Monday, November 30, 2015

My Passion.. Vietnam Veterans

My Lesson for us all.. Develop a passion for something in life..
I am going to tell the story so that all may remember. I do not share much of myself here as my desire is to help others find their path to healing but I am a Vietnam Vet counselor. I have done this for many years.. I did not have the degree when I was 16 and I first started bringing myself to the Men that serve our country. I visited the Veterans hospitals and held their hands while they cried and wanted to cease this thing we call life. I was 16, so young, carefree, and it brought them hope.
Fast forward to me a few years ago, still giving of myself to these special people and I really grew close to a couple of them. One was a Vet that does amazing art work to deal with the pain of being there and he does not sell them, but gives them in love. I have one of these of his first night there as a FNG and it shows him in the bunker with the Vietcong coming in to kill him. He had to make a decision to live that night and do things that none of us would ever wish too.
He lived but was tortured and arrived on my doorstep , gun in hand , ready to stop the pain. I sat on the car with the door open and my back to him, and told him that he could talk safe from any expressions that crossed my face, and he did , for hours as the tears silently streamed down my face, and after it was released, he uncocked that gun and decided to try life again. This man is responsible in large part to the War Memorial in many cities across the US. Thank you God.
The other near and dear to my heart is gone now and named William but I called him Willie. I visited him every Sunday on my day off and bought stuff I did not need weekly, for him to have money to live. I loved him and cared for him.
I was with him the day before he died and he would not let me call rescue. He was tired and so ill so I just told him I would always be near if he needed me. I went home and waited for the call which came the next day. It came and I went to console his brother and plan the funeral for my friend. I wanted him to have the Military Funeral he deserved, but could not seem to make the local Am-vets understand that he was more important than the parade they had planned for the day of his funeral.
I clawed and called and spoke to everyone in charge and was just about ready to call the friggin president, when finally they said, we will come. He had his honor guard that day, Taps played as he was laid to rest, giving his life for his country, and I was at rest knowing that we cared for another one. All of this is done for my brother, served 68-69 and returned with a Purple heart, bronze star and a hole in his heart that could never be filled, as they spit on him as he exited the plane to be on US soil. This song is my song of fixing as many of the Men and women that serve our country. To let them know we care and that we are sorry we did not welcome them home as we should have on that day.
(((((People who serve our country)))
Love, Kimmee "
(((Michael Cousino is in the first photo and William Churchill is in the second one)






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Gloria Peacock Kimmel This is the Memorial that I did for all Veterans when I was Historian for The Town Of DePeyster NY...







Gloria Peacock Kimmel I had something on display from every war and conflict that we had engaged in since the Revolutionary War. Willie died the year the Red Sox won the World Series. He had waited all his life and died in October and they won a few days later. We gathered and listened to it with a picture of him near. I know that he knew his beloved Red Sox won that day..



My 2nd Great Grandfather George Washington McCurdy

In Memory of George Washington McCurdy served CSA Co. D 15 Fl Cavalry.. My 2nd Great Grandfather

My 3rd Great Grandfather Elijah McCurdy

In memory of my 3rd Great Grandfather Elijah M. McCurdy.. Served in the War of 1812 in 18th Regiment, US infantry
Born 1793 in Chester, South Carolina
Died 20 Feb 1876 in Century, Fl ...This date was in his Military record.


Elijah McCurdy Photograph courtesy of Leahmanda Barnes, Great Great Granddaughter of Elijah and colored by Margaret Harkness at the request of Gloria Peacock Kimmel

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Remembrances Of A Child From Jay

When I was little, I went to the Jackson Theater on Saturday night. It was Segregated. The "colored" people had to watch the movie in the balcony, while the white folks sat below. I wonder if the people of that day understood that the Balcony had the best seats in the house. There is some kind of irony in that.
For the balcony goers to get to the Movie, they had to walk up the outside of the building on the rickiest set of stairs I had ever seen. I walked around to the side of the building one day because I was curious as to how the theater goers got to the balcony and I saw the stairs. I can only imagine what a slippery slidey mess it was to go up those in the rain or when there was a bit of frost out or a stiff wind. It would have scared me to death.
Sometimes the balcony goers would throw stuff down on the ones watching the movie below. Popcorn or paper but never spit. A small amount of attitude for still being relegated to the dark balcony 100 years after the War that gave them freedom, ended. I understand it better today than I did then.
I remember the music in my household. When Mama was home it was country.. Earl and Scruggs, Ernest Tubb, Jim and Jesse Reynolds and our hometown boys Sonny James and Hank Locklin. I never knew as a kid that Sonny James was a Loden cousin. He hosted the first Country Music Awards and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He produced Marie Osmond's first 3 albums and was the one to suggest she sing "Paper Roses" which became a huge #1 hit. (info from his fan website)
I saw him perform in Jay when he came to visit his cousins and he was a such a gentleman. He talked and interacted with his fans in a way that is lost today. In a time when I was watching movies in a segregated theater, he was collaborating with Nat King Cole. He was progressive and smart and almost forgotten today.
One of my favorite places to visit was Knowles? store on the way to Flomaton. I think that was the name. If not, I am hoping that someone here will remember and help me put his name down for all time. He had a Western town that was animated in his little store where you could buy candy, a coke and some sandwich fixings if you were hungry. He had a daughter about my age and they lived in a trailer near the store. I went to spend the night with her a few times. I liked her but I LOVED that Western town that moved. If you saw it today, you would be as fascinated today as I was then. It took up almost half the room in the store and was fenced off so that you could not touch it, but you could get up nice and close to see all the details. Your eyes feasted on stagecoaches moving on a track pulled by six horses, saloon doors opening and closing, gunshots and gunfights happening in the middle of the town, and saloon girls swirling and dancing to the loud music permeating your senses. People threw nickles into the town, so that Mr Knowles could keep it running and buy new pieces.
I hope that some of you got to experience this when you were little because it was magical, mesmerizing and wonderful in every way. I remember the man that put this together for all of us to enjoy also. He laughed and smiled every time anyone was delighted with his collection. I will always remember how that nourished this little girl that grew up with little laughter in my home.
There was a restaurant at the corner of the street that turned to go to Brewton that gave me my first adventure with a salad and dressing. When I got my car Donna and I would make excursions to new places, and on one of these we went out to eat. I was working at Teens Delight Restaurant in Jay and that gave me enough money to make my car payment of 58 dollars and to have money for a few extras to treat my sister. We looked at the menu that the waitress offered and both ordered Salads. The waitress had to show us each dressing because we had never seen any of them. The waitress was so sweet and let us taste several of them. We had seen a bottle of the Orange one sitting on the counter and decided that was the one. The first bite of lettuce with French dressing made me pause it was so good. Neither of us had ever eaten a salad with dressing and it made quite the impression.We ate greens of course but they were cooked and used to sop cornbread.
I still love French dressing today but it has ceased to have that tart, tangy goodness that made your mouth pucker up when it hits your tongue. lol.
You have to understand that we did not eat out a lot in restaurants like people do today. It was considered a waste of money and a luxury that we could not afford. The only other times I had eaten out was on one of Daddy's trips for Alger Sullivan company and when my sister Ruby took me to Morrisons, but that is a story for another day.
These are some of my remembrances that made an impression on a child's mind that last today. When I close my eyes I can see the images in my mind like a movie. I would love to hear about some of the movies that play in your mind.
Gloria Peacock Kimmel 11-21-2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Six Gun Motivation

I have spoken of sitting at Aunt Elma's feet and hearing her stories and I will try to share the one that is my favorite. When I visited home and stayed for six months, I tried to visit Aunt Elma as much as I could. One day she told,  my sister Donna and I, this story of our 2nd Great Grandfather.
His name was William M. "Bud" Morris and he was known as the man that the Morristown road was named after. He was born according to his gravestone in 1840 but on every census he is enumerated on, he was born around 1846 or 7. The information for the Military stone was given by T. C. Lloyd in 1942 so that may be what the family thought his birthday was. There is another William J Morris born in Alabama and with the birth-date of 1840 so that may be where the discrepancy comes in from. His Death certificate with information given by his daughter Laura states Dec. 1839 so the mystery of this man began with his birth.
He was an interesting character and I think that a book should be written of his adventures. It starts with him marrying an Indian woman named Matilda Jane Spears. I am sure that was a risk in 1867 and as a young couple who probably already had enough to try to overcome, it put another strain on making it in that day.
My 2nd Great Grandmother was a Creek Indian. There is no paperwork that states this that I have found yet, but there are clues from my cousin and his great Granddaughter Mary Findley and from Aunt Elma. I believe in family lore and the story of her Parents on Mims Island. I have heard it from more than one member of the family.
He had to be a pretty strong character to go against the grain and marry a Native girl and she was probably passing as white to avoid any local outrage and danger to themselves and their children.
This may be why he started to carry a six gun on his hip or it may have been the standard of that day. It was during the settling of many of the areas by non locals after the Civil War and there were still people that had lost so much during that war.
He won land in the Lottery and built a home for his wife and they had a family of 7 children. Hanging in my Aunts home was the paperwork signed by the President. This was something that Aunt Elma seemed particularly proud of, although this was her Husbands family and not her own by blood.
He served in the War Between the States in Co. A, 15th Confederate Calvary CSA, Florida and was a Private. He filed for and was granted a pension, A08150, MORRIS, William M., 15th Conf Cav, Santa Rosa Co, 1907, 14 pgs. ( Sherry Footprintseeker Schindler Morris) and settled down after the War to build his life. Jane nursed him from his wounds received after his service Sept. 1863 to May 1865 from which he recovered and then married her in 1867. He would have been 20 and she was
Here is the story from Mary D. Findley, "I have never known his middle name. He is one of my great grand fathers. I do have picture of him and my great grand mother was a Cherokee Indian, married a Spears(killed by other Indians) and then married my grandfather. My father, Guy Diamond, Sr. said that my great grand mother Morris took care of "Bud" when he was hurt in the Civil War and he brought her to Santa Rosa C., Fla. and married her. I knew all their children, except Maggie, who is the first person buried in Cora Cemetery, about 6 miles south of Jay, Florida. Both great grandparents are buried. Great gran mother Morris' tombstone reads Matilda Jane Spears Morris.
As a child, I do remember "Bud" Morris. He would come by our house to see my father . He would be in a black buggy pulled by a big black horse. My father wouldn't let us get to near him because he liked his moonshine, probably could be ornery, He is supposed to have died at 98 from poison moonshine. My father was a big teaser. He laughed and said that he thought it was the 18 yr. girl he had in the buggy with him. Probably bad moonshine is correct.!!!!! "
(How cool is it that we have a living Great Granddaughter to ask questions of and that remembers for us)
My Aunt told me the almost the exact same story of his son, Ervin Washington driving a buckboard asking young girls if they wanted to take a ride and giving them money if they would. He was ornery and a bit shady but I guess that is what makes for a story to be remembered by generations.
The story that I loved best was one of Bud sitting on the front porch of the old wooden house he built. He always wore the six gun on his hip and one day in particular, someone came driving a rig down the road. In those days and with the quiet all around, you could hear the buggy wheels a distance away and Bud would be waiting for them in his rocker. As they approached the house, he would leave his chair, walk down the steps and look to the direction of the noise. He was awaiting the arrival of the buggy passing his home.
If by chance you saw him, it would be neighborly to wave, tip your hat or raise your hand with the reins in them, to acknowledge that you saw him and to say Good morning or Good day.
Many people would wave and give him the neighborly response he felt should be given by anyone that had any manners at all to speak about. In the event you passed by his home without the acknowledgment that he was standing there, you would only do that once. He would draw his six gun and proceed to start shooting in your direction to remind you, that the next time you went by his house, you best be on your best manners and be neighborly.
Aunt Elma chuckled as she told me this. It is amusing when you think of it now, but I bet if you had that happen to you, you would be thinking of a different route the next time you wanted to go to town. I am sure that if you did take the same route by the house and saw him step off the porch, you would not only tip your hat and wave but pull on the horse's reins to make them turn their head in the general direction of him too.
I feel that William "Bud" was proud and maybe that was a sin, but I can guess that he felt that you were riding on "his" road. One he had walked and ridden a horse to the Tallahassee land office to get the paperwork that gave him the land that became his legacy. A legacy that still has a Morris living on it. (That paperwork was signed by the President and hung in the bedroom of Aunt Elma's home.)
It brings me some pride too, in knowing that this ole Crudmudgeon's blood flows in my veins, giving me some of the strength I have needed to survive my life and to tell the story of his....
Gloria Peacock Kimmel Nov. 17, 2015
(Photos courtesy of Aunt Mary Elma Peacock Morris)









Gloria Peacock Kimmel's photo.

Gloria Peacock Kimmel's photo.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My 6h Grade Teacher, Miss Walker

I am going to tell the story of my favorite teacher, Miss Walker. She gave me hope and I pray that every child today will have someone like her in their life.
I haven't shared with everyone here, but I had a very challenging childhood. I was one of 6 brothers and sisters. Both of my parents drank and my Dad was brutal to our Mother and after she left, to us. I was in charge of the household at 8 yrs of age, and that experience brought me so low that I don't think I ever looked straight ahead when I walked or smiled much. I was a lean lanky child with long dishwater blonde hair and bangs that covered my eyes because it was so hard for me to cut them myself and because, I think I was hiding.
In the 6th grade of school, I had a particularly wonderful teacher. She nurtured me as a starving child needed and as she was a spinster and had no children of her own, I think that I fulfilled something within her that she needed also. She let me read to the class, write things on the board, pick up papers after everyone was done with their work, and for the first time in my life, I was Teachers Pet!
What a heady experience that was for me and I remember it as if it happened yesterday. To go from an unpopular skinny poor white trash kid to being teachers pet was tantamount to winning the Oscar in my book.
She talked to me as an adult should talk to a child. With respect and caring. It was the first time in my life other than my Grandma, that an adult had done that. I had been ruled with an iron fist and beatings but I flourished in this atmosphere. I started to realize that life could be different under her tutelage.
Because of this wonderful white haired lady , my life became bearable and I escaped to her room whenever I could to watch her kindness flow forth to me and others. One day when we were alone for a few minutes, she brushed the long bangs covering my eyes aside and said “ Someone with eyes that pretty should never cover them up”. That one moment will forever be etched in my memory, as a tiny bud of hope that I was special was planted.
Her name was Miss Walker and I have always said that if I find the right doll with her spirit and look, I would name it after her.
Since that time many years were spent in finding that right doll and as fate would have it , she came to me completely by surprise.
I had only seen a picture of her so I was not prepared for the rush of emotion that filled my heart when she arrived. There was my long awaited chance to name a doll after the greatest teacher of all time, my Miss Walker. Here she is in honor of teachers everywhere who give selflessly of themselves to our children everyday, with very little realized rewards and with my deepest gratitude to one that made my heart flower blossom into the person I am today.
Gloria Peacock Kimmel.. revised Nov. 15, 2015
(since the time of writing this many years ago, I found out that Miss Walker was indeed a wife and that she wrote books and lived in Pollard where My Peacock/Bells lived. I think that this is my 6th grade photo. I have them all but none of them are marked unfortunately so I can't say for sure. I also have to say that Daddy quit drinking when I was an early teen and he became the best Daddy that anyone could ask for. He apologized to me when I was 32, the year before he was in the automobile accident. When that happened every pain left and I forgave him and I also understood him)
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Isham Peacock Circuit Riding Preacher

Notes for Isham Peacock:
Source: Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Vol. VI, compiled & published by Folks Huxford, 1948, pg. 207.
I am honoring my 4th Great Grand Uncle today.. He served in the Revolutionary War, was captured and sentenced to be hanged. He escaped with the help of a Captain because they were both Masons. He lived to the ripe old age of 108, Married twice, the second time at age 93, and died by falling off a horse while riding to visit his family in Georgia!
Way to go, Isham.. Sounds as if you lived a full life..
Note: Isham, although a devout Baptist Preacher, would not preach in churches where Liquor was not allowed.
As per John G Crowley, an ordained Primitive Baptist minister who teaches at the Valdosta State University in southern Georgia:
Elder Isham Peacock was a Primitive Baptist minister who despised the anti-liquor societies so greatly that he would not preach in churches that included members who had pledged asbtinence from alcohol. When he was 100 years old, Elder Peacock would drink from a hollow can filled with whiskey while preaching, both to recruit his energy and to demonstrate the bounds of Christian liberty.
Baptist Today News Journal "Baptist and Booze"
Peacock, Isham 1742 - 1851 Tattnall, Ware
Isham Peacock, greatly beloved pioneer Baptist minister in his day, in Wiregrass Georgia, was born in Dobbs County, N.C, Oct. 8, 1742, as shown by his Revolutionary War pension papers. He was married twice. His first wife was Martha Easterling of Johnston Co., N.C., born c. 1746. By her his children were born. His second marriage was in Ware County, Ga., March 22, 1835, to Mrs. Lydia Bennett, born 1764. The names of only two children are known, though it is believed that Rev. Lewis Peacock, the first pastor (about 1832) of Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church in original Ware now Pierce County, was a son. The two known children were:
1. Sarah b. 1776, m. Kedar Keaton. Lived in Liberty Co., Ga.
2. John b. 1781 lived in Ware (Pierce) Co.
It is not known just when Isham Peacock came to Georgia. He does not appear in the 1790 Census of either North Carolina or South Carolina, so may have been in this state at that time. His first place of residence in Georgia was apparently Warren County where he was living 1794 in Capt. Hatcher's district, owning 200 acres of land on Joe's Creek (as shown by the 1794 tax-digest of Warren). He seems to have lived a short time in Effingham County, though just when cannot be determined now. By 1798 he had moved to Montgomery County, he appearing on the tax-digest there that year as a resident taxpayer; at that time he owned no land there but still owned 300 acres in Warren County. He was put out of Montgomery County into Tattnall County in it's formation in 1804. He lived in Tattnall County until about 1833-35 when, his wife having died, he went to to Ware (now Pierce) County to make his home with his son John.
 His second marriage took place soon after. He and his second wife were living alone in Ware in 1840 Census. In 1845 they moved to near Mayport Mills (now a part of the city of Jacksonville) in DuVal Co., Fla. While on a visit to his grandchildren in present Pierce County, he died there in February 1851, age 108 years. He is believed to have been buried in the cemetery at Shiloh Church. His aged widow was still living in 1855 at Mayport Mills, age 94 years.
Just where or when Elder Peacock was converted and united with the Baptist Church and when and where he was ordained to the ministry, is not known. The first known church membership was Beard's Creek Baptist Church, Tattnall County (organized 1804). He was the second pastor of the church, serving 1819 to April 1835, when he moved to Ware. The minutes of Piedmont Baptist Association show he was pastor of Salem Church ,in Liberty Co, in 1815. When the association was first organized in 1815 he was one of four or five Baptists who attended and took part in the organization. he was Moderator of the Association, 1819-1824 inclusive. He was the first pastor of Providence Church in Ware County, 1844 to 1845 when he moved to Florida. By the 1820's he had come to be known as "Father Peacock" among the people where he preached. In the division over missions in the Baptist ranksin the 1830's he seemed to have adhered to the anti-mission group who in time called themselves Primitive Baptists.
Elder Peacock's pension application was made in Tattnall County, Aug. 12, 1833 and he was approved Oct. 5, 1833, and he drew a pension until his death. In his declaration to obtain the pension he stated he was living in Anson Co., N.C., when he was drafted in the Revolutionary War. He said he served under Col. Love and Gen. Sumter two or three years, and served several tours under Col. Robinson, Murphy and others, but was in no battles. In the pension file is a statement from him that he was formally of Effingham County.

Source: DAR Patriot Index - Centennial Editon, by national Daughters of the American Revolution, 1994, Part 3 pg. 2255.
Peacock, Isham: b 10-8-1742 NC d 2 - - 1851 GA m (1) Martha Easterling (2) Mrs. Lydia Bennett Sol NC PNSR WPNS.



Source: 1805 Georgia Land Lottery. By Virginia S. Wood & Ralph V. Wood, The Greenwood Press, 1964, pg. 268.
(Name) (Lottery #) (Blank or Prize) (County)
Peacock, Isham 2 B B Bryan
Note: Married men were allowed two draws, but unfortunately both of Isham's draws were blank.

More About Isham Peacock:
Burial: Unknown, Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Ware Co., GA.


More About Isham Peacock and Mrs. Lydia Bennett:
Marriage: March 22, 1835, Ware Co., GA.
<<<<<<Isham was 93 at the time of his second marriage>>>>>>>>
Children of Isham Peacock and Martha Easterling are:
Sarah Peacock, b. 1775, Anson Co., NC45, d. 1857, Carroll Co., GA45.
+Samuel Peacock, b. 1780, SC45, d. 1839, Liberty Co., GA45.
+John Peacock, b. 1781, d. date unknown.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Blind Hour


Back in the day every one had party lines.
I know that the youngsters that hear that think of long lines of people dressed to go have a party, but in our day it was all about the telephone party line. We all had those black rotary telephones and every one had a party line.
A party line was a shared telephone line that was used by up to 4 households. In our case, we had 4 people that used the same line. The only way to tell it was your phone was the number of rings. Ours was two if I remember right. Ring ring.. ring Ring.. and we would pick up. It if were any other ring, we let it ring. The phone rang all day long and you could not turn it off just in case you got a call. If you wanted to make a call, you picked up the telephone and if someone was on the line, you hung up and waited.
Our telephone was always busy because we had a talker on our line. We could never make a phone call and I am embarrassed to say that sometimes we asked the operator to break in so that we could make an important call. It was the only way to get a word in edge wise!
One day in particular, my parents and younger sister had gone into town to buy me some ointment that the doctor had prescribed for these ring worm areas on my arm and leg. I was always barefoot and in stagnant mud puddles so I had a fair amount of worms as a kid. All of us did because shoes were for school or church. We had one pair of shoes and we wore them to school and then took off our school clothes and shoes and put on our work clothes or play clothes. You don't hear of children changing clothes when they get home from school these days. I don't see any of the kids I know here do that. But back in that day, I had 3 dresses and they had to be handed down so I took care of them.
On that stormy day, I was home alone. Now I know what you are thinking; the movie about being home alone and the adventure that followed. I had an adventure that terrified me and I was not near so prepared as the small boy in the movie..
When I decided to make a phone call, I knew that we did not talk on the phone if it was lightening but the desire to talk to a friend overcame the warning and I made my call. The party line talker was miraculously off the phone and that should have been my first clue, but I was 12 and motivated..
I sat on my favorite little stool and put in the call to my friend. We had talked for a few minutes and the I heard the lightening strike and then the thunder rumbled through the house. Wow, that was close my.. I saw the lightening and started counting. 1- 1000... 2- 1000.. 3-1000.. 4-1000.. That was a little close for comfort but I kept on talking and turned my back to the open front door. That was an invitation for disaster in my house.
You see, Daddy built the house in 1949 but it wasn't grounded well and the lightening would sometimes crackle into the house. We knew to wear shoes when it rained on the tile and to not step in something wet and walk
about barefoot. I know that sounds odd but that was our house.
I talked and just as I was about to end my conversation, the lightening crackled through the telephone line into the headpiece and into my ear. It was strong and I could smell it in my hair and feel it in my body when it knocked me off my stool to the ground.
You have to appreciate what I was feeling at that time. I was 12, home alone and the worst thing of all, is that I was blind. All I could see was black! I was on the floor, turning my head from side to side, trying to get the smell out of my nose and starting to panic some because I could not call my folks (no cell phones) , we did not have neighbors to speak of ( my old aunt Lizzie Creamer lived across the stree but I was not about to try and crawl over there with it storming) , and I was blind. I crawled on the floor feeling my way to the couch and climbed up on it and cried. I tried to reconcile myself to the fact that I was blind and I may stay  blind. I prayed.
I kept closing and opening my eyes thinking that I would be able to see if I just blinked, but it did not work. And I waited for my Daddy. I do not know how long I lay there but after what seemed like an inordinate amount of time, I opened my eyes and saw white puffy clouds. Then I saw shadowy shapes and then my sight returned. When I looked at the clock, it had been almost an hour of terrifying darkness and feelings of helplessness about what to do.
By the time daddy got back with my medicine, my sight had returned and I told him I got shocked from talking on the phone and that I couldn't see for a while. He asked, " can you see now?" and I said, "Yes". and then he said, "you shouldn't have been talking on the phone" and I said, " I know, Daddy."
That wasn't the only time I inadvertently got struck by lightening but that is a tale for another day..
It gave me a whole new meaning to the old spiritual, that I was blind and now I see.. And I did not talk on the phone during a lightening storm..
Gloria Peacock Kimmel Nov. 9, 2015
(image from a google search)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tale Of An American Spy


3 September 2011 at 11:42
The tale of spies is one that intrigues and stirs the imagination and the tale that I am telling today is no less than intriguing and will spark the imagination. It begins with the birth of a daughter in Sacramento, California in the year 1893. Her name was Velvalee Malvena Blucher. Her lineage was from the Hillbilly country of West Virginia and Kentucky. Both of her parents were of German Descent and hard working folk. Velvalee was going through a difficult period in her life. She had studied Japanese, but found it too difficult and started attending the University of California in 1937 and graduated from Stanford with a Bachelors of Arts Degree. Her personal life was in turmoil due to three marriages, two ending in divorce. Her third and final marriage was to Lee. T. Dickinson, a west coast commodity broker. Velvalee was a member of the Japanese-American Society and was a person well connected to the Japanese Consulate. She was entertained by Japanese Dignitaries and was invited on Japanese Warships. It is said that a Japanese Spy had her name in a book he brought from Japan.

She began collecting dolls in 1934 when a friend brought her a pair of Native Dolls from the Philippines. Her interest in dolls grew quickly and soon she and her husband borrowed 100 dollars from a friend and moved to NYC. She started to work in a department store but did not work there long before she developed a real love of dolls. She joined the Doll Collectors of America and also the Toy Collectors Club of NY, the parent company of UFDC. She lived in a co-op apt. with her brother and opened her first doll shop at 718 Madison Ave. There was an excellent article written up in the Hobby Magazine of 1938. It talked about the different nationalities represented in her collection. One of her customers was Elizabeth Hooper whom she wrote letters to, including one addressed January 9th, that said “ My dearest 'Baltimore Doll' What hour shall we talk on Jan. 28? Please let me know so that I may plan to be away from my shop to hear you. “ On June 27, 1939 she wrote saying “ I am bringing my very ill husband to John Hopkins Hospital on July 10th. Please tell me if I may room within walking distance of the hospital?” Other letters were sent to Elizabeth indicating that her husband had had the surgery elsewhere.



Meanwhile she continued to collect and amass a huge array of foreign dolls and started publishing a list for sale as early as 1939. There was great appeal of her shop at that time as foreign dolls of all types had been cut off due to the War and she had a marvelous collection of latest dolls from Paris and England. She continued to write letters to her clientele including one Senore Inez de Monanali in Argentina. The letters looked innocent enough on the surface but the astute gentleman from the FBI soon figured out that the reference to “Irish Dolls” old women- with pack on their backs in actuality meant modern airplane carriers or that “ the cite little doll shop she happened to run across where they did repair so skillfully was not a reference to the Humpty Dumpty Hospital run by Emma C. Clear in Redondo Beach, but the the condition of the battleships in Pearl Harbor. For a year the FBI shadowed the receivers of the letters, most of the, chatty and seemingly innocent til one day an Oregon collector received a long typewritten letter addressed to a woman she had never heard of before and with her SIGNATURE clearly written at the bottom of the letter. She thought to herself “Am I going mad?” The letter indicated the South American woman was going to visit them but she had no clue as to who the woman was or who had written the letter. She took the letter to her husband who suggested they take the letter to the FBI. They went over the letter sentence by sentence and all of the statements did not make sense.

The name of her daughter was incorrect and one did not just happen upon the Humpty Dumpty Doll Hospital. It was 20 miles outside of town. One sentence in the letter did make sense. Had she ever mentioned the vacant bedroom of her daughters since the daughters marriage? That did ring a bell. She had mentioned it to Velvalee Dickinson whom had mentioned she and her husband would be traveling to Oregon and the rooms were crowded. As a fellow doll collector she had offered them hospitality in her home. The FBI agents wanted to know who Velvalee Dickinson was and she told them that she was an antique doll dealer, lecturer and collector well respected in all doll circles of that day and that Mrs. Dickinson had continued to send her dolls on approval, even though she had not purchased one in a long while, yet still they came once a month.
Without realizing it she had been carrying on a long standing correspondence with Velvalee. Several other collectors had been receiving these strange nonsensical letters as well. The FBI pursued all these leads and cleared the people writing to as time went on. The letters were sent from every city the Dickinsons had stayed in and were written on the typewriters in the various rooms.

Before long, the FBI had enough evidence amassed and had confiscated dolls that had cryptic messages inside. One in particular comes to mind. It was a penny wooden doll that had a tiny purse on the front of her dress. Inside was a message concerning treasonable information given to her by Japanese Allies. When confronted by the FBI, she immediately turned the spotlight on her dying husband by saying he had contracted with the Japanese Government for $25,000 to learn and betray our secrets. As her husband was dying this seemed like the easy way out. It was ascertained that her complete doll business had been built up in order to betray our government,as her knowledge of dolls was brought to question on one of her Ca. trips to Mrs. Gustav Mox. The Mox collection filled rooms in a Santa Monica setting and Mrs. Mox one day gave a garden party to which Velvalee was invited. Everyone present was very excited, as we would be today to see a Coleman present at one of our soiree's and her Granddaughter was particularly looking forward to showing off her grand collection of the many fine French dolls in their collection.

When Velvalee saw the showy dolls dressed as various Queens with costumes of hand embroidered satin with royal purple capes and ermine tails and jewelry she said “ Oh, you collect those?” No one in the East would have them. We have a whole cellar full of them and you can have them for a song.” This statement was made to Eleanor St. George, whom was also attending the party.  Little Bonnie Jean Mox, in her first party dress, promptly burst into tears that could not be quieted and wept her heart out in her Grandmothers arms because she thought as everyone else did, that this was the premier doll judge in the country. Things were quiet at the doll party for a few moments until Velvalee discovered a large case of Parians, Chinas and Bisque. She said, “now these are the kinds of dolls we love,” entirely missing the fact that they were Emma Clear reproductions and a real old case of the aforementioned dolls were right next to this case. There were many more of these faux pas in her dolling days and such episodes tended one to surmise that she was not the knowledgeable doll judge she made out to be. Speculation exists that someone more clever than her actually set her up in the doll market for an elaborate cover.

An update to this account was given by the Colemans in the Fall issue of the Dolls News 1992, a magazine about and for the UFDC or United Federation of Doll Clubs, one of the longest running clubs for people that collect antique dolls. They state “that many people wanted to know what happened to Velvalee after her prison sentence.” The Colemans had acquired some early Janet P. Johl books and while looking through them one day, a newspaper clipping fell out entitled “End of the Spy Trail for the Lady Of The Dolls.”. It was published in The Sunday Mirror Magazine, April 6, 1952 and was copyrighted by King Features Syndicate INC. The Colemans state that the article describes the spy activities of Velvalee Dickinson and also tells of her release on parole after being sentenced to ten years.
The following is a quote from the newspaper article and from the Doll News referenced above and says, “ Amid the enormous public interest engendered in the conviction and death sentence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for wartime A-Bomb espionage, the release from prison of New York's infamous woman spy of WWII passed completely unnoticed. Mrs. Velvalee Dickinson, who worked with the Japanese while the Rosenberg's were spying for Russia, was convicted not of espionage, which she certainly committed, but of violation of the censorship law, to which she pleaded guilty. Fined $10,000 dollars and sentenced to 10 years in prison, she was lately and quietly released on parole, and given a job in a hospital ( the location the Mirror magazine has agreed to keep secret. Her story, hitherto told only in bits and pieces during her trial, (understandably, since the newspapers of the period were occupied with more vital war news), is here related by Karl Singer....condensed from his latest, “The Worlds 30 Greatest Women Spies” and is currently published by Wilfred Funk.”



This is an updated article from The Boston Globe:

A Doll With A Dark Past: Owner Seeks Truth About It's Role In WWII Spy Network. Boston Globe, Tuesday, September 11, 2001 by Tara H. Arden Smith, Globe Correspondent. Third Edition, Metro Region section. Page 1 B

Cambridge- When she saw the doll for the very first time, black eyes glinting through the war – darkened window of a Madison Avenue bookstore, she strained on her tiptoes for a better look.
Drawing sharp breaths amid January frost, 13 year old Lee Lawrence Pierce pushed her nose to the plate glass. The gypsy rag doll appeared haunted. Certain a story of sorrow was somewhere inside, Pierce determined, right then, that she would make the doll her own.

On the day she came back for it, thin wrists sagging beneath her brimming sack of nickels and dimes, the doll was gone from the window. But Pierce's disappointment was short lived. It's owner had left town and Pierce was able to buy the doll from the bookstore proprietor.

Within days, there was a fearsome knock on the door of her Grandmothers New York apartment. Two Federal agents burst in and snatched the doll;when it was returned a week later, there was a course, zigzagging stitch across its smooth cotton neck, evidence of a crude decapitation.

That was 1944. A decade later, as a young woman working for the US state Department in Buenos Aires, Pierce made a shocking discovery. Her Doll, her most cherished possession had been a clue in one of the most extraordinary treason cases of WWII. The doll's owner had been the first American woman to face the death penalty on charges of spying for a wartime enemy.

Now, 57 years after staring mesmerized through that bookstore window, Pierce has filled her Huron Avenue home with dolls. And there, on the top shelf of her display cabinet in the front parlor, is the doll that Pierce loves, and hates, the most.

“Perla's scary, isn't she?” Pierce queries softly, eyebrows arched. “She feels like a demon sometimes. But if you can get past that and be open to her, you can feel how painful her story is and how scared she must be. I've always wanted to protect her from whatever it is that's been haunting her all this time.”

For almost six decades, Perla Negra- so named for her eyes of real black Mexican pearls-has stared at Pierce from the doll cabinet with an oddly beseeching gaze. Lately, it's led Pierce to think about Velvalee Blucher Dickinson, the spy who owned the doll.

Years ago, Pierce fixed the doll's eyes, darkening the gleaming white that had surrounded the Pearls, to make the eyes less human. Still, their intensity unsettles Pierce even now.

As her hearing fades and her arthritis gets worse, Pierce has resolved to discover the rest of her doll's secret story: whether Perla Negra was used in the bookstore window to signal new information that Dickinson had gathered for Japan. Solving that mystery, Pierce hopes, will end her first doll's long purgatory as a possible accomplice in treason- and explain her own relationship to a doll that has allured and terrified her for six decades.

The Doll Collector's House

In the parlor of the Cambridge home where she has lived for the last 33 years, Lee Lawrence Pierce looks to her best dolls, more than 50 from every corner of the world, for stories. Off her kitchen, behind
a thin curtain, a hundred more stand ready to greet any visitors with rows of grin-hardened faces.

“Dolls can be challenging,” Pierce mused during one in a series of recent interviews at her home. “If you think like they have some human characteristics, it can really be very overwhelming.”

There's the pigtailed Polish doll that she was given by a Czech colleague at Radio Free Europe, where Pierce worked in the years after the war. The doll, blonde-haired and in traditional Polish peasant dress, was handed off from her young Polish owner to a Czech friend as the Nazi's raided the girl's Krakow home. The Czech friend, herself later sent to a concentration camp, hid the doll outside the camp gate having promised to protect it. After escaping, she finally retrieved the doll on her third escape attempt and eventually entrusted her to Pierce.

“Every doll has a life because someone love and lives with it. And if the dolls are with us, they see everything,” Pierce said.

Most of Pierce's dolls reflect her fascination with worlds she doesn't know. She treasures stone Buddhas as much as the Chinese dragons, as much as Haitian Voodoos, as much as the Mexican gypsy rag doll who became Perla Negra.

It was this first doll that sparked the fascination, and the doll whose life story has become so eerily intertwined with Pierce's own. As a State Department employee, Pierce says she lived on the same street in Buenos Aires to which Dickinson mailed her secrets to the Japanese agents. It was on that street that a missed pickup eventually alerted US authorities, sparking Dickinson's downfall.

Pierce did not know then of the street's connection to Dickinson.

But now, in heaps of faded papers, Pierce collects clues about Perla's former owner, and sifts through the responses to decades of queries to the governments of the United States and Japan. This month, her search will take her to the libraries of London, where she will rummage archives looking for her next lead.

“My Perla fille” she calls one expanse of paper, arm outstretched. “This is where we live.” What Pierce most wants to know is this: Did Velvalee Dickinson loan Perla Negra to the bookstore owner, Dickinson's neighbor and landlord, with the specific intention of using Perla as a signal doll? Did the doll's intermittent, and changeable position in the store's front display window mean anything? If so, what?
And how many people did it kill?

Special Clients

Velavalee Dickinson would be over 100 years old now and is almost certainly dead. But the most detailed records about Dickinson's case, long requested by Pierce, have been held back by the FBI because no one can prove she's not alive. The agency says that releasing the files would be an unwarranted invasion of Dickinson's personal privacy.

But not if Pierce can prove that Velvalee Dickinson has really passed away. To claim a copy of the death certificate, she needs the name Dickinson used at the end of her life, and a place.

All that Pierce has gotten the FBI to reveal is that Dickinson was a renowned Manhattan doll collector who traveled the country showing her dolls in the homes of carefully selected clients. The clients, FBI documents show, tended to be the wives of well-placed officers on the US Navy vessels in the South Pacific.

Over tea and doll talk, Dickinson would gather information on ship' placements and conditions crucial details that she would relay to her Japanese Government employers via coded letters that discussed the destroyers as if they were dolls.

On Jan. 21, 1944, Dickinson was arrested and charged with spying on behalf of wartime Japan. One of a handful of known female spies, the first American woman to face execution for espionage-Dickinson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served 10 years in the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, W. Va.

No records of Dickinson's life or even names she may have used after her release from prison have been obtainable.

Dickinson's years of espionage are detailed in several FBI memorandum compiled in September 1944, just after Dickinson had begun to serve her sentence. The reports describe a prim, middle-aged woman who forged close ties with Japanese-Americans during seven years working for a stock brokerage that handled major accounts in California's Imperial Valley.

In 1937 , Dickinson moved to New York to launch a business selling rare and expensive dolls. Her clients soon included women across the country, and she often traveled to their homes to show them new dolls- and casually ask about their husbands, especially those serving on Navy ships.

Though the FBI 's first firm evidence of Dickinson's espionage is a returned letter she sent to Buenos Aires in February 1942, she is suspected of relaying information on US destroyers before Japan's Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pear Harbor. The surprise bombing raid killed or wounded more than 3,500 Americans and decimated the US Pacific Fleet in less than two hours.

In a personal response to inquiries from Pierce dated Dec. 9, 1960, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wrote that Dickinson's communications with the enemy “became known as 'doll letters' since they related primarily to the location and condition of 'dolls.' Under the code which the Japanese gave Mrs. Dickinson to use, these 'dolls' actually were various types of American naval vessels.”

According to FBI records, one awkwardly written Dickinson letter”contained the words 'Distroyed Your' and in the same sentence made reference for a Mr. Shaw who had been ill but would be back to work soon.

This letter was written a short time after it became known the the USS Shaw, which had its bow blown off at Pearl Harbor, was being repaired in a West Coast shipyard and would soon rejoin the fleet.”

Frightening Memory

Hours before Dickinson's arrest, Pierce met the anxious collector, sleek in a rigid black shirtwaist and tight curls, on her way out of town. Trailed across the country and back, Dickinson knew by then that the FBI was close behind. And Pierce, with her mother at the bookshop owned by Dickinson's affable landlady, had just picked up the doll.

What Pierce now remembers about her one encounter with Dickinson brims with the meticulous detail of a frightened childhood memory. Pierce had begged the bookstore owner, Jo Kimball, to allow her to touch the doll.

“There's nothing I can say that would describe how I felt when I first looked at her in that bookstore window.” Pierce said. “I hated dolls then, and had never had one before, but she was from another universe, and I had to know why she looked so scared.”

At first, Kimball said No, the doll wasn't hers to loan. But furtive glances and a few whispers later and the doll was in Pierce's arms.

Then abruptly, from behind a curtain dividing the bookstore form the rest of the building, a woman appeared. She looked huge, Pierce says, and cruel – though in FBI records Dickinson is described as petite and quite pretty. The woman grabbed the doll and stormed away.

In tears, Pierce vowed to go back for her.

A day later, life-savings in hand, Pierce found the doll face-down on the desk in Jo Kimball's office. Kimball told her to just take the doll home, for her owner had left her behind.

Pierce recalled “ being barely able to breathe, and as soon as I had her all I could do was run out of the room.”

For one night, Pierce was thrilled, gazing at her mysterious booty and waiting for the moment when some revelation might make that little girl her doll's confidante.

But then the Federal agents appeared.

“I knew there was something wrong with her, and I knew it was my job to protect her.” Pierce recalled. “I knew that I shouldn't let them take her away, even though I had no idea how I knew what they had come for, or what was wrong with her..... or what they thought she did.”

Hunt For Witnesses

Few alive today remember Velvalee Dickinson or her dolls. Becky Moncrief, the president of the United Federation of Doll Clubs, the largest doll collectors' organization in the country, says that even in the doll world, it would take a real “old timer” to know whether any others of Dickinson's known dolls are still out there.

Pierce, though , hasn't lost heart. She's on a hunt for witnesses, any who might still be alive and could tell her whether Perla Negra's irregular placement in the display window of Young's Bookstore was a signal to Dickinson's cohorts.

Somebody, she says, must have noticed something.

“I need to know if my doll was used in a way that led to people being killed,” Pierce said.


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This is the end of the account as we know it and my thanks  to the sources of this article which also include contemporary newspaper accounts of the day. The Colemans state that there are inconsistencies, as will all news accounts done by many different people and sources; Dorothy and Elizabeth Coleman and The Doll News Of Fall 1992 and Winter 1991; my friend Rene Mandell for the updated Boston Globe article on Sept. 11, 2001,  and last but probably the greatest source who actually traveled in the same circles and gave a first hand account, Eleanor St. Georges great book, The Dolls Of Yesterday, copyright 1948 published by Charles Scribe's & Sons.

Thank you to all that have completed the reading of this lengthy tale. I have enjoyed the telling and I hope all enjoy the reading.


Til next time, Kimmee


Addendum:

Velvalee died in the 1980's and much mystery surrounds her life and death.

Wikipedia Article

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvalee_Dickinson


FBI Story:


http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/velvalee-dickinson-doll-woman