that the food was given to him. He was 14 or 15 years old.

That story effected me greatly. More later…

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Here's another...I think he may be older. And he was trusted with a knife. Wonder what he was planning on whittling? Posted by Hello

Age of 4

Here is Dad at the age of 4 (1919). Summertime in Minnesota. Posted by Hello

Father's Day

Since tomorrow is Father’s Day, I thought I would turn this genealogical expedition around and spend some time with photos and tales of my father’s life.

But first, a story about the origins of this holiday.

Sonora Dodd, of Washington, first had the idea of a "father's day." She thought of the idea for Father's Day while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909.

Sonora wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. Smart, who was a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington.

After Sonora became an adult she realized the selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man. Sonora's father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910.

President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Then in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day. President Richard Nixon signed the law which finally made it permanent in 1972.

And I always thought the holiday had been created, like so many others, by Hallmark…and the thought that Nixon had something to do with it makes me feel sort of creepy.

William Bernie Dunn. Born on the 7th of February, 1915. He was the last of two children born to William Bernie Dunn (Senior) and Eava Lena Dunn (Seymour). He was born in Duluth, Minnesota and I am certain that it was a cold day when he was born. Winter in Minnesota can be brutal! He was also an exceptionally large baby, weighing 13 pounds. He joined an older sister, Jay, born in 1912.

I wish I knew more about his early life. I have some photos taken while the family still lived in Minnesota and they don’t tell much of a story, but I will include them here for your own speculation.

After the photos, I will return with some more information about Dad.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Looks Like?

Here's a good photo of Grandpa Ray. Do you see any resemblance when you look in the mirror? Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Who Are These People?

A little comedy...Grandpa Ray is the one with the Uncle Sam costume. Wouldn't you like to know more about this photo? What was the name of the play? How old were they? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

No Date

I wish I had a date for this...Grandpa Ray at a very early age. So solemn. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Raymond and Dot

Here is a photo of Grandpa Ray and Dot. This was during happier times...And notice, he has hair! Not a lot, but you can see it. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Grandpa Ray

Let’s go back to Raymond Riddle Fifer…or should I say “go forward”? Either way, Raymond is my grandfather on my mother’s side. And he was the only grandfather I ever knew. My first memories of him are when I was about 6 years old, so they are hazy memories at best. We lived in Manhattan Beach at that time and Grandpa lived in Sacramento. That was a long ways away! There were no Interstate freeways and the only road to Sacramento was Highway 99. I remember spending a short period of time with my Grandpa and Elaine. (He had divorced and re-married) It was summer time and he and Elaine lived in the tree section of downtown Sacramento. I can still remember the trees arching over the street and giving our bare feet some relief by providing cool shade to walk in. I remember holding my grandpa’s hand as we walked to a community pool and then spent the afternoon there, beating the heat by sitting in the wading pool. I also remember the evenings, with the heat so thick that even conversations were muted. I would sit on the porch steps and listen to the sounds of summer.

Later, after an evening bath, I would lie in bed and listen to Grandpa and Elaine in quiet conversation on the front porch. A whirring fan as it pushed the hot air around. The crickets chirping. And I would fall asleep, quite content.

My grandpa had a hole in his head and he was bald! Well, not an actual hole in his head, but a BB sized indentation in his forehead and it always fascinated me! I always had to touch it…of course he made up stories of how that odd hole happened to be. And the fact that he was bald was a real plus as far as I was concerned.

I think I was about 8 or 9 when I visited him again, and once more it was for about a week. Only this time it was in Bakersfield. On Alder Street. Grandpa was a manager for General Motors Acceptance Corporation and had been transferred to this location. It was the last place he lived. And once more I remember falling asleep during a summer night, the swamp cooler fan squeaking rhythmically. And I was content.

I was 13 when Grandpa died. May 31st 1954. And I still miss him.

Oh, we went to see Elaine sometime in the 1960’s. Denise was just a baby, but she was walking. And she walked all around Grandpa’s living room, picking up little knickknacks and putting them in her diaper bag; to take home…I think Grandpa would have laughed.

That date, 1954…it’s important because Grandpa was only 60 years old. And his father, Great Grandpa Louis, was also 60 years old when he died. So you can imagine that I spent a few days wondering how far apart we were, genetically. Did I have that gene? The 60 year gene? But my 60 years have passed and I’m getting close to 65 now. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Thomas and Elenor

I can’t find out much more regarding the Smith’s…but with that name you have to expect some difficulty. But I do have more to tell you about Rebecca’s parents. Her father, Thomas Sinclair, (4th Great Grandfather) was born in October of 1772, in Rowan County, North Carolina. Her mother, Elenor Boone Power, (4th Great Grandmother) was 4 years younger, being born in November of 1776. She was also born in Rowan County, North Carolina.

Look at those dates! Declaration of Independence and the 4th of July! I wonder how long it took for the news to get down to some small village in the mountains of North Carolina? And what did our 5th Great Grandparent’s think of this event? Or was pioneer life so tough that simply making a living was worry enough? I like to think that they celebrated the birth of a nation.

I remember taking the bus from Jacksonville, North Carolina all the way to Washington, D.C. At the time, I was stationed at Camp Lejeune and three of us wanted to go to see all of the sites. We didn’t own a car, so it was the Greyhound for us. I remember that the trip seemed to take forever. Probably about 8 hours, as it was 375 miles. How long would it have taken our G-g-g-g-grandparents to make that trip by horse or wagon?

And now for the rest of the story…Thomas Sinclair and Elenor, his wife, were first cousins. On April 9th, 1799, Amos Sinclair purchased 300 acres on a branch running into Flat Creek, located in that part of Montgomery County, Kentucky which is now Bath County. His sons, John and Thomas, accompanied him there and on the 25th of July 1803, he deeded 150 acres to John and on Feb. 14 he deeded 150 acres to Thomas.

On 25 November 1819, Thomas signs with his wife Elenor when he sells 164 and one half acres on Flat Creek in Bath County. He then purchased of the United States Government at the land office in Jeffersonville, 160 acres of land in Jackson County, Indiana at $2.00 per acre.
The family moves to Indiana. It is not a good move. Final certificate was given July 31, 1821.

According to family tradition, Thomas Sinclair and his wife, died suddenly and at about the same time. The last record of their being alive is on August 27, 1821, When Thomas Sinclair and his wife Elenor "of Jackson County, Indiana” sell 14 acres of land on Elkhorn Creek in Fayette County, Kentucky to Elenor’s brother, John Power. In Sept. 1823 Letters of Administration was granted Benjamin Snelling [brother in law of Thomas Sinclair] on the estate of Thomas Sinclair. In June 1824 Spencer Boyd was appointed guardian of the "infant orphans of Thomas Sinclair." The record shows that he traveled to Jackson County Ind. and returned the children to Bath County, Kentucky. So, sometime between August of 1821 and September of 1823, the two parents suddenly die.

The 1810 census of Montgomery County, Kentucky, and the 1820 census of Jackson County, Indiana indicate that they had ten children, six girls and four boys.

So, they died some time between 1821 and 1824. Rebecca would have been 17 or 20 at the time. Here’s a list of the children and their birthdates.
Martha_(Patsy) SINCLAIR b: 1795 in Fayette, KY
Miss SINCLAIR b: ABT 1799 in Fayette, KY
Willis P SINCLAIR b: ABT 1803 in Bath, KY
Rebecca SINCLAIR b: ABT 1805 in Bath, KY
Amos SINCLAIR b: 6 JUL 1807 in Bath, KY
Susannah SINCLAIR b: 1809 in Bath, KY
Elenor SINCLAIR b: ABT 1811 in Bath, KY
Thomas SINCLAIR b: ABT 1814 in Bath, KY
William P. SINCLAIR b: ABT 1817 in Bath, KY
Juliane SINCLAIR b: 1819/1820 in JACKSON, IN

(This information comes from a book, "Descendants of Israel Boone" by Alice H. Boone, Springfield, Mo. 1969)

See that name, “Boone”? Sound familiar?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Now Where?

Where do I go from here? That's about as far as I can go with the Riddles for now. I would love to know more but the trail grows cold in Tennessee. And if we go back to Grandpa Louis, we could follow the other side of that tree, his mother, 2nd Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Smith. Our ancestors go way back on that side!

3rd Great Grandmother Rebecca Sinclair married Ephraim Henry Smith. (That's where Sarah Jane Smith comes from) And it's Rebecca that I will tell you about first...Born in 1805, in Bath, Kentucky. If you can find Bath on your map, you will see that it is close to Sassafras and to Weeksbury, sort of in between the two of them, and about 40 miles from the Tennessee border. She had 8 siblings, 5 sisters and 3 brothers. She married Ephraim in 1823; a June bride! At that time they were living in Indiana, near the Kentucky border. She died during childbirth at the age of 44 while she was in Paris, Missouri. Her last two children were born in Paris and so we can assume that the family had moved there prior to 1845. Sad...

Today, Paris isn't near anywhere...State Route 15 is Main Street in Paris, but that's not saying much. I'm sure it's quiet and I would bet they don't have a Starbuck's.

More later.

The Fort

Now that you have a sense of where Fort Madison is in its relationship to the rest of the world, try these links to see some interesting images from there, and from neighboring Keokuk, Iowa.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Another map


Here is the news clipping I promised...

Madisonia…Reviewing our heritage

By Ted Sloat

The severe drought of 1839 left the Mississippi so low that an upriver steamboat remained out in the channel rather than attempt a landing here at the site of old Fort Madison and the captain hurried ashore in a skiff.

“We need a doctor bad,” he told the group at the landing. “We’ve got a mighty sick woman in labor aboard.”

Some hurried to fetch Dr. J. C. Walker who joined the captain and headed back to the steamboat.

“Her name is Mrs. Thomas Riddle,” the captain explained as he leaned to the oars. “She and her husband and their three sons rode up from Keokuk to Montrose on the stage wagon and I think the jolting must have started her. We were loading at Montrose and tried to talk her and her husband into staying at Montrose, but they wouldn’t listen. They were going to settle in Fort Madison, they said, and it was so close to the end of their journey.”

Dr. Walker helped deliver twin babies but was unable to save their lives or that of the mother. The bodies were brought ashore and, as was customary, a quick burial was made.

Family legend says the triple grave is in Old Settler’s Park, at that time called Upper Square, but it seems more likely that burial was made in City Cemetery which had been surveyed four years earlier when General John Knapp and his cousin, Nathaniel Knapp, founded the town of Fort Madison.

There were already several graves in City cemetery by 1839. The first burial there was that of General John Knapp who died in 1837 following a New Year’s party at his hotel, the Madison House. He became ill and quinsy developed which proved fatal.

His cousin, Nathaniel, was buried there six months later. He was slain at a small hostelry not far from Bentonsport where he and an acquaintance had gone on business. When they returned to the hostelry around midnight they found a man from Burlington in their bed and Knapp demanded to know what he was doing there. The man leaped up and ran Knapp through with a sword cane.

Thomas Riddle didn’t live long after his wife’s death, and left three orphaned sons, William, George and Alec. All three were adopted but information about George and Alec is meager.

George was adopted by Dr. Walker and his wife, Martha, a daughter of Dr. Abraham Stewart. She had come to Fort Madison with her parents in 1835 and married Dr. Walker not long after his arrival here the following year.

One of their daughters, Emily, became the wife of Rev. George Stewart, pastor of the Union Presbyterian Church here in the 1870’s.

George grew up in Fort Madison, moved to Montrose and later became manager of the Rand lumber Co. at Burlington. His son, William Oscar, married Katherine Eltinge, of Mediapolis.

The family’s search for the mother who died so tragically in childbirth aboard the steamboat here lasted for generations but no trace of the grave has been found.

This account is certainly interesting, although it is somewhat disjointed at times and hard to follow. Plus, there are now more questions…One account has three sons named, George, William and Thomas. Here we have Alec? And what about that murder with a sword cane? That’s an interesting side story.

One thing I did look up and that was the distances between the towns of Keokuk, Montrose and Fort Madison. It was a total journey of 20 miles on the river, with 8 of those miles between Montrose and Fort Madison. (I drive to Chico, 20 miles, quite easily and sometimes more than once a day.) Imagine the story if…if our 3rd Great Grandmother and Grandfather had listened to the advise of the captain and decided to spend a few days in Montrose before hurrying on to Fort Madison. Imagine how our 3rd Great Grandfather felt when he realized that he was now alone with his three small sons; alone on the edge of the wilderness. All of his plans and dreams were now gone forever. He was, I’m sure, a young man, probably in his late twenties or early thirties. In a few more years (1841) he would be gone and his children would be orphans.

(I will post a map in a few minutes and it will show you the relationship of the three towns mentioned in the news clip.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Thought

I just had a thought about Grandma Hattie...can you imagine her feelings when she left Iowa to come to Seattle with her young family? If you have never been to the midwest, let me tell you that everything in a small town is anchored to the local grain elevator. Your house is so many blocks from the elevator, the market is just south, or west or east of the elevator. You can see the elevator from every house in town. That obelisk dominates the view and anchors you to the prairie.

Well, she let go of her anchor...and that must have been exciting, and frightening. Seattle was evolving from a wild west boom town of the 1800's and into a dynamic city of the new century. There were no grain elevators to dominate the view, only lofty cedars and new iron buildings. The masts of the ships dominated the harbor view and off to the east and the north were volcanoes! Not many of those in Iowa...


I think I have explored most of the information I have for Grandpa Louis. I wish I knew more about his wife, my 1st Great Grandmother Hattie Letha Fifer (Riddle). My mom didn’t have a lot to say about this side of the family, but I do remember her saying that she loved her grandmother very much.

I will tell you some more about the Riddle family and then, since that line fades away in the early 1800’s, I will then return to the late 1800’s tell you about my grandpa Ray, Dot and Elaine…and a little bit about Mary Jane Greenup.

OK, onto the Riddles; Hattie was born in Montrose, Iowa in 1866. Her father was George Riddle, (my 2nd Great Grandfather) and her mother was Margaret Watts, (my 2nd Great Grandmother). George had two brothers, Thomas and William. Their father’s name was Thomas M. Riddle (my 3rd Great Grandfather) and I haven’t found his wife’s name yet…

But I did find a real live second or third cousin a couple of years ago and she sent me a lot of Riddle information, including a letter from William, which I have typed into Word and now I will post that letter.

Riddle Family History

During the early years of the 1800’s, there lived in Greene County Tennessee, a Scotch family by the name of Riddle. I do not know how many there were in the clan, but one of them, “Jacob” Thomas Riddle, a mountain teamster, and his wife with their 3 little sons; William aged 6, years, Thomas Alexander aged 4 years, and George Riddle, aged 2 years, who came west by team to the Mississippi river and from there to Fort Madison (Iowa) in the year 1838.

Grandmother died on the boat coming up the river. Grandpa took up a claim and erected a log cabin near the site of the present High School building. There he lived with his 3 little sons until his death in 1840. (2 years after his arrival)

Grandpa and Grandmother were buried in what is now known as the old Atlee Cemetery. The little boys were then bound out (adopted) to different families to work for board and lodging. My uncle, William Riddle, was lucky in that he was allowed to get an education. My father was only allowed to go to school for one 6 month term, however he studied when he had the time and could read, write and figure quite well, despite the handicap.

When Grandpa Riddle came to Fort Madison, the town consisted of 6 or 8 houses near where the Schaefer Pen Company now stands, and the town depended on the well that had been dug, I believe it was inside the old fort before it was burned. All of the rest of Fort Madison was covered with heavy timber and the nights were made scary by the howling of the timber wolves. However, the 3 boys survived the hardships of pioneer life. William, the oldest, became a carpenter and helped to build the old Capitol building in Des Moines, making his home there until his death. His children were Alice, Emma, Belle, and John Riddle. John went to Indianapolis, Indiana and made his home.

Thomas Alexander Riddle, (my father) finally grew to manhood and in the winter of 1861-62, he enlisted in Company G of the 4th Iowa Cavalry., serving until the end of the Civil War. On September 10, 1865, he was married to Letha Malcolm. Their first son, Hamilton, died in infancy and was buried in Gilmer Cemetery, northwest of Fort Madison, near his maternal Grandfather. William (myself) was born near Viele on February 19, 1868. Frank Malcolm was born April 4th 1871 and died June 21st, 1943 and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Fort Madison.

On September 4th, 1893 William was married to Mary Florence Petty and made their home at Viele. Their son, Alex Ellsworth was born July 5th, 1894. William Howard was born March 20th, 1896. Russell Edward was born February 26th 1899 and James Warren was born August 11th, 1905.
Thomas Alexander Riddle died November 6th, 1904 at the age of 70. Russell Edward Riddle died November 20th, 1905

In the spring of 1902, we moved from Viele to a farm just north of Montrose, where we lived until, the spring of 1906, going from there to a farm 3 miles south of Montrose, where we lived until 1934. Mary Florence Riddle dying February 5th of that year.

Thomas Alexander and Letha Riddle are buried in the Wilson Cemetery near Fort Madison, and Russell E and Mary Florence Riddle are buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Fort Madison.

(William Riddle was the cousin of my 1st Great Grandmother, Hattie Letha Riddle.)

And I have one last item; a newspaper column that was given to me by Sharon Little, our distant relative from Iowa. This item fills in some details of the death of our 3rd Great Grandmother. I will have to type it into Word so that I can post it.