Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The other side of the family: my grandfather

James's father, James Wilburn Melton, called J.W., was born in 1871, in the latter years of post-Civil War Reconstruction. At twenty-one, he married Rose Thornton, settled in Moultire, Georgia, and in 1893 their first son, Wilburn Pruitt Melton, was born. My father was born in 1904. Before James was a year old, J.W. moved his growing family (which would eventually number seven children) to Citra, Florida, to take advantage of an opportunity in the lumber business. Sometimes J.W.'s sawmill prospered, and sometimes it didn't—and as a result there was just enough hardship to insure that quality in my father that
made for success.

At some point in the early 1930s, J.W. and Rose chose to separate. They never divorced.

J.W. actually had a sentimental side. He was a smoker, but could only afford the cheaper kind of cigarettes you roll yourself. When young James got a job as a delivery boy, he spent his first earnings to buy his father two packs of ready-made cigarettes. When J.W. died of lung cancer in 1942, those two precious packs were found crumbling from age in his dresser drawer. He’d never smoked them because that would have destroyed the loving gift from his son.

In 1938 my father sent J.W. on a "grand tour" of Europe. Unfortunately, I know nothing about the motivation for this trip, nor about the ports of call. In fact, I know very little about J.W., because my father rarely talked about him, and he died three years before I was born.

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