I originally wasn’t going to write anything about this, only because to me it seemed like a part of our family history that maybe should just be forgotten. I just recently read the article about the Ohio campaign person saying that racism didn’t exist in America until Obama was president. To me that was a lot like rewriting textbooks the way you want them, and also blaming the victims.
Much as I try very hard myself to not be racist – and raise my children that way… and yes I do find myself profiling people, but not on the things you would think…. Personally I have to mentally tell myself to ignore it when someone smells like smoke (I have a really hard time breathing around heavy smells – same thing with heavy perfume too), really obese (no clue, probably projection and the fact that I’m scared to death that I’ll become more heavy), and of all the weird things – people that have really bad grammar and spelling)… I try really hard to not let any of those factors make any difference on how I see someone and have had some great friends in all those categories!
What I’m really getting at though is that I had found out a few months ago that my grandmother, one of the grandmother’s that was gone before I was even alive. Gone before my parent’s were even adults…. was what I would consider very racist. The story I’ve heard is that she would walk into a restaurant and is she saw someone that was black, she would walk right back out refusing to eat there. (Especially if they worked there)…. To me that’s crazy! What difference does it make…. of course this was in the 1920s to 1940s, so before segregation really occurred. The story left me embarrassed and floored to think that a family member of mine would do this.
I did know growing up that we were in a town that was very homogeneous. The demographics of the town would pretty much make a solid pie chart on every descriptor, and anyone trying to change that would be run out on a rail. I was a very oblivious kid and had no clue (other than the 5 Catholics and I caught that because my mother was one). Leaving for college was really my first experience with anyone different in any way. My first road trip with a friend we dropped by my parents – 4 whites, 1 black in the car and my dad explained to me that I was not to bring them home again. He used a lot of not so nice words. I am amazed I wasn’t disowned after the major fight we had at the time. That was the only discussion I had ever had with my father about race…. and I think I never had another again after that.
I took a job with the university and never lived at home again, so the topic never came up, though I did bring a friend from the Philippines home a couple years later. My friend stayed at my grandmother Wakeland and the topic never came up….
The thought though that racism didn’t exist before Obama just has me amazed. I consider myself fairly young – just under 50, and also grew up very sheltered… and I remember hearing about the KKK burning crosses in yards nearby as I grew up. Stories about people trying to move to near by towns and things horrible things with derogatory words and XXXX ‘go home’ painted on big buildings in town. These were towns with less than 2000 people and this was the 70s (long before Obama was president)!
I’m sure I’m rambling, and I’m sure that there were more relatives in my family that were openly racist. There were probably even ancestors that interacted with slaves in one way or another, though I know there was one ancestor that came to the US as an Irish slave also. He was kidnapped from the docks in Ireland and put on a ship, forced to work way to the US on the ship and then work to pay off his transport when he reached the New World. The thing is, he was able to work off the passage and get freedom. He did fear for his life on the ship, but he wasn’t shackled under the decks. He was grabbed on the docks and not able to let his family know what happened, but then he had the rights to send a message back to Ireland later on a returning ship. That ancestor went on to own a plantation and in 1776 was a respected member of the Virginia community.
Notice in the above I have a hard time even saying that an ancestor may have owned slaves, yet we all know any ancestor in the south before slavery was abolished that was a landowner had the possibility. I also can’t bring myself to type the derogatory words that were written on buildings during my childhood. I recently saw someone post calling Obama HNIC and had no clue what that was. When replying that I didn’t know why they were saying it was my HNIC someone else finally filled me in to the acronym. I hated that I had used the acronym even! President Obama is just that, the President. Freedom of Speech in the US does give you the right to say free speech, but that free speech should not include bullying and insulting other people!
I would like to ignore the parts of my history that include racism, bigotry, and even slave ownership while I’m researching my family history…. but it is a part of my history. I have to take the good with the bad and I can’t just decide that it didn’t exist. What I can do personally is try to make sure that I never let race, sexual orientation, religion, or even appearance affect how I treat anyone. AND that I try to speak up for people when I have a chance to help right an injustice.
It’s the little things too, like Pay it Forward and Random Acts of Kindness that make a difference.
It’s really tough to deal with the lose of anyone, especially a close family member. A fried lost a parent and being the child though of a father that is currently suffering with dementia, you are in a tough place. I’ve mentioned before how tough it is to deal with the issue of others grief when you are faced with a parent that is being tortured inside their own body. It’s bad form to respond in a fashion of – I’d trade places. You want to try to explain how you are so happy that at least their parent didn’t suffer for a long time being tortured inside their body with a mind that doesn’t quite work right and can’t control their own body. How great it is that they went quickly as opposed to suffered in a position of not even knowing who you are, while you visit to make sure they are being treated well – all the while wondering if the care facility is just getting them out of bed for meals and that few minutes a week or day you come visit.
Personally I will miss my dad when he is gone, but I also already miss him while he is still here. There are so many questions that I would love to ask him. Yet the main part of my conversation comes down to Does anything hurt? Do you recognize me? Do you want a Pepsi today?
So we remain silent and simply say sorry for your loss…. And I know jokes are told to help lessen the hurt, but probably not taken well….. It’s just a way to make it through the day, because I do miss my dad, especially when I visit and talk to him.
Last weekend I visited home. I thought it would be nice to drive through the town that Edward Corbly help create and take a couple pictures. The school I attended from K – 4, the post office/store where I would stop and get a candy bar when walking from school to the church, the church that I attended vacation bible school (not even my religion, but a lot of my family goes there, so I went each summer and even sang in the choir sometimes).
As I drove through town, I did see a town that is still really small. Population 200 according to one of the signs I’ve found. One of the homes has a sign that says “Drive like your kids live here” (love that)…. I took a few pictures quickly with my cell phone thinking I would come back. Driving through with my mother driving. This was in my mother’s car, a car that has driven through town many times in the past…
I won’t post the rest of the story as this apparently caused quite an uproar. I will say I drove through Belgiumtown with mom (outside Westville) and didn’t have anywhere near the reaction…. So my question or pondering really comes down to, what is the proper way to record memories and history. Downloading and using others pictures really should not be used for anything you will publish – even on a blog. For anything to be published you should take your own pictures. For historic records you must have permission to publish the pictures unless they are within certain constraints (not a lawyer, don’t know what they are).
There are SO many things from history that I wish had been recorded, both people and places! Many were before pictures were easy to take like they are now, but pictures are such a great way to bring back memories and record history – I try to take them when I can. I even try to throw in video once in a while. When going on trips I try to include people in the pictures also. There are many family members that I miss immensely and seeing them in places at certain times brings it all back.
So what’s appropriate? Do you feel that pictures of your house by former residents are inappropriate? Pictures of public places? What about in a small town? And what about if it’s a house that was a public building in the past? – It’s gone now, but friends lived in the one room schoolhouse that my father went to school in. To top it off the larger school (Fithian Grade School) that I went to school in was being converted to a home the last time I heard anything about it…. So pictures?
Keep in mind what I’m talking about involves standing or being in a car and taking pictures from a public location. Pictures that are all of things that can be seen from a public place. I’m not talking about taking a drone and flying up to take a picture in a second floor window… that would be creeeeeepyyyyyy!
Some tips that I try to stick to:
If anyone asks, speak to them and explain what you are doing – they may have stories.
If you share the pictures, be respectful. Remember it may have been your location once, but someone else cares about it now…. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong
Try to avoid getting people in pictures of private locations if you going to use the pictures later.
Don’t trespass on private property (get permission)
There will always be some people that are overzealous about privacy and may not understand your desire to document your history. Additionally some areas may have turned into the ‘bad’ area of town. Be vigilant.
Join the local history groups for your home towns. I was able to post and ask questions to find out some great information. Additionally I met some great people that knew my grandmother, mother, and great grandmother – and even family I hadn’t met before!
I have to admit I wasn’t the one that posted the picture that got the negative comments, but I did take it and I did send it to a friend that had asked for it. It took a while because I came in late to the game to even figure out which picture had caused trouble… When I found out, it turned out it was a picture I had taken of a foundation for me to research later what had been at that location. I’ve been looking for the train depot in town and a foundation seemed like something to look into….
For taking pictures I have my cell phone and I have a nice Cannon camera. I usually will take any quick pics with my phone and anything that I want to keep for good I take with my good Cannon camera. I have a Wifi connector for my camera making it easy to transfer the pictures and an eyefi card also.
It’s funny (funny strange) thinking back now on how funny and well liked my dad was. Right now he mostly sits in his chair and watches tv. When people come over he doesn’t really talk much to them, and that includes me. It’s hard to reconcile the person he is today with the person he was.
My mom called to tell me that my Uncle Tom was in the hospital. He will be ok from the sounds of it – though it also sounded like the family grapevine had worked pretty well, but it reminded me of the story of each time he would drop by on patrol as a state trooper in Illinois while we lived in a trailer in my Aunt Margaret’s yard. My dad had taught me (2 or 3 year old me) to run out screaming here comes that dirty cop every time Uncle Tom showed up.
I remember my dad telling a story about getting pulled over and getting something like 40 warning tickets on an old grain truck… Hmmm wonder why. He said the officer was a friend of my uncles and told my dad he would have given him more, but his hand cramped up.
Dad even has stories about talking a police officer in Georgia out of a ticket on their honeymoon. He made friends with the officer and invited him up to Illinois to go fishing. I think mom even said he gave him directions.
I remember my dad playing outside with us, especially during the winter. He did everything from make go-carts with drills for motors, to use the tractor to let us sit in the scoop and make it an amusement ride going up and down and around in circles. As we got older he would make us our own race tracks for larger go carts, and finally we moved on to him giving us old beat up cars to drive around in the fields.
– I also remember the day he told me to go drive around in the disced part of the field with this old cadillac they have aquired… Not the ploughed! After being towed out by a tractor, I’ll never get those two confused again! I think I was only old enough to see over the steering wheel.
Despite dad doing all sorts of pranks – yes he once threw a snake onto my foot and then shot the snake. Gave us flares to light fireworks, and I think I’ve already mentioned the canon contest previously…. My dad was pretty serious when he was worried about us too.
I also remember walking beans and passing out one year (6th grade I think). My dad picked me up, threw me over his shoulder and carried me out of the field. He then drove me to my Aunt Margaret’s where he left me. Then despite my (for some crazy reason, and I think it involved that I was the only girl out there) wanting to walk beans that year, my dad banned me from the field for the year. I was probably the only farmer’s kid around that wasn’t forced to work in the field that year.
Uncle Tom and I
I’m pretty sure hooking a sled up to a lawn mower and pulling it would be frowned on now —- especially with a 2 year old on it, but back then it was what we did without ipads, and TV and electronics. You can even see the tracks where my dad had been pulling me around and around the yard. I recognize Aunt Margaret’s yard from the picture. I keep saying that I’m fairly amazed that myself (and most of my friends) survived childhood on the farm. But I also know that our parents were usually with us. I remember lots of times, trying to convince mom and dad to let me stay home while they drove around to ‘watch corn grow’ and even one where dad kicked my door in and broke the lock because I didn’t want to go. But we survived to adulthood.
Our family (Richter side) has always had one type of get together or another. It has moved around through the years and I’d swear it’s even changed reasons. I remember getting together at my Uncle Frank’s (and Aunt Tootie)! My memories mainly consist of us kids playing with the heads from snapping turtles – yes they keep biting for a LONG time after you cut them off. I’m amazed none of us broke or lost a finger. Somehow we always managed to just use a stick to stick in the turtles mouth. I also remember using pillows to slide down the stairs to the basement. I can see in my mind the layout of the stairs – the top of the stairs, the landing at the bottom and the turn into the basement. We would take all the cushions we could find and pile them up and then ride them down the stairs. I think that was probably one of the only places in the house I ever went since that’s the only place I remember. Outside I just remember that walkway going to the house where we would get the turtle heads to play with.
Later we moved on to hanging out at my Cousin Buddy’s house. He’s the same age as my dad, but dad’s nephew. My cousins Kristi, Kevin and Kirk first lived in a house that had bushes out by the road a good distance from their house. I don’t remember that house, but I remember playing out in the bushes by the road. They moved shortly over by the river by Singing Bridge and were building a house but 4th of July kept up. (Kristi’s Birthday) Each year the adults would all drink and the kids would run around with small fireworks and try not to hurt each other. At some point someone had come up with the bright idea to have a contest to see who could build the best cannon. My cousins built some little cannons and my dad decided to trump them all and built a huge cannon. It then had to be hauled over each year to be shot. Watching people try to light it after they had been drinking always amazed me that there was never a trip to the ER. As kids we would run around trying to find things that could be shot out of the cannon. My dad would prime it with gunpowder mixed with flour (about 8 oz) and then tamp paper in on top of that. Then anything we found would be added. I remember sand being a choice one year and even a frog at one point. The sand did put little wholes in all the trees.
For the winters, Thanksgiving and Christmas, my Aunt Margaret would host a family party in her basement. Her basement included a pool table, fireplace, card table, dress up area for the kids, living room area, kitchen, and a bar – So this was not a hardship. Every holiday she would make a punch with oranges and other fruit in alcohol (Southern Comfort maybe). If I remember right it’s the first place and the only place I’ve had a grasshopper. Sooner or later everyone would show up with a dish to share and we would get to see all our family. I have pictures in my album from every year in that basement. Everything from high school on up to my oldest kids. Those parties continued all the way until we lost my Aunt Margaret. I miss those parties and I miss her too!
Now we are left with my cousin Don that has a party each August. It’s kind of a Richter Family Picnic – I think that’s what they actually call it. They get a bounce house for the kids and have tents set up so that it’s not too hot. Everyone that can tries to come. It’s always after my kids have started school and it’s on a Sunday so it’s tough for the kids to come with, but I try to make it for at least an hour myself every year. – 12 hours of driving, 1 hour to see family… What’s funny is, it’s really worth it! One year I went with a horrible kidney infection. I drove home debating stopping at every urgent care we came close to passing… but I didn’t regret seeing my family!