Friday, August 19, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This post looks at the value of a PASSPORT, more importantly a PASSPORT APPLICATION. I have the original, but has a copy. 
I found birth dates and places for my grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather on it.
My great grandfather was the applicant, so his physical traits and occupation and reasons for travel are on the document as well.
The passenger's list and ship's name were also on
Google images gave me the picture of the ship AND its history.

Passport photo March 21, 1921
Edward deZeng Kelley (1876-?) and Howard E. Kelley (1905-1971)
My mother's father and grandfather

Looks can be deceiving!

My memories of Grandpa are few and far between. We'd visit him and my grandmother at their hilltop home on St. Thomas every Spring. I'd see him drinking the milk from the bottom of his cereal bowl as I walked into the marble-floored kitchen, hoping to make a connection over breakfast, the only time I'd ever see him during the day.

 "Good morning Grandpa!" I'd try.

"Mmm." he'd manage back.

My impression was he'd rather have been somewhere else.

So, I'm looking at this passport application and I think, boy, was life THAT serious for them? I keep reading. Edward was a broker. His son Harold worked on Wall St., too, when he grew up. Not a whole lot of fun there to me. I don't think I would survive a day in that world! 

So where WERE they going?

 Cuba. That's where. 

The Morro Castle 
Scrapped about 5 years after Edward and Harold's trip.
This is a Google image of the famous Morro Castle built a few years later.
It made regular trips from New York to Cuba.
 It had a reputation as a "floating whorehouse"!
Its 1934 disaster made headlines.

I have a memory of playing with cigar boxes as a little girl. My mom would give them to us periodically. I still remember the smell. I would put shell collections and anything else that was valuable to me inside the stiff cardboard box with a hinged lid. I never asked where those boxes came from. My dad may have liked cigars. I'll have to ask my mom. 

Now I'm wondering if some of those boxes were from Grandpa? Was it that trip to Cuba that helped him fall in love with the tropics and want to build a home in the Virgin Islands? Seems high-powered people end up on islands a lot.

The passport says Edward was 45. Harold was 16. Says they'd never applied for one before. I always assumed they'd travelled for business, Edward showing Harold "the ropes".

There's a line that asks, "Object of visit"?

 Someone typed in "Recreation". 

Guess they had to leave the country to have some fun.

What happens in Cuba stays in Cuba?

I looked at their picture again and again and wondered. 

"A picture is worth a thousand words", they say. 

I say, "You may have fooled a lot of people. But I think you had your moments when the suit and ties came off."

To be a fly on the wall!


  1. Betsy, aloha. How fun reflecting from the passports. We meet people as they are at that time and far too often don't think of what happened to get them to that stage.

    Also, of course, the perspective of a young girl is vastly different from a per 25+ meeting the same person at the same time.

    No doubt he did have his "moments when the suit and ties came off." Love your fly on the wall image.

    Best wishes for a terrific weekend. Aloha. Janet

  2. Hi Janet!
    You want to know what I stressed about all night? I wondered if I'd led people to believe something about theses two men that might not be true! I was mortified that I'd had fun at their expense. Funny isn't it? Both the living and the dead searching to be understood.

  3. Before Castro Cuba was supposed to be all sorts of fun. I love this sort of family history- find it fascinating.

  4. Jack,
    THIS is why I think family history is so valuable to people in general. It's the only way to introduce a lot of interesting subjects to kids I think!


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