Remembering a man I wish I’d met

The dude above is my grandfather, George W. Searls. He was born during the Civil War, in 1863, and died in 1935 at age 72, twelve years before I was born. This shot was taken when he was about 40, I’d guess. It’s from a group photo of a bunch of workers, some holding wrenches and posing one way or another. But there is nothing posed about this guy.

Even my aunt, George’s daughter Grace, never saw this shot — at least not this way, enlarged by the miracle of scanning. She also told me she never knew her father at this age, since the old guy was already 49 when she was born in 1912. It’s one among many I scanned these last few days at Grace’s house in Maine. Connectivity there is by satellite. It beats the alternatives, but it’s poor for uploads. So now I’m home and catching up.

I wish I’d had more time to go through and scan more of the many shots Grace pulled out of boxes in her basement. Two I was glad to catch are these here: shots of the original Cyclone roller coaster at Palisades Park in New Jersey. My grandfather helped build it. (He can be seen in one of the two pictures.) Perhaps my father too. We were told for many years that Grandpa was a master carpenter on the job. It’s plausable. He was an accomplished carpenter who had worked on many varied jobs over the years, including building railroad bridges, working on the Panama Canal, and constructing sets for Universal Studios when Hollywood was still in Fort Lee. He would have been turning 65 when these pictures were taken.

More background: George was born in Syracuse, New York, to Allen and Esther Bixby Searls, the youngest of seven children. The first five were girls, the next two were George and Charles. Grace told me that George left home at 14 after tiring of being “henpecked” and went off to make a life for himself. He did stay close to he family, however. So did some of his sibs. I still remember his older sister, Eva Quackenbush. Aunt Eva was born in 1852 and was 12 or 13 years old when Lincoln was shot. I’m sure she told that story often because I recalled it when JFK was shot in 1963, ten years after Eva’s last visit not long before she died, a couple weeks shy of 100. She said it changed everything.

Anyway, this shot of Grandpa is one of my favorite of all time.

You can see the whole (growing) series at this photoset celebrating my father’s 100th birthday.

8 comments

  1. Eric’s avatar

    So Doc, is the moustache due to a recessive or a dominant gene?

  2. Mary Lu’s avatar

    How are you doing these, scanner or photographing them? I’ve got a ton of old photos of the folks I’d like to get up online. Glad to see you’re up and around!

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Eric, in my case the moustache is grown at my wife’s urging because she thinks I look better with it. This became a goatee because I’m a lazy shaver and that’s my whole pattern of beard growth: there’s not much outside that area.

    George W. Searls grew the moustache because that was the fashion, near as I can tell. He lacked the moustache in later photos.

    Mary Lu, I used a CanoScan 8800F, which I bought from Amazon for $169.95, with free shipping and no tax. Helluva deal. Highly recommended. Does slides and negatives too.

    I’ve also used a camera at times for scanning, but it’s a poor substitute.

  4. Scotty Riding’s avatar

    Doc, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a mouthful – people call us mormons), I’m always reading about and researching my forebears. We have the biggest genealogical library in the world here in Salt Lake City. A lot of the records are still offline.

    You should really check it out.

  5. shel israel’s avatar

    You look just like him, except he impresses me as someone handier with farm tools and firearms than I suspect you are.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Shel,

    My older son looks like him. Hard to tell here, but trust me. In a line of similar good-looking guys, I’m the odd one out. (Even though I look more like my mom, who was a babe.)

  7. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Scott, thanks for the tip.

    I’ve tried using that archive a couple of times, and found myself daunted. But I’ll try it again.

    Much appreciated.

  8. Jackson Shaw’s avatar

    I can see the resemblance!

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