The Roosevelt Borough Bulletin had a series of articles titled "Two Square Miles of Stories". Each story was a recollection by a contemporary Roosevelt resident of their past family history, how they got to Roosevelt, etc. Some were totally amazing -- escape from Nazis, Stalin, travels throughout the world culminating in this New Jersey town. Bess Tremper asked me to write one, so here it is:

Another Part of the Two Square Miles

Brad Garton
May, 2005

I hadn't thought of writing anything for the "Two Square Miles of
Stories" series, because I'm not really sure what there is
to tell about my family history.  I still don't think there's too
much to say about the Garton diaspora, but Bess Tremper asked me
directly to write one of the "Stories".  Bess is hard to refuse!

The problem is that I don't have any sort of coherent narrative
I can construct about my family past.  There is no flight-to-freedom
of which I am aware, nor is there even any singular arrival in
America I can claim as a starting point for either my mother's or my
father's side.  I can't even refer to a particular village or
town where we came from, although I did learn from Google that
there is a "Garton-on-the-Wolds" borough in Yorkshire, England.
Given the somewhat unusual, non-Germanic spelling of our name I
suspect that we share a portion of that local gene pool.

My ancestors on both sides seem to have grown directly out of
the rolling hills of southern Iowa.  The town of Cambria, Iowa
(current population about 50; smaller even than Roosevelt!) has
more "Garton" names in the local cemetery than anywhere else I've
been.  I'm actually part-owner (with my mom/dad/sis) of "Garton's
Corners", a 400+ acre farm about two miles to the east of Cambria.
My mother's family are also all farm-bred Iowans, hailing from
places like Cedar Rapids and Keokuk.  With surnames like "Hicks",
"Wright", and "Woods" combined with the "Garton", I'm pretty sure
I have a fairly straightforward and standard Anglo-Saxon ancestry.
Like I said, there doesn't seem a lot for me to share.  So this
story will be a set of semi-connected family anecdotes we tell about
my grandparents, with a few recollections of my early life thrown in
for good measure.  A caveat: much of what I say below will have a
variable level of accuracy.

I do recall seeing a notebook -- I think in Grandma Garton's estate
after she died of bone cancer -- that contained writings from a very
early female Garton ancestor.  She described coming down through Canada
to Iowa, a fact that maybe explains the lack of any kind of
Ellis-island-like records of my family's journey to the US.  The thing
that fascinated my young mind was this ancestor's description of
seeing Indians for the first time.  She wrote that she was very
frightened, because they had all heard stories of horrible Indian
attacks.  Apparently the native Americans that she saw were quite
friendly, however, and she claimed that she 'changed her mind' about
them.  If only it could always be so easy to counter our prevailing
fear and xenophobia...

With the exception of my grandmother's early death from cancer,
our family is generally very long-lived, but we're also rather
unproductive.  Both of my parents were "only" children, and I recall
only three great-aunts/uncles, siblings of my grandparents.  Jill's
family shares this characteristic, so that when my sister Brenda and I
get together (Jill is also an "only" child) with our families the
resulting crowd of 8-10 people is about as large a family reunion as
we could ever muster.  The payoff in the longevity aspect, though, is
that our children Lian and Daniel had a number of great-grandparents
(Lian: 3; Daniel: 2) living when they were born.  I believe that Lian
also had a great-great-grandmother (on my father's side) still alive
during her first year, but my dates might be confused.

As I mentioned, my mother's family were also Iowans.  My Grandpa Alfred
Hicks apparently ran away from his family farm in the eighth grade
to pursue a musical muse.  The stories relate that he used to stand
in the barn and play his 'fiddle' for hours.  I also know, somehow,
that he landed in Chicago to study oboe and subsequently took a
job as oboist in the St. Louis Symphony, a position he held for
almost 45 years.  Grandpa Hicks also played viola (his fiddle-playing
roots) in the summers with the St. Louis Municipal Opera, as the
Symphony season was only nine months long back then.  The big thrill
for me was that I got to meet Julie Andrews when I was in the fourth
grade.  True love, of course.

My mom's mom ("Nana" -- Arlene Woods) grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
with a brother (my Great-uncle Ralph) I never met.  He died of malaria
contracted while serving as a "Seabee" in the WW II Pacific Theater.
Nana met Grandpa while serving as an usher and piano player (silent
films!) in Des Moines, Iowa.  I don't know if this was before or
after Grandpa left for his Chicago apprenticeship.

My mother describes late-night chess games among other players in
the Symphony held after performances in their lovely Webster Groves
(St. Louis suburb) backyard.  My mom had a precocious musical talent
of her own, with a piano concerto premiere (Beethoven or Mozart,
I think) with the St. Louis Symphony when she was seven years old.
Mom also had a serious visual-art talent, and as she grew older
her painting abilities became more the focus of her creative

Back in Cambria, Iowa, my Grandpa (J. Glenn) Garton left his older
brother Dwight, his mother and father and the family "General Store"
to attend medical school.  The thing that astounds me is that he did
this when he was sixteen.  Grandpa had been allowed to attend in his
early teens the then-equivalent of one of our local community colleges,
setting him up for a very young medical school career.  He returned
to Chariton, Iowa to start his medical practice after he turned 20.
Grandpa met a schoolteacher, Irene Wright (cousin of Orville and
Wilbur), and married her.  Grandpa often talked about the time
he paid his electric bill and had 20 cents to his name.  He
became the epitome of the small-town doctor; house calls, telephone
ringing in the middle of the night -- every night -- when I visited;
the ladies at the Derby Diner consistently gave us dinner (and
homemade raisin pie!) for free.  I thought everyone in the entire
world knew Doc Garton.  They always waved to him.

I see pictures of my father when he was younger, and it looks like
me staring back from the photos.  I wonder what my dad was like then?

Now the stories get even more scattered, my own memories:

-- I seem to remember driving through mountains; my earliest memory
trace.  We were probably on the way from Camp Lejuene (Dad was in the
Marines, I was born in North Carolina as a result) to Cornell University
in Ithaca, New York for his graduate work.  His Master's Thesis was on
the formation of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.  Dad
grew up about fifteen miles away from the birthplace of John L. Lewis,
an early hero of his.

-- After completing his graduate work, we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio
for six months.  Dad took a job with Proctor and Gamble that he evidently
hated.  I was three years old.  Whenever I travel to Ithaca (Cornell) or
Cincinnati I immediately enter into a new-agey "I've been here in a
previous life" state.

--  We then moved to Columbus, Indiana.  My father started his own
consulting business, ran for Congress (didn't win) and then for
State Senate (won).  Dad eventually became president of the Indiana
Senate, a position he has held longer than any person in the history
of the state.

-- Columbus has an interesting claim-to-fame.  I think it has more great
works of modern architecture per capita than any other place on the
planet.  The city had a population of about 30,000 when I was growing
up, and it has churches designed by both Eliel and Eero Saarinen,
a library by I. M. Pei, a firehouse by Robert Venturi, a hospital by
Robert A. M. Stern, a newspaper building by Skidmore, Owings and
Merrill, a downtown mall by Cesar Pelli, and the list goes on and on.
Public sculptures by Henry Moore and Jean Tinguely.  I didn't realize
how unique this was until I moved away.

-- My mother founded the Bartholomew County Arts Council and the
Columbus Pro Musica.  We used to attend concerts in Indianapolis
and nearby Bloomington, home to the Indiana University School of
Music.  We heard Andres Segovia play on one of his last major tours.
I remember the concert because, in those days before routine sound
reinforcement and amplification, we had to be very quiet to hear
his guitar.  I used to get bored during the slow movements of
symphonies we heard, and would fantasize about becoming Spiderman
and crawling up into the ductwork of the auditorium.  Now the
slow movements are my favorite parts.

-- My dad was involved in a lot of legislation while I was growing up.
He sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment in the early 1970's.
Fundamentalist maniacs were rumored to be planning to sneak firearms
into the Senate chambers for the ERA vote to assassinate the godless
legislators.  Sadly, times haven't changed much, eh?  I remember being
frightened that the Ku Klux Klan was going to kill one of our collie
dogs as a symbolic gesture against my father.  Yes, we did receive
threats -- the Klan was still active in Indiana back then.  They
probably still are.

-- We could raise collies because we moved to a lake that was way
outside the city limits of Columbus.  Now it's almost an 'urban'
lake.  Development has run rampant in parts of Indiana, also.  I
used to hear the summer bullfrogs and other creatures loudly at night.
We had no air-conditioning and slept with the windows wide open.
Ice-skating all winter, it was a very pleasant childhood.

-- My 4-years-younger sister and I would invent fantastical adventures
playing with her 'little people" and my "Captain Action" doll.  A lurking,
invisible presence named "Dr. Jekyll" would try to hypnotize the little
people and get them to do Unspecified Evil Things.  The chain continues,
my children have had similar adventures here in Roosevelt.

-- My mother was continuing her art studies with Frederick Rigley, a
Hoosier landscape artist based in Nashville, Indiana.  I was in grade
school, and my sister fell off the slide and gashed her knee.  She had
to be taken to the hospital for minor stitches, and my mom had to rush
back from Brown County.  She didn't continue her art until I was in
college.  She returned to school and completed her degree, and
eventually became art director for Cosco, Inc.  Attending her graduation
ceremony instead of taking a trip with some friends was one of the
better decisions I've made in my life.

-- Speaking of good decisions, I met Jill, fell in love, proposed
marriage (which she accepted for reasons still opaque to me),
moved to New Jersey, went back to graduate school, found Roosevelt,
here we are.

There is a lot I haven't said.  The flood of memories is too much
now.  I need to stop.