Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another Bit Of Family History Tarnished

My maternal and paternal families are fine folks; salt of the earth... but have not been the stuff of legends. It's therefore distressing to have the few interesting family stories that I do know about, one after the other, turn out to be hooey. For example, I had always been told that Oliver Hazard Perry, the great American naval hero of the War of 1812, was an ancestor in my Mother's maternal family (the Westcotts), and to this day the name Oliver or even Oliver Hazard is given to the occasional boy in the family. Well, it turns out that this is a belief and a given name common to quite a number of families; sometimes there may actually have been somebody from the family who served with Perry and named a son after him, but probably more often the name Oliver Hazard was just picked because Perry was a popular hero with a dashing name, and then later generations came to believe there must have been a biological connection with the Admiral. By this same token, with all the little girls being tagged with the name "Britney", I suppose someday there will be hundreds of families thinking they are descended from Britney Spears, and wondering where the money went and why their little snowflakes can't sing worth a lick (actually I guess the lack of any singing talent in this case wouldn't preclude a true biological link).
Anyway, the big pots of spider lilies are blooming their heads off right now; they were a gift from my cousin's husband Ed... and Ed was the source of just about my only other interesting family story; a story which has also been greatly deflated recently. The original story (which I, in gripping detail, related in this blog last year at this time when these flowers bloomed) goes like this: Ed worked for Rockwell Collins for many years, but always wanted to run a commercial greenhouse, and finally sprang for one; unfortunately he purchased the business in Oelwein, Iowa in May of 1968, one day before an F5 tornado tore through town, totally destroying his greenhouse before he'd had a chance to get it insured. Sadly, with this huge financial loss he had to give up his dream and go back to Rockwell Collins, where he remained until he retired (though he had a hobby greenhouse at home, and then later grew his plants under lights in the basement); my spider lilies were a gift from his collection of amaryllids, and they delight me by blooming for a very long time in late summer.
It happened that Ed and some other family members came down for a visit and garden tour last fall, and I asked him about that famous event of forty years ago; it turns out the tornado came through a couple of weeks after he'd purchased the nursery, and he had plenty of insurance, but just decided not to rebuild... certainly still a bit of a speed bump in his life, but not, sadly, the stuff of family legend. About all I've got left is the story about the time my Uncle Det and Aunt Floy (who were Ed's wife's parents) were driving through an Iowa town which was too small to even have a single stoplight, and they waved to the town policeman as they drove through the one block long main street business district. However they somehow then took a wrong turn and ended up doing a complete circle, so they again drove by the cop, then made the same mistake once more, and this time the policeman decided to escort them through town. Well, it's not a story that anybody has ever eagerly asked me to retell, but it's all I've got.
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Funny about family stories -- they seem to lose a little legitimacy with each telling. Amusing story, though. :)
Ah, the stuff of which we are all a part, and that in which we delight! ha. I don't always get the chance to chortle (especially while all by myself, down at the computer, in the basement). So Thank You Very Much! ;-)
(actually I guess the lack of any singing talent in this case wouldn't preclude a true biological link)

Nancy & Shady & Subjunctive... I should just avoid cluttering up my tales with a lot of facts.
Offered as an encouraging comment, 'twouldn't be the same! :-)
Well at least you have interesting family stories. All I got are family fights.
MrBrown... yah, I hear you.
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