I’m in the middle of writing a family history. The other day I googled my paternal grandfather Floyd so I could find out what year he died, because although I knew it was in the mid-sixties sometime, if you are going to write history, correct dates are handy.
Google obligingly directed me to a website which told me Floyd died in 1965. Well, that was good, but it wasn’t all. I learned some other interesting things too.
First, this website claimed Floyd had a bunch of children whose names I knew – they were my father’s siblings and my aunts & uncles. But my father’s name was not listed. Huh? In addition, according to this website, Floyd had a daughter named Winnetta and a son named Billie B – who I certainly never knew or heard about. Huh again. Now my father’s family is full of secrets and lies, so either my father, Winnetta and Billie B are some of them – or the site is incorrect. Since my father and his siblings are all dead or extremely old, I don’t think I will ever know which.
The site also showed an image of Floyd’s selective service draft card, issued to him in 1942 – when he was FIFTY. What? Fifty year olds were drafted? I discovered the answer was Yes, they could be drafted. There was something unofficially called the “Old Man’s Draft”, a law passed in 1942 that mandated men aged 45 to 64 register for service, in case they were needed. I have degrees in history, yet I had never heard of this. How did I miss it? (BTW, I’m pretty sure Floyd never was called up – he had 10 children, after all. Or maybe more.)
Finally, I learned that Floyd was born in Huntsville, Washington, a city I thought was only in Alabama. So I googled Huntsville Washington and found out it was a teeny town way out in the sticks, on the way to Lewiston Idaho. As I gazed at the map of these sticks, I was charmed to discover a road nearby called “Whoopemup Hollow Road.” (I am not kidding – google it yourself if you don’t believe me.) I would love to know the story behind that name, but it too might be lost in the mists of time.
One of the reasons I was so charmed with the name Whoopemup is because my grandfather Floyd was quite a character, and Whoopemup sounds just like him. I didn’t know him well; he died when I was a child, but his somewhat seedy reputation lived on after him. He was good-looking, quick-witted, charming, and intelligent, but according to the stories I heard from those who knew him, more than anything Floyd loved gambling and fast women who were not his wife. He also had a tendency to flit from one failed enterprise to another – a mink farm that failed because few people during the Depression could afford mink coats; a pig farm in which he bribed his sons to do all the messy work by promising them a share in the profits (which never came because he spent the profits himself); a street-corner preacher for the Salvation Army who was successful at bringing many good-looking women to God; a strike-breaking scab on the railroads, where he took his 10-year old son (my father) to work with him at night as a shield because Floyd felt that the union strikers wouldn’t beat up a child; a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent on a reservation, where he seduced some Native American women and fathered some of their children; and an excellent teller of stories of doubtful veracity. In short, he was colorful but not exactly trustworthy.
Whoop Em Up!