As tends to happen more as one ages, I've been thinking about my familial origins lately. This photo (my friend Philip Terzian is in the picture) is of the front of the house that Scott Fitzgerald lived in on Summit Avenue, in St. Paul, Minn. The street is rich with Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture.
The Terzians sent it to me after I noted that my maternal grandmother lived on the street, Around the turn of the last century, her father was the co-owner of a "carriage-trade'' Minnesota department store called Panton & White that sold fancy goods, such as Limoges plates, and more routine things, too. (His name was William Dale White.)
They started in St. Paul-Minneapolis -- lots of grain-milling and railroad money! Robber Barons galore!
They ended up in mostly in Duluth, lured there by the money to be made as a result of the gigantic iron-ore range a bit inland and the access to points east via the port of Duluth and its sister city, Superior, Wis.
They made a lot of money for a while, but some in the family, including my great-grandfather, had powerful urges toward self-destruction, including alcoholism -- like their former neighbor Scott Fitzgerald. And some bad luck.
All of my grandmother's four siblings were dead before she was 30, including her brother, stabbed to death soon after he graduated from Princeton. (I'm told he wrote poetry.) The others died from the flu, a fire and one of Minnesota's earliest fatal car crashes.
No wonder my grandmother often looked terrified when her phone rang.
-- Robert Whitcomb