Website, Research, Nostalgia

After roaming the country and constantly being on the move, these past couple of days just sitting behind my laptop felt nice at first. Well, maybe for two hours. Now I’m restless, especially since my research just has me reliving both grandpa’s and my journey in my head.

A lot of what I’ve been doing is figuring out complicated (to me) computer things and deciding exactly how I want to lead readers through the American landscape of 1939 and 2017. It’s harder than it sounds! There are so many ways in which I could start. Do I dive into the political and economic environment of the late 1930’s (immediately post Great Depression and Dust Bowl) and explore how that would have affected the trip, what the boys would have seen, and their perspective on the world? And then compare that to today? Could be interesting, as we have also seen our fair share of turmoil recently. Or, do I look at how towns and landscapes have changed? The routes my grandfather and the boys took in 1939 were major cross-continent roads that brought prosperity to the towns along the way. Today, the routes are bypassed or even non-existent. The towns have suffered a similar fate. There are probably five other directions I have heavily considered to guide my narrative. My problem is that they are all so interesting, and so I’ve been doing research into everything while not focusing on constructing my story.

Other issues are more technological. Who knew it would take me six hours to get audio clips off my phone, converted from m4a to mp3, converted from mono mp3 to stereo mp3, and then onto a website? The main reason for the lengthy process was probably that I hadn’t even heard of m4a or mono sound. My goal with this (getting my audio onto a website), was to be able to embed the audio in my StoryMap. The ESRI help blogs provided code in which to do that, and it seemed like having the audio online was the only way to go. Well, six hours later, and I’m still stumped. Fortunately, a friend has a contact in the ESRI office and gave me the email of someone who may be able to help. Fingers crossed. The positive outcome from this though, was that I created a website to host all of my research. It has my route, the audio, a link to the StoryMap (coming soon), and a blog that I’ve started. My hope is that I can continue this project even after the due date on Friday. Website:

One of the main reasons I want to continue is that so many people have started to take a keen interest in my project. Mike Northridge, a co-worker of my mom’s and a former resident of Florham Park, NJ, has gone so far as to begin to conduct interviews with longtime residents. He’s also digging into the 1930’s census data to try and figure out exactly where my grandfather grew up (there weren’t house numbers back then so it’s actually a lot harder than it would seem). It’s thanks to him that we found out the exact buildings my grandfather and the boys left from and arrived at (both are now used for different purposes).

My great-uncle Ed Browne is also very involved. Though 98 and living in Maine, he is still very sharp and has been sending my mom and I wonderful handwritten notes (including maps!) whenever he remembers things that may help. A lot of times we’re not exactly sure how stuff he sends fits into the narrative, but he’s invested, and it’s nice to see people appreciating the research going on.

There are also the people I’ve grown up with- parents of childhood friends, neighbors, friends and family, who have been following the journey on Instagram (99 followers as of today (!!)). I’ve had many people reach out for requests for my grandfather’s book. People keep asking how I’m going to tie everything I’ve done and they did together; I feel like I need to deliver! These are the main reasons I’m hoping to continue the project post-deadline.insta zoom67 img005

@spiritof39 Instagram and a hand-drawn map of Florham Park by Ed Browne


Census research by Mike Northridge and a screenshot of part of the home page of the website