Saturday, July 25, 2015

Finding DKW?

Many years ago, family friend, Don Sidle brought this foreign made camper to Dad's place in Morongo Valley.  Originally powered with a two cycle engine with about 42 horsepower, Don had installed a 6 cyl Corvair engine which needed some fine tuning on the installation and the engine.  Don left the camper for us to use when family and friends sleeping needs exceeded the capacity of the house.  After sitting for over 20 years it was sold for scrap.  
As the above picture taken in early 2014 shows the scrap yard saw the value of this rare (in the USA) vehicle and finally sold.  I am sure that more than one family member will have memories of sleeping in the DKW at Thanksgiving.  For me, it is just weird that this photo was found while trolling car blogs.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Great Grandfather - Archie Hamilton

In 1998 I began to investigate my/our family tree. It really started when I discovered a tree posted on a genealogy site in the old AOL system. This tree was for my mother-in-laws family, the Crabtrees, of central Ohio. Her birthday was coming up and I thought a few printed pages and a few pictures in a binder would be a nice present. Her niece Karen, saw the binder and after looking through it she pointed out a few errors. She is an avid genealogist and has worked on the families for many years. She explained to me the importance of documentation to support ones findings.

By now most of us have seen the ads on TV for Ancestry.com and their “leaf” that pops up to tell you that they have found a tree or document that fits one of your entries in your online tree. Of course it sounds quick and easy, but many times these hints lack documentation. These can be dangerous and send you down the wrong tree branch in your research.

For the Kerr research, my 2nd cousin Joan Mansfield, had already interviewed many of our relatives and provided a very sound base for me to start my Kerr family research. The same with Judy's family. Her cousin Karen Ver Wayne set me right by correcting some of my earlier errors and helping me with research technique and sources. All of the above is a prelude to what follows. The current state of my research into my Mother's family, the Hamiltons.

Archibald Hamilton
You know how they say that everyone has a relative that immigrated to this land we call America! Well for the Hamilton family it is Archibald Hamilton. Born in January of 1856 to James and Agnes Hamilton of Rutherglen, Lanarkshire, Scotland. By the census of 1880, Archie was living in Providence Rhode Island with his older brother John Hamilton who immigrated 2 years earlier. Archie and his brother James came into New York on the English ship Devonia. Archie was listed in the ships manifest as a laborer. On the same ship was a fellow Scotsman, William B Harvey, a stone cutter.

I have yet to discover why he traveled west, but by 1887 both Archie Hamilton and William Harvey are listed in the Denver City directory as stone cutters. After 2 years of working for others, William and Archie form their own company – Hamilton & Harvey Construction.

In 1891 at the age of 35 Archie marries 22 year old Isabella C Scott. Isabel as she was known was also born in Scotland but immigrated at the age of 4 with her parents James and Mary Scott in 1873. 1892 saw the arrival of Elizabeth 'Bessie' Hamilton followed in 1893 by my future grand father, William P Hamilton. Archibald D Hamilton, 1902; Isabella M Hamilton, 1903; and James A Hamilton, 1906 completed the family.

It was about the time of James birth that Hamilton & Harvey became Hamilton & Gillespie with Donald Gillespie buying out William Harvey. The 1910 Denver City directory list Hamilton & Gillespie located on 7th Street near Santa Fe Ave.

Prior to my Uncle Bill Hamilton's death, he gave me a few pages of Hamilton history that he possessed. One item was a small pocket diary for 1908 which belonged to Archie Hamilton. While this diary has a 1908 calendar, dated notations inside says he was using it in 1910. Like most of us, having a small note book was more important to him than actual dates. The leather bound diary is 4 inches by 2 inches and would easily fit in the breast pocket of overalls. Here is a sample of figures that look like computations for projects for which he was bidding. This entry for J L Gray dated February 4, 1910 and 227.18 
and Kirchoff, B + stone, etc is his last entry.

At the end of February, he would go to Phoenix Arizona and after a stay of only two weeks, he died on March 12, 1910. On March 14th he was buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Phoenix.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

1960 Trip conclusion

Off to Yellowstone Park.

Leaving our Kentucky family behind we set out towards Yellowstone. We are all alone now as the Leasure's made a beeline to California from their daughter's home. From this point on we were not going to cross off any states from our must visit list. The 1956 trip home had taken this same route. We were making good time through the farms and corn fields of the hartland. We were just outside Scottsbluff Nebraska when we pulled into a road side rest area. Not like the road side rest areas of today. If you were lucky there was a picnic table and a trash can. Most of the time it was one or the other.

Some one had given Mom a location around this area where a marker was placed for this person's relative that had traveled on the Oregon Trail in a wagon train. The ruts of the trail were still visible and given the instructions, Mom thought this might be the place. We waded through waist high weeds to look for the marker but did not have any luck. We stopped in Scottsbluff to visit with a friend of Dad's. I think he was a Letter Carrier that had transferred to Scottsbluff from Santa Monica.

After the short visit we headed once again for Yellowstone. We stopped in Cody Wyoming at the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum and stayed just outside of town in a small campground. Next morning we approached the East Entrance to Yellowstone Park and pulled up to the little booth to pay to go in. The Ranger wanted Dad to pay for two cars since he was towing a Jeep. A long argument about the Jeep being a trailer, not a working car in sued until there was a pretty good back log of cars. These were the days of single lane roads, so people were going to have to wait. I'm sure today you would have to pay for a trailer but in 1960 there was no charge for trailers unless it was a camping trailer. Dad stuck to his guns until the Ranger gave up and waved him through with just a single car charge.

Here we have Dad, Sam and Larry in front of one of the Hot Mineral pools.
Joe Kerr, Sam Kerr and Larry Kerr
After a full day looking for Bears and Buffalo we camped near Old Faithful. We completed our tour of the lower loop road and stayed at a campground near the West entrance. The next morning we were off to Mom's cousin's farm in King Hill Idaho. Our typical summer vacation was to visit Bob and Aileen Lawson. Bob was the son of Mom's Aunt Marie Nye Lawson. They had a farm near Twin Falls before moving to a larger farm in King Hill which is roughly half way between Twin Falls and Boise along the Snake River. This visit would be shorter than normal with our 51 days winding to a close. One thing Mom always like to do on the farm was ride one of their horses. I never saw her ride a horse anywhere but on these visits.
Dorothy Kerr on her cousins horse, King Hill Idaho

Bob and Aileen had 3 sons, Phil who was 3 years older than me, Ron who was 2 years younger than me and John who was in between Larry and Sam. With our ages so close we always had a fun time hanging with the Lawson kids. Swimming in their favorite irrigation ditch or playing baseball. Some work too in their fields of pinto beans, sugar beets, and potatoes.

I believe it was during this visit that we had wild Pheasant for dinner. Bob and Dad had gone out hunting that morning and bagged a few birds in their alfalfa field. They always hunted Pheasant with a .22 rifle. A few years before, Bob had shot 1 of his 2 birds in the head and never let Dad forget that shot. On this trip, Dad shot at a Rooster and when they went to get it there was a Hen about a foot away and also dead. Two birds with one shot. Now it was Dad's turn to boast for the next few years.

We had one more night of camping in central Nevada as the trip pushed to the finish line in Redondo Beach. After 51 days with only two nights in a motel we had crossed the last states off our must visit list. After this trip every member of our family had visited 48 states. For most of us, Hawaii and Alaska would have to wait for several more years.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

1960 Trip continuation 4

Canasta was the favorite card game for our parents and most of the couples that visited our house. Elmer and Virginia Leasure were frequent visitors who tried to  beat Mom and Dad at this exciting game. Dad and Elmer were letter carriers at the Santa Monica Post Office following the war. Both moved up the supervisory ranks and by 1960 both were supervising their own units. Elmer was in charge of the Colorado Street Carrier Unit and Dad had the Building Maintenance Unit. Both of them were raised in southern states which only enhanced their friendship. I think I mentioned this before, but Elmer was my first supervisor when I began working at the Santa Monica Post Office.

In 1956 Elmer's eldest daughter Nancy married Maurice Philbrick and after a couple of years in Southern California they moved back to Maurice's home town of Epsom, New Hampshire. A few miles East of Concord, Epsom is an older small farm town which had many generations of Philbricks. In fact Nancy moved into one of the older homes in the area which had been Maurice's great grandfathers farm house.

Most of Dad's photos from this trip were destroyed in storage so I'd like to describe what I saw when we pulled up the dirt road to their home. Typical of this area, there are trees everywhere. The road which was not really dirt, but a gray color, was cut in the trees and lead to the barn. The barn was huge and attached to the two story house by an enclosed walkway. Again, something typical of these old New England farm homes. After our greetings we were invited in to the house. The entry had a huge slab of Granite for a step into the house. The smaller first step had sunk into the ground at fairly steep angle making a dangerous first step in the rain.

We were told that the Granite was from a local quarry that was still in operation after more than 150 years. The drive way was this same Granite crushed into small pebbles. Maurice explained the enclosed walk to the barn was due to the deep snows in the winter. It was used like a mud room after caring for the livestock living in the barn. It also provide covered access to the out house located through a door in the far side of the barn. The Philbricks were in the middle of upgrading the old home for their future family.

Dad used this chance to take a couple of day trips to cross Maine and Vermont off our states we have to visit list. One of those took us past the famous Old Man of the Mountain rock face.Unfortunately the face's long life ended in 2003 after a high wind and freezing weather struck it down.

We were now ready to head South West to visit with The Fox and Kerr's around Covington Kentucky. I don't remember where Uncle Bob and Aunt Lu lived, but I kind of remember they had a sloping driveway that lead to their back yard. That is where we set up our tent and made our base for the next few days. One night we had a thunderstorm pass through and lighting hit right near the tent. Scared the crap out of everyone. Our tent had metal poles and the one that stuck out the center of the top should have been like a lightning rod but we got lucky. It was a fast moving storm so the lightning threat left quickly.

Uncle Ed and Aunt Alice lived nearby and they had ponds on their property. Ponds mean Frogs and Frog gigging for a supper of Frog Legs. We did that one night and that was really fun for me as a city kid. Cousin Eddie was a trained graphic artist and he offered to paint 'Ol Yeller on the front of the Suburban. That made it official 'Ol Yeller was born!

Eddie also had a Model A Sedan and his sister, my cousin, Carolyn (who is just a few weeks older than me) wanted to go on a double date with her boy friend and me and one of her girl friends. Eddie let us borrow the Model A and I drove us to their favorite Shoney's Drive In for some burgers and onion rings. For readers on the west coast, Shoney's are Bob's Big Boy. Right down to the red checkered d├ęcor. We then drove around and I got a tour of their home town area.

Uncle Tom was, well, Uncle Tom and had some cars he had been hired to transport up to Dayton Ohio. So off we went. I have forgotten what we drove up but I know we all rode back in one car. During this drive, Dad asked Tom about any Jeeps that he might know about for sale. Dad and I had discussed this and I had enough money saved to buy one for the right price. Tom mentioned one that he thought we might get for a couple hundred dollars. We took 'Ol Yeller and drove to the farm that had the Jeep. It was a 1943 Jeep built by Ford during the war. It did not run but it moved free and had decent tires.

The farmer also had a pedal pump player piano and some rolls for sale. I bought the Jeep and Dad bought the piano. We towed the Jeep to Bob Fox's brothers house and he and Dad built a tow bar for the Jeep.
Terry and I and my Jeep in action after frame up restoration
We took the Jeep back and put the piano on its back onto the Jeep and tied it down.


So now we had the Jeep with it's windshield fastened down to the hood and the piano flat on it's back. My Jeep had become a trailer for Dad's piano. I really wish I had a picture of this rig.

One of my favorite souvenirs from the trip is my Civil War era musket. It is an E P Bond, 50 caliber smooth bore with a 39 inch barrel. Made in London England it survived all these years in pretty darn good shape.  The musket came from a theatrical costume company inventory that Uncle Tom had purchased.  A brand with the Wm Beck and Sons logo is burned into the stock.  Further investigation into the Cincinnati city directories of this era shows the company as "Regalia and Costume Manufacturers".  This example is from the 1880 directory.   

Wm Beck and Sons listing in the 1880 Cinn OH  city directory.
Upon returning home I took it to a gun smith and had it checked over before attempting to fire it. I had a lot of fun shooting that musket out in the deserts of California and Nevada.
That is it hanging above my fireplace and it is still shoot-able today.

'Ol Yeller is loaded up and with our Jeep trailer in tow we are ready to hit the road towards Yellowstone Park.

Monday, April 6, 2015

1960 Trip Continuation 3

I guess by now you have figured out that Dad would take any route to try and drive through as many states as we could on this trip. This meant that some states we passed through completely like New Mexico and others we might just catch a corner or at four corners, put a foot and hand in one of four states at the same time.

Our last story we were trying to get out of Arkansas and touch Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida's most western corner, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and to Look Out Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I stop here because I remember very little about this part of the trip. It seems like we were trying to make as many miles per day as possible. Maybe it was due to Dad being from this part of the country or his time table had been pushed up.  By now the camp tent was becoming cramped for the six of us. 
 
I remember Look Out Mountain because of the view and the cannons. Standing there looking down at Chattanooga and seeing the terrain that the Civil War soldiers had to traverse to fight was nothing more than inspiring to my 15 year old brain. We traveled on from here to Aunt Snows house in West Virginia. I covered that visit in a prior post.

Our next goal was Washington DC. It turned into night as we approached the city and Dad found a campground but we were told they were full. I remember he decided that we could stay in a motel for the night. I am not sure where it was, but it was in the district and it was not much of a motel. Dad had been the Superintendent of Building Services for the Santa Monica Post Office for a few years and had generated a friendship with Congressman Donald Jackson who's home office was located within the Post Office building. Thanks to my brother Terry for reminding me how Dad had arranged for us to get a special behind the scenes tour of the Capitol Building.

This tour included Congressman Jackson's office and the floor of the chambers that we all see during the State of the Union addresses. Our tour guide took us behind the velvet ropes and we all felt a special pride in our country and our Dad. These first looks at our nations capitol always leave a special impression on a youngsters mind. Years later when I took my sons to see the capitol, little did I know that a year later I would be working there everyday.

Our next stop would be the city of New York. I am now wondering why I have not mentioned the remaining members of our little tour group, the Leasures. That is due to the fact that after our stop at Aunt Snow's, Elmer decided to leave us and go directly to see his oldest Daughter Nancy and her family near Concord New Hampshire. Ultimately that would be our goal to meet them and continue our trek West.

Back to New York. Again we stayed in a motel in New Jersey which provided us with access to tour the city at a much lower cost than trying to stay in the city. How we did that remains lost in my memory, but a few things stand out. Again Terry has triggered my memory with his recollection of the Auto-mat food vending store near Times Square. Today it seems kind of quaint but in 1960 it was like WOW! Food behind glass doors that opened when you put in enough nickels! Then there was the boat ride from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty and our thwarted attempt to climb to the top. A disappointment to us both at the time and still today.

We left New York and headed to Boston. Our main goal was to see the The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist. We had attended the Christian Science church in Hermosa Beach California for most of our lives and our grandparents were members of the church in Santa Monica. Today the church has provisions for parking and tours. If my memory serves this was a problem in 1960. Seems to me that the city streets were very close to the church and parking was not available near the church. So a drive by of the church is what I remember as we proceeded to the harbor to see the USS Constitution.

Joshua and Jason in the ships Armory
Having been to see “Old Ironsides” with my wife and kids in 1983, the 1960 visit is erased from my limited memory bank. So I'll insert a couple of photos from the 1983 visit.
We now headed towards Concord New Hampshire to meet with the Leasures.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

1960 Trip continued

I am going to jump back to the Petrified Forest in Arizona. Today I-40 passes between the Painted Desert to the North and the Petrified Forest to the South. In this area of Arizona in 1960 I remember we were still using the old Route 66 while parallel construction of I-40 was going on. We were there in 1960, two years before it was declared a National Park. In 1906 the area was declared a National Monument along with the Death Valley. Today there are visitor centers and marked trails. During this visit, we were pretty much allowed to roam the area without repercussions as you can see in this photo.
Terry, Larry, Sam and Jerry           and a couple of 1960 photo bombers

Along the way to Missouri, I know we passed through Albuquerque but only remember stopping at a park along Central Blvd (Route 66) and having lunch. Beyond the city limits we began to see signs about a road side zoo. These signs were more frequent than the Berma Shave signs and promised sights you have never seen!! Anyone who has traveled the back roads knows about these tourist traps, except for Judy Leasure. She begged her parents to stop at the zoo so she could see the promised weird animals. I was elected to take her inside as no one else wanted to go. As expected, it was small, smelly, and pretty much just your normal rodents, snakes, lizards and monkeys. As we approached the “Man Eating Monkey” he was involved in doing something that he should have been doing in private!! And that is as far as I am going with that.
Miss Leasure, by her questioning, did not seem to understand what he was doing. The first thought in my head was to tell her to ask her dad. That ought to make the ride in that new Chevy interesting for a few miles. So being the gentleman that I thought I was, that is what I did. I did tell her we were lucky the monkey didn’t throw it at us. Sorry no pictures of this incident.

Oklahoma City provided that iconic view of the Capitol Building with the producing oil well pumping oil in front of the building.

We continued on to see Anna June in Springfield Missouri. She was a school teacher and as I said before, Mom's best  friend in high school.   We stayed a couple of days, and even fished in their Ozarks lake fishing shack. Built at the end of a short pier, it provided some protection from the millions of mosquitoes. So far we have stayed in our tent every night. Camped in Anna June's back yard it gave us a chance to clean clothes, and our selves. These were not the days of staying at a KOA. We would have to stay at some pay per night camp sites, but Dad kept these to a minimum. We were on a tight budget and free camp sites were the solution to keeping on budget. 

Back then, many state parks were free for overnights, especially along Route 66. Unlike today, the State was trying to keep you near local businesses to help the community. We left Springfield and headed south toward Littlerock to pick up the new Interstate 40. We were taking what today would be called back roads as we tried to cross the borders of as many states as possible on this trip. While doing this, it was necessary to head South to get Arkansas and Louisiana before heading East into Florida. I have no recollection about where we were in Arkansas, but we were getting onto the Freeway/Turnpike. Dad was following a 1959 Ford, you know the one with the backup lights mounted in the rear fender fins. 


This guy was doing like 35 miles per hour on the on ramp and there was no traffic what so ever. Dad is getting upset at this guy and honked his horn at him. Instead of speeding up, the guy stops and dad has to swerve to miss hitting him square on. In doing so, the left front fender of 'Ol Yeller catches the right rear fin and puts a perfect concave crease that is just like the back up light in the fin. Little if any paint was lost and the light on the Ford survived. The driver of the Ford wanted to take Dad to the State Troopers and file a complaint but they agreed with Dad that you don't stop on an on ramp. It turned into a lot of lost time and a battle scar on 'Ol Yeller.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Summer of 1960

I had just completed my sophomore year at Redondo Union High School. Dad had told us that our family of 6 were going to go on a 51 day tour of the country and visit with friends and family. And, we were not going alone! One of Dad's co-workers, Elmer Leasure and his wife Virginia and daughter Judy were also going. Having read the previous stories, you know that dad was about the most handy person I have ever known. Construction, auto repair, it did not matter - he could do it or fixit. Elmer was just the opposite. He was not inclined to work on things or do other jobs beyond his duties as a supervisor at the post office. Our family were seasoned campers. This is not today's campers with motor coaches or large trailers. This is tent camping. All those jeep runs and trips to the desert in the 50's had honed our camping skills.  As word spread around our neighborhood about our trip Uncle Bill and Aunt Bernice wanted to join in for a few days and then Cal Pickens and his wife Vivian also wanted to tag along. Cal owned the local hardware store and was a frequent jeep run participant with our group.

Like a well oiled team (well not always ) we could set up camp while dinner was being prepared.  In the morning camp came down while breakfast was prepared and we could hit the road before the cook stove had completely cooled down. On the other hand, the three Leasures were always late to the starting line for the days journey.

For the trip, we had a 1956 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall that was surplus-ed from the power company. It was still the company Yellow and we had nicknamed it 'Ol Yeller. Uncle Bill had his new 1960 Chevrolet Corvair, Cal Pickens had his 1960 GMC pickup truck with an Alaskan Camper and Elmer Leasure had his 1960 Chevrolet Biscayne.

Uncle Bill Hamilton and Randy Sam Kerr and the Caravan
Before we go on I'd like to expand on the Suburban.  It had two bench seats allowing all six of us to ride 3 by 3.  Dad built a platform behind the rear seat back to the doors.  One of us could ride up there and sleep or whatever.  Under that was our camping gear and food storage.  The camp stove was a two burner propane stove with the bottle mounted under the rear bumper and the stove attached by a flex hose and stored on the outside of the rear door on a couple of hooks.  This allowed us to leave a campsite without waiting to let the stove cool down for inside storage.  Thanks to Uncle Bill we each had a CB radio so we could talk as we moved down the road.  This was at the very beginning of the truckers CB radio boom so there was not a lot of interference.
This little caravan left So California and headed East. Since this was a "See the USA" trip we would stop at just about every natural or man made attraction that was near our path.  Including road side zoo's with exotic "man-eating monkeys" or crocodiles.  Indian trading post?  But those with be future side stories.  Our first planned stop to visit friends would be in Missouri to see Anna June, Mom's BFF from high school and Mom's Maid of Honor at her wedding. Uncle Bill left the caravan somewhere in Oklahoma and returned home. So did the Picken's as they headed down to Texas to see one of their relatives before heading back to Redondo Beach.

Today we are going to jump to our visit with my Aunt Snow and Uncle Flem's home in West Virginia. I have rescued a few photos from this part of the trip and really wanted to share them with you. As we approached West Virginia, Elmer was always asking Dad where we were going. Dad's response was always “7 hills over and plum down the holler” in his thickest accent. That was always Aunt Snow's address as far as I was concerned. Where was it? Beats me. I know it was some where near Athens, WV but that is as close as I can get. 
The house with Judy Leasure and Tom Rose (sling)
The Rose family on their farm near Athens West Virginia


The farm is down in a holler in those beautiful green rolling hills of Southern West Virginia.  Today they would be considered "off the grid".  Cooking was done on a wood cook stove which of course heated the house in the winter months.  Water from a spring and no indoor plumbing.  Watching Uncle Flem using a two horse plow to till his farm was really interesting.  You would see that in movies on TV, but here it was real life.    



Here we have my Aunt Snow, cousin Martha Lu, cousin Irene, Uncle Flem and cousin Tom.  These are Aunt Snow's three youngest children.  She was always one of our favorite visitors to California and Las Vegas.  

I remember Dad telling Flem that he was a might dry.  And asked him if there was a source for some Moonshine in these parts.  Flem played it cool and acted like he did not know of any place like that.  The next morning Flem was not around and no one knew where he had gotten off  to.  After his return, he was working in the field and
Aunt Snow cleaning the bottoms of her cook ware
Dad went out to see him and returned with a mason jar of moonshine. 

Anyone who has cooked over a wood stove knows the black soot collects on the bottom of your pots and pans.  The removal of this soot is demonstrated in this photo of Aunt Snow just off the porch of her house.

From a genealogy stand point I have much to discover about the Rose family and most of the other relatives that are miles away.