Personal History

History of my writing career

MEMORIAL DAY & ARMY MEMORIES

General Victor W. Hobson

General Victor W. Hobson, my birth father, when he was promoted to general.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a time to honor all our veterans and those serving in the military currently. On the lighter side of life, it doesn’t take much to remind me of my upbringing as an Army gypsy or brat and what military wives had to put up with to keep their husbands pleased and their families together. Army (or Air Force or Navy or Marines) fathers all wore uniforms and these had to be starched, ironed, and kept in excellent shape. My mother was expected to keep my dad’s things in perfect order, and she advised me ruefully never to let a man take me for granted. In other words, don’t volunteer to iron or you’ll be stuck behind an ironing board forever. Thank God, Permanent Press was available when I got married, and my husband had elected to stay only in the Reserve Army (two weeks of uniforms in the summer).

Way before the cheap giant stores, the Army provided the PX (post exchange) a version of department store with mostly quality things at lower prices and the Commissary (nicknamed the Co-misery by some) for reasonably priced food. Prices needed to be low since joining the service, whichever one was chosen, was not designed to make your parents rich. I still have some record albums (LPs – remember those?) from the PX in the early ‘60s that only cost $2.35! And a china cabinet full of nice silver and crystal from the PX I got for wedding presents. I could entertain like my parents, but who uses silver trays and bowls, fancy silverware and crystal except for very special occasions?

Cadet Darby Williams, Citadel student, before he became my stepfather

Cadet Darby Williams, Citadel student, before he became my stepfather

Entertainment was always a priority in the service; officers and their wives had calling cards and went through all the proper protocol. Officers and enlisted men did not socialize together: they each had their own clubs. The Class VI store, on the other hand, was available to those, no matter what rank, who were old enough to imbibe alcohol in its various forms. Cocktail parties, dinner parties, special dinners/parties given by a certain command or military groups were typical to celebrate holidays, promotions, farewells, etc. Each weeknight, if they didn’t have other social plans, my mother would put on a nice dress and heels and greet my dad with Martinis or Manhattans and sliced raw vegetables (pioneers for eating if not drinking healthy) for cocktail hour, from 5-7 p.m., wherever they were stationed. I don’t remember if he got comfortable first and took off the uniform.

Army posts offered tennis courts, bowling alleys, shooting ranges, gyms: you name it. There were always movie theaters and movies were very cheap. Because of my thrifty dad, however, I remember my mother making us kids pop corn and put it into small paper bags to take to the 35-cent or cheaper films on whatever post we were living in at the time. In the summer, there were usually several huge pools to choose from, an easy bike ride away. And when you became a teenager, there was a teenage club with lots of activities.

Rules and regulations were to be obeyed without protest; everything had certain hours, and in military time. My dad wrote me letters military style while I was away at college: paragraphs were numbered, and if he was scheduling a pickup or a visit, it would be written as 0800 hours or perhaps 1600 hours, for instance.

If your dad got orders, it was time to leave, no matter how well you liked your present home and school. Moving wasn’t ever that easy, but there were Army personnel to pack up your household goods: until the Army got smart eventually and starting providing furniture, dishes, bedding and the like at the new military destination, especially Europe. Personal household items didn’t always arrive at the new quarters, or arrive on time or in good shape, but that was to be accepted, even if it ended up on the bottom of the ocean, which did happen, although not to us.

Army fathers (as I imagine all service fathers) were used to a regimented schedule. When we went on a vacation in the States, we got up at 4 a.m. (0400 hours) and hit the road. I got a laugh from the scene in the movie “The Great Santini” when the family got in their car to leave in the wee hours. In the 50s we traveled to Tripoli in what some joked was a putt-putt airplane, propeller-driven and very noisy. It involved several refueling stops and seats were not all facing the front, which made it easy for my sister to throw up on my brother. Military airplanes in the 50s and 60s made stops in places like the Azores, Morocco, England, Scotland, Newfoundland and Labrador. Once off an airplane, you didn’t get your land legs back for at least a day. Until then your ears buzzed and everything seemed to move, even if you were sitting down.

Traveling by ship was more common in the 40s and 50s. I got my “sea legs” when I was four years old: from New York to Hamburg, Germany, and then by train to Munich.

When an Army father retired, he usually picked someplace near a post or base since he could still use the PX, Commissary, medical facilities and space-available air travel. Many times the retirement choice would be the area of his last post or base. When he’d had enough, my mom and dad chose Texas for the warm climate and the close proximity of Ft. Sam Houston, where, ironically, my mother and I had been briefly during WWII when she’d been married to my birth father. My mother left this world from Ft. Sam Houston.

Being an Army brat was a great adventure, despite the challenges. Living in exotic places was exciting but best of all were the friends you made and kept, if you chose to. My parents kept up with Army couples all over the world until they died, and I always looked forward to reading all the Christmas cards from everywhere. It’s a tradition I chose to cherish and carry on.

MOTLEY MEMORIES

My maternal grandfather, Edwin Pendleton Motley, who was born in Anson County, North Carolina, 12 years after the Civil War in 1877, descended from old American stock. His ancestor, Joseph Motley, came to the American colonies from Scotland as early as the 1730s. I’ve read they were Scots-Irish and also that they were Welsh. What the heck, we all come from the same source!

In 1903 Edwin married Bertha Jackson Seago, also from North Carolina, and they ended up in Danville, Virginia by 1910. They had 8 children: 7 of them had fairly long, healthy lives. Mama Jake, as we called my grandmother, had her first baby in 1904 and didn’t stop until Anne was born in 1926. Whew! She didn’t keep that slender waist for long. My mother, Bertha Garnette Motley, was second youngest. A typical photo of that era, posted below, shows all the sisters lined up on the Motley porch steps. My mother was in the polka-dot dress at the top next to her red-headed sister Anne.

Daddy Ed and Mama Jake

Daddy Ed and Mama Jake

From stories I’ve heard and the poems I’ve read, my grandfather, known as Daddy Ed in the family, was a bit of a romantic. He played guitar, wrote poetry and sang to me as a baby. I wish I had more memories of him but he died at age 70, when I was only 4. I was told that I would run to meet him every evening when he came home from the family furniture store, where he handled the accounting. He would bring me some kind of little gift—a piece of ribbon or some kind of trinket to play with.

The following poem tells something of his loving nature and sense of fun. It describes his first meeting with his future wife, Bertha.

There was a young lady who lived in N.C.,

And this little lady was as busy as could be,

She was here and there waiting on her nieces,

Her nerves gave out and she nearly went to pieces.

Her brother-in-law, the Doctor, sent her to school,

In the State Normal College to learn the golden RULE.

She boarded with Mother Hartsell, whose daughter Grizelle,

Grew to be a fine lady and was considered a belle.

This young lady Bertha, while going to school,

Was forbidden any company by the McIvor rule,

She went with Mother Hartsell on Sunday to dine,

With Mrs. Vuncannon, the weather was fine.

At the table that Sunday, just across from her plate,

Sat a tall, lanky boarder, wasn’t this just her FATE,

She glanced at this soreback from under her lashes,

While he turned scarlet and all colored splashes.

I can just imagine how flattered she must have been to have received this poem. I only wish she had lived long enough for me to ask her lots of questions. I did discover she loved large families and would have big family reunions in the summer. She was talented with a sewing machine and clever with running a household and managing money. She could also be a disciplinarian. When my cousin Paul and I threw a bunch of unripe peaches at a garage next door one summer, we were disciplined with a switch to our legs.

The Motley girls on the stairs of the family home on Berryman Avenue in Danville, Virginia.

7 Motleys #2

RECOVERY & HEALING

Emerging by Heidi Giraud

Emerging by Heidi Giraud

My daughter’s wonderful painting above symbolizes for me the up and down feelings and the muddle of dealing with the aftermath of recent surgery. I have a new hip and am now working on welcoming it into my body. I have become a bionic woman who will set off alarms at airports! Everyone experiences surgery a different way–in my case it’s affected my appetite (don’t have any yet), and a bit of my thinking and writing process. It takes a bit more time to write something since my fingers, for now, don’t operate that fast on the keyboard. I have to concentrate on spelling and be patient with myself. As one of the over 200,000 hip replacement patients in the US yearly,  I’m looking forward to good results and better mobility. Last year I had no idea that arthritic hips were holding me back.

Hip replacement has become pretty popular. Since we’re living longer, we wear out our hips and knees for one reason or another. The operation doesn’t take more than 90 minutes or so, and as soon as you wake up from surgery, nurses get you up and make you take a short walk. Some patients go home the same day, others the next day — at least with Kaiser, which is my health plan. Recuperation at home is deemed ideal, and I agree, as long as you have someone to rely on the first week or so, preferably living with you for that time. My daughter filled that role excellently.

Thanks to my son and daughter (especially my daughter who lives close-by), I got the help I needed to get my home organized and ready to support me as I healed. My son redesigned a few areas in my home so I could move around more easily.  I won’t be in a marathon any time soon, but it won’t take long to be fully functional. I look forward to walking with ease on this journey of my life.

MOTLEYS & MOREHEADS – SOUTHERN ANCESTORS

You don’t get to choose your ancestors, so it’s fun when they turn out to be interesting or successful or even both. Depending on fate perhaps, we may be related to a horse thief, a governor or even a president. I once interviewed a geneaology expert who told me most US citizens are related to a US President!

I’m from old Virginia/North Carolina stock: Motley, Seago, Morehead and Hobson essentially. The most famous relative I’ve discovered was North Carolina Governor John Motley Morehead, who ran the state from 1841-1845. He had an accomplished life, (he’s been named the Father of Modern North Carolina) but his mother, Obedience Motley, was even more fascinating. Her positive influence on him made a great difference from what I’ve read.

Obedience Motley in old age

Obedience Motley in old age

Before ancestry became such a popular hobby, thanks to the Internet, a lot of women were interested in researching their history so they could join the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). A Motley family cousin was curious enough about our prolific family that she discovered many of the relevant facts and put together a family history with names, dates, and some true stories from the past. She mailed these 20+ page documents to family members in the 1970s. Luckily, I’m a saver and still have mine in the original, now well-worn brown envelope, which only cost 50 cents to mail then from Danville, Virginia to Agoura, California.

The John Motley Morehead and Obedience Motley Morehead information apparently came primarily from a biography of the governor, but my document isn’t clear about the source. Too bad I didn’t ask more questions before so many relatives from my mother and grandfather’s generation died. Some of the pages tell where the information was located: family bibles that listed births, marriages and deaths, the state of Virginia archives, and the DAR library. These days, enthusiasts can join Ancestry.com, Archives.com, or one called Find A Grave!

The Motleys must have had good genes: living past 90 wasn’t that unusual, at least for some of the women. Obedience Motley Morehead was born in 1768 and died in 1863, having lived 95 years—from before the Revolutionary War to the middle of the Civil War! In the photo of her, there’s a curious circle above her head. It looks a bit like a halo! I would suppose she might have been an “angel” to many who knew her from the little I’ve discovered about her. Her grandmother, Elizabeth, was also a hearty soul; she had been born in 1700 and died in 1792 (also living through two wars). Obedience’s father, Joseph Motley, served with George Washington (only a colonel then) during the French and Indian War and then the Revolutionary War.

Nicknamed “Biddy,” Obedience had six brothers who all fought in the Revolutionary War. Obedience’s gravestone is in a cemetery connected to a Presbyterian church in Greensboro, N.C. Her son, the North Carolina governor, is buried in the same cemetery.

Gov. John Motley Morehead

Gov. John Motley Morehead

The man who started the Motley family journey in America was born in Wales, and reportedly, this first James Motley arrived by ship from Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1696. Obedience’s grandfather settled in Gloucester County, (home of historical Jamestown) Virginia by 1720 and married Elizabeth Forrest. The family moved west near Richmond and settled in Amelia Court House in 1737—another historical area. Its claim to fame hadn’t happened yet: it was a few wars later when General Robert E. Lee ended the Civil War by surrendering in 1865 to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in that area. Virginia is full of old history! There’s more to tell about these 18th century Americans, but I’ll save it for future blogs. A little history can go a long way…

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

As Christmas season and gift giving makes its merry way into the lives of those who celebrate it, I think about years past and what stood out about those times. To me, the holidays are sentimental. It reminds me of my parents, my siblings, my relatives and all the friends I’ve known over the years. As each year passes, there are more friends and relatives who are departing Mother Earth and this special time becomes more bittersweet.

I believe my childhood as an Army brat, traveling around the world, probably inspired me to keep in touch with as many old friends and relatives as I possibly could. I saw that my parents did it (my mother signed the cards and wrote the accompanying notes) and I enjoyed reading all the Christmas mail they got in return. I’ve been doing the same for several decades and continue to enjoy everyone’s news, even though I’ve graduated to modern technology and use Email.  This past year was a busy one of editing and I wrote about all the books I’d edited since they were quite a mix of subject matter.

There are a few holiday occasions I remember with a special fondness. My earliest Christmas memory is a postwar celebration in Murnau, Germany, in the 1940s. My mother was newly married. Instead of the train I remember asking for, I received a set of painted wooden doll furniture embellished with colorful Bavarian décor, which once consisted of a bed, table, two chairs and a chest. I still have the foot-high chest of drawers; it’s in excellent shape considering the years. It doesn’t contain doll clothes, just a variety of items like extra toothbrushes, spare night lights and a few remembrances.

Ella, my German mother-in-law, and me

Ella, my German mother-in-law, and me in Bavaria

Germany figures in several Christmas celebrations, like my last one in college. As an Army dependent, I had a free trip to my parents’ home in Mannheim, but it was space available from Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey. A large group of students and military personnel spent five days waiting for an empty airplane seat. An older Master Sergeant became my protector and one night took me to see the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie “Charade.” Once I made it to Germany, I felt like a debutante with all the social activities and attention from eligible Army lieutenants. Winging homeward to the US on New Year’s Eve from Rhine-Main Air Base, a few of us college coeds were invited by flirtatious Air Force pilots into the cockpit to see the Midnight Sun over Northern Canada.

There was another German Christmas in 1967, a couple of years after I was married. My husband’s Army parents, as well as my own, were  stationed in Germany. My folks were in Frankfurt and his were in Kaiserslautern. The photo here shows me with Ella, my delightful mother-in-law during a visit to picturesque Garmisch in Bavaria.

I recall my daughter Heidi’s second Christmas and the Fisher-Price dollhouse Santa brought. She was old enough to appreciate it, and I can still see it because it’s on film. I was about six months pregnant with her brother at the time. And below, I have a photo taken of my kids–Heidi and Hansi–with Santa Claus around 1975.

Heidi and Hansi with Santa

Heidi and Hansi with Santa

I can’t forget the memory of the last family Christmas I spent with my parents, sister and brother. My little family—husband and two youngsters–drove from LA to San Antonio, Texas, in a spacious Plymouth; the backseat was large enough for a crib mattress, an idea I’d gotten from a TV show. I bought a harness for both kids (three years old and eight months old) and strapped them to the seat belts, so they could sleep and also crawl around. It might not be considered safe now, but nothing bad happened.

That Christmas my mother’s kidney disease was just beginning to get worse, my brother was still in college and my sister was going to junior college in Utah. Two years later my mother had left the world for good.

A few years later my sister joined us for a California taste of winter. My mother-in-law rented a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains, which gave us a whole new perspective on the holidays. We bought a tree on the way there, a bargain since it was Christmas Eve, but then had to lug everything up countless steps to this aerie on a hill with a view of a small lake below. We did our decorating the old-fashioned way by stringing popcorn. Before we left a few days later, my kids tried out sledding for the very first time.

Dealing with my new divorce in the 1980s felt daunting, but my sister’s small family and my still single brother were supportive by joining me and my kids in Los Angeles for Christmas. Four small children and four adults filled my house with laughter, and my sister brought along the ingredients to make a lovely little gingerbread house.

Family Christmas 1981

Family Christmas 1981- Me, brother Darby, sister Tupper & kids-David, Hansi, Heidi & Heather.

A TEMPEST FROM NAPLES TO LIVORNO

After the Pompeii tour, we were back onboard the Rose that afternoon and left Naples for Leghorn (Livorno in Italian) at 6 p.m. June 28, 1958. The ship tossed and turned as it fought its way north; it was our only storm during the entire cruise. A dance was planned for the teens, and my friend Diana was anxious to go since her latest boyfriend, who was the president of the Naples Teen Club, had debarked in Naples. Nature wasn’t in the mood for a party.

The dining room had finished serving when Diana came to my cabin to pick me up. The ship was already rocking, and right away, she threw up in our sink. That wasn’t the end of it, as I noted in my scrapbook: “Diana threw up five times!” When Diana returned to her family’s cabin, I went by myself to the dance and even managed to dance a few. The party soon broke up—not too many sailors among us. I was proud of my stamina and balance, and wrote: “I pulled through. How I don’t know, but I didn’t throw up once. Whew!!”

The following afternoon we docked in Leghorn; most of us were relieved to see land after the rough seas. My mother, sister Tupper, and I met Army friends from the Corps of Engineers who had been stationed in Tripoli and were now in Italy. Because of all the traveling in those days of letter writing, military people tended to stay in touch for years. The old friends took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa before we went to a cocktail party (only for the grown-ups, of course).

“At Pisa, going up the steps to the tower was murder; I don’t know when I’ve walked up sooo many steps,” I wrote. “The steps wound around the tower. Coming down the tower really got me though.”

Pisa
My sister and I had started up the deeply grooved steps before Mom. We were surprised how open everything was. It would have been easy to walk out to the encircling balconies and fall right off: there were no railings. Tupper, who was only nine, was hesitant as we ascended since we could feel the slope of the tower. Once my mother, who was behind us, spotted the danger, she started running to catch up! We had reached the top by the time she got there, panting, and breathing a sigh of relief that her daughters were safe and sound. I don’t think Italians worry so much about safety; Americans seem paranoid compared to other cultures.

When we were safely down again, our little group walked over to the nearby cathedral. I was told one of the bronze doors, which had various historic scenes in bas-relief, had a magic lizard carving. It was a superstition that if you rubbed the lizard, you would have your wish come true. It was the shiniest thing on the whole large door! I couldn’t resist and my wish did come true. I attracted a short-term boyfriend, one of the initially “unfriendly” group that had gotten on the ship in Istanbul. Bill was an easy conversationalist, a good dancer, and knew how to kiss: must have been that advanced age of 18! The newer passengers had gotten comfortable, lost their shyness, and all of us made the most of the voyage.

NEW HIPS FOR ME, the Bionic Woman

In 1976-78 there was an entertaining TV adventure series called The Bionic Woman, which starred Lindsay Wagner. It was the female counterpart to The Six Million-Dollar Man. In the plot, she was rescued from a nearly fatal accident and given bionic surgical implants to save her life and turn her into an exciting heroine.

Doctor

I seldom watched this popular series, but the title is quite appropriate for modern medicine with its artificial replacements for deteriorated natural human parts, like hips. I will be getting my own bionic parts early next year when I get new hip joints. Welcome to the senior years when hips and other body parts wear out. My research claimed there were 175,000 hip replacements performed annually in the U.S., some for those as young as their 40s! The new joint, according to my doctor, would be a combination of metals: I think titanium is one of them. The Internet confirmed its popularity.

I won’t join the ranks of heroines with my new flexible and strong joints, but if it will allow me to walk with ease again, I can’t wait for the surgery and the mobility it promises. Kaiser Permanente, which is my medical group, must do quite a few hip replacements, and they intend to prepare you well. Before anything happens, I will attend a 3-hour seminar full of information weeks before the actual operation. In the meantime, my chiropractor gave me some exercises to strengthen my legs and back to help with the recovery.

The Hip

The Internet offered advice about the gentle treatment of the new hip, like using a toilet seat riser so you won’t overstrain the new hip. I’ve got that covered–I saved the device from the time I injured my kneecap ten years ago. Kaiser will supply a basic walker–the kind without wheels that requires tennis  balls to keep it moving easily! I’ve been told my hospital stay will be brief — one or two nights at most and then it’s home for about six weeks of recovery. I’m glad I live in a small apartment with lots of areas and furniture to lean against or hold onto. Being on the second floor means I’ll be confined for a while, but there’s a wrap-around balcony when I can practice walking. Since my hands aren’t affected, I can continue my editing business, writing my blog and keeping up with friends on Facebook.

Why did it take so long to discover what was slowing me down? I’ve experienced over 15 years of slow deterioration in movement. Everybody has a different journey and various challenges along the way. Looking back doesn’t help, for the most part, but I needed to make peace with what had happened. I believe it had been a combination of having and not having health care. I never gave up and learned how to improve my mobility for walkin and succeeded, but then I slammed my knees onto a sidewalk, recovered after medical care, and then realized that I couldn’t walk for long distances as before. When I walked anywhere, I was on a constant search for a place to sit for a few minutes before continuing. Eventually, I bought a walker. I had a couple of MRIs, which indicated spinal stenosis. The neurologist quit before he could advise me what to do next, and I didn’t pursue it. It took a wonderful chiropractor who had also been a physical therapist to tell me he thought I had arthritis in the hips and I needed some extensive X-rays to prove it. I’ve finally reached the “fix it” stage and it all looks very positive, even though it won’t be a fast solution. Recovery is about six weeks for each hip.

My 2016 aspirations, to quote Fats Domino, “I’m walkin’, yes indeed!” and Kenny Loggins, “I gotta cut loose, footloose…”

HALLOWEEN – WEST COAST STYLE

Halloween festivities seem to be a peculiarly American holiday, and it becomes more rambunctious and extravagant every year. From kids in simple costumes trick-a-treating in neighborhoods, it’s grown to large events in shopping centers, parades, and special haunted houses, especially in Los Angeles because of our great weather in October. There’s Knott’s Scary Farm, the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, Universal Studios Horror Nights, a costume ball at LA County Art Museum, and the famous and probably largest street party in the world in West Hollywood from 6-11 p.m. My daughter Heidi attended a few years ago.

I was reminded of these festivities by finding my photo of Vincent Price, renowned for his scary roles — The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Wax, The Masque of the Red Death, etc. Although he died in 1993, any movie fan will remember his distinctive cultured voice, despite his being born in St. Louis, Missouri! I met him when I was a guest at a realtors’ convention in Las Vegas back in the mid 1970s. My mother-in-law had invited me to join her and her brother-in-law; it was a good excuse to celebrate in Vegas. I had my photo taken with the charming Vincent and remember asking him why he had a lapel pin on his jacket in the shape of a coat hangar (can’t be seen in the photo). He laughed and said it was because he didn’t have any “hangups!”

Me and Vincent Price. Looks like I'm doing publicity.

Me and Vincent Price. Looks like I’m doing publicity.

Me and Vincent Price. Looks like I’m doing publicity glad-handing!
Back in the 1960s, when I was working as a service representative at AT&T (known as Pacific Bell then), we always celebrated Halloween. We had about 10 sections of side-by-side desks in our large office in Hollywood on Gower Street, a couple of blocks from Columbia Studios. Each section, including the supervisor, would choose their own section costume. We were inventive as you can see in these old photos.

 

 

Halloween at the PacBell Phone Co office

Halloween at the PacBell Phone Co office. We were Cave Women. I’m third from the left. In my last blog I mentioned Ruth Stewart went out with comic Marty Ingels. She is the short woman-4th from the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Halloween at the Phone Company

Another Halloween at the Phone Company. I’m third from the left again. We are space creatures, probably Star Trek inspired.

When my kids were growing up, we were fortunate to live in a suburban housing development between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills, a safe place to raise kids and an easy place for trick-or-treating. Now that I’m more in the city in an area of apartment buildings, I don’t see normal trick-or-treating. Kids who don’t live in housing tracts will dress up for their schools, and also go with parents to shopping centers to get free candy.

Hansi as a Frontier Cowboy

Son Hansi as a Frontier Cowboy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heidi as a version of American Indian

Daughter Heidi as a version of American Indian

 

Heidi & Zombie - West Hollywood Halloween

Heidi & Zombie – West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

Because Los Angeles is the Entertainment Capital of the World, there’s nothing that matches the zany and outrageous Gay West Hollywood Halloween Parade and Carnival. Thousands of participants of all sexual persuasions meander down a mile-long stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard on Halloween night. Some come just to gawk; others join in the fun with costumes seen nowhere else. There’s entertainment, bands, dancing, and plenty of food and drink. My daughter Heidi and a few friends dressed up a few years ago, but Heidi seemed to be the only one who got revelers to show off in photos.

SEAGO FAMILY HISTORY–A SHOOTOUT

The Motley family, circa 1910

The Motley family, circa 1910

History has always intrigued me, and when it relates to family, it’s even more interesting. Henry Louis Gates has hosted PBS shows regarding our genealogy or “roots,” and the show is back again in January. “Who Do You Think You Are” is also a recent series. Some years ago my cousin Nancy sent me a list of my maternal grandmother, Bertha Jake Seago Motley’s family and the reasons for their demise for a few of them. Her sister Mary, for instance, had cancer of the heart (which I’ve never heard of). Brother Henry died from poisoned liquor, brother Albert had an accidental fall, and brother John died from being shot. John’s death is quite a story and it appeared in the Danville, Virginia, newspaper.

My grandmother, whom we called Mama Jake, was born in Anson County, North Carolina as Bertha Jackson Seago in 1882. She came from a family of 7 girls and 4 boys, and after she married my grandfather, Edwin P. Motley (in typical Southern fashion, we called him Daddy Ed) in 1903, she gave birth to 8 children, most of them born in Danville, Virginia (my hometown as well). There are still a lot of cousins around, and I recently discovered, thanks to my blog, there were cousins on the Seago side of the family I had never heard of! Mama Jake had a brother who was a Deputy Sheriff who was killed in a shootout, for instance!

Eric Seago Flashood, a cousin, sent me a link to an ancestor site that told the story of the shooting of Deputy Sheriff John Seago, my grandmother’s brother and Eric’s great-grandfather. There are plenty of sayings about alcohol: “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker,” from a poem by Ogden Nash, is my favorite. It’s been called Demon Rum and to the point: “Liquor kills.” Alcohol was responsible for the death of two of the Seagos, probably both as a result of Prohibition. When I watched the recent PBS series on Prohibition, I had no idea my Great Uncle worked for law enforcement during that violent era.

John Marion Seago, soldier in the Spanish-American War. Courtesy David L. Fleshood.

John Marion Seago, soldier in the Spanish-American War. Courtesy David L. Fleshood.

Sheriff John Seago was a brave officer of the law in Brunswick County, Virginia, who had saved a man from a lynching in 1921. In June, 1924, he and two other officers raided a moonshine operation located at a private home near the tiny town of Brodnax, Virginia. As the police officers went into the home to arrest the bootlegger, they heard a car drive up. Sheriff Seago went out on the porch to warn the men in the car not to interfere, but they ignored the warning, drove around to the back of the house and came in the back door. The lights were doused and gunfire erupted in a shootout. My Great Uncle John Seago was hit in the stomach. When a local drug store could do nothing for the serious wound, the officers drove the 78 miles to a hospital in Richmond. Despite an operation, Sheriff Seago had lost too much blood and died shortly after, leaving behind a wife and three children.

My grandmother went to her brother’s funeral in Lawrenceville, which is a little east of Danville. When she returned, the local paper, The Danville Bee, interviewed her for a story on her brother’s death. In the story, as was protocol in those days, women were called by their married name, so she was referred to as Mrs. E.P. Motley. According to the article, the men in the car, who had taken part in the shootout, were arrested, but the bootlegger was still at large.

I wish I had been more inquisitive when I was younger and my grandmother was still alive. It’s ironic that so many of us think of the questions we want to ask after our relatives have passed away. I’m sure there are several of my relatives that didn’t even know Mama Jake came from such a large family! Thanks to the Internet, we can fill in some of the blanks.

 

FINDING A DATE IN LOS ANGELES

Online dating is alive and well these days, even the Los Angeles Times has a special page in their Saturday section for stories about dating relationships . I suppose some couples still meet each other at parties, weddings, grocery stores and social events, but searching the Internet is probably the easiest method and gives searchers the most information. Like advertising, however, the “truth” can be a scam…or as the old saying goes, “Let the buyer beware.” I’ve had some fascinating adventures in the dating world over the years, which brings to mind another saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” The previews of the two stories below are completely true–I wrote them when the experiences were fresh in my mind. The first one was submitted to Playgirl magazine but rejected. I always thought they may have felt it was too bizarre since the incident happened before the Internet revealed the dating world can be awfully peculiar and eccentric. I met the subjects of these stories through ads in the Singles Register, a now defunct Southern California newspaper.

Here are two excerpts from my Kindle Single book on Amazon:   Weird Dates and Strange Fates

Weird Dates and Strange Fates#1

 

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noted a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it, four-inch black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.

 

The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street from him, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link:  Amazon books by Victoria Giraud  or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.

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