It has been a really good year. I’m thankful to be here, thankful you are here, and thankful for Emmett finding a way into my life, because I (for sure) was not looking for him.
I have to admit that I thought I’d be a lot further along in the writing of Emmett’s bio at this point in the project. But here we are, 20 months later, and I am still uncovering new information! This only means that I’ve had to rethink my writing schedule, since I now have more info to go through.
For a rather obscure guy like Emmett, I’m surprised at how much I’ve been able to find about him, and from where, but I’m happy about it. To quote one of the many new friends I’ve made in the past year in this project, “this is a story that wants telling.”
Many good things have happened via Emmett’s bio work this year. I’d like to share a few of the high points with you.
One of the best things that happened in Emmett’s research this year was the visit to Pensacola and Chipley, Florida, in May. It is one thing to read about the places (in very old newspapers), but it is quite something else to actually walk the sidewalks Emmett walked, and to be in the house that was his family home for many years.
It was also good to visit Emmett. It wasn’t strange or odd; it was just right. I can’t adequately describe this, but I had a good feeling, just stopping by to see him at the end of the day, to tell him how things went…although, I think he knew already. 🙂
Everyone I met was incredibly warm, helpful, and hospitable to me, especially the Myers and the Butler families. (The Myers family owns the original Wilson home in Chipley. The Butlers are descendants of very close family friends to the Wilsons; the Butlers let me stay in their beautiful home while I was visiting.) I am thankful to these families, and to many other people who went out of their way to show me around, and make me feel right at home.
I plan on making a second trip to Pensacola (hopefully) early in 2015. I have a long list of folks I’d love to see and spend time with — and share new information with, too. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again very soon. I’m so thankful and blessed to have these excellent folks to work with on Emmett’s story.
I won’t lie: Most of Emmett’s work has been a lot of tedious, hands-on reading. Just for the fun of it, I looked back over my microfilm acquisition records, and do you know, I have read 61 reels of film this year alone? That compares to 11 reels (same project) for 2013. No wonder I had to have my eyeglass prescription changed slightly.
I keep meticulous records of what I find in the film, and Emmett is mentioned dozens of times across the different reels. A lot of it appears to be him (and his handlers/managers) planting the news items in the society or business section pages — an early form of tweeting, I suppose. I’ll elaborate more on that in another post. Interesting that the ‘celeberati’ concept appeared to be alive and well over 100 years ago.
Bigger Circle of Family and Friends
This has been the best part of Emmett’s research — the fact that I count myself very lucky to have met my new cousins (Julian’s daughter and granddaughter), as well as Walker’s great grandson, Frank Jr.’s grand nephew, and Walter Kehoe’s great grandson (through email and telephone conversations). [Note: Julian was Emmett’s twin brother; Walker and Frank Jr. were also Emmett’s brothers. Walter Kehoe was Emmett’s best friend.]
It has been my pleasure to share whatever new information I have with them. I am hoping that other family member descendants will contact me so that we can exchange information. I am happy to share what I find.
I have to tell you that I find it hard sometimes just to reach out to someone I don’t know; for instance, an archivist 1500 miles away from me, who I may not meet in person for months. I’m afraid that someone may say, ‘no.’ Or, I don’t want to help. I’ve talked to hundreds of people in 2014 in Florida and elsewhere, mostly asking questions about history, or sources, and so forth, and everyone has been absolutely helpful and wonderful to me.
Bonus: Many of the people I speak with regularly are folks I now consider friends. I just hope that I can reciprocate sometime in the future. At least, these folks know their names are being mentioned in the Acknowledgements section of the book!
Emmett’s project had already been underway for several months when I learned back in February that I was promoted to the rank of Professor. It was sort-of a surprise: The wheels of academia turn at about the speed of plate tectonics. I was told about a year before it happened that paperwork had been filed for it. I said that was nice, and then, forgot about it, because I was too busy teaching and digging around in archives.
I started the blog as a way to reach out to folks who may be interested in Pensacola during the early 20th century, and who may have information about Emmett and the Wilson family. Also, I use the blog in teaching research strategies to my adult learners. I want them to see that it involves working with others, that it requires discipline and persistence, and (most importantly) not all of the information is found via Google. Regardless, the blog is a lot of fun, and I enjoy interacting with others and sharing what I’ve learned.
I’m looking forward to 2015 and the next phase of my work-in-progress with Emmett. I’m also looking forward to having you all along for the ride as well.
Here’s to a happy, productive, and interesting New Year!