Sunday, August 30, 2009

You could marry one

When my mother was younger she wasn't known for her money management skills. They haven't changed much over the years.

When she finished college she moved to Memphis and worked at Baptist Hospital for a while and then moved back to Florida and worked for a hospital in Panama City.

While in Panama City she lived with several other girls, including a friend from Cortez, Florida, Nadine Green. Nadine was also the first cousin of my father, but at the time my parents hadn't met.

Anyway, moma told me her plan was to work at the hospital and save enough money to buy a new car. After a while, her boss, knowing her plans and seeing how she wasn't making any progress told her, "Red, you could marry one a lot quicker."

About that time, my dad was visiting in Panama City and Nadine introduced them. I'm not sure it was the deciding factor but he did have a new car.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Biff Burger

My uncle Al always had an unconventional way to make a living. When he was younger he played the trombone in swing bands. My brother said he heard that Al played with the Paul Whiteman band for a while.

Later in life he had a candy vending machine business. It must have been successful because he always drove a nice car and had plenty of toys. Of course he didn't have children so maybe he had more to spend on them.

When he was in his fifties he bought a Biff Burger franchise in Tallahassee, Florida. Most won't know what Biff Burger is but at one time, at least in Tallahassee they were giving McDonald's a run for their money with their "Roto Broiled Burger." Most places fried the burger so this was truly new and improved. The chain had been started in Clearwater, Florida in the late fifties and Al opened it in Tallahassee about 1964.

I can remember when Biff Burger and McDonald's had a price war over what they charged for a hamburger. They both charged 15 cents and one decided to raise the price. There were several price changes up and down before they called a truce.

Al bought the business and my Dad worked with him for a while. I'm pretty sure Ben and maybe Cathy worked there after school.

I was too young to legally work behind the counter but I had the best job. My Dad would dress me up in a white shirt and tie and I was Biff. I just had to stand around or wave to people who drove by on Pensacola Street. I'm not sure if my solicitations did any good but I had fun and I was usually paid in ice cream. At the time I thought it was a pretty good salary.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It is what it is

Some stories just have to be told without comment. This is one of them.

My great great grandfather on my Dad's side was named Linson Williams. He was born about 1827 and died about 1856. I never knew anything about him until a few years ago when I came across Ann Wilson who lives in Florida.

Linson and his family moved from Lowndes County Georgia to Taylor County Florida around 1855. His father had owned a lot of land in Georgia so when they moved to Florida they put it up for sale. A few years later the property was sold and he traveled to Valdosta, Georgia to finalize the transaction.

On his way back to Taylor County he was killed and the money stolen. The story Ann told was that his head was severed from his body and it and the money was never found.

A Georgia sheriff found a black man near Savannah, Georgia who had cash on him and it was assumed that he had killed Linson. He was immediately hung, without benefit of a trial.

For some reason the rope used to hang this man was given to the family back in Taylor County. Linson's daughter Mary kept it as a family memento. It was passed down in the family for almost 100 years. It was lost when one of the great grandchildren's house burned down in the 1950s.

Another descendant of Linson Williams is Lawrence E. "Bummy" Williams, the current sheriff of Taylor County Florida. I wonder if he knows this family story. Maybe he can get someone to open a cold case investigation.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Twenty Eight

Twenty Four was the name of a popular TV show and I have to admit I've never seen it. My brother in law Tom was enamored with it and tried to get me hooked but failed. At the same time he turned me on to The Office with a lot more success.

Twenty Eight is the number of years my grandmother lived.

You have to wonder what may have been if she lived longer. I had only been married a couple years at age 28. Our first daughter was only one.

In my Dad's family his mother died when he was three but she had already born five sons in ten years of marriage and had another child who died soon after birth.
Ila Rowell Green was born in 1887 and died in 1915. She had been sickly and apparently died of heart problems.

She was born as the oldest child of Seth David Rowell and Martha Jane Williams Rowell in the Shady Grove community of Taylor County Florida. Her father's family had lived in the area even before it was part of the United States.

After her death my Grandpa tried to raise five sons as best as he could but he wasn't the most loving father. He remarried once for only a few months and had a series of live-in housekeepers. But he was never wealthy and I am sure was much harder inside because he lost his wife so young.
I have a letter her son Bryant wrote to his aunt a few years before he died in WWII and he laments that his mother had died when he was an infant and wondered how life would have been had she lived.
A sad coincidence is that Ila's sister Mary Rowell Grantham died at age 28 also just a few years after her.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The family Bunch

I researched the Bunch family of South Georgia and Florida for my Dad's cousin Hubert Horne about 4 years ago. His father's middle name was Bunch and his great grandmother was named Eleanor Marzenah Bunch.

Hubert had heard that she was a full blood Cherokee Indian and he wanted to know if this was true. I spent several months researching her family. I determined she may have had some Indian ancestor in her line but she was not full blooded and had more Caucasian blood than anything else.

While researching the family name I came across several references to the Bunch family name. The most interesting part was the Bunch family living in East Tennessee. As far as I can tell they aren't related to Hubert's family.

The East Tennessee Bunch family are part of the Melungeons. I never mentioned this to Hubert because although he wanted to find out about an Indian connection in his family line, a story about African relatives would not have gone over well.

The more I read about the Melungeons the more fascinating the story becomes. They are generally known as a mixed race group of people who live in East Tennessee and Western Virginia.

Some say they are descendants of early Portuguese explorers, some same they are the original Native Americans others say they came from slaves who were granted their freedom before the American Revolution.

They were called Mulatto on early census records but today are generally considered Caucasian. They were the subject of a organized hunt by Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics in the 1940s to weed out "mongrels" who were trying to pass as white.

There are a couple genealogist who are doing DNA testing on the family surnames so maybe the mystery will be solved soon as to where they came from.