Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Pilgramage Part II: The Return!

And we're back!

Of course, you know that we've been back for a couple weeks now. It's Memorial day, though - a time to remember those who've come before... and it's the weekend, when I generally spend time in the office playing my online video game. It seemed like a good time to update you all on my recent trip to Arizona with my family.

Besides... I have to do something while the software is loading on my new computer... oi! Ya spend six years getting the box juuuust right... and then you have to get a new one set up just like it in a day? I tell ya...

Anyway, what follows is a mixture of travelogue, photo show, and a bit of insight into the things I learned on my little pilgrimage back to the land of my ancestors. You might be interested in some of the photos, a video or two... or you might not care a whit about what I learned on the trip. Really, this post is more for me, my friends, and family who want to see what I saw on my journey to explore my familial past. Don't worry, I'll get back to letting you know about my current and upcoming projects soon enough (as if I hadn't already :) ). For now, though... lets head back a couple of weeks to the land of sun and - snow?

Day 1 (Click here for a slide-show) We landed in Phoenix in the early evening and got the rental car situation taken care of (we drove a Chevy HHR all over the state, and were very impressed with the car! Great gas mileage, a solid ride... maybe Detroit is starting to "get it" finally!). It was late enough that we didn't want to head too far - so we grabbed dinner at an Old Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix and then found a Holiday Inn for the night. Not too much to tell!

Day 2 (Click here for a slide-show) We set out for Flagstaff, which was to be our "home base" for the next couple of days. On the way we stopped in Black Rock Springs - a spot my Dad lived in while my Grandfather was working on the Black Rock Highway (Grandpa was a road engineer for most of his life... he worked on most of the major roads going through the state of Arizona at one time or another...). We got to Flagstaff in the early afternoon, found lodging at the Canyon Inn, and then visited the Lowell Observatory when the sun went down. Fun fact about Flagstaff: It's the world's first Dark Sky City - and that makes the sky AMAZING at night (not that my camera really did it justice...)

Day 3 (Click here for a slide-show) We headed to the Grand Canyon... in the SNOW! Now, Flagstaff has a higher elevation than Phoenix, so we were expecting the temperature to be lower than "shorts and t-shirt weather..." but none of us expected THIS! I could write more about the drive, but this video tells the story just fine... and the photos in the slide show give you a good idea of what we saw when we finally made it to the canyon!
On Day 4 (Click here for a slide-show) we headed East to see Dad's cousins in St. Johns. On the way we passed through Holbrook - the town my grandmother was born in. This isn't in-and-of-itself a major distinction; she didn't spend a lot of time in Holbrook, to the best of my knowledge. We had a pleasant surprise waiting for us when we stopped, though... at an honest-to-god "Wigwam Hotel," we found a Studebaker pickup truck like my grandfather's. Mom and I spent quite a few minutes by the truck, while she told stories of being picked up from the bus stop in one like this, playing in it, and generally re-living old memories. Then it was back on the road. Once we hit St. Johns we spent some time with Dad's cousins John Dale and Bobby Lee, and then it was back down the road. We were planning on making it down to Phoenix that night... but it'd been a pretty full day, so we ended up holing up for the night in Show Low (there's a funny story behind the name of that town... click here!)

Day 5 (Click here for a slide-show) We headed for Phoenix by the way of Pine (where my parents got married) and Payson (where my Dad, Grandparents - and I! - lived for a while). After taking a look at the church my parents were married in, my great-grandmother Alice's house, and a couple other spots along the way, we finally made it to Scottsdale and the Sheraton Desert Oasis, which was to be our home base for the rest of the trip. It was a welcome stop (especially for Trish!)

On Day 6 (Click here for a slide-show) we headed to Miami (the old-timers call it "Mi-ammah") and Globe - sort of the ancestral home of the Phillips side of the family. My great grandfather Joseph Alva Phillips worked for the copper mining company there, and my Grandfather's whole generation was raised there. We met up with some of Dad's relations at his cousin Frank's house, sat about and had a good time, and then headed out for Mexican food in Globe (apparently, a Phillips family get-together tradition... who knew?) Outside the Mexican restaurant was a reminder of Arizona's... tough-on-crime attitude.

Day 7 was a "down day" for Trish and I... Dad and mom went to visit some friends from High School while Trish and I hung in the condo for a bit... and then, that evening, we went over to Dad's cousin Bob's house for dinner. While we were there I got to see something of a family heirloom... Dad's cousin Linda showed me her copy of the autobiography of Christopher Layton (now out of print) - Layton was probably one of our more famous relatives (at least in the Mormon Church... but hey, we've got Davy Crockett on our side, too! :) )

On Day 8 (Click here for a Slide-show) Mom, Dad and I set out to visit Kingman, where they first met. Along the way we passed through Wikeup (where Mom's family lived for a time) and the Big Sandy Valley. We couldn't get down to the farms my Mom lived in in Wikeup - but one of them had a collection of farm equipment spread out over the property - many of which were similar to the equipment my grandfather used. My grandfather Harold owned a farm somewhere in the Big Sandy valley, but we weren't able to find the site no matter how hard we looked (and believe me, we looked!) Kingman - when we finally got there - was interesting... all the remains of the high school my Mom and Dad went to is the band room (where they spent most of their time), and after much looking, we were able to find the house my Mom lived in (she was amazed it was still standing). On the way out of town we stopped by a restaurant that my dad worked at when he was about 16 years old (it was called "The Platter" back then... now it's under a new name and closed).

On Day 9 (Click here for a Slide-show) we stayed in the Phoenix area and met up with some relatives. The morning started with a visit to Dad's cousin Patsy, then we had lunch with my aunt Bonnie and uncle Charlie (and his awesome wife Marcia, who we just fell in love with). That evening, we had dinner with Dad's half-sister Melva and her daughter Jan, who had a TON of family records for us - and were nice enough to go to Kinko's with us to copy them.

Day 10 (Click here for a Slide-show) was largely spent at with my Aunt Bonnie and her husband Steve at their house in Chandler. Mom and Bonnie don't get the chance to see each other that often, and it was great to see them hang out and share stories about growing up. After a very nice lunch, we visited the house Mom lived in while she was was in Tempe. When we went around the back, we got a nice surprise - my grandmother planted a pecan tree in the back yard the year she, Mom, and her sisters moved in... but the tree never yielded any nuts while Mom lived there. She got to eat a nut from the tree for the first time. A nice moment!

Day 11 (Click here for a Slide-show) was our last day in Arizona - and it turned out to be a real adventure! The goal was to meet our cousin Sharon Hinton in Geronimo - she was to show us the private cemetery where my great grandfather is buried. Seems like it should have been simple enough, right? That was before Dad said, "Aw, what the hell... lets take the Apache Trail!" Now, the Apache Trail is scenic - with lots of saguaro cacti, some water along the way, a fair amount of wildlife... and 22 miles of unpaved road! What could have been a couple hours' drive ended up taking about 5 as we crept up and down hill. It was gorgeous country, to be sure... but I'm glad I didn't tell Enterprise about the trip before I turned the car in :) We finally got off the unpaved road at Roosevelt dam - a dam my grandfather helped to build the roads in and out of. We finally met up with Sharon in the bustling town of Geronimo late in the day, and she took us up to the cemetery. While we were there she passed on a wealth of information about my great grandfather's side of the family - in fact, she's written several books about it! On the way back, we stopped in Globe again to check the county offices for some records... and then it was back to Scottsdale to pack for our trip home. Not too much sleep later... and we were back on our way back to the Northwest!

So... what did I learn on this little Odyssey of mine? Well, I learned a few things...

- I learned about the fluid nature of memory... everyone at these family gatherings had memories of the past... but that didn't mean they had the same memories about the people, places, and things that they shared with others in the room. My aunt Bonnie remembers my grandfather in an entirely different way than my mother does... my Dad's grandfather had a lot of secrets he wasn't privy to until this trip. This is one of the reasons I'm so driven to document my family's history; somewhere down the line someone is going to what know what happened to bring them to the place they are in time... and the more we record this stuff, the easier it'll be for my nephew, or his kids, or whomever to figure that out.

- I learned that about the power of objects... I never knew my Mother's father; he died before I was born. I can't tell you what it meant to me to see things like the ones he used in his life... a tractor... a pickup truck; I will never have known him, but imagining working the land, hauling a rake behind his tractor... that makes me feel closer to him than I can describe.

- I learned that the places people have lived help put their lives in perspective... if you've been lucky enough to meet my parents, you know that they're quirky people. They make an impression on anyone who meets them... it's just who they are, and how they make their way in the world. It's something I love them for - but like any offspring, I've had my moments of embarasment at some of those parental quirks. It's just one of those parents-and-kids kinda things. Seeing where they lived growing up... how they lived... gives me a deeper understanding of what shaped them into the people they are today; and it helps me understand how they shaped me into who I am today!

- And I learned that everyone's got a story... but then, I already knew that! Still... it's a variation on the theme above. The people who shaped my parents were shaped by the people before them - and those before them. And each one of those people have tales to be told about them - stories as big as a Shakespearean history, and as small as Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. When you sit down and listen to people talk about their parents, or their parents' parents, you begin to see the big picture - the drama of each individual life that, when put together with the other lives in your family, make up the saga you yourself are part of.

It was a long time to be out of town... it maybe wasn't the most restful vacation I might have taken... but for those things, for the people I met, and the quiet conversations with my parents, I'll always be glad I took this trip with my family. It's definitely made my life richer.

I might suggest, if your parents are still with you, that you consider doing the same. You might be surprised what you find out - and you'll always look back on the time you spent with them with relish!

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