So I want to write a book

For some falls the task of recording the family history as it can best be known. My predecessors where such individuals as Albert Hopkins Davis who in 1927 recorded events and people in his infirmed years, and Joseph Francis Thornton who published his compilation covering generations before and as many after as he knew them in 1940. The motivation for taking on such a daunting task can be found in the very family of which they speak. For Albert he wished that descendants would know and appreciate the accomplished life his father Don Henry Davis a veteran of two wars and public servant. For Joseph, he desired to know his father who died within the week of his birth. He left the reader with the distinct privilege of coming closer to the dear Christian heart and benevolent love his mother showered on all of her children. 

As for me, it is my hope to write a version of public and private events that surrounded two of my closest and most interesting relatives; my grandfather Nicholas Dozenberg and the woman he loved who was as equally interesting; Frances Davis DeLawder. Frances’ personal reputation preceded her and was left for others to marvel at years after her death. It was no wonder that she attracted dashing, powerful, and equally charismatic men.  Her choice to become a mother at an unfashionably late stage of life was no less unique than also becoming a single mother in a social setting that was well equipped for the task. She cherished her only daughter and each of her grandchildren.  Her death, and his absence left a vacuum that could not be filled, the loss was palpable, and for at least one young man an insurmountable sum of events.

This story has its roots at least in part from family legend. This is a story that could only happen in America, the greatest melting pot ever known, where established families and immigrants came together in a new social context. I have read that for some descendants with ancestors of dubious character, they,(the descendants), end up on the “wrong side of history“. It is my opinion that there is no “side” to history but rather just a continuum of time in history.

After spending countless hours and personal treasure on researching the family tree and reconstructing events, my research aided by unimaginable technology in my ancestors time, I will present the story as I know it. I am not a historian in the academic sense, but an appointed historian in the familial sense. And so I embark on a journey like so many other journeys in life with an unknown destination, the first task is to settle on a title of my words yet to be tied together in some fashion of readable form.

I have come up with the title after much consternation. The final choice is: “A Man of Family,” and the title of this blog.

This is a true story that spans the globe, political philosophies and intimate personal desires, the stuff that makes up human life. I will share some of the details here. I am telling this story for “us,” the victims of a great deception. You are welcome to tag along as I trek along this path. 

from left to right: me with my family,  father, Amy, Allan, George, Grandma Frances, before the last baby was born

Put another candle on the birthday cake

For several of my growing up years, at about this time of year, my mother would recite her familiar words in anticipation of my birthday. “You where almost a witch baby …….” and I imagine she anticipated a thrill to run up my spine. But, more often than not I would wonder to myself, (almost out loud,) “I wonder what she means by telling me this?” And so the tone of our relationship can be found in this simple exchange. The conversation changed little over the years.

On my sweet sixteen birthday she organized an elaborate custom Halloween themed birthday party. The invites included all of my closest girlfriends from high school and a few of our boy friends. I remember the party games included passing an apple down a line of couples without hands and bobbing for apples. It was by all accounts one of the kindest things I can recall my mother doing for me. There are a few photos of my tenth birthday but none of the photos include me, the cake, or any of the other trimmings, just pictures of my girlfriend guests.

According to my father I should have been illegitimate and he cannot explain why I am not. My parents were married on December 28th. The date of the wedding was chosen by my father. It was the same wedding day of his beloved grandmother. His grandmother had raised him from infancy to the tender age of 10 years.

Within the first few weeks of this marriage I was conceived. Years later I doubted my legitimacy and sought my parent’s wedding certificate. Yep, I am legitimate, that little piece of paper proved it.

I was neither illegitimate or a “witch baby.” God planned it and so the tone of my relationship with Him can be found in this simple observation of the facts surrounding my birthday.

Today was a special day for me and I thank all of the people who made it possible. And thank you Lord for looking over me.  Continue reading

The House of Ruth: Childhood Home

2602 34th Street Santa Monica, CA

2602 34th Street
Santa Monica, CA

The earliest memories of our household would be found within these walls. My parents, myself and first brother, Allan, moved in the year mother was expecting George. Grandma Frances financed the down payment which allowed the three of us to move from her duplex at the rear of her residence on Euclid Street.

Looking at the picture, the shutters on the left framed the dinning room window, the window on the right would be the living room. Just beyond the dinning room would have been a small kitchen with a small service porch area, there where two bedrooms until a master bedroom addition was added after the birth of the third baby. The house could not have any larger than 1100 sq feet before the addition of the third bedroom.

In the kitchen I recall there being a gas four burner stove with the oven beneath the cook top. It must have been a weekend morning when one of my parents decided to cook bacon in a fryer pan. George could not have been more than three years old, tall enough to reach for the pan handle sticking out from the burner. Upon grabbing the handle the pan tipped spilling hot grease across his chest. The screams that came from him told of his suffering. Mother was panicked that her favorite son had sustained a serious physical injury. He was rushed to the emergency room and for weeks endured the torture of dressing and healing of the burn.

The back yard was the place for the clothes line, a swing set, and in it resided a huge pine tree the towered above the roof line (the very tip is pictured on the left of center at the roof top.) It rained pine cones nearly year long. I often looked up it vast trunk that reached to the sky and the thought of decorating it from tip to base in Christmas bulbs amused me often.

At Christmas the three slat open siding pictured to the left of the front porch, was the perch for a stuffed deer head. The thing was terrible and strange at the same time. It must have been a discarded hunters prize. Taxidermy had preserved the hide and fur and the nose had been replace with a red bulb that was wired. When plugged in the red bulb flashed and the prize decoration was living proof that “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” had in fact actually existed. If Rudolf had lived, then given the constraints of childhood logic, so did Santa Claus.

At the farthest border of the back yard there was a white washed plain wood rail fence at the crest of a small dirt mound that bordered the neighboring property. I can recall our mother out at the fence railing coaxing a blue jay to eat peanuts from her hand. With the bird won over she took a picture to commemorate the event.

Bird-Of-Paradise-Flower

Growing up I clearly recall the large Bird-of-Paradise bush on the left in front of the dinning room window. That bush will forever live in my memories.The flower opens slowly from a sticky pod until in full bloom.

Children can be rambunctious and there was a day when one of the large blooming flowers broke off. It was hell to pay from mother until the culprit could be found that caused the unfortunate loss of the flower. I have never liked the Bird-of-Paradise plant since. They are large, sticky with oozing sap and too tropical for any pleasure that can be found in them.

On the simple cement sidewalk I spent many an afternoon riding a skateboard, setting off a roll of caps (for a cap gun) with small stones, and playing with the neighborhood children. I recall walking to Pico Boulevard and frequenting McDonalds. Cheap simple hamburgers and chocolate shakes where a favorite.

Walking in the opposite direction to the top of the block where Ocean Park Boulevard intersected our little world I would wait for my father to return from his work day. He was within walking distance of his employer Douglas Aircraft at the edge of the Santa Monica Airport. He long legs did not break stride as he made his way down the block. It was a delight to keep pace with him, swinging my legs in unison with his as far as my pelvis would allow.

Facing east at the city and landing aircraft.

Facing east at the city and landing aircraft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I grew older I learned of the movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” and thought our of home on a street by the same name. In retrospect there where many miracles that where manifest within these walls, namely that our mother did not outright murder us, at least not physically. I guess it would have been a little tricky to explain a dead child. But then again, maybe not, our mother had a way with words.

Copyright  ©amanoffamily.com 2013

The House of Ruth: Baby G’s Arrival

2008-03-10-2054-35Why do I want to write this story?

I asked myself that question expecting an answer that I could tolerate.

The need to tell the story is found in the essence of my family, I am living in a broken hurting family system. Families are essentially systems of people and the relationships they are in. My broken family is not the only story to be told and at this time it feels a lot like a vacuum I am at the mercy of tolerant friendships.

Families represent the people who are closest to you in the world because you are biologically related to them. As this is a mandatory fact of life they are also the most capable of inflicting the most pain and harm, and in more functional, or healthy family systems the people you are related to also can create the most supportive and loving experiences of life.

Well enough of Psychology 101.

I will start with one of the first most vivid recollections of my mother.

At three years old the second brother was born. George arrived almost 12 months to the date after the birth of brother number one, Allan. I cannot recall the pregnancy but I was just old enough to understand that this person was a distinctly different person than me. But the circumstances of his birth and the emotional decibels rose considerably at George’s birth. He was “jaundiced,” and that meant to me that the baby was near death. Mother’s panic was palpable. She was frantic and I recall the infant being, “in the hospital.” I was panicked as well at the thought of a baby dying.  It was the first of experience when  I felt the unvarnished state of my mothers being.

That is how George came into his home. One older sister and brother to welcome him, glad to know he did not die.

Writing exercise #2

I see her through the years through the tears

Tender chest, willful eyes

Pudgy hands, pretty hair

Unsteady gait, curious mind

Brilliant with the promise

of exuberant wonderful life

The horizon laid before her parents

Hope upon hope

The air of privilege and prestige

Was filled with the stench

of decaying feces seeping through his flesh

Laid in his arms

He stroked her pretty hair

Filling her with the stench

of his rottenness

Eating her soul

Left with a gaping gasping wound

She railed against the endless pain

and against everything close

Like the beating sound of rain

The unyielding frantic pitch

Yielded only to death

I see her now through the years

Through her tears.

 

Wordless Wednesday: John Adam DeLawder, John Lurman DeLawder, Rosa Alice DeLawder

John A DeLawder, John Lurman DeLawder, Alice Rosa DeLawder (nee Glofetly)

from left to right: John Adam DeLawder, John Lurman DeLawder
Rosa Alice DeLawder  (nee Glotfelty)
most likely taken in Takoma Park, MD cira 1920

 

First Love: John and Frances

“Capital ‘D’-e” {pause} “Capital ‘L,’-a-w-d-e-r.” I can still hear my grandmother Frances spelling out her last name to persons unfamiliar with the surname. “DeLawder is two words, she said, always ending the spelling with this explanation. Frances clung to the name in honor of her beloved John and his family decades after his departure. 

In keeping with her Victorian upbringing, she remained faithful to her first love. I have said “John DeLawder lived a long and prosperous life after he died in 1924,” Frances never allowed his memory to fade. John was the epitome of the knight-in-shinning-armor; or, at least he morphed into this over the years. His thick dark hair, blue eyes, and chiseled features where not outdone by his unabashed tenderness and ambition.

top left: Rebecca Ruth (b. 1894), Martha May (b. 1897)
Kingsbury (b. 1892), and John Lurman (b. 1898.)

John Adam DeLawder and Rosa Alice Glotfelty married on September 3, 1889 in Deep Creek, Garret MD. John Lurman followed sisters Rebecca Ruth, Martha May, and brother  Kingsbury. The DeLawder family settled in nearby Washington DC, where John Adam worked in the government printing office.

Like the Davis family, the DeLawders where middle class Americans. Both heads of households held long-term government positions, Albert as a clerk for the Pension Department and John Adam DeLawder as Assistant Foreman in the Printing Office.

High school provided an outlet for Frances’ outgoing nature and enthusiasm. At home she was expected to be quiet and reserved. Her passion for life flourished in the public high school she attended. She received the praises and accolades of her instructors. At Business High School in Washington DC, she learned typewriting and stenography, she danced, played basketball, played tennis, and swam. Her undeniable charm made her a natural leader, being elected Vice President of the student body government. In her senior year she competed with the rifle team, and dabbled in the theater arts.

 

Washington Post, June 4 1914

Girls Rifle Team
Business High School 1914
Washington DC
(Frances is bottom row, left

In that same year the Davis family moved from 214 “A” St SE, Washington DC to Takoma Park MD, on the outskirts of the city. Frances’ determination to graduate entailed a daily commute on the street cars arriving home barely in time for the evening meal. Frances completed her public schooling in June 1914

Before graduation, Frances attracted the attention of a boy. He was a prize. George, Frances’ younger brother by two years, also liked John DeLawder very much and approved of the match. Mutual friends introduced them. John attended the McKinley Manual Training School across the street from Business High School in Congress Heights of Washington DC. From their first meeting, John was gallant, never engaging in degrading conversation about the “weaker sex.” Frances and John shared their lunch break, and so began a great love. 

Canoeing on the Potomac River, walks along the towpath, and secret passions was everything a girl could want in a boy. With John she was free from her distant father, who never tired of believing that Frances “should have been a boy” and her somber mother who believed that girls where “shedding their femininity.”

John Lurman DeLawder (1898 – 1924)

John graduated from McKinley in 1916 where he had studied science. He aspired to be a bacteriologist. He found his way into the Bureau of Standards(the Federal Governments first physical science research laboratory),  where he was appointed apprentice later that same year. It may have been John’s abilities that landed him the position in the Bureau of Standards from instructors at his high school as implied by this note in a closed case FBI file. John understood higher education was the way up and applied himself to study with as much vigor as he worked.

John would spend his weekends with his sweetheart in rural Takoma Park and travel back to the city for weekdays. She mourned his absence those days but John could not be persuaded to marry before he could provide for a wife and eventual children.

The nation’s capital was abuzz with the talk of war as the United States failed to negotiate neutrality in the European conflict.  Young John may have viewed the war as an opportunity to advance his career. At the age of 19 years, John and close friend Francis “Fran” Clarke enlisted in the Army at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C as part of the National Guard.

He and Clarke where immediately sent to Long Island, NY for training at Camp Mills. They were assigned to the Medical Corps. The two friends departed for distant France soon after.

Copyright  ©amanoffamily.com 2012

edited by Donora Hillard