The Sky and Tomorrow

duncan grave lc 3

The unmarked graves of Thomas and Actea Duncan.

This post could go in several directions, but the one that tops everything for me is the effect an author can have on a reader.  It all began with a post I did four years ago about a distant cousin, Thomas W. Duncan who wrote a best-selling book in the 1940s.  And then a follow-up story I wrote on his unmarked grave in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In the early 1980s Robert Barron, now a lawyer from Colorado Springs, Colorado, read Thomas Duncan’s last book, “The Sky and Tomorrow.”  The book had a strong inspirational effect on him.  Now more than 30 years later, he wanted to show his appreciation, if not to the author, perhaps to his children.  He made an internet search and found my blog posts.  Thwarted by learning that Thomas and his wife, Actea, had no children and then shocked that the Duncans were buried in unmarked graves, Robert shifted gears.  “This is not acceptable.”  And so a man who was affected by an author’s words, set out to have proper stones placed on the graves.  This is man of action, determined to resolve the issue.

It took several months of planning with the help of Peggy Wood, sexton at the Masonic Cemetery, to design and have the headstone set.  For the unveiling Robert traveled to Las Cruces from Colorado.  I met him there and we met Peggy finally after dozens of emails.  She assembled a group of book lovers, local historians, a genealogical society member, along with a local newspaper reporter, Steve Ramirez (his article here), and the paper’s photographer, Jett Loe.  Thomas and Actea Duncan now have beautifully honored graves.
duncan lcI was pleasantly surprised to have so many folks there for the ceremony.  Robert spoke eloquently about why he wanted the memorial placed.  It was a way of thanking Tom Duncan and it was closure for Robert.  The Las Cruces locals talked about early Las Cruces and perhaps why the Duncans ended up there.  It was fun to hear their stories.  It gave me a deeper understanding of the city – not so long ago there was very little development east of I-25.  Hard to imagine that now.
lcsn p1lcsn p2
We left the cemetery having honored Thomas and Actea Duncan.  We learned more about them and the town where they chose to live out their lives.  I was able to see a man, shocked at the lack of a proper stone for the grave of someone he cared about, set about to fix that.  It was inspiring to witness that resolution.  All because an author, Thomas W. Duncan, wrote words that inspired a young Robert Barron.

Afterword
Besides the satisfaction of seeing a monument on my distant relatives’ graves, meeting Robert and the Las Cruces folks, I was struck by the power of the internet and by a blog as small as mine.  It’s satisfying to have been a facilitator in Robert’s quest.

The lesson for me:  Write.  Put your thoughts and ideas and stories out into the universe.  It worked for Thomas Duncan and it worked for me.  It may not happen immediately on publication.  In fact, it probably won’t; it could be years.  Again that’s the strength of the internet.  We have no idea of the effect we can have.  This time it lead to a ‘proper goodbye.’

[The original stories were posted on my blog AlwaysBackroads.wordpress.com – it was before I had this genealogy blog.]

Award of Merit Wayne Nebraska 1927 – 1928

EPSON MFP image“This certifies that Barbara Claycomb a pupil of the Public Schools of this county is especially commended for Punctual and Regular Attendance at School for a period of twenty days and is therefore entitled to receive this Award of Merit.”
EPSON MFP imageIn the year that Thelma Peterson was her teacher and Pearl E. Sewell was the county superintendent of schools in Wayne, Nebraska, Aunt Barb received this award September 1927 through April 1928.
EPSON MFP imageThe forms (N-200-H) were printed for Lincoln School Supply Company in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Each featured a work of art.  On the reverse the painting and the artist were described.  Aunt Barb’s school was District #14 – a one-room school house with probably a dozen students.
EPSON MFP image

Mark Fair 1824-1909

My great-great-grandfather on my paternal grandmother’s side was Mark Fair.  My brother found this ink and watercolor image of him done by R. H. Fair in 1945.  I haven’t done enough work on the Fairs to bring them current, so I do not know who R. H. Fair is.  My guess is he lived in the NE Nebraska area.
EPSON MFP image

Nebraska Commencement 1940

EPSON MFP imageIn 1940 my Aunt Barb received her BA in Education for Nebraska State Teachers’ College in Wayne, Nebraska.  She save the announcement, the program and mimeograph pages of the Commencement Week program with instructions on how to dress for the ceremonies and how to behave during them.

EPSON MFP imageEPSON MFP imageEPSON MFP imageEPSON MFP image1940 barbQuite an exciting time for a 22 year old farm girl from Wayne.  I’m not sure of the timeline, but I think she went to Chicago to attend a business college after this.  As far as I know she never taught school.  Oh, the questions I wish I had asked her.

Sycamore Illinois School 1892

This damaged photo is from a school in Sycamore, Illinois, about 1892.  Some names can still be read.  And I can see my grandfather, Amos Claycomb, in the second row, 4th from the right.  Also on the photo, but not scanned:  “Prof A. J. Blanchard” and “Anna Tepson” who might be the teachers.
amos 1892 schoolThis is how I see the names:
Third row from top left to right are
1.  Ralph Horn
2.  Ernest Husberg
3.
4.  Eddie Peterson
5.  Bert Stroberg
6.  Earl Van Galder
7.
8.  Mable Hix
9.  Diana Harrington
10. Ruth Townsend

Bottom row left to right are
Roy Knights and Cecil Wyman…

Next to last row left to right are
___ Harmes; Max (Mary?) Librant; Bessie
… Hilda Anderson; ___; …Morris, Ethel Chatfield, Fran…

Fred Beckler, …Amos Claycomb [4th from right in 2nd row]

 

Teacher’s Souvenir 1924

EPSON MFP imageIn 1924 my aunt Barb received this souvenir booklet from her teacher, Mayme Lindquist.  It seems amazing that a teacher would give each student an eight page booklet tied with a green string.  But at District 14 School in Wayne, Nebraska, there were only 5 grades with a total of 13 students, including my Uncle George.

 

 

 

EPSON MFP imageThe other pages contained inspirational quotes and poetry.
EPSON MFP image

619 DeKalb Avenue

Mom (Harriet Duncan Claycomb) tried to write to her sister, Barb, every day when Barb was not feeling well.  From two of those letters I found this description of their childhood home, 619 DeKalb Ave, DeKalb, Illinois.  

“…Let’s go back to 619 DeKalb Avenue for a drop in.  The entrance to the open porch used to be on the front but when they glassed it in, they moved the steps to the driveway side.  Inside the front door was a cold register where we put wet boots and galoshes.  Was that register to just let in fresh air?  Next to it was the Victrola.  My favorite records were Stars and Stripes Forever, Beautiful Ohio, and Saxaphobia.  Next was the stairway with a bannister I loved to slide down.  Below that was the chest seat where we sat to put on boots—open the lid and there were rubbers, galoshes, and roller skates.  Next was that gloomy dark closet under the stairs.  Inside were card tables, carom board, golf clubs and tennis racquets.  Across from the closet door were originally coat hooks like the ones in cloak rooms at school.  They were removed when the phone was moved from the wall facing the kitchen to the hall wall opposite the closet.

619 DeKalb Avenue, DeKalb, Illinois.

619 DeKalb Avenue, DeKalb, Illinois.

I loved the sliding doors into the living room.  Sometimes the music case stood just inside on the left—it held all the Sherwood Music course they bought for Helen to become a concert pianist I think.  She did pretty well at that.

Around the wall were built-in benches on two sides.   They were oak and pretty and next to the bookcase.  Kind of handy to take out a book and sit right there to see if it was readable.  Then the big window facing Judd’s and then the piano.  Mother had all the new songs and kept most of them in the bench along with a hymnal and 101 Best Songs.  I remember Yes Sir That’s My Baby, The Song is Ended but the Melody Lingers On, Barney Google with his Goo Goo Googley Eyes, Dream Kisses, My Buddy, Just a Memory, Among My Souvenirs, and on and on.  When we had company, sometimes Mother would play and Helen would sing Alice Blue Gown and she was darling.  The sofa was opposite the piano and had a hot register between it and the dining room where we stood to dress many a chilly morning.

Inside the dining room on the left was the Morris chair, the radio with headphones and a window facing the street.  There was a buffet under the high window, the sewing machine next and then the china closet.  Why did we say ‘closet’?  Or was it cupboard?  Then the door to the pantry.  When we had adult company, we three would make blanket beds on the floor by the door going to the kitchen—it was a lark.  Our old dining room table was round like everybody’s but Florence got a bigger maple oblong one when she came.

Nothing unusual in the kitchen—stove, kitchen cabinet, wooden table and the sink.  Outside on the landing to the basement was the icebox with the dishpan underneath.  Then about four steps down to the back door.

How about going upstairs?  We’ll take the back stairway and stop at the landing to look out the window.  Who lives in Gunn’s house now?  Is there still a big garden in back with asparagus and much more?  On up to the hall and the linen closets facing us.  Big drawers.  I used to send for samples of anything there were coupons for in the magazines—had miniatures of everything from tea to mascara.  Then I started sending for movie stars’ pictures.  They always sent 9×12 glossies autographed.  So I took up one of those big drawers in the hall.  Don’t know what was in the other drawers but in the cupboards above were towels and sheets.  Turning left was the big bedroom with the knotty pine furniture and the little alcove bedroom beside, and a tiny closet.  It seems to me we changed room arrangements often so the only room with a name on it for me was across the hall “Grandma’s room.”  I know I had a turn in each of the others.  The closets in the two rooms on the attic door side had slant roofs and you couldn’t stand up where the slope went down.

Well, that was all very boring—let’s try the attic.  Narrow stairs with the light switch on the left.  Hot in summer, but nice in winter.  On nasty days we often played up there.  Boxes of books always fascinated me—I remember poring through “Everything a Man of 40 Should Know.”  I doubt if I was much better informed after reading that.  The front windows had flies in them.  Boxes of treasure like a photo album with dozens of beautiful lacy valentines glued in.  There was a black knit dress form, rather shapely.  Over center towards Judd’s side were the chests of clothes.  Fantastic old fashioned dress and hats and even a corset.  We dressed up many a day in those clothes.  Some days we planned plays that we would put on and charge 3 pins to get in.  Guess there weren’t any stage stars among us because we fell flat.  In the next corner towards the garage were “Grandma Oakland’s things”—hands off.  The last corner had junk like an old fan, pans, and a chipped enamel table.

Well, my dears, that was a fizzle, so I’ll go outside.  Across the front of the house was Bridal Wreath with Lilies of the Valley below.  Remember the skinny strips of cement back to the garage for the wheels to try to stay on?  There were lush peony bushes under the

Harriet, Helen, and Barbara Duncan on those "skinny strips of cement."

Harriet, Helen, and Barbara Duncan on those “skinny strips of cement.”

window where the sewing machine was inside.  The peonies were beautiful but usually were crawling with little black ants.  From the front porch to the sidewalk was a hedge that had tiny tart leaves—I always put a leaf on my town and nibbled it.

Behind the garage were currant bushes against the fence, then two cherry trees, then garden bordered by rhubarb.  We had a martin birdhouse in the center of the yard on a pole but I don’t remember any tenants for it.  Sometimes we played croquet in the back yard.

619 DeKalb Avenue in 1999.

619 DeKalb Avenue in 1999.