Coming to America – Day 2

June 20th

Our mission today was to travel to Cheswick, PA to find Deer Creek Cemetery and the graves of our Grandfather George and Uncle Felix.  We had breakfast at the hotel and set off with an overcast sky.  The scenery was beautiful, so green and so different from the Los Angeles area!  We found the very old cemetery and set out looking for the graves.  Gary had looked up the information, and we knew which sections they were in, or so we thought.  We all got a lot of steps in as we went back and forth, row after row looking at gravestones.

deer creek cemetery.

I personally find old cemeteries very interesting and can wander for hours looking at the headstones and wondering who these people were, what their lives were like, etc.  A lot of the people buried here were born in the mid- to late 1800s.

Kyle and Clark found George Despot’s headstone (1888-1941), and we gathered around.  He died of black lung from working in the coal mines.  It was emotional for Gary and I, remembering our mother had told us and knowing that she had been here when he was buried.

It started lightly raining as we looked for Felix’s grave.  Back and forth, up and down we went in the grass.  We couldn’t find the grave, but our shoes sure got wet!  We finally went to the office, and the groundskeeper looked it up right away, so we followed him in his vehicle to the correct section.  We found Felix’s headstone (1916-1947), who died of a burst appendix, and that of this daughter Judith.  We thought of the stories our mother had told us of her big brother.

Our mother had a younger brother who also came to America; his name was Albert, or Uncle Al as we all called him.  He joined the Navy and ended up settling in San Pedro, CA to work as a fisherman.  After our mother’s dad and brother Felix passed away, she moved out to Long Beach, CA to be near her brother Al.  Our next stop was in memory of him.  We climbed into the van and headed to Oakmont Country Club where Uncle Al had worked as a caddie when he was a kid.  Gary fondly remembers Uncle Al telling stories of working at Oakmont.  A little history for those who don’t follow golf:  the course at Oakmont Country Club, designed in 1903, is one of the most difficult in North America.  It has hosted more combined USGA and PGA championships than any other course in the United States.  We arrived at the guard shack and explained that we just wanted to go to the pro shop and pick up a few souvenirs because Uncle Al had worked here many, many years ago.  The gentleman gave us the once over (being sure we were properly dressed because golf courses can have dress codes) and said we could go in.  What we could see of the golf course was absolutely beautiful as well as the buildings.  We picked up some gifts to take back home and set off.

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a thanksgiving to remember

as i sit here, all done for at least today’s work day, i find myself thinking, “man, i wish we could rewind to a week ago.”  that’s right, i’m already sadly missing the thanksgiving holiday celebrated last week, and even though Christmas is on the horizon, i’m sure i’m not the only one feeling this way.

to keep this post from feeling too “down,” i want to share with you, my kind readers, all the fun we had last week up in the great smoky mountains.  it was my first major holiday away from my family (all grown up!), and although i dearly missed mom, dad, kyle, clark, and kari, i felt quite welcomed by phillip and his family on this special occasion.

it started last wednesday morning when mr. davis, mrs. davis, and emily came to pick up phillip and me bright and early for the drive up to gatlinburg.  we were packed in snug as bugs as we trekked up through north georgia in the great smoky mountains.  as you may know, there have been treacherous wildfires in that part of the state, and although they didn’t bother our trip up there too much, please keep in your thoughts the folks of tennesse and georgia around those parts, especially those right in and near gatlinburg for the fires they are suffering through right now.  this town is certainly more than a tourist attraction, and we all hope they can recover in no time.

our first destination was the cabin that cousin tony found and booked for our group.  with ten of us total, a large space was certainly necessary.  well, this three-story cabin (complete with hot tub and bunk beds) was just the ticket for our stay.  after quickly exploring, we kids unloaded the car of the luggage, treats, and drinks (can’t forget the wine!).

phillip and i were a bit famished afterwards, so we took the car into town for a bite to eat.  we parked in a deck towards the north end of downtown and moseyed along the sidewalks, taking in our first sights and sounds of this charming town.  as we walked, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones in gatlinburg for the weekend; the shops and attractions were already bustling with plenty of other visitors.  before we went too far, we spotted the pancake pantry and knew that’s where we’d be eating lunch.  this cozy restaurant is a welcoming combination of cracker barrel and the original pancake house (only helpful if you’ve ever been to either).  the service was amiable and the food was tasty.  phillip’s buckwheat pancakes were irresistible, and my buttermilk pancakes and sausage were hitting the spot also.

after paying we strolled around a little bit more before heading back to the cabin to greet the rest of the family.  once all there, it was mr. davis, mrs. davis, grandma lorraine, uncle steve, aunt pam, cousin tony and his girlfriend priscila, phillip, emily, and myself.  talk about a good group!  we spent the rest of wednesday night and all day thursday eating (constantly), playing card games (how about that euchre!), drinking (of course), and relaxing.  the weather was quite agreeable, especially thanksgiving day, and i couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant setting than the lush colors of the changing trees that surrounded us.  can’t you just picture it!

friday morning arrived and i think it’s safe to say there was a mild case of cabin fever going around.  see what i did there!  but really, we all needed to get out and stretch our legs, so we caravanned into town for some good old fashioned tourism.  while some folks went for breakfast, others of us were immediately interested in checking out the local ole smoky moonshine distillery.  that’s right, not even eleven a.m. and we were throwing back shots!  our friendly bartender briana was patient as we tasted and rated each of the thirteen moonshines they had available.  with no food in our stomachs just yet, you can imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ time we were kicking up in there!

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