Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Family History Tattoo-Part II

Today's post continues with the story of affable Bob Soukup, a retired Florida resident who has tattoos depicting his family history.

Can you tell us a little bit about your own history?

I grew up in Chicago on the far, far south side. Today it is known as the Calumet Harbor area. Then it was known as Roseland Pullman, and I grew up literally across the street from George M. Pullman Manufacturing of the Pullman dining cars and sleeping cars. I saw many of those train cars being built, and another one I can remember is the snowmobile that Admiral Byrd used back in the 30’s. I can remember seeing that actually being built and out in the yards. I think it was an articulated bus-type facility, but I can remember seeing that particular unit for Admiral Byrd out in the yards at the Pullman Company.

Going back, I can remember the Green Diamond, which is one of the first modern streamlined locomotive trains for the Illinois Central going past our apartment back in the 30’s about 4:00 in the afternoon because I knew I had to be back in the house by 4:00. That was by the big Pullman clock that we could see with the hands on the 12 and the 4. I believe, to the best of my knowledge, that it is still in existence and on the national historic register.

I had one brother, John, three years older. He passed away a couple of years ago in Houston, Texas. We are both graduates of the public school system of Chicago, but our formal education...our college degrees...are from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.  My brother graduated in 1952, and I’m the class of 1954.

In my case, I did not want to go to The Citadel. I was enrolled in Blackburn College in Collinville, Illinois to study horticulture. I was apprentice to a German horticulturist from the south side of Chicago for a good number of years, and I loved the field. In 1950, I graduated from high school. In June, the Korean war broke out, and having done some soul searching on my part, I felt that I would be better off going to The Citadel and choosing my second profession that I would go into, and that would be teaching.

So I asked my parents if I could go to The Citadel, and I can remember my father saying, “We don’t know if we can get you in or not. It’s pretty late.” About two weeks later, he said, “You’re enrolled at The Citadel.” After I graduated and a good number of years out, and having been one of the founders of the Florida Central Academy, a private boarding school here in Lake County, Florida at the Sorrento/Mt. Plymouth area,  my father and I were reminiscing about the story. He wondered if I remembered the time we were talking about it, and I said, “Yes, I remember.”

He said, “You were already enrolled at The Citadel. We were just hoping that you would go there. Do you have any regrets?”

I said, “I have no regrets whatsoever about matriculating at the military college and getting my degrees from there.”

For the past eleven years prior to coming back here to the Florida area, where I’ve retired, I’ve lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My roommate from The Citadel was from Myrtle Beach, and his father was assistant postmaster so I was familiar with the Myrtle Beach area. Just prior to my retirement, for over five years I was supervisor of security for the largest mall in the state of South Carolina, Coastal Grand Mall. I had 11 officers under me, and then I retired March 18, 2011.

I am loving retirement here in Florida. It is more home to me than anywhere else. I’ve lived here for so many years with a lot of wonderful friends, classmates and students that I’ve taught here in the state. I’m just thrilled to be back in Lake County and enjoying retirement.

Besides displaying the stories with tattoos, have you written any of your history?
With Florida Central Academy, since I’m the last of the original administration from the founding of the school in 1959-1960, one of our students in Central Florida by the name of Kent Griffith and I have been collaborating, and he has done a lot of research on Florida Central Academy. That is a totally different story and highly fascinating that the hotel itself that we took over, the old Mount Plymouth Hotel and Country Club, was founded in 1925 and 1926 and built by the mob money out of Chicago--literally. It has been traced, and this is gospel, going back to the south side of Chicago where I grew up with the Al Capone era, prohibition, and the hotel with that type of mob money.  The hotel was also the Central Florida headquarters for quite some time for the illustrious Al Capone of the city of Chicago. In fact, my apartment in the building, until I built my own home out in Mount Plymouth, was the apartment of Al Capone. That was the big tower of the hotel. That has all been documented through the newspapers that Kent Griffith has been researching that I have collaborated with him. I assume that eventually we’ll put this into a story. I’m not sure which way we’ll go with it yet.

In conclusion…

I’ve seen through motorcycling and everything else, different sports I’ve been involved with, a lot of people get a tattoo and they might later on regret that they’ve gotten one. I’ve always looked at it that it is lifetime. It’s more painful to have it removed, or more expensive than it is to get one. There has to be a lot of deep thought about putting ink on your body. I chose it and I have no regrets. To me, I look at it on a daily basis and it’s just part of my family history that I grew up with, and I’m so proud of the fact that the ancestral side on both my paternal, as well as my maternal side of the family, have such a unique history. And I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s wonderful, and it has carried me and sustained me more than once.

Note from Mary Anne:
A very special thank you to Bob Soukup for spending time chatting with me by telephone about his history and life experiences. Now for the promised photos of his family history tattoos:

We have to admit that this is one innovative way to carry family stories with you! Our thanks again to Bob for sharing his most unusual story.

Learning how to share your story is easy! Check out 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! 

Visit http://www.awriterspresence.com for links to all formats. 
Special prayers and thoughts to victims of Hurricane Sandy, as rescues take place and damage is assessed today.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Most Unusual Family History Format

Family History Tattoo-Part I

As a memoir writing instructor, I have the privilege of meeting some amazing people and hearing a variety of stories—some poignant, others hilarious and still others that are downright unusual!

I’m all about preserving our family histories and capturing them in any method that works best for the individuals involved, but one day I met a gentleman who chose to capture his family stories in the most unique way.

I was speaking to a local Kiwanis group, and after my talk, Bob Soukup approached me. He said, “I’ll bet you have never seen this before.” He pointed toward the floor, leaned over and pulled up his pant leg to display a series of tattoos. “My family history is depicted in these tattoos,” he announced. He went on to tell me a little bit about the stories that were portrayed on his flesh, and I believe that I was so astounded at the time it didn’t occur to me to ask for his contact information so I could interview him in the future.
Time flew by, and I occasionally envisioned that tattooed leg. I finally contacted JoAnne Delahaut, the Kiwanis representative who had invited me to speak. I asked her if she could provide Bob’s email address and telephone number for me so I could interview him for my blog, and she graciously gave me the information and also sent me photos of those infamous tattoos. 

I was finally able to enjoy a fascinating telephone interview with Bob. He has retired and moved to Florida, and I asked him to refresh my memory on the exact family history that he was trying to capture in the tattoos. He said, “My mother was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, which is a suburb of St. Louis.  Her parents and about seven of the children, back sometime in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, migrated from the St. Louis area or Kirkwood to Helena, Montana. I can remember her telling about the trip. Now she had to be a young child because she was born January 6, 1898 in Kirkwood. I can remember hearing her talking about traveling the plains and seeing the plains Indians. She always talked about the face paint that they had and the painted horses that she could remember.  The short story is that it was too cold in Montana, and the family relocated in the early 1900’s to central Nebraska, where through my research, I found where my maternal grandparents’ family lived in the Sargent/Taylor-central Nebraska area.

It had always intrigued me with her telling about how they had migrated out west and then back again, and I began over the years in my work with Florida Central Academy in the Lake County area, operating our Western Division’s school and conference center in Estus Park, Colorado.

I looked at the Drake side, which is my maternal grandparents. They settled out into that area in the west. So I began doing a little bit of research and found Drake, Colorado, a little tiny stage stop on U. S. 34 between Loveland, Colorado and Estus Park through the Thompson Canyon. I was related to a State Senator from Colorado who lived there. The Drakes had settled into Nebraska along with the Metcalfs, my maternal grandmother’s side of the family as well as up into the Helena, Montana area.”

How did you happen to choose tattooing as your canvas for preserving this family history?

I think it is tucked way back in the rowboats of the mind somewhere with my mother narrating the story of seeing the plains Indians with face paint and the painted horses.  It always intrigued me, and I thought it would be a nice tribute to my maternal grandparents  to wear for a lifetime, and that’s really how the tattooing began. Research on all of this was with Bob Lanz, who is the owner of Elite Tattoo in Myrtle Beach, over on Seaboard Street. So between Bob and myself—we are good friends—he said why not go ahead and commemorate your grandparents and let’s do a tattoo in their memory? So that’s how the tattoo came about on my right calf.

Had you ever previously had any other tattoos?

Somewhat, yes. I had quite a bit of work done up at Marks of Distinction in Wilmington, North Carolina. When I began this crazy idea of getting a tattoo, I wanted to make sure that everything was very safe. At the time, tattooing in the state of South Carolina was underground, and I didn’t want to go that route.

I’m a graduate of The Citadel, pre-medical in 1954 plus sports education. I’m one of the first undergraduate double majors graduating from The Citadel. So I contacted several of my classmates who were in medicine in North Carolina, and they advised me to go to Marks of Distinction in Wilmington, as they were highly recommended in the state of North Carolina for doing cosmetic tattooing on burn and cancer victims. They were highly reputable. So that’s how it started, and then with Bob going into the work in Myrtle Beach and tattooing becoming legalized in the state. Bob taught the blood pathogen courses in tattooing and piercing for the Department of Health in Horry County, so I knew that I was going to have somebody who was up and above board, and I knew it was a good safe way of going with Elite Tattoo.

Before you started tattooing the family history, what was your first tattoo?

Up at Marks of Distinction, we began on each shoulder, the upper shoulder, the upper arm, left and right, doing the Mayan Dagger, which represented my degree in pre-medical from The Citadel. Going back in Mayan history, that was some of the earliest medicine because they drilled holes in the skull to let out the evil spirits. The daggers began all that and then it continued with the chain mail surrounding the dagger, which represented my military going back to the 12th or 13th century the chain mailer armor. My military from The Citadel was artillery. So this was artillery going back to medieval times. We developed the two into the upper arm tattoo.

How many sessions were needed to complete the story of your family history?

Probably about four or five. I never really figured how many there were until the work was done. We just took our time with it and allowed each piece to take about a month to heal. I decided to do about one a month as we developed it, so it was probably a course of about six months on the leg alone. That is, doing the outlining work and doing the outlines for the map and each detail as we went. That picture represents my grandparents, and I always say that was my mother as a young child and one of her brothers gathering the fire wood and helping tend the fire, my grandfather tending the horses.

 In the background is the Indian pony. What tribe, it’s so hard to say. It could be the Sioux or the Crow nation. I have no idea, but it is a generic representation of the Native American in the tattoo. Regarding the map itself, I have basically been, over the years working out west, over most of this area either to or from travels between Florida and Colorado. All of my mother’s people still live out west—cousins and so on live up in Sturgis, South Dakota, which is an interesting side of the family on into Rapid City and down into central Nebraska—Sargent/Taylor, Burwell, into Ainsworth area—that’s central/north central Nebraska.

 All of the tattooing is on my right calf.

What about the pain in tattooing?

That’s a difficult question to give an answer to as to the normal individual. I have found out that I have a very high tolerance to pain. I could feel the needle doing the work on it. Basically, it felt about like a cat scratching my leg. What I do have is a tattoo on my upper chest of the Olympic flame commemorating my 1984 certification with the Olympics, and that is the Olympic torch. Now I have to admit that the one on the sternum hurt. I can’t say that it didn’t. We had to do it in small sequences because there’s no fatty tissue or muscle. It’s straight down onto the bone, and that did hurt quite a bit. That was the most painful because it covers the entire sternum area.

What kind of reaction do you get from people when you are wearing a pair of shorts and they see the multi-colored etchings on your leg?

Well, I don’t think I’ve worn long pants here, having retired back to Central Florida for over a year.  I get some quizzical expressions on the faces. They don’t know whether to ask or not. I’m very outspoken and open, and I’m glad to tell them the history. Sometimes people will actually come up and ask what it represents. I tell them the story and they are just as surprised as anybody else. The study and background work in developing this particular tattoo is a tremendous amount of time and energy over many, many years in putting all of this together.

You don't necessarily have to be tattooed in order to capture your family history. Learn how to write about your memories in 7 Easy Steps!  Visit http://www.awriterspresence.com for links to all formats available for this book. Jump-start your memory gathering project with this compact set of tools!

Stay tuned for the conclusion of the interview with Bob Soukup in my next post, which includes actual photos of the amazing tattoos!!

Be blessed and bless others...

Mary Anne

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Interview with Jim & Karen Baney

Karen Baney
It is an honor to welcome Jim and Karen Baney, founders of Christian eBooks Today.com. I cyber-met Karen through an on-line author group and immediately detected that she is an efficient and dedicated marketing guru. I can say from personal experience that Nickels, one of her novels, is a  thoroughly enjoyable read  from beginning to end. Now we'll have the opportunity to learn about a new option for readers of Christian eBooks that Karen and her husband, Jim, have recently launched!

 Let's chat with them now...

Welcome, Jim & Karen.  Can you tell us what Christian eBooks Today.com is all about?
Jim:  Christian eBooks Today.com is a website that is for fans of Christian fiction and nonfiction.  It is a safe place to browse and learn more about great Christian eBooks without worrying about coming across any racy or explicit content.

Why did you start Christian eBooks Today.com?
Karen:  I’ve been an avid reader of Christian fiction since I was a young girl.  But, over the past few years as I started publishing books, I noticed that it was getting harder and harder to browse for Christian eBooks online without coming across some pretty embarrassing and racy covers.  I just wanted to find a good clean Christian romance book and find new authors.
In August, Jim joined the ranks of the unemployed, so I asked him what he thought about helping me launch a site for Christian readers.  It took some convincing, but he finally agreed to do it.
Jim:  Hey!  It didn’t really take much convincing.  I like the idea of being self-employed.
Jim Baney

On your Vision and Mission page on the website, you mention edgy Christian fiction.  Can you tell us more about this?
Karen:  Sure.  Over the past few years or even a decade, the Christian fiction market is changing.  Authors are writing more true-to-life characters that get thrown into some pretty tough circumstances, such as rape, abuse, abandonment, etc.  In fact, some of my novels fall into that category.
Anyway, there is a bit of a divide in readership.  Some readers don’t like the trend, while others prefer it.  We wanted to mention that we accept those types of books on our site so readers are not surprised if they come across something like that.

So, your site includes Christian nonfiction too?
Jim:  Yes.  We include a variety of nonfiction genres, too.  Bible studies, devotionals, self-help, Christian living and much more.  We really want the site to be a place where readers can find any type of Christian eBooks.

Who runs the site, I mean really?
[Karen glances at Jim and giggles.]
Jim:  We joke around.  I’m the chief operations officer and Karen is the CEO.  She has the vision and then I do all the hard work to make it happen.
Karen:  [elbows Jim]  I do some of the hard work, like marketing and writing content.
Jim:  Okay, okay.  I’ll give you that.

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
Karen:  Yes.  We have a feature on our website under the “For Readers” menu called “Reader’s Choice."  This is where readers can fill out a form telling us about great Christian eBooks that they’ve read.  Each week, we will select one submission to appear on our website.  Then, once a month we will randomly choose a winner from all of the submissions (even if they don’t get featured).  The winner receives a $25 gift card from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Readers can submit as many eBooks as they want.

Wow, that sounds great!  So, where can we see this new website?
Jim:  Visit ChristianEBooksToday.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@cebtoday), Facebook, or Google+.  Check our site daily for our list of free fiction and free nonfiction ebooks.
Karen:  Remember to sign up for our newsletter too.  Just click on the envelope icon in the upper right corner of our site.  Each week we email readers a summary of our key weekly features including: guest blog posts, great reads, author of the week, and the reader’s choice selection for the week.
Thank you so much for hosting us!

 Thank you, Karen and Jim, for visiting with us today!

I hope everyone realizes that the holidays are just around that sharp corner, turning October into November right before our eyes. Please consider taking the time to capture the stories of your aging relatives during the holiday season. Learn how with 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, and may God shower blessings on you!

-Visit http://www.awriterspresence.com for links to various formats-