Tuesday, November 14, 2017

the art closet

We had an art closet at the house on Scenic. It had a double sliding door. There were art books about drawing, painting and fonts in there. There were large art pads, canvas board, old wooden boxes of brushes, ancient tubes of watercolors, acrylics and oils. Dad did some brochure paste-up work for Green Valley Drag Strip, Bethlehem Camp, Gadsden Table Tennis Association, etc.  He'd also do logo work for a legal client from time to time. I still have the large amber bottle of Carter's rubber cement with brush he used for his layouts. The kids went to that closet more than my dad did because the pencil sharpener was mounted on a shelf in there. I remember dad had a box of India inks of various colors, a bunch of useless parts, nibs, tubes from fountain pens. To go into the art closet, one would have to dig to find what one needed for a project.  I rarely had to buy art supplies for a school project as a kid.  It was a mess in there, but I could find the implements and material needed to do the task.

That closet had always fascinated me.  When I grew up I became a graphic designer with too much stuff to keep in a mere closet.  As time went by and technology changed, I had no real need to keep the tools once required for my trade. No more hording of paper scraps.  My large arsenal of Pantone and Design markers, most of them older than my children's ages combined, are slowly drying and dying in a in my garage. Only my youngest daughter has uses them from time to time. I no longer use them. I don't think I would have enough art material to even warrant an art closet anymore. I have my light table, a variety of common pens, a scanner and my CPU. It's all I really need these days. Every thing changed in time.  How many years has it been since I actually had to make a mechanical?  It's been well over a decade.

I picture my father with his wheelchair rolled up to our round kitchen table. He'd be working on one of those brochure designs.  He'd want to do as much of it himself, but often needed me to hold the ruler down so her could draw or cut the line.  As a child I was fascinated by it, wondered if one day I could do it too.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

beneath the shadow of war


I was born thirteen years after World War II and five years after the Korean War, and three years after President Eisenhower sent first military advisors to South Vietnam to train the South Vietnamese Army.  I was a sophomore in high school when the Vietnam War ended.  The draft was over by then too.

Since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I grew up playing with little green army men and G.I. Joes.  When I ventured outdoors ~ you'd find me somewhere with other neighborhood boys playing army.  My 'toys' included actual military surplus ~ helmets, web belting, back packs, etc.  One of my guns was an actual carbine stock with a cut off broomstick as a barrel ~ my sniper rifle.  I had a pile of gear and an arsenal of play guns. My older brother had some old military manuals that I would flip through to see if I could acquire an edge while playing an opponent. But I wasn't the only kid in my neighborhood who took his war games serious.

My favorite television shows were COMBAT! and TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH.  My favorite movies were primarily war movies. I can't count the amount of these movies I have watched and how many times I've re-watched them (over and over) over these past six decades.  I still enjoy the good ones whether they be 'History or Hollywood'.  My list of favorites would simply be too long and tedious to mention within this post.

I remember when I was in junior high school, the Vietnam war was still raging.  The news  of casualties daily being reported on our old Zenith. The draft was still in effect and my brother still carried his card in his pocket.  It was one of those days that was in the yard readying for a neighborhood mission, when he casually passed by me and remarked, "In a couple of years, you might be doing this for real."

Strange.  I grew up thinking that I might very well have to do it for real ~ that one day it might be required of me to serve.  That day never came, but I think every boy born in the shadow of those wars were raised with the idea of the possible inevitability of one day riding out on that bus.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

dad was here



It was chilly in the garage so I kept the doors closed and turned on the space heater.  I was looking for a distraction from the nausea I felt in the morning.  There had been a drawer that I had pulled from dad's old workshop bench that kept getting stuck, so I thought I'd sand and dry soap it.  After fixing the drawer, I replaced the tools that had been kept in it, then automatically started cleaning and organizing the rest of the drawers.  My nausea dissipated somewhere along the way.

This is a great old workbench.  I acquired it after we moved into my present home twenty-one years ago, having room to pull it out of Mr. Roy Rakestraw's storage.  Roy had it disassembled and stacked in a shed for six years after mother sold the house on Henrietta.  I was glad to have a big enough garage to put it in.

I had to heighten the bench about eight inches, because Dad had it built to accommodate working from his wheelchair.  One of his favorite pass times was woodwork.  He did everything he could to get one of his children to be a helper on Saturdays.  I spent a great deal of time out in the shop begrudgingly at his side.  Like most kids, I wanted to be elsewhere playing.  Dad wanted to do as much as he could for himself, so a helper would usually just be his other hand, hold the other end steady while he did the rest.

Dad would often pay me to clean and organize the workshop, which was no small task.  He was a pack-rat when it came to saving various bits of hardware and wood pieces.  It would often take me the better part of a non-stop weekend to get it all done.  It was always a frustration that he would then turn around and clutter things up again right after all that meticulous hard work.

Mom spent a good bit of time with Dad in the garage.  Each of their children have a piece or two that they built.  I have a secretary desk in my house that they built. They gave it to me when I first left the house years ago. I also have a book stand that my dad used to keep his commentaries by his bedside. It is by my bedside now.

So as I organized the drawers, I traveled back three decades.  Many of Dad's tools are now my tools, tools he made better use of than I have.  Even though I have most of my faculties, he seemed to have made better use of the fewer he had than I have with mine. Like my dad, I find a pleasant distraction piddling in the garage.  I always find a quiet connection with my father at that old workbench. My Uncle Pat once told me that their Papa would often be found piddling at his workbench in his spare time as well.  I guess my dad found a little of his dad working in the shop too.

Yes, if I could truly go back, I'd be a better, more willing helper. 

I still miss you Dad.




Thursday, July 20, 2017

When Hollywood is The Family Business.

Hollywood dynasty's rarely pan out. We've witnessed many children of famous actors who couldn't quite make it out from beneath the shadow of their parent's stardom. Look to the Barrymores and Hustons for the success stories.  Something creative definitely passed down in those family genes.

There are names and faces we recognize but whose film careers didn't quite materialize as hoped. It's a tough business to succeed, even when given a big leg-up. When it comes down to it, it's not in the name, but do have the chops for it?  There are plenty who have made decent living in the business. Alan Ladd Jr. has become one of the industry's most respected film executives.  Alan Hale Jr. and John Ritter's stardom shined just as brilliant as their famous fathers.

There's a long list~ but this is just a short list of names that come to my mind while writing this post.  What names come to your mind?

Patrick, Michael and Ethan Wayne
James and Christopher Mitchum
Gary, Dennis and Lindsay Crosby
Alan Ladd Jr. and Alana Ladd
John Ritter
Harold Lloyd Jr.
Charles Chaplin Jr.
Liza Minnelli
Carrie Fisher
Jody McCrea
Alan Hale Jr.
Dean Paul, Ricci and Craig Martin
Scott, Francesca, Kyle, Alison, Morgan, Kathryn and Kimber Eastwood

Thursday, June 22, 2017

booby-trapped landscape

Our last tenant left a heavy duty dog stake and chain in the backyard.  I couldn't see in the high grass while I was mowing. It played a number on the lawn tractor. I hauled it to the repair shop.  I returned the next day to the property with my home tractor. I was then unfortunate enough to run over heavy gauge wire that was hiding under leaves. The wire wrapped and knotted itself around the shaft and the blade.  It was as if the entire property was booby-trapped. I tried an assortment of hand held cutters and a hacksaw with no success. The only way I could cut through the taught and tangled mess was with hand held power angle grinder.   BINGO! I finally got the yard and field mowed as the sky darkened ~ expecting it to rain at any moment. It felt good to finally get it all mowed before the rain came down.

I woke up this morning listening to rain outside ~ feeling that grass growing out there. Next time it'll be easier.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

the real step toward racial healing



I pay the 'racist' moniker no mind. It's been over used and the card over played. I've met folks of various colors who are racists and feel 'righteously' justified in harboring and stoking their hate. My advice to folks of all colors. Love your brother as you love yourself. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.

There's nothing the white man can give the black man that will heal the heart and bring unity. No man, no government, no legislation that can make the scars go away. Self proclaiming political saviors do nothing but stir the divide and keep the old wounds bleeding. Wounds can heal when we don't pick at them.

The real step toward true healing is to simply forgive those who have trespassed against you ~ past and present. There's no amount of reparations that will ever sate the angry, distrustful heart. There's not a political remedy. The answer is forgiving your white brother - forgiving your black brother - as Christ forgave us.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Finding Henry

Henry Wright Finlayson
b: 28 Aug 1857 Duplin Cty, NC
d: 26 Apr 1918 Brooklyn, NY
Using Ancestry and Find A Grave, I was able to find our great uncle Henry Wright Finlayson. He's dad's uncle who was the merchant who moved his dry goods business to Brooklyn and raised his family.

Murdoch Uriah and Martha Lucinda's Find A Grave didn't have Henry Wright listed among their children.  I had to go digging. I found his wife, Charity Elizabeth Proffit in Find A Grave that led to their daughter - from the daughter I was able to find Henry's grave. You can't always get to where you're going by traveling a straight line. Every now and then you have to go forward to move back, or back to move forward. Nice find.

I was able to add photos of Henry at his Find A Grave memorial and link him to his parents and his wife. It will take a little time for the birth dates updates and marital status to show at Find A Grave for both - but should soon.

Uncle Henry and Charity Finlayson are buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Kings County, Brooklyn, NY.

There is a chance that through the Henry Wright Finlaysons, we might eventually get more information regarding Daniel and Charity Westbrook Finlayson.

My father, Henry Westbrook Finlayson was born two years after his Uncle Henry died.  Most of Burruss Finlayson's children were probably too young to remember him.  Henry Wright Finlayson had a store in Cheraw before he relocated to Brooklyn. He's not in the picture below, but his brothers Elias Vance and young Burruss Finlayson (my grandfather) are there.  Click on image to enlarge.

Henry Wright Finlayson's Store in Cheraw, SC

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Little Herbert, Not Forgotten

Herbert Carlisle Brock
b. Jul. 21, 1891 ~ d: Apr. 22, 1897
Herbert Brock was the only child of Burruss Finlayson and Mary Florence Brock.  I was informed that Burruss and Mary were married for about twelve years. Herbert died at the age of six resulting from a stomach obstruction.  Florence died of a cancer shortly after Herbert's passed.

Burruss later married Jennie Wait Foster (my grandmother) and they had seven children together.  All of the children from the second marriage referred to Florence as 'Miss Florence' and Herbert as 'Little Herbert' (usually with 'poor' before it).

Only half of all living babies born in the Victorian Era survived until their first birthday.  Only two out of ten babies actually managed to reach their second birthday. Children died of influenza outbreaks, diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, polio, tetanus and typhoid. They were not fortunate enough to benefit from the medicine that we have access of today. Poor sanitation (no piped-piped water, lack of immunizations) made it a tough time for a kid to survive.
There's a lot of small markers of little ones from that era.  We feel a little sadness when we come across those small stones.
A top reason couples had larger families was because of the high mortality rate for children.  Parents accepted the sad fact that not all of their children would make it to adulthood.  My grandfather's second marriage produced seven offspring, each who had good long lives.  Only one of their children contracted polio ~ but still lived a full live.
The bright side to little Herbert's story, as countless other little children who died so young, were born to Heaven early.  Burruss, Florence and Herbert have long since reunited, as have all of Burruss' loved ones that came after him. It's a continual grand reunion.

When our time comes, we'll each join that celebration. 

"So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
~II Corinthians 5:6-8

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two Important People

Rev. Washington Lafayette Wait

Jane Wofford Wait






















My paternal grandmother, Jennie Wait Foster Finlayson ,was born into a large family, but the children were scattered when her parents James Turner and his wife Rebecca Wofford Foster died.  Jennie Wait and her brother Louie Eugene were raised by her relatives, Rev. Washington Lafayette Wait and Mrs. Jane Wofford Wait who lived in Spartanburg, SC.  Mrs. Jane Wofford was my great grandmother's sister.  Sisters Rebecca and Jane were nieces of Dr. Benjamin Wofford, founder Wofford College.
It's a bitter sweet story and  I wish I knew more of it to tell; parents die, siblings scattered, raised by relatives.  I'd like to know more of that story, what happened to all the other children of James and Rebecca Turner.

I have had these two pictures hanging on my studio wall above my desk for the last decade.  They are strangers to me, yet when I look to them, I am reminded of the place they made in their heart and home to my grandmother.

Both Rev. Washington Lafayette Wait and his wife Jane Wofford Wait are buried at the Springwood Cemetary in Greenville, SC.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

a real lady

Esther Ophelia Davidson
This is my mother at sixteen years old.  I believe this photo was taken while visiting her namesake Aunt Esther (Covington) during her trip to Biloxi, MS.  Mother never mentioned other trips of her youth other than the Biloxi adventure.  It's apparent she turned a lot of heads of our servicemen during that trip.  She was a real looker.

Back in 1988, I was shooting a video for Gadsden Museum of Arts that featured the late Leo Reynolds.  Leo was a well known artist in the Etowah County area.  During our taping, he asked me if I was one of Esther Finlayson's children.  He put down his brush, sighed and leaned back in his chair.  He started talking about his youth around the Davidson children, sharing sweet memories of his childhood.  He expressed his adoration for my Esther, what a wonderful person she was.  Of course I agreed.

"She's a real lady".  Leo said that two or three times during that visit.  Of course I agreed.