Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Time for Back-to-School Essay: 'What Did You Do Over the Summer?'


Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer and time for schoolchildren to head back to the classroom. I remember returning to school and being assigned many essays to write "What I did over my summer vacation."

When I was a small child we often drove around the country to visit distant aunts and uncles and see the sights where they lived in Illinois, Ohio, New York and North Carolina. Long before Disney World was built, we drove to Florida tourist spots such as Silver Springs and to visit friends in other places in the Sunshine State. As I got older, we spent summers at Gulf Shores, Alabama, and invited the relatives and friends to visit us.

The two young girls above paused from their summer swimming at Miller's Park long enough to pose for this photo. The girl on the right is Jacqueline Gibson (1928-2003). Jackie, as she was always called, was the daughter of Ina Mae Pierce (1903-1977) and Joseph Gibson (1890-1966).

The girl on the left is identified only by her last name of Hagen. The two girls must have been good friends because they are both wearing the same design of swimsuit.

Miller's Park in western Mobile, Alabama, was a popular swimming spot built by the Bienville Water Works. Behind the girls' legs can be seen the letters "ATE" in the word "WATER" of the company's name. Miller's Park was a wooded area with open spaces and picnic tables.

Today, this swim spot is on the property of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. It stopped being used for swimming about 40 years ago.

The girls above would no doubt have some good stories for their summer vacation stories. Their back-to-school essays and mine would make good family history records, had they been preserved.

Have you written about what you did over your summer vacations? Did you keep the essays?
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking a Research Break...

I’m taking a break during the summer from regular blogging in order to focus on researching and writing a history of my Dad’s experiences during World War II.


I still will post as I have time or as the mood strikes me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Do You Come From a Large Family?










These two views of the home of N.B. "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964) and Julia L. Moody (1886-1965) give you some idea of the size of their house in the Pierce Level area of the farming community of Wilmer, Alabama.

The house no longer stands. Many years after the Pierce family moved out of it, the house itself was moved to another location. A fire later destroyed it.

This house is clearly far smaller than the 2,000-square-foot starter homes that many couples today consider as standard. Yet Bonie and Julia reared nine children in this much smaller house outside Wilmer.

Twenty years separated the birth of the oldest and youngest of the children, so they didn't all live in the house at the same. Still you have to wonder how those who were in the house at the same managed to get along without getting on each other's nerves.

Do you come from a large family? Did you all get along? Did you have to share a bathroom?

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day Salute to My Dad


At about 6:35 a.m. on this morning 70 years ago, my father Ralph E. Poore was hitting Utah Beach with the assault troops of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He was a 25-year-old sergeant from Laurel, Mississippi.

Although my father landed with the infantry, he was a member of one of three liaison units of the Headquarters Battery of the 29th Field Artillery. Members of the liaison unit acted as forward observers and traveled with the infantry rather than with the firing batteries.

My father survived D-Day and was in nearly continuous combat until February 1945, when he was awarded leave to go home. He returned to Europe the same week Germany surrendered. For his service in the war, my father was awarded the Bronze Star, Silver Star, Purple Heart and other medals.

My dad remained in the Army until 1949 when he returned to civilian life and settled in Mobile, Alabama.

Having survived the horrors of front-line combat in World War II, he died of a heart attack in 1976. He was just 57 years old.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Are Your Family Photos From a Studio or a Home Camera?


N.B. "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964) and Julia Moody Pierce (1886-1965) of Wilmer, Alabama, seem to have frequently taken their children to Mobile for formal portrait photos. Clearly they valued having photos of their family and had the money to pay for studio photographs.

Julia and her son Cecil Alvy Pierce (1907-1975) appear in this series of portraits.

Note the photographer's imprint on the front of the card: Boyle, The Kodak Man, 155 Dauphin St., Mobile, Ala.

Photography was only for professionals or the very rich until George Eastman started a company called Kodak in the 1880s. In 1889, he introduced the first Kodak camera with the slogan, “You push the button and we do the rest,” and began the era of amateur home photography.

Yet not until the 1940s did home photography really become affordable for most families.

What type of photos are in your family collection?

Monday, April 28, 2014

How Important Was the Car to the Lives of Your Ancestors?



One way to tell how important the car was to your ancestors is to see how often they included it in family photos.

In the above photo, Charles Pierce (1934-2008), son of W.T. Pierce (1910-1983) smiles proudly while perched on the hood of his father's car. They appear to be visiting at the Wilmer, Alabama, farm of W.T.'s parents, Napoleon Bonaparte "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964) and Julia Lavinia Moody (1886-1965).

We tend to forget how much the coming of the automobile changed life in rural America. Before cars, any travel to major markets took a lot of time and effort.

Cars were symbols of freedom of all kinds.

No longer did you have to take the time to hitch a horse up to a wagon. You could jump behind the wheel of a car, turn on the ignition and be off. Trips to the local stores could be made faster, providing more free time for having fun.

Cars were easy to operate and reliable. And fast. With speed came excitement.

Is it any wonder that even the old family jalopy often was included in the family photos?

Photographer's imprint on the back of the photo is McGill, Mobile, Alabama, Dec. 20, 1935.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Much Can You Learn From a Photo?


How much information can you get from a photo? You have to combine what you know with what you see. Look at the above photo as an example.

This photograph may have been snapped after a church service. How can I tell? The sailor is holding a cardboard fan typical of those used while people were seated in the pews on warm Sundays. Certainly the church would not have been air conditioned at this time period. Another sign that they may have just left church is that all of the women are well dressed.

The fan, the white sailor's uniform and the women but one in light-colored, short-sleeve dresses point to it being either spring or summer.

Beatrice Pierce (1921-1993) is fourth from the left and her oldest sister Ina Mae Pierce (1903-1977) is next to her, fifth from the left. The names of the others in the photo are not known. Ina Mae married in February 1928, so this photo was taken sometime before then.

The photo may have been taken on one of the unpaved streets of Wilmer, Ala., where the Pierce sisters lived. Or it is possible that the group had driven to the Port City of Mobile and it was taken on one of the city's unpaved streets. A large building can be seen at the end of the street in the background.

Have I missed any clues?