Outside my office window, clumps of white fall from the sky. As the slush lands on the black tar road in front of my house, the lumps disappear, leaving a glassy residue, reflecting the place across the street.
It’s strange to think that if I just looked straight through my window, I would assume the slush was piling up on the ground below, leaving the world in ice. However, if I just look at the ground, I’d guess it is raining and nothing more. To get a complete picture, I have to watch the weather from sky to earth to determine the scene accurately.
I sit at my desk this morning working on my latest experience, searching for my Great-aunt Glenna, knowing that I’m missing something, knowing that I can only see the scene in segments, that spaces in between are missing.
My latest realization is that I’ve been looking in the wrong place for her. While reading archived newspaper articles about the fabled car accident that killed her friends and sent Glenna to the insane asylum, I began to wonder if I was looking at the wrong newspapers and the wrong state all along?
Early on in my investigation, I put Glenna’s name in the newspaper archival search engine, and an article from the Ogden Standard-Examiner came back. I scanned the clipping and dismissed it immediately because it was about Ogden, Utah, and my aunt from Idaho couldn’t be that Glenna.
However, the more I sought a semblance of her in newspaper after newspaper, the less I found, and once again, this article came up, and I decided to look it over.
The 1974 headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner was, “1934 Warriors Looking For 8 ‘Lost’ Classmates.” The 1934 class president of Weber High School was on the hunt for eight classmates to invite them to their fortieth high school reunion. The article stated that of the two-hundred-and-fourteen classmates, twenty-eight had died, and eight were MIA. Highlighted as one of the missing souls in the article was Glenna’s first, middle, and last name.
It wasn’t inconceivable that my Great-aunt might have lived in Ogden at one time. She was from a large extended family. Both her parents were from that area, and most of her relatives still lived there.
According to family lore, Glenna’s older sister, Pricilla, was sent away to live with a family in northern Idaho when she was just thirteen years old. Nobody knows why, exactly. Maybe it was for money? Pricilla worked as a maid and babysitter for another family. Perhaps she sent her paycheck back home to help with the bills?
During that period, I also needed to consider that in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the world was suffering through the Great Depression and the dust bowl epidemic’s horrors. Glenna’s family might not have been able to afford to feed all their children, and Pricilla was sent away as a means of survival?
And then there is the other thing, the darkest thing—one of the worst parts of the family lore—that maybe Pricilla was sent away to save her from the abuse both physically and sexually that her father and sometimes her brothers heaped on her? Had Glenna suffered like Pricilla? Was she sent away to spare her?
What if Glenna moved to Utah for another reason altogether? What if the issue was that Glenna was showing more signs of Schizophrenia? Stories my uncle and aunts told me suggested that the older Glenna got, the worse her mental state was. She had started exhibiting signs of insanity, seeing things like ghosts coming out of the walls and fires that sprung out of the bushes. Perhaps her mother was worried about her and sent her to live with cousins in the Ogden area, thinking that a new start, and a new state, might remedy Glenna’s issue?
Reading back over the 1974 newspaper article, I recognized two things that I hadn’t considered the first time I saw it, the fact that Glenna’s first, middle, and last name was present and that she would have graduated in 1934. In all my research, no other article had all three of her names or had her age right.
According to Idaho’s 1940 Federal Census, Glenna had completed two years of high school. I wondered if Glenna lived in Utah and attended her sophomore and junior years at Weber High. Then, right before or during her senior year, she was in a car accident that made her return to her mother and Idaho, eventually landing her in the state hospital?
I found a 1934 Weber High School yearbook online and began scanning the graduating class’s faces and names. I don’t know what I was expecting while looking through the multitude of black and white photographs. Would I suddenly see a face that screamed Glenna? Would I innately recognize her?
There are few pictures of my Great-aunt, beyond one of her at age three, all blond, round-cheeked, with her big dark eyes, and then as an older woman with dark hair that matched her eyes. Of course, there are the memories I have of her, the scary woman who wanted to brush my hair. Other than that, I had no idea what Glenna, pre-State Hospital South, looked like.
While going through the yearbook, I discovered the class president who had given the request in the 1974 news article. I also found most of the lost souls for whom he was looking. I did not, however, find Glenna Fay Marriott.
Her name wasn’t anywhere in the book, neither was her picture. I searched all two hundred and fourteen people, plus the junior and sophomore classes, and found nothing. There was a memorandum at the front of the yearbook with two names. One of the seniors had died in March of 1934 of Polio (I found her death certificate online!) On the other, I couldn’t find out anything at all.
If a group of high school kids had gotten in a car accident and died, wouldn’t there be more names mentioned in the memorandum? I would think so.
A 1933 Weber High School yearbook was also online, and I went through that, hoping that Glenna’s name and photo would be among the junior class or possibly the sophomores. Nothing. Glenna was not there! So, perhaps she was only in Ogden for part of her senior year, had missed picture day, but her name was on the school register? Somehow the class president had known about her, or rather, someone who shared my Great-aunt’s name, but how? Or maybe it was something else? I don’t know.
Outside, it is raining again. There is no evidence of what I had seen when I began writing. There is no clue to the clumps of white landing on the ground, only the steady stream of raindrops rolling down my window. The rest of the information is missing, a section that has disappeared from the whole picture, which is a perfect metaphor for what I seek—where are you, Glenna? What happened between your birth and your death? I’m beginning to think I might never know!
*Have any suggestions about how to find my Aunt? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!