Friday, December 29, 2017

Vintage Christmas photos

Several years ago, I scanned a large quantity of slides given to my husband by his Aunt Jean Murphy. The slides were photos taken by his Uncle Ralph Murphy and have given me hours of entertainment. Many are images of places they visited, some are work related, and of course there are family photos. Before the holiday season ends, I thought I’d post some of the Christmas photos from the collection. We can identify some of the people in the photos but not all. If you stumble across this blog post and can identify anyone, I’d love to hear from you. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a Happy New Year!

Aunt Jean
Aunt Jean's mother Charlotte and grandmother Harriet
This group may be part of Aunt Jean's family
Unknown woman winking at someone
Working to identify these boys now. I believe they were members
of the extended Murphy family.
Uncle Ralph and Aunt Jean's Christmas tree
A Murphy Christmas feast
Cousin Patricia Murphy, ca. 1954
Aunt Jean and their dog Boogie
Hotel San Carlos, Phoenix, Arizona
Unknown girl
At Uncle Ralph and Aunt Jean's house
Uncle Glenn Murphy
Uncle Glenn Murphy on the left edge, Aunt Gertrude Murphy, my father-in-law
Earl Murphy, my mother-in-law Mary Murphyand Aunt Jean
That was some office party! Looks like the man may be Uncle Ralph.
The others are unknown.
Aunt Jean's mother Charlotte, Aunt Jean, and an unknown woman 
A Murphy Christmas feast
Aunt Marjorie Murphy and Uncle Raymond Murphy
Uncle Raymond Murphy and Aunt Marjorie Murphy

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas baking

Like many people, I’ve made my share of Christmas cookies over the years—mostly for work or to give as gifts to family and friends. I have several recipes I like to use but at some point, settled on two that were always well received—pecan tassies and coconut macaroons. What’s funny is that I’m not a fan of pecans or coconut so don’t eat either. I guess you could say that’s a good thing though! I thought it was time to share the recipes for these two favorites. Enjoy!


1 cup butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Stir in 2 cups of all-purpose flour with a spoon just until the mixture forms a ball. Divide the dough into thirds, wrapping each portion. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Roll the dough out, one third at a time, 1/8-inch-thick on lightly floured surface. Cut out with 2 ¼ inch round cutter. Gently press dough rounds into ungreased mini-muffin pan cups. Refrigerate shells until ready to fill and bake.

2 eggs
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely chopped pecans

Prepare shells according to the recipe. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl using a wire whisk, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until thoroughly blended. Stir in the pecans. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the filling into each unbaked shell, filling about half full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until bottoms of pastries are crisp and light brown. Let cool 10 minutes in pans on wire racks. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen tassies.

  • The ingredients are simple—just make sure the cream cheese and butter are softened. 
  • A stand mixer comes in handy.
  • Separate the dough into disks, wrap in Saran Wrap, then refrigerate. I usually make the dough one night and do the rest the next night.
  • You can buy chopped nuts or chop them yourself in a food processor.

  • I chop the pecans up pretty fine.
  • It's handy to have two large tins. I fill one tin and pop it in the oven. While the first batch bakes, I prepare the second batch. The timing is just about right.
  • You don't need to butter the tin. 
  • Only take one disk of dough out of the refrigerator at a time. Chilled dough is easier to work with.
  • Before making, I trim my fingernails to avoid my nail digging into the shell as I press the dough into the tin.
  • I never roll the dough out. I always take the chilled disk of dough and cut it into squares small enough to fit in the tin with a butter knife. Do what works best for you.
  • I bought a Mini-tart Shaper from Pampered Chef and found it very helpful in pressing the dough into the tin. You still have to form the dough with your finger but this gets it started for you. Before pressing the dough, I dip the Shaper into water.
  • You don't need a mixer to blend the filling. A whisk works just fine.  
  • I use a butter knife to pop the tassies out of the tin.


3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flaked coconut
12 candied cherries, each cut into fourths

Heat oven to 300. Grease cookie sheet lightly (or use parchment paper). Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium bowl until foamy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Fold in almond extract and coconut. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls about 1 inch apart onto cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Place a cherry piece on each cookie. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or just until edges are light brown. Cool 10 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Murphy Santa Letters

Pat Murphy
I don’t want to cheat the Murphy side of the family out of its Santa letters so will share three I found in my late mother-in-law’s belongings.

Two are form letters sent from Santa to my husband Charlie and one of his siblings. The one to Charlie was sent via Reindeer Mail and was addressed to Mr. Charles Murphy of Monongah, West Virginia. By the way, the writing looks awfully similar to his Dad’s handwriting.

The third letter was written to Santa by my brother-in-law Pat Murphy. He writes that he’s six years old (although it looks like he wrote an eight first) so the letter would have been written in 1968. It reads:
Dear Santa,
My name is Pat. I am 6 years old. I would like a football suit and a ball, a talking Smokey Bear, a Saint Bernard dog, mail bag blocks, pop-up box, hop-hop, magic chest, phono-projector, popcorn machine, 11 games in all, boxing gloves, Battleship, robots, tool box, Dr. Kit, Knight, Green Hornet, farm set, guitar, marine, holster and rifle, canteen, Disney land, cavalry set, commander set. Thank you.
Patrick Murphy
I feel pretty certain that Santa didn’t bring him everything he wanted that year!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lankford Family Santa Letters

I often search historical newspapers and at some point, discovered that the Athens Daily Herald, part of the Athens Historic Newspapers Archive, published lots of Santa letters in the early 1900s. As far as I know, I’ve never written a letter to Santa, but many children have. Now I make a point of searching for and reading these letters every December. I enjoy reading them. Times were so different then. These Santa letters remind me that I have much to be thankful for and to appreciate all the good that I have in my life.

In the process of my research, I’ve found three letters that were written my members of the extended Lankford family. Since ‘tis the season, I thought it would be a good time to share them.

Image from the Athens Daily Herald, Dec .24, 1915

The first letter was written by Ruhmell Swindle, daughter of John William Swindle and Eula Mae Patridge. Ruhmell was born in Madison County, Georgia on August 25, 1898. She would have been 15 years old when she wrote her Santa letter published in the Athens Daily Herald on December 17, 1914. It’s heartwarming to see that she thought about children less fortunate than herself and then she carried that on throughout her long life. Ruhmell died in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia at the age of 97 on November 16, 1996. Her obituary noted “… She served as a Salvation Army fund-raiser by playing her tambourine in downtown Athens for 42 years. She was often seen volunteering in a blue uniform and bonnet while standing on College Avenue. She would collect money for the Salvation Army from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., moving to different locations around downtown Athens on foot.” Her Santa letter follows.
Dear old Santa Claus:
I thought I would write to you to let you know what I wanted.
I want you to bring me a locket chain and please bring little Claud a rubber doll and a tie and please bring us some fruit too. Please don’t forget the poor and orphan children.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas.
Your little girl,
Ruhmell Swindle
Ruhmell would be my 3rd cousin 2x removed, with our nearest common relatives being my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Katie Lankford. 1910
The second letter was written by Katie Lankford, daughter of Wade Hamilton Lankford and Ada Blanche Culbertson. Katie was a Christmas Eve baby, born in Greene County, Georgia on December 24, 1906. She would have been 7 years old when her Santa letter was published in the Athens Daily Herald on December 19, 1914. Her Santa letter follows.
Dear Santa Claus: I wish you would please bring me a doll and doll carriage. My brother has been sick a long time, he had the typhoid fever, he has been sick seven months. Daddy had to spend all of his money for doctor’s bill and if you don’t bring me something I don’t guess I will get anything. My little brother said bring him a stopper gun and a wagon with horses to it. Bring my little sister a doll and tea set, she is 2 years old, her name is LILA MAE LANKFORD. Please don’t forget us. I know you want my name, KATIE LANKFORD, aged 9. My brother's name is CLEVELAND LANKFORD, aged 5. Be sure to come to see us.
I hope Katie got what she wished for that year because sadly, she passed away in 1922 at the young age of 16. Katie writes that she was 9 years old but her death certificate noted that she was born in 1906. Katie would have been my 2nd cousin 3x removed. Our nearest common relatives are also my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Clyde Lankford
The third letter was written by Clyde Lankford, Katie’s sister. Clyde was born in Greene County, Georgia on August 29, 1904 and would have been 11 years old when she wrote her Santa letter published on December 24, 1915 in the Athens Daily Herald. Her Santa letter follows.
Will Be Pleased With Anything.
Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl 11 years old. My brother died August 17, 1915. My mother died September 13, 1915. There are five children here, my papa and one brother and one sister works, the youngest one of us is a baby girl only 2 years old. My papa has to hire someone to stay with us every day, but I get up every morning at 4:30 and cook breakfast. I want you to remember us, will be pleased with anything you can bring us. My papa told me the other day that he had always given us a right nice Christmas, but was not able to get us anything this Christmas, so if you don’t remember us we will not get anything. I will tell you all of our names now, so if you can spare us anything you will know what to bring. My name is Clyde, I am 11 years old. My oldest sister is 14 years old, her name is Mozelle, Kate is 9 years old, Cleveland is 6 years old, Lila 2 years. Don’t forget us, dear Santa Claus. Wishing you a merry Christmas. Your little friend, CLYDE LANKFORD, 731 Satulah avenue.
Clyde’s letter pulls at your heartstrings it was so sad! She lost both her brother and mother that year and she didn’t know it at the time, but would lose her sister Katie in 1922 and sister Mozelle in 1926. Hopefully, Santa and his elves were able to bring something nice to Clyde and her siblings that year. Like Katie, Clyde would have been my 2nd cousin 3x removed with our nearest common relatives are also my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Vintage Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Plush Toys

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, …. ” well, we all know the lyrics to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer so I’ll stop there. But every time I hear those words it takes me back to my childhood in the 1960s when you only got one chance a year to watch Rudolph save Christmas. We never missed it … it was Must See TV for sure!

Fast forward to the 1990s. By then, I was married and had two boys of my own to watch Rudolph with. Unlike when I was their age, we now had VHS tapes and could watch Rudolph whenever we wanted to, and we did. The boys got to know the characters as well as my husband Charlie and I knew them.

Then in 1998, the CVS Pharmacy sold a limited-edition set of 12 plush toy characters from the show made by the Stuffins Company. Each week for the six weeks leading up to Christmas, you could buy two different characters. I knew I had to have a set and remember going from store to store trying to find all of them. It was like a treasure hunt and we managed to find all 12. In 1999, CVS sold a new set of plush toy characters. This time around, we weren’t successful in getting all of them, but put the two years together, and we managed to buy most of the characters from the show. In all, we have 18 of them—Rudolph, Santa Claus in a red suit, Santa Claus in a plaid suit, Sam the Snowman, Clarice, King Moonracer, Comet, a train with square wheels on his caboose, a cowboy who rides an ostrich, a plane that can’t fly, Yukon Cornelius, Bumble the Abominable Snowman, Hermey, Elf Foreman, tall elf with glasses, Doll, Spotted Elephant, and Charlie-In-The-Box.

All are in excellent condition; however, they no longer have the tags. At the time, I didn’t know it was important to keep the tags attached to the toy so tore them off as soon as we got home from CVS. I guess if you’re a collector, you want the tags, but to me, they’d just get in the way.

Since 1998, these cute little plush toy characters have had a place in my home every year at Christmastime and I definitely consider them to be a family treasure!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Joseph Briscoe Davison

This blog post is another in a series connecting the dots in my tree to the souls buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Joseph Briscoe Davison, son of Joseph Davison and Susan Capers Briscoe, was born March 9, 1877 in Greene County, Georgia. He was one of seven children—Mary Daisy Davison, Joseph Briscoe Davison, Sarah Elizabeth Davison, Ralph C. Davison, Evelyn Capers Davison, and two infant children (sex unknown). Joseph is my 3rd cousin 3x removed. Our nearest common relatives are my 5th great-grandparents–Robert L. Hobbs Sr. and Mary Marion Caldwell who were married in 1776 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He went by Joe.

On June 14, 1880, Joseph and his family lived in the 138th District of Greene County, Georgia. His father was the postmaster; his mother was a housekeeper. There were three servants living in the home with them-Eliza Bearer (age 22, cook), Henry Towns (age 30, laborer), and Jordon Raiden (age 60, laborer).

Joseph learned about death early in life when his older sister Daisy contracted dysentery in the spring of 1887. She died at the age of 12 in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia on May 4, 1887. Just eight days after Daisy’s death, Joseph’s father, who also suffered from dysentery, died on May 12, 1887 in Woodville at the age of 45. Both Daisy and Joseph’s father were buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Sometime before 1900, Joseph moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was listed in the 1900 New Orleans, Louisiana, City Directory—living at 1507 Prytania Street and employed as a clerk. Just before his 23rd birthday, Joseph married Julia M. Young, daughter of James L. Young and Alice J. Gorham, in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia on February 20, 1900. The Atlanta Constitution published an article on February 19, 1900 detailing the upcoming ceremony:
One of the prettiest weddings of the season will be that of Miss Julia Young, of Woodville, and Mr. Joseph B. Davison, of New Orleans, which will occur at the Baptist church in Woodville on the 20th instant at 6 o’clock in the evening. Dr. B. F. Riley, of the State university, will officiate, and Mrs. J. V. McWhorter will play the wedding march. The church will be beautifully decorated in moss, palms, ferns, smilax and lilies of the valley. The bridemaids will be: Miss Clyde Young, maid of honor, sister to the bride; Miss Bessie Davison, Miss Maggie Davison and Miss Pope Maxwell. The groom’s attendants will be Mr. Emmett Lunceford, of Monroe, best man; Mr. C. M. Young, of Athens; Mr. Will Sanford, of Crawfordville, and Mr. S. W. Durham, of Woodville. Mr. John Durham, Mr. John McWhorter and Mr. J. C. Davison will act as ushers. The flowers girls are little Miss Russell Davison, Ellener Davison, Ruby Wilson and Kathleen Armstrong. The bride’s gown will be of white satin duchess trimmed in pearls and applique. She will carry white carnations. The bridemaids will wear organdle dresses and will carry lilies and maidenhair ferns. The bride’s long vail will be confined by a diamond sunburst, gift of the groom. Miss Young is a very handsome and charming young woman and has been the recipient of many attentions since her debut. Mr. Davison is connected with the Illinois Central railroad at New Orleans. Immediately after the marriage the bride and groom will leave for New Orleans, their future home.

Together, Joseph and Julia had two children—Joseph Briscoe Davison Jr. and Roy Benson Davison.

On June 13, 1900, Joseph and Julia were in fact living on Duffosat Street in the Orleans Parish of New Orleans. Joseph was a clerk for the railroad. The year 1900 was huge for Joseph and Julia with three major events taking place in their lives. They got married, Julia moved to New Orleans, and then she must have gotten pregnant within a month of their wedding as she gave birth to their first child, Joseph Jr., in Louisiana on December 16, 1900.

On May 16, 1901, 14 years after the death of his father, Joseph’s mother married Dr. Peyton Wade Douglas in Greene County, Georgia.

Joseph and Julia’s stay in New Orleans was short-lived. By 1905, they moved to Atlanta where they lived at 298 Central Avenue. Joseph was a clerk for Bell Telephone Company. By 1907, they moved to 30 Augusta Avenue in Atlanta and were still living there in 1908 when Roy was born on May 15. Joseph was now working as a traveling salesman.

On April 22, 1910, Joseph, Julia, and Joseph Jr. still lived in the Augusta Avenue house. The census enumerator spelled their last name “Davidson.” Joseph and Julia had been married for 10 years. Julia was enumerated as the mother of two children, both of which were living. Joseph was a traveling salesman for wholesale grocers. He was paying a mortgage on the house they lived in.

Tragedy struck the Davison family in the fall of 1913 with the premature death of Joseph on October 15, 1913, most likely in Atlanta. Unfortunately, I don’t know the circumstances of his death but I imagine it must have been unexpected as he was only 36 years old at the time. Joseph was buried in the family plot at Bairdstown Cemetery. The Atlanta Constitution published an “In Memoriam” for Joe on October 19, 1913:
In the death of Joe Davidson, [sic] the ranks of the salesmen who work out of Atlanta have suffered a loss which can never be fully filled. Mr. Davidson was one of the best representatives of that splendid class of men who today form the backbone of business, the salesmen. He represented the Frank E. Block company of this city for many years and his territory comprised the Southern road to Macon and the Georgia road from Crawfordsville south.
Mr. Davidson’s death took place last Tuesday night and he was buried at Bairdstown, Ga., on Thursday morning. Paul S. Pause represented his firm at the burial.
He was a member of U.C.T. Atlanta Council 18, and is sincerely mourned by his fellow members. While not a strictly religious man in the narrow sense of the term, Mr. Davidson was one of the best men it has ever been the writer’s pleasure to meet, and if all those who came in daily contact with him, will take his life as an example of how to live and keep it ever before them, he will have left a mark on his community which will work for good as long as mankind retains a memory.
Mr. Davidson is survived by his wife and two young children.
Joseph Jr. was 12 years old; Roy was 5 years old.

According to Wikipedia, U.C.T. was a society of traveling salesmen. “The Order of United Commercial Travelers was formed on January 16, 1888 by six men in a meeting at the Neil House in Columbus, Ohio to provide a society for traveling salesmen, or commercial travelers.”

It’s sad to note that his wife Julia also died prematurely at home on July 22, 1915. She was the same age as Joseph when he died—age 36.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hidden house treasures

I’ve written about family treasures in the past but tonight I’m writing about someone else’s treasures—things we found in our house that belonged to previous owners.

Earlier tonight, we watched the CBS News and one of the stories was about a third-grade classroom at a 100-year-old school in Manhattan where the students were digging for treasures in the class closet (Students dig up treasures buried under 100-year-old school in NYC). They interviewed several of the students and you could hear the excitement in their voice as they talked about the treasures they were finding. It reminded me of the treasures we found buried in my house three and a half years ago when we did a major remodel. I remember on several occasions we felt the same type of excitement.

It started early in the remodel—the construction crew tore down the drywall on the top level of the house, leaving a gap at the base of the floor. Before they tore the walls completely down, my oldest son headed upstairs and started digging in the gap to see what he could find. The photo below shows some of the items he found after a couple of digs.

On another occasion, the crew found a copy of a January 1969 issue of Playboy magazine. That caused a lot of excitement amongst the crew so my husband gave them the magazine. Our two adult boys sure were mad at their Dad when they found out. He didn’t even ask them if they wanted it!

Then on another day, the crew found this stash of beer cans buried in the walls. The crew were all local and had grown up in the neighborhood. One of them said he used to hang out at this house with the boys that previously lived here and he may have even hidden some of the beer cans in the wall.

We lived in the house during the construction so when I got home from work every day, I’d check the house over to see what they had done that day. On one occasion, I found an Eveready battery and an empty box of candy cigarettes standing on the window seal at the top of the stairs. Having grown up watching the Flintstones, I got a chuckle out of the candy box.

Once they removed the drywall from the stairway, I noticed a huge stash of chewing gum wrappers stuffed in one step. At the time, I wondered why would some kid stuff empty gum wrappers in the walls. But then I wondered, why not!

I believe most of the items found up until this point were all from the family that lived in the house immediately before us. As far as we can remember, there were three boys in that family and they most likely had bedrooms upstairs so they were probably who had placed the hidden treasures.

Once the construction moved downstairs, we learned about another family that had lived in the house during the 1950s and 1960s—the Prathers. They had a little boy named Jackson. These are some of his school papers.

He went by Jack

This one is dated January 21, 1958

Jackson must have liked Superman. Here’s a Clark Kent trading card dated 1965.

They were God-loving people.

And they either attended, or knew someone who attended, the dedication of the St. Louis Arch on May 25, 1968.

The last item we found was this juice glass, still in perfect condition. It was sitting on a shelf underneath the stairwell where we have a huge storage area. It now sits on top of my family history bookcase as a reminder that others were here before us.

None of these treasures are of any value but, like the students in the CBS News story, I found it exciting and fun to find them and they are all a part of the history of our house.