Monday, December 25, 2017

The Road Goes Ever On And On, December 25th, 2017

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
~J.R.R Tolkien

Merry Christmas to all of you from sunny San Diego! It is happy Christmas Day around our house with presents, food and the holiday spirit in abundance. As this year draws near to a close there are a number of worthy family celebrations that I am thinking about and pausing to remember. 
Granddad William Shepard (1888-1976). Today is the 129th anniversary of the birth of my Grandfather William Shepard. Born in 1888 in Alton, Illinois, he was the oldest person that I knew well. He was always generous in sharing stories of his life from his childhood along the Mississippi River and then his working and family years with wife Bura Davis Shepard in Oklahoma and Colorado. The last 36 years of his life were spent in San Diego where, 41 years ago this month, he died at 88 years old. He lived long enough to enjoy all 12 of his and Bura's grandchildren, and then the first 6 of their Great Grandchildren. In the midst of all the holiday celebrations I remember and celebrate Granddad's life.

This first picture shows my grandparents William and Bura Davis Shepard. This picture was taken in San Diego back in the 1970s, not long before Granddad passed away.

A 49th Anniversary. On Wednesday this week, Cindy and I will celebrate 49 years of marriage. We tied the knot just down the street from where we live now, at the La Mesa Church of Christ on Jackson Drive on a Friday night, two days after Christmas in 1968. We splurged and honeymooned in beautiful Orange County, California at the world famous Knotts Berry Farm (entry fee 25 cents). Cindy's father Joe Harris generously made the elaborate and expensive travel arrangements: he let me drive his almost new black Ford Fairlane Deluxe. We probably drove a total of 250 miles, with stops at The Torrey Pines Inn (oops, no room at the Inn) and the Laguna Beach Surf and Sand Hotel. After just a few days of honeymooning we returned to San Diego, packed up and went back to school at Abilene Christian University in Texas.

This second picture shows Cindy and me in a picture taken last month when visiting the San Diego Zoo.

Happy Anniversary Darrell and Mary! Speaking of Abilene Christian, 14 years later my brother Darrell was a student at that same school. He had met a student there who was from Chicago named Mary Medina. They were married in Abilene, also a few days after Christmas, but in 1982. On the last day of this year Darrell and Mary will celebrate 35 years of marriage. Congratulations and best wishes to both of them!

10 Years of "The Shepard's Crook." It was 10 years ago this week that I began writing The Shepard's Crook as a family blog. It has been a interesting and exciting venture for me, and one that I plan to continue. The story of our family is one that has no end. The discovery of details about our ancestors continue to be made with the promise of more revelations to come. Just this past year I have been able to add to our family tree family members who I never knew existed, and whose stories add immeasurably to our understanding of our family's history, and therefore to our understanding of ourselves.

I want to thank all of you who are readers of The Shepard's Crook, whether your last name is Shepard or Gower, or Davis or Shannon, of a host of other last names that make up this wonderful tapestry we call our family. Your support of this endeavor and your interest in this blog is greatly appreciated!

May the coming year, what Tolkien calls "the Road" that "goes ever on and on" be healthy, prosperous and full of wonderful surprises for all of you!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, December 11, 2017

Celebrating 75 Years, Dec 11, 2017

Your brothers, sisters, children, parents...
Make no mistake, your relationships
are the heaviest components in your life.
~Ryan Bingham

75 years ago this month my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, and my mother Maida Gower Shepard moved to San Diego from Okemah, Oklahoma. My Mom's young sister Vicki Gower Johnston was also a part of this female threesome who made the arduous bus trip from Oklahoma to Southern California. They came to be reunited with husband Leroy and son Hendrix and wife Starlene.

The journey was on two lane roads all the way, along what is today a bustling interstate highway. In the winter of 1942 it was slow going compared to recent times. At that time World War II was in full swing, with San Diego being a major player in "the war effort."
Nola and Leroy Gower, 1942
Grandpa Leroy Gower, with his son Hendrix and pregnant wife Starlene had come to San Diego the previous summer to get jobs and make enough money to send for the three girls they had left behind in Oklahoma. After several months "the men folk" scrimped and saved enough to send money home. Grandma Gower then made travel arrangements for her and her daughters Maida and Vicki to come to the West Coast in the most practical way: by Greyhound bus.

Traveling by bus was a very common way of getting around the country in those days. The accompanying image is a poster from 1942 which illustrates how common bus travel was and how it even contributed to the all encompassing effort to win World War II.

My mom remembers it being a very difficult 1,400 mile trip. The emotional part of separating from their father and other family was hard enough. It was also difficult leaving the area of the country that had been home to them, where they had been settled and felt comfortable, and to adjust to a place they had never even seen before. San Diego was a big city that must have stood in great contrast to the small country town of Okemah, Oklahoma. The physical part of the bus trip was difficult too: sitting hours on end, day and night, watching the desolate Southwest landscape pass by. Besides all that, onboard bathrooms did not come along until 1954!

It was a draining journey for many reasons for these three women. Mother Nola was just 39 years old, while daughters Maida and Vicki were just 18 and 9 years old. They traveled alone as they made their way to their new life in San Diego.

Starlene Bass Gower, Maida Gower, 1943
In the 75 years since that time the Gower family, which numbered just 6 in 1942, has grown and evolved and scattered tremendously. Before the decade of the 1940s was complete, both daughters were married and four Grandsons had been born to Leroy and Nola, myself being the fourth. In their first 20 years in San Diego all 12 Gower grandchildren had been born, and the family was enjoying the prosperous life of the post-war years in Southern California.

Leroy and Nola are gone now, of course, but their legacy remains. Their descendants, which number over 50 today, have scattered to Washington, Texas, Arizona, and even Tokyo, Japan. My immediate family and I are among the few descendants who still live here in San Diego. Great Grandsons Shawn and Lloyd Gower and their families are the only others who still live here in the San Diego area.

A lot has happened to the Gowers in those 75 years since Leroy and Nola's family came to San Diego from Oklahoma. But it all goes back to those watershed events of 1942, when the decisions were made to move west, and then the hard work of relocating took place. I am grateful to my grandparents for their foresight, and the challenge they accepted to pick up roots and relocate themselves in California. Their decision to move west set the course for our family which has had tremendous ramifications for each of us.
- - -
Steve Shepard