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.

20 thoughts on “Post 616: family resemblances, family quirks

  1. That picture doesn’t seem to be showing up for me.

    I found some photos of several great grandparents by messaging some distant relatives I had never met through on the offchance. Usually someone in a family has a stash of pictures. It’s amazing to receive, say, as I did a few weeks ago, a picture of grandparents when they were young, the first time I had seen a full length picture of my paternal grandfather – who died before I was born – standing there, other than a close up of his face and the first pictures I had ever seen of my grandmother when she was young.

    • I can’t imagine what the issue is because both are plain old .jpg images.

      One image of my great grandparents on my mother’s side came to us by way of another relative. I’ll have to post it, too. In it, they are posed in the way of the time, the wife standing by the seated patriarch. Unlike most photos of the time, though, there is a hint of personality coming through. My great grandfather appears to be much too happy, and my great grandmother looks like she’s amused but about to remind him they will never get the photo taken if they don’t straighten up. I think I would like them!

      My great grandmother used to wrestle my father when he came over to court my mother. He says she still washed clothes using a washer board and tub, and that she was stronger than he, even though he was a high school athlete. I think he was a bit intimidated!

  2. Being a former history teacher, I love to see how all the pieces fit together and that desire is magnified when looking into one’s own heritage. Although, we may find a few shriveled roots that should have been pruned off along the way it is a fascinating journey to take. I have always wanted to use the ancestry site to investigate my family roots. I know my mother’s side hails from Ireland. My great grandma and grandpa were 100% Irish. My father’s side is a bit more of a mixed bag of the unknown.

    I look forward to reading more about Honey. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    • Family history can be very interesting. I’ve had inquiries from Australia and California by people who have strong genetic links with me and are probable cousins. I don’t know where it will all lead, but, given I know relatively little about my father’s side, I am especially interested in the fact that the fellow in California has family connections with Missouri and the name Honey. It looks like he and I may have pieces of the puzzle we can share. I had the photo of Suzie Honey, for example, which he had never seen.

    • It was taken by an old time professional photographer, unlike most of the photos I have of family. It isn’t easy to get any of us to submit to photography, let alone go to a professional studio to get it done! Ha! Of course, this was one of those rare family events where they had everyone together at the same time and realized it probably would never happen again. The family (their children, grandchildren, and great grand children) appreciate the fact that this photo exists. Best of all, everyone is identified on the back of the photo. When I tried to guess who was whom, I got a few of the uncles wrong and two of the aunts.

      • I think this is quite normal. I’m not sure if I remember exactly the faces of my deceased relatives. Unfortunately I have no photos of them. But I hold very dear and special memories to an aunt of me, her name was Anna. She was a small person with a big heart.

    • Exactly! I got to know many of the aunts and uncles, but Aunt Kathleen (second from left in front row) died before I was born. Some of the older ones (Uncles Chad and Hugh) I never met because they lived in California and I never got out there while they were alive to meet them. Seeing the rest as young adults and adults in their middle years is odd since I knew them mostly when they were older, some already retired. Hearing their stories about driving across Nebraska from Omaha to Alliance on basically dirt roads the whole way, and how it was especially gruelling through the Nebraska Sandhills was a revelation because it wasn’;t until the 1940s that some of the major roads were even fully paved! My Mom went to college in Chadron, slightly less than an hour’s drive on decent roads. When she drove there, she only came home on weekends because the trip was over two hours long on dirt road, including some hills that were a challenge to cars of the early 1930s.

  3. What a blast! I agree it’s almost bone chilling when you come across an ancestor from long ago….in some fashion. I recently received pictures of my grandfather on horseback….galloping around Tweedsmuir Park here In British Columbia with Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir. Now as custodian of these pictures I am at a loss what to do with them. My gut tells me to get in touch with the museum up that way and give them the pictures.


    • My gut feeling matches yours! Many museum acquisitions come about this way, and they often fill in little details (or big!) of history otherwise unknown. For that matter, you may learn something about your grandfather and the occasion on which he was riding with Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir and why that makes the photos more meaningful to you. I’m for you contacting them!

    • My father had twelve siblings, if you recount the people in the photo, four sisters and eight brothers. He was the 13th child. I don’t recall anyone mention of babies lost in infancy in his family, though that certainly could have happened in those days. His sister Kathleen (front row, second from left) died sometime after the photo was taken in 1934, but before 1940. I don’t recall hearing details.

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