Way back in the day, winters were colder, summers were hotter, mosquitoes were bigger, and
household responsibilities apparently began at an exceedingly tender age—at least to hear
Grandma and Grandpa tell it. To reward these readers for dutifully listening to the same hyperbolic tales
time and again, we’re sending them our new book Good Old Days, My Ass: 665 Funny History Facts
and Terrifying Truths About Yesterday by David A. Fryxell
(see our excerpt on page 52 for a sampling of stories).
My father’s “when I was young” stories mostly came at mealtime to inspire me to realize how good I had it. His favorite one seemed to be about waiting on his parents. My grandfather came from England and my grandmother from Scotland. The custom on Sundays was for a youngster to bring them a tray with tea and toast before church. Each time Dad told the story, he got younger. Finally, during one dinner, I spoke up. “Yes, I know you toddled up the stairs in your diaper with a tray of tea and toast.”
My mother had to hide her mirth with a napkin and my father kind of blinked. I explained that I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, but I noticed that he was getting younger with each telling.
Janet F. Kendall » Hamilton, NJ
Gotta Hand it to Him
My father, Charles B. Lane, also told the “uphill to school both ways in the snow” story. He grew up in Minneapolis, so the blizzard part wasn’t embellished. But he added that he carried his lunch in one hand, his books in one hand, and his French horn in the other hand.
Karen Lane Shelberg » Jacksonville, Fla.
My mother, Marjorie Heath Fish, used to retell us the story of how her half-uncle, Plummer Stanwood Shaw (born in 1890 in New Hampshire), entertained her with the “true” story of his hard journey from the West in a covered wagon.
It seems his group encountered mosquitoes so big and so fierce that they drove their stingers straight through Plummer’s cast-iron frying pan. Uncle barely made it east with his life.
Judy Fish Albano » Meriden, Conn.
Best in Show
Englishman George Teasdale Buckell (1847-1919), brother of my great-grandfather, was a noted sportsman and writer. He was editor of Land & Water magazine from 1885 to 1899, and may have started the publication. He said he preferred to write anonymously, but authored The Complete English Wing Shot in 1907 (the word English is omitted in books printed in England) and Experts on Guns & Shooting, a compilation of articles written while he was editor of Land & Water. He may have written other books.
George also ran dogs at championship trials, judged trials and visited America several times. He was kennel manager and coadjutor to breeder R. Purcell Llewellin, who followed many of Buckell’s breeding suggestions. In 1904, Buckell selected two Llewellin puppies and one, Ightfield Rob Roy, beat all English setters and pointers in England at several competitions in 1906.
Colleen Slater » Vaughn, Wash.
Reheating a Cold Case
When I began researching my husband’s family, I found he had a great-aunt who was killed in July of 1940. I wondered why and by whom, and how it turned out in court. I asked a researcher in Memphis, Tenn., where the murder occurred, to check old newspapers. She sent me two articles, but they didn’t reveal what happened.
I continued my research. My husband’s parents divorced when he was 6 months old and he knew little about his father’s side. He said he had no kin on that side of the family. I replied that we all have kin, and I’d find out where his were. I posted an online query asking about this family line. Two years went by before I received an answer from a lady in Newport, Ark. She was my husband’s cousin, and she said he probably had 200 more cousins within driving distance. We went to meet her and several other relatives, and enjoyed a wonderful day.
While visiting a cemetery, I mentioned to one cousin the great-aunt who’d been killed. She remembered a magazine article about the case from her childhood and thought the magazine was called True Romance. I volunteer at our local archives and I know there’s usually a way to find an answer if you keep trying. On the way home, I kept thinking that a murder wouldn’t be covered in a romance magazine under most circumstances—it just didn’t sound right. My mother read a magazine called True Detective in the mid-1950s. Maybe that was the title our cousin remembered? The following day I went online to see if True Detective was still in publication.
What I found was the website of Patterson Smith of Montclair, NJ, who collects old detective magazines for resale. His database at <www.patterson-smith.com> lists 55,000 articles; and he sells individual articles or the whole magazine. I emailed Mr. Smith and explained my situation. He asked for information about the case so he could conduct a search. The following day he called me—he had a copy of the May 1941 Complete Detective with the whole story on the murder. I learned all I needed to know about how the case turned out. No mystery goes unanswered if one digs deeply enough.
Brenda Johnson » Mountain Home, Ark.
Saved by the Bell
My husband’s mother’s maiden name is Bell. Family lore says they’re related to Alexander Graham Bell, though I’ve never seen proof. One day my husband answered our phone and the person was selling long distance phone service. My husband said he was related to Alexander Graham Bell and therefore already got a big discount through what was at the time Southwestern Bell. The caller apparently believed him, saying something like “Oh well, I guess you do” and hung up.
Carolyn Caplinger » Springfield, Mo.
From the December 2012 issue of Family Tree Magazine