So if you have read this blog all along you might remember this...
...which led to this...
Who doesn't love a happy reunion? Although I think the owner thought I was more than a little nuts.
So with that in mind you might have some idea how tickled I was at the events that transpired last week. I love a good story with a happy ending.
Last Sunday my parents found a message on their answering machine. It was from a gentleman in California who said he had found a photo of my grandfather, Gordon Westcott (nee Myrthus Hickman). He had tracked us down and wanted to send us the photo.
My parents asked me to call him back and find out what he was talking about and if this was legitimate. Sadly there have been people in the past who have tried to do something in relation to my dad's father that seemed altruistic at first but then they turned around and were trying to make a profit from the experience. They know I'm just cynical enough to ask the right questions to find out if someone is the real deal or not (I guess it comes from experience dealing with used car salesmen, real estate agents, and as a telephone collection agent dealing with deadbeat customers).
I called the number back, optimistic but cautious at the same time. Mr. S from Thousand Oaks, CA turned out to be a pleasant, friendly, and engaging gentleman. He related to me how he came into possession of the photo and how he found my father's phone number.
A few years ago the library at UCLA was being renovated and they were throwing out some of the outdated or unnecessary detritus that had accumulated over the years. Mr. S had rescued a filing cabinet from the trash heap and gave it a second life. He was moving it recently when he found something in the bottom of the cabinet, underneath the lowest drawer. It turned out to be an 8x10 glossy photo of my grandfather. On the back it had studio information and Gordon's signature.
What was really interesting about this find is that the photo should have never been in that cabinet in the first place. The cabinet contained film industry related materials and was labeled WI - Z, and my grandfather's stage last name began with We.
Mr S. was intrigued and decided to do some research and find out who the fellow in the photograph was and if possible send it to someone who would appreciate it. He looked him up on IMDB and saw that he had passed away some 77 years previously but that his bio had 2 children listed. He first tried to find Myrthus' alleged daughter, Helen Westcott. It turns out that she had passed away 14 years ago and didn't have any children.
Next Mr. S searched for my father. He found a link between my father and his father on a website devoted to dad's mother's side of the family, The Cardons. He then tracked down my parents' phone number from there and left the message.
Mr. S told me that he thought it was an interesting photo and that he felt like sending the photo to us was simply the right thing to do. He also related a previous experience where he had received a photo of a gentleman from WWII at his PO Box and had tried to track him down but unfortunately the man in the photo had passed away. He kindly offered to mail the photo to my father on his own dime, asking nothing in return. I gave him the address for our family business to ensure someone was there to receive it.
It truly was an unexpected but heartwarming surprise.
Later last week the photo arrived. It was packaged with impeccable care and came to us in pristine condition. To my father's delight it was a studio publicity shot that he had never seen before. He has proudly showed everyone the photo and repeated many time the story of how it came to him. On Sunday my oldest sister's family and my youngest sister's family and myself gathered at our parents' home for our weekly visit. My mom and dad retrieved dad's collection of photos and items from his father, and we had a little mini family history night. Many of my younger nieces and nephews don't know much about their sub-lebrity great-grandfather.
Here is a photo of my sister's youngest son trying on one of Gordon's hats. It is a straw boater from London England, size 6 7/8.
Looking through the news clippings and photos I was struck by the fact that I am now almost one year older than my grandfather was at the time of his death. He died a few days before his 32 birthday. I don't know why but that seems very strange to me. Looking at the photos he seems so much older and more mature than I feel, but in fact he was younger. It really made me wonder what he would have been like if he had lived, if we had a chance to get to know him, and if he had truly been our grandpa and not just an interesting character in our family tree. I kind of wish he would have had the chance to see what a wonderful man my father turned out to be.