Recently, I have gotten back into genealogy. I go through this phases every few years on a never-ending quest for a certain individual in our family. On a whim a few weeks ago, I typed this individual’s name into Family Search and came across his gravestone on Find A Grave. This man was my great grandpa and, as the family legend goes, he “went to get ice cream and never came home.” Well, come to find out he died in Texas under an assumed name!
That surname line, I have been able to trace back to 1785, but have since hit a brick wall. While doing all the research and filling forms out, I started thinking – these people had stories and lives, hardships, and triumphs that we can’t even begin to imagine. Could you imagine loading your family up on a boat in another country, coming to America and basically starting over from scratch? As I am working on the genealogy, I wonder about these peoples’ lives and stories.
I thought I would start documenting the stories I do know… so, my children and my grandchildren will be able to know their relatives a little bit better.
Square Dancing and Grease Stains
My grandpa, Lawrence “Bill” Hess loved to square dance. He started square dancing with my grandma when she was still alive. They would go a couple of nights a week. I remember they always wore matching outfits and grandma had a closet full of square dancing clothes – dresses with full skirts, and the poofy, lacy slips that went underneath.
After my grandma died, grandpa continued to square dance a few times a week.
As I mentioned before, while in high school, I drag raced a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu at our local track. One Saturday, pulling up to the line, my brakes failed. The brake line broke at the back rotor and needed to be replaced by the following week. (For the record, I did stupidly go down the track and won because the other guy broke out.)
Usually, when we had that kind of repair to do, we borrowed Grandpa’s garage. On a Friday night, dad and I were out in the garage struggling with replacing the brake lines and fittings. Dad was on one side and I was on the other.
Grandpa came out to say goodbye, he was heading out to square dancing. He had on this pristine white, yoked shirt with black piping and his scorpion bolero that he always wore for dancing. He come over to see how I was doing on my side. (I was struggling with the brake line and fittings!)
The next thing I know, grandpa – in his square dancing clothes – sat down on the garage floor and began helping me put the brakes back together. I remember sitting back and watching him, in his square dancing attire, working on my race car – the race car he didn’t totally agree with.
About 20 minutes later, he stood up and took the rag out of my hands to clean up. He looked down and there was brake grease all over his square dancing clothes. He looked at me and started laughing and said, “Well hell, guess I need to change.”
My grandpa did not always show his love for us in mushy ways. But, he showed his love for us other ways – like being late for square dancing and ruining a shirt, just to make sure my brakes were safe for the next day of racing.
And, while grandpa didn’t approve of my racing… he did support me 100%. I also know he was proud of me.
That Sunday, he called me to find out how I did Saturday night. I told him I won. He said, “Good job. Guess the shirt was worth it.”