I have before me a small loving cup, inscribed Somerlid Merit Award, 1935, Robert Lamar. It’s metal, on a plastic base, about three inches high, the product of some awards shop in Pueblo, Colorado, which is where my father did his early growing up.
It was given to him after he successfully completed eighth grade at Somerlid School, at the age of 13 (he had skipped third grade). The oldest of five children, he was the bright, hard-working son of Ralph, the owner of a playground equipment company; and Avis, a science teacher.
But my grandmother evidently packed up this little prize along with everything else the family owned when, in the summer of 1935, she left Pueblo for Topeka, Kansas. Ralph had been killed in an automobile accident in November, 1933, at the age of 39; so, after Avis settled his business affairs, off the family went to Topeka, to be near her parents.
Dad didn’t miss a beat. He took with him his French horn, on which he was already quite proficient; his athletic skills (baseball, in particular); a sparkling singing voice; and his love of learning. Over the next four years at Topeka High School, he continued achieving academically: he was valedictorian in 1939.
He then went off to Yale, and, remarkably, we have boxes of the two-way correspondence between him and my grandmother from 1939-1951, when she died.
Dad lived to be 96 (1922-2019). We’re still figuring out what to do with some of his important effects, including the little trophy and the letters AND the boxes of sermons he wrote between 1946 and 1990. Though I have used this time of quarantine to jettison many of my own items, the four of us “kids” are still in discussion about what to do with Dad’s possessions.
Perhaps this is what grandchildren are for!