What's your story

JamBios Memory Gallery

The JamBios Memory Gallery showcases user submitted memory stories from around the globe.

Each month selections are hand curated by Annie Cusick Wood and the JamBios creative team. They are chosen based on how the memory touches our heart, makes us laugh or inspires us.

To submit your memory story, start your free JamBio and invite the Memory Gallery to read one of your Chapter sections. Select Reader "Memory Gallery" at MemoryGallery@JamBios.com.

JamBios Featured Section
By Kristen Jaccodine

Call Sign: Fearless

It's close to 6:30 a.m. and I'm alone. It's okay though, I needed this moment to myself, before the girls joined me as we welcomed the sun to another day. As an east coaster, I'm struck by the calmer waves of the Pacific and the lack of the distinct fresh salty air that immediately fills your nose the moment you near any of the beaches, piers, and boardwalks of the Atlantic. The sand is whiter, smoother, mostly clean of rocks, shells, and sea glass. That doesn't stop my from looking though, from picking up a couple of Pacific Ocean treasures to take home. The sun is slowly rising to my left, casting a sparkling glow over the mountains, across the bluish-green sea, lighting up what was sure to be another crystal clear day. It was then that I closed my eyes and talked to mom, letting her know that I accomplished what I set out for, hoping she would be proud of me, and remembering the strength and courage I found within myself to overcome fear...

Sunrise Coronado Island California


It all started with a question Monty posted on twitter about fears. At the time, I wrote about a hike I took in the back woods of Maine this past summer to an underground ice cave.  My nephews and sister climbed down the ladders without issue. I was determined to try. I made it down the first ladder....the second, which would have plunged me into darkness, standing on and surrounded by ice, I could not steady myself enough to do. So, I remained on the ledge, watching them.  As they explored the caves and relayed what they saw to me, I wondered if I could ever find the courage to burst past my fear and not let it stop me from experiencing and creating memories with my family and friends. I was, am, tired of that heavy feeling in my chest, of the irrational thoughts that race through my mind, depicting the stories of everything that could potentially go wrong, and all the anxiety that comes with it.

But how?  How do I accomplish this personal goal of mine without my mom on my side? The one person who never judged or made fun of me, who may not have shared the same anxieties, but recognized how real they were too me.  And, if given the chance, would I take it, knowing, I couldn't share the experience with her through conversations and pictures. I wouldn't be able to see the look of pride on her face when I told her that I accomplished the goals I set for myself.

Since my mom passed in October, my primary focus has been to help my dad. I promised mom I would take care of him and I have. That's not to say I'm ignoring myself, but it's a difficult slope to traverse. I found myself exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I needed to do something for me, something different, something that would take me outside of my comfort zone. I first searched for writing retreats, located one in Hawaii that seemed absolutely perfect, until I checked the dates and saw they conflicted with my end of school year responsibilities. 

And then, I learned I was selected to attend the Navy Educator's Trip! I couldn't believe it! I honestly believed I had not been chosen! This trip offered me the opportunity to fly to San Diego, stay at the Navy Lodge on the base on Coronado Island, and learn about the various jobs the US Navy offers. As excited as I was about that, privately, the trip offered me so much more....it was the opportunity to leave the rather damp and depressing winter skies of NJ behind, to find some common ground with my dad who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and perhaps most important, to face down a few of my fears without my mom by my side.  In one trip, I would face flying alone, going up and down the steep ladders on a carrier and other ships, look into the heart and soul of helicopters, and the biggest one? Climbing into the belly of a submarine. 

Holy Shit. What was I thinking when I signed up for this? 

But it was done. I was committed and I was not going to turn back. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I checked the weather in San Diego, I contacted Sunshine for some tips on what to pack, talked to my brother in law who travels to the area frequently, who was actually in San Diego two weeks prior, and slowly put it together. My wonderful friends and co-workers rallied behind me, encouraged me and assured me that everything would be okay. That I would have a wonderful time. It's not that I doubted them, but that ugly fear reared it's head.....the day of departure arrived.

With shaking legs and a racing pulse, I said goodbye to dad and entered the departure gates of United Airlines at Newark Airport. I saw the line at the desk, jumping right on, only to get off as I realized I skipped the part of printing off my boarding passes. Yup. I went back to the kiosk and with the assistance of a really nice United Airline employee, I was on my way. With boarding passes printed and sticker for my luggage, I moved out of the way. Another nice man helped me secure my sticker for luggage and then I was once again on line. With my bag checked, I moved along to security, regularly checking my pockets and bags to make sure I did not have any loose change lying around. And although I did my best to be polite to the security checkers, they, well, let's just say they are not always the friendliest in return. 

Ignoring their impatience with the travelers that surrounded me, I followed both the written and oral instructions at security. Of course, I've been through all of this before, but never on my own. The last time I flew on my own was a time when friends or family could accompany you to the gate. Yup. I made it through security without issue and then, allowed myself to breathe.

I knew other educators would be on my flight, but given we were all from different schools, all I knew were names, not faces. I hoped I would be able to find at least one of my travel companions while we waited to board to help ease the stress that still coursed through my body. It was one thing to make it through all of that but another all together to be okay once we boarded the plane. Mom must have been smiling down on me because not only I was lucky enough to have an aisle seat (No window for me thank you very much!) As I ate breakfast and drank my chai, I checked my phone, smiling at the texts from friends, knowing I could call my brother in law if I had a question, and later, my new friend Sunshine checked in via twitter to see how I was doing.

And, as luck would have it, I did find one of my new found friends - Grace - (I happened to hear her conversation where she explained why she was at the airport), and as it would have it, she sat next to me on the plane.

Originally, I didn't plan to tell anyone my fears, but feeling comfortable with Grace from the start, I admitted that I did not like to fly. She immediately put me at ease, checked in with me throughout the flight and stuck by my side as we navigated our way through Houston. Because oh yeah, the flight was not direct. Grr.....


I'm smiling because the plane has yet to take off!

Thankfully, we left on time. I grabbed hold of the arm rests, gripping tight as we took off into the sky above and only let go of the breath I was holding when we leveled off and were at our cruising altitude. Honestly, I never pay attention to how many feet we are above the ground....I really don't want to know how much space is between the metal of the plane and the grassy plains below......

Grace fell asleep...I immediately tuned out. First up, "Can  You Ever Forgive Me", followed by a US Men friendly soccer game. I learned some time ago that the best thing to keep me calm on a flight (besides not getting up to use the too small bathroom), was to listen to music, read, do anything to distract myself from where I was. So, when the turbulence hit as we closed in on Houston, I gripped my hands even tighter, focused on the game, and waited for it to end.....

We only had an hour in between flights, so, Grace and I disembarked, checked for our gate, made a stop in the ladies room, and then walked to our gate. Once there, we double checked on our flight and then headed for some liquid courage....well, for me anyway. Honestly, this is the first time ever that I had a drink before boarding a plane. But it worked, my nerves were calmed....


On the flight from Houston to San Diego, I was in the middle seat between two gentleman. One was a student at the University of Tennessee. I learned he is a Turf Management major at the university and was traveling to San Diego with some of his classmates and professors to attend a National Turf Conference. We chatted a bit before I picked up my book to read while he played on his phone and slept. And although the ride between the Lone Star and the Golden State was rocky, I managed to check my anxiety and not grab on to someone's arm! When we landed in San Diego, the older man next to the window pointed out the rainbow to us. We had just missed the rain but were welcomed by a beautiful sight. I opted to not try and take a picture of it, as I just wanted to look at the bright colors and let it all soak in. After all, I was safely on the ground again! 

Incredibly grateful to be off the plane, Grace and I hooked up with another travel companion, Becca, who was seated next to her on the plane. As it turned out, Becca works as a guidance counselor at a school my former principal hailed from.  We picked up our baggage and headed out to the green van we knew was waiting for us. That was driven by Bruce. Bruce retired from the Navy after a 30 year career with the rank of Master Chief.  He currently resides in NY and helps run the educator program along with Diana, who came in on a different flight and arrived shortly after us. Once outside, we met Colleen and Christine. Later I learned that Colleen's name in high school Spanish class was Catalina, same as me and Christine knows one of my former students. Once we were all in the van, we headed out, happily chatting away. It was then that I truly knew this experience would be life changing.

After an awesome dinner at Rockin' Baja in Old Town, we headed back to the hotel. Even though it was three hours later on my body, I could not fall asleep. So, I sent off a few emails, checked into the happenings of Twitter, and eventually fell asleep. Or tried to.....there was a distinct buzzing of helicopters that awakened the evening sky with their continuous presence. And although I looked, I could not spot these watchers of the night.

Up early in the  morning, I showered, changed and headed to the beach to meet up with my new friends. The sun was already up though it was a brisk 47 degrees! Really nothing to me! Colleen and I kicked off our sandals to put our feet in the water. It was not as cold as I thought it would be......that was until a stronger wave crashed against us and soaked the bottom half of my pants! After strolling along the beach we headed inside to get breakfast before departing for the day.

Our first tour was of the aircraft carrier - the Roosevelt. I've seen pictures of aircraft carriers before, heard the stories my dad told me and my sister of the time he spent on them, and I've visited the Intrepid in NYC. But this opportunity not only offered me the chance to go on board, but to learn about the various jobs that exist on these floating cities. And of course, it involved climbing up and down several steep, open backed, metal stairs. It is safe to say that my hands were a bit sore afterwards given how hard I gripped onto the railings. If you've ever been on a carrier or seen one, you'll know that the majority of the ladders are outside.....that meant going up stairs that were fairly straight up, that were open, all the while remembering to not lean your head back and to be sure to step up and over while walking through the airtight / water sealed doorways. 

Can you believe that as I write this, my heart continues to pound? It's as if I'm right back there.....sun shining down yet breezy enough to wear pants and a long sleeve shirt, mindful of what I'm doing and of just how high up we climbed. All of it worth it, that is until I needed to get back down.....yup. But this experience aboard the TR felt like a warm up to what was yet to come. 

Me as the Air Boss!

After lunch in the mess hall on base, the group opted to stop at In and Out Burger. I was in the minority in that I had not heard of this joint or of its famed burgers. While everyone ordered a burger, just because, I opted for fries and a vanilla milkshake. I only had a small salad at lunch and was worried that if I did not have something else, an empty stomach combined with my nerves could be a dangerous combination for our next stop. The fries were delicious, the milkshake, let's just say I needed a spoon! 

I had only been to the San Diego area once before - that was while I was in high school. I traveled there with my family on a summer vacation. My sister and I met with our pen pals, also sisters. We spent time on the beach, went to the zoo, etc. Now, looking at the scenery as it all based by, I was struck by how beautiful the area truly is. And remembered just how perfect the climate is year round....

When we pulled into the parking lot at the Point Loma, Bruce told us we were not permitted to take pictures and to leave all bags, etc. behind. When I first learned that we would tour a submarine, to be perfectly honest, I was scared shitless.  I tried to imagine other ways to climb aboard, I knew the only way in and out was through the portal located on the top of the sub. While we waited at the plank for our tour guide to join us, I tried to not look and focused on my breathing. After clearing security, we filed onto the plank, stepping onto the top of the sub one by one. When I saw the hose curled up on top, I quickly passed away the images of tripping over the object, sliding into the water along the sub walls.... 

I was the fourth person in line. I heard the instructions on how to climb down the ladder, but honestly, I could not see anything. Diana, my height at 5'2, was ahead of me. She took one look and turned around, stating she could not do it. In that moment I thought, well, if she doesn't go, I can stay back and keep her company.....but I didn't. I told myself to focus and to try. This is a once and a lifetime opportunity. Then, Christine was up and although taller than me, she too was scared about how to approach the decent. It was then that we were joined by a seaman on top and in the middle to help us. 

After Christine was cleared, I tried to grab onto the husband as directed (a curved silver bar over the ladder), but my arms and legs were not long enough to reach. I told them, this is not going to work, I'm too short.  With kindness and compassion, my friendly servicemen told me to sit on the edge, slide my feet down onto the rim and then cross over to the ladder. Shaky legs and all, I managed to do just that, climbing onto the ladder only to slowly move down one rung at a time. The grip I had on the railings on the TR was nothing compared to the white knuckles on this trip. I flashed to the ice cave, where when I climbed back up from the ledge I was on, my hands slipped and I slid down the ladder, hitting my stomach against the bars in the process. Forcing that image from my mind, I focused on the cheering of my travel mates, of the serviceman and only mildly freaked out when I was told I had one more ladder to go! Yes...there were two of these suckers, about 10 rungs each. When my foot hit the floor, I was never more grateful....that is, until I saw just how small this space is.

Once down the ladders, I steadied my breathing and sat at one of the tables to wait for the remaining members of our group. Climbing into the sub was one thing, navigating my way through it without succumbing to my fear of enclosed spaces was another. We were told that if at any time we felt claustrophobic, to let someone know and they would get us out. The panicked voice in my head silently screamed that would be me, but the rational side popped in and said, there is no way in hell you are ready to climb back up that ladder! That side won, momentarily.

There was one point in the tour where we spoke with one of the officers of the ship, and I was trapped in a corner. I was okay at first, but then I felt the tightness in my chest, the weakness in my legs, needing the wall to lean on for support. I knew we needed to move soon and thankfully, we did.  I was okay until we walked through the engine room, but I made it and then steadied myself when we saw the missiles. But then, I knew once we left that space, we needed to head back to the surface. 

This time, I was the second one to go. Oddly enough, I felt as though the climb up was harder physically, as I felt the strength of gravity wanting to pull me down,but, I kept going, hand over hand, one foot at a time. When I reached the top, I was again faced with the curse of being short. I was not able to step back onto the plank, instead I placed my knee on as Diana did before me and climbed out that way. Once up, I turned around to help my friend Christine, who too, was terrified of taking that last step.

I did it!!! 

Over drinks and food, we shared our highs and lows of the week.  When it was my turn, I began by stating I loved all of it, all that we saw, all the people we met, and all that I learned. My respect and admiration for these unsung heroes only deepened during this experience. And then, my emotions got the best of me and with tears slipping down my face, as they are now while I write this, I shared about the loss of my mom and what this trip meant to me. And that for the first time ever, I actually craved sunshine and warmth and not snow and cold! 

I shared my conflicting feelings about leaving my dad alone for the first time and not having my mom to share all of this with, but that I also knew I needed to live in the moment. I needed to prove to myself that although my fear of flying may always be there, lingering in the background, I can do it on my own. I can overcome my anxieties about ladders and small, dark, cramped places, surrounded by gallons of water :), and experience a once and a lifetime event. An experience that I now share with these wonderful people. We started as strangers, but now, we are bonded through our joint experiences of sunrises, late night drinks and conversation, sights of the carrier and smells from the cruiser, marines being disciplined (an interesting story), and about Hell Week. Not only did we connect with each other, but with Bruce, who was grieving his own loss, Diana who experienced this trip for the first time with us, and with Antoine, who shared with us his journey on how he came to this place in his life.   

My low was our harbor ride for a variety of reasons, and the panic I felt when I learned we had to lean over the side of the boat and climb up the ladder on the dock to get off. All I could see? Me falling into the space between the ship and the dock!

While visiting with "Little Dove", a helicopter pilot, I asked how pilots get their call signs. He shared the pilot does not select their own, but instead are given a name after doing something stupid or silly or because it is a variation of their name. While the other girls were given their call signs, it was later that evening that the girls gave me mine: Fearless.

And although I still had to steady myself for the plane ride home (which was not a stress free one by any means), it was somehow that much better because I was with girls. It was so much better that for the first time in my entire flying life, I didn't need to tune out, but instead chatted with them the whole way home.

We also celebrated with another cocktail!

Mission Accomplished.

read more
Category: Memory Gallery Selection

Monty the JamBios biographer was excited to learn he inspired this gripping memory about conquering one's fears!

By Richard Ozanne

A Global Exploration....

One famous poet-author stated: "You can see the world from your own backyard...". 

Travel is great for some, good for others, and for some better left as a note for another life, a home-bound day. 

From my earliest days I was traveling in my mothers arms. Since my parents were musicians-professors of the musical world, I traveled a great deal even as a child, not knowing where those days might take me through my life. My parents took their travel seriously, each trip was an important destination many times scheduled according to the brown book which my parents both carried with them. I can remember the sound of the roaring motors as a child and travel by plane back and forth across the country, slightly before the totally converted jet age. We visited San Francisco from our home in St. Louis many times, via air, and also by car in many trips. When I was very young my mother would take me via air,  father would travel by road for great distances while my father would move us by car....remembering that old green trailer.  Every summer there was a cross country tour in store for our trips to Chautauqua New York whether from California or later on Arizona. I calculated by the age of 25 I had crossed the United States some 75 times via air or car! 

My father was a veteran driver. In the 40's through the 70's he had traveled his million road miles on concert tours, from city to town, on long tours. It was a cinch when it was a call to the road, he knew all the roads without a road map crossing the country. 

During my childhood I had the unique experience of traveling to Amsterdam (Europe) with my folks. My memories recalled the large triple tail 'Constellation' and the long trip across via plane. I must have been 3 years old. 

Later we went to Hawaii in 1961, and stayed in Honolulu for about a month during one of my fathers tours to play with the distinguished conductor Andre Kostelanentz.  

Yes, there were memories poised on 8mm of the day, the films still exist, coming and landing in Hilo, the plane having motor problems monitored on the tarmac before we were on to Honolulu via the antiquated DC-6 of those days. 

I was thrilled by visits to the airport, but often not for air-travel where I often got ill in the days of rough turbulence on those old and antiquated propeller driven craft, before jets. As a child I loved to go to the airport, it presented such a thrill unlike anything else, and of course often to see my father who would greet us after a long concert tour.  

Later I traveled with my parents on the roads across, and after the passing of my mother in 1974 was soon to be a helpful driver, learning my driving skills under permit at the tender age of 15 and a half. I didn't like driving however. My father gave me professional driving lessons and tested me on a trip to Los Angeles, a visit to Hollywood for a concert, and a sudden test on the Santa Ana freeway during rush hour where it seemed obvious, but yes, nervous that I was going to do a lot of driving in my future. 

We criss-crossed the country in those days, my father at the helm, a brief stop now and then for a day or so for recreation, camping or fishing. My father loved to fish, and I can recall my first fishing trips and my first catch in places like Idaho. Life was always learning a new skill about fishing or camping, when my father and I were traveling. He used to go into the long stories of his road trips crossing the country, the events, concerts and some quirky experiences of travels in his 20's and 30's of road trips gone awry. 

I remember his air ticket box, for posterity- probably worth a fortune at the antique mart, of the old sleeves. The air ticket box was over one foot tall the old tickets sandwiched together in a tight box.  

My mother on the other hand was not the big traveler when she was alive. She appreciated home, and kind of winced when we had to be off again on another long tour either via air or car. For her there was no place like home.

During school I was given extra credit and projects to do during our travels, if permitted...but not always. Sometimes I had make-up tests for days lost because of these travels, but avoided trouble since most of our travel would be confined to a week or so absence from school. 

In 1970 my parents sat around the table and father suggested travel to Mexico via rail and then by plane to some of the deepest parts of the land as a Christmas gift but also to expose us to another culture, not so far away from Tucson, the lands south.

We traveled from Nogales to Mazatlan, then to Acapulco via train that took the adventure further in a compartment on a train which took some time. Our travel went onward across mexico to Mexico City where my father had a concert in attendance that Christmas, and then south for another adventure.  I was only 10 years old but amazed at the landscapes and cultures witnessed. I saw the great museums in Mexico of Aztec and antique culture. We visited historical places that winter into New Year of 1971.  I received as a Christmas gift my first 35 mm camera to record events, much was on film and in 8mm. 

In 1973 my parents had scheduled a trip to Greece on the invitation of a wonderful friend, and esteemed member  of the family, with a residence in Spain. Unfortunately that venture changed to a domicile in France where we were to stay in Cannes at the residence of a great friend of my fathers whose father was Governor General of Tahiti, a remarkable place in Cannes  with a grand piano, and wonderful Louis XIV furniture.  We lived in Cannes from Aug to November of that year on a longer trip that would take us around the world to countries like Iran, India, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong. 

More to be added-------

My father had passed away in March of 1992. 

During the spring and summer of that year was addressed with extreme sadness, feeling almost an orphan at times, but still in preparation for an ongoing future, as per my fathers orders....continue on

I had secondary family who made promises to look after me in those rather dire days. Friends however, well those 'fair weather' friends or relationships gave out during these times...somewhat disparagingly, but to be honest, part of human nature to the element of human grief. My relatives in California came for a couple of days  to help after the aftermath of this, but it was apparent that I was more or less totally alone in this ordeal. I drove up to visit them in the winter, and in the spring time, just wanting to be part of the family, but feeling a very nervous hand that I was very well...left on my own

Times had been difficult in emotional ways, but tough at it I did, and within a year had projects laid before me clear across the United States.

My career was of upmost importance and with projects at hand flew and drove on a couple of long tours back east which took me to New York, and Canada on routes far and wide. During these days I had perspectives of teaching, and did many interviews from Toronto to Washington D.C where there was an open post at the Corocan Gallery and artist-teacher venues.  I had a long list of interviews, and many applications, and interviews in those days. I remember sending out nearly a hundred packets a month for such venues,  decidedly to get a position teaching, earning a good income, and putting myself to an honest post in life with my skills equip with an MFA, working decisively on my career. 

In the early 90's I had several exhibitions in New York City, which were onward and upward projects.

Tempe had been my home for the most part however. After many months of living, doing projects in Phoenix and surrounding areas I was increasingly on the road. I began to know the road rather well with assistance of others who dispatched my work to galleries across the country, pick up or delivery sometimes a few days tour...too and fro.  After a while however, Arizona seemed to be in hindsight with onward perspectives unless a job held me, or a specific project. I traveled the west frequently, and many stories of life as with my art were to follow.  I began looking elsewhere than Phoenix to make my abode. A journey to New Mexico, Santa Fe and Taos were and interesting perspective. I spent several weeks in Taos and during that time was showing my work in short-run exhibits. During that time I made artists friends and developed contacts as well as involved research into creative perspectives. 

It was in Taos that I met R.C Gorman (Famous Navajo Artist) at his gallery in Taos. It was a rather memorable moment meeting with the artist in a casual meeting at the Navajo Gallery. I engaged him in talking shop with me during some off time. He gave reference to Fritz Scholder another artist who I knew in Scottsdale, and of course the genesis of my career in those days, exhibiting and selling my work at the gallery in NYC kept me as a stable, as well as a new studio in Scottsdale to complete work for exhibits in New York.

My studio was adjacent to the Scottsdale Center of the Arts in old town Scottsdale. It was a large angular studio with large windows. Over the course of a couple of years...until the price went way out of perspective, I kept the studio as well as worked at my home when permissible. But the road lead on. I took jobs at the Scottsdale Center of the Arts, and teaching part-time or as substitute in those days at valley schools. But those were short term ventures, not really paying as much as needed. Over the summer I was again traveling...if not to catch up on some recreation, looking in anticipation as favorable reviews came in from New York City and hence another exhibition, and then more travel. 

I had a friend who was a travel agent and always got me the best air travel tickets available whether domestic or international. On one such meeting with him, he provided me with air-tickets to Asia at a reduced rate. 

Late in 1993 I took up his perspective for a solo trip and exploration in Southeast Asia with visits to Thailand, Laos and down into the deepest parts of Indonesia, flying island to island on a tour to investigate arts, to film native arts during my travels. 

The trip would take 3 months on tour and for the most part of the trip....I was going onward. Solo. 


I returned to Phoenix in mid January, with flying feet from the adventure and creative impulse under my heels. Sometimes travel abroad strengthened one, solo...

The next year passed with many creative works in a variety of media, small shows resulted, and then a dramatic slow down from the gallery in New York representing me. According to the director of the gallery I had been the best selling artist from all the galleries around Soho, equal in some perspectives to some others of well known names. The art world unfortunately was in trouble, and several galleries in Soho were going under or doors closed in a dramatic turn of the times. I held firm. 


read more
Category: Memory Gallery Selection

In this memory story, an artist describes his globetrotting youth and the unusual experiences that accompanied it.

JamBios Featured Section
By Sue horsford

Royal Connections

Some years ago, I decided to start researching my family tree and I created an account with an ancestry website. Right away I found it fascinating to learn not just the names of my ancestors, but also their occupations and where they lived. I found I had both Welsh and Scottish ancestry though, surprisingly for someone from Liverpool, not one Irish ancestor. 

My ancestors were from across the social spectrum. My great great great great grandfather James was the illegitimate son of Martha, a servant in the house of a lord. (There are some who say he was the bastard son of the lord but who knows). My great grandmother Agnes Horsford pictured below (from whom I took my pen-name)

on the other hand, was the daughter of a cabinet maker, a very respectable profession in Victorian England paying the grand sum of 30 shillings a week. To give you an idea of how much that was, the average wage for a farm labourer was 14 shillings a week. 

Tracing my ancestors soon became a full-time hobby, I loved the investigative side of it, working out family connections and sending off for copies of birth and marriage certificates. I found that my great great great great grandmother was called Susanna Pickston which was my name before I married. I can't tell you how strange it was to see the death date of someone with the same name as myself! I also learned that my great great great grandfather Magnus was a fisherman in Malmo, Sweden. 

But the craziest thing I found out was this. I'd been looking at the 1851 census where I learned that John Stanley, my great x 5 grandfather on my father's side, had been a farmer of 30 acres at a place called Carr Farm. This is not far from me and it's no longer a working farm, but a garden centre where I'd visited many times. I felt a little pride at this. Next time I went, I told myself, I'd strut around as if I owned the place. I decided to do some research into the farm to see if I could learn more about my ancestor. This led me to follow a link to a website run by a member of the Stanley family who had been doing proper research into this branch of the family. By proper, I mean researching the old way: visiting churches and record offices rather than sitting comfortably at a computer. 

According to his research, John was illegitimately descended from James Stanley, 16th century Bishop of Ely. (See the incredibly lifelike portrait below.)

The history books say this about my illustrious  14th great-grandfather: 'a man more memorable than commendable, who never resided at his own cathedral; I can partly excuse his living all the summer with the Earl his brother in Lancashire; but must condemn his living all the winter at his manor at Somersham in Huntingdonshire with one who was not his sister, and wanted nothing to make her his wife save marriage.' He is also described in one book as 'lewd and luxurious'. Luxurious in the 16th century meant lascivious. I like to think he'd be proud that his 14th great granddaughter writes erotica! He's also described as the tallest man in England, which is something I've definitely not inherited. 

I then looked into his ancestry and found that he was the second son of the First Earl of Derby, Lord Thomas Stanley. I mentioned this to my mother who was a huge history buff, thinking she'd be delighted at this famous connection, despite it being on my father's side. To my surprise, she was horrified. "Thomas Stanley was a traitor!" she cried. "If it hadn't been for him, Richard would never have lost the Battle of Bosworth and we would never have had a Tudor monarch!" 

This might be a good time to explain about my mother's near fanatical worship of Richard III and her pathological hatred of the Tudors. She belonged to the Richard III society (yes there is such a thing) which is dedicated to clearing his name and refuting the accusation that he was a cruel hunchback who murdered his young nephews. She named my brother Richard which gives you some idea of the extent of her fan worship and when I was at school she saw that I was being taught that he'd killed his nephews and she wrote a strongly worded letter to my history teacher, despite my pleas of 'Please, Mum. You're making a show of me!" She died recently and if there is an afterlife, I'd like to think she's met her idol and at least got his autograph. My brother and I also think it more than a little hilarious that she's going to have to explain that she married a descendant of the man who got him killed! 

When she'd got over her shock that her children were descended from a traitor, she said to me, "So, you're descended from royalty then." 

"I am?"

"Yes. James Stanley's mother was Eleanor Neville, great great granddaughter of Edward III." (Told you she knew her history.) 

Well I dutifully recorded all this in my family tree which led me to trace the ancestry of Edward III (sorry Scots readers about Edward I) and I am the 27th great granddaughter of William the Conqueror. (Do you see a likeness? I think we have the same hair.)

But you needn't stand on ceremony, I haven't let it affect me and I don't expect you to bow or curtsy when you meet me. (Actually the part I'm proudest of is being descended from a naughty bishop, I do love a rebel!) And I've just googled it (because if I'm the Queen of anything, it's the Queen of Geek) and apparently if each generation had two children, then King William would now have 536,870,912 direct descendants which is more than the entire population of the United States. That's still totally boggling my mind! Maths is crazy. 

Writing this has made me realise that with one thing or another, I've neglected my family research lately so I'll be doing a lot more of that if I can fit it in and maybe I'll uncover another story to JamBio. 

*Apropos of nothing, when I typed Battle of Bosworth my spellcheck changed it to Battle of Jobsworth and I'll giggle about that for the rest of the morning. 

read more
Category: Memory Gallery Selection

As ancestry fans ourselves, we loved this deep dive into the family history of one of our regular Jammers.

JamBios Featured Section
By Robert McClarty

My Foulest Deed

Title one of my foulest deeds

I see my reflection in the mirror all I see is the sparkle in my eye
and the worry wrinkles on my forehead. I guess it has always been
that mischievous sparkle in my eye that has led me to do all the
mischievousness in my life. The wrinkles are there because of the
worry I put myself through after I have committed my dastardly

of the earliest dastardly deeds that I can remember revolves around
my older brother Barrie. I will devote a whole chapter to my brother
Barrie a little later on in this book.

was about 1950 in Manning, Alberta. My mom and dad and six siblings
were living up above the butcher shop that my dad ran. I was six
years old at the time, mom and dad in one bedroom, myself and my
three older brothers in two sets of Army bunks in another room, and
my two sisters in the last bedroom.

my brother Barrie, who was seven years older than I, had a long
serious history of bladder problems. He had ,on more than one
occasion , spent months at a time out in the hospital in Edmonton
being treated. A big expense for a dad trying to squeak out a living
on a quarter section homestead with seven hungry kids to feed. That's how we ended up in Manning in 1950, Dad running the butcher
shop for the owner, George Grimm.

was at least -40°F outside and we had no indoor bathroom and I had
to pee. I was already in bed. That meant I would have to get up and
go out on the open air back stair landing and use the just emptied
slop pail. Maybe there was a chamber pail in the girls bedroom.  Whatever the background behind my reasoning, I decided it would be
easier just to crawl down into Barrie's bunk and pee there. With his
bladder problems, he always peed the bed at night anyway so his bunk
had a rubber sheet on it. I figured he wouldn't notice the
difference. So that is what I did. Later, when Barrie came to bed,
he threw back the blankets to get in and noticed his wet sheet. He
was a lot sharper than I gave him credit for. He called out,"
Mom my bed is wet!"

came in and sized up the situation, and figured out what had
happened. I can still remember her wacking me through the blankets
and me pressing against the wall trying to avoid her spanks. She
wasn't very tall so she couldn't reach all the way to the back of my

wrote about this dastardly deed once before, it was for mom and dad's
60th anniversary. The girls had decided that we should all write
down some of our memories about growing up in our family so I wrote
about it then. During that afternoon celebration, Jackie Dzaman,
Cecil's old pal, was reading from the book of memories that was
laying on the display table. When he finished reading my little
contribution, he just looked over at me and shook his head. He said
to his wife Gail standing beside him," See Gail, we don't have
to worry about our kids, look how Robert has turned out, he's a
schoolteacher now, and he was the worst little bugger in the world." We had a good laugh together.

If you like this story and want to check out other ones I have written just go to my website  https://robertmcclarty.selz.co...

read more
Category: Memory Gallery Selection

This writer's "foulest deed" isn't what you think it is.

By Heather


"Well I was borned a coal miner's daughter"....the soothing sound of Loretta Lynn's voice coming from my computer speakers got me thinking.  I really was born a coal miner's daughter, grand daughter, great-grand daughter and so on and so on.  You hear the songs, Patty Loveless singing about never leaving Harlan alive and I'm pretty sure most of us have seen October Sky.  But music and movies are just that...songs and pictures; portrayals of lives lived.  Portrayals, nothing more, nothing less.  It's a life that you never really understand unless you've actually lived it.  Growing up in a Hollow (or Holler if you're speaking Appalachian English) or coal camp is an entirely different if not other worldly experience than growing up in most other places.  Living in Southern West Virginia in the most Southern county meant basically living in isolation.  You're limited as to what is available to you all the way around.  Less opportunities were afforded to miner's kids.  You went to school, you graduated, you went to work in the mine.  Unless you were a female and then it was much worse than that.  You were expected to marry and raise kids.....future miners and wives and mothers.  If you were lucky, you might be able to get a job at the local drug store or grocery store.  My own mother worked for the mine company store for a little while before having me.  Even coal mining in it's infancy was nothing more than slave labor due to the miners being paid in script that was only spendable at the company store; but I digress from the main point here.  I love these mountains, they are my home.  Almost Heaven, West Virginia.  I was raised here and will probably die here.  If you don't get out when you're young, more than likely you will never leave; such is the McDowell County way.  I'm pretty sure that there are those who would disagree with some of my statements, but for me, as an individual, every bit of this is the truth.  One thing I do know for sure; us McDowell Countians are raised strong.  We are resiliant.  We are able to handle anything that life throws our way.  Give us a 2 ft snow storm accompanied by a power outage, we will be making hamburgers on the grill.  And I promise you, you will still have those home made buttermilk biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  Most of us still know the old ways and can survive in any circumstance.  We know how to live off the land and as Hank Williams Jr so eloquently put it "We make our own whiskey and our own smoke too".  Us country folk can and will survive. So, if you ever find yourself in the midst of the apocolypse, just come on to McDowell County.  We would welcome you with open arms, bring you in and feed you.  Before you leave here, I promise you will love brown beans and cornbread with some good ole poke greens and fatback.  It would be hard for you to tear yourself away from the mountain twilight and the sparkle of lightning bugs in the summer lit up like stars in the sky accompanied by the sweet songs of the frogs and crickets and the creek gently rolling.  Better than anything Andrew Lloyd Webber could have ever imagined.  Once you're here, you will never want to leave.  

read more
Category: Memory Gallery Selection

To characterize her hometown and community, this writer paints a clear portrait with memories and words.

JamBios Featured Section
By Sue horsford

Missing my friend

Angie and I didn't have the best start. We were in the same class in middle school (10-13) and we hated each other. It's difficult to remember exactly why as it's 46 years ago but I do remember one incident in the line waiting to go into school dinners. I was in front of Angie in the queue but was standing side on as I was talking to my friend Janice and so I didn't notice when the people in front of me moved forward. I remember Angie digging me in the shoulder and saying,"Move Dopey." I scowled at her and she scowled back and that was pretty much the pattern of our relationship throughout the first year of school. 

Then in 1974 we moved up into the second year and we were split into groups for some subjects depending on ability. I was put into the top group for maths much to my dismay as it meant being parted from Janice, the only real friend I had made. On the morning of the first maths lesson, I had a dental appointment and so was late to class. To my horror, there were only two seats left, one was at the front of the class next to a boy with spots and body odour and one was at the back of the class next to Angie. Talk about Hobson's choice. Quite apart from not wanting to sit at the front of the class with someone who smelled, if I voluntarily sat next to a boy, it would be all over the school by lunchtime that I fancied him. So I gave a great sigh and went to sit next to my nemesis. She glared at me as I sat down and I glared back but we didn't speak. 

That was the pattern of our relationship for the next few days until one day we were trying to tackle quadratic equations. I wouldn't have a clue how to solve one now but at the time I was pretty good at maths, I enjoyed the subject and learned quickly. Angie was struggling and I could hear her cursing under her breath. 

"Look this is how you do it, " I said, and I showed her what to do.

Angie looked surprised but she thanked me and that was the start of the thaw in relations. 

Then a week or so later, I heard the sound of horse's hooves outside and I turned and watched as two people rode down the road that ran past our school. 

"I'd love to be able to ride," I said to Angie.

"Really?" she said. "I go riding every Saturday morning. Why don't you come with me?"

So that was the start of our friendship. We bonded over a shared love of horses and before long we were best friends. Angie was very much the instigator of everything we did including getting up to all sorts of mischief as she was much more daring than I was! 

We were friends all throughout our teens and when we were nineteen we moved into a flat together. That didn't last long. Angie was a neatness freak and my slovenly ways got on her nerves so she moved out into a flat just up the road. I was with Rob at the time and she was seeing a guy called Mike.  

Rob was often violent towards me and Angie was the friend I'd literally run to. It was a common occurrence for her to hear a frantic hammering on her living-room window which she'd then push open for me to jump inside. Every time it happened, she'd beg me not to go back and I always swore I wouldn't, but of course I always did. 

Then one day Angie and I had a huge row over money during which we literally came to blows and that was it, the end of our friendship. We'd see each other around at times  but we'd studiously ignore each other. Then I just stopped seeing her around and someone said she gone to live down south.  

I split from Rob in 1986 and then a year later I was working in a cafe as a waitress when I heard a voice say, "Sue! I don't believe it!"

I looked up to see Angie with a small child in tow. I was due a break so I sat down with her and she told me that she'd met a guy in London and got pregnant by him. They'd got married but it hadn't worked out and now she was back home with her daughter, Claire, she was buying the house opposite her mother's and she was seeing Mike again. She also told me she was diabetic.

We stayed friends from that day on, our previous fight forgotten, and I watched over the years as Angie's diabetes took its toll on her health. I'd never been Mike's biggest fan but had to admit, he did look after her and Claire. Never a year went by that Angie didn't spend at least a couple of weeks in hospital and it seemed that she had every possible complication of diabetes and then some.

In 2011 I told her I would be getting married the following year and I asked her to be one of my Matrons of Honour. Angie was so excited and told me she would help me with my wedding preparations as much as she was able. 

Then I texted her one day to see if she was available for a dress fitting and she texted me back to say she was in hospital. I went to visit her, thinking it was another diabetes related health problem and so I was shocked to see her lying in bed, telling me that she was paralysed from the waist down. The doctors had no idea what was happening she told me, but she was staying positive. 

"After all," she told me. "There are people in here who can't even move their arms. I'm lucky really." That's the way she was, always positive, always looking on the bright side. 

She was in hospital for months while alterations were made in her home that would allow her to move about in a wheelchair, then finally they let her out. They'd found a lump on her spine and removed it but now she had to wear a metal brace to keep her spine and neck straight. It screwed into her head and looked incredibly painful but as always she kept smiling. 

The only time I saw tears in her eyes was when we talked about my wedding. "I'm still going to come," she said. "But I'm not going to be able to accompany you down the aisle. I can't see myself being able to walk by then."

"Mike could push you in your wheelchair." I said, but she shook her head.

"No, it's your day. You should be the centre of attention, no-one should be looking at anyone but you."

So she came to the wedding and she looked beautiful even in her brace. I'm so glad that I have the day on DVD. Now whenever I want, I can see her lovely smile and listen to her voice. 

Over the next 18 months, she made great progress and finally the brace was removed and she was able to get about with a stick. She also bought a mobility scooter so she could have her independence. She wasn't about to let anything stop her! 

Then one day in 2017, she was standing up when suddenly she collapsed and was unable to get back up. She was rushed into hospital where they couldn't find the cause. She could move her legs without any problems but she just couldn't support herself. There followed another long stay in hospital and when she was discharged, she was bed bound with carers coming in every day. This was the first time her positivity began to falter. "I try to stay positive," she told me, tears running down her cheeks. "But sometimes it's just feels like I take one step forwards and two steps back."

She was bed-bound for over a year during which she developed other health problems which again, the doctors were seemingly unable to diagnose. Then one day in August the following year, I visited her and she told me that Mike had been diagnosed with cancer. I couldn't believe it. How could so many bad things happen to one couple?

Mike went downhill very quickly and it was only a couple of weeks later that she sent me a text to say he had died the previous night. I wanted to go round but she said she'd rather be alone. The next time I saw her was at Mike's funeral. She was in her wheelchair pushed by Claire who was devastated at losing the nearest she'd ever had to a father. Angie was so brave, thanking everyone for coming and managing to keep her tears at bay. I wanted to see her in the coming weeks but she said she needed to deal with this on her own and she'd call me when she was ready for company. 

Then four weeks to the day of Mike's death I received a heart-broken message from Claire. "Mum died last night," she said. "Multiple organ failure."

I phoned her straight away. Apparently the carers had gone in that morning and found her unconscious. She'd been rushed to hospital where they'd tried to operate but they hadn't been able to save her. 

"People keep saying she didn't have any quality of life," Claire said. "But you know what Mum was like. She made the most of every day and she was so looking forward to meeting her new grand-daughter." (Claire was pregnant with her third child.)

At the funeral, everyone said, "She's with Mike now," and maybe they're right but I wish she was still here. She was the strongest person I've ever met and I miss her every day.  


read more
Category: Memory Gallery Selection

A lifelong friendship is immortalized in this moving eulogy.