I had a Freaky Thursday. I volunteer at my local historical society on Thursdays and when it’s quiet, I read from their library. I had just discovered a thin paperback, almost of pamphlet size, called The Oldtimers that looked interesting. It was written about 1996 (no publication date) when the group was founded and it contained unsourced responses to the following statement, “You know you’re an Oldtimer when you remember…” I had no idea my small city once had an airfield adjacent to what is now a county park. I didn’t know about the house of ill repute, either. It was a quick read and before I was finished a guest arrived. He was an elderly gentleman who after I greeted him, thanked me for volunteering (I wear a badge). He asked me what I was reading and when I told him he was startled. Evidently, his father had started the Oldtimer group and he didn’t know there had been a book written. He left the area nearly a half century ago and only came back recently to finish the estate of his brother who had recently died. I told him we had a copy in the gift shop but he declined as he was trying to make arrangements to donate and not acquire.
If that wasn’t odd enough, I finished the book and retrieved another one, Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise. I had seen excerpts from this book in a cookbook I looked at last month that had been written by the granddaughters of the Paradise author. The story takes place on an island in the Gulf of Mexico that is south of where I live. I had wanted to write a journal article about a family tragedy in 1921 that happened during a hurricane and thought I might be able to find some information in the book. The title page wasn’t helpful and there was no index (of course). No endnotes. Scanned and found no footnotes. I sighed. I randomly picked a page and Wow – my eyes landed right on the paragraph that named the family I was looking for! I could not believe it. I had to immediately share the news with the museum coordinator.
I first heard the story of this family in September 1995. My youngest was selling the typical junk for his school and we were going door-to-door in our neighborhood. It had been a busy hurricane season and although I don’t recall which hurricane was out there, I decided we needed to get the sales out of the way quickly just in case.
We had moved to our then house in the spring so hadn’t yet met all of the neighbors on our street, which was a long winding drive. About 10 homes from our own, we met an elderly woman who asked what school the fund raiser was for. When my child told her, she said, “The school was named for my family.” We both thought that was pretty neat and I asked her if she was interested in visiting and maybe speaking to the students about her own education in the area. She smiled but declined. Then she began to tell me of the family tragedy. The story haunted me for years.
As with most stories you hear, if you don’t hear them or re-read them again the details become fuzzy. I couldn’t remember if the family was a Garrison or a Jones. This was on my to-do list since it’s the 100th “anniversary” of that great storm but I wasn’t scheduled to submit the article until next spring so I hadn’t looked into it yet. To find it by chance in this large book was just strange.
I also discovered in this brief paragraph why the family was on the island. I’m not disclosing at this time but it was timely to things happening today which gave me even more eebie-jeebies. I am glad I found the information, even if it was rather spooky.