The Karen Files, pt. 10

Another in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the life of our mother:

We very much like this snapshot of Karen and her father, Cecil, Sr., but it carries with it a poignancy, too. (Let’s face it, when you lose a parent, every photo of them you come across is poignant, but this one is particularly so.)

We like the mood of this shot. Karen looks so happy, and her father appears at ease and content, as well. It appears to have been shot outside the home of Cecil and his wife, Frances, in Okemah, Oklahoma, and we’d guess the year to be 1950 or so, as Karen looks to us to be a bit younger than she appeared at the time of her wedding to Lloyd, in 1954.

Hi-res view

This photo is sort of a bridge between the Granddad we knew and loved dearly (we were fond of all our grandparents, but Cecil was especially dear to us) and the young man we’ve discovered for the first time recently while sorting through all the photos that Karen left behind. We wonder if Cecil was yet wearing glasses at this point in his life. Perhaps he was, but only for reading — or it could be that his vanity convinced him to leave them behind on a table inside as they stepped out to snap this shot.

It’s not hard, in this photo, to see exactly what Lloyd found attractive in Karen. Hers is an open and friendly countenance, and she appears ready to take on the world (which she certainly did). She kept a positive outlook throughout her life, and that attitude is apparent in this picture.

We also like the bobby sox.

But the photo stirs up mournful feelings as well. We’re reminded that both Cecil and Karen were afflicted with Alzheimer’s, that these two smart, dedicated, generous souls, who loved each other so and were so beloved by others, met the same sad, debilitating fate.

Both faced it with courage and a stiff upper lip, which was no surprise to anyone who knew them, but it’s sad to think they were both so reduced by the illness that they battled so hard.

Still, it’s nice to see them in better times, both looking happy and hopeful. They each had many wonderful years ahead of them at this point in time, before the tough times took over.

Save the Crystal!

Save the CrystalOkemah, Oklahoma, is a small town some 73 miles east of Oklahoma City. Okemah was Woody Guthrie’s home town, and it’s where our mother grew up. There’s an elementary school there named after our grandfather. We spent many happy days there in our youth.

It could be argued that Okemah is less thriving today than it once was, but it has always had one thing going for it, in our eyes: The local movie theatre was still in operation, which is not the case in so many small towns across the country today.

The Crystal, which opened in 1910 and was refashioned into an atmospheric theatre in the early 1920s, isn’t showing movies nowadays, but a local group is trying to restore the theatre, which still hosts live events, such as the annual Woody Guthrie Festival.

One hopes that, if the theatre does get fully restored, they’ll start showing moving pictures there again.

You probably have never passed through Okemah. Perhaps you never will. But if you’re a fan of old movie theatres, as we are, you might wish to donate even a few dollars toward the cause of preserving this venerable bijou. You can visit the “Save the Crystal” page at Facebook and donate via Paypal right on the spot.

We’re guessing even a five-spot or whatever else you can spare would be greatly appreciated.

The Karen Files, pt. 4

Another in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the life of our mother:

Most folks, curmudgeons and misanthropes aside, like kids. Many people, as we do, love kids and consider interacting with them one of life’s great pleasures.

Hi-res image

But Karen loved kids more than anyone we—or you, mostly likely—ever knew. She devoted much of her adult life to their betterment and wellbeing—and not just her own kids or her friends’. She spent years working, on primarily a volunteer basis, for the preservation and improvement of public schools. She was founder and chair of the Oklahoma Coalition for Public Education, an organization whose primary goal was the preservation and improvement of public schools, and served as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Network for Excellence. She served two terms as the president of the Oklahoma State PTA, was president of the National PTA’s State President’s Council, and served as Regional Vice President of the National PTA.

And that’s the just the tip of the iceberg, believe it or not. There were dozens more affiliations and commitments she willingly undertook, and all of it was done purely out of her love for children and her belief in education.

But we’ll remember most fondly her individual interactions with the kids she met in the course of her day. Wherever she encountered a child—in a restaurant, at church, at the mall, you name it—she was likely to pause and to coo at the baby, to have a brief conversation with the toddler. It’s a trait we share with her (to the occasional exasperation, we suspect, of Ms. Cladrite), but she almost never missed an opportunity to brighten a child’s day (and to have that child do the same for her, of course). And the kids knew immediately they’d found a friend in Karen. They always responded warmly to her overtures.

So it was a special treat to come across this week’s entry in the Karen Files. As we mentioned in a previous installment, we’d somehow made it to adulthood (well into adulthood) without seeing any photos of Karen as a child or even a teenager. She kept insisting she had boxes and boxes of photographs (and she wasn’t kidding) and swearing she would one day pull them all down from the attic and get the photos organized, but that was one of the few things this go-getter didn’t get done.

This photo of Karen tenderly cradling an infant (the offspring of dear friends of Karen’s parents), is one of our favorites among those we uncovered in the days following her passing. We miss her dearly, of course, but photos like this one, taken in 1947 when she was 14, allow us to feel she’s still with us (we know, we know—we’re sentimental saps).

And we’re happy to share it with you, the Cladrite Clan, today.