Over a hundred years ago, my grandfather Fred Kirk Hill (1903-1937), then nine years old, wrote a helpful letter to Santa Claus:
Dear Santa Claus:
How are you? I am fine and hope you are the same. There were two girls in our room this morning. Their names are Margaret Slyfield and Zella Kane. Margaret has been a naughty girl so I think that you ought not bring her any presents. And I think that you ought not to bring Zella any presents. The teacher had them stand up in the corner. I think you will have to come in your air ship, because there is no snow on the ground. I do not think there will be any Christmas Eve. I would like a cowboy suit, a bicycle and a good book to read for Christmas. I am going to speak for Christmas. It is “the map of Santa Claus.” I have three or four ponies and if one of your reindeer falls off of the houses you can go in the barn and put the harness on my ponies and hitch them up. They have not been hitched up before. You might have a run-away with them. And be sure you bring my ponies back or I will not let you take them again. I guess I will close.
From your friend,
I meant to post this some time ago but it ended up in my drafts folder. Christmas is still a long way away but why wait? It is a hilarious letter and the sooner I get it up on the internet, the sooner Margaret Slyfield or Zella Kane’s ancestors this might find it. Google is a great way to research your ancestors (if they have sufficiently atypical names) and I have discovered some fun tidbits this way.
In 1969, when he was 34 years old (ten years younger than I am now–what exactly have I been doing with my life?), my father ran for School Board as one half of the Benton-Pascoe ticket. He strongly believed in giving a quality education to ALL children, not just his own. Benton-Pascoe ran in favor of integrating the schools but Denver was not ready for integration and they lost. This was the press release issued on announcement day, March 8, 1969:
Monte Pascoe, a 34-year-old Denver attorney, announced Saturday he is a candidate for the Denver Board of Education.
“We must provide quality education for our children,” Pascoe said. “To achieve this goal we must be certain our teachers are adequately trained and compensated, our facilities are in good condition and properly equipped, and our curriculum is designed to meet today’s needs.”
“We must also be certain our children have the opportunity to learn with each other, regardless of racial or ethnic background. The divisions in our community and in our country result, in part, because we isolate ourselves from one another. In the past public schools provided a way for all citizens to communicate with each other. If they do so again, our children will receive quality education.
“I am pleased Ed Benton has agreed to seek re-election. For eight years Ed has spear-headed the community’s struggle for quality education for all children and I would like to join in that effort.”
Pascoe attended Park Hill Elementary, Smiley Junior High and East High Schools. He is a former East High All-American football player. He was awarded a scholarship to Dartmouth College where he received the Barrett Cup, given each year to “an outstanding senior.”
After his graduation from Stanford Law School in 1960 he returned to Denver to practice law. He is a director and secretary of Junior Achievement and an elder at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church.
Pascoe is a Democratic District Captain, and last year was Colorado co-ordinator for the Humphrey presidential campaign. He and his wife Pat, a former school teacher, have three children, 8, 6, and 4 months. The older two attend Dora Moore Elementary School.
My family lost a good friend this weekend. His name was Wayne Kakela and he was an American original. He and my Dad went to college together and they were big buddies. He and Linda and Annie and Kate are dear friends of ours, and central to many of my family’s greatest adventures. They have been our neighbors in Steamboat Springs for over 30 years. They are the reason we bought a place in Steamboat. Wayne is the one who moved our cabin from the town out to Strawberry Park. My nephew calls him his Steamboat Papa.
Wayne was a character. He was a builder, an artist, a rancher, a black powder enthusiast, a rugby player, a raconteur, a collector, a proud Fin, and an authentic Man of the West, though he was from Minnesota. He could fix anything and everything, and he did. He liked barter more than he liked money. I think about those mountain men who braved the snow and the Rockies back in the early 1800s and I don’t have to wonder what they were like. I knew one.
As I study genealogy, I’ve come to realize that friends are as important as family in telling our family histories. The Kakelas are an integral part of my family’s story and I’ll have a lot more to say about them in the memoir I’m writing.
Today I’m heartbroken over Wayne’s death. And today I’ve been thinking of one of my favorite quotes:
The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. — George Orwell
Life will break us all and it broke me a little today, but I wouldn’t trade that breakage for any of my memories of Wayne. If anything, Wayne’s death presses upon me the fierce urgency of now and redoubles my determination to get my memoir written. And I am comforted by the idea that my Dad and Wayne are sitting by a heavenly stream right now, in the shade of a cottonwood grove, drinking wine, eating steak and sharing a big laugh.