Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Poor King Tut

It wasn’t great being King Tut. He had a cleft palate, a club foot, a bone disease, and died of a broken leg exacerbated by severe malaria. That picture doesn’t come close to matching up to the King Tut exhibit that Mark and I saw in the mid-1980s.

Tut’s funerary finery— magnificent golden treasures and Egyptian works of art—gave the distinct impression that the pharoah was a graceful, young man who led a golden life. Only his death at 19 marred the perfect picture. King Tut may have lived in the “Golden Age of the Pharoahs,” but he certainly wasn’t the golden boy that the dazzling artifacts from his tomb portrayed. His DNA profile revealed genetic diseases which were the result of inbreeding. Marriage between siblings was common among royalty in ancient Egypt, and Tut’s father and mother were brother and sister. Not only were King Tut’s chronic diseases painful and crippling—he walked with a cane– he also had to deal with the turmoil caused by his grandfather who tried to force Egyptians to accept monotheism by worshiping the sun god Alton.

What I find really interesting about King Tut’s story is the use of advanced radiological and genetic techniques that unlocked the puzzle of his genealogy and general health. Successfully determining Tut’s DNA profile is another step towards helping modern doctors identify specific diseases, and to develop effective drugs to treat them. And using DNA to determine an ancestral line is just plain fun.


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I am deeply grateful for the freedoms that allow me to celebrate Thanksgiving according to my own convictions and my own conscience. Empty chairs around Thanksgiving tables of many military families will be visual reminders that our freedoms are bought with a price. Although it’s appropriate to express prayers of gratitude for our military each and every day, I look forward to a special, designated day to offer thankful prayers to the Lord for the men and women who serve and sacrifice on behalf of our great country, here in the United States and in far-off lands.

Not only am I grateful for those who currently serve, but also for those who served in the past, like my dad and uncles. Dad celebrated Thanksgiving in Korea when he was twenty-two years old. In the following letter, he describes his Thanksgiving holiday and activities.

Nov. 28, 1952
Dearest Folks,

The last couple of days have been holidays and we have taken full advantage of them.

Yesterday morning we went hunting, few of us guys. But we couldn’t spot anything. We really fired our weapons a lot. I have an automatic carbine and it fires about 30 rounds as fast as you can blink an eye.

When we got back we had a big Thanksgiving dinner. It was good and seems as though everybody done their best to make the day enjoyable. Today the whole Regt. had what is known as a field day. We stayed out all day and played organized games & sports of all kinds. We had a good time but we all are very tired. In the morning I played football and this afternoon we had vollyball & relay races & tug of war against Co’s & different plattoons.

Tomorrow is inspection day and we get back to business.

While chow was being served today George Co. had some more trouble. While on line they were always getting a bunch of men killed or wounded. It wasn’t anyones fault, just seemed bad luck. One of their guys stepped on something today, it exploded & injured 13 of them. None of them were hurt too bad, but so many things like that happen on the hill it just makes them seem very unlucky.

After all the activity I’m pretty tired so will go to bed early.

How is Margaret & _____. Hope all are well. Tell her if Ray gets over hear while were off line I’ll get a pass and go see him. He’ll have a good deal if he stays in the artillery.

Guess I should have a little nephew or cousin by now. Wish Margaret & it a Merry Christmas for me.

I’m just waiting for the 1st of the year so I can say next month I’m going home.

Well guess I’ll close for now and write more later.

Lots of Love,

Happy Thanksgiving! And I hope you have a field day!

I am the keeper of Grandma’s Bookcase and this is what I found.

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Such a Cutie

George Washington Young circa 1883

Grandpa George looks like he would have been a lot of fun to have had in one of my preschool classes. The striped stockings are adorable. Dad wrote on the back of the picture that “S. Wilk and Nannie were very careful to see that George was always dressed in the latest fashion. He [George] knew how to love his grandson. Me!”

George was the only child of S. Wilk and Nannie’s to live past infancy, and I’m sure that he did not lack for any good thing.

I am the keeper of Grandma’s Bookcase and this is what I found.

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Washing Fluid 001

Washing Fluid.

Two Table spoonful of coal oil, one table spoonful of Babbit’s Potash, two table spoonful of Salsoda, four gallons of water.

Directions for use—to the water add the last named ingredient with sufficient soap to lather; stir well, then add the other ingredient; stir & mix well, soak the clothes, rub soap on all the solid soiled spots, boil well stir while boiling take out in warm water & rinse well. G. W. Young.

I wonder if Grandpa George was the clothes washer for the family, or perhaps his job was to concoct the washing fluid. “Babbit’s Potash” is lye. Salsoda, or washing soda, was a common cleanser. I read that taxidermists immerse animal skulls in a solution of salsoda and boiling water to break down the meaty tissue and degrease the bones.

Between the lye, the salsoda, and the boiling water, I suppose the clothes got really clean. The whole process sounds like a lot of work.

I am the keeper of Grandma’s Bookcase and this is what I found.

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Just like Grandma's for $1250 in Picayune, MS

Just like Grandma's for $1250 in Picayune, MS

You, too, can have your very own “Grandma’s Bookcase.” There is one for sale on eBay. The seller calls it a “secretary desk.” Since our bookcase/desk had resided in Grandma Maude’s house for many years, and because its primary function was to hold books, the family appellation for this piece of furniture was, simply, “Grandma’s Bookcase.” Most of the books stored on its shelves are currently available through Internet downloads or Amazon.com as republishings. Even orginal copies of many of the books are available for reasonable prices through Internet booksellers. Anyone can replicate Grandma’s Bookcase and it’s books with a little help from the Internet.

I wish that I could tell that to some girls in my second grade class that gathered during recess to tell fairy tales to each other. Over and over we retold the familiar “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “The Three Little Pigs,” and “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

One day I regaled the group with a new story: “The Necklace of Truth.” My audience listened attentively as I told about a girl our age who had developed a habit of telling lies. Her parents took her to a wise man, and he confidently administered the cure in the form of a beautiful necklace. The girl proudly wore the necklace everywhere. She quickly learned that whenever she stretched the truth, the necklace lengthened to the floor; when she told an outright lie, the necklace choked her. The girl learned to always tell the truth, and she returned the necklace to the wise man so that another girl could wear it.

The response to my story offering startled me. “You made that story up,” one girl insisted. Another said, “You are not telling the truth, just like the girl in the story.” I protested that the story could be found in their Grandma’s Bookcase. “You must ask your mother’s permission to read the books, and be very careful with them,” I explained. The girls insisted that no such books existed, and the story group dissolved that day.

Forty-five years later, I still want to share the library stored in Grandma’s Bookcase. I have cataloged a dozen or so of the books into LibraryThing, beginning with the 1880s readers that I loved in elementary school, and still love to read today. Go to the bottom of the sidebar on the right, and click on “Grandma’s Bookcase” to see what has been entered so far.

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Allie Griswold

Allie Griswold

Allie Griswold

I love Allie Griswold.  Allie was my mother’s maternal grandmother; her given name was Rena Alberta Look, but family and friends called her Allie.  Although I never met her, I love her because my mother loves her.

I took an immediate liking to Grandma Griswold because we share a love of reading. Although her formal education ended with third grade, she continued to learn by studying her grandchildren’s school books.  Mom and Grandma studied together in the evenings, swapping text books and library books as Mom did her homework.

The first thing that I learned about the state of Mississippi was how to spell Mississippi. Mom taught me the fun way that she had learned from Grandma— M-I-CROOKED LETTER-CROOKED LETTER-I-CROOKED LETTER-CROOKED LETTER-I-HUMPBACK-HUMPBACK-I.

Using crooked letters and humpbacks to spell Mississippi is common knowledge in southern states, but I have yet to find anyone outside of my family who can repeat Grandma’s rhyme about “punkins.” 


Several of  Mom’s stories about Grandma included her waist-length hair.  Mom described how Grandma draped her pony tail across her shoulder and twisted it into a rope.  When it was completely twisted, she wound it round and round into a bun on the back of her head, and secured it with hair pens.  Grandma’s grandchildren were fond of combing her very long hair.  Once, after combing it out,  Mom tried a new technique of rolling her hair. Starting at the ends, she rolled the entire length up in the comb, and to her surprise, the rolled hair was now securely entwined in the comb.  It took some work to untangle Grandma’s hair, and Mom learned not to do that again.

I imagine that Grandma would have enjoyed reading the “Little House” series by Laura Ingals Wilder that Mom and I read together when I was 11 and 12 years old.  Both Grandma and Laura were born not long after the Civil War into farming families in Midwestern states—Grandma in “Ioway,” as she called it, and Laura in nearby Wisconsin. The Ingals family lived for a time in Iowa, eventually settling in the West, while Grandma’s family chose to go south to Texas and Oklahoma.  Mom pointed out to me that she was familiar with how Laura’s father drank his tea because Grandpa Griswold (Allie’s husband) drank his tea the same way. Both men followed the custom of pouring their tea into a saucer to cool, and then drinking it straight from the saucer.  Laura and Grandma died within a year of each other: Laura in 1957 at age 90, and Grandma in 1956, at age 84.

Grandma died a few months before I was born, so it was by way of Mom’s love-colored stories that I was introduced to her.  Even as a child, I recognized that Grandma loved Mom, and Mom loved Grandma.  So, I felt special when I learned that I am the only one of Grandma’s family born on her birthday—September 30th.

 Happy birthday, beloved Grandma Griswold!

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Hannah and her best friend, who is our guest for the week, are cooking up a storm. While they looked for new recipes to try, I organized my collection of cookbooks. Before long I was reading cookbooks, too. I enjoyed reading ’90s … Then and Now: A Historical Cookbook published by the Howe Chamber of Commerce in 1991. My great-great-grandfather, Samuel Wilkerson Young (1834-1909), settled in Howe in 1874, when it was called Summit, and established a residence, a general store, and served as post master.

The oldest recipe included in the book is Samuel’s formula for Seidlitz powders, a forerunner of Alka Seltzer.

Receipt for Seidlitz Powders

8 oz. Rochelle Salts
6 oz. Bicarbonate of Soda
(If for physic, only 4 oz. soda)
Mix will together
4 oz. Tartaric Acid kept separate

For a drink, take 2 Tea Spoonful of the Salts & Soda dissolved in water and a half Tea Spoonful of the acid in a separate Cup. Pour together and drink while effervescing.
—Samuel Wilkerson Young
January 30, 1870

Learning about the little formula that Samuel wrote down 139 years ago provided a glimpse into his 19th century medicine cabinet. It also helped me appreciate the epitaph of Mary Ann Lowder, purported to be located in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Here lies the body of Mary Ann Lowder;
She burst whilst drinking a seidlitz powder;
Called from this world to her heavenly rest,
She should have waited till it effervesced.

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