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Sock Knitting Catch-up – Part 1

This year will mark my 14th year as a knitter.  Hard to believe it started one summer with a friend teaching me the basics and then letting me fly.  Socks are my go-to comfort knitting because I don’t really have to think about them yet they still keep my hands busy, and I can crank out a pair in one long day or, on average, about a week’s worth of evening knitting in front of the TV.  Now that I’ve given up on Ravelry because of their horrible redesign and subsequent hostile response to people saying it was causing them actual, physical harm, refusing to make even basic accessibility accommodations, I’m going to focus on posting these on my blog here instead of on Ravelry.  So, here we are!  This also gives me a little more room to talk about the knitting, any modifications, and so on.  I’ll post 4 of these at a time until I’m caught up and then hopefully, keep up with posting new stuff here as I knit.  The majority of these will be older projects, and I fell into knitting plain old vanilla socks (using my basic sock pattern) to try and use up some heavily variegated or pooling sock yarn that wasn’t really all that well suited to something with a pattern.  Anyway, on to the socks!

NYC Socks
Started: 25 Apr 2020
Finished: 3 May 2020
Yarn: Dragonfly Fibers Dragon Sock in colorway “City That Never Sleeps”
Needle: US 1.5 / 2.5 mm
Notes: This colorway was a TON of fun to knit.  The black is VERY black, so the colored bits really stand out against the dark.

Nell Socks
Started: 11 May 2020
Finished: June 2020
Yarn: Miss Babs Yummy 2 ply in colorway “Nell”
Needle: US 1.5 / 2.5 mm
Notes: I apparently bought this yarn back in 2010 and then it sat in my stash for .. a decade.  It’s definitely a set of colors that’s right up my alley between the blue and brown and oh gosh they knit together so pretty.

Juniper Socks
Started: ??
Finished: 13 Aug 2020
Yarn: Enchanted Knoll Farm Superwash Sock in colorway “Juniper”
Needle: US 1.5 / 2.5 mm
Notes: It appears that this dyer is no longer dyeing yarn, but it’s yet another entry in my blue-and-brown personal colorway, though this one is a little more turquoise and tan.  Gosh I really loved this set of colors and still do, but this and the yarn above were both bought in 2010, so I definitely had a real thing for those colors!

Dusk Socks
Started: 13 Aug 2020
Finished: 22 Aug 2020
Yarn: Ella Rae Lace Merino in colorway “Dusk”
Needle: US 1.5 / 2.5 mm
Notes: Still sort of blues-and-browns-ish, but definitely aptly named with the muted tones of greens and blues.  Not sure when I got this, but I was pretty great about keeping up with the stash on Ravelry until the last 5 years or so, so it was probably a much newer acquisition that I never added into their database.  Really dig those colors, and Ella Rae’s lace merino is definitely a solid sock yarn.

Next four are coming soon!  Still trying to get a blog post up once a week, so a lot of these are scheduled out in advance, but it’s great to be back at the blogging thing.

Let’s Get Acquainted

Another item from grandma’s scrapbook.  John (grandpa) was sending her funny things all the time apparently, since there are a TON of postcards, newspaper clippings, and oddball little pieces like this tucked into that scrapbook.  I’m really grateful she saved all this because it gives us a little glimpse into the life they led while separated by World War II.  John entered the Army Air Force while they were dating, and they married in 1943 while he was home briefly.  He served almost two more years after they married, so the majority of their correspondence via postcards is tucked into this scrapbook.  Grandpa died in 1984, so I have one or two vivid remnants of memories of him (I was very young when he passed away) and I don’t recall grandma ever really talking about him much.  I suppose we just didn’t talk about the past, so I didn’t know anything about our family history before I started all this and grandma wasn’t around to ask anymore either.

On to the card!  On the back, John (grandpa) wrote,

One Fellow had these cards printed just for fun.  He gave me one of them and I am sending it to you.  How do you like it?

I haven’t looked into who “Chuck” Frailey might have been since it’s probably a little too common of a name to pin down to one person, especially without any details about birth, death, where he lived, or his real name since Chuck is in quotes.  Obviously, the card is from the 1940s (probably 1941-ish based on the other items on the page), and the humor is definitely of the time period though more that a little bit cringeworthy now.  I did a little searching and apparently these type of cards arose out of the Victorian era as Acquaintance cards or Escort cards as a way of introducing oneself without arousing the suspicion of a woman’s chaperone.  They’d largely fallen out of favor by the time this one was printed, but I did happen to find a nearly identical one on flickr with the same lines about “Special attention to other fellow’s girls” and “Sole owner of lovers lane.”

If you want to see more of these, there’s a great gallery on Flickr.

Holiday Card 2021

Now that they’ve all arrived at their destinations, I can finally show off the holiday art card I made for 2021!  I’m not too big on the winter holiday season – I’m not religious, I don’t really celebrate any sort of traditional Christmas or religious holiday, and have found it hard to find happiness during this time of year – I’m pretty deeply introverted, so large parties are not my thing, and feeling guilty for not being happy during that time of year is difficult to deal with when everyone has these high expectations and standards of how/when/where/why you should be happy and celebratory.  For the past I think 4 years now, I’ve gotten into the habit of making a not-holiday-specific art card instead of buying pre-made cards as a way of giving myself a creative challenge and finding my own way to something happy without following a cookie-cutter mold of how things should be.  It also fits in with my idea that the winter holiday season should be more about the people and the gathering rather than the stuff and the things, so creating something with my own two hands feels more meaningful and less wasteful than buying stuff that might end up being returned, sold, traded, re-gifted, etc.  Being together in person with the pandemic and all has been difficult, so this sort of fills in that gap a little too by having something handmade to send to family and friends.

On to the card!  After last year’s complicated 3 layer screen print, I went a little simpler this year with a two piece linocut of the canal houses in Amsterdam.  I sort of took ideas from houses I’d photographed while traveling and various photos around the internet and mashed them together into this.  Then, once I saw the empty space above just the houses, I took the scrap cut from the houses and made a little windy sky to fill that space.  I used a batch of cards I picked up in bulk when AC Moore closed (I’ll be using those for years to come) and printed with black Speedball Fabric Ink in black as well as a standard Speedball Block Printing Ink (water based) in a light blue color.  The block itself isn’t even real linoleum, it’s a rubber “Soft-Kut” printmakers block that I get in 12×12″ pieces and then cut down to fit each project.  The rubber is like sneaker sole material and is easier to carve and definitely a lot less hard on the carving tools, though it can be a bit less exact, especially on corners and edges since it smooshes and squishes with the tools.  Proper lino is a nice, hard surface and definitely gives me better lines, but it’s more difficult to cut and work with and can sometimes crumble.  As for the ink, I like working with the oil-based fabric ink much better, but didn’t happen to have the blue color on hand in the same ink, so I used the classic water-soluble ink for the sky bits.  The water-soluble ink tends to leave a texture behind, but dries immediately while the oil-based ink prints cleaner and flatter, but takes a few days to dry completely.

Overall, I really liked this year’s card!  I did put together a screen for the inside message, “From our home to yours,” and the back of the card for the date and credit lines, so it’s all hand printed between the linocut and the screen print, no printer printing.  Now I’ve got to start thinking about next year’s card at some point!

Curley Miller and his Ploughboys

Curley Miller and his Ploughboys in The Economy Rodeo on Diamond Street

If the title sounds like a country music band, well..

It’s probably because it is a country music band.

This image is likely from a program or promotional poster/flyer for the band and was found in a scrapbook of my grandmother’s who was kind enough to note “Coalport, 1936, In Person” up in the top left corner.  Coalport refers to Coalport, PA in Clearfield County, and it’s easy enough to assume she saw the band in 1936.  Economy Rodeo seems to have been a popular radio station program during the time period, featuring country music acts.  The reference to Diamond Street appears to reference the radio station WWSU that operated out of the Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh – an article from 1931 mentions the station opening on the 10th floor of the hotel which is located on Forbes Ave, formerly known as Diamond Street.  The hotel is now the student union building for the main campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  I couldn’t find an advertisement in any newspaper for that specific concert in the photo note, but I did find quite a few other ads for similar shows around that region of PA.

So, I went on a little dig to see what I could find about Curley Miller since genealogy is my focus and I know precious little about the early days of country music.  Grandma was a huge fan her whole life, and we’d routinely show up for visits to find her watching the Grand Ole Opry reruns on TV, so this type of bluegrass/country music would’ve been right up her alley.

Curley Miller was born Calvin Ellis Miller to parents Calvin McCormick Miller and Elda Blanche Miller on 2 December 1914 in Versailles, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (found via the PA birth records index, the actual document should be online in the next year or two).  He shows up on census records in 1920-1930 as “George Miller” instead of Calvin, but the birth record clearly shows his name as Calvin.  It’s possible they may have called him George around home to differentiate between Calvin the child and Calvin the father.

He lived for the majority of his early life in McKeesport, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania with his mother and father, and later his stepfather (verified by census records).  A half-sister, Mildred Evangeline Espy, would later join him in the music scene as Millie Wayne.  Our Curley Miller is not to be confused with a different Curley Miller from the Milton, PA area though which is what made my initial searches lead in the wrong direction.  The first newspaper reference I could find was in 1935 when Curley was about 21 years old and playing on a local Pittsburgh radio station, KDKA.

Just two years later, Calvin Ellis Miller married Sybil Clarice Lowell in Greensburg, PA on 25 April 1937 (verified by Westmoreland county record search).

Sybil seems to have gone by the name “Sally Dare” or “Molly Dare” as part of the group and likely is the woman seated in the middle of the photo.  Advertisements in old newspapers have photos of her that look awfully similar.  There are also ads referring to their daughter “Patsy Belle” having been part of the act as a “Child Singing Star.”  I did find the three of them living in Wheeling, West Virginia as of the 1940 census but was unable to find anything about Patricia “Patsy Belle” after that point.  Patsy was also born in Tennessee (according to the census) two years before Curley married Sybil, so this may have been a daughter from her first marriage.  Sybil was granted a divorce on 28 April 1941 while living in Wyoming.  The divorce decree mentions zero children affected by the divorce, so I’m not entirely sure if Patsy Belle was their child or just part of their travelling act?  Not enough paper evidence to support that, and I couldn’t find a birth record for Patsy at all.

Part of the fun of sorting out fact from fiction were articles like these, telling fantastic stories about Curley that were part of his stage persona and printed in newspapers, but weren’t at all true according to paper records.  That article states Curley was born in Oklahoma, and while this birth location also appears on the 1940 census, he was very clearly born in Pennsylvania.  I started to wonder if the stage/radio persona bled into his real life.  That hunch was confirmed in a later article from 1974 in Florida.

The article, which has a problem with column formatting, states,

“Miller comes by his interest in “songs of the soil” naturally.  Two of his ancestors were killed at the Alamo and a great-uncle (The Rev. William Snider) was the Indian agent to whom Sitting Bull surrendered when he came down from Canada.

While Many parents were reluctant for their offspring to enter show business, it was different with Curley.  His parents were both horse enthusiasts and expert at trick riding.  They were also amateur entertainers.”

As far as I have been able to research, absolutely ZERO of that is true.  He didn’t have a great-uncle named William Snider (I found the names of his grandparents and none of them were Snider/Synder).  As far as ancestors being killed at the Alamo, none of that tracks at all since all I can find is that his ancestors lived in Pennsylvania.  For the bit about his parents, on their marriage license, it lists his father as a machinist and later in the 1910 census as working in an electrical shop, and his mother was a music teacher.  Granted, his mom may have helped foster Curley’s love of music, but there’s no paper evidence to prove any of the claims he made in the article.

He did participate for years in the West Virginia country music scene and participated in the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia (link to tour program in 1941, alternate link to the program page about him).  He had been drafted into the Navy during WWII which meant he left radio.  When he returned home after the war, he returned to civilian life and went into horse training, still as a showman, taking the title of “Colonel Curley Miller” with his dancing horses in various rodeos and circuses.

He later moved to Florida in about 1962.  While in Florida, he continued working with radio as a talent director, according to the article above.

He died on 14 Feb 1994 in Orlando, Florida (obituary link). His obituary states, “Mr. Miller was a retired project director for an employment service,” which I guess could mean he was a talent scout which would fall in line with his history in the entertainment business.  Every genealogist loves long obituaries with tons of detail, but this one had very little.  There’s a granddaughter mentioned, but no daughter, though this could possibly be the aforementioned “Patsy Belle.”  The 1950 census is due out this year (2022), so it’s possible I’ll be able to find out more once that’s released!

Random stuff in scrapbooks seldom leads me down a deep dive into the history of the subjects in photographs, but once I started digging, the information about Calvin “Curley” Miller ended up being so fascinating, and a great example of the difficulty in separating actual factual documents from self-reported information in newspapers and sometimes even censuses.