Posts Tagged ‘now’

“What the World Needs Now”

June 23, 2016

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Then and Now

July 3, 2011

Thanks to Sharon K for the below images except those of Mr Bikesafe:

Boy George

Kirstie Alley

Bridget Bardot

Nick Nolte

Cybill Shepherd

Ozzy Osbourne

Clint Eastwood

Jack Nicholson

Arnold  Schwarzenegger

Mr. Bikesafe

Family History Uncovered

December 10, 2010

I have been doing a bit of research on and ran across this story. It is not about my family but certainly puts today’s economic stress into perspective:

 How Family History Uncovered a Far-Reaching Secret

On December 22, 1933, something wonderful and unexplained happened to Felice May. It was the night before her birthday – her 4th — and two days before Christmas, but in the past, neither day had been any different than the other chore-filled days of her Depression-era childhood.

But on that night, Felice’s parents did something they had never done before. In their rickety Model T with its tattered canvas roof, they drove into town, showed Felice the dazzling Christmas lights, and led her to the five-and-dime store, where they offered her a choice of a doll or a wooden pony on a pull-string. She chose the pony. It was likely her only store-bought toy.

It was a night Felice would never forget. But it was also a night that left her with an abiding mystery that lasted through the years: how could her parents have afforded such a gift when they were so down on their luck?

After all, Felice’s parents had no money, and such an indulgence was beyond anything she had known before. Even today, at 81, she remembers the pleasure that wooden pony gave her and how she pulled it around the hardscrabble farm she grew up on outside Canton, Ohio. That wooden horse brought untold joy into an otherwise bleak and threadbare childhood. Its affect, even three-quarters of a century later, is clear enough. Today, Felice May raises miniature ponies. But how, she’s always wondered, could her parents have afforded such a gift when they, like millions of other Americans, were so down on their luck. It was I who provided, or rather stumbled, across the answer.

In June 2008, my 80-year-old mother, Virginia, handed me a battered old black suitcase that had belonged to her mother. Even as an investigative reporter, it took me a little time to figure out what I was looking at. Here’s what I could piece together from the contents of the suitcase: on December 18, 1933, a Canton resident who called himself “B. Virdot” took out a tiny ad in the local newspaper offering to help his fellow townspeople in a modest way so that they and their children might know the joy of Christmas. He asked them to write to him and tell them what they were going through, and he pledged that just as no one would ever learn his true name, he would never reveal the names of those who wrote to him.

He was deluged with letters, all of them dated December 18, 1933. A few days later, the mysterious B. Virdot sent out a flurry of 150 checks for five dollars each to families across the town. Back then, five dollars was more like 80 dollars.

I came to realize that the name, “B. Virdot,” was a combination of his three daughter’s names – Barbara, Virginia (my mother), and Dorothy, or “Dotsy” as she was known.

Among the letters in the suitcase was one from Felice May’s mother, Edith.

“If I only had five dollars, I would think I am in heaven. I would buy a pair of shoes for my oldest boy in school. His toes are all out & no way to give him a pair. He was six in October. Then I have a little girl who will be four two days before Xmas + a boy of 18 months. I could give them all something for Xmas + I would be very happy… Please do help me! My husband don’t know I am writing & I haven’t even a stamp, but I am going to beg the mailman to post this for me.”

The postman did just that.

The girl about to turn four was Felice and a portion of the money provided by B. Virdot bought that wooden pony. When I shared the letter with Felice, she was barely able to speak. And who was this mysterious Santa named “B. Virdot?” He was my grandfather. His true name: Sam Stone.

For the past two years I have been using plus a handful of genealogy tricks and tools to track down the descendants of the letter-writers. I wanted to learn what had become of them, wondering if they survived the Depression, if they had ever come to know some measure of comfort, and what affect – if any – the small gift might have had on them.

At the same time, I dug into my own grandfather’s past in search of an answer about why he had made the gift. Both of these family history quests yielded some stunning surprises – so many that I was able to compile them into a book, A Secret Gift.

Felice May’s story is but one of scores that pay tribute to the character of those who endured the hard times. It is also a testament to the power of small gestures and the need for all of us to stay connected, particularly in times of hardship.