[NOTE: When I posted Part VI of this series, I thought it was the concluding installment. And then I returned to a notion advanced in Part I: Betts had been a “late-blooming historian.” I still wondered about her decision to undertake what would turn out to be a two decade detour into the past. So, I returned to a cache of letters from Betts written at various points along that twenty-year odyssey. Who better to shed additional light on her motivation in deciding to unearth her family’s history–and her own–as well as her view of the past, than the author herself?]
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June 1987 (at the end of “Dobson-Knighton Family” essay)
This, I am sure, is not a complete history of our family, but I have attempted to put a few things down on paper for future reference since our children and grandchildren are bound to want to know something about the history of our family. I hope this proves to be interesting to family members—as it was interesting [to me] to try to finally write it—quite a challenge. Had planned to do this after I retired, but figured this was a good time to do it since I could give copies of it to the family members who attend the picnic [in Alexandria, Va.] this year.
October 13, 1994
I am enclosing information on our family. Honestly, it seems like I will never finish it. Luckily, Uncle George [Knighton] is doing a lot of research on the family at the Mormon Church Genealogy Center at Alexandria, Va., where he lives. Also, . . . Rick [Lamplugh] and his wife did some searching on the Knighton-Lamplugh families when they were travelling through Utah this summer. Like I told my brother George, even though no one else in the family is really interested, I get a great satisfaction out of knowing that I did this. Still ha[ve] more info to search [for]. . . [which is proving] hard to do because most of the relatives are now deceased and the younger members of the family (in my age group) do not have much info. Well, we are doing all we can. . . . [Included in the packet containing this letter was a 1987 version of the “Dobson and Knighton Family” as well as printouts on the Dobson-Knighton families from the Mormon Center. For more on George and the other Knightons, see Part II.]
November 14, 1994
The enclosed baby shoe was yours, Rus, and I thought you might enjoy seeing it. I had to clean out the bedroom closet and found it in a bag of “memories.” I had sent you and Rick (and Judy) the family pictures that I was lucky enough to keep all these years but forgot to send the shoe—guess you could say it was an antique? . . . Seems like I can’t throw away very many things—sentimental, huh?
March 28, 1995
I am sending a far from perfect bit of [my] life. . . . Kind of started in the middle—but maybe if I can think back a lot further I may be able to do something about my (our) early years. We will see. Am I on the right track—or is there some other way to do this[?] Kind of feel like a lot of things are best forgotten. [Included with Part 2 of Betts’ memoir, “Slub of Slife,” which carried her story from 1945 to 1964.]
April 5, 1995
. . . After you called last week I checked to see if I had Ginny England Bachman’s address—and I did. I called her on Sunday and really did surprise her. Haven’t talked to her since 1989 when her brother died. . . . [S]he gave me [her sister] Betty’s address and I wrote to Betty—maybe we will find out that she really did teach you to tie your shoes. It amazed me that you remembered that. Memory like an elephant, like me, huh? [See Part IV for Ginny and Betty England’s role in Betts’s life during World War II.]
July 8, 1995
. . . Wanted to try and mail this “work of art” today. Will no doubt bore you to tears, but guess this is the way my childhood was. Good thing my Mom and Dad and doctor took such good care of me, look how long I have lived. Surely never expected to make 65, let alone 72. [Sent with Part 1 of Betts’ memoir,“Slub of Slife,” which told her story from 1923 through World War II.]
March 25, 1996
[My brother] George [Knighton] and I have pretty much completed the family project. I have been told by several people who read my articles about our family [i.e., the “Slub of Slife” memoir] that I skipped a few years between part one and part two—and they are right. Told them this is a “Mystery story.” Maybe I will get around to finishing it but I make no promises. Since the weather has been awful this winter, one would think I could have finished it all by now, but I get depressed and that is no time to have to think about the past, present, or future. [Grandsons Drew and Keith, daughter Judy, and brother Bob had already moved, or would shortly be moving, from Newark.] I feel like someone stole my “security blanket,” but I will adjust to that change as I have had to do in the past. I HATE CHANGE. . . . Well, since I have long been accustomed to my family being on their own—and Rus & Rick and their families miles away, [Georgia and Oregon, respectively], all this should be easier. If I was younger I am sure it would be. My Mom and Dad had 6 children, 5 of whom lived away from this area—if they could adjust to that, I am sure I can, too.
April 4, 1996
. . . Wanted to send the article [J.B., an old friend] wrote about his time in the military (U.S. Marines) during WW II. He said that anything he says about the Army [Rus’ branch of service] is not personal, so you should overlook that. Also, this was not edited by any professional—so please overlook any errors in English or grammar. That goes for any of my effort, too, but I guess you already knew that. [For more on J.B., see Part IV.]
November 8, 1997
About two weeks ago, Evelyn Jacobs and her daughter Sue came for a short visit from Baltimore. Haven’t enjoyed myself like that in a long time. We had a lot to talk about because we have known each other since about 1950—they were our neighbors [on Helicopter Dr., Middle River, Md.]—and more like family than just friends. Talking over old times is always very interesting. Ev and I agree that we are glad we raised our family back in the good old post-war days—raising children these days is like a war—tough to win. [See Part V for this period in Betts’ life.]
July 27, 1998
I thought you might be interested in this article—since it does mention Joe Lofthouse, a friend of your father’s when he was in the Maryland National Guard. They were in the Guard around 1939-1940 and were taken into the regular Army following the Dec. 8, 1941, declaration of war. When I met your Dad, he was stationed at Fort Meade, Md. Eventually Joe and Ben decided they wanted to join the Paratroops and were sent to Ft. Benning, Ga., for basic training. After basic they went to Ft. Bragg, N.C. Ben was in the 82nd Airborne Div. and Joe ended up in the 101st Airborne Div., but I don’t know any details about Joe’s service, except that he was in the 101st during the Normandy invasion and lots of other missions.
Your dad did not remain in the 82nd because he was hurt in a “jump” and was transferred to a Field Artillery outfit at Camp Rucker, Ala. After several months training his outfit went to Hawaii, and then on to Japan. They expected to be involved in the war with Japan, but that did not happen.
I spent some time in Fayetteville, N.C., when your dad was stationed there—and did meet Joe Lofthouse and his wife Aggie—enjoyed time we spent there. Sure heard a lot of stories from Joe and Ben about the time they spent in the Nat[ional] Guard and regular Army. They really were “characters” to remember!!!
November 8, 1999
[I] received a letter from a woman in Roswell, Ga., whose grandparents had lived in this house [50 Choate St., Newark, Delaware] back in 1915-1918. She wanted to find out if the house was still standing. What a surprise!! I did write to her—short note—to let her know the house has been in our family since 1923. When I checked the old deeds to the house, I found that her grandparents’ names were on it. Her grandmother sold the house in 1921 and granddad [George T.] Dobson bought it from the new owner in 1923. I plan to send her a picture of the house and some other info. I think she is researching her family. Also, she lives in the area near [you] and [your wife] Faith—4 postal zones away! [For more on the “back story” of the Dobson-Knighton house at 50 Choate St., see Part III.]
April 9, 2000
My brother George [Knighton] died suddenly last Wednesday [March 28]—heart attack—at age 73—would have been 74 in July. It certainly was a big shock to all of us. He and his family live in [the] Alexandria, Va., area. We haven’t visited each other often but since his retirement we did keep in touch by phone, and he did a lot of the family [history] on his computer. Hard to accept the fact that he is no longer with us.
April 27, 2000
I know I haven’t been writing as often [as] I should, but I will try to do better. The loss of my brother George has really been tough for all of us—devastating to all. His own family is in shock since he was not ill or anything like that. I know we shouldn’t question this, but that is the way it is for me—I’m the oldest in our family [now], but I never expected to . . . reach the ripe old age of 77.
June 1, 2000
Holidays are kind of hard to handle since I am mostly alone at those times. My family sure is scattered around and have their own lives. . . . Sure has been a rough year for the whole family. Have been trying to kind of finish up on the family [history] thing I have been doing the past 12 years since I retired. Actually, I started getting info about 20 years ago. I have been having copies made of pictures of family members—some taken in the 1920s-1950s. I was fortunate enough to have spent time in my life with my own parents, grandparents, and even my great grandmother. Think it is time for me to finish it—but I have enjoyed doing all this.
April 24, 2003
It is nice not to be alone. Judy and Jay [Bestpitch] are very thoughtful and appreciate me because I finally realized it was time to make this decision [to sell her Newark home and move in with her daughter and son-in-law in Lewes, Delaware]. They were right–but it is hard to adjust in a way. Newark was my home for such a long time. I feel at home now [in Lewes]–don’t know why I was so long making up my mind. Guess I didn’t want to give up my independence! Guess I just had to prove I could be an independent person the past years.
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Additional Sources (Series)
Rick and Mary Lamplugh, The Best of Betts. This is a “memory book,” prepared for Betts and her caretakers, first at a rest home and then in a personal care home. I have drawn freely on this work, especially the photographs, to help put Betts’ words into context.
Finally, my deepest thanks and appreciation to my siblings, Judy Bestpitch and Rick Lamplugh, for their support of this project from start to finish. I couldn’t have done it without them.