Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fog, Amphetamine, and Pearls

I picked up a few books at the library last week. I decided to read first the one with the oldest copyright date, 1982. That's more than a quarter-century ago. Sounds like a long time when you put it that way. The book focuses largely upon things that happened almost a half-century ago, in The Sixties.

To me, it hardly seems possible that The Sixties was almost half a century ago. I was growing up then. I remember stuff that happened: JFK campaigning for the presidency, the Kennedy assassinations, Vietnam War protests--well, I don't need to recite political history for you. You've surely read and heard all about it.

My own focus during that era was not so much on the front-page news, though, as it was on magazines (Seventeen and Mademoiselle, especially). And rock 'n' roll... and boys... but we're not goin' there now. We're going with the reading material which, I think, probably always was my biggest source of... well, let's just say ideas.

One of my ideas during my early teen years (i.e. the early Sixties) was that I thought it would be glamorous and exciting to move to New York City and be a fashion model. Never mind that I had neither the looks nor the figure nor the audacity to do it. It was an idea that lived safely in my imagination, which was pretty good back then.

But what if I had gone? Well, after reading Edie: An American Biography by Jean Stein, I'm happy to say we'll never know the answer to that question.

This book is about Edie Sedgwick. Having done a little data entry this morning, I can now tell you that she was my sixth cousin, twice removed, on my grandpa Rosmer's side--barely a fibril in my family tree, and I, of course, barely a fibril in hers. Our closest common ancestors were Captain Samuel Sedgwick (1667-1735) and his wife Mary Hopkins.

Edie was born in 1943, five years before me. About the time I was dreaming of having glamorous adventures in New York City, she was doing it. Oddly, I'd never heard of her until I came across this book. I say oddly because she seems to be something of an icon even now, although her main claim to fame seems to be only that she hung out with Andy Warhol and made some underground films with him. She also met and spent some time with Bob Dylan, and it's said that he wrote the song Just Like a Woman about her.

Roughly the first third of this book is about Edie's family. It opens thusly:
Have you ever seen the old graveyard up there in Stockbridge? In one corner is the family's burial place; it's called the Sedgwick Pie. The Pie is rather handsome. In the center Judge Theodore Sedgwick, the first of the Stockbridge Sedgwicks and a great-great-great-grandfather of Edie's and of mine [the speaker being John P. Marquand, Jr.], is buried under his tombstone, a high rising obelisk, and his wife Pamela is beside him. They are like the king and queen on a chessboard, and all around them like a pie are more modest stones, put in layers, back and round in a circle. The descendants of Judge Sedgwick, from generation unto generation, are all buried with their heads facing out and their feet pointing in toward their ancestor. The legend is that on Judgment Day when they arise and face the Judge, they will have to see no one but Sedgwicks.
The entire book is written in the form of quotations from interviews done with family members and people who knew Edie. There is a lot of family history here, very candid in the telling. I found that aspect very interesting, in a train-wreck sort of way. (My own parents would have died of mortification had such a book been written about our family.) A six-generation descendancy chart at the back of the book was very helpful to me--I referred to it again and again, and also to the many photographs included throughout the book.

As Edie's story evolved, or maybe I should say devolved, the book became increasingly darker and more depressing. Her addiction to drugs and alcohol finally resulted in her death in 1971. And, mercifully, the end of the book.

Even darker and more depressing than the book, however, are the many videos of Edie which you can find on YouTube, if you have the stomach for it. They're from the Druggies With Cameras school of filmmaking. I don't find them suitable for inclusion here. I did find this excellent 1966 performance by Bob Dylan though, which I think is not only timely and relevant but also much more worthy of your attention, as there is actual talent involved. (The version I originally had posted here was removed by YouTube. This one lacks live performance video, but the sound track, from a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1966, is fantastic, especially the harmonica riff at the end.)

I could say more, but in the world of GeneaBloggers, it's Wordless Wednesday, so let's just go with that... more or less.


Jasia said...

How exciting it must be to have famous people like a judge and Edie on your family tree. It makes for fascinating reading when you write about them. I really enjoy your posts!

Claudia's thoughts said...

I also grew up in that era. My daughter today thinks of that as being one of the greatest music time. She wondered what it was like to be waiting for the newest release of the Beatles (she thinks the greatest rock band in history) and the Rolling Stones. I told her they just seemed to show up on the radio. She can imagine it with out music videos.

She wanted to know how we all felt when Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison died and most of all when the Beatles broke up.

T.K. said...

Jasia, it seems there's been a lot written not only about the Sedgwicks (at least the Stockbridge branch, anyhow) but also by them. I'm about a quarter of the way through another book, so there'll be another book post coming up soon. And after that, another... possibly ad infinitum but at some point I'll get tired of all that reading!

Claudia, I agree with your daughter! I saw the Beatles at Olympia in Detroit in 1964. My parents took my sister, my best friend and me. We had seats in the very last row of the very highest balcony, so when I say I "saw" them, what I really mean is I'm pretty sure they were there at the same time we were. ;-) I can't find the two 8x10 glossies I brought home from the concert, nor the snapshot my parents took of us three girls watching The Beatles and crying our eyes out with the excitement of it.

I cried for hours when John was shot. I was numb. I couldn't believe it. It still doesn't make any sense to me. When George died of lung cancer, I was home alone, so I had a little private memorial ceremony of sorts.

sedgwick2graham said...

Just Like a Woman is such a sad commentary on the life of our very tragic relative. When she covered the song, Stevie Nicks made it much more sympathetic than Dylan.
Edie's life had to be terrible to end as tragically as it did. I need to find the book and get it read, already.

T.K. said...

Thanks for commenting here, Mike. I didn't realize the Dylan video had been booted from YouTube, so I've put up another one, with the sweetest harmonica riff ever at the end. I'm pretty sure I have Stevie's version on a mixed tape in my cassette collection--I'll have to see if I can find it.

Hope you'll come back and add your thoughts here when you've finished the book!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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