A gift in the mail

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THE DOORBELL RANG. It was a mailman delivering a priority mail box. Inside was a treasure: old family books and papers from Elijah Curtis Young, the only relative of my father I ever knew, who died 40 years ago, in 1976.

I was never sure exactly how we were related, or even if we really were. Throughout my childhood, Curtis would stop and visit every fall when he came through Esto on his annual trip home to see friends and relatives in Georgia and Alabama. Usually he brought along oranges or grapefruit as a treat from South Florida.

As it turns out, we truly were related. Curtis’s mother was a Reynolds, according to the family Bible. Lennie Jane Reynolds, born December 3, 1882, married Stephen F. Young, born May 17, 1866. Elijah Curtis was one of four brothers and sisters. He married Elizabeth Hayes on December 27, 1934. I would know them as Curtis and Lizzie, and they were important beyond measure in my young life.

Among the yellowing newspapers was a copy of Palm Beach County Labor News from 1970. On page 3 it reported that “faithful E.C. ‘Bama’ Young,” a linotype operator at the Palm Beach Post, had been honored for 40 years of membership in the International Typographers Union local 709.

The ‘Bam’ recalled that he had spent 39 of those 40 years in the jurisdiction of the union (at the Palm Beach Post and the Palm Beach Times) and coveted memories and friendship of the members of 709.

When Elijah Curtis came here in 1931, he just did beat the Depression years. Sidney Gelders, L.S. Vaughn Jr., then chairman of the Post chapel, and Johnny Clark, then apprentice at the Times, can also tell of those days when employees of the newspapers received $5 in cash with the remainder in script to be exchanged for groceries and/or clothing. City employees were in the same predicament.

That was around ’32 or ’33, Bama recalls, but things must have picked up considerably, for in 1934 he went to Georgia to claim the present Mrs. Young as his bride.

On the corner of the crumbling newsprint in her distinctive handwriting she had noted: “Ray Reynolds might like to keep this. Lizzie. Aug. 18, 1990.”

You bet he would. It only took another 26 years to get to me.

EARLIER: “Lizzie’s Gift

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