Post 616: family resemblances, family quirks

I never met all of my father’s siblings, and I barely met my Grandfather Thomas, who died when I was very young. I knew Grandma Thomas a bit better, but my family only made the arduous trip to Englewood, CO,  from Nebraska once a year. I think we probably spent only a weekend there each time.

I had many favorites among the aunts and uncles. Hell, all of them I knew were favorites, fun people to know!

Once, when Aunt Susie (front row, far right) greeted me at the door when I came home from work, I announced she was my favorite aunt and gave her a big hug, probably a kiss. Then a hurt voice from elsewhere in the kitchen piped up, “But I thought I was your favorite aunt!” Oops! “But you are my other favorite aunt, Aunt Mim!” And I gave her a big hug and kiss to prove it. Aunt Mim (Miriam) is on the far left in the front row. She lived in Pocatello, so we saw her less often than Aunt Susie, who lived in Denver, but she always was a favorite, too! So kind and sweet, my aunts, funny, thoughtful, great people to be around.

They were all over the place politically. Some followed strange religions (purportedly Christian), others were mainstream Methodists and Presbyterians. They were argumentative, stubborn, funny, very entertaining people! My uncles Milt (top row, far left) and Max (top row, third from left) were especially argumentative, though Uncle John (middle row, second from right), a lawyer, could present a formidable argument himself. Of course! He always used to say, “All lawyers are crooks!” “But Uncle,” I’d protest, “you are a lawyer!” “I repeat: all lawyers are crooks!”

May 23, 1934. Thomas family reunion photo on the occasion of Doug Thomas' graduation from high school. No other photo of the whole family together exists.

May 23, 1934. Thomas family reunion photo on the occasion of Doug Thomas’ graduation from high school. No other photo of the whole family together exists. Dad is second from the left in the top row.

I liked my aunts and uncles! My mother did, too. She was an only child, so the give and take, hustle and bustle of a large family was like candy for her. She used to say it was one reason she married my Dad, though there surely were more reasons than that. Their marriage lasted 71 years, till Dad died.

Uncle Simeon (“Sim”, who is in the middle row, far right) was so funny! He always had a joke or a story to tell. He worked for the Burlington as a tour coordinator, setting up train tours for groups. When the big shots came to Alliance in the fancy private railroad car reserved for the top officials of the railroad, Uncle Sim rode with them. He was someone of substance on the railroad.

I never told my Dad this, but when Uncle Sim and Aunt Vonnie (his wife) brought me home from Lincoln my last year at the University of Nebraska, they showed up in a new Ford Galaxy. It was loaded and had the biggest engine Ford put into that car. “Do you want to drive it!?” he asked, all excited about sharing this magnificent ride with his nephew. I wasn’t totally convinced I should, but he insisted. It’s about eight hours drive from Lincoln to Alliance. If you drive the speed limit…! “Take it up to 85 mph,” Uncle Sim said, a speed that his car handled with aplomb. I broke the law clear across the state. It was a magnificent car!

With so many aunts and uncles, you’d expect me to have lots of cousins, too. I do, but most of them I’ve never met. My favorite is Sharon, daughter of Uncle Milt. We’ve always hit it off. We can confide in each other, and we both went through many of the same travails and vicissitudes handling the affairs of elderly relatives. Curiously, sadly, her brother Bob just died November 23rd. I barely met him, barely knew him. After an acrimonious divorce and separation, the then-infant Bob went with their mother, and Sharon lived for some time with the Thomas families in Denver, particularly the Pucketts (Aunt Susie and Uncle Bob, a very proper Virginian who always had a neatly trimmed and dyed Errol Flynn moustache). I think she looks a lot like our Grandma Thomas, Mary, third in from the right in the photo. That’s Grandpa Thomas next to her.

Of family resemblances, I note that last summer I was on Ancestry, the genealogy website, and came across a photo posted by some other cousin (whom I’ve never met…!) It still knocks me back, is very emotional to see. Till then, this person was only a name, not someone I’d ever seen a photo of, and someone I wondered if there even was a photo anywhere of her to be seen: My Great Grandma Honey, Grandma Thomas’ mother!

My great grandmother, as mythical as unicorns...!

My great grandmother, as mythical as unicorns…! The way it appeared in the Ancestry website. I was stunned.

At first, I thought I was staring at a photo of my Grandma Thomas. Then it registered. Her personal history is longish, but, thanks to Uncle Max, we do know a few details about her life. I think I should post those separately, perhaps tomorrow.