Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I love learning

new things. Every day brings something new for me to enjoy and use. Today brought more information about my mother and my grandfather.

I remembered a story about John Dillinger's mother living down the street from my mother when she lived in Alger, Ohio where she was born. I saw a submission call for an anthology about small towns and I think this story would be perfect for it. And there is a neat twist.

My grandfather was mayor, chief of the fire department and sheriff (not all at the same time, I don't think) of Alger. He was involved in a stake-out to capture Dillinger when he was in Alger visiting his mother. They missed him but caught him and put him in jail in Lima, which is about 20 or so miles from Alger. Four men purported to be from the FBI came to the Lima jail to transfer Dillinger to Indianapolis, but they were Dillinger's friends and ended up shooting and killing the sheriff and putting his wife and deputy in Dillinger's cell before escaping with Dillinger.

A small footnote to history, but my family was involved. It's exciting and fascinating. I called my mother to ask her everything she remembered and she said she had some newspaper clips about Grandpa and Dillinger. This is almost as good as the story about Grandma catching Grandpa with one of his floozies on Main Street in Alger.

My grandmother was a sweet and quiet lady who never used a curse word in her life. She was short and plump when I knew her, but at one time her waist was so tiny, my grandfather told me, he could span her waist with two hands.

Anyway, Grandma was downtown (Alger is a very small town and downtown would have been the main street thru the center of the business district--about 10 or 15 buildings in all)--and she saw Grandpa with another woman. He was carrying a bottle of whiskey, which must have been before Prohibition. She went up to my grandfather and snatched the bottle from his hands and poured it out right in front of him. Mom said Grandma later said she should have hit the floozy with the bottle. That must have been in her more militant years. The idea of my short, plump grandmother facing down my great big 6-foot 4-inch grandfather would have been something to see.

I didn't know my mother's family was so prominent. I knew she was upper middle class, but she told me both my grandparents's families had money, lots of money. It must have missed us because I sure haven't seen any of it. Oh, yeah, my cousin took it all when she was my grandmother's guardian, but that's another story.

I remember my grandparents owned a tree farm when I was born and I knew they always had a comfortable home, but I didn't know there was so much money and history in my family. I guess the Mays had a right to be proud of their heritage, especially since they descended from middle European immigrants.

Isn't it fascinating what you find when you start asking questions? Do you know much about your parents' history and family? Seems most people today don't know much about their families at all. I knew a little, but I am learning a whole lot more. History is indeed in the details and some of the details may be in your family's cupboard. Have you looked?

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