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.

Key West: update

Well, I don’t have total success to report but I did get some writing in (about half of the days). My parents are coming down on Friday, so I should get some time with my Dad over the next couple of weeks. When he called today he wanted me to find a road map for the 50s. I was glad I could tell him that I already had one. I even had it out on my desk from today’s attempt at writing about his cross-country drive to get to Key West from San Diego.

I also called about setting up a SCUBA class. Not surprising there isn’t anything available for October but they haven’t set up November yet. So they will contact me when they get that arranged. I have mixed feelings about taking the class. It’s just an hour so how bad can it be. But I think it will really be helpful in writing this history, so I’ll do it. Maybe it will be more fun than I expect.

I hope I’ll be reporting more writing progress with next weeks update than I did this week.

Key West: update

Progress made this last week but somehow managed not to write anything. I finished going through the “Buddy Line” newsletter for the Underwater Swimmers School last week. So far this week, I took the info I pulled from the “Buddy Line” and filed it in the folders I have set up under different subjects as reference when I actually start writing. I think this information will really be helpful. I don’t know of anything else I should gather or research so no more excuses for not to get started. Hopefully once I start writing it won’t be so painful to keep going. I’m committing to have some writing done by next week’s check in. In a perfect world I’d get at least 500 words written five times by then. Wish me luck!

Key West: update

To tell the truth I haven’t done much in the last week on this project. I need to jump back into writing and I’m procrastinating. At least I think that is the problem. I used a bit of a delay tactic today and started scouring the 14 years of the “Buddy Line” (a quarterly newsletter for the Underwater Swimmers School). I found one really good find that goes across multiple issues. A student shared his diary for 1957 while he was at the school. My Dad was an instructor at the time. He is only mentioned by name once but I think reading the daily entries we give me more insight into what it was like. I hope I’ll have more to report next week.

Key West: update

I met with my Dad again yesterday to work on his history about the three years he was an instructor at the Navy’s Underwater Swimmers School in Key West, Florida. The goal was to try to make sure that I understand all the equipment etc. that he used. I’m amazed at how much I have learned about SCUBA and what he did there. I’m sure there is still more to know, but it is time for me to get back to writing. That is where I will figure out what I need to know.

Someone started a Facebook group for the Underwater Swimmer School. I created a Facebook account for my Dad so he could be apart of it. Not too many members yet but one was a student while my Dad was there and he remembers him. He even remembers that my Dad was known as Red in those days. He commented on how he lead them in PT drills (I think that was the term he used). I’m not sure what that means. Looks like I already have another question for my Dad.

Key West: update

This week I got to meet with my Dad twice to talk about his memories of Key West and the Underwater Swimmers School. On Monday we went through some letters and documents, making sure I understood what they were about. I recorded most of that meeting for future reference. At one point we were talking about a TAD (temporary additional duty) and he asked me to turn the recording off. Then he told me some details about that assignment that was very surprising and very off the official record. Not sure how we are going to handle that story. I’m pretty sure all the people who might be adversely effected have died and it is a story that I really want to include so I hope we can figure out a good way to include it. I’m not sharing any detail here in respect for my Dad.

We got together again today and worked on getting things in chronological order, if we end up writing it that way. I put together some hanging files in a file box to organize it. I’ve got most things organized on my computer but that doesn’t help when working with my Dad. He wants and needs to see the things and seeing it on the computer just doesn’t seem to work for him. I’m really glad about how much he is involved in this project. I’m learning more about him and the interesting things he did when he was in the Navy.

Key West: update

My Dad and I got together today to talk more about his memories of Key West. It was good to talk and ask more questions. I recorded most of it for future reference. Part of the discussion was about how to approach the writing and the perspective to write it from. Gradually I think our vision is becoming clearer. I must have hope that we will figure this out if we just keep working at it and learning how to do it. Friday afternoon we will be getting together again. My parents are in town for the next couple of weeks.

Couple of other developments on Key West. Last week when I was researching I came across a book called “The Streets of Key West.” It included a 1950’s street map of Key West. I got the copy ordered through Barnes and Noble from a Goodwill in Florida. I think it will have some interesting bits of history. Found out today that someone as created a closed Facebook group for the Underwater Swimmers School. They emailed me because my address it their contact with my Dad. I joined the group and then realized that I really need to make a Facebook account for my Dad. No one knows me and there is no way for them to easily tell that I’m his daughter. So I’ll be getting a new email address for him and set up a Facebook profile for him. It could be a great source of information for this project and a good way to share what we are doing with those who would be interested.

Now I just need to get back to writing. I haven’t gotten to it so far this week and with a new puppy coming tomorrow it will be challenging to focus. But I must find a way. Anyone have any tricks or suggestion?

Key West: update

I found an introductory SCUBA class. It lasts about an hour and costs $25. Not bad. I think I’d better wait for my seasonal allergies to pass before I jump into the pool. Popping my ears doesn’t work to well when my noses is stuffed. Plus the last week or so my allergies are driving me crazy. Too much time outside one day sets me up for a really bad day the next day.

I’ve had mixed success on writing 500 words per day. I was good last Wednesday, but Thursday and Friday not a word was written. Monday I did my 500 words and worked on a list of possible stories that might be included in the book. On Tuesday I got my 500 words in but it was a late night rush to get it done. I did better today having just finished my writing along with some research on the building of the railroad into Key West and the Castro revolution.

One thing I found helpful this week, that I finally did last time I chatted with my Dad about Key West. I used my phone to record the conversation so I could refer back to it and not worry about taking notes. I also took a short video clip with my camera of how to clear the water out of your face mask. I highly recommend it. Both have been helpful. With today’s technology it is super easy to do.

Key West: a new challenge

practicing in the pool at U/WSS in Key West

Yesterday I spent some time chatting with my Dad about his memories from the Underwater Swimmers School. As he was explaining how different parts of the SCUBA equipment work he came up with and idea that is both exciting and scary. He wants me to take a SCUBA class. That is not something that I’ve ever thought of having on my bucket list. While the thought is kind of scary and invokes claustrophobic images in my head, I think it would really give me some insight into this history and even other volumes of my Dad’s Navy experience. So I’ve add finding a class to my to do list for the week.

I’ve been working on writing at least 500 words on this project everyday. It is rather haphazard now but I’m doing it and that is a very good thing. My parents are heading back to Idaho tomorrow. I’d hoped they would stay down until the end of next week so I could get with my Dad some more but my Mom really want to get back home. They will be back in a couple of weeks.

I had no idea where this story project was going to take me when I started. It is stretching me in so many ways I never imagined. It is good to learn and do new things especially as I get older. I don’t want to get so old that I’m not willing to try to do new things. What ways have your family story projects helped you to learn new things?

Writing Challenge: day 53

Today, day 23 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge was about revisions. Since my writing experience is very limited I hadn’t really thought about the differences between revisions, editing and proof reading. I learned recently about content editing and editing for grammar etc. I like the term proof reading. My mom is a good proof reader but she isn’t much help in editing content or revisions. At 91 even proof reading is getting hard for her. Lynn explains that revising is about the big picture of the story, editing is on a sentence level and proof reading the last step to catch grammatical and punctuation errors as well as spelling mistakes. It takes dozens of rewrites to get to the editing stage. Here are Lynn’s suggestions on what to look at in the early stages of revision:

  1.  Does each scene serve the story?
  2.  What is the real subject of this story? Is the theme visible to the reader?
  3.  Where does the story ring out?
  4.  What seems superfluous and does not enhance the story?
  5.  Does your back story get to the point, is it necessary to the story, or does it arrive too early?
  6.  Is the beginning, the ending?
  7.  Is the beginning deadweight, does your story start several hundred or thousands of words in?
  8.  Are your characterizations strong and does your ancestor act with purpose?
  9.  Does your plot make sense? Does everything lead to the climax?
  10.  Are the stakes clear, do they create tension and hold the readers interest to the end.

Another tip she gave was when it is hard to cut some favorite part that really needs to go, put it into a file for future reference. She suggests calling this file, “Fragments” or “Bits and Pieces” or “Story Starters.”

Today’s free writing exercise was to write about a small incident in an ancestors life that shows their courage and kindness. Not sure if I ended up with the right kind of incident but too late now. My Dad doesn’t show much emotion but I think he is more sentimental than he realizes. The first time he met my Mom she through some corn kernels at him. He picked them up and put them in his pocket. That night when he should have thrown them away he kept them. After they were engaged he decided to save them and then plant them someday and tell his children the story about the corn. When I was 5 or 6 they planted that corn. I don’t remember the corn planting but I love the story. With lots of revisions etc. it could make a really good story. Maybe it would work to start the story on the day he is planting the corn and flashback 10 years to the day they met. Maybe I’m starting to think like a writer. Not sure but I’ve never thought about it that way before.