Curtis Florian

floriancurtis1915This is my great grandfather, Curtis Florian. He was the father of my dad’s mother. According to my dad, this particular photo was taken of him in 1915, as World War I was getting underway. My great grandfather would have been about 23 years old at the time. He was a tobacco farmer in Kentucky, which, I guess, may have had something to do with why he didn’t go to war. (I suspect the war effort depended on tobacco about as much as it did on guns.) He died in 1977, when I was 9. I can’t remember what finally brought him down. I do remember a few things about him, though.

I remember the white farmhouse he lived in with my great grandmother, Minnie Florian, and their mean, little, blind dog, Butch (who would drown a few years after Curt’s death, in my grandmother’s basement). I remember going fishing with him for carp once. I remember that he, and my great grandmother, who my sister and I were brought up calling Ma and Pa Florian, slept with pistols under their pillows. They slept in different beds, in the same room, right next to the kitchen. I remember that he walked with forearm crutches and enjoyed watching baseball games on a little television set with terrible reception. Word is that he was a great baseball player in his youth. I’m not sure of the facts, but he may have, at some point, played professionally. When I knew him, he could barely move. Somewhere, here, around our house in Ypsi, I have the picture of dogs playing poker that was there, in that room they spent their days in, with the heater, and both of their beds. I don’t think she knows it, but Linette and I sleep in a bed that was in that house. It stands about four feet off the ground. I think, when I was little, this particular bed was upstairs in their house, in one of the freezing cold rooms that they never spent time in, along with the fox pelts that I used to play with. I don’t remember him saying much. I guess you could say he was stoic. As I understand it, back before he’d broken his body, he was also one hard working son of a bitch. I hesitate to think what he’d make of a great grandson spending his evenings blogging about Hollywood starlets, social justice and all this other nonsense.

Oh, and he was also incredibly unsentimental. I remember one time that my dad and I had gone out searching for the old farmhouse that he was raised in. (My dad was primarily raised by his grandparents.) We found the spot, but all that was left was a single board, that my dad recognized as being one of the front steps. My dad and I took it with us, and drove back to the house in Georgetown that I described above, where Ma and Pa Florian were living. I don’t know what my dad was expecting, but, I’m told, when we got back, Pa asked what the hell he was supposed to do with a rotten old board. (It was then unceremoniously thrown away.)

Florian, by the way, is Polish… There’s a street in Hamtramck by the same name.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted April 7, 2009 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I was going to post a photo of myself at 23 alongside it, but decided not to, as it made me look incredibly immature by comparison.

  2. West Cross
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I was thinking something similar. Young people always look so old in old time photos. Did the harder lifestyle age people more quickly than our current life style? Something about milk hormones?

    I love hearing about so and so who started a business or become governor by age 25 back in 1850 or what have you. Makes me feel like a real loser. I guess with a shorter life expectency people just go on with their lives more quickly.

  3. Curt Waugh
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Much as domesticated wolves (dogs) act like wolf puppies as adults (barking, playing), domesticated humans look and act more like children. And we clearly have an extended adolescence now that would be unheard of back then.

    According to DHHS (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005140.html), ol’ Curtis had a total life expectancy of about 65 years. You have about 78. So, he’s the equivalent of about a 36-year-old you. Add to that no sunscreen or the joys of extreme hygiene and you get some old lookin’ young folk. You can only imagine what this guy saw and experienced to this point in his life was so very different from us now. So few of us, by 23, have done squat.

  4. Posted April 7, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Smoking makes you look more mature and sophisticated. As does the white hat, perched on the back of his head, Blossom style.

  5. Posted April 7, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Family history is cool. Very interesting post. Ol’ Curtis seemed like he would have been a good guy to watch the game with.

  6. Paw
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I was going to say, “Why’s he sucking on a tampon,” but he kind of scares me. I know he’s dead, but he looks like one serious m-fer.

  7. Posted August 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been working on family history. I remember my mother talking about her Uncle Curt and Aunt Minnie Florian. After getting as far as I could with facts on Ancestry.com, I just did a google search and found your post on Curtis Florian. Thanks! It’s great! My grandmother, Alice, was Curtis’ younger sister. I love that picture and the comments are hilarious!

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