Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Serendipity, Good Luck or ?

Serendipity, Good Luck or ?

My wife and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with our youngest daughter and her family in Fort Collins, Colorado.  While there we had dinner in Denver one evening with my college roommate and longtime friend, Roger Kinney, and his wife.  After we finished eating and were chatting, Roger pulled a photo out of his jacket, related a short story about the photo and handed it to me. 

In 2009 Roger had written a book, Kinship--A Story of the Kinneys, An English/American Family, tracing them from about mid-9th century in England to the current time.  To make it more readable and interesting he wrote it using a story line.  The story line was created by weaving the historic facts about the family, the times and locations; with assumptions he made about his ancestor’s activities and motivations. 

Roger had given a copy of his book to Jay Sanford, who had helped him on an Oldtimer’s Baseball event that had been hosted by the Colorado Rockies.  This man happened to be quite an authority on the history of baseball.  In reading and discussing the book with Roger, his attention was drawn to a passage that dealt with Roger’s father, Stevens Park Kinney, going back to New York around 1911 to live with his grandparents.  Stevens Park's grandfather, Harry Stevens, had run the concessions for the New York Giants baseball team and, somehow, this rang a bell with Jay.  Shortly, thereafter, Roger received the below photograph of a group of New York sports writers from Jay.  The caption reads, in part, “Sitting on the ground:  Concessionaire Harry Stevens and his nephew”.  The nephew happened to be Roger’s father!

Damon Runyon (3rd from L--on chair), Grantland Rice (2nd from R--on chair);  Stevens Park Kinney and Harry Stevens (Roger's Father and Great-grandfather--on ground)
 To make the story even more interesting, and particularly to sports and literary fans, is the fact both Damon Runyon and Grantland Rice are also in the picture.  Damon Runyon was a very famous writer and newspaperman, whose writings led to the musical “Guys and Dolls” and two other Broadway Productions.  Grantland Rice was the “Dean of Sports Writers” of his time.  He coined the phrase “The Four Horsemen” which he used to describe the backfield of the 1924 Notre Dame football team.

After doing a little research on Roger’s great grandfather, Harry Stevens, I now realize why it wasn’t difficult for Jay Sanford to know who Harry Stevens was.  I found the following about Harry on Google:

Stevens, a British steelworker turned American sports concessionaire, sent his vendors out to buy German sausages and rolls when the crowd at the old New York Polo Grounds turned their frosty thumbs down at the traditional ice cream and peanuts.
The hawkers returned to the stands yelling: "Get them while they're hot!" A New York Post cartoonist asked Stevens what his new item was called.
"Dachshund sandwiches," Stevens said.
"But he couldn't spell dachshund, so when he drew the cartoon, he called them hot dogs," recounted Sandy Rose, a Stevens senior vice president and direct descendant of Harry M.
Harry M. Stevens Inc. is a company that cares a great deal about both tradition and hot dogs. The first company ever formed to cater to the sporting world, it has never strayed far from its original business of selling the fans food, drink and souvenirs. It has had some of its clients, like the now-San Francisco Giants, for nearly a century.

As I discussed with Roger, had he not written the book and given a copy to Jay; the likelihood of him ever finding that photo would have been very, very slight. Just another good reason we should all get around to writing our family history!  

Serendipity, Good Luck or ?