When I was a little girl growing up in San Pablo, California in a working class neighborhood, my Mother would say to me:
” Remember who you are”.
There were a lot of Tar Paper Temporary Housing, wartime shacks, populated by red-neck country people that had come out to California to work in the Ship Yards during the war. My Mother was a farm girl from Oklahoma who came out to work in the same Ship Yards. However, once she got a taste of independence and the bright lights of the city, there was no getting her back to the farm. She divorced my Father and married a Sailor from Boston. He was much more sophisticated than she and she soaked up this new exposure like a sponge. He took his GI Bill and went to Carpenter School. She owned one of those Tar Paper Shacks which we lived in while he built us a new home on the back of the property. Later tearing the shack down and building a big Garage in front of the new house. It looked a bit strange but it was one of the RARE new homes. They sold that one and bought a larger lot one street over and my Sailor Daddy proceeded to build us a bigger, new home. We lived in it before we could afford to put in a front door. A piece of plywood was nailed over the door jam. I remember having to climb in and out the kitchen window for awhile. He built the house from reclaimed lumber that he got from tearing down buildings at the Ship Yards in Richmond. I do not remember how many years it took to build the house, but when it was finished it was the newest, nicest house on the block. My Mother was very pleased. She would have preferred we not play with any of the other kids in the neighborhood with their slow drawls and poor grammar. But since she worked we were left on our own a great deal.
We lived one year in Boston and I acquired a bit of a formal accent but still distinctly West Coast. I had some very good grammar school teachers and English spoken correctly was stressed in our home. I was teased about being from Oklahoma and often called an Okie. Which was intended as a slur. Despite my Mother’s: “Remember who you are.” I had the same self doubts and lack of solid identity that most young people suffer.
Several years later when I was an Adult, I had the good fortune to travel to Oklahoma for a family reunion. Where we all gathered in Alabama where my maternal Grandparents were from. It was there my Uncle; J D Hill produced a book of the Hill family. He and his wife had spent many years traveling around compiling our family tree. It was here that he announced that our family was one of the earliest settlers of America. That our relatives had fought in the American Revolution. Which meant that any of us and our off springs were qualified to belong to the DAR; Daughters of the American Revolution and the SAR; Sons of the American Revolution. People of the South especially consider this to be comparable to being American Royalty.
I was very impressed.
Later I was telling my Paternal Grandmother ; Mae Dunlap of my prestigious roots on the Sam Hill side of the family. She then informed me that my Great Grandfather; Jimmie Dunlap had come over from Ireland as an indentured slave. Not uncommon in those days for the poor Irish to sign a contract to work for room and board for several years as slave labor to pay their passage to America. Once my Great Grandfather had satisfied that debt, he worked day and night to save enough money to invest in a Mule Team. There was land being given away in the Oklahoma Territory. All one had to do was file a claim and make a run for the land. Which is how the Oklahoma Sooners came to be. The Sooner you got there after the Shot was fired to start the Race you were insured a claim to a deed of land. Which is how my Great Grandfather Jimmie Dunlap, from Ireland came to own a section (160) acres of land. My cousin’s son Keith Winchester still farms that land today.
On my Maternal side of the family; Sam and Mary Hill had fourteen children and later hit oil on their land. And bequeathed to me, one of 64 heirs a share of the the mineral rights to that oil. Plus the right to claim membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Ascertaining that my family were early founders of America . Almost American Royalty.
On my Paternal side of the family Frank and Mae Dunlap only had two children. They farmed the original land grab that my Irish immigrant Great Grandfather;Jimmie Dunlap secured as an Oklahoma Sooner. Which in Oklahoma is equivalent to being Royalty.
I held my head a bit higher after learning all of this family history and never again allowed anyone to call me a dumb Okie. I now knew who I was.
My Mother was right when she said to me; “Remember who you are.”
To all my young relatives that are trying to find their identity
Skylar Katz, Jamie Katz, Brandon Katz, Nick Katz, Stephanie Harris,Kera Speight, Leeanna Ryel, you and all of your children are entitled to be members of the DAR or the SAR.
I say to you as my Mother said to me;
“Remember Who You Are”!
Pass it on to your children.