Some of you may remember my post from two months ago, https://kswriterteacher.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/a-passports-journey-2/, in which I talked about the awe and joy of finding a passport at a local rummage sale, and the many questions it raised for me.
Since then, life has gotten slightly in the way, but I haven’t forgotten that mystery. Every now and then I open my jewelry box, take out that passport, and look at the man’s photo. Wondering what he was thinking when it was taken. Wondering if he knew where he would be going over the next four years. Looking at the stamps, particularly those swastikas, and marveling again at how close history can come to touching us, in the here and now.
I have been able to discover a little about my mystery man. His name was Ernest Reid. I discovered this photo of him online: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/oem2002000450/PP/ so it seems he was working for the US government during the early 1940s. He was at the Mellon Institute. He was a chemist. From what I have discovered, he was born in Chase, KS on December 17, 1890, and died in 1966 in St. Petersburg, FL. He was married to Leila E. English, was drafted into the army during World War I, and then . . . ? I know he was a chemist; he worked for the Mellon Institute, and then for the Chemical and Allied Production during World War II (but in what capacity, exactly, is unclear).
And that’s as far as I’ve been able to go.
I often thought, over the last two months, that I should go back and talk to the woman, the one who sold me the passport — but it was one thing, in a long laundry list of things, that just never got done. I’d hoped maybe she was related to him, or knew someone who was. I fantasized that maybe they had suitcases and boxes full of his papers and journals, detailing every last trip, observing Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, commenting on the tensions between Germany and Czechoslovakia, talking about why he was bloody there to begin with, because that’s the mystery that has me wrapped around its little finger!
But, I’m a person who often prefers daydreams to reality, and I never went. Afraid of what I’d find out.
Then, this weekend, I was out rummaging — yet again! — and thought one of the addresses looked familiar. And it was. The same house. The same wonderful lady, who remembered me. And the passport.
Alas, she knew nothing about it. She, too, had bought it at a garage sale! See, daydreams vs. reality. But she was incredibly interested to hear what I had found out so far, and we speculated on what he might have been doing — she even said, “It amazed me that he always seemed to be one step ahead of everything.” So true . . .
So now, I am still on a quest.
If you are related to Ernest W. Reid, or the English family of Macksville, KS (A.G. English was listed as his “emergency contact”), I would love to hear from you, and maybe return this passport to its rightful place — if I can have some answers! 🙂