Celebrity Sightings, 1908

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Source: The Pensacola Journal, March 3, 1908. From ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The date?   March 3, 1908, the day after Mardi Gras.
The place?  The private dining room in the The Osceola Club, Pensacola, Florida
The occasion/connection? Good question. This is another oddball jigsaw puzzle in the life of Emmett Wilson that I like to work out.

Not to sound disparaging of anyone sitting around that dinner table at The Osecola Club, but if I had to rank the attendees in terms of celebrity, it would be as follows:

  • Foster
  • Crawford
  • Harris
  • Wilson

The connection between Emmett and William Bloxham (“Billy”) Crawford is immediately obvious. Emmett and Billy were college friends, roommates and classmates at West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University) and at Stetson University’s law school.

You may recall from an earlier post that Billy Crawford was also the business manager at the Stetson University student newspaper, The Stetson Weekly Collegiate. (Undoubtedly, Billy was the one who frequently supplied news bits about his roommate, Emmett, to the student paper during their tenure at Stetson.)

“He failed utterly.” This is something Crawford would have published about Emmett for fun! Source: The Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Dec. 5, 1903.

Because Crawford was in the publishing business, it would make sense that he would meet, wine, and dine other professional and prominent writers who visited Pensacola. Crawford was prominent, not only in local social and professional circles, but also in political circles, as the son of H. Clay Crawford, Florida’s Secretary of State from 1902 to 1929. Young Billy had three things Emmett coveted all his life: Connections, access, and entree. True, Emmett hung out with Billy because it improved his ‘face value’ in Pensacola society, but it was also true that Emmett and Billy were honest-to-God friends.

Maximilian Foster. Passport photo from 1918, via Ancestry.com

Maximillian Foster was a big deal, a ‘get’ as one would say in the journalism world. He was a well-known playwright and author, whose articles appeared regularly in many popular national magazines, including the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, and Everybody’s magazines. (You can read past copies of these magazines in Google Books, by the way.) One of his most well-known books, “Rich Man, Poor Man”, not to be confused with a different book of the same name, published in 1969 by Irwin Shaw, was eventually made into a (silent) movie. (You can read the book via Google Books at the link above. It’s a quick read; an early 20th Century version of chick lit. But I digress.)

Evelyn Harris. Source: Find-a-grave.com

Evelyn Harris was a son of the author Joel Chandler Harris, of Uncle Remus fame. On March 3, 1908, Evelyn was a marketing and advertising executive with the Southern Bell Telephone company in Atlanta.

Evelyn Harris did not have a distinguished literary career as did his father, although he wrote a booklet titled, “A Little Story about my mother, Esther LaRose Harris” in 1949. (It is in the archive at Georgia State University and Agnes Scott College.) The story behind that 65-page booklet is that Harris wrote it for his grand nieces and nephews — he and his wife Annie Louise Hawkins Harris never had children.

As facilitator of this fancy men’s dinner, I could see Billy Crawford putting Foster and Joel Chandler Harris’ son together; the senior Harris had recently launched a popular magazine, Uncle Remus’ Home Magazine, and perhaps Evelyn Harris shared interesting anecdotes about his father’s career. Alas, it would have been unlikely that Joel Chandler Harris himself would have attended this dinner: He was in poor health due to acute nephritis and complications from cirrhosis — alcoholism. He died exactly four months later, on July 3, 1908.

The date on the article about the dinner is important. The day before, March 2, 1908, Emmett was a gentleman-in-waiting in Pensacola’s Mardi Gras court. This was a huge society coup for the women mostly, but in truth, anyone who was invited to serve in the royal court of, basically, the most important social event of the year had made it, socially and politically. By now, Emmett’s political and social star was on the rise.

But the dinner article doesn’t state when the event took place. Likely it wasn’t on March 2; Emmett would have been too busy in the day-and-night-long social activities to attend a fancy dinner with a famous playwright and author.

Based on other news items about Foster and Harris in The Pensacola Journal, we can guestimate when the men were actually in town, and the date that the fancy dinner probably took place. I’d say it was likely held on March 1:

Foster is in Pensacola as of January 19. The Rev. Whaley was pastor of Christ Episcopal Church, which was Emmett’s church. Foster was on a lengthy visit in Pensacola.

Evelyn Harris is in Pensacola as of March 1 — because he didn’t work for himself, as Foster did per se, likely he wasn’t in Pensacola on a lengthy visit. Perhaps the dinner took place on March 1 or March 2. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov.

 

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Without a Star

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Worth thinking about:

‘The word disaster comes from the Latin compound of dis-, or away, without, and astro, star or planet; literally, without a star’ (Brain Pickings).

 

Emmett, Texter

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Did you know that Emmett got his professional start texting (of sorts) for a living?

True. And if you think about it, telegraph operators were early ‘texters.’ (Here’s a great history of telegraphing — see the first half of the article for details about the importance of the telegraph in our society.

Emmett Wilson’s first “official” job was as a general, all-around assistant at the Chipley, Florida Pensacola & Atlantic train depot, sometime around 1894. Working for the railroad was not just a family tradition among the Wilson men; it was today’s equivalent of a kid interested in space working for NASA.

And Emmett was a kid, starting out at the bottom of the railroad depot job hierarchy, at about the same age as his older brothers Frank Jr. and Meade. Working for the railroad was important; and, if Emmett was willing, he’d rise up the ranks to a professional position, as did Frank Jr. and Meade, who were now conductors. (Emmett once told a reporter that he once dreamed about working for the railroad so that he could run along the tops of the cars while they were in motion, en route to faraway, more interesting places than Chipley. Early on, Emmett probably saw working for the railroad as a means to an end.)

Emmett was more than willing. He was super ambitious from the get-go — his eye was on the telegrapher’s job — a coveted and critical communication position that served not only the messaging for the community, but the telegrapher often conveyed critical transportation data up and down the rails.

After a year or two proving himself capable around the depot, Emmett eventually became expert with Morse code, and was tapped to train as a telegrapher, and by age 17, was managing small depots along the P&A line.

Emmett was 17 when he was dispatched to run small-town train stations on his own, which included the telegraph. Source: The Chipley Banner, December 2, 1899, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Emmett’s full-time career with the railroad was over within a year, as he would enroll at West Florida Seminary in 1900, to pursue a college degree. He’d fill in at both the Chipley and Marianna train depots now and again, when home from WFS on vacations or weekend visits to supplement his school funds.

 

 

 

The Miracle

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On Saturday morning, I said goodbye to a dear friend.

My dear friend, Michelle.

You’d have liked Michelle. She was a pistol. She was someone who lived life like a loose garment — she had poise, humor, smarts. She also had a way of getting right the point, of saying the right thing at the right time, when it mattered.

And, she was my friend.

I met Michelle 10 years ago at the 10:30 a.m. women’s meeting here in Washington, at the Del Ray Club. I was only a few week’s sober, bitchy, mad at the world because I felt broken and less-than, being unable to drink and escape everyday problems and life like a ‘normal’ person. I went to this meeting because my temporary sponsor told me to go, and while I was there, to just sit and listen, because I might lose the chip off my shoulder and learn something for a change.

I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t like women’s meetings in the early days of my sobriety, because it seemed like these meetings mostly involved folks dumping about their terrible week, or complaining about whatever drama was going on in their lives, and I didn’t identify in to anything they were talking about. I’d never had a DUI. I’d never done drugs. I’d never been fired from a job because of drinking, and I smugly didn’t think I had a problem.

These other gals, though? They had a lot of problems.

But not me.

I left the room, and before I made it out the door, this short redheaded gal with a black motorcycle-style jacket had followed me. She touched me on the arm, and asked where I was going. I told her I was going home.

“Why?”

I told her I wasn’t getting anything out of the meeting.

“Yeah. Me neither. Come on, let’s get some coffee.”

At a nearby coffee shop, we sat outside together, and I didn’t say much. I didn’t want to. In fact, I sat there fuming and irritated for the first five or 10 minutes. But Michelle had a way with people; and before I knew it, I was telling her about my last drink a few weeks earlier.

And that I missed drinking.

And that I felt like nobody understood that I felt as if I was falling apart inside, because I had no coping skills to deal with stress, or anger, or boredom. Because I would drink to deal with all of those problems, and I knew if I picked up again, I’d probably be dead in a year or so.

She nodded. “I get it.”

Do you? I asked.

Then, she told me her story — she was a CPA who owned her own business, but it wasn’t always like that. She wanted to be successful, but every time she felt pressure to perform, she’d have to take a drink, just to calm her nerves.

“For awhile that worked. For years,” she said, “or so I thought. Eventually, it just became easy, routine, to take a drink whenever I felt even the least little bit of unease, or discomfort. And then, one day, I realized I craved it, round the clock. I’d do anything for a drink. Including sacrifice my clients, my practice, my family. Nothing was more important than my feeling better.

“I drank to feel better,” she said.

So did I, I said.

At the end of our coffee meeting, she game me her number.

“Call me. And keep coming back to the meetings, OK? You’ll sometimes encounter a dud meeting, like today, but don’t judge the program by that one meeting. Because I don’t want to leave  before the miracle happens.”

What miracle? I asked.

“Wait and see.”

Michelle and I would go out and get coffee every now and then, and I saw her regularly at one or two meetings a week. Eventually, we became good friends.

===

Last year, I switched to a new home group that was closer to my work, and had better parking (a big deal here in Washington). I didn’t see Michelle that often because my new home group wasn’t close to her, but we stayed in touch now and then by email and phone.

Then, summer came; everyone went on vacation, I shlepped kids to camps all week long, we went to different meetings, and we fell out of touch.

And then, two weeks ago, a friend sent me an email that Michelle had died. It happened quickly.

Apparently, Michelle had COPD for years (which I didn’t know). She went in for a doctor’s visit in late August, and learned that the disease had progressed rapidly. In typical Michelle fashion, she asked the doctor straight out about her prognosis; he told her she’d be gone by the end of September.

Also, in typical Michelle fashion, she got to work. She paid her taxes for 2017. She planned her own funeral Mass. She got all of her ducks in order. Everyone who was with her at the end said Michelle wasn’t afraid of death. She told everyone she’d lived a good life, she was blessed with a wonderful family and friends, and that every day she’d had on Earth was a miracle.

Michelle went into hospice in the middle of September; she died on September 21, peacefully, in no pain, in full grace.

===

Michele modeled, for me, a way of life that I wanted to emulate. I feel blessed that God put her in my path, to show me the way. I also feel blessed to be an alcoholic, because if I weren’t, I’d never have had the privilege to be Michelle’s friend.

And that, my friends, was — is — the miracle.

I’m going to miss Michelle.

Filling in Blanks About Cephas Love Wilson Jr.

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In my last post, we found Cephas Jr. back home in Marianna post recovery from a throat injury he received while he was stationed in France in 1919.

According to the U.S. Census for 1920, Cephas Jr. had moved back in with his parents and had a job as a ‘presser’ in a shop, possibly a laundry business, upon his return to Marianna.

Last year, I wrote about Cephas Jr. and his first marriage to Mamie (or Mary) Gertrude Baker, and the fact that Cephas and Mamie had one daughter, Shirley. Although I haven’t heard from any family members or descendants about Cephas Jr. to date, I have been able to fill in some of the blanks.

After the 1920 Census, my next source of information is an article in The Washington Times, dated February 8, 1922, announcing a marriage license between Cephas Jr. and Mamie Baker.

From The Washington Times, February 8, 1922. Source: GenealogyBank.com

So — Cephas, as of sometime in 1921,  was back in Washington, D.C. How do I guess that?

The 1922 D.C. City Directory, in which data was collected in 1921 for this to be published in early 1922. Ceph Jr. is working at a pharmacy, and lives on K Street. Source: Ancesrty.com

I wonder how Cephas and Mamie met? Is it possible she was a nurse at Walter Reed, and the two of them met there, fell in love? (Yep, I’m trying to track that down — but it is a distinct possibility, because I’ve found information indicating she was a nurse. Still trying to confirm it, though!) Cephas was in the hospital for a long time. Mamie was from Silver Spring, Maryland (a suburb of D.C.). Walter Reed is not far from the D.C./Maryland state line… I don’t like to speculate. But, it looks like this may have been how they met.

Less than a year later:

Birth of daughter Shirley, January 23, 1923, in The Washington Evening Star. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The next item found about Cephas Jr. was in the 1925 D.C. City Directory:

Cephas Jr. is now a salesman, living in an apartment at 1725 17th St. NW. Source: Ancestry.com

I believe Mamie died sometime between 1925 and 1930 — and 1930 was a big year of change for Cephas Jr., because we find him in two different places. First, he’s listed in the 1930 D.C. City Directory, but he doesn’t live in D.C. anymore:

He’s a mechanic — makes sense, since he was with the 1st Engineers during World War I. But, it isn’t his true vocation. Source: ancestry.com

Notice that he’s in Alexandria? That’s because he — and baby Shirley — had likely moved in with Emmett and Cephas Sr.’s sister, Katie Wilson Meade, who lived in Alexandria.

This was only temporary, though, because Cephas and his daughter, Shirley, are also listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as living with his grandparents, the Wiselogels, in Marianna (Cephas Jr.’s mother had remarried, to John Grether, and was now living in Jacksonville).

Ceph Jr. and daughter, Shirley, living in Marianna as of the date of this census, April 2, 1930. Source: Ancestry.com

The rest of the story after 1930 is found here.

For now, this is everything I have about Cephas Love Wilson Jr. I’d love to have a more comprehensive story, especially about whatever happened to Shirley, and if Cephas Jr. had any of his photographs or artwork published anywhere else. If any family members stumble across this information, I’m happy to share what data I’ve gathered.

When Cephas Jr. Came Home

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On or about October 9, 1918, there was a knock at the door of the Cephas Love Wilson, Sr. house, on the corner of Jefferson and Clinton Streets, in Marianna, Florida.

It was a telegram for Cephas Love Wilson’s parents — something people dreaded receiving during wartime. And it wasn’t good news.

It said their son, Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., had been injured — gassed in action — in France.

The notation on Cephas Love Wilson Jr.’s WWI service card that his injury was ‘slight’ is somewhat incongruous with the fact that he was recovering at a French hospital, and at Walter Reed Hospital, for months. Image source: Floridamemory.com

Perhaps he had a long recovery time in a French hospital, because Cephas was not released to return home until August 21, 1919.

He sailed from Brest, France to Camp Mills, Hoboken, N.J., on the U.S.S. Pastores.

Photo of the U.S.S. Pastores in 1919, from Wikipedia.

After arriving at Camp Mills, Cephas Jr. was sent to Walter Reed Hospital.

Cephas L. Wilson Jr.’s listed as a patient at Walter Reed (lower right corner, highlighted in red). From The Washington Star, August, 1919. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The Pensacola Journal, September 27, 1919.

I’m not sure how long Cephas Jr. was at Walter Reed, but I have doubts that his injury was slight, given the amount of time he was hospitalized. Below is an article from September 18, 1919, where his father came to Washington, D.C. to visit him at Walter Reed.

Note the date on this article — September 18, 1919 — almost a year after Cephas Jr. was reported injured on October 9, 1918. Source: GenealogyBank.com and ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The lengthy recovery time makes me think that a) his throat injuries were more serious than the record indicates, and b) that he might have also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. During World War I, it would have been called battle fatigue, or Combat Stress Reaction (CSR). I don’t have access to Cephas Love Wilson Jr.’s military or medical records yet to confirm, but it is possible this was also part of Cephas Jr’s recovery.

I also wonder if, given the publicized mental breakdown that Emmett had in 1914-1915 while he was U.S. Congressman, that Cephas Jr.’s father would have kept the CSR information out of the record or the press.

By January 10, 1920 (the date on the U.S. Census document for Marianna, Florida), Cephas Jr. was back in Marianna, living at home with his parents, his married sister and her family — pretty much the same scenario he left prior to the outbreak of World War I. It seemed like nothing changed.

The census reports that Cephas Jr. works as a presser in a shop. Probably not a satisfying vocation for a talented artist newly returned from war experiences in France. Source: 1920 U.S. Census

The 1920 U.S. Census indicates he worked as a presser — likely operating an iron in a professional laundry business — in a shop in Marianna.

And Cephas Jr. HAD changed. This was only a temporary stopping point.

Cephas Jr. was only biding his time until he felt well enough to leave — because he left Marianna for good before the year was out.

There’s more. Stay tuned.