Wednesday, June 17, 2020

52 Ancestors - UNEXPECTED: The Caricature

I never expected to be contacted about family treasure hidden away in an attic for 70 years, but that is what happened. In the early days of Covid-19, before the stay-at-home order, I received an email from someone identified as “Green.” An email with the subject “Secret attic” contained only these photos, no words:

Mary Eleanor Davis college application

Paper with OODavis

Davis receipt from Hockman 1937

How did someone get a copy of my mother’s college application and my grandfather’s receipt for purchases from J. P. Hockman, a businessman in Shenandoah, Virginia? And where was this “secret attic”?

A flurry of emails let me know that Ms. Green is the current owner of my grandparents’ home they built in Portsmouth back in 1950. During the installation of new insulation in the attic, she spied a little door at the far end of the attic over the front bedroom. Inside she found boxes and boxes of STUFF. My family's STUFF.

I have already written about some of the finds

But probably my favorite find is this caricature.

Caricature of Mary Eleanor Davis 1947

When my sister and I opened the 10" x 13" manila envelope and saw this picture, we knew immediately it was of our mother. That big smile. Those dimples. Those prominent eyes. Even that hairstyle. Usually her hair was parted on the side, but in a few photos her hair was parted in the middle.
Mary Eleanor Davis and unknown 1947
Mary Eleanor Davis and unknown admirer 1947
Mary Eleanor Davis 1946 or 1947
Mary Eleanor Davis
The writing on the drawing provides as many answers as it provokes questions. At the bottom is Momma’s nickname “Duny” in the same brush and style as what appears to be the artist’s signature. Unfortunately, I cannot make out the letters. None of my guesses have succeeded in producing a successful search for more information.

The caricature is dated 11 July 1947, so that would have been the summer between my mother’s freshman and sophomore year at Shenandoah College and Conservatory. She was 18.

In the upper left corner written in pen is “Cavalier Beach Club Virginia Beach,” making me think maybe the drawing was done there. The Cavalier hosted dances throughout the summer featuring big bands like Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Xavier Cugat, Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. Maybe the artist was there as well.

Then there is the puzzling message: Congratulations, Boyd R*. What was she being congratulated for? And who was Boyd? More importantly, what was his last name? Rockway? Rockman? Rackway? Rackman? Apparently, none of these. The closest potential match is “Boyd Richman” or “Boyd Rickman” but that second letter is definitely not an “i.”

Thinking perhaps I had misread the first name, I tried “Bryl” but no luck with that either.

I give up. For now, I am content to enjoy this playful rendering of my mother’s best features.  

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

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