All roads lead to Fresno

The upcoming Make-a-Blanket Day sponsored by my nearest chapter of Project Linus got me thinking about Project Linus in general, and so I popped on over to the website.

While I was there I saw that this year’s conference would be held in Normal, Illinois, which is not that far from Edwardsville, Illinois, where my father was born and where I still have family.

Over the past couple of years I have gone to Edwardsville for Bucthafest, a family/farm celebration on my father’s mother’s side of the family; my father’s father’s side of the family, however, has remained a mystery, so this past weekend, I started to do a little digging and was surprised to learn that in my life, all roads lead to Fresno.

I used to summer in Fresno.

At some point after my father (who was a teacher) and I were done with school for the year, he and I would make the drive down the Central Valley of California to stay with my maternal grandmother.

My father would work at the same summer job he had held when he was in high school and college, developing and delivering photographs, and I would bask in my maternal grandmother’s admiration as I went about the business of being a child, unencumbered by anything but play.

Despite my great love of Harriet the Spy, and the fact that I pined for a spy route of my very own, I had no idea of the stories that lurked in my immediate landscape, and if I could live my life over, I would go back to those summers, bring a note book, and listen much more carefully to my grandmother’s conversations and transcribe the interesting bits.

But I cannot live my life over, so this weekend, I went in search of my father’s paternal family. I quickly came across a family tree that detailed my father’s grandmother’s family. His grandmother, Mary Thurnau, had a brother, named Otto Thurnau, and a sister named Amelia Thurnau.

I knew what had happened to Mary. She had married my great grandfather, they had a lot of children, of whom my grandfather was one, and then she, and my great grandfather died in Madison County, Illinois where each of them had been born.

The surprise came when I found the obituary for Mary’s brother, Otto.

I learned from Otto’s obituary in the January 24, 1933, edition of The Fresno Bee/The Republican, that my father’s great uncle was a metal worker, that he had lived in the Hawaiian Islands, that he had helped rebuild San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906, that he had moved to Fresno in 1919, that he had a sister named Amelia who had been living with him at the time of his death, and from the ad that appeared in the newspaper to the immediate right of his obituary, I learned that Gottschalks (which was the be all end all of department stores in the Central Valley) had Fleisher Yarns on sale (in spring shades) for the “sensational” price of 14ยข:

Otto Thurnau's obituary next to an advertisement for yarn
Otto Thurnau’s obituary next to an advertisement for yarn

Which I took as a cosmic sign that I should get back to my “If pigs (and dogs and birds and bears and frogs and lions and turtles) could fly” afghan which will be going to Project Linus.

Last Friday I was able to start piecing the project together, but found that I needed a turtle to finish the first row, and I had made exactly none.

I remedied that by working on all six turtles that would be needed. Here is how far I had gotten with them as of this morning:

Six turtles to be
Six turtles to be

and here is how they they looked in the late afternoon:

Six nearly completed turtles
Six nearly completed turtles

While five were in need of their heads, one was ready to have the hexagon round worked:

One turtle, ready to become a hexagon
One turtle, ready to become a hexagon

I used what daylight was left to finish one of the lions, which I will need to complete the third row when I get to it:

I finish my first lion face
I finish my first lion face

No doubt one of the things I love about crafting in general and crochet in specific, is that the “brick walls” you run into are of your own making and can be easily frogged; ferreting out the truth of a family history, however, can be complicated by hidden agendas and secrets, and the web of deceptions and half truths they create can be much more difficult to unravel than mohair.

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2 thoughts on “All roads lead to Fresno

  1. Somewhere in a sidebar on Ravelry, I saw, “All Roads Lead to Fresno,” which I followed to your blog. I spent my teenage years and some of my 20s in Fresno… & think maybe all roads do lead there! I even worked at Gottschalk’s during Christmas vacation when I was in college!

    I can also completely understand the complications that pop up in researching family when secrets have been kept for generations. Best of luck on that front!

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