Monday, September 29, 2008

Cowboys from West of the Potomac

This month's topic for the 57th Carnival or Genealogy was "I read it in the newspapers". My family has a large stake in the newspaper business not as readers or reporters, but as printers, Linotype operators, composing room foreman, and as newspaper carriers. You might say that printers ink is in our blood- at least until recently.

My father grew up in Ramey, Clearfield Co, Pennsylvania, and many of the men up there worked in the coal mines. But my father's step mom did not want Robert to work in the dangerous mines. So when Dad's biological brother, Russell Stryke, offered to take him from Ramey to Alexandria, Virginia, and start him as an apprentice in the Linotype operator trade, a deal was made. Russell was a composing room Foreman at the Alexandria Gazette, which is still the oldest newspaper in America still in circulation. However, the name has been changed to the Alexandria Packet.

My father worked at the Gazette until he finished his apprenticeship but then struck out on his own. He worked years for the Washington Evening Star in the District of Columbia. Later he switched his employ to the Government Printing Office, Patent Section.

One day in June, 1948, my mother dressed me and my brother and took us down town to the Washington's Star Company dentist, Dr. Shea. Now, our dentist still used the string and pulley system to turn the drill bit in our mouths and we were not exactly thrilled to sit in the dentist's chair for what seemed like hours. Perhaps mom thought she would dress us in our cowboy outfits we got for Christmas to keep our minds off the dentist's drill. I don't believe that idea worked too well. Nevertheless, after a tour of Dad's workplace at the Star, we did get our pictures in the newspaper. And we did indeed love to wear those cowboy outfits.

Caption for newspaper article on left: "Two cowboys straight from the west- west of the Potomac, that is. They're Billy, 4, (left) and Bobby, 6, of No. 7 Auburn Garden Apartments, Alexandria (See "Just Between Ourselves"). Junior Star Photo."

And here is what Philip H. Love wrote about us for his column, "Just Between Ourselves" for this edition of the Junior Star:

"Like every other boy, Billy and Bobby Kramp wanted cowboy suits. I can remember the times when I expected to find a cowboy suit under my Christmas tree every year. Usually I got what I wanted, but occasionally Santa Claus crossed me up, as the saying be, and brought me an Indian suit instead. I wasn't very happy about the substitution. A cowboy suit is one thing, as every boy, say between 4 and 10 will understand and that an Indian Suit is something else again. But whether I stepped out at Christmas as a cowboy or an Indian, the suit was of such flimsy material that it lasted about two days and then with the suddenness of a war hoop, fell apart."

"The situation is different with Bobby and Billy. Their mother, Mrs. Robert C. [Mary Margaret] Kramp, wanted them to have suits that would last until they outgrew them. And that's the kind of suits she made for them."

And here is a live action shot of me getting the point across to my brother. Billy looks like he's really wondering if I was going to pull the trigger. Boy, that was the BIGGEST Christmas tree I ever saw or even remember.

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you will see red-colored stars and other embellishments on the shoulder patches. These were all hand-embroidered. Something even Gene Autry would be proud to wear. You will also NOT see any dirt or grime on the suit- sort of unusual for boys. Well, my mother would not allow us to spoil or get the suits dirty. Consequently, we only wore them a few times. And when I donned the suit again, the ends of the sleeves were half way up to my elbows. Oh well, Billy got the hand-me-down.


A history of the Washington Evening Star and a picture of the building, by Wikipedia.

See previous blog entry: Linotype Operators, a dead occupation

Here is what other Genealogy bloggers had to say about their families in the newspapers (57th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy)



Hi - Hope this reaches you. I will be at the Kensington stories tonight. Leave for Jonesborough tomorrow. Hope to see you. Ellouise

wendy said...

Neat story! Thanks for sharing!

Sandusky Library said...

What great photos! Thanks for
the terrific post!

Msteri said...

Love the photos and the story! Wondering if you had other photos in the newspapers....


Bob Kramp said...

Thank you readers for your comments. To answer your question msteri: Yes, there were other photos published. In 1974, we had a severe ice storm in Nashville. My two daughters and I took my aluminum canoe and skidded down our ice-covered streets. Picture appeared in local Nashville Banner. I got a picture and article around here someplace- I'll try to post it here someday.