Key West: cross-country drive

1955 US Highway System

We had a breakthrough in the last week on the route my Dad took to Key West. He had 30 days leave after finishing instructors school in San Diego. I assumed he spent that time with his parents. But this last week my Dad remembered that he went to the Bay area to visit a friend and her family. We are pretty sure that he drove from there to Key West not from San Diego. We also think that he picked up his car in San Francisco. His transfer orders show him flying from Barbers Point in Hawaii to Moffett Field in the Bay area to San Diego and then checking in at the Naval Training Center in San Diego.

He remembers taking a train from San Francisco to Palo Alto where his friend Pat lived and a couple of outings while there. So he must have picked up his car there. He remembers once picking up a car and having to replace the battery. This time makes the most sense because of how long it would have been since he had driven it. You had to turn the car in a couple of weeks before your departure. Then it would have come by boat and sat waiting for him for at least 4 weeks. That would have been 6 weeks and maybe two more weeks of his leave before he picked it up.

Yesterday we got together and plotted his most probable route and likely cities he might have stopped in each night. Her remembered a couple of things along the route. He drove near a small town in Arizona where Pat’s family used to live. He wondered if he had taken the now famous historic route 66. He knows he didn’t drive through New Orléans until a few years later after my parents were married. He also remember taking what was then known as route 41 down through Florida. Adding all of that together we are pretty sure of most of the route.

We know he arrived two days early. He had 13 days for travel. So assuming he left 13 days before he was due in Key West we figure he made it in 11 days. I thought it was his first time really driving cross-country by him self but I found out that when he was in Key West before he drove his motorcycle from Key West to Chicago where his parents were living at the time. On that trip he rain into some cold wet weather. So even though this trip was hot (being early September) it must have been much easier physically than a couple thousand mile road trip on a motorcycle in March.

Here are our current guesses at his stops each night and the number of miles it takes to get there on today’s roads:

  1. Bakerfields, California (261 miles) 29 August
  2. Needles, California (272 miles) 30 August
  3. Holbrook, Arizona (298 miles) 31 August
  4. Silver City, New Mexico (230 miles) 1 September
  5. Pecos, Texas (364 miles) 2 September
  6. Cisco, Texas (239 miles) 3 September
  7. Shreveport, Louisiana (323 miles) 4 September
  8. Meridian, Mississippi (306 miles) 5 September
  9. Albany, Georgia (336 miles) 6 September
  10. Lakeland, Florida (340 miles) 7 September
  11. Miami, Florida (279 miles) – 8 September
  12. Key West, Florida (156 miles) – 9 September

This is pure speculation of course and we ended up with one more day than we think it took him but also a theory on why. My Dad check in at 0915 on September 9th. There really isn’t any place he would have likely stayed past Miami and yet to get from Miami to Key West that early in the morning means he would have to get up really early. So maybe when he got to Miami late he just decided to keep right on going and got to Key West the next morning. Hopefully some more memories will come back to him and we can have more confidence in this trip.

My next task is to look up the historical weather data for the days we think he was in each of these towns so we can use it to flesh out more of what his trip was probably like. I’m really enjoying the time that I get to spend with my Dad working on this project.


Writing Challenge: day 16

image from

On to Day 2 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge today. I thought I’d start writing today but just ended up making a few notes. Today’s assignment was on the exposition or back story. There are five areas that you want to cover in this:

  • main ancestor
  • setting
  • conflict
  • theme/focus
  • tone

The first one is easy, my Dad. The setting for the start of the book is somewhere on the road between San Diego and Key West in the late summer of 1954. As I was thinking about the setting, I found a map that I used for my Mom’s Europe trip to show their cross-country bus trip. It is from 1955 and will provide some good information.

The conflict at this point is getting to Key West no later than 2400 hours on September 11, 1954. The theme/focus of the book is setting up the Underwater Swimmers School in Key West.

The tone, I haven’t really thought about this part at all until today. I’m thinking not too serious even though some dangerous stuff goes on. I know my Dad doesn’t want it to sound like he is bragging. As I’m writing this I’m reminded that my Dad has always been a tease with a rather dry humor, so maybe that will be the tone of the book.

There are lots of things learn and think about in writing. I never thought that writing was easy but I had no idea of all the different things to consider when writing a book. This has been and will certainly continue to be a major learning process for me.

Writing Challenge: day 15

I’ve followed my challenge for three weeks now. Yeah! I’ve been almost perfect with just one day that I had to do some make up last Saturday. I think I’ve finished Day 1 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge today. I spent an hour reading first chapters to get a better sense of hooks and inciting incidents. It was kind of fun. I’ve never looked at books that way before. I read from Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls, Foundation by Isaac Asimov, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Half Broke Horses is from the library the rest are from our own collection. You can see what kind of books I tend to read, though I’ve expanded my choice through our neighborhood book club but I haven’t purchased any of those books.

Anyway, back to the writing challenge. At the moment I’m going to start with the cross-country drive as the hook and the letter from the Navy as the inciting incident. Don’t be surprised if this changes as I learn and work through the process but I have to pick something and go from there. See you back here on Monday. I’ll probably have to actually start writing by then.

Writing Challenge: day 13

image from The Armchair Genealogist

I was a bit shy of getting my hour in today, but I did get 45 minutes. Unless you count the time I spent listening to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It really should count since Lynn Palermo suggested that it is important to read other people’s writing about their families to get some ideas on what can be done. Even though it is day 13 for my writing challenge I’m finally getting to day 1 on the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. I’m taking this challenge at whatever pace it takes, not racing through it. I’m guessing it will probably take me most of the summer to get through it but by then I should have a really good start to this book.

So after a quick review of a couple of sections of The Companion Guide to The Family History Writing Challenge.” I went to the Day 1 email – “How to Find the Beginning of Your Story.” Part of today’s exercise was to read some first chapters to see what makes a good start to a book. I’ll need to do more of that tomorrow.

I also learned about the “hook”, the “exposition” and the “inciting incident.” I haven’t figured out what the hook is yet for this Key West history but I’m pretty sure the inciting incident was the letter that went out in the spring of 1954 asking for volunteers for the soon to be formed Underwater Swimmers School in Key West. I’m leaning towards starting the story as my Dad makes his first cross-country drive from San Diego to Key West and then flash back to the Hawaii, and then instructor school and leave time with his family. I want to read more first chapters before I decided.

p.s. last night I got an email back from the Underwater Swimmers School website. They want to put some of my Dad’s stories in their newsletter. I told him that would be great but I still haven’t gotten any of them written yet. So in a few weeks I’ll send him something and hopefully they will make it into the UWSS newsletter.

Writing Challenge: day 12

I am happy to report that my Dad is fine with the idea of combining all the class experiences into one class for the sake of telling the story. Yeah! I think it will really help in making it an interesting read. We will certainly make it clear that it is based on real experiences but that they didn’t all happen to the same set of students in just a few weeks but over the space of 3 years.

Last night I put together about a 100 questions to learn more about his experiences at the Underwater Swimmers School. I started with the questions from and modified them for this specific situation. My Dad liked them so much that he called the guy in charge of the Underwater Swimmers School website and told him about the questions and said I would be sending him a copy.The website has asked students and instructors from the school to put together histories that they can share with others at their 2015 Reunion. It would be cool if these questions can help others to share their stories. I just got them emailed off a few minutes ago.

My Dad is taking the questions so that he can thing about them. We will talk again at some future date. Some of them are rather philosophical. I think my next step is to make a more detailed outline of the story but I’ll check with Lynn Palermo’s  The Companion Guide to The Family History Writing Challenge.” first and double check the first email for the challenge and make sure that is the next step. I still have so much to do for this project but it feels awesome to have a basic storyline that I’m planning to follow. In case you are interested here are the questions:

Key West Story Prompt Questions:

  1. Who was the most important person to you at UWSS? Can you tell me about him or her?
  2. What was the happiest moment at UWSS? The saddest?
  3. Who was the biggest influence at UWSS? What lessons did that person teach you?
  4. Who was the kindest to you at UWSS?
  5. What are the most important lessons you learned at UWSS?
  6. What is your earliest memory at UWSS?
  7. What is your favorite memory at UWSS?
  8. What are the funniest or most embarrassing stories at UWSS?
  9. If you could hold on to just one memory from at UWSS, what would that be?
  10. If this was to be our very last conversation, what words of wisdom would you want to pass on to me about UWSS?
  11. What are you proudest of in your life at UWSS?
  12. When did you fell the most alone at UWSS?
  13. What are your hopes and dreams for what the future would hold at UWSS?
  14. How did things turn out different from what you’d imagined at UWSS?
  15. How would do you hope those at UWSS remember you?
  16. Do you have any regrets about UWSS?
  17. Is there any message you want to give to or anything you want to say to your great-great-great grandchildren about UWSS?
  18. If you could interview anyone from UWSS who would it be and why?
  19. Was there a time when you didn’t like being at UWSS?
  20. Did you enjoy instructor school?
  21. What kind of student were you?
  22. What would you do for fun during instructor school?
  23. How would your classmates remember you from instructor school?
  24. Did you stay friends with anyone from instructor school?
  25. What are your best memories of instructor school? Worst memories?
  26. Was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence on you? Tell me about them.
  27. Do you have any favorite stories from instructor school?
  28. Do you have a favorite friend from UWSS?
  29. When did you first meet?
  30. Can you tell how you become such good friends?
  31. What lessons have you learned from your friendship?
  32. What were the best times? The most difficult times?
  33. What advice do you have for young people and their friendships?
  34. Do you have any favorite stories from this friendship?
  35. What was a typical day like at UWSS?
  36. Tell me about how you ended up at UWSS.
  37. Did you like your job at UWSS?
  38. What lessons did working at UWSS teach you?
  39. Do you have any favorite stories from UWSS?
  40. Did your religious beliefs have any effects on your work at UWSS?
  41. Did you experienced any miracles?
  42. What was the most profound spiritual moment at UWSS?
  43. Can you tell me about the illnesses at UWSS?
  44. Did it scare you?
  45. Do you regret anything about UWSS?
  46. Do you look at your life differently now than before you were at UWSS?
  47. What have you learned from this experience?
  48. What was it like living in Key West?
  49. What traditions did you have at UWSS?
  50. What was your favorite thing to do?
  51. Do you remember any of the stories they used to tell at UWSS? Jokes? Songs?
  52. What was it like being an instructor?
  53. How did it change you?
  54. During your time there, can you recall times when you were afraid?
  55. What are your strongest memories from your time in Key West?
  56. What lessons did you learn from this time in Key West?
  57. Is there anything that you’ve never told me about UWSS but want to tell me now?
  58. Did anyone died while you were at UWSS?  If so, what do remember of their death and what were the circumstances of their death?
  59. What kind of hardships or tragedies did you experience while at UWSS?
  60. What are the names of your co-workers? Describe one or more things that stand out in your mind about each of your co-workers.
  61. Did you have special ways of celebrating specific holidays?
  62. Share a few memories of your co-workers.
  63. Where were they from? Did you spend much time together outside of work?  Did they travel to visit their families?
  64. What were they like?
  65. How many had families there in Key West with them?
  66. Where did they go to school? How did they end up at UWSS?
  67. What were your favorite subjects to teach at UWSS? Why?
  68. What subjects did you like the least?  Why?
  69. What do you see as your personal strengths?
  70. What were some of the challenges you faced in Key West?
  71. What medical issues did you had to deal with?
  72. Was religion an important part of the other instructors lives? If so, what religion did they practice and what did it mean to them? If religion was/is not a part of there lives, why wasn’t it?
  73. What happened to them?
  74. What foods do you like to eat in Key West?  Dislike?
  75. Where there two or three dishes you ate that makes you smile every time you think of them?
  76. What are some of your life philosophies or life views that you would share with others.
  77. What are some of the personal values that are very important to you?
  78. Thinking of people worked with at UWSS. Who would you would categorize as great. What did they do to be great in your mind?
  79. List 20 or more things that made you happy while you were in Key West.
  80. What scared you at UWSS?
  81. What advice would you pass on about teaching that you learned from UWSS?
  82. What are some of your talents as an instructor? How did you discover them? What did you done to cultivate and improve them?
  83. What were some of the life changing experiences you went through at UWSS? How did you handle them? In what ways did they change you?
  84. Why did you choose to be an instructor at UWSS?
  85. What were some of the jobs you did at UWSS?
  86. Were there memorable experiences you had with any of those jobs?
  87. What would you consider as two or three truly significant challenges in your life in Key West?
  88. What are some of the life lessons that you would like to pass on to your posterity about UWSS?
  89. Provide a brief description of each place you’ve lived while you were an instructor at UWSS.
  90. If you could go back in time and do things over again, what would you change?
  91. When all is said and done, what do you want to be remembered for?
  92. What are you doing now to make that happen?
  93. What kind of health issues have you experienced from being an instructor for the Navy?
  94. What were some of your more memorable extra curricular activities?
  95. What were some of the popular fads during your years at UWSS?
  96. What kind of music did you listen to?
  97. What kind of movies did you go to?
  98. What kinds of other recreational activities did you do?
  99. How did the students get along with each other?
  100. Where some of them difficult to teach?
  101. What was it like when you arrived in Key West?

Writing Challenge: day 11

UWSS story arcI’m so excited that I have a story arc! I hope my Dad approves. I’m meeting with him tomorrow. I feel like I got a flash of inspiration, what if there was just one class of students in the story? It wouldn’t be a real class but a fictionalized class so that all the fun, scary and challenging things that happened over 3 years could be compacted into one class. I think this could really work with the book ending with that class graduating. I would want to make it clear the liberties taken but it should make it all flow and be very interesting.

I’m so glad for the step by step help I’ve got from Lynn Palermo’s  The Companion Guide to The Family History Writing Challenge.” I went back over the part she has on the story arc and as I added more to her Story Arc Worksheet things just fell into place. If for some reason my Dad is uncomfortable with this approach my next suggestion will be to put together a collection of short stories about his time at the Underwater Swimmers School.

Either way, I think the next step is to come up with a bunch of questions to help him remember things about UWSS. Having them ready for tomorrow would be awesome but I’ll have to see how they day progresses.

Candy Window as a Story Project: Update

candy window drawing

I really thought that my window location was set but I was wrong. It has moved twice since the last post. Now I hope that it really is decided! But I’m moving forward anyway. I finished Step Two: Organize, today by searching through my candy stash to see what I already have that will work. I’m in good shape except for the larger candy areas like the sky, the doghouse etc.

So now to work on Step Three: Analyze.

Part 1: Assess – I think my plans for this years window are as reasonable as I can make them. We are hoping to do some fun things with computer controlled lights but the design is such that if that doesn’t happen it will be OK. I’ve been careful not to let the size of the window get too large. With getting a late start on things and a new puppy coming time is limited and larger objects means more candy and more candy takes more time to glue it on. This will be one of my smaller windows at about 3 feet wide and 5 feet tall and 2.5 to 3 feet deep. Hopefully it won’t feel small when it is done. So the project moves forward.

Part 2: Plan – I’ve looked at all the parts and pieces of the window and come up with more than 50 tasks that need to be done. Some are fairly simple and easily completed while others might need to broken down into even smaller task when I get involved in the reality of doing that part of the project. I’ve done enough candy windows that there shouldn’t be too many surprises.

Part 3: Timeline – I have a firm deadline (the unveiling on 7th) so the thing the timeline does for me is to help me make sure that I get enough stuff done early so that I don’t have to pull all-nighters to make my deadline. I have it when I have to do that. Creating the window looses all it joy when there is too much pressure. So here is my rough timeline:

  • window box size – August
  • list of construction materials – August
  • purchase construction materials – August
  • choose candy – August
  • build structure – September
  • purchase candy – September
  • purchase other supplies – September
  • paint structure – September
  • attach candy – September through November
  • final detail & fix problems – November
  • promotional stuff – November & December
  • install window – before December 7th
  • unveiling – December 7th

The timeline is still pretty rough and so I’ll be making detailed plans and goals each week. My first deadline is to get all the structure built (if possible) by the time Pup “E” comes on September 6th. Timelines need to be adaptable to changing circumstances yet help the project stay on track to meet long-term goals.

Have a Workflow Plan

One of the important things in planning a story project is the workflow. This in an area that I still need lots of work and disciple. Even though I know that I should get the text done for a book project before I start all the other stuff, I keep finding myself moving forward with the design and layout when the text isn’t done. I’ve made it all work out in the end but I’m sure it would be faster and probably more effective too if I had followed a better workflow instead of jumping ahead.

So my tip for the day is figure out what needs to be done for your story project and the order it needs to be done in. Somethings can happen in parallel because they aren’t dependent upon each other. But other things need to wait until the right time in the project. My goal is to do a better job of planning my workflow and then actually stick to the plan. I’ll report back here to let you know how I do.DOABLE Sidebar A

Here is a post from a year or so ago about Workflow for publishing with Adobe Creative Suite. There is some good information here.