Mondays for Me #57 ~ In the Garden

When we moved from the desert of Arizona to the lush, green State of Missouri, I was what could be called “gardening ignorant”. It was difficult to learn much about growing fruits or vegetables in the extreme heat of the Southwestern summers. I was 12 years old and I had never grown anything except cactus.

My parents bought a small house in Independence that had ½ an acre for the backyard. To me it was enormous! My Dad was so excited to plant a garden, and I was anxious to help. That first summer it was a “small” garden, at least by my Dad’s perspective. He and I dug up the ground and made the rows for the various vegetables that we were going to plant. We sowed carrot, cucumber, lettuce, radish, peas, corn, and green bean seeds. We made a trip to the nursery, and we came back with tomato plants and some blackberry bushes. I really had fun with the entire process.

Over the summer I helped to hoe the garden and tie up the tomato, peas, and green bean plants. I can still remember how excited I was when I saw the first little vegetable growing on the vine. I was a little confused when my Dad took me to the grocery store and told me we needed to find a bag of potatoes with lots of “eyes” on them. We had always avoided that type before. When we got home he showed me how to cut the “eyes” off and plant them in the ground, and he told me we were going to grow new potatoes. Yeah, right! We also had three large, well established peach trees standing side by side in the yard. I was fascinated with their bright pink blooms that smelled so good. Everything was coming to life with very minimal effort. In Arizona my Dad planted two peach trees and one apricot tree. During the summer they had to be watered every day and fertilized often. In the twelve years we lived there, we only got six peaches and one apricot from the trees.

June came and the backyard was full of things to eat. The first things to ripen were the peaches! Each tree was hanging low with fruit in different stages of ripeness. We picked so many for us, and I probably ate the majority of them. I just loved them. We soon had some of our relatives come over and pick as many as they wanted. Then my Aunt Margaret came and helped me pick enough to can. I had never done this before so it was a treat. Finally, my Dad put a notice in the newspaper for “free peaches”, and after several people came and picked what they wanted, we still had fruit on the trees!

We also had an abundance of other vegetables that could be canned. Again, my aunt came and taught me about each requirement for the various ones. We spent several days canning and talking. It was a very special time. It also felt good to have contributed to food stored up for the winter.

The potatoes where the last crop we dealt with. I was amazed at how many had grown from those little “eyes”. It was fun to dig in the dirt and not get yelled at! My Dad loaded the potatoes into the bed of the truck, and we drove them into Kansas City to my aunts home, and we stored them in her basement covered in lye. We all had potatoes for the next 9 months. This was a good experience for me. I learned a lot about how to plant and grow anything I wanted and I learned both patience and hard work.

When Autumn came and the temperature got colder, I missed the excitement of gardening. One day I was waling in the yard and I noticed a lot of hard round balls laying under a very tall tree on the south side of our house. I really never paid attention to it, it was only a tree! I picked one up and brought it to my Dad. He told me the tree was a black walnut tree. He and I then went outside and picked up a few of the balls, and we used a knife to open the outer casing of the nut. Once that was done, we had a walnut in a shell like I had seen in the grocery stores. To be honest, I didn’t like the process. It seemed like too much trouble, especially since walnuts were not my favorite nut at the time. My Dad did enjoy sitting in his chair and coaxing the nut to come out!

The next year we did the same, only this time the blackberry bushes gave us an abundance of fruit. Because of this, and the above mentioned peaches, these two became my two favorite fruits.

When we had to sell our home and move to California I felt so bad for my Dad. He seemed to thrive in this environment and I knew he would miss it. When we left Missouri, we were able to leave a lot of the produce with our relatives. This two and a half years were some of the best of my childhood!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Monday’s for Me #55 ~ Going to the Swimming Hole

Me age 5

I was always a tom-boy growing up, always the first one to take a dare and run with it. I remember so many times that the outcome of these daring feats ended in disaster. Once I ended up with stitches in my knee, another time I sprained my ankle so badly from roller skating off our wooden picnic table onto the concrete patio that I was on crutches for 2 weeks.

A perfect example of accepting a dare was when I was 5 years old. We lived on Circle A Drive and the street was shaped like a horseshoe. For the first 8 years that we lived there the street was unpaved. It was not uncommon for the county to dig large holes on the side of the streets to fix pipes or other issues. There was a boy named Terry who lived down the street from us, and he was about 6 years older than me. One day he came over and said they were putting in a swimming pool a few houses down, and he asked if we wanted to see it. My sister and I immediately said yes and off we went.

My sister aged 8 and me aged 4

Sure enough, right in the front of their yard was a large 6-foot deep hole half filled with murky water. My sister said that she had never seen a pool without cement in it and Terry told her that after they are sure the hole is deep enough and that it is the right shape, they drain it and put in the cement. He then challenged my sister to jump in. My sister wasn’t a good swimmer and although she was only 9 years old she already weighted close to 200 pounds, so she was afraid to try. Terry only just began the challenge directed to me when I ran and jumped in the hole!

I remember going under the water and when I came to the surface I couldn’t breathe. My skin had a light brown sludge on and I couldn’t “swim” to the edge. Totally frightened Terry jumped in close to the edge and reached his hand out for me to grab. It took a couple of tries, but we finally clasped hands. After pulling me to the edge he shoved me up onto the dirt. He then struggled to climb up but couldn’t get a good footing. My sister had run to Terry’s house and got his Dad to come help. Eventually we were both laying on the ground. Terry’s Dad was laughing so hard he could hardly speak.

He sent my sister to tell my mother that he was carrying me home and to meet us in the yard with some towels. Terry was instructed to go home. When we got to my house my mother and sister were standing in the yard with the towels and my mother looked angry. That was until she saw me. She started screaming from fear and rushed to get the water hose. She turned it on and began spraying me head to toe trying to wash the sludge off of me. I was still struggling to catch my breath and coughing.

After I got cleaned up enough to go inside, my mother told me to go take a hot shower and wash my hair and body really good. By the time I got out, Terry’s parents were in the living room, along with a freshly scrubbed Terry. They were explaining what had happened, and they told her they would take me with them because we needed to go see our doctor. That is when I found out that the “swimming pool” was actually a hole that was dug to fix a sewer line. Apparently the leak got bigger overnight and sewage had filled the hole. The county workers had been by early in the morning and had dumped some chemicals in it to keep the smell down. This was in 1960 before all of our current regulations. You can image my reaction when I realized I had jumped in a hole of poop!

Thankfully, I had no adverse reactions to the chemicals or from being submerged in the mess. I wish that this event had taught me not to take a dare in the future, but it didn’t. I must say, if nothing else, my childhood was colorful!

Monday’s for Me #54 ~ Bedrock City, Arizona

My husband and I have been married for over 34 years. I remember when we were dating, he told me when he was a little boy he loved watching The Flintstones. He had a crush on Wilma, and he decided right then that he was going to marry her when he grew up.

I was a widow with 3 children ages 8,10, and 15. The kids loved watching The Flintstones so there was a bonding that took place between them. After we got married we decided to take the kids to Northern Arizona to see all of the attractions that is there. One of the last stops was to be the Grand Canyon.

We gave ourselves a week to see all we could see. We had so much fun seeing Montezuma’s Castle, Meteor Crater, The Painted Desert, The Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater and all the charming little towns along the way. We finally made our way to the Grand Canyon and about 20 miles south of it we came upon “Bedrock”. Out front was the enormous sign shaped like Fred and there was a gift shop. The kids loved souvenirs!

To say we were excited is an understatement. I don’t know who was more excited, George or the kids. We pulled into the parking lot and tumbled out of car. We were so surprised to realize that it was an actual amusement park. We spent several hour visiting the Flintstones and the Rubble’s house and running through the town. George was even “arrested” and placed in Bedrock’s jail.

We drove the stone aged cars and slid down the Dino Slide which was about 2 stories high! The movie theater was playing The Flintstones show so we watched a few episodes. There was so much to do and see. George and I got our picture taken in cutouts of Fred and Wilma. The best part was the photos of me with a statue of Fred and George got one with Wilma. We ended our time there picking out souvenirs, and then we made our way to the Canyon. We had a great week.

This was not the only time we visited Bedrock. Over the next 25 years we made the trip about 5 times. Each time it was with one less kid and eventually it was just the two of us. Two years ago, Bedrock closed its doors and the property was sold. It is sad that my Grandkids and Great Grandkids will never get to experience this special place. However, at least we have our photo’s and our memories.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Elisha Reavis ~“The Old Hermit of the Superstition Mountains”~ Pinal County, Arizona

Elisha Marcus Reavis, my maternal 2nd cousin, was born in 1827 in Beardstown, Cass County, Illinois. He was the son of James A. and Mary (Harlan) Reavis. After the death of his parents when he was 6 years old, he and his siblings were raised by an aunt and uncle. Elisha attended college before going to California during the Gold Rush. He taught school briefly at El Monty and searched for gold along the San Gabriel River. He married Mary Y. Sexton in San Gabriel in 1862 and they had one daughter and her name was Louisa Maria Reavis.

Elisha went with other gold seekers to the Bradshaw Mountains in Arizona in 1863 but had little success. He returned to California but his wife refused to move to the rugged country in Arizona and preferred to live near her parents. After her death, their daughter went to St. Louis to live with some Reavis relatives.

Elisha returned to Arizona with his uncle who was appointed a judge on the territorial state Supreme Court by President Grant. Elisha worked as a US Marshall before starting a small ranch near Ft. McDowell, There he broke horses and mules, packed for the army during Indian campaigns before moving to a remote valley in 1874. It was on Iron Mountain and was high enough to be cool and beautiful in what became known as the Superstition Mountains. He was known as the “Hermit of the Superstitions” to Anglos, and the “White Devil” to the Apaches.

Elisha cultivated and irrigated about fifteen acres of land on the mountain. He had chickens, turkeys, hogs, burros, two horses and several dogs to care for. His team of horses pulled his disc and shear plow for his large fields. In 1895, He was seventy years old and was still making trips from his mountain valley farm to the small towns in the central Arizona Territory to sell his vegetables. The chores on his farm were enough to keep a young man busy, let alone a seventy-year-old man.

He hunted to supplement his diet with wild game. Early visitors to his place talked about the many antlers he had hanging around His home. He even had several bear skin rugs. These items certainly pointed to the fact he was quite a skillful hunter and tracker. Old pioneers all said Reavis had lived in these mountains for more than twenty years. The two decades Reavis spent living alone in the Superstitions made him a legend in his own time. He had been an outdoors man since the 1850s when he first moved to California from Illinois.

His acquaintance, James Dalabaugh, often checked in on Elisha at his ranch. Dalabaugh knew he wasn’t doing too well in the spring of 1896. It was on April 9th of that year when Dalabaugh was at the ranch with Reavis as he was preparing to make a trip to Mesa to buy seed potatoes. Dalabaugh later stopped by the Fraser Ranch just a few miles south on the 6th of May, almost one month later and found that Reavis had not been there.

Alarmed, he backtracked and found Elisha’s remains four miles south of his ranch on the trail. His mules were tied nearby and half starved. Reavis’ remains were scattered by wild animals. On May 7th, 1896, he was buried at a nearby Indian ruins where the soil was softer under a cairn of rocks. His grave was marked with a stone marker. He had died at the age of 68.

Many stories have been told of him, such as how he was a crack shot with a Winchester causing the Apaches to give him a wide berth after a fight in which he killed three of them. Also, how he faced a bear with a rifle that misfired. Even for the mid-1800s Reavis was quite the sight. With long, unkempt and unwashed matted hair and beard Reavis was the proverbial mountain-man poster child. Beaming small, piercing eyes he maintained a savage and even feral appearance even for the old west. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reavis was quite educated and kept a personal library at his ranch as he was an avid reader.

I have lived in Arizona for over 50 years and I have never heard this story nor knew that I was related to this man. I have lived within 4 miles of the Superstition Mountains for over 28 years! It really is a small world.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Monday for Me #53 ~ Woolworth’s ~ Downtown Tucson, Arizona

When I was growing up, going into downtown Tucson was a treat. We would go to the yearly Rodeo parade in February, we would walk the small 4 block square looking at the holiday decorations, we would go to buy our “start of school” clothes, and occasionally my Dad and I would make a detour from running errands to go to Woolworth’s to get something at the lunch counter.

My dad was a very tall, slightly muscular man and I may be biased, but I thought he was the handsomest man in the world. I think a few of the lady’s did too. When we would enter the store, the counter was towards the middle of it. The waitress’ would see us coming and I would hear them say “Hi Doug” with what I now realize was excitement. We would sit down to a fresh cup of black coffee already poured for him and a warm glass of Pepsi (the only way I have ever liked it) for me. My dad would then spend some time talking with the waitresses, and then we would order our usual, a sandwich for him and pancakes for me. We would eat and before we left he would always let me drink the tiny pitcher of cream that they gave him for his coffee.

We managed to make it a bi-monthly outing, at least until I was about 11 years old. It was time for our yearly trip for school clothes. My mother made most of my clothes so I was allowed to pick out 2 dresses. I was standing, looking through a bargain bin of sleeveless dresses when I heard a familiar voice call out “Hi Valerie, where’s your Dad?” I whipped around and there stood one of the lunch counter ladies in her uniform, with a huge smile on her face. I slowly looked around and saw that my mother was standing there gripping her purse so tight that all of the color had drained out of her hands.

She grabbed me by the back of my neck and practically dragged me back to the car, leaving before I was able to get my dresses. As soon as we got in the car my mother started interrogating me. The questions came faster than I could answer and I could see the anger building in her face. I knew it wasn’t going to be a good evening. She wouldn’t believe that all my Dad did was talk with the waitresses, she was convinced of other things which she proceded to tell me about. I got an unwanted education!

I was so scared to see what would happen when Dad got home from work. My mother had locked herself and my sister in her room and I could hear them whispering. I heard the truck pull into the driveway and I ran and hid under the kitchen table. I was prepared for the worse. When my Dad walked through the front door my mother and sister marched quietly out of the bedroom and my mother exclaimed “We are going to Woolworth’s for dinner!” They marched past me and out the door and got into my mothers car. My Dad and I followed and the silence in the car was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife. It was funny, when we got lunch counter and sat down. I didn’t recognize a single waitress there. My Dad didn’t look nervous at all and I saw the look on my mother’s face change slowly the longer we sat there. We had dinner and went home.

About 7 years later when my Dad had lung cancer, and he knew he didn’t have long to live, he apologized to me for what had happened all those years ago. He felt the need to set the record straight that he never, ever cheated on my mother, he just enjoyed the conversation. I knew that was true because even as a young child I saw what went on in the house and I knew my mother was different than other kids moms. I was 13 years old when she was diagnosed with a mental illness which she had apparently had since she was young.

I still have those fond memories of spending time alone with my Dad and until they closed all of the stores, I would occasionally go and sit at the lunch counter and order a Pepsi and pancakes and remember my Dad and our time together.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Namesake ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks #3

It wasn’t until I began researching my family history that I realized that my middle name wasn’t as “plain” as I thought. I found that at least one third of my female ancestors share this same name.

Growing up I hated my middle name ….. Jane. My sister taunted me with “plain Jane” throughout my childhood. I once got up the courage to ask my mother why she gave me the middle name Jane, and she told me that was her name, and it went back a few generations. She also told me that if I were to have a daughter I had to name her Jane, even if it was the middle name.

Me at 9 months old

From that time on I would occasionally try to think of a first name that would sound good with it, but I didn’t like any of them. Then, when I was about 12 or 13 years old, my best friends mom took us to see the movie Hawaii. Julie Andrews played the main female lead, a missionaries’ wife named Jerusha. I thought about it ….. Jerusha Jane….I loved it. It just seemed to just flow. I had to wait through 2 sons until my daughter was born when I was 23 to use it.

Julie Andrews as “Jerusha”

My mothers name was Emmajane, her mom was Ella Jane, her mom was Sarah Jane and so on. There are over 200 female ancestors with the name of Jane in the first five previous generations in both my maternal and paternal lines.

In retrospect, I think my dislike of the name came from the dysfunctional relationship that I had with my mother. She had some mental problems that only got worse with age, and I was never close to her. Once I discovered all of the “Jane’s” in my lines, I have grown to love the name.I am proud to be the namesake of these women.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Monday’s for Me #51 ~ Why I Hate Horror Movies

Growing up we had a small 12 by 12 inch black and white television set. It had a set of rabbit ears that sat on top and it all sat in a corner of our living room. We were only allowed to watch TV for about 2 hours per night. My Dad would watch the news at 6 o’clock every night and on occasion we would watch a movie. On Saturdays, we could watch the children’s programs in the morning as long as we did our “chores” afterward.

I think I saw my first “scary” show when I was about 9 years old. There were “The Munsters”, “The Addams Family”, “The Outer Limits”, and “Dark Shadows” allof which were pretty tame compared to what you can view today. However, they did there job and really had me freaked out.

I didn’t like the feelings I had when I watched any type of scary program. So I usually stayed away from anything that made me feel this way. Fast-forward to when I was 18 years old. My family had moved to Hollywood, California in 1973. My Dad had worked construction most of his life and had worked with a lot of asbestos. He also smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day. So it was really no surprise when in October of that year he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

He had radical surgery where they removed the right lung. and he had a scar that ran two-thirds the diameter of his chest and back. I drove him to Chemotherapy and radiation treatments 3 days a week. The doctor gave him 3 months to live. After about 6 months, my Dad was convinced that he was getting better. So, I started to go out more with my friends and spend more time away from home. It was now 1974 and the blockbuster movie of the year was “The Exorcist”. Everyone I knew was talking about it but I declined every invitation to go see it. Then my sister who was 4 years older than I and who had always been a bully towards me told me she wanted to see it and I had to go with her. Between my mother and her pushing me to go I finally gave in.

On June 23rd 1974 my sister and I went to see the 11:45 pm showing at a theater on Hollywood Boulevard. I absolutely hated the movie, and I was scared to death! Even my sister was scared, and she had cried during the show. We got home about 2:30 am and I had a hard time falling asleep, but I now I did at some point. I know this because I was abruptly shaken awake at 7:30 by my mother. She was standing over me with a big grin on her face, and she told me to come and see, my Dad was dead. I jumped out of bed and ran to their room, and he was indeed gone. I started to cry hysterically and I ran to my room, threw on my clothes and ran out of the house. I went straight to my boyfriends house 5 house down from ours. I stayed there, sitting on the porch swing with him until the coroners van left.

When I went in the house my mother was so excited, getting ready to go to the funeral home. This is a woman who had lived in the Los Angeles area for over 5 years and had never left the house except when we moved. She had a mental breakdown about 6 years earlier, and she had become a hermit. To say thing was unnerving is an understatement.

Now I know my Dad did not die on June 24th because I went to see that horrible movie the night before, but for many years after this event, that is what I believed. I decided that I would not watch any of these types of movies again and I never saw another horror movie after this.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on either Facebook or Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Monday’s for Me #48 ~ Hollywood

In July of 1973 my family moved from Palms, California to Hollywood. It was for two reasons, first one of our neighbors had called social services because of my mothers bizarre behavior, and second my Dad got a job with a construction company on Sunset Boulevard. We rented a small 3-bedroom bungalow located just south of Sunset.

Each of the 4 cities that we lived in during our 5 years in California offered a different style of living. Hollywood was definitely the strangest. With so many diverse things to see and do there was hardly a dull moment. We lived about one mile south of Hollywood Boulevard and about 1 mile east of the heart of the city. Something was always going on so any day I would walk up to the Boulevard I was able to witness something interesting.

There were always people dressed as celebrities in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater that were very entertaining. There were street musicians and pop up theatrical performances daily. I even enjoyed the variety of tourists from all over the world. It was also a haven for the many religious cults that were popular during this time. Hari Krishnas would block your way to give you a carnation in hopes that you would put money in their bucket. Many others tried to give out their literature. There was a mixture of hippies, wealthy people, prostitutes, and homeless that crowded the sidewalks.

For an eighteen-year old it was exhilarating! One of my favorite memories happened in one of the many diners on the Boulevard. I would sometimes take my 3-year-old son Pleasant, with me to go eat lunch and on this particular day we decided to eat at one that had a counter. My son loved sitting on the stool and spinning around. I can’t recall the name of the diner but it was located on the north side of the street just a little west of Hollywood and Vine. We found our stools and placed our orders. I always brought a coloring book and crayons for Pleasant and a book for me whenever we went out, so I pulled them out to keep him busy. As I was reading I heard a man speak to Pleasant, and he began to laugh. When I looked over at him, I saw that he was handing the man one of his crayons.

You can imagine my surprise to see that the man was none other than Bob Crane, the star of “Hogans Heroes”. He was sitting there coloring in my son’s coloring book and listening to him ramble on about the firetruck he was coloring. Mr. Crane then turned to me and struck up a conversation. I tried to act like I didn’t know who he was but I think he knew that I did. When he left he signed the page he had colored and left. When we were ready to leave I found out that he had also paid for our lunch.

Pleasant didn’t know who he was so the next time the rerun of the show came on TV I had him watch it and he got so excited when he saw “Uncle Bob”. I had to explain to him why he was in the “army” and why he was on TV. He proudly kept that colored page with the autograph until the day he died.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Resolution ~ A New Year ~ 52 Ancestors #52

I have really enjoyed this challenge this year. I tried to participate in it about 4 years ago, but I only completed about half the year. At the first of the year we got the news that my husband would never recover from the health problems that was caused by an arrogant nurse practitioner in July of 2019. I had been writing a Genealogy blog since January of 2012, but it was hit or miss at best, and as I found myself in the position of being a full time caregiver, I knew I needed something to help fill the hours. This was a perfect fit!

After a couple of weeks, I made the decision to try to write a blog a day. I was nervous as I didn’t think I could come up with enough to write about, but once I made the commitment and began to write, I found it wasn’t that difficult. Once I came up with a few themes of my own, it became easier.

Because of this challenge from Amy Johnson Crow, I have been able to balance out my love of Genealogy, writing and caring for my husband, which has helped me not to become overwhelmed, especially since the pandemic was thrown into the mix.

The bonus of this challenge was discovering so many interesting details about my ancestors. It pushed me to dig deeper, as well as casting out a wider net. I had gotten into the habit of just researching a few certain lines of my Dad’s side, ignoring the rest. Because of the specific prompts, I was forced to apply the same principles of research to my own ancestry that I apply to my clients. It has really opened up a new, more intense love for family history.

My resolution is to continue with my self-imposed challenge of writing at least one blog a day. I also want to begin organizing the blogs I have already written into a book that I can share with my extended family.

I want to thank Amy for the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge. It has made a very difficult year a little easier. I look forward to participating in the challenge!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me #47 ~ A Christmas Lesson

I remember the Christmas that I was almost 9 years old because it had a very profound effect on my life. It all began the last Sunday of November. During the church service the pastor announce that we were going to be collecting new and used toys and clothing to give to less fortunate children for Christmas. He gave the instructions concerning the time frame to get the items to the church. He also said that more information about this campaign would be given in a couple of weeks.

On the way home my mother gave my sister Mary and I a list of things to do when we got home. This week she added that we were to begin going through our clothes and toys so we could take them to the church the next week. Mary, who was 4 years older than I, immediately began to cry. She didn’t want to give away any of her belongings. As a matter of fact she frequently claimed anything that I received if it was something she liked. Because this is how it had always been, I really didn’t have feelings toward this either way.

My Dad brought two medium-sized boxes into our room and told us to put clothes in one and toys in the other. I decided to get it over with so I began to go through my things. Mary out weighed me by about 100 pounds so she could have cared less about the clothes I found. However, she kept saying “If you don’t want that, I will take it” to any toy or book I put in. By Saturday morning I had accomplished filling the clothes box half full, but there were only a few of the toys that Mary didn’t want in the bottom of the other one. She had not put in one item!

Over the next 2 weeks, each Sunday when we returned from church the same thing happened and my mother would yell at me for being selfish. I finally went to my Dad and told him what happened, and he confronted Mary, who immediately broke into tears and told him I was lying. My mother came running in and all heck broke out. I finally yelled for them to go check in the spare bedrooms closet! Mary ran to the door trying to keep them from leaving the room, but my Dad threatened her with a spanking. So, she reluctantly moved. My parents came back in the room with my 2 boxes of toys. My mother just left the room and said nothing, my Dad grounded my sister, and he gave me a hug! Nothing more was said about the “incident”.

The big surprise was the next Sunday after church we went into a classroom and all those who participated got to wrap the presents. We then loaded paper grocery store bags filled with the gifts into the back of the trucks and trunks of the cars and drove off. I can’t tell you how far we drove but it seemed to take forever to arrive at our destination. We pulled onto a long dirt road that had newly plowed fields on both sides. (We lived in Tucson and the farmers could plow in December). We pulled into a makeshift town of tents and wooden shacks. It was a migrant workers camp, just to the South of Tucson. I saw open fires with poorly dressed women cooking in big pots over the flames. I saw so many raggedly clothed kids, many with no shoes, playing and running around. A gentleman came over and spoke to the pastor, then he turned and with a loud bullhorn he spoke to the people in Spanish. The kids came running and the adults cautiously approached us. Then the pastor turned to us and told us to help hand out the wrapped gifts and for the adults to help give the food boxes to the grownups.

My Dad had dropped the tailgate of our truck, so I climbed in and started grabbing the gifts. They had been wrapped in red for girls and green for boys so it was easy to know who to give it to. I saw the kids excitedly open the gift and I saw a few of them crying with joy. Then I spotted one girl about my age open a doll I had given. She hugged it and kissed it as she had tears running down her cheeks. I, too, had tears leaking out of my eyes determined to run down my cheeks and land on my dress. My tears were from mixed feelings. I felt joy at seeing others so happy, but at the same time I felt sad that these kids were so happy to receive what I probably would have eventually just thrown away. I couldn’t wait to start a new box to give away the next year. This day taught me so many lessons during the short period of time we were at the camp, ones that I have carried with me and that I attempt to still adhere too for over 55 years.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.