Wednesday, October 31, 2001

SANTOS folk narrative

SANTOS FAMILY FOLKLORE as if told by Jimmy's grandson, Sean

(We pieced this family folklore together while we were in the Azores, and I added bits to it right after we returned. It's a story for my 1st cousin once removed, Sean Dinsmore, who was a child at the time. Now Sean is 21. I transcribed the folklore as if told from Sean's point of view, so he would have a family record for later. (I was taking a monologue class at the time....I did one for each family name. I was planning to use them in a monologue in several voices, since I couldn't use them for my folklore class.)
At the time, I was desperate to fill my required 40 bits of collected folklore for my anthropology professor, Dr. Alan Dundes' folklore class at UC Berkeley, and this unexpected piece came out of the collecting process. 
My informants were my aunt Canice, who was married to Jimmy Santos, and her daughter, my cousin, Sinead Dinsmore, who was Jimmy's step-daughter. So it all came from second-hand informants. I wasn't sure how to clarify the information from two sources.  It was disjointed, Sinead and Canice would begin a story, we'd be interrupted, then, out of the blue, hours or days later, they'd finish the story.
Alan Dundes said he only wanted first-hand informants, in their own authentic language structure, replete with hem-haws, ahems, and warts. So I wasn't able to use this piece. Then I changed the story, to be read as if told from Sean's point of view. I have the original fragments in my journals, but they are fragments, not contiguous.
How I collected the stories: We were traveling together, over a period of a month, In September, right after 9/11. The fragments were collected in San Francisco, Boston, Azores, London—in hotel rooms, boats, and planes. The stories are fragments, as they were always interrupting each other. A tape recorder would've come in handy. Or not. Canice was on a pilgrimage to the land of Jimmy's ancestors, in the Azores.
Canice and Sinead were the ones Jimmy told these stories too. And my cousin David, too (I've never collected his Jimmy stories). I heard a few stories too at Thanksgiving dinners. Sadly, Jimmy (James J. Santos in the story) never met his grandson Sean. Jimmy died too soon, at the age of 54, in the 1990s, of heart failure, though his heart was big.
I never finished writing this piece. There were a lot more stories that I didn't capture—Jimmy in Mill Valley, and working in Sausalito, etc. Sinead still tells a few Jimmy stories, and I always mean to write them down, but I never do. If I wasn't trying to upload and post-date my old writing for this blog, this piece might have languished in cyberspace forever. Several of my old files from 2000 are corrupted, with bits missing. This blog is an attempt to rescue old files.
Regardless of how this memoir was captured, and transcribed, it does chronicle the times. The story was as true as I could make it. A record for the future. And now that that little boy I traveled to the Azores with, Sean, has a son, Jameson, perhaps it's time to give Sean this small piece of his past, now that he's a father, himself. —MH 11/20/2015)

As if told by Sean Dinsmore:

Great-grandpa John J. Santos and great-grandma Bernice D. Santos were new parents to my grandpa, James J. Santos. Great-great grandma Desalla didn’t approve of how her grandson was being cared for. She took it upon herself to whisk James home to her house. He lived with his grandparents until he was ready for school. 

One day his mother decided it was time, and brought him home. His grandmother would be an important figure in his growing up. He often went fishing with his Uncle James and played in Sausalito amongst the boats. His father took his favorite car and sold it without his permission, because Great-grandpa needed the money. This bothered James for the rest of his life, so he supported his sons when they bought their first cars.

During the Big Fire on Mount Tam in the ’40s, Grandpa told stories. How his father worked on the Fire Crew and all the men. The canteen service that worked the fire, the giant amount of food they served. Grandpa was a small child and the portions of steak and chicken were huge massive servings. These men worked long and dangerous hours that seemed longer and they were filled with emotion. This was a defining memory of his childhood.

Great-uncle Jimmy was a fisherman during his youth, and when he was older, he took men sport fishing. The sea was his environment and he fished and worked the sea his whole life. He lived in Mill Valley with Sally in his parents’ house where Great-great-grandma lived. Stories of Grandpa coming home from school crying and sad because the kids were mean. Great-uncle Jimmy telling James to stick-up for himself.

The next day he came home with a smile on his face. The story is that Grandpa James didn’t back down from the bullies and so his battle was over. Grandpa had problems with discrimination his whole life because he was dark, not black but not pure white. So kids who didn’t know him would think wrong thoughts. Adults that he worked with often mistook his ancestry and assumed it wrong.

The Azore Islands is were my great-great-grandpa was from. The Azore Islands were discovered in the 14th century by the Portuguese and Europeans. My mother and grandmother and godmother went with me to the Azores a few years ago. When we were there, we saw volcanic rock beaches. The landscape is similar to Ireland with fields marked with stone fences. We saw a farmer riding his donkey from the corn field with the fresh corn under his bottom. 

The Soares and Bettencourts and Desallas are names in my family tree. My father John, and uncle James would fit right in with their dark hair and eyes, though they're half-Irish. My father John, is very tall—6’5,” and for his heritage, he’s a little big—with size 15 shoes, a little hard to find. 

After the Azores, we went to Lisbon, and to Fatima, a religious site. Then we went to London, England, and stayed in Maidenhead. In “Harry Potter” they show the train station Mom and Grandma took me through. We visited Buckingham Palace and Westminister Abbey as well as Harrod’s department store. The lemonade was very expensive.


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