Monday, July 21, 2014

How My Grandparents Met


My grandparents, LaVerne Rutherfurd and Glenn Murray Smith, at LaVerne's high school graduation, 1935.

Right now, I'm working on transcribing the autobiographies written by my maternal grandparents, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith and Glenn Murray Smith.  I'm so glad that they took the time to write down some of their stories, as I've already gleaned much new information.  I've also smiled often, knowing that a certain usage of words or funny incident is right in line with how I remember them.

It's actually quite a bit of work piecing together these autobiographies.  My grandmother left many typewritten copies of hers, some with pictures photocopied amongst the text, but there is not one complete version.  I have multiple partial accounts which I'm having to stitch together.  Figuring out what goes where has not always been easy to determine.  My grandmother also typed up my grandfather's autobiography and it presents the same challenge.  There are bits and pieces of it scattered throughout various files.  I was thrilled to discover the original, handwritten version of my grandfather's autobiography tucked into a folder, but seems to cut off abruptly at page 36.  I don't know if there's more that was written and is now missing, or if that's all he wrote.

My grandfather's memoirs

I decided to compare the handwritten version of my Grandad's memoirs to the typewritten translation provided by my grandmother.  My grandfather's handwriting is not always easy to decipher, so this has been a long task.  What's interesting is that I've discovered a couple of occasions where my grandmother seems to have altered or omitted some of my grandfather's words in her translation.  For instance, my grandmother glosses over my grandfather's description of a teenage party where farts were lit on fire. The farts, apparently still memorable when my grandfather was of an advanced age and recalling his life, are nowhere to be found in the typewritten translation.  Knowing my grandmother and her distaste for any unseemly behavior, I cannot help but believe that this particular omission was intentional. She also adjusted the wording concerning a breakup during my grandparents' college years.  My grandfather recalls the event they were attending and the words that were said one way, while my grandmother's translation changes the name of the event and the particular insult that was uttered.  She must have felt that my grandfather remembered it incorrectly.

My grandmother's memoirs

 As to my grandparents' original meeting, my Grandma does not address it at all in her translation of my Grandad's memoir.  That entire section is missing.  It's possible that it was simply lost, so I'm glad to have found the original document for reference.  It's also possible that she didn't favor my grandfather's recollection of the event.  I've always known that my grandparents met as teenagers at a party hosted by a mutual friend in Los Angeles.  In her autobiography, my grandmother says it was a Valentine's Day party and declares that it was love at first sight for both of them.  What she unsurprisingly does not mention is that there may have been a game of "spin the bottle" and a kiss in a closet on that fateful evening.  That is, if you believe my grandfather's version of events. 

How my grandparents met, from my Grandma's autobiography:

"During my sophomore year in high school I met Glenn Smith at a Valentine party given by one of my classmates. It was love at first sight for the both of us.  We went horseback riding, swimming at State Beach in Santa Monica, to parties in friends' homes and to movies.  On our first date, which turned out to be Glenn's 17th birthday, we went to Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to see King Kong."

How my grandparents met, from my Grandad's autobiography:

"...I had become quite adept at the roller rink in Culver City.

It was at this rink where I met the girl who was to become my bride. A group of us first met a girl named Annabel Bagley who invited us to a party the feature of which was spin the bottle. This led to a tender kiss in the closet with my future wife."

There are many lessons to be learned here.  One is certainly to always check the original document and not rely on translations.  Another is to think about your subjects and the reasons they might have had for providing a certain version of events. 

I am very glad to have these memoirs written by my grandparents.  They provide so much insight as to who they were before I knew them and brings their personalities fully to life.  I'm grateful to be able to include these stories when I tell my children about Glenn and LaVerne.

1 comment:

  1. How lovely that they provided written details. Are you going to create a written book once you complete your project?

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