Monday, September 20, 2010


I spent a couple of hours sitting on the floor of the closet this morning...surrounded by boxes of papers. In the process of searching for a particular document, I came across cards and letters that I've kept for decades. One of my favorite finds was a letter written forty years ago by my friend Diane, one of my dear church friends from my high school years. Born and raised in Louisiana, Diane was beautiful with the dark brown eyes and dark hair of her Cajun French ancestors.

Diane had married right after graduating from Memphis State and moved to California to be with her young husband who was in the Navy. From there, they moved to Colorado, and then, years later, to Okalahoma.  We kept in touch for a while.  She had a daughter and then a son.  I had a son, a daughter, a son.  We exchanged Christmas cards and phone calls from time to time.  Then I went to nursing school and life got even busier.  We moved out of state and, eventually, Diane and I lost touch.

Using the internet, I tracked Diane down about seven or eight years ago and telephoned her.  We talked for a long time.  She had bone cancer but was fighting it.  We discussed trying to meet in Memphis in the near future.  It had been so many years.  Through my struggles of the past five years, Diane and I once again lost contact.  I forgot her married name.  I couldn't find her.  Today, holding the letter from Diane in my hands, I had her last name.  Once again, using the internet, I searched for Diane.  This time, I found a beautifully written obituary and tribute.  She died in 2009.  Her husband passed away several years before her.  Her sister Yvonne, another church friend from my teen years, had also preceded her in death.  I sat at my computer, looking at the photos of her life over the past four decades and reading her obituary and I cried.  I couldn't help it...

So, once again, I've been reminded how short life is.  I made up my mind to write the Christmas letter again this year that I've neglected for the past five years and to reconnect with those long lost friends who are still living...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mama and the pizza...

It was the late 1950's. We were living in the house on Victor Drive with the sunny windows and the knotty pine dining room with the corner china cabinets. It was a time of early rock and roll, dancing and pizza. Our first introduction to pizza was from George, a big, strong, dark-haired cajun planter from Louisiana. All these years later, and I remember George Broussard like it was yesterday. He was Glenda's boyfriend and Glenda was Dot's best friend. So we all spent a lot of time together in that little house on Victor Drive.

George had a booming voice and a great laugh. His conversation was sprinkled with a few cajun words here and there, and he loved to kid Mama. One weekend, he brought a large, filled-to-the-brim pizza over for lunch. We'd never even seen a pizza. I have to admit, at first glance, I had my doubts. All these years later, I've had the best Chicago pizza in downtown I'd have to say I know good pizza. I don't know where George got it, but that was some pizza! Mama took one look at it and had her doubts too. It, obviously, wasn't Southern vegetables and cornbread. She almost didn't try it, but she did...and she fell in love with George's pizza. The best I recall all these years later, I'd say it was a thin-crust, SUPREME pizza and it was, indeed, delicious.

Quite frequently after that, George would arrive with Glenda on his arm and toting another gift for Mama...a pizza supreme. I'm not sure that George ever knew that Mama became a serious pizza fan after that. She tried making it from scratch from time to time, but when she was in a hurry, she'd resort to Chef Boyardee. Not too sure that George would have approved of that...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The paper trail...tracks in time: Mike

When I was younger, and the family members with most of the answers were still living, I was too busy to care. I was a young wife with three children to raise, a home to take care of and a nursing career. It never occurred to me to search for "ancestors" or even to ask about them. What a shame - the answers were there.

For the past few weeks, I've searched for information about William Merle Jordan - or "Mike" as he was affectionately known. He was my oldest sister's first all honesty, the love of her life. They met in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the mid-forties. I wish I had asked my sister just how they'd met. I've seen pictures of Mike...a handsome young man with striking blue eyes. I see those blue eyes now in his daughter, Sharon. I see a remarkable resemblance to him in Sharon's son, Michael. My sister did tell me the story about the days not long after they'd met, when Mike worked as a "milk man" in Clarksdale. Quite often, on an early morning, he would leave two quarts of chocolate milk in the old-fashioned glass bottles on the door step of our home as a gift for my sister and the family, a sweet simple gesture and a luxury at that time.

Dot and Mike were married on March 1, 1947. They were young and in love...they were happy. They lived for a time in Clarksdale and then we all moved to Memphis. My parents purchased half a large two-story duplex on Chelsea Avenue. Uncle Lester and Aunt Ethel purchased the other half. Dot and Mike had the attic apartment, which my sister Gerry says Dot decorated like Country Living and that it was so cute.

My sister, Dorothy. She was probably in her late twenties or early thirties here.

My niece, Sharon, was born on September 16, 1948. I was two and a half years old at the time. I must have thought they'd given me a real live baby doll. She had a beautiful olive complexion and big blue eyes just like both of her parents. She also had a shock of thick, dark hair. I love the photos of her with that dark hair sticking straight up! She was a beautiful baby and is still beautiful.

My sister, Dot, holding Sharon and me sitting beside them. Notice my arm on Dot's knee and Sharon's little hand on my shoulder. You also couldn't miss my brown high tops! This photo was taken on the steps of the large duplex on Chelsea.

These were the years following WWII. Times were hard and jobs were scarce. Mike traveled to Texas with his brother Charles to find work. He had lined up a good job as a truck driver which was to have started the first day of February 1949. In the meantime, he was working on a shrimp boat. On Monday morning, January 24, 1949, there was an explosion aboard the Wilda L, a 54-foot shrimping boat, eight miles off the shore of Freeport, Texas. Both the owner of the boat and William Merle "Mike" Jordan were lost to the sea. A search of the waters and through the debris in the hull of the boat failed to locate their bodies.

My sister and Mike's mother traveled to Freeport, Texas, most likely by train, right after they received word of the explosion. Years later, my sister remembered those dark days, staring out into the deep waters of the Gulf, watching as the Coast Guard searched in vain. She was twenty-one years old at the time with a four-month-old baby girl. Mike was twenty-three.

On the telephone the other day, Sharon and I both cried as she read to me from the last letters that Mike wrote home to her mother from Texas. He had high hopes and dreams of a better life for them. He loved his baby girl and talked of dreaming about her for several nights in a row. He told my sister to "tell Dianne to be a good baby". I had never thought before about having known Mike, but I did. I had been his baby sister too.

Sharon says that, over the years, it was just too sad, too difficult, for my sister to talk about Mike very much. After a while, she just quit asking. Now, there are so many questions wanting answers. When Dot and I were working on the McGregor and Haney family histories, she was also working on Mike's family history. Through the archives of Ancestry.Com, I have found some information. Mike's younger sister, now eighty, was able to fill in some of the blanks, but, still, there are so many more unanswered questions.

We're not giving up. On my next visit South, we'll travel to Clarksdale and to the Mississippi State Archives in Jackson, Mississippi. Hopefully, before then, we'll find some of Mike's father's family members. Right now, it's still a mystery, but the answers are out there. Hopefully, someone will also have photos of Mike's father.

Sharon does have one small, piece of paper with her Dad's actual signature on it. Amazingly, it bears a striking resemblance to Sharon's...

Note: My sister did not remarry until Sharon was in high school, when she married Tom Kemp. He was a wonderful man who loved Dot and her family like his own.