A Daughter Seeks her Father’s Roots
pART One: Anticipation
(This article appeared on the front page of The Collinsville News and received extensive coverage on www.cvilleok.com. Because the internet site is operated by a descendent of the original newspaper owner, photos of my Great Grandfather's store, and my Father's graduation picture were also posted).
My Father, Art Goldsmith, left Collinsville, Oklahoma in 1934. But it never left him. The Collinsville News came to his doorstep in Chicago, Illinois every week. When I got married, it still came. When my children were born, it still came. When Collinsville High School announced it was having its 30’s Reunion, it still came. It finally stopped coming one sad day when my Father had to admit he no longer recognized any names.
You could take Art Goldsmith out of Collinsville but you could not take Collinsville out of him. I am the beneficiary of the sense of community he felt, the values he found, and the culture he shared. They are more valuable than anything else he could have left me.
He had a few favorite phrases when it came to talking about Collinsville: “Them is my kinfolk.” That is how he always referred to his neighbors. The wind may come sweeping down the Plain but the people remained constant. When they gave their word, they meant it. When there was hard work to be done, they did it. When it was time to go to church, they went. When charity was needed, they gave. These characteristics came to define Art Goldsmith.
My Father was so proud of his kinfolk, he had a pamphlet entitled “Famous Oklahomans” amongst his treasured papers. Of course, of all the “kinfolk,” he was proudest of Will Rogers. He delighted in point out Will grew up in a nearby town. I like to believe my Father’s wit, which I used to think was corny but now appreciate as wisdom, came in part from his trying to emulate his famous neighbor.
When my Grandfather, David Goldsmith, died 26 years after he left Collinsville, my Father sent his obituary to The Collinsville News because he believed the rest of his “kinfolk” would want to know about it. Moreover, he bought a piano for the school in his Father’s memory and put a small plaque with his name on it.
Another favorite expression my Father used to describe Collinsville was it was “the town the highway passed by.” How different his life might have been…how different all your lives might have been…if that highway had connected Collinsville to Tulsa way back when. Interestingly I do not think my Father ever said these words with regret. I believe he said them to describe his town, fearful it would not ultimately survive. How wonderful to read Collinsville has not merely survived; it has thrived as a town preserved. And it has most likely been preserved because that highway passed it by.
Collinsville was bound to have different expressions and foods than I would find in Chicago. My Father also brought them with him. I learned about okra and to call my evening meal “supper” rather than “dinner.” I learned to answer, “You owe me a dollar three eighty,” if someone wanted to pay me back, and I didn’t want them to. Minor as these examples might sound, they opened my mind at a young age to the fact there were differences in regions as well as people. I came to love small towns, despite being a city girl.
For years I traveled to Collinsville in my mind; now I am coming in person.
I have been in contact with Wanda Nyberg of The Collinsville Chamber of Commerce and Ted Wright of the Newspaper Museum. They have been as wonderful and helpful as I imagined my Father’s kinfolk would be.
There are a few facts about my Father, Grandfather, and Great Grandfather I would like to share, in the hope others may have had personal contact with or recollection of them. Any additional information from the readers would be sincerely appreciated.
Great Grandfather: Benjamin Goldsmith (1863-1928). Opened a dry goods store called “B. Goldsmith,” located at 1004 Main Street.
Grandfather: David Goldsmith (1888 – 1967). Renamed the store “Goldsmith Mercantile Co.” and moved it to (what is now) The American Exchange Building. He was quite the athlete and won medals in track competitions that predated the reinstatement of The Olympics. He was also a poet and had work included in an anthology of poems.
Father: Arthur Goldsmith (1914-2006). Valedictorian of CHS Class of 1931. He returned for The 30’s Reunion on June 7, 1986. This first photo shows him with the woman who took care of him before his Father remarried. Perhaps a relative will recognize her and let me know more about her. The second photo shows my Father (on the left) at the Reunion. Perhaps someone will recognize him and tell me more about the time they shared as classmates.
I will be in Collinsville from Sunday July 27th to the morning of Wednesday, July 30th. I have been fortunate to travel to many places throughout the world. None has filled me with greater anticipation than this trip to Collinsville.
If you have stories to share about The Goldsmith family, I can be reached at email@example.com prior to that time. In any case, I look forward to saying “Hey” when I pass my Father’s kinfolk on the streets of Collinsville. Oklahoma here I come!
Barbara Goldsmith Burkel
pART Two: Realization. A Daughter Finds her Father's Roots