72 years ago: Thanksgiving from Denver

I’ve dipped into the letters to my grandmother again. Here are excerpts from a letter postmarked November 26, 1936. It was written Thankgiving night, during the Great Depression. My great Grandmother just arrived in Denver on a bus, and wrote her daughter. Background: Sometime before this, my great Grandmother divvied up the bills with her husband, said, “Here’s your half,” took hers and wandered to other places, supporting herself by teaching school. This letter is on Taos stationery, but it was sent from Denver, Colorado. The long paragraph about half-way through is a snapshot of economical eateries, free Thanksgiving dinners and oh, the crowds! So, for a Thanksgiving in an economic downturn, here’s a little Depression-era color for you.

. . . . .

Dover Hotel, 1744 Glenarm
Denver, Colorado
Thanksgiving evening.

Dear Flossie,

And now are you surprised I resigned my job in Taos last Friday, at the close of my month, went to Albuquerque that night on the bus and the next night took the bus up here.

The in-laws returned for the winter and three women were just one too many, and I was the one. They wanted me to stay but it was too hard on my ego. And I decided I could earn anywhere as much as I was getting there. For some time this city has been drawing me. So in Albuquerque I got a manicure, my eyebrows shaped, and subtracted three more years. That makes you a co-ed, but don’t complain as long as I do not put you ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 26, 2008 in • Letters in the AtticPersonal History
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Random Find: How Railroads made the West

Poster from Montana Museum [Seattle Times] Book and Tacoma Exhibit describe how the “transportation revolution configured not just the landscape, but the very mindset of the American West.” The book is The West the Railroads Made, by Carlos A. Schwantes and James P. Ronda (Washington State Historical Society/University of Washington Press). The exhibit is at Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma (through January 24, 2009)

The article provideds some examples of The Change We Heed—as it reshaped life in that time:

Henry David Thoreau was one of the earliest observers to note the changes in the rhythms of American life triggered by the shift from stagecoach to rail transportation: “Do they not talk and think faster in the depot than they did in the stage-office?”

Rail travel didn’t just speed things up; it codified time and industrial standards in unprecedented ways. Early in the railroad age, each town and city had its own time zone — a system that might work in the age of stagecoach transportation, but became untenable in the rail era.

The United States established four standard time zones. After ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 24, 2008 in • History
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Black Friday is Listening Day

National Day of Listening. Instead of (or in addition to) shopping, listen to your family. This is a StoryCorps effort.

Spend an hour recording a conversation with someone around you at Thanksgiving time. There’s a 2-page recording guide that covers the basics. They also encourage you to listen to some of the recordings for inspiration, and then share your experiences with them once you’ve done so.

BTW, in case you were wondering what Black Friday is... it’s the shopping day post Thanksgiving.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 21, 2008 in • Do it: YourselfStoryCorps
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LIFE magazine photo archive now searchable on Google

LIFE photo archive hosted on the web by Google. Photos go back to the 1860s, and sketches & etchings go back to the 1750s. Wow! Here’s the Google blog post about it. There goes the afternoon. I’ve already found an interesting railroad set. There goes the afternoon! [via Lifehacker]

Not only is this cool, but it’s a good thing to poke through if you’re going to sit down and interview someone. It’s better to get some research in about the time and place where your interviewee lived. What was it like in 1950s? What about such-n-such events? Spending time in collections such as this helps to take you, the questioner, there, and ask better questions of your interviewee.. I’ve been thinking about online repositories of supporting information

P.S. Southern Pacific Rail Road. Dispatcher, perhaps? That was my grandfather’s job and employer

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 18, 2008 in • HistoryInterviewingPhotographs
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Towers of Gold: History of the man indistinguishable from history of the State of California

imageIt’s a personal family historian’s Best of All Possible Worlds scenario – follow a hankering to learn more family history for the sake of the kids, and go to the state historical society, discover not just one but dozens of boxes of archived materials about Great-Great Grandpa, and spend the next 8 years researching and writing a book about how that Great Great Grandpa, Isaias W. Hellman, helped make California. Frances Dinkelspiel’s book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California was released last week.

I first learned of Frances Dinkelspiel and her Great Great Grandfather during Southern California’s record rainy season in 2005. Kevin Roderick, of LA Observed, published her rejected op ed about the rainiest season ever. I was blogging the wet season, so I linked to it in my research of writings about the wettest year on record (1861) in CA. From that time, I intermittently followed Ghost Word, the blog of Berkeley-based Frances Dinkelspiel, which covered writing, journalism, and her work researching and writing about Isaias Hellman.

detail from birds eye view map of Los AngelesThe story of Isaias Hellman in California begins the decade after statehood (1850) and ends just after WWI. In 1859, Hellman emigrated to Los ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 17, 2008 in • BooksHistoryPersonal History
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Rock star son’s quest to learn more about quantum physicist dad

Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives, a recent PBS/Nova episode rocked my world recently. (my S.O. tivos Nova, and kept this episode for me). Mark Everett (the E of the band Eels) goes on a quest to understand more about Hugh Everett (his dad) and dad’s radical theory of quantum physics.

The musician son who didn’t inherit dad’s math gene seeks to learn about the remarkable theory his dad dreamed up.

[from the show’s about page:] “My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories,” Mark says. “I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years, but he was a total stranger to me. He was in his own parallel universe. He was a physical presence, like the furniture, sitting there jotting down crazy notations at the dining room table night after night. I think he was deeply disappointed that he knew he was a genius but the rest of the world didn’t know it.”

Mark Everett jokingly admits that he can barely tabulate a restaurant tip, let alone understand ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 10, 2008 in • Documentary FilmsPersonal History
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