Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The precious links that bind us...

Oral family histories are threads that weave in and out of each generation.
As time passes, so do the storytellers.
And slowly these tales and the facts behind them fade away.

My Mother was not a story teller. 

Blessed with a long family heritage, she actually felt it was a liability.
Therefore, she never sat down and shared our family history with me.
However, everyday something would prompt her to recount tidbits.
When Mother died, I lost my link with the past.
And left behind are many unanswered questions.

Who was he?

My great grandfather,
Charles Gano King
is quite an enigma.
Born in Ohio, he
lived in Chicago and
later wed Sadie Blue.
Then made a fortune
in gold. Where, how,
or when, I don't know.
In March of 1892 
he died just shy of 
age 40 in Manhattan.
A few hints remain -
An 1880 census 
stating they resided
in Denver, Colorado.
A Pikes Peak geode
that Sadie kept on
her dressing table.
One solid gold spoon
crafted from his "lode".

The above are the substantiated facts.  Beyond them remain dim recollections of family folklore.

I do know one thing.

Charles left Sadie Blue King behind with a lot of money.
Like most ladies of her class she lived a private life. And just like her husband, she left behind a scant trail of facts. However she also left a sizeable estate of baubles, land, securities, and cash.

My grandmother (Bessie Louise, shown right) was a child of that privilege. She married, divorced, and never worked a day in her life. Charles' legacy supported her throughout and again, she left my Mother some cash, beautiful baubles, and family heirlooms.

And... a string of pearls.

At the turn of the century nothing was chicer than a long strand of REAL pearls.

Edith Kingdon Gould was famous for her wit, beauty, and pearls. An actress, she somehow bagged a railroad magnate and a 133 Pearl Parure from Tiffany's valued at
$1 Million ($23 Million in 2013).

Pierre Cartier wanted the poshest location on Fifth Avenue. Morton F. Plant owned a mansion on the corner of Fifth and 52nd. Mr. Plant knew that Mrs. Plant wanted her own million dollar pearl necklace.

So, he traded his mansion for a pearl necklace.

Sadie loved the opera.

All of her life she had a season box
at the Metropolitan Opera House.
And with it, all the accoutrements.
My mother transformed these relics.
A floor length persian lamb cape
became a chic jacket, coat, and hat.
Gold enameled guilloche' opera
glasses were traded for a new TV.
And... Sadie's opera length pearls
became Ethel's mad money.

I never saw that string of pearls.

You see, Ethel never wore that necklace.
Except for the single pearl she took from it
and transformed into a ring she cherished.

Nobody, including my Dad knew it existed.
That secret strand was hidden in a closet safe.
Ready whenever Mom needed something extra.
All she did was snip off the requisite number
of those precious orbs, cash them in, and shop!
It was her ultimate security blanket.

What's the real story?

Did Charles give them to Sadie?

Or did she later purchase them
on a wild spree or whim?

I wonder if Bessie ever wore them?
If not, why not?

How did Ethel keep the secret?

While I'll never know the answers,
at least my kids will now have this
record of what I do know.

Memories are more precious than pearls. Share them NOW!