Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Gone but not forgotten
This weekend I went to the cemetery
to "celebrate" what would have been
my Mother's 98th birthday. Gone nine
years, she is not forgotten. My regret
is not asking more questions. Oral
family histories are the threads that
weave generations together. Sadly as
time passes, so do our storytellers. So
while I'm still here, I thought I'd jot one down for posterity.
My Mother was not a story teller. 
Blessed with a long family heritage, her
American ancestors stretched far back to
the seventeenth century. And while said
lineage was oft celebrated, the details of
recent generations were rarely discussed.
I never knew why her father left when
she was twelve. Nor that he later became
a bigamist. He and my grandmother did
not divorce. Yet he later married another
lady in London. Thus Mom never shared
any details in depth. But did drop tidbits,
snippets, and hints on a daily basis. After
Mother died, I lost my link with the past.

Who was he?
My great grandfather,
Charles Gano King
remains 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".

I do know one thing.
The above are the substantiated
facts.  Beyond that remain dim
recollections of family folklore.
Post his untimely death, Charles
left Sadie Blue King behind with
a lot of money. Like most ladies
 her class she lived a private life.
And like her husband, Sadie left
behind a scant trail of memories.
Along with a sizable amount of
baubles, land, stocks, and cash.
My grandmother (Bessie Louise,
shown right) was a child of that
privilege. Post graduating from
Miss Porters and Smith College
she never had to work a day in
her life. Charles' legacy was big
enough to support her elegant
existence. Enabling Bessie to
leave my Mother her fair share
of money, goodies, and more.
Plus... a string of pearls.
At the turn of the century nothing
was chicer than a long strand of
NATURAL not cultured pearls.
Edith Kingdon Gould was famous
for her wit, beauty, and pearls. An
actress, she deftly bagged a rich
railroad magnate. And soon was
the owner of a 133 Pearl Parure
from Tiffany's. Valued at over
$1 Million ($28 Million in 2019).

Fair trade
Everybody wanted a string of
pearls. Pierre Cartier needed a
posh Fifth Avenue address for
his store. Morton Plant owned
a mansion at Fifth and 52nd.
He knew Mrs. Plant wanted her
own million dollar pearl strand.
And traded his mansion for one.

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 swing jacket, coat,
and hat. Gold enameled guilloche'
opera glasses were sold for a new
TV. But what about her grannie's
string of opera length pearls?

Pearls? What pearls?
The fact is my mother never wore that necklace.
Actually I'm fairly sure nobody including my
Dad knew it existed. Except for a single pearl
that Ethel plucked from it and turned into a ring.
Thus one can only surmise that the secret strand
lay hidden in Mom's closet safe. Ready when or
if Ethel needed something. All she did was snip
off the requisite number of those precious orbs,
cash them in, and shop! Hence Grandma Sadie's
pearls were my Mom's ultimate security blanket.

What's the real story?
So many questions such little time...
Did Charles give them to Sadie?
Did she purchase them for herself?
Did Bessie Louise ever wear them?
How did Ethel keep her secret?
Did Dad wonder where she got
her ever flowing "mad" money?!
The pearls are now long gone.
While I lack all of the answers, at
least I've left a record of what I know.
Memories are more precious
than pearls. Share them now!