Person of Interest: Jodi Lynn Strait
Source Citation: Newton Steamer Co. No. 1 page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017. This scrapbook was created by Jodi Lynn Strait in the early 2000s. It contains hand-crafted (not digital) and embellished pages related to Miss Strait, parents, paternal and maternal grandparents, and paternal great-grandparents.
Document Description: This is one page out of a multi-page album that has no page numbers. This particular page highlights my Dad’s service in the Newton Fire Department Steamer No. 1 company. It has two photos, a fire truck embellishment, descriptions, photo caption, and some cropped photos. The page is 12 x12 inch in dimension and on heavy grey cardstock.
Background on scrapbooking: Over the centuries, scrapbooking has been a popular hobby. Scrapbooks can contain all sorts of things: photos, newspaper clippings, locks of hair, drawings, post cards, personal letters, genealogy tidbits, handwritten notations, greeting cards, ephemera, clues to things like religious affiliations, occupations, and memberships, and much more.
This century, the popularity of scrapbooking hit its peak in 2004 right before the economic downturn caused people to spend less of their disposable income on hobbies. Paper scrapbooking, incorporating expensive papers and embellishments, became less popular as digital scrapbooking became more available.
I have photos in my files of an early 19th century scrapbook prepared on my ex-husband’s Normandin family. The page below was created by a Normandin family member and commemorates the marriage and children of Eugenie St. Hilaire and Zepherin Normandin. Their pictures are at the center of the page. The hand-colored, drawn pink ribbon around the couple’s photos tells the names of their children and provides their birth dates and sometimes death dates. There is gold embellishment/ink and little nails are drawn to “hold” the ribbon onto the page.
A page from the Normandin scrapbook
Another scrapbook in the family was my Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook that her mother (my grandmother) Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait used to collect all the cards and gift tags that Mercedes was sent. I used this scrapbook as last year’s Sepia Saturday project. Unfortunately, the paper within the scrapbook was not archival quality; it was literally flaking apart every time it was touched, moved, or opened. As such, I chose to take the items off of the pages, scan them, and store them in archival files. But first, I made sure to photograph the whole album in it’s entirety to preserve the layout of the original and to preserve all the handwritten notations on the pages that were lost with the removal of the items.
A page from Mercedes Strait’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook
You can see the difference between the two pages with regards to content. The Normandin scrapbook is more of a genealogical record and my aunt’s is more of a memorial of things sent to Aunt Sadie. Even with the differences in content that can happen between various scrapbooks, searching them out can be worth the time and effort.
Newton Steamer Company #1
My father, William Charles Strait, Jr. served in the Newton Fire Department from around 1968 to 1980. He trained for service at the County Homestead where there was a school. The fire he remembers most was the fire that completely burned the Williams and Hibler Lumberyard and 2 neighboring houses in August 1970. Twenty companies responded to that fire. When he first joined, there were a lot of out of town fires since Newton FD covered a large area. This gradually decreased as the outlying areas got their own engines and equipment. Barn fires were common and tricky to put out.
Right: Bill drives the team pulling the antique engine used in town parades.
[Caption for group photo] Bottom Row, Left to Right: Jim Mills, Frank Sisco, Chester Zucowski, Don Lance, Chief John Garrigan, George Bird, Jr., Earl Decker, George Danley, Clarence Danley
Middle Row, Left to Right: Charly Gorkey, William Strait, “Chip” Odgen, Craig Bough, Ronnie Van Hise, Jack Blauvelt, Edmund Zucowski, Jr., Everett “Buddy” Sisco
Top Row, Left to Right: Bob Elchin, Billy Wagner, Parker “Parky” Pearson, Jack Coates, Jimmy Scabet, Ed Kragowski, Kurt DeGroat, Mr. Pelt, Dave “Roach” DeGroat
Analysis: Scrapbooking really goes hand-in-hand with genealogy. Both are a way for someone to get the story of their family into a form for others to understand or view. Scrapbooking is a visually pleasing way to do that. I used this scrapbook to gather the stories, interests, photos, and artifacts of my family into one place.
While putting the pages in the scrapbook together, I tried to pull in a lot of little details relating to the person or topic. For example, on the Steamer Company #1 page the cut outs of the badges and wool patches are actual scans (not to size) of my father’s artifacts. The group photo includes him in the uniform he wore while serving with the Steamer Company #1. I asked him about the fires he fought and incorporated that into the short narrative. The other photo shows him driving the team used to pull the antique fire engine that was used in the town parades.
On a page for my maternal grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, I have incorporated a copy of their original marriage license on a tag tied to their picture with gold thread, a photograph and corresponding newspaper article that ran in the local paper, and their marriage and 50th anniversary dates.
On a page for my paternal grandmother, I tried to simulate the look of a 1920s greeting card since that’s about when the pictures displayed on the page were taken. The purple is reminiscent of her love of violets and the flowers resemble those. I included a short biography of her along with a picture of her with her parents, George and Anna Repsher. This largest photo is a school photo.
On a page for my paternal grandfather, I wanted to give the viewer a feel for the sort of man my grandfather grew up to be. He was an oak tree of a man; very tall, massive hands, and stoic. A short biography is included at the bottom left. A bittersweet photo of him standing in the graveyard next to his father’s tombstone shows how young he was when he lost his father. The photo of him in winter clothes gives a feel for the types of buildings and country he experienced as a boy. The focal point of the page is a school photo.
The scrapbook from which the Steamer Company #1 page came from is an authored work. It is a unique creation based on how and what I chose to incorporate into each page. The information found on the page is a mixture of both primary (firsthand) and secondary information. My dad knew what fires he fought and shared his recollections with me. The caption on the group photo is secondary in that I’m taking my father’s word for who each person was in the fire department at the time. The evidence is indirect for the research question, “Did Bill Strait of Sussex County, Newton, New Jersey, serve in Steamer Company #1 in Newton during the 1970s and 1980s?” Yes, the page implies that he served but there is nothing directly connecting Bill to the Steamer Company, no roster or roll from the fire department is present.
Scrapbooks, like family bibles, can be anywhere. I’ve found them with family members, in historical societies, in libraries and archives, and sometimes on-line. Be creative in where you think to look for these!
Scrapbooks can run the gamut from being just of a collection of newspaper articles to being very artistic with fancy embellishments and artwork. Some are chockfull of genealogical information. Since they are usually kept with the family or the person who create them, scrapbooks can be hard to find but worth the effort to ferret out.
 Zephirin Normandin and Eugenie St. Hilaire, marriage page with portrait of the couple, in Marie Elmire Normandin Scrapbook, ca. 1850-1920; privately held by Mrs. Evelyn Worth, Penn Yan, Pennslyvania, 2011.
 Mercedes Strait’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook, pink bunny card page, 1936-1945; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017. Original scrapbook exists only in digital format now. Individual items were removed and stored in archival folders.
 Westra’s 50th anniversary page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.
 Beatrice Repsher’s violet page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.
 William Strait’s acorn page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.