Why Everything is Not Digitized


Of course, I’d love to have had everything available about Emmett Wilson to be accessible via the Internet. It would have certainly made my life easier as I dug around for primary sources in a variety of libraries and archives, both near and far, over the past five years!

Two tables worth of research materials, when I was at the University of West Florida. About half of the artifacts I handled were in good condition. None of these artifacts are digitized.

But even if Emmett’s primary sources were available or extant in a library archive, here is an excellent discussion about why everything in an archive is not always or necessarily digitized.


Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.)


“People who want to believe something will do so despite any and all evidence to the contrary.”

Carolyn Hax, The Washington Post, February 3, 2018


“Everything happens on God’s schedule, not mine.”

A.A. meeting, Washington, D.C.

These are two quotes I’ve come to appreciate over the past two weeks. I’ve been away dealing with a crazy family drama that I’d not wish on my worst enemy.

I’ll start by saying as of today, February 4, everyone involved in this story is fine. We all may be a little grayer, a little more frayed at the edges for having the experience, but there’s always a blessing to be gained for weathering a tragedy: Our family has grown closer, and I don’t think my Dad will put off following Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.) again in the future.

On Saturday, January 20, 2:30 in the afternoon, I received a text from my first cousin Mike, who lives in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was unusual because Mike and I (although close) don’t really talk that much via text or telephone — only on birthdays and holidays, and during football season when Mississippi State is playing well.

Mike: “When’s the last time you spoke to your Dad?”

“Thursday night.”

At first, I wasn’t overly concerned; but when two hours passed and he still hadn’t called us back, I was uneasy. Mike couldn’t simply drive over to check on Dad; he takes care of his 90-year-old mother full-time.

I told Mike: “I can’t stand waiting anymore. I’ll ask my friend Helen to knock on his door.”

Thank God I did.

When Helen arrived at my Dad’s apartment, she had me on her cell phone as she banged loudly on his door. No answer.

“He’s in there,” she said to me. “Something’s not right.”

“Call 911,” I said.

It was the worst 30 minutes of my life, as I waited 850 miles away, my friend standing by, awaiting EMTs and the police. My heart felt like it was beating 1000 times a minute. I knew it wasn’t good — I thought my heart was going to break right then.

When the EMTs broke down my Dad’s door, they found him on the floor, dehydrated. The apartment was 85 degrees, he’d not been drinking water.

“He’s alive!” Helen said to me, “but he’s insisting on not going to the hospital. He says it’s inconvenient for him! Can you believe it?”

Helen put me on the phone with the EMTs. I told them that I had  Power of Attorney, and to take him to the hospital. My friend stayed with my Dad until he was admitted and stabilized; I got on the next plane out.

When I finally got to Dad’s hospital, the doctors told me he was in renal failure, and would have probably died if the EMTs had gotten to him any later.


Right now, Dad is in a nursing/rehab facility. And he’s damn lucky: His doctor told him his kidneys will heal, but he’ll need dialysis for several weeks. And he’ll move into assisted living. I insisted.

And yes, he agreed.

I hate that it took something like this to get my Dad to agree to necessary changes for the sake of his health and well being. For so long, he wanted to believe he was fine on his own, even when the signs were there that he needed help.

But the reality is that Dad wasn’t ready to hear the message until it took something dramatic to get his attention.

He’s doing fine — he’s actually making slow, steady progress with physical therapy. He’s cooperating with folks who want to help him.

And, he’s complaining, which my sister and I know is a good sign.

Great Source: Sanborn Fire Maps for Pensacola, 1907


Here’s something that finally answered one of my big Emmett Wilson puzzles over the past five years of research:

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Pensacola Florida, 1907. Source: University of Florida

Check this out: The line drawing (above) is a screen shot of the duplex 211 West Cervantes, as it appeared in 1907. Note that this one structure had TWO numbers (211 on our left, 209 on our right).

This tells us that Emmett and the Kehoe family lived on the left side of the duplex!

The number two in the bay window tells us that it was a two-story structure. The number two immediately to the left tells us that there were porches on both levels. The “x” indicates a door.

If you look at the current photos from the Zillow site in yesterday’s post, it looks like the bay windows are long gone. The porches are still there; the entrances appear to be the same.

It’s nice to be able to compare the original footprint of the house to the current building.





Deja Vu?


Remember this post?

Someone on Zillow used my research to write up this house sales pitch.

In April 2017, a gentleman from a real estate office in Pensacola contacted me about this property, telling me it was going on the market in about a year, thought the information I’d gathered on the property useful, and kindly offered to give me a tour of the property. Although I was interested in seeing the house where Emmett lived, I had no plans to travel to Pensacola, and so had to decline.

The gentleman mentioned he had found the information I’d written about 211 West Cervantes Street on my blog and thought it useful. The initial report was not correct (Minnie Kehoe did not live there), and I shared that with the realtor. (UPDATE 1/9: The gentleman has since corrected the information on the page.)

J. Walter Kehoe (like Emmett, a U.S. Congressman), lived at the house along with his wife Jennie and their children). Walter had a daughter, Minnie Evelyn Kehoe, but she was about six or seven at the time — the female lawyer mentioned in the real estate listing is Minnie Eloise Kehoe, who was in her late 30s-early 40s. Big difference. But it is easy to get the names mixed up. Minnie Eloise often went by “Minnie E.”

I sent a comment via their contact page. It will be interesting to see if their office responds.



Wow. That was fast.

Only five minutes after I posted this and sent the contact info to the realtor’s office, someone sent me a polite reply. The gist of the message was that the person who was responding was not responsible for the listing, but asked if I wanted information re the original listing’s contact agent. The reply was really nice. Professional. I appreciated the quick response.

Oh — and I mentioned the Minnie Kehoe error.  I mentioned that Walter — another U.S. Congressman — was the resident, not Minnie, and that Minnie actually lived down the street from Walter in another house also on West Cervantes, owned by the Kehoe family.

Frankly, I only wanted to see a proper credit for the information, and that the information is correct. That’s all.


Wow. Photos of the inside of Emmett’s former home are at this link, courtesy of the Zillow page. The inside doesn’t have much of the original house to it — it looks like the staircases are the same — but you can see the lovely bones of the place.

I can imagine Emmett looking out of the windows onto West Cervantes Street from the second story porch.

Failing Well


When I’m not writing or conducting research for Emmett’s book, I’m sewing.

Sewing is like writing, in that it is creating something unique out of fluid, occasionally hard-to-manipulate content.

Sewing is not just about manipulating fabric and thread, but it is a hands-on exercise in creative problem solving using pre-determined directions (a pattern) and supplies at hand in your creation.

For example, the Big Four sewing patterns (McCalls, Vogue, Butterick, Simplicity) are drafted to fit the average American woman, who, according to the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, is 5’6″.

I’m definitely not 5’6″, so whenever I sew one of the Big Four patterns, I have to adjust the pattern to fit. This may sound like a PITA, especially when sewing is an expensive hobby, but I figure it is more cost effective to make what I like, using the materials I prefer, instead of wasting time fighting traffic or tramping around a mall.

Sewing is also like writing in that it teaches me how to fail well; i.e., to not give up after making a mistake, no matter how big it seems.

In sewing lingo, a ‘wadder’ is a sewing fail. I usually have wadders after inadvertently choosing the wrong fabric for the pattern, or discovering the pattern style doesn’t suit me, or I didn’t follow the sewing directions.

What do I do with wadders? I don’t throw wadders away — part of me hopes that the offending garment-in-development will miraculously disappear on its own! — but just as I do with writing, I put them aside, with the intent to come back later.

The time away is important, because a fresh perspective always puts the wadder in a different light:

For example: Maybe the offending garment would be better reworked as a shirt for one of my daughters?

And with wadders pertaining to Emmett’s book: Maybe the information in the chapter needs a different arrangement to work?

In both cases, I try again: I unpick the seams. I use a different point of view. I take the project apart. I reconstruct it.

Without fail, a workable solution falls into almost always falls into place.

When the new garment is finished, and the new draft of Emmett’s chapter complete, I’m often reminded how remarkable the ‘process’ is — that the workable solution could not have come about unless I had failed the first time around.

And once again, I am reminded that FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning.




Mojo Knows Best


I think my Writing Mojo is hiding somewhere on my desk, because I can’t find it.

Last time I saw it, it was in the mess of red-inked, half-written rough drafts adorned with coffee cup rings and post-it notes to myself, somewhere near the applications for grants and fellowships that are all due in two weeks, maybe next to the folders of class notes for the next semester’s classes.

Emmett’s research binder. Not my desk, by the way. This is too clean.

Or maybe it is stuck between the pages of Emmett’s research binder, or in the stacks of notecards waiting to be organized into a physical map of Emmett’s book chapters.

Or maybe I accidentally wrapped it in one of my kid’s teacher’s gifts this past week, or — dread — I baked it in one of the batches of holiday cookies —

I don’t know.

Wherever it is, I need it, and it’s gone. I didn’t notice it was gone until I tried to write this week, and the words just aren’t flowing. They’ve frozen over, like the creek in the back yard did yesterday morning at 21 degrees.

I’m not getting much accomplished with all the things competing for my attention. Maybe this is a blessing; when I’m unfocused, my work is not as good and I have to go back and do it over — which defeats the purpose and progress with Emmett’s book.

I’ve come to the understanding that Mojo Knows Best. It’ll be back in a few days.