Saturday, August 2, 2008

Johnny, we hardly knew ye!

OK, so I stole the title of a biography of John F. Kennedy, but it seems so appropriate to me right now.

We've been back from a trip to Michigan where we ambled down memory lane with some of my sisters, recalling "Hankisms." Our dad was certainly an original.

Who my siblings and I probably did not know very well was our paternal grandfather. To me he was a stern old man. He believed children should be seen and not heard. And there was a certain formality to him. I don't think I ever saw him without a tie. I don't remember ever seeing him smile or teasing.

Also, there was always a little bit of tension when he visited because dad married Catholic and then a few years later *Gasp* converted to Catholicism.

So we grew up sort of the black sheep in the family.

Grandpa's first wife, Mary, was our grandmother. Unfortunately, she died in 1938 when Hank was 13, so we never knew her or the person she was or the family she and Grandpa and Hank and older brother John were. Grandpa married a second time, but when his second wife died in 1961, Grandpa was certainly lost. Forced to retire from his job as a city engineer for the city of Detroit where one of his jobs had been site supervisor on the water intake tunnel construction at Waterworks Park, he was afloat. He had no outside interests and died shortly before my youngest sister was born.

A few years ago, while visiting with my dad's sister-in-law, widow of his brother John, one of my cousins told me how Grandpa would pay her and her younger brother a quarter to watch Beverly Hillbillies with him. Who knew Grandpa had a sense of humor? My aunt was nice enough to send me home on that visit with a box of photographs and a box of letters written by my grandparents. That is gold to a family historian. Can you imagine the post office delivering a letter addressed simply to: Miss Mary Bowman, Lexington, Missouri? Yeah, 1920 was most certainly a different era.

In this letter, written just days before their marriage, I saw a young man in love who conveyed just how anxious he was to return and marry my grandmother. He had everything planned to the minute including how he would get home if there were a snowstorm - he would get off the train and walk!

The other letter that caught my eye was addressed to Mrs. Frank Bowman, his mother-in-law. The date stood out on the postmark, August 1938. In this letter, Grandpa is writing to make burial arrangements for Grandma.

Maybe the lighthearted part of Grandpa died with Grandma. I don't know; I hardly knew him.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Maybe We Should Lay Off Those Brewery Tours

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned how much we love to take brewery and distillery tours. This is in large part due to a brewpub in the downriver area of Detroit, Michigan. The brewer at this bar/restaurant was pure genius. I was never a big beer drinker, but having grown up in the land of Stroh's there weren't any really good beers around.

All this changed one hot summer day during their annual street fair. DH and I had worked up quite a thirst dragging our backsides around every stall on the few streets that were closed to car traffic. While no where near the size of the big college town art fair to the west, it was still respectable. I can't even say that we bought anything that year, although I suspect we did. Who can pass up those self-produced music Cd's?

Now, my DH has to check out every dining establishment available before he makes a decision, but when I saw the brew kettles in the window of this tiny little sports bar, I knew we had to try it. We were so absolutely blown away by the quality of the beer being served there. So much so, that for several years it became our favorite Friday night spot. It didn't matter that it was a 50 mile round trip for this dining and drinking experience, it was so worth it.

Those weekly trips turned us on to craft beer and gave us new appreciation for the process.

I should interject at this point, that DH was a dyed-in-the-wool J&B scotch drinker. It constantly amazes me that he had any taste buds left after drinking that stuff. I always thought it smelled like antiseptic.

On a return trip from Tennessee to Michigan a couple years ago, we stopped in a little Kentucky town for a tour of a bourbon distillery. It was just the first stop for us on the Bourbon Trail. This first stop was a self directed tour which ended in a tasting not of their world renowned bourbon, but tasting of two of their small batch bourbons. Needless to say, we were hooked. Since then we have visited three more bourbon distilleries, a Tennessee whiskey distillery, and the Kentucky microbrewery. All this alcohol is prompting me to ask two questions:

  1. Why do they distill whiskey and/or bourbon in dry counties?

  2. Was that really a helicopter we saw being hauled by an RV down I-75 on Sunday?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Picture at the Bottom of the Blog

One of the things I like most about our current home is its location in a small Tennessee college town. With a population hovering at about 28,000 it still has a lot to offer. City lots here average about half an acre instead of the typical 40 x 100 to 50 x 110 lots in most cities. They also average what we paid for our one-third acre lot up North about twenty years ago.

The city government has also managed to insert parks in strategic areas. There is Dogwood Park, a tiny oasis in the heart of downtown which also boasts a band shell. This park is currently undergoing a major expansion and it will be interesting to see if it manages to keep its charm. In addition, there is Walnut Park, even smaller than Dogwood Park, and City Lake Park, which oddly enough is barely in the city limits.

I think DH and I really favor Cane Creek Park, which brags that is in town but manages to incorporate a small fishing lake, man-made like most of the lakes around here; a disc golf course; and walking trails. I took this picture last year in the "Let's move Older daughter here so she can get her degree while still living on her own" movement.

Somewhere in the remaining unpacked boxes in storage is this picture framed. Maybe we'll find it sometime this year.

Genealogy Is My Life; Housework Is Just a Hobby.

I think that says it all, eh? Probably explains my Generational Blog name too, as I am interested in all the family history I can get my hands on.

My family can heartily attest to this statement. My children groan about all the family vacations we took where we sidetracked to cemeteries and libraries. Many cemeteries and libraries. I will admit, it isn't DH's (Dear Husband) favorite thing to do, but after many years I have found a sure fire way to revisit a particular cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky. Bribery.

On our way back from a real vacation last weekend - real in that there were no weddings, funerals, house hunting or moving anyone involved - we made a two night stop in Lexington. We would have one full day to kick back and do what we wanted. Or most of what we wanted. Lexington is a very charming city, that is also vibrant, walkable and downright historic. It was also home to 50% of my father's ancestors at any particular point in time. My goal was to complete two sections of the cemetery in my search of ancestors and collateral relatives. His goal was to take a microbrewery tour. Cemeteries being weather dependant, my backup plan was the city library which houses a huge collection of indexed newspapers. Despite the heat, the weather cooperated and I was very successful at the cemetery. The trip to the microbrewery was equally successful as it involved the tasting of the three brews they produce there. One was a Kolsch (light beer); one an ale with a moderate alcohol content; but the winner was a Kentucky bourbon barrel ale. This process involves aging the regular ale in a used bourbon barrel for 6 weeks which imparts that touch of bourbon taste and nose to the ale and increases the alcohol content. This was so noteworthy we brought back a four-pack!

Due to the vastness of this cemetery and about 170 years of burials in Lexington cemetery, I can see that we will have to continue the bourbon tour we started a couple years ago. The DH knows that my cemetery list is extensive. It gets longer before every trip. But in this 170 acre cemetery I have ancestors going back to my great-great-great-great-great grandparents - seven generations - James Parker and Mary Todd. I can find Bowmans, Chinns, Parkers, Todds, and Webbs. I can find them as obscure residents, famous residents and infamous residents and that is what makes the hunt fascinating. I'm sure Maker's Mark, Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill and Four Roses will make this search very interesting.

My hobby calls!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Watchin' the Solar Lights

Yep, I am a night owl. Sometimes it is lonely to be the only one up late at night. Then I think of the two night owls Dear Hubby and I have spawned and know that I am not alone in the quiet of the night.

Older College student daughter - incidentally the older of my two offspring - has been encouraging me to blog. Now I know why I have procrastinated. There are too many choices. First, I had to choose a blog host. Then I had to choose a name for my blog, page setup, colors, title for my first blog and what-the-heck do I blog about?

Too many decisions for one night, so I guess this is it!