Saturday, August 30, 2014

Family History 14: Memories of Childhood

So with only one hole yet to fill (I'm still hoping I'll find more information), I arrive at my lifetime.

I was born in the late 60s.

1. It didn't seem so far in the past at first, but the decades fly by and you wonder where they went. You hear of people you haven't seen in years dying and you picture them the age at which they wandered through your life. And then you realize they are now in their 90s and wonder where the decades went...

Of my grandparents, only my Grandpa Shepherd was already gone when I was born. He died in 1963. My great-grandmother Rich was still alive for a year (d. 1967), but I of course don't remember her. I was a surprise to my parents, my next oldest sister is 8 years older. And all those before me were girls. My Dad used to sing a song to me as a child, "Kenny's my boy. He's the only boy I've got. All my other boys are girls. Kenny's my boy."

For the first years of my life, barely enough to have any memories, we lived on the northern outskirts of Indianapolis. The area is now well developed, except there is a bit of horse farm hiding on the south side of Carmel near our house on Preston Drive, just off College Ave. There's an artesian well somewhere up there. My Dad used to walk with me to the fire hydrant at the turn into the neighborhood off College Ave. I'm sure our talks at 3 and 4 years old were profound. :-)

2. We attended Northside, which would eventually move out to the suburbs and become Trinity Wesleyan on Allisonville Road. My Uncle Paul worked hard in the transition around the year 1980, when he died of a damaged heart. My last memory of him is him mowing waist high grass at the site where Trinity was going to go... with a push mower... knowing he had a damaged heart. He is buried across the street.

He was the favorite uncle of most of us. For me, it was the fact that he let me drive his riding mower. I loved his house and property on Highland Dr., just off of 106th Street. My wife and I actually found a house here in Marion that is modeled on exactly the same floor plan. I wanted to buy it when we were house shopping, but for some reason my wife wasn't as struck as I was. :-)

Uncle Paul had this large back yard that ended in woods with a stream. He was the gentlest of souls, never a harsh word, dipped in the River Patience by his father as a child. He could quote poetry, I remember.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1980, he was taking a nap on the couch after the large meal, suddenly sat up, and he was gone. I was a Freshman in high school, first semester.  and I remember that I had to study for an American History test over the Civil War during the trip. I remember there was still just a little trace of snow on the ground when we got to Indiana.

I could not really remember seeing snow, since we had lived in Florida for almost 10 years by then. There was that one strange day in 1974 in Fort Lauderdale when a few flakes fell and we all rushed out of class to see it.

3. His mother, Grandma Shepherd, had only died the previous year in 1979. She died in August. It seems like my family has a propensity to leave this world in August, around the time of Frankfort Camp Meeting. It's like August 1 is the beginning of our calendar, the center of the temporal universe. My Uncle Maurice on my Dad's side died in August around the time of camp meeting. Aunt Frances died just after camp meeting. My Dad's Uncle Calvin died around less than a month before camp meeting.

Grandma Shepherd was clearly in her twilight for the little over a decade of my life's beginning. When my mother was in high school, my grandparents had bought a house off of the Frankfort Pilgrim campus, across the railroad tracks, across a flood plane. Their house was severely damaged in a Flood I know at one point. I forget exactly when but I know a lot was lost.

My grandmother had a small house built behind their main house, maybe when my grandfather died, so that she could rent out the house in front and have an income. The two story house in front has long since been torn down and the little house in the back looks condemned. I have memories of my grandfather's sister Nora having a silver trailer parked next to the little house in the back.

Nora was born in 1880, which I always thought was cool, how old she was. I told my mother once that Aunt Nora's skin looked like the wrinkly under-crust of a chicken pot pie. My grandmother and Aunt Nora spent some months with us down in Florida when I was young. During that time, Nora inspired me to memorize all the Presidents of the US in order.

She was very patriotic, a militant Republican. I suppose that makes sense of someone whose father went by Washington (at least the patriotic part). She probably wouldn't have known it, but she actually had a distant cousin named George Washington Shepherd who died fighting for the South in the Civil War. Of course her Dad fought for the north and died when she was only 16. I can't imagine her having any sympathy for the South.

She had an old frame with pictures of the three presidents who were assassinated at the time it was made--Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, and James Garfield. Obviously the frame was made before JFK was assassinated.

4. I have a vague memory of Grandma Shepherd having a walker, maybe when I was 3 or 4 years old, but she was soon in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. I remember her and a friend named Mrs. Royer sitting in wheelchairs at Frankfort Camp Meeting. I remember Mrs. Royer because she didn't pull her facial hairs. :-)

Frankfort Camp was our yearly vacation. Most families take vacations to the beach or to Hawaii or some fun place. There were a couple like that, especially before my sisters were married. I know there was a trip to Pike's Peak in the 50s. My Grandpa Shepherd was nervous by how fast my Dad was driving. But then again, in his travels in the 30s the cars only went 30 miles an hour.

There were some trips to Florida right before General Motors moved my Dad to Fort Lauderdale. There was a trip to Key West in there somewhere. I remember catching cowfish somewhere in the string of islands leading down to Key West. One of my recurring dreams as a child/teen was the seven mile bridge running out of bridge or of the bridge slowly submerging into the ocean.

But for most of my life, all my Dad's vacation time was used up by church related activities. There was vacation time used for General Conference every four years (my Dad was a delegate every conference of The Wesleyan Church until the last one of his life in Orlando). There was vacation time for District Conference. There was vacation time for Winter Camp at Brooksville, Florida. And there was vacation time for Frankfort Camp.

My grandmother, I believe, gave my parents their red cottage on the camp grounds. Uncle Paul had a grey one about three cottages north of ours. One of my sisters leases it now. It was a 99 year lease.

I have nice memories of the camp ground as a boy. I remember the old boy's dorm being condemned. A couple boys and I climbed in a window and looked around. Then there was the old chapel. There was a walk in refrigerator in the basement and various other places you could sneak into. Then there was the admin building. It still had jars of things in formaldehyde when we explored it.

While my Grandma was in Florida, I offered to build her an airplane to fly her back to Indiana. I actually started nailing boards together. I wouldn't let anyone tell me that I couldn't build a plane.

I did that a lot as a child. "Dad, I see this ad for books to tell you how to raise worms and sell them for money." My Dad patiently bought me those worm books (even though they didn't really use worms back then for fishing in Florida). He even bought me a tub. But then I moved on to something else. There were all sorts of ideas in the ads in the back of Popular Mechanics and Popular Electronics.

My grandmother had some sort of a biopsy done on her in Florida and Mom always thought that her mind was never really the same after that. She went back to Indiana and spent her final years in a nursing home in Rossville. If I remember correctly, my Uncle Paul visited her in the morning and my Aunt then came around noon and she was gone, August 3, 1979.

5. My Dad's parents had died a few years earlier. Grandpa Schenck died in 1974. I remember laughing and laughing with my youngest cousins on the front porch of his house on DeQuincy. I remember feeling a little guilty, and perhaps someone suggesting we be a little more respectful. Grandpa had a great coin collection. My Grandma Schenck died in 1977. I've mentioned quite a bit about both of them in earlier posts.

It occurs to me that I have not mentioned an unfortunate story that happened there with a grandchild in the 50s, I believe. My oldest uncle had married a girl even before he lived in the apartment next to my parents on Olny Street. They had two children together and then she left him in the mid-1940s, taking the kids with her. He would remarry and have a great marriage for over fifty years thereafter.

I hate that, in that segment of the Pilgrim world, he carried the stigma of being a divorced and remarried man his whole life, even though she had left him, even though he didn't remarry until after she had. Some thought he was committing adultery every day he lived with his second wife, even after he had been married to her over 50 years. This is just one example of the legalism to which I referred last week.

His daughter by that first wife went on to marry and have a child. One time when they were visiting my grandparents, that little girl ran out unexpectedly into the street from between two cars. She was hit and killed by a car going down the street, right there in front of my grandparents' house.

6. Even though our trips almost always had a church connection, there were some great trips. Take the 1976 Wesleyan General Conference in Wichita, Kansas. At that time, two of my sisters were working at "Brainerd Indiana School" in South Dakota. So we took a little time to drive through the Badlands (I failed to stay awake, I'm afraid). We visited Mt. Rushmore and the Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out the next year, with the Tower fresh in memory (of course we didn't go to movies, so I didn't get to see the movie until years later... movies always came out on TV on Sunday nights... and we didn't watch TV on Sunday ;-)

A couple years later, my second oldest sister had moved to the Philippines to be a missionary teacher there. My father, mother, and I went to visit her. It was a great memory of Manila, Rosales, Sinipsip, and Bagio City, not to mention Tikka lizards, Pandesal bread, squatters' shacks, a stop at Quam, and a sleepy stop at Seoul airport.

7. The merger of the Pilgrim Holiness Church with the Wesleyan Methodists in 1968 was a big deal for my extended family. Some Pilgrims thought of merger as movement toward a one world religion. They thought the Wesleyan Methodists were liberal. Of course there were Wesleyan Methodists who opposed the merger as well, probably for the same reasons.

But my grandfather Schenck didn't go with the merger, along with two of my uncles on his side. Another uncle was with the Nazarenes for a while. Then my Dad and his older brother stayed with the new denomination.

8. In a world without video games, without internet, when cartoons were only until noon on a Saturday morning, life was pretty boring. There were neighborhood friends. There were trees. You could dig a hole in the back yard.

Mostly there were encyclopedias, books on the presidents, and the Lincoln Library (it gave pi to a crazy number of digits). The nearby grocery store (Grand Union) sold a new volume of Funk and Wagnall's each month and Dad bought me the whole set over the course of a couple years.

1. The Revivalin' Twenties
In the Year 1920 (Dorsey Schenck, also see here)
From Quaker to Pilgrim (Harry Shepherd in 20s)
The Great Generation (my parents)

2. The Depression Thirties
Dutch Reformed Past (Samuel Schenck)
North Carolina Flashback (Eli Shepherd)
Wanting to be Rich (Oscar Rich)

3. Passing Generations
Old German Baptist Heritage 1 (Amsy Miller, with clarifications here)
Old German Baptist Heritage 2 (Salome Wise)
The Dorsey Stream (Pearl Dorsey)

4. A New Family
Joining Two Streams (my parents)
A Young Family

5. The Closing Sixties
Prophet, Pastor, and Professor (Harry Shepherd)
The Wright Stuff (Seba Wright)
Flashback to Jamestown (Champion Shelburn)

6. Tales of My Life
Memories of Childhood
Notes for my Children


Jim Schenck said...

Regarding the unfortunate issues with my dad - you have it right except for the dates. His first wife left him in the mid-40s. He met Mom at Frankfort and they married in 1948. And yes, the legalism that was present affected my brother and me during our childhoods - until I became a teen and adopted the teenage "I don't care" attitude!

These posts have been very interesting to me! Thanks for your work!

Ken Schenck said...

I deeply appreciate the correcting. That's part of why I'm putting these out there.

Without using names of course, I have used your Dad as a discussion starter over the years when applying 1 Corinthians 6--would Paul have said that a person who had sex even with a prostitute was "ontologically" married to her for life, such that he could never marry until all the partners she had before him were dead?

The absurdity of such a claim is so obvious that there is clearly no unbreakable, invisible marriage that takes place with sex.