My Grandfather, the Author

My grandfather, who died before I was born, was an author. 

I didn't know this until yesterday.

Not only that, he marketed his book himself, and wrote some pretty awesome direct mail copy to sell it. (You can see some of it in a brochure he wrote in the photo above.) If he were alive today, he'd be an internet information marketer, for sure.  He'd be harnessing the power of the interwebs with gusto!

Jesse Lewis Rains was a doctor, first in Grangeville, Idaho, then Oakley, Idaho, small towns which are still really, really small towns.  I know, I've been to both of them.  My grandfather was a doctor and a Presbyterian.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Well, if you lived in small towns in Idaho there was.  Because in every small town across the west you'll notice one thing–a Mormon church.  In some of those small towns, the Mormon church is the only church in town.

Thus the problem with being a Presbyterian doctor.  Since my grandfather was not Mormon, nobody would use his services.  So off to Seattle they moved.  Specifically, a small town south of Seattle called Foster, currently the location of the sprawling Sea-Tac mall.  (When I was a child, they razed the houses in the area in order to build the mall and we combed through the ruins.  All I remember is my aunt finding quite a treasure trove of bottles, which she collected, in the detritus). 

But apparently, even being a doctor wasn't enough.  He wanted more.  This could be the mantra of the entire lineage of the Rains family, myself included: more!  And so he did what any self-respecting human desirous of more does.  He wrote a book.  His was called Profitable Practise: A Service Book For Physicians, and told doctors how to charge more for their services.  

Jesse's copy would probably convert fairly well today.  Here's a sample:

Yes, indeed! Profitable Practise tells you not only how to treat your patient and receive due renumeration for your services–it also tells you how to make your patients feel so grateful to you that they will "boost" for you and send you other patients.  And why not?  Why shouldn't you get a legitimate return from your practise?

This sounds remarkable similar to many of the internet marketing courses I study today, all of which sound the same theme–we deserve to get paid handsomely for what we do.  (And, for the record, I'm not mocking it, because I share this belief for all of us.)

I found my grandfather's book in a moldy old cardboard box I'd hauled out of my Mom's house last year, in the crazy months when my sister and I cleaned out 70 years of accumulated stuff before she died.  Yesterday I finally finished sorting through the papers I brought home from her house.  They are now at least safely confined to protective plastic tubs and stowed in our storage unit.

It was so amazing to me to learn that not only was my grandfather a published author, he was a inveterate writer.  In the box were piles of old torn files, which held several more handwritten manuscripts he apparently intended to publish.  I didn't have time to go through them all, but one of them caught my attention.  He was writing a manual on sex advice!  On one piece of paper was written the following, which I suspect he planned to use for his advertising copy:

You only go through life once!  Why not make the most of it?

I really wish I'd known my grandfather, but he died long before my father even met my mother.  However, having his books and papers allows me to get to know him through the medium I know and love the best–writing.

And what could be better than that?

Oh, and by the way, I've not even begun to delve into the writing from my Mom's side of the family.  My grandmother Hoho, who died when I was three, wrote in a journal every day of her life and I happen to have 50 years worth of her journals in my possession.  To say nothing of every letter anyone ever wrote my Mom, including the ones from her various suitors during World War II.

I love that I have this amazing legacy of writing from both sides of my family.  But my question is: what do I do with all this material?  It seems so vast and overwhelming to me.  Suggestions?  Have any of you ever dealt with written material from your family?  I'm all ears.

, , ,

9 Responses to My Grandfather, the Author

  1. Roy Burkhead 04/26/2010 at 14:08 #

    Charlotte: Did you have goosebumps when you found it? Excellent discovery. Hope all is well there. I am knee deep in wrapping up the semester, and I am waiting by the hour for my new iPad! :)

  2. Ledger 04/26/2010 at 14:49 #

    It must be hard to find clothes that fit if you’re all ears…
    Do court injunctions from my family count?

  3. Charlotte Dixon 04/26/2010 at 16:08 #

    Roy, I did get goosebumps and I expect a full report about your Ipad as soon as it arrives!

    Ledger, You a funny man.

  4. Jill Kemerer 04/26/2010 at 16:40 #

    How exciting! When I announced I wanted to be a published author, my grandmother told me her mother wrote plays. I got to read one, and she had a great sense of humor.

  5. Charlotte Dixon 04/26/2010 at 19:02 #

    Jill, I bet that was really fun to learn that your great-grandmother was not only a playwright, but had a sense of humor, too!

  6. Jessica 04/26/2010 at 20:12 #

    I am so jealous! My maternal grandmother is one of those people who does not believe in clutter. She throws everything out as soon as it ceases to be useful. She gives away her change so it doesn’t take up room in her purse. I therefore have no such storehouse of family writing.

    I do know my father wrote my grandmother a letter when he was about 18 (because he wasn’t allowed to write my mother at that age) in which he mentioned the building was being fumigated and drew little cockroaches with suitcases walking across the bottom of the page. How I would love to have seen that!

    I would suggest you look through your grandfather’s manuscripts first. Perhaps there’s something you can dust off and publish.

    Maybe you can read one entry from your grandmother’s journal every day. For example, on 28th of April find the equivalent entry in her journal and live her days at the same speed in the same order.

  7. Charlotte Dixon 04/26/2010 at 22:22 #

    Jessica, Good suggestion about going through my grandfather’s papers first. I think I’ll start with the sex advice one. :-) And, last year at this time, when my sister and I were going through box after box of papers at my Mom’s we would have given our eye teeth to have relatives who threw everything out. But now I’m really, really grateful they didn’t.

  8. Don 04/27/2010 at 06:31 #

    Your grandfather sounds like quite the character, and the kind of character that I would have loved to meet, and who knows – maybe he’s a character that you could even write about? I can just imagine it now, a book about the wisdom of a country doctor and his many patients, some wild, some not; some classy, some not; some ordinary and some extraordinary!

  9. Charlotte Dixon 04/27/2010 at 09:18 #

    Don, I like that idea of writing about my grandfather. We’ll see what comes of it. First I have to take some time to read through all his papers and see what I have. I think he was a character.

Leave a Reply