Thursday, July 11, 2013

Imagining Arlie

I'm not a genealogy buff, but occasionally we wind up with a class project that sends me poking into the past and I find it very interesting.  Here's something that happened 91 years ago today, on July 11, 1922.

From the Camden Chronicle:

Arlie Gordon Chester of Eva was drowned while bathing at Oatsvall Landing on the Tennessee River about 1 o'clock Saturday afternoon.  The young man had been working in the vicinity of the landing and had gone to the river to take a gasoline boat home. Hubbs Barker, Eulis Walker and some other boys were in bathing, and young Chester told that he wanted to go in. As he could not swim, we understand the other boys told him not to do so, but he did and soon got into deep water. One of the boys endeavored to save him, but as he was without clothing he could not hold him and was forced to break loose from him to save himself. Young Chester was the son of P.C. and Emma Chester and a nephew of Ben Holland of Eva. He was past 21 years of age and was a quiet, nice boy, unassuming and industrious. His body was recovered at 9 a.m. Sunday morning and was given burial at Chalk Hill Sunday afternoon.

Pop Chester on the left, Arlie in the middle
Arlie was my grandfather's brother.  Nobody's around today who knew him, but we know from family lore that he had a learning disability of some kind.  There are lots of ways to be disabled, but since a good chunk of autism is genetic, maybe he was on the autism spectrum.

They wouldn't have called it that, of course.  The word "autism" wasn't to be used in it's modern sense for another 16 years after Arlie's death, when Hans Asperger described his work in Vienna.  More likely, they would have just called him "tetched".

Whatever Arlie's condition was, I wonder what life was like for him back then.  I read somewhere that rural communities can accommodate autistic people better than urban ones in some ways.  It can be quiet, have little traffic, extended families tend to live together or nearby, and everybody knows one another, at least in passing.

conked out at 3:00 p.m.
Having just returned from a trip to visit my folks in rural Tennessee, I can believe it.  Both our boys found great joy in roaming up and down the creek, skipping stones, and catching fireflies, crawdads, frogs, and moths.  We went on some seriously good walkabouts and we all slept really well, which is rare for us.

critter catcher

Have a safe and happy summer!

And if you're a Utah family affected by autism, come to the Autism Community Summer Social and tell your public officials you'd like autism to be covered by insurance.  It's TODAY!

1 comment:

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