Sunday, June 17, 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Seventy Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the seventieth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

From an earlier time: December 1950 in St. Louis at my aunt’s deb party.

The years have been good to us.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I’m home again, safe and sound from my week-long journey to and through America’s heartland, and in doing so I utilized all three modes of transport.  I am used to the trials and tribulations of travel nowadays, but I learned a couple of things as well.  For instance, having TSA Pre-Check doesn’t really make a difference in small airports or at the crack of dawn; they shuttle everyone through the same line and you go through the same ritual as everyone else.  Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines doesn’t give you more legroom; all it does is give you a few minutes ahead of everyone else to find that out.  Car rental agents and shuttle drivers are friendly and helpful even late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your point of view), and it seems that no matter where you go in America, there’s always a good local place for a great cup of coffee; check out the Coffee Zone in Columbia, Missouri.

I also learned that it is possible to over-pack and even if you plan very carefully, you come back with an increased volume of clothing than what you had when you left.  I didn’t need seven shirts, four pairs of pants, and my blazer, and even if I had, I could have saved some space for the two books that I picked up at the conference.

I also ran the gamut of emotions reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.  I had dinner with a former camper of mine and his wife.  I first met him when he was twelve, and now he’s hit the mid-century mark and has a great career and family.  He told me that I had been and still was a very important part of his formative years, which is both gratifying to hear and reminds me of the tremendous impact a friendship can have.  (And he is still as buff as he was when we worked out at the CU Rec Center thirty years ago.)  I reconnected with people who were an important part of my theatre scholarship life, including one of the men who was the focus of my doctoral dissertation.  He greeted me with a hug and reaffirmed many of the things I’d learned about theatre in general… and about being a good human being.  I made new friends and felt like I’d known them for years after just sharing lunch, and also discovered that when you think you know everything about something, you’re just beginning to hear the whole story.

I also cherished the time — all too brief — with my parents.

The next-to-last leg of the journey was on Miami MetroRail from the airport to Dadeland South.  That’s the mode of transport I use to commute to work, a ritual I will recommence in a little while.  It was, I suppose, a way to ease my way back into my normal routine, at least for the next ten days until I once again venture out into the heartland to learn more about people, life, theatre, and how to pack a carry-on.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Getting Here

The flight was late leaving Miami due to weather somewhere else, and the flight was overbooked.  By the time they were boarding us, the gate agents were offering a $1,000 voucher and all sorts of goodies, including hotel vouchers and first-class upgrades, to any takers.  If I didn’t have just two days with my parents, I would have snapped it up.

Enterprise upgraded my bare-bones reserved car to a Nissan Rogue, which is a station wagon wannabe with more bells and whistles than a carnival organ.  The Red Roof Inn had trouble with the router in my wing so this is my first access to WiFi.  Oh, the horror.

Anyway, I’m here with Mom and Dad, catching up and offering a hand where I can.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

On The Road Again

Heading out this evening for a trip to see my folks for a couple of days, then off to the Missouri Self-Taught: Lanford Wilson and the American Drama conference at the University of Missouri.  I’ll present a paper on Mr. Wilson and compare his life and work to that of William Inge.  I’ll be doing it in front of friends and family of Mr. Wilson and the subject of my dissertation, so, no pressure.

Lanford Wilson 1937-2011

Actually it should be fun.  I’ll be reconnecting with friends and getting to look through the Wilson archives and learn more about him and his life and work.

I’m also looking forward to spending time with my mom and dad.

I’ll post about what I learn; maybe even some pictures.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it.

Easter 1959

Easter Sunday, Perrysburg, Ohio

There is a discussion in my family as to what year this photo was taken; is it 1958 or 1959?  If it’s 1958, the youngest child in the photo would have just turned two years old, and he’s pretty big for two, and the girl would be nine.  I — the one in the red coat — would be five-and-a-half, but I’m two years younger than the boy on the right, and he’s pretty big for someone seven-and-a-half; he’s almost as tall as the station wagon (which is a 1958 Ford Country Sedan) even if he is standing on the curb.  So it’s probably Easter 1959, and we just finished Easter dinner and the egg hunt at the Carranor Club.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Monday, August 28, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Three Score and Nine Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the sixty-eighth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

Nancy and Phil 2011

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Fantastic Archaeologist

My uncle Stephen Williams — my father’s twin — passed away yesterday.  He was an archaeologist by profession and passion.  His idea of a fun afternoon was poking around a ruin on a New Mexico mesa, and his love of history and scholarship was infectious.  He was my inspiration to become a scholar, and he bought me my cap, gown, and hood when I received my PhD in 1988.  He introduced me to Tabasco sauce, Santa Fe, Pontiac station wagons (ours was green, his was red) and the intricate streets surrounding Harvard, where he was a professor for forty years.

In 1991 he published “Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory” in which he debunked some of the more outrageous pseudoarchaeological myths such as Atlantis, Mu, and visits by aliens leaving calling cards.  He wistfully said that it would be great if the science was all Indiana Jones, but in reality it’s a lot of intricate exploration and piecing together the history of our civilization bit by bit.

He leaves his loving wife Eunice and sons John and Tim, two grandsons, and his brother who shared that bond that only twins can know of.

Peace.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cary Gossard Dunn — 1906-1952

IMG_0101

Cary Gossard Dunn was my great uncle, the younger brother of my maternal grandmother. He was born in 1906 in Indiana, one of four children. He married and had two children of his own.

I never knew him; he died in March 1952, six months before I was born. I knew he served in the military and had heard that he had been part of the D-Day invasion on Normandy in 1944. I don’t have a picture of him, but I remember seeing one in my grandmother’s photo album: a young man with familiar family features and a smile that he shared with my grandmother.

In May 2011, my parents and my brother and sister-in-law went to Arlington National Cemetery to find Uncle Cary’s grave. For some reason, the cemetery administration has no record of his burial, but through his daughter Susan they located it and took some pictures.

After I saw this photo I wrote to Susan and asked for information about her father’s service:

He was with the 467th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and was in the original landing at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. His rank was Captain and he saw service in Northern France, the Ardennes, and the Rhineland before returning to the states in 1945. He was awarded the Bronze Star. He left the military for a brief period of time, but rejoined and was promoted to Major and taught ROTC at the University of Pittsburgh for about two years. He was transferred from the Army to the Air Force in 1949 and was sent to Okinawa in 1950 where he worked as an engineer at Kadena AFB. He died of cancer at Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 12, 1952 at the age of 45.

I wish I had known him. Given his siblings’ long lives (my grandmother lived to be 95), I would have been able to learn about what his service meant to him as I was becoming aware of my own feelings about war and peace, and to put a real connection between the stories I read in history books and the lurid tales depicted in the Hollywood movies about the war.

Susan’s description of her father’s service captures the simple facts, but like the men who served and tell their stories in such tales as Band of Brothers, the simplicity does not tell of the pain and the burden these men and women carried in service to our country then and now, and the honor and pride they have in doing their duty without any other thought than protecting the rest of us.

Rest in peace, Uncle Cary. Thank you.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Telling Time

When I was a kid we had a banjo clock in the front hall.  It’s called a banjo because its shape resembles that of the musical instrument.  I have a memory of my mother getting it as a Christmas present in 1956, and from then on until they moved back to Perrysburg in 1997 it was one of the many clocks — antique or otherwise — that told time in their house, some more accurately than others.

The banjo clock from the front hall now hangs in my sister’s dining room — I saw it last weekend — and I’m glad it found a place where it will be passed on to future generations of our family.

My friend Bob collects antique clocks, and he has a banjo clock hanging in his living room.  When I told him of the one we had and the memories of childhood it evoked, I never thought I would have one of my own.  But last night as he and the Old Professor and I celebrated our delayed Christmas, I opened their gift to find this:

dscn6463It is nearly identical to the one we had in our home, right down to the painting of the ship and the brass fittings along the side.  Tears of joy and memories welled up and I don’t think I could express the gratitude I felt for such a gift.

It now hangs in a prominent place in my home, ticking and chiming away like the one I remember so well.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sixty-Eight Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the sixty-eighth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

Nancy and Phil 2011