I am just barely finished with Thanksgiving
and here comes Christmas.
By that I mean the consumer-Christmas
The ads started just as Halloween breathed its last
Now there are the count-downs and the sales and pressure, pressure, pressure.
So what's the answer?
I would like to write something wonderfully profound
Something helpful for others as well as for me
But here is the question
how does one person's teeny tiny brain
over-come the advertising "brain-trusts".
How many times have I croned a serenade to technology
I love you, Facebook
I love you, iPhone
I love you, I love you, I love you - - - cyber space
Do you, like me,
Begin to wonder
How loveable is it?
Shiny, dark red apples
Working on a new story.
Starting out with a germ
Something I heard at a family gathering
when we were in NC
A funny bit
Not enough for a story
But enough to prompt a good story.
I will keep thinking on it.
Things coming up this week
deadlines and fun
that's how to get the work done
so I can enjoy the fun.
To celebrate Advent I will post a series of Williamsburg Christmas Wreaths until Christmas.
I took these photos in 2005 - the year our family gathered in Williamsburg to celebrate Jim's and my 50th wedding anniversary.
Williamsburg Wreath - 2005
Today the annual Christmas Tree sale opened outside our church. The pungent perfume of the piles of fresh cut spruce and fir triggered many memories.
My first storytelling passion came from genealogy.
I have often laughed that I began storytelling as a subversive activity.
I wanted a way to tell our family stories so that they would want to listen. And then - as so often happens - the glitter and sparkle of storytelling itself lured me away from genealogy. But I am back.
I never really left - my stories all have some family information in them
but - I have not done any genealogy research in quite some time.
I am determined to bring the two together
I will continue both.
From now on
at least once a week
I will be posting something about the family
quilting the stories.
To start I have reached back to several posts I wrote a couple of years ago.
This is what you can do with a letter.
A few weeks ago an old letter fell out of some files I was moving. I recognized my grandmother's strong cursive handwriting before I picked it up. The paper is yellowed, the creases where its folded threaten to tear. The envelope is addressed to her mother, Mrs. J. W. Cobb, at 703 South Church Street in Charlotte and the postmark -
the letter bears a purple three cent stamp and is postmarked April 30, 1918. Mailed from Madison Square Station in New York City. It is written on hotel stationery - Hotel McAlpin, Broadway and 34th Street, New York City.
On a first read the letter doesn't say much but as I thought about it I wondered if there was a story in it. I often tell people to use old documents to make a story. So, what about trying it.
First I will share the letter with you - then I will add bits and pieces as I discover them to flesh out th story.
Tuesday, April 29th
This won't be much of a letter because I am pretty tired, But I just want to tell you that think I am going to have "some trip." We arrived OK this morning, and I hadn't slept much on the train. I went to bed after a hot bath and slept until about one thirty. Sam spent the day at the office, so I crossed over to Macy's and spent quite a while looking
around and shopping. Had dinner with Sam and then Uncle Fred and Florence came over to the hotel and took us out. We went to Vaudenville and then to a little place - a favorite of Uncle Fred's and had some beer and sandwiches. Believe me, it certainly tasted good. Florence is such a sweet girl. She has Friday evening off and she is coming to take me over to her house.
Cousin Nell called me this afternoon. She will be here about nine tomorrow morning and we will spend the day together.
Hope your finger is getting better and that the boys are not too much trouble. Won't write any more now as it is late. Everything here stirred up over Liberty Bonds. Hope to see the returned heroes from France before I leave.
Tell Grandma not to worry about Uncle Fred. He looks grand and says he never felt better in his life.
Kiss the boys and tell them to be good. Much love to you all. Will save some news until I see you.
First - Lets' consider the cast of characters:
Louise Cobb Diggle - the letter writer- my father's mother. At this time Louise was 32 years old, they had been married nine years and in that time she had given birth to six children and was now two months pregnant with her seventh child, who would be a daughter, Loretto. No doubt she needed a break.
Sam Diggle - her husband, father of all her children, was 31 years old.
Mrs. J. W. Cobb - Louise's mother, sister of Uncle Fred, was 59 years old. Her son Walter, Jr., 31, was in the Army and overseas in France along with his younger brother, Fritz, 23. Fritz was who was named for her brother, Fred - the Uncle Fred in Louise's letter
Uncle Fred Grose - Mrs. Cobb's younger brother who was 55 and had lived in New York City for some time.
Florence - his daughter
Cousin Nell - not sure who she is.
"the boys" - Lewis Diggle, age 7, Jack Diggle, Age 6 and Robert Diggle, age 4 - Robert is my father. The other children left behind in Charlotte were Mary Cobb, Catherine and year old Betty.
Grandma- Mrs. Samuel Grose - Louise's 83 year old grandmother and Mrs. Cobb's widowed mother.One afternoon when I was about thirteen I was visiting Nanny at 826 Central Avenue, the house she and Sam build to house this large family. She reminisced about a wonderful trip they had made to New York. I listened vaguely, as a kid 13 would, but I do recall her saying that she had a new hat, a new Easter hat, with a wide brim.
If you are just joining us for this story-catching exercise here's the deal. A few weeks ago I found a 90 year old letter my grandmother wrote to her mother when she was on a trip to New York City.
The text of the chatty letter to her mother in Charlotte is in the previous post - Letter from the Past - Part 1 along with a list of the characters. In this post I will explore the scene at the time she wrote the letter to develop the atmosphere and search out possible directions for a story. You know - I am just playing around.
To do that I am pulling information from family history, using my genealogy research - and turning to "'google" and the internet to take me back to this day and time and to enrich the content.
I want to bring Nanny's trip to life - primarily for our family. These stories are my subversive tactics in this world of the scattered family to water our roots and keep the family oak from shriveling to a sapling. Perhaps the exercise will give you ideas for catching a story of your own.
In the "olden times" when families lived close-by, folks told these stories at the dinner table or on a porch or maybe sitting around a tablecloth spread on the ground at a picnic. Children grew up knowing they were part of a large tribe and the stories of those "gone" lived on. We have to work harder today to keep our stories alive..
Exploring the scene of the story - New York City, April 30, 1918
Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States. John F. Hylan was Mayor of New York City ( http://www.nyc.gov/html/nyc100/html/classroom/hist_info/mayors.html). America was at war. More than 8 million people lived in New Youk City, and about 650,000 lived in Charlotte, NC. My grandpartents, Louise and Sam Diggle, rode all night on the train, leaving their six children at home with relatives for a business-vacation in the BIG city.
Louise and Sam were staying at one of the finest hotels in New York. Hotel McAlpin, a large hotel with 1500 rooms, was built in 1912. It was known for its innovations, decorative brick work, decorations and fine Marine Bar.
From an article in the New York Times, February 20,2008
Early 20th-century hotel construction was an exercise in quick obsolescence - with a new generation of buildings completely eclipsing the old one every three or four years. Telephone, telegraph, plumbing, elevator and other mechanical services rapidly advanced, but each new hotel also sought singular decorative schemes.
The Astor Hotel had an American Indian Grill and a Pompeiian billiard room, the Plaza had the Germanic-style Oak Room and the airy Palm Court, and the Vanderbilt Hotel had an unusual Grill Room with tiled, vaulted ceilings.
The 1,500-room McAlpin Hotel, opened in late 1912, was considered the largest hotel in the world and it also attempted to outdo its predecessors. There were floors restricted to women, men and even night workers - where silence was enforced during the day. There was a tapestry gallery, a banquet room with a vaulted ceiling, a giant marble lobby, a Louis XVI-style dining room and Russian and Turkish baths.
In 1913, the Real Estate Record and Guide noted another unusual feature of the McAlpin. Unlike other giant hotels, the McAlpin rented out its valuable store space all along the street frontages, moving its main rooms up or, in one case, down a floor. The basement room, at first called the Rathskeller and within a few months the Marine Grill, remains one of the most unusual in New York City.
The Marine Grill is a forest of tile-clad piers that curve up and form great curved vaults, all in a glazed riot of ornament and color - brown, green, cream, silver and scarlet. Giant semicircles along the walls carry faience panels depicting the maritime history of New York.
1918 - America was at war - the Armistice was not signed until November 1918.
In her letter Louise mentions the stir over the new campaign for Liberty Bonds. Around the first of April in 1918 they launched the the third Liberty Bond campaign - selling the Bonds to finance the American effort in France. This would have been of particular importance to Louise because her two younger brothers Walter, age 31, and Fritz, age 23, were in the Army serving in France.
She writes that she hopes to see some of the returning heroes before she returns to Charlotte. I imagine that she meant one of the parades down Fifth Avenue.
She says they went to Vaudeville - we can imagine the music - popular George M. Cohan songs like "Over There" and Give My Regards to Braodway" must have been on the bill and heard around town in restaurants.
Macy's: A History
In 1918 Macy's was located at Herald Square - on Bradway and 34th Street - very near the Hotel McAlpin - convenient for Louise to "look around and do some shopping" while Sam was at the office.
Macy's has an interesting history - growing from a small fancy dry goods store which opened in 1858 to it a world-known retailer.The website history calls Macy's an innovator. Macy's was the first to introduce the tea-bag, Idaho baked potatoes, and colored bath towels. Macy's moved to the Herald Square location in 1902. By 1918, when Louise "looked around and shopped there", Macy's was generating 36 million dollars in sales and was a world-wide tourist attraction for visitors to New York - like Louise.
I thought this was an intersting bit of Macy's history.
To help celebrate their new American heritage, Macy's immigrant employees organized the first Christmas Parade in 1924. The procession featured floats, bands, animals from the zoo and 10,000 onlookers, beginning a time-honored tradition now known as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
They started about a week ago.
Today, the day after Thanksgiving
Christmas movies now
I love them
Sugary sweet, predictable
and ending happily.
Jim squirms in his chair.
"isn't there something else to watch?"
but these are my seasonal drug
requited love, romance, sweetness
nothing like real life
Its the background muzak
for cookie baking,
writing Christmas cards,
and wrapping packages.
Leave the channel alone
if you want that stuff done.
for all the blessings
in our life -
Now its later.
The day has ended
A big tender Bird
sweet potatoes, green beans
brussel sprouts, etc etc etc
The buffet was crowded with tastes.
I realized mid-meal
I forgot the aspic
We had all we needed
lots of laughter.
Three Beautiful Things
1. In the kitchen the day before Thanksgiving - washing familiar once-in-a while dishes, cooking traditional dishes, polishing the silver - women's usual work of the day.
2. Sunshine kissing the cool day.
3. Knocking myself out and glad I can.
A very entertaining conversation with storyteller Antonio Rocha.
And, the wonderful bonus of his telling a story and then two stories without words.
It was such fun!
Antonio's website: www.storyinmotion.com
Louise Diggle Duncan
b. 1923 - d. November 15, 2010
Tut was the youngest of Sam and Louise Diggle's eight children.
Like so many families they gathered before the eldest, Lewis, shipped out during World War II.
Back row: L-r. Jack, Lewis, Sam. Robert
Front row: Catherine, Tut, Loretto, Louise, Mary Cobb and Betty.
I remember that afternoon. All the family was gathered. While the photographer took the portrait in the music room the grandchildren and their parents were on the other side of glass paned french doors in the living room. We kids howled and clammered to come into the out-of-bounds room.
Afterwards we ate.
I am so grateful they sat for this portrait - which has become a family icon.
For me - it is a moment frozen in time - when they were all young and beautiful and laughter filled the house - 826 Central Avenue, Charlotte, NC.
My aunt, Loretto Diggle Lowry.
Jim and I had lunch with her when we were in Charlotte. I forget that she and our son Jim share a November 3 birthday - she has just turned 92 -
she so strongly favors her mother, Louise Cobb Diggle. If Nanny were here - we would oooh and ahhh over the resemblance.
A while back I gave this silk collage to my cousins, Pam and Jim
in Charlotte. When I saw it - hanging in their living room - well, I felt good. It had been quite some time since I had seen it - and I was proud. It is a "keeper". Pleased with the color choices. The silks are scraps from old Japanese kimonos that an artist-friend gave to me. They have a worn delicacy that makes the piece seem richer. Yep - I feel proud.
This Mint Hill, NC beauty shop sign is definitely one for my sign collection.
I goofed - and posted this video twice. Mea Culpa. But now I cannot delete it - or it will be removed from the blog and I do want it on the previous page. Please just ignore it and please forgive my "operator error."
This version was recorded at Speakeasydc last August.
This version was recorded at Speakeasydc last August.
Cousins - three Hall descendants at Philadelphia Presbyterian Church Graveyard - Mint Hill, NC ( Marilyn, Ellouise, Rosemary)
surrounded by generations of their ancestors.
I am thinking about genealogy these days - since meeting my Hall cousins I have my family stories on my mind. Genealogy - that's how I came to performing storytelling - as a subversive activity - to make re-create the dry facts into stories and tell if so that my children and grandchildren would listen.
Its worked - to this point - now even strangers listen - I hope to go off and find their own stories.
But talking about the history with my cousins - reminds me that the work on my stories is not done. Its time to get back to it!
Actually I have been headed back to this passion for a year. March 2010 I presented Flesh on Old Bones, my stories and geneaology workshop at the WVA Mountain State Storytelling Conference and now its been accepted for the March 2011 VASA Gathering in Virginia.
When we walked out of the Okey Dokey General Store we were ready for a sit-down and some lunch. Lo and behold - right across the street -
Uncle Buck's All-American Cafe - just the kind of place Jim and I look for -
Inside Uncle Buck's was filled with surprises - the walls were covered with
a variety of mementos
I asked Brandy, our waitress, "where do these things come from?"
"The owners put them up ---and every thing on the wall has a story."
"Please tell us about the torn tee-shirt."
"One night there was a fight outside - an undercover cop was wearing that tee shirt and a woman tried to rip it off him - it was rough - but ended ok. No one was hurt. They asked for the cop's shirt, washed it and hung it on the wall. A memory."
The food was excellent - homemade potato chips, a good grilled cheese sandwich and Jim just had to try the menu item - rattlesnake soup. No - it was a beef chili and he was happy. Service was excellent.
After lunch my sister and I stopped in the Book Nook next door.
A great little bookstore. and I do mean little - nook is an apt name.
Kathy and I are book hounds so poking around the shelves was a
good finish to the sight-seeing.
Then it was time for the main event - my niece's wedding.
And all the family picture-taking that comes after.
For the album - -
Louie and Robert Diggle's kids.
A real find.
We had no more than turned into the historic downtown section when I spotted the Okey Dokey & Co General Store. Who could resist it. I pulled into a parking place next door.
One of the front windows was set up like an old-time
We were drawn into the store which proved to be a treasure trove
of everything. Every inch crammed with
old stuff - the stuff of memories.
Stacks of quilts
A lovely wicker rocker just waiting for
you to sit down.
This place has stories. The building is over 100 years old. There have been two owners. The current owner works to re-create the original feeling and interior with old everything. Movie folks come in and rent things to set up vintage environments. Movies have been shot in the store - some of The Color Purple and The Teen-age Vampire Cheerleaders
The place was cavernous - even the basement
was crammed with goods.
We and other people wandered through, poking in and out.
The young woman working there told me that there are "good spirits here. The ghost busters have been here. They say its filled with paranormal activity. I have felt them myself. If its quiet in here and I am alone I hear people walking back and forth on the wood floors - like they are shopping."
Wow. I loved this collection of old buttons, ribbons and findings.
The real WOW for me was this wonderful log-cabin quilt hanging from the ceiling.
The Okey Dokey General Store.
A special find.
We recommend it.
If you are driving down Hwy 85 - pull in.
My trip to Charlotte was the first stop on my Diamond Jubilee Tour.
For the next year - my 75th year - I am traveling back through my journey to this point - collecting stories and telling tales as well.
So, before I joined the family gathering for my niece's wedding I made a personal visit to Evergreen Cemetery where my parents sleep side-by-side.
A few years ago I was startled and then touched when I read someone's observation that - " we think our story begins when we are born - but isn't our birth also the continuation of our parents' story."
That really resonated with me because I came to storytelling through genealogy - looking for a way to tell my family history stories so that my family would want to hear them.
That said, you'll understand why this jubilee journey will also include stories as I work on continuing my search for my family's history.
But this time I will not be searching my grand-mother's family history alone. Friday I met two Hall cousins for the first time and we will journey together to piece this puzzle together.
We met at the Philadelphia Presbyterian Church grave yard in Mint Hill, NC. It was wonderful. So exciting to know that we are family.
We stood together at the Thomas Milton Hall plot - Ellouise, Marilyn and Rosemary. How are we related? Thomas Milton Hall had two daughters - Cora and Ellie - Rosemary's father Fred was Cora's youngest son. Ellie's daughter Louie is my mother. Thomas had a brother Robert Amzi - who is Marilyn's great-grand father. So at Thomas and Robert's parents the line connects the three of us.
We talked and shared research and they took me to an even older cemetery to see the restored
grave-markers of our common ancestors - Jane Parks and James Young.
When time came for me to leave - I did not want to go. I will be back soon to continue the journey with my cousins.
If you have experienced finding relatives and extending your knowledge of your lines - you know how we felt. If you haven't its hard to explain.
Twenty years ago when I went to SC to meet my mother's aunt, her late father's last surviving sibling - Annie - nearly ninety - eyes filled with tears - reached across the table and squeezed my hand - "Ellouise, we have the same blood."
I went to NC for my niece's wedding in Salisbury and tacked on a couple of days in Charlotte. When I am in Charlotte, as I have been for these few days I find myself up to my eyebrows in memories. Street signs, old houses and people bring back bits that are familiar - its like gathering scraps for a quilt.
Here is a story about my aunt, Catherine Diggle Brown. She was an extraordinary woman in my life - sweetly loving, funny, very talented with a needle, and filled with stories and a love of family history. Oh, did I mention - - - she was also my friend.
Amy Saidman is the Artistic Director of Speakeasydc, Washington, DC . On the currently airing Stories in Focus we talked about the evolution of Speakeasy to its current dynamic position on the storytelling scene - and explored the rise of the true-story Moth movement. Hope you enjoy the conversation.
Right now time is slipping around me.
I don't really know what time it is.
I can look up at a clock that has not been set back
to recapture the hour we lost in the Spring.
And - I can't find a watch to wear.
The two with big faces
that I know are working
have disappeared overnight
while in the red box in my cabinet
where I keep a collection of watches
all the hands are still
the batteries have died out.
I don't know the time
its slipping by
I feel its breath
That's how I felt yesterday
when I called my cousin in North Carolina
We have never met
genealogy and curiosity about our families
are bringing us together
but when she answered the phone
her voice sounded like someone I knew
she is my family
She and I descend from Thomas Milton Hall
She from his oldest daughter - Cora - her grandmother
and I - from his youngest daughter- Ellie - my dear, sweet Granny.
She is younger than I am
but we know the same people
Friday morning we will see each other
face to face for the first time
at the Philadelphia Presbyterian Church graveyard
in Mint Hill
at the foot of the headstones
for Thomas Milton Hall and his wife Alice Shaffer
surrounded by all their people
who are our people
our great great grandparents and beyond.
it seemed a good place to meet.
with us will be another cousin
a friend of her's
new to me
who descends from Thomas's brother Robert Amzy Hall
we embrace a wider circle.
This is the perfect way to begin my Diamond Jubilee Tour.
entering my 75th year -
with the circle of my world expanding