Judging by the echoing reverb of the crickets chirping in my visitor stats since my last post, I think it’s safe to say that the only thing people want to see less than Rush Limbaugh’s face is Rush Limbaugh’s face framed with goatse hands. Curious how nobody wants to look at the visage of the beloved leader of the Republican party… Guess it’s not just self-loathing you’ve got going on, Rushboatse Boy. No, everyone else loathes you too. Ah well. In the interest of administering some much needed brain bleach, let’s move on to something completely different.
Longtime readers may recall that I’ve written a post or two about my father over the years, including a teaser that intimated more posts would be forthcoming about the rather, shall we say… unusual circumstances in which he was put up for adoption. Since it was my dad’s birthday just a few days ago (on the 23rd; he would have been 84) here’s a little bit more about my own personal family history mystery and about some new details we’ve only recently discovered.
I think I was in my early teens when Mom told me that Dad had been adopted shortly after he was born. What?! My father was not the biological child of Grandma Tild and Grandpa August??! This was pretty interesting news all by itself, but there was a lot more involved than just an “ordinary” adoption story:
When my father was two weeks old he was found in a hotel room in downtown Minneapolis, along with a note from his mother asking that a good home be found for him.
Zounds! Imagine the effect such a story would have on a thirteen year old. To me it was like something out of a silent movie melodrama — not exactly the baby left in a basket on a doorstep scenario, but close enough. I was excited; instantly eager to find out everything I could about my dad’s birth family, but I soon learned that my Dad himself was not. You never know what you might find out, he said. You might end up learning something you wish you hadn’t. I know who my parents are. I know who my family is. Let’s leave it at that.
And so we did. He never changed his mind about it; he really just never cared to know. After he died in 1979 [at the age of 54; heart failure], my mom and sister and I would sometimes talk about it; I think it was partly a way of trying to hold on to him somehow. We’d speculate about what kind of people Dad’s birth family might have been, and the possibility that we might have unknown aunts and uncles and other living relatives somewhere. They could even be living somewhere here in Minnesota for all we knew.
All the information we had about Dad’s birth family was gleaned from a news item that had been on the front page of one of the Minneapolis papers the day he was found, but none of us had ever actually seen the article.
Now, hard as it might be for you young’uns to believe, in the far-off distant past (before the 1970′s) the city had more than one major newspaper. Some were evening papers like the Minneapolis Journal and the Minneapolis Star, some were morning papers like the Minneapolis Tribune. Some stuck around and some died off; some merged — the evening Journal and Star merged into the Minneapolis Star-Journal, then later became simply the Minneapolis Star (still an evening paper) until the 70s when it merged with the morning Tribune to become the Strib that (barely) exists today.
So. The front page of which Minneapolis paper? What was the exact date? What did the article say, exactly? In the early 80s I decided to try to find out. At that time the main branch of the Minneapolis Public Library had microfilm on the Mpls Tribune and the Mpls Journal going all the way back to their beginnings, so that’s where I began.
All of the public records – Social Security card, military service discharge papers, etc — had Dad’s birthdate listed as May 23rd, 1925 (but I always wondered: how was that date determined? How did anybody know exactly what his birthdate was? Did they just make a guesstimate?) and the story went that he had been two weeks old when he was found, so I started searching through the daily Minneapolis Journals beginning with the June 1st edition. On the front page for Saturday June 6th, 1925, in the lower right hand corner, there it was:
And this was the little article that contained the sum total of everything we ever knew about my Dad’s birth family. Or at least the total of everything we knew until March 2009.
Over this past winter the spouse and I have started going to the History Center every so often, usually on Saturdays; usually spending much of the time in the microfilm library, which has microfilm of newspapers from all over Minnesota. I’d never even considered that a St Paul paper might have something in it about the “deserted baby boy” found in the Minneapolis hotel room, but one day I decided to take a look anyway just for the heck of it. Lo and behold – on page 2 of the St Paul Dispatch for Saturday June 6th, 1925:
“A young mother with blonde hair”??!
Baby “born May 23rd in Chicago, weighing 9 3/4 pounds”??!!
I know these are small details; small items of information in a small story of interest only to me and to a few other people, but I have to tell you: these small bits of information, these first new details we’ve only learned now, concerning a story that began 84 years ago hit me like electric shocks coursing through my body. We went home and later that night I called my sister, telling her: please sit down before I tell you this, OK?
Next: More newspaper articles found, now a total of 5. One Minneapolis paper says the mother’s name is Matthews, not Mattson.
..Matthews? Matthews?! If it should turn out that I’m related to Tweety I’m really gonna be pissed off.