The hunt for primary sources continued yesterday and the day before, but this time, in Tulsa, OK. Two rather large storage units have housed most of my grandparents’ stories for a few years now, the result of downsizing from a very large 4 bedroom house to the two bedroom studio apartment my grandmother now lives in. There were some items that have already been passed on to her children and grandchildren, like furniture, china, and memorabilia, but the bulk of it sits in the units, waiting for the time when it must be dealt with.
I was not sure what was in there. My uncle, who is in charge of the estate, did not think there was anything of use to me in the units, but then again, I don’t think he understands exactly what I’m doing. Honestly, sometimes I feel the same way. But it was a 4 1/2 hour drive that I was unsure would bring about anything new, let alone everything of interest.
My father accompanied me on this trip, to help me make sense of what I was going through and also because we were not exactly sure my uncle would help if he did not show up. I’ll let you all make of that what you will, but nonetheless, I was very thankful he was with me. It could almost have felt like a vacation, except for moving around dusty boxes, cabinets, and bags of bedding. Considering my dad had the flu earlier in the week, he was a real trooper to stick with me through the combined 7 hours of rummaging through items.
It was completely worth it. It seems I’m not the only sentimental on my father’s side of the family. There were memories from my grandmother’s teenage years, my grandfather’s childhood, and his family as far back as 1864. A bag marked “Asst photos of Lena Lyle” was the most precious thing I came across. Although it held nothing of note for my project, it gave me a glimpse of my great-great grandmother and her family, I think as far back as my great-great-great grandparents (I have to consult a family tree to be sure). Tintypes, newspapers, and memory booklets with the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen were all housed inside this treasure trove of family history. I was standing there telling me dad I wanted dibs on this (as if I have a say at the moment). I definitely want to rehouse those items in something a little more durable, which I hope to do around Thanksgiving when I am up there again.
As for what I could use in this project (and beyond), there was an absolute treasure trove of items. A filing cabinet held dozens of folders with emails, pictures, and mementos of my grandfather, the 362nd, and his fellow fighter pilots. In the boxes that we were able to get to and go through, childhood and college photos, letters to and from my grandfather, and the Laughlin family rations booklets of WWII made me absolutely gleeful. My grandparents cared about their history as much as I do (or as my dad kept saying, they like to hoard stuff). In either case, it was everything I had wished I could find but had not held out hope for.
It was far too much stuff to go through in the under 48 hours that my father and I spent in Tulsa. Thankfully, my uncle had already said we could take what we wanted; he just wanted us to bring it back. Thank God, because there is such a trove of information to go through, I most definitely will need some time with it. I will also be rehousing some of it since the boxes are coming apart. I don’t think acid-free folders and boxes will do any good going back in the unit with the other old folders and boxes, but some better protection is definitely warranted for those items. I also do not think I will be getting through everything in the 2 weeks I have until my graduate project is due, but I’ll get to what I can and continue on even after. I definitely have plenty to work with.
The moral to this story is the same as the last entry: search through everything that you possibly can, even if you don’t think you will find anything. I sure didn’t, but I found a piece of my grandfather’s history that I can’t wait to share with the world.