It arrived!

My Great Great Grandfather Joseph Baker Comer’s medal arrived today, along with a stack of copies of documents from the National Archives in Washington…. Pension applications and related docs, my Great Great Grandmother’s Widow’s Pension application and related documents, and what I think are referred to as his service cards.

The medal is smaller than I imagined… and so was my Great Great Grandfather, only 5′ 6″ tall.

As Dave, the previous owner pointed out, I received it 2 days after Veterans Day (and our Remembrance Day), and a week to the day from the day Joseph B. Comer signed up 148 years ago. All-in-all, very fitting.








So excited…

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In recent year, I have been working on my family tree.

When I grew up, I knew none of my extended family. My father left when I was three and, aside from the day he came to sign papers to allow my step-Dad to adopt me, I saw hide nor hair of him until I was 25 or so. Even after he dropped back into my life, he was very closed-mouth about his family. Aside from the odd comment such as “I don’t want to have them drag my bones back to the family plot when I am dead…” to explain why he didn’t want his sisters from knowing where he was, he remained silent about them.

I didn’t even know until he arrived back where my half-brother and sister Harry and Peggy were. He put me in touch with them and Harry and I visited him out in BC where he had moved to. No one knew where our half-sister Shari was.

My Mom was able to tell me a few things about the family, about his parents and brother (Delroy, who died in 1975). I knew the family was from somewhere in Iowa and Harry sent me some photos he found amongst Hutch’s (His real name was Basil Elwood but he, for obvious reasons, he preferred to be called Hutch. Even his children called him Hutch.) belongings after his death. Dad would be pleased to know that rather than sending his ashes back to the family plot, Harry sprinkled them near Clinton, BC which was where Hutch was sprinkled (unfortunately, not in Red Canyon where he wanted to be sprinkled but in a snow drift at the entrance because it was as close as Harry could get to the canyon in the middle of March.

After Dad died, I had moved to New York City and finally set about trying to find my relations. After sending out a whole bunch of letters (no internet to speak of at the time) I was contacted by my cousin Allan and I finally went out to meet the family there for the first time in 1996.

Sadly, my aunts Hazel and Harriet had died, Hazel in 1992 and Harriet just 6 months before I found my family.

I had tried to find Shari before I left but was so sad not to have done so. A week after I got back, I got a phone call and it was Shari!

In 1999, Shari, Harry, Peg and I all met in Sioux City and had a family reunion. Since then, both my cousin Allan and cousin Ina (named after my grandmother) both died, along with my Uncle Bud, Harriet’s husband. Aside from the copies of photos sent by my brother from our father’s things, and some photocopies of old family photos, I had nothing tangible that tied me to my family.


Comer and Houchins families, 1904 or 1905

Undated copy 1

Comer and Houchins families, 1906 or so

Ina Adair lee And Dell Roy Houchins with baby "Hutch"

Grandparents, Ina Adair Lee and Dell Roy Houchins, with my Dad

In the years since my Dad died, I have been making a concerted effort to do my family tree. Despite my knowing more about my mother’s family than my father’s, I have managed to find out more and now have a substantial family history done. On my father’s side, one branch of the family goes back to  the early kings and queens of Scotland and is linked to most of the early royal houses of Europe.  Their descendants were founding fathers and movers and shakers of Jamestown! On the other hand, the first Houchins to set foot in America did so as an indentured servant.

More recently, I have found that my Great Great Grandfather, Joseph Baker Houchins served in the American Civil War. In fact, I discovered the name of his unit and that he had received a medal from the state of West Virginia. I even found out who owns it.

Even more exciting… the owner offered to sell (at a very reasonable price) it and the records that he obtained from the National Archives including his military record and a copy of the marriage certificate for Joseph and Angeline (My GG Grandmother had to submit a copy in order to obtain her widow’s pension.). I agreed to buy it.

He sent me photos of the medal.


The medal and box


Side view showing Joseph B.'s name engraved on it

I can’t tell you how excited I am!


The medal is on its way!


Obama made a pit-stop for a Capital taste treat!

While President Obama’s trip was forecast to be a business-only one, with no chance for the public to see him, the Prez had other plans.

Firstly, he took a moment or two to wave at the crowds gathered on Parliament Hill, which we were all told would be out of the question. Later, after his meetings with Stephen Harper and other politicos, he made a decidedly personal shopping stop in Ottawa’s Byward market to indulge in some very Canadian treats.

His purchases included shortbread maple leaf cookies for his daughters and a Beavertail.

A Beavertail, for the uninitiated, is a fried dough pastry with various toppings. They have various types from the savory (garlic and cheddar) to the sweet (cinnamon and sugar).


Cinnamon Sugar Beavertail

In this case, he got an “Obamatail“, a creation which the local shop came up with for the inauguration and which was a hit at the Canadian Embassy celebrations, in Washington.  It is a variation on the cinnamon and sugar version with an added whipped cream “O”, chocolate syrup and maple butter.

Obamatail FansObamatail Fans
 (tracey tong/metro ottawa)

As an historical aside, the founder and owner of Hooker’s Beavertails in the Byward Market, purveyors of this wonderful delicacy is a descendant of General Hooker, Civil War general and the man whose major claim to fame is allowing “camp followers” to accompany his troops. It was because of General Hooker that we have the term “hooker” for prostitutes.

All this would merely be “interesting” if it weren’t for the fact that back in the 1980s, Grant Hooker, proprietor of the aforementioned Hooker’s Beavertails, was one of the prime movers in the local merchants and residents to have prostitutes driven out of the Byward Market area….

Oh! The irony….

On another note, we were all told that Obama would be arriving at about 7:30 am… I decided to give his arrival a with berth in order to get myself across the city to work, my route taking me right by the airport. Imagine my surprise to find that, in fact, he arrived about 10:30 and I was caught in the midst of the parking lot that was the Hunt Club Eastbound lanes. For some unaccountable reason, traffic was flowing smoothly in the Westbound lanes. Since the two lanes run parallel and mere yards from each other for the full length of Hunt Club East, it was a mystery why the Westbound lanes were moving and the Eastbound were stopped.

I was stuck for more than 1/2 an hour (and 15 minutes of THAT time was AFTER he arrived on Parliament Hill).

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