Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Remembering the Great Jack Dempsey

William Harrison Dempsey

He was one of the most popular boxers in the world.  Jack Dempsey held the world heavyweight title from 1919 till 1926.  Born William Harrison Dempsey on June 24, 1895, he grew up in Manassa, Colorado and in Utah.  His parents, Hiram Dempsey and Mary Celia Smoot Dempsey were poor and always on the move.  One of eleven children, Dempsey left school in the eighth grade to go to work and help support the family.  In 1911, at the age of 16, he left home to ride the rails, where he discovered a knack for fighting. 

A Young 'Jack' Dempsey
Dempsey was known to stop by taverns and issue the challenge, “I can’t sing and I can’t dance, but I can lick any SOB in the house.”   He was rarely known to loose these wagers.  With his brother Bernie’s support, Dempsey began his boxing career in 1914 in Salt Lake City, Utah, fighting under the names ‘Kid Blackie’ and ‘Jack Dempsey.’  By 1916 his fights were all billed as ‘Jack Dempsey,’ a name he took in honor of Jack ‘Nonpareil” Dempsey, a middleweight boxer of the late 1800’s.  Dempsey also became known as the ‘Manassa Mauler’ later in his career.  Dempsey was well known for his knockout victories, which usually occurred in the first minute of a fight.

During WWI, Dempsey worked in a shipyard and continued to train and box.  Boxing fans questioned why he had not served his country during the war and labeled him a draft-dodger. In 1920, after a federal indictment, it was released that Dempsey had tried to enlist but had been refused. However, the damage had been done and a stain would remain on his character until the mid-twenties.

Dempsey in the early 20's.
 Dempsey’s record speaks for itself; out of 83 fights, he won 66.  51 of those by knockouts.  There were 11 bouts called as draws. During his career, he lost a total of six fights, only one loss by a knockout, administered by Fireman Jim Flynn

Jess Willard

The most controversial fight of Dempsey’s career came on July 4, 1919 when he went against world heavyweight champion, Jess Willard.  The size match-up was so off kilter, many touted the fight as a modern day David and Goliath match.  Willard didn't see Dempsey as a threat and did little training for the fight. Dempsey proceeded to knock Willard down seven times – in the first round - and won in the third.  Cries of cheating and a fixed fight spoiled the win and Dempsey gaining the title of World Heavyweight Champion.  Dempsey did not attempt to defend his title for over a year.  Then in September 1920, he took on Billy Miske and knocked him out in three round.

Carpentier - Dempsey fight
It was July 2, 1921 when Dempsey took on Frenchman and WWI hero, Georges Carpentier.  Carpentier was touted as the ‘Greatest Boxer in the World’ and the fight was billed as the ‘Fight of the Century.”  Odds were set at 50 to 1 against Dempsey.  It was the first million-dollar gate in boxing history.  Almost 100-thousand people watched the four-round fight, from Jersey City, New Jersey.  RCA provided live radio coverage of the bout, with commentary, making it the first national radio broadcast telegraphed from KDKA in Pittsburgh.  Dempsey won and maintained his title as World Heavyweight Champion.

Gene Tunney
Dempsey then spent several years making movies, endorsing products and doing boxing exhibitions, making him one of the richest athletes in the world.  It was September 23, 1926 when he fought again, and lost his title to U. S. Marine Gene Tunney in Philadelphia, in the tenth round.  This fight garnered boxing’s largest paid attendance, over 2.6 million dollars.

Dempsey took on Tunney again in 1927, hoping to reclaim his title. He knocked Tunney down in the seventh round but because he did not immediately go to a neutral corner, the referee delayed the count.  Tunney was able to get up on the count of nine and won the bout three rounds later on a decision.  In the end, the count of nine was estimated to be a count of 14 and speculation would always remain concerning the bout that became known as the ‘Long Count’ and the final decision.

Jack Dempsey's Broadway Restaurant
After the Tunney match Dempsey hung up his gloves, and became more popular than ever.  He spent his time on exhibition fights and working in films about boxers. In 1935 he opened ‘Jack Dempsey’s Broadway Restaurant” in New York’s Times Square.  He retired professionally from boxing in 1940.

Lieutenant Dempsey
During WW2, he joined the New York State National Guard and was commissioned as a first lieutenant.  He resigned that commission in 1942 to become a lieutenant in the Coast Guard Reserve.  He served onboard the USS Arthur Middleton for the invasion of Okinawa.  He was given an honorable discharge in 1952.

In an Associated Press poll of 1950, Dempsey was named the greatest fighter of the first half of the twentieth century.  In 1954 he was a charter inductee to the Boxing Hall of Fame and in 1980 he was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.  Some still consider him as the best of all pugilists.

Courtesy of Ace Preston
Courtesy of Ace Preston
Dempsey died on May 31, 1983.  A true fighter to the end, Dempsey told his wife, Denna Piatelli Dempsey, “Don’t worry honey; I’m too mean to die.”  He succumbed of heart failure and was buried at Southampton Cemetery in Southampton, New York.  

Jack Dempsey
Courtesy of Ace Preston
Dempsey was officially inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 and named the seventh best puncher of all time in boxing history by Ring Magazine in 2003.  According to sportswriter Grant Riceland, Dempsey was the finest gentleman and gentle man he had ever met in the world of sports.  In the world of boxing, he lives on as a heavyweight hero.

~ Joy

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Reason for Memorial Day

In the U.S., we celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. But over the years the real reason for the observance has been diminished.  It is not about having a three-day weekend or the opening of the pool; it’s also not about having a parade, watching the Indy 500 or the ‘official’ start of summer.  It is a day set aside to remember and honor those who sacrificed their lives, fighting in wars, for this country’s freedom.

John A. Logan

Decoration Day was officially decreed on May 5, 1868 by General John A. Logan, the first Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, to honor those who died fighting in the Civil War. It was first observed that same year, on May 30th at Arlington Cemetery when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. Many women’s groups took up the practice of decorating the graves of the war dead with flowers and flags each May 30th, thereafter. 

In a speech given at Arlington Cemetery in 1870, Logan asked, “Shall we, the freest of all nations, in our paradise of liberty feel less patriotic fire in our breasts...? Shall we neglect the graves of those who sacrificed their lives to defend the palladium of our liberty, to perpetuate our national unity, and shield our rights forever? ...”
By 1882 the name Memorial Day was being used interchangeably with Decoration Day.  By 1890, every state in the north had declared Memorial Day as an official holiday.

The South, however, refused to acknowledge Memorial Day, insisting on honoring their dead on other days throughout the spring.  After World War I, the observance was declared to be in honor and remembrance of all who died fighting for America in any war. Though many states in the South still have a separate day to honor the Confederate dead, Memorial Day is now observed throughout the country on the last Monday in May.

At the start of the twentieth century, Memorial Day had evolved into an occasion to remember not only the war dead, but deceased family members and ancestors as well.  Buggies were hitched up, picnic baskets were prepared, and flowers were gathered for the journey to the cemetery to decorate the graves of loved ones and soldiers, alike.

VFW Buddy Poppies
During WWI, Moina Michael started the tradition of wearing a red poppy in honor of those who died during war.  In 1922, just before Memorial Day, the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) organization became the first war veterans group to sell red poppies nationally. 

In the late 1950’s, the 3rd U.S. Infantry began placing small American flags by each of the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.  The practice continues today with over 260,000 flags being posted, one by each grave.  Communities and cemeteries across the country hold similar ceremonies, including the laying of wreathes, the placing of flags and the lighting of candles – all in remembrance and in honor of those who died while in military service.

In 1967, the name was officially changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Then in 1968, Congress passed the National Holiday Act, which specified that Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and Washington’s Birthday would always fall on a Monday, thereby ensuring convenient three-day weekends.  The law took effect in 1971 marking Memorial Day as an official federal holiday. There have been attempts by several organizations and some political officials to return to the traditional date of May 30th, but the proposed revisions do not appear to have had much support.

On May 30, 1870, General Logan gave an address in honor of the new commemorative holiday. In it he said: 
"This Memorial Day, on which we decorate their graves with the tokens of love and affection, is no idle ceremony with us, to pass away an hour; but it brings back to our minds in all their vividness the fearful conflicts of that terrible war in which they fell as victims.... Let us, then, all unite in the solemn feelings of the hour, and tender with our flowers the warmest sympathies of our souls! Let us revive our patriotism and love of country by this act, and strengthen our loyalty by the example of the noble dead around us...."

This weekend, when we gather with friends for the first picnic of the summer, when we watch the Indy 500, when we go to the weekend’s parade or festival, let us consider the real reason for this day and take a moment to remember those who have served, and honor those who lost their lives in service to our country.  Memorial Day is not just a day of celebration – but also a day to celebrate being American! And for remembering the price other Americans have paid.

~ Joy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Remembering Gretta


Today’s blog was to have been about waymarking, but life got in the way.  Or, more specifically, the death of my very faithful companion, Gretta, our Schnauzer.  We rescued her from a shelter almost five years ago when we found out that people don’t want to adopt ‘old dogs.’  She was ten at that time, somewhat fragile, a bit set in her ways, but a blusterous sweetheart.

Gretta would follow me everywhere.  If I would slip out of the room while she was sleeping, she would find me and scold me for it - loudly.  I started writing this blog in February.  There has not been a day since that Gretta was not on her pillow under my desk or under the window, acting as my ‘blogging editor in chief.’  Even if she was ill, she was always there, watching, listening, and expecting, in her Schnauzer way, for me to do my best.   Often offering up reproachful barks when I didn’t take enough time outside with her, or worked on through her quitting time. 

Gretta and I had a daily schedule. If my schedule had to change for some reason, Gretta would keep to our original routine.  (So very German.)  If she woke before me, she’d let me know it was time for breakfast with a sharp bark – next to the bed! When breakfast was over, Gretta would walk to the study door, turn and look at me, and then march in to her pillow where she would rule (and sleep) until lunch.  After lunch, she’d station herself under my desk, waking around 3:30 or 4 for our afternoon snack – white cheddar cheese nips, her favorite, - outside in the swing, if the weather was nice.  Then it was back to writing until 5:00 when Gretta decreed it to be the end of the workday and time for dinner.  This was done by standing by my chair and demanding I stop with a very loud BARK! However, I saw 6:00 as quitting time, so usually it was my husband, Brian, who would round her up so I could complete my thoughts.

Once her meal was finished, Gretta would lay under the dining room table while we ate, totally content, unless her arch nemesis, our big cat Harry, walked through (which he did every night, on cue.)  Then she was up, charging after him, clearing the room of cat interlopers - for the moment.  

Gretta could never understand why we insisted on having cats, (sub-creatures to a Schnauzer.) That was not according to Gretta’s rules, and Gretta had a lot of rules which she would share often and freely with everyone; the cats, the outside dogs, any possum, skunk or raccoon that got too close to the fence, even Brian and I took our fair share of ‘Schnauzer scoldings.’  We often joked that Gretta had been a third grade teacher in another life, someone with a BIG attitude, who knew she was right, and who were you to question that?!

We had never had a Schnauzer before Gretta.  I am here to tell you, Schnauzers are not quiet, meek dogs!  They grump and sigh and complain when you’re not doing what they want.    To have a Schnauzer is to have a manager – per se.  A Schnauzer is an independent, courageous, intelligent,  loyal and loving friend all wrapped up in a sleek haired bundle of attitude, bark, and mischief.

Our dog groomer once told me that Schnauzers ‘talk to their owners.’  We later decided that it should be said that Schnauzers ‘scold and protest and grumble’ to their owners.   (Sometimes, I think, just to hear themselves.)  Schnauzers have enough attitude they could rule the world, if only they were organized.

Gretta and Walter
We had Gretta almost five years.  During that time she regained strength in her hips and could walk and actually run-hop.  She learned how to play, and how to get us to ‘behave.’  She seemed to be aging backwards – getting stronger and healthier each year.  Then she had her first stroke early last year.  She lost the ability to walk.  Brian taught her again how to go up and down the stairs.  Before the stroke she had always remained somewhat aloof, she was now totally our dog.  She fought her way back on top, at times acting more like a young dog than one now in her teens. 

Gretta just never gave up!  If there was an obstacle in her path, she’d just go around it, or bull through it.  Every night, she seemed to think this would be the night she’d catch that cat.  One thing Gretta taught me during those five short years - it’s all about attitude.  If you’re sure you can – then you can.  There’s no question about it!

Now, my study feels empty.  My very dear friend is gone.  There are no barks to urge me on, no demands that I take a few minutes to ‘pet Gretta,’ no happy hoppy runs to the kitchen for dinner, just an empty pillow and a break in my heart.

Tonight, Brian and I will light a fire and sit in the swing that was Gretta’s favorite, the one she is now buried behind.  We’ll toast to her life and remember all of those good times we had together, her playfulness, her independent spirit, and her unquestionable love and courage to the end.  We will miss you Gretta, my loyal and loving blogging buddy!

~  Joy

Friday, May 20, 2011

Planning a Cemetery Trip

There comes a time when a trip to the cemetery is in order to advance your genealogy research.  Some people take it as par for the course; others dread the thought, and then there are those of us who don’t need any excuse to set out for a cemetery.  But in order to make this a worthwhile adventure, there are some points to remember.

Getting Ready
Start with Research -
Find out what county the cemetery you’ll be visiting is located in. Discover what type of cemetery it is, rural, suburban, urban and plan accordingly.
Here are just a few sites to help you find a cemetery:
Find A Grave:         http://www.findagrave.com/
Interment              http://www.interment.net/
RootsWeb               http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/
USGenWeb             http://www.usgenweb.org/

If it is a city cemetery, you will be contacting the cemetery sexton/superintendent or cemetery staff for information.

If it is a small, rural cemetery or one not found on the Internet, the county trustee is whom you should search for. 

If it is a church cemetery, you will need to locate the current clergy for information.

If it is a private cemetery, you will have to discover who owns the land and get their permission to enter.

Check with the county library, local genealogical and historical societies, and local funeral homes for cemetery locations and directions. Remember too, these are great resources to check out for records on your ancestors while you’re in the neighborhood.  Even local newspapers may provide obits with a mention of the cemetery.

But be aware of the spelling of a cemetery name – locals may pronounce and spell the cemetery name differently than others.  Both sets of my great grandparents are buried in Bedell Cemetery, far out in the country in southwestern Indiana.   In my research I’ve found the name spelled as Beadle – Beedle – Biddle, all indicating the same cemetery 

Now that you have a physical address, get a map and directions.  Many cemeteries have maps on their web sites.  Plan to use your GPS or get a map from the Internet.  Two great map resources are:
MapQuest:              http://www.mapquest.com/
Google Maps:          http://maps.google.com/

 Plan, Plan, Plan –
Decide what you want to accomplish.  Are you looking to confirm birth and death dates?  Do you want an actual photo of the grave?  Is this your chance to look at burial and plat records?  Once you know why you’re going to the cemetery, what you’re looking for and how to achieve it, you will find that you get much more done. 

Schedule Appointments – 
If you intend to speak with the cemetery sexton, cemetery trustee or funeral home personal, set an appointment. Schedule time if you want to look through the burial records, cemetery deeds or see death certificates. Most of these people will be happy to meet and talk with you, but please have the courtesy to work with their schedules.

What To Take

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words -
Take a digital camera, an extra memory card and LOTS of batteries.  While stone rubbings and transcribing stones may be useful, you can’t argue with a photo.  This is exactly what was engraved on the stone. Be sure to get at least two shots of each stone.  One should be a long shot to include the general area and the other a close up.  You may also want to zoom in on symbols or epitaphs in order to see them better.  

Always check the backs of stones for any additional information recorded there. Go ahead and shoot surrounding stones.  These could be unknown children, in-laws or neighbors.  And be sure to shoot all of the stones you find that have the surnames you’re searching for.

Pack Your Bag -
Grab a reusable shopping bag and make it your ‘cemetery bag.’  In it, be sure to include a soft paintbrush for dusting grass and dirt off of stones, a soft toothbrush for cleaning out mud-filled lettering, and a spray bottle filled with water.  This will help to clear soil from the stone and allow for easier reading of inscriptions. Pack a notebook or cemetery log to record findings and descritions. Ancestry Printing offers a detailed downloadable cemetery log for free at: http://www.ancestryprinting.com/cemetery%20log.pdf

Also be sure to take some food and water.  Nothing fancy, unless you’re planning a picnic.  Crackers or granola/candy bars are fine, just something to take the edge off of hunger.  And take plenty of bottled water to keep hydrated.

C’mon Partner –
Be smart!  Ask a friend to go along.  While we tend to think of cemeteries as peaceful, quiet vistas, you will find some located in remote, isolated areas, or in questionable urban locations. If the area does not look safe to you – DO NOT continue on. Follow your instincts.

Do not keep anything of value (computers, cameras) within sight in your vehicle.  If you intend to wander far, lock your vehicle and set your alarm. Be aware of your surroundings and those around you.  Be sure you have a charged cell phone on you at all times.  If you have to go alone, tell someone where you will be and when you will return.   ALWAYS REMEMBER - it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Dress Accordingly –
Wear comfortable clothing and dress for the weather.  You’ll more than likely be wandering around all day, so wear comfortable shoes and jeans.  During the warmer months, take a long sleeved shirt or jacket with you.  Carry insect repellent, keep an eye out for snakes, and do a tick and chigger check when you get home.

 The Cemetery
At the Gate -
Before you enter, take a photo of the cemetery sign and any buildings located at the entrance.  This will help you keep locations straight and provide you with a great record of your trip.  If there is a cemetery office, stop in and see what resources they offer.  Check for maps, brochures, notable burials, any tours offered, and get the general history of the cemetery.

Once, from the Top -
Take the time to make a general drive or walk through the cemetery before you get involved in your research.  That way, you know the general layout and have a feel for your surroundings. Find out the cemetery hours and abide by them.

Be Respectful –
Remember, you are in a cemetery.  Treat stones and markers with care.  If a service is going on near your destination, show respect and reroute until it is over.  Avoid doing anything that could damage stones, trees or plantings.  Check with the cemetery office regarding the rules.  Some cemeteries will not allow picnics, pets or photography!

Be Skeptical –
 Just because something is engraved on a stone does not make it so.  Check your cemetery findings against primary sources when you get home.  Gravestones can contain mistakes, just like any other secondary source.

Have FUN!
Take time to admire what’s there.  If the cemetery offers walking or driving tour maps, grab one and get going.  Once your research is done, plan some time to just enjoy being outdoors.  Shoot what you find interesting.  You will be amazed at what you can find in a cemetery – exquisite artwork, interesting architecture, landscaped grounds, poems and prose, the rich and famous; you can make it a day’s worth of interesting and enjoyable pursuits with a little planning.

It’s the weekend – go visit a cemetery!

~ Joy