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Last week I saw an Edsel. It’s uncanny how one thought runs into another, and almost spooky when one of those random thoughts materializes.

It began in my writer’s group. One member was struggling to reword an awkward phrase about surnames from different languages. My mind meandered to my eighth grade social studies class. At the beginning of the school year, when the teacher called the roll, going down the list of Polish and Russian and Slavic names, he came to “Rogers”. He asked me, “What are you doing in Johnson City?”

Indeed, what was I doing there? My English-sounding last name seemed out of place. Most of my classmates were descended from Eastern Europeans who escaped persecution in their homelands and were attracted to well-paying jobs in the shoe factories. The Rogers had come here by a different route.

Although he lived in Pennsylvania, my ancestor William enlisted in the Union Army in Elmira, NY. After the war, he went to Albany to marry Nancy Turk. He and Nancy must have met before the war, probably in Upstate New York.

The Rogers are such wanderers. William took his bride to Wisconsin where he taught school. Later they homesteaded in Kansas. He returned to the East when he inherited his brother’s farm in Pennsylvania, then settled in West Virginia with some of his sons. For reasons I am unaware of, Nancy returned to the Johnson City area where her relatives lived. Most of her sons eventually followed her, including my great-grandfather John Thomas, whom I called Granddad.

For the better part of the Twentieth Century, there were quite a few Rogers in that part of the country. Granddad had four sons. Uncle Jim had no wife or children, but he made his mark by building houses, including my grandparents’, before he moved to California. Uncle Floyd and Uncle Buck had three sons apiece. My grandparents had only one who survived to adulthood, but he made up for it with three sons and six daughters before we moved to Florida. Notice I keep saying sons. I was the first girl born in the Rogers family in a century.

So at one time there were quite a few of us in Johnson City and surrounding communities. Now I’m not sure if any remain. We are such wanderers. Uncle Buck and Aunt Ora Mae migrated to her home state, Alabama. Their sons now live in Alabama and the Carolinas. Uncle Floyd’s have similarly dispersed. My family is spread around the globe.

One thought drifting to another brought me to the Edsel. In that same social studies class, one day we held a debate. A boy posing as Henry Ford defended his position, whatever it was, by saying he hadn’t sold an Edsel in over three years. Unprepared with facts to the contrary, I countered with, “You must have. I’ve seen dozens on the road.” After the debate, the teacher set the record straight, “The Edsel went out of production in 1960.”

That was so long ago. I couldn’t tell you when I had last seen an Edsel or even thought about one. The Edsel had been a mechanical and marketing flop in its day. Now, the few that remain must be worth a fortune. The word is so obsolete my spell-check did not list it. But that’s where my thoughts wandered that day in my writing group.

On the way home, I saw an old car coming down the road toward me. As it drew closer, I noticed the distinctive grill. It was an Edsel! What on Earth was it doing on that back road? And, more significantly, why in Heaven’s name was it driving through my thoughts?

You might ask, what do these two topics have to do with one another? Nothing, except they converged in memories of my eighth grade social studies class. Interesting, how the mind works.

If you knew what an Edsel was before you googled it, congratulations. You win the Geezer Award.

 

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