Tag Archives: uncle don

Photos of people I don’t know — First in a series — People with Horses

My Aunt Corrine gave me a plastic bag full of old photos of my Uncle Don’s* family. I found one photo that I am sure is him but everyone else is a stranger to me. I know nothing (except what I discovered today on FamilySearch.org) about his family.

Anyway, because I cannot bear to dispose of the photos I figured I would blog about some of them.

The bag contains a number of photos of people with horses, but this is the photo with the largest number of people and horses. They seemed proud of their horses. And hats. Everyone but the woman is wearing a hat.

People with horses

*Uncle Don, you may recall, is where the odd spelling of my name came from.

Found Items: #4 Uncle Don in a Ziploc® Bag

Continuing to update the Internet on some of the contents of my father’s bedroom, I now bring you a bag of items that, at first I thought belonged to my dad, but then realized they belonged to my Uncle Don. You may or may not remember me talking about my Uncle Don. I am named after him. My parents didn’t have a girl’s name picked out when I was born and he suggested Dona Lee. His middle name was Leroy. He, as I’m sure you’re sick of hearing, was very special to me.

Here he is the day my parents brought me home from the hospital — a few weeks after I was born. Of course it is set up. I think. And yes, the misplaced apostrophe bothers me too.

Uncle Don waiting for Dona

The largest item in the Ziploc®bag is a sash that I’m sure he wore as a Legion of the Moose member. I can almost imagine a roomful of men wearing these sashes. Especially when paired with the matching hat.

This next item I thought at first was another hat (and even tried it on), but I think it was a nameplate cover for when Uncle Don went to meetings at other Moose lodges. There were probably stands to put the felt covers over so others in the audience could see who you were and what lodge you came from. Kinda like at the United Nations (but back then only white men could join the Moose).

not a hat

While my Uncle Don was very active in the Moose Lodge, his day job was with the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad (or simply the Milwaukee Road). In the bag were a few items from his work life.

There were two sets of never opened playing cards in the bag whose backs commemorated the Olympian Passenger train and whose “Jokers” showed a map of the line.

The last item is my favorite. It is a correspondence between my Uncle Don and the United States War Department in August of 1943.

I had no idea he began working for the railroad in 1927, which was the year before my dad was born. I wonder how old he was when he began working. I didn’t think he was that much older than my dad, but I guess he was a contemporary of my mom’s parents.

The response from the War Department I wonder if this Frank Turner (Federal Highway Administrator in the 1969-1972) is the one who signed this letter.

And the envelope in which it arrived.

My Uncle Don must not have been inducted into the military — I’ve never heard stories about him being in World War II. I suspect he was not drafted; or if he was his lack of height may have prevented him from going to war.

It was fun going through the bag and figuring out what each of the objects was. I enjoyed reading words that he wrote nearly 70 years ago. Once again, I’m glad my parents kept the things they kept.

Found Items: 2. The Nite Owl

For the last decade or so of my father’s life his bedroom was his sanctuary. He spent more time in his room than out of it — and not always asleep. I once asked him what he did when he went to bed at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. He said he usually lay in bed thinking.

Dad’s room was pretty much off-limits to anyone not invited in, but the stench of unwashed old-age was enough to not want to be invited in. Occasionally my dad would ask me into his room to look, for the umpteenth time, at the photograph of the navy ship he’d spent 4 years on or to look at something he’d found among his trinkets. I was never very curious about what was in his room — I couldn’t imagine there was anything of interest I’d not seen many times before.

I couldn’t have been more wrong as I found out after my father’s death in October. I found his father’s wallet, still with the cards and photographs he carried while alive. I found his wedding ring that my mother thought was lost. I also found a ziplock bag of things that belonged to my Uncle Don, my father’s brother-in-law and best friend until Don’s death in 1963.

Some of the things in the bag are bizarre — a hat with a tassel and matching purple satin sash from some honorary Moose Lodge event. Some are historical — correspondence between my Uncle Don and the War Department in 1945. Some possibly valuable — an unopened pack of Milwaukee Road playing cards.

My favorite of the trinkets, however, is the plastic box of key-chains. When I opened the box, the top key-chain was one I recalled from my childhood. Probably not the same key-chain, but I had one just like it.

It is a red and white plastic key-chain shaped like an owl. The red part (the body of the owl) separates from the white part (the eyes and tail) to make two key-chains. The white part also glows in the dark. I think the reason for the two parts is because two keys used to be required for the ignition and trunk, so this way you could keep your car running and get something out of the trunk. The back of the key-chain advertises a store called “Rorry’s: Apparel for women who care”. I vaguely remember Rorry’s — I wonder if there was one in Elgin.

Clare loves owls so, for Christmas, I parted with the Nite Owl key-chain and placed it in her stocking. I feel good that a memory of mine is now a concrete object for her.