I Write. He Paints. We Preserve History.

I write. My brother paints. We are both preserving history.

Since the early 1960’s our parents took us to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana to play in the water and waves of Lake Michigan. We hiked the trails, explored the blow outs, climbed the sand dunes and conquered Mount Tom and Mount Baldy.

It was a place for us to roam freely with acres and acres of sand dunes vs our suburban neighborhood with houses built side-by-side.

On a cold day in 1967 while we explored the beach, my brother, Jacob, sat in the sand and made sketches of an abandoned cottage that still stood on the lakefront. He later created this painting. Shortly after, the cottage was demolished. All of the cottages that once stood are gone.

However, fifty years later the memory of this cottage remains as the picture hangs in my living room. And it preserves an era of cottages that were built one hundred years ago by owners who, like us today, relished their hours spent on this beautiful lakefront.

We don’t know the original owners or history of this specific cottage, but in the early 1900’s many folks from Chicago traveled to the Indiana side of Lake Michigan to enjoy a time of recreation at the Indiana Dunes.

It was so well-liked that eventually a group of Chicagoans incorporated the Prairie Club in 1911 and two years later built a beach house for members. Members would come to spend weekends and the summer and slept in tents.

Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s landowners began renting small parcels to these Chicago folks. Simple, inexpensive one story wooden cottages along the lakefront would be built on the rented parcels.

Alarmed by industrial sand mining destroying large areas of duneland and steel company land purchased, the Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create a state park. The cause to preserve the Dunes began in 1916 and that campaign finally came to fruition in 1926 when the Dunes opened to the public as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

In 1966 with the drive of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas to save the dunes, the park was authorized as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With perseverance from multiple groups the preservation of more land was granted.

The Indiana Dunes today stands at 15,000 acres. What I will remember of that extensive amount of land, because of my brother’s sketches and painting, is the small portion of land where a cottage was built and an unknown family or individual’s memories were made.

I have over fifty years of good memories made of experiences at the Indiana Dunes from my childhood and with my children and eventually with my grandchildren, and I have recorded my memories on paper.

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the Indiana Dunes or of your nature preserves for your descendants to read.

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

 

 

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Practice Makes P-E-R-F-E-C-T

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My mother passed away eight years ago yesterday and my favorite memory of her concentrated on her love of words and the game of Scrabble. She often challenged family members and loved to win.

She enjoyed playing Scrabble and kept an “official” Scrabble dictionary to settle word challenges. She loved to be competitive and would challenge both her adult children and grandchildren. She often played competitively with many two letter words that would rake in high points.

After she died I found well worn papers with coffee cup stains on them showing at some time she had perused a dictionary and copied two to three letter words that she could use which proves she actually studied to win.

That was one of Mom’s life lessons that she taught us by example… If you want to be good at something, you have to work hard behind the scenes to learn how to accomplish the goal and continually practice to make yourself better.

This memory and others of my mother have been written and recorded for my children and grandchildren to read after I am gone. If I hadn’t preserved the memories of my mother, she would have been forgotten.

Preserving the legacies of your parents will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read these life stories and understand their family heritage. Pull out your laptop and grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your parents starting with the following questions:

  • In what ways are you like your parent(s)?
  • What did you enjoy doing with your parent(s)?
  • What was your proudest moment of your parent(s)?
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parent(s)?
  • What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your parent(s)?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

My Grandfather…the Personal Historian

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My paternal grandfather was born 121 years ago on December 19, 1895 and died nine days short of 94 on December 10, 1989.

I never had a close relationship with him when I was a young child partly due to the hundreds of miles between us as he lived in San Antonio, Texas and I lived in Northwest Indiana. In the early 1980’s when I was in my early twenties, I began to visit him on my own. I’m so fortunate that I came to know him better because he opened up a door for me stirring my interest in my family lineage.

My grandfather introduced me to my ancestors and to my heritage. I became intrigued with his oral stories and family pictures he had of his family. He shared with me his journals that he kept. He showed me the paper with his father’s writing recording the day that grandfather was born. He also show me the genealogical notes that he had on his family. He was a personal historian himself.

I went home after that first visit and started recording my ancestors’ and immediate family’s dates and facts. I began to interview and record family stories. Little did I know it at that time, thanks to my grandfather, the personal historian in me was born.

In 1974 he wrote about his service in World War I: “I was in France, Company F. 360 Infantry 90 Division, American Expeditionary Force. It was Sunday, November 11th, 1918 and we were advancing under heavy fire from the enemy. We had orders to take ‘Metz at all costs. We already had taken St. Michiel where the French lost 40,000 men. In that fighting we lost some men including two lieutenants and my captain was wounded. Many of our men were wounded too.

At 11 a.m. on that cold, rainy day of November 11th the War came to an end. Week later we went to Luxembourg for a rest of two weeks. Then to Berncastle, Germany. Stayed in Germany almost one year. So 56 years have passed since. I was almost 23 years old. So today the 11th day of November, 1974 I give thanks to our Lord Jesus for all the blessings I have received all those years of my life.”

And I give thanks that my grandfather recorded his memories and lit the fire in me to continue his mission as the family historian.

It is said that after two generations family stories can be lost if not recorded. However, there will come the day when I have a grandchild or a grandniece or grandnephew come to me with questions about their heritage, and I will be able to tell them about their ancestors as far back as the early 1800’s because my grandfather shared it with me. And hopefully there will be one in that next generation that will become the next family historian.

What priceless story from your grandparents can you preserve? Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of stories that your grandparents had shared with you. If your grandparents are still with you, take the time to record their memories.

www.keepingyourmemories.com

My Dad – Forever He Will Be

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Today on Father’s Day memories of Dad flood my heart and soul:

I remember Dad as a gentle, patient man. By example he quietly taught me life skills. He taught me to have good character and work ethics. I watched him work responsibly and diligently in taking care of his home and property. I watched him rise early in the morning to get to work on time. I admired him for his patience and tolerance.

When I was a little girl, Dad worked long hours as a freight conductor on the Pennsylvania Railroad. I don’t remember him being home, but I never thought of him not being home. It was just that Dad worked and that was life.

Dad would send us across the street to DeLock’s, a small corner grocery store, to purchase the afternoon newspaper for him but did not always ask for the change back from the

Dad gave me the necklace that I wore in my kindergarten picture. He also gave me a little yellow ring with flowers printed on it which I wore every day in kindergarten. Every year he gave me a Valentine’s Day card and gift. I still have all the cards he gave me.

Dad was a handy man. He could fix anything. He would work on his cars. He would work on the yard. Anything that needed to be fixed, he could do it.

Instead of sending me to school for drivers ed, Dad taught me how to drive when I was sixteen years old. He was a patient man. Behind our house we had a field with an alley that circled it. He had me drive back there until I got used to the feel of driving. Then he took me out on the streets to drive.

Fortunately, he was a quiet person and didn’t anger easily. For the number of his cars that I, and some siblings, damaged he never yelled at us.

Dad always changed the oil in his car himself and when I was a teenager, I asked him to teach me to do the same. He was willing to show me, however, I did not have to change it often as he did it for me.

I remember Dad at the Indiana Dunes racing up and down the steep sand dunes faster than us.

Dad passed in February 2007 making this my tenth Father’s Day without him. He’s physically gone but my memories of him keeps him close to me

Preserving the legacies of your father will prevent him from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read his life story and understand their family heritage. Grab your laptop or paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your father starting with the following questions:

  • In what ways are you like your father? And not like your father?
  • What did you enjoy doing with your father?
  • What was your proudest moment of your father?
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your father?
  • What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your father?

www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

Memorial Day – Straight from the Heart

This past Friday night my husband, daughter and soon to be son-in-law began the holiday weekend with shopping at Hunt & Gather. It is one of my favorite quarterly pop-up markets in our area featuring over 150 vintage/antique curators. I have gone to all but one of the thirteen scheduled markets since it originated a few years ago and every time I find something unique. This time what attracted my attention was a perfect fit for the holiday weekend.

My daughter and I stopped at the last table that we saw because the curator had a 1940 vintage suitcase that my daughter wanted to purchase and use at her wedding reception for wedding cards. While she was purchasing it, I noticed something else from the 1940’s. What attracted my attention were the stacks of personal letters written in 1943 and 1944 between a World War II sailor and his wife which the curator purchased at an estate sale. What better time to purchase them than Memorial Day weekend.

It really tugged at my heart and spirit when I saw these personal letters with intimate thoughts that were shared between two young people who were in love with each other. When these letters were written 73 years ago, did they ever imagine they would be sold at a market and a stranger would purchase them to read? There were multiple stacks, and I would have loved to have purchased them all but only purchased two stacks which totaled twenty letters.

In between my activities over the weekend, I read the letters and felt close to this World War II veteran and his wife. It appears he was stationed in the states in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and New York. His wife lived approximately twenty minutes from where I live. They had occasional phone calls but it appears their main communication was writing letters. And because of that, their experience and emotions have been preserved for history.

Below are a few excerpts from the letters sharing first-hand emotions of how a sailor and his wife felt during this time.

The wife in Crown Point, Indiana shared her loneliness to the husband, “I’m awfully anxious to see you again – every time I see a sailor around town. I get so lonesome for you. It’s a good thing you’ll be there to see me in Norfolk. I’d be lonesome so much, seeing so many sailors if you weren’t around. I love you and hurry up and write even if it’s only a little bit.” (postmarked Crown Point, Indiana on September 4, 1943 at 5:30 p.m.)

The sailor sent instructions to the wife, “I have a little news for you. I am going to start this schooling the 27th of September. When you get here, I will be able to spend the evenings with you so when you are figuring your trip, figure three to four dollars a day for meals. And also try to get a train that gets here early in the evening so I will be able to meet you. Whatever day you want to come down is ok. As I understand, we have Sundays off when we are going to school. I will tell you more about school when I get in there so don’t ask too many questions now. (postmarked Norfolk, Virginia on September 7, 1943 at 6:30 p.m.)

The unsettled sailor shared with the wife, “I don’t know what to do. I just can’t make up my mind the more I am in this life the more disgusted I get. If I knew where I would be shipped to it would be OK. I am working until 2 o’clock tonight so have this time to write you…

About going back to Norfolk, I am not really crazy about it. But I would get off the streets and that would be something. I don’t know if I would save more money. I guess I stay here until they ask me to move. They have some talk about the S.P. relieving the M.P. in this delivering prisoners to these prison camps. I don’t know much about it. It may be all talk like everything else.”  (postmarked Virginia Beach, Virginia on May 27, 1944 at 8:30 a.m.)

More excerpts will later be posted from this sailor. But for now if you have love letters exchanged between your parents or grandparents, now is the time to pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and begin Keeping Your Memories of the letters and preserving them for future generations to read.

Letters are a first-hand record of the culture and lifestyle they were living at the time. Combine the letters with pictures of the people mentioned in the correspondence and the images in the picture will come to life when you understand what those folks were experiencing.

www.keepingyourmemories.com

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  Missing my mother who has been gone for seven years now but so fortunate that I still have her close to me in my heart. And I will never forget her childhood and teenage stories with interviewing her in 1985 and my brother, Jacob, videotaping my parents narrating their family pictures and preserving the stories of their lives.

This year I have compiled the pictures of my mother and transcribed her narrations to create a coffee table book of the first quarter of my mother’s life.

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When my daughter reviewed the 77 pages of the final draft, she questioned me as to why I didn’t have any pictures of Papa in this book. She didn’t think it was complete without including pictures of him.

I explained this book depicted the first quarter of her life and even though it was just a short portion of her life span it was the foundation of her life before she met my dad.  It formed her into the woman, mother and grandmother she became. To include him I did add an epilogue of how she met Papa through her cousin and her cousin’s boyfriend who was a USS Anzio shipmate of Papa’s during World War II.

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Webb City, Missouri had been Mom’s home for twenty years and when she left in November 1948 to marry Dad she was never to live there again. She was embarking on a new chapter of her life. She married, had five children and brought her family back every year to this small town that would always remain home to her in her heart.

Have you interviewed and recorded your mother’s childhood stories?  Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the stories your mother has shared with you.

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

A Trunkful of Memories

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Today I had the honor to present to Violet on her 101st birthday the printed book of her life story that she and I had compiled, “A Trunkful of Memories – Reminiscing on the Past 100 Years.” Our town’s historical association, which I am a member of, understood the necessity and the importance to interview Violet, a lifetime one hundred year old town resident. Preserving Violet’s memories of her family, farm life and education will enable future generations to read her first-hand account of the life of this early 20th century family from this small town in Indiana.

Barb, a longtime member of the Association as well as a longtime friend to Violet, was willing to make the introduction. Barb met with me to give a brief introduction of Violet’s background and to see the treasures Violet donated to the Association.

Opening Violet’s trunk we found priceless family pictures, her christening gown, baby clothes, and her mother’s wedding dress along with a tin container protecting the flowers from her parents’ 1908 wedding.

I was already excited to meet Violet so it was a pleasure to meet this energetic woman at an assisted living home in town. She flawlessly maneuvered her electric powered wheelchair in her room and down the hallway.

Once we rearranged the seating and Violet was able to self-maneuver her wheelchair into reverse to back herself against the wall, and the video camera  was set up, we were taken back up to one hundred years ago as she described her childhood, her parents, grandparents, brothers, life on the farm and moving to town. She seemed to vividly remember riding the horse and buggy to school and the family Christmas tradition of cleaning the house for Santa Claus.

I also had the opportunity to meet Francy and Erick who not only purchased Violet’s 177 acre farm but they, along with all of their children, became dear friends to her. Francy and Erick graciously let me visit them giving more details to the farm’s history and sharing pictures with me. Walking through the old dairy barn and buildings, climbing the ladder up to the hayloft and seeing a wider view of the farm, and walking around their property helped me visualize Violet as a young woman living on this farm in the early 1900’s.

We had a few copies of the book at the open house and it was satisfying to see the adults skimming over it and some sitting for an extended time reading it and giving positive reviews. However, I did a double take when glancing to the left of me I saw a young eight year old boy sitting at a table perusing the book. Thanks to the pictures and stories that Violet shared, he was able to visualize this 101 year old woman as a child. That was gratifying as my mission was met: “Keeping Your Memories for future generations.”

Recording Violet’s life story has kept her legacy preserved. And Keeping Your Memories of your life will be invaluable to your great grandchildren years from now. You would not be just a picture with a few recorded facts, but you will be an ancestor turning your life experiences into life lessons for your descendants.

Open up your laptop or grab pen and paper and start recording your life experiences for future generations to read.  Start with these questions:

  • What is the most important date in your personal history?
  • What was the hardest thing that you ever had to do?
  • If you could change anything in your life, what would you change?
  • Was there one moment in your life that changed everything for you?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com