Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Twist in the Road

Sometimes, when you are on your way to a destination you happen upon an unexpected  twist in the road  and suddenly, you find yourself in a surprisingly different  place.

Such was the case with the Dapper Dan Contest.

You may recall I posted a picture my son and I found in a big box of stamps, empty envelopes and pictures which had been passed down from my grandfather, Gustav Hartman (a/k/a G.R. Hartman) through several family members to my son. We had fun with the contest and three people took time to think up and post an entry. Thanks again to all of you and congrats once more to Tameri Etherton, who has a wonderful blog you should tour soon.

Thanks to the comments of eagle eye reader Bill Allen, I took a closer look at the picture and agreed with his theory that the object our Dapper Dan was holding was an icicle--a HUGE icicle. Kudos to you, Bill! So on our way to celebrating another contest, I decided to send the picture to the historical society in Glenn Ullin, North Dakota, where one branch of my family was from. I did this after realizing a picture of a man holding a huge icicle couldn’t possibly have been taken in South Florida (duh...). Now, I realize this was a total long shot. I mean, the picture was obviously old and could have been taken anywhere in the world where ice and snow come to visit.

Here’s the twist in the road.

Kathy Schirado of the Glenn Ullin Historical Society Archives decided to run the picture by an older resident to see if she might have an idea of who our Dapper Dan might be. She chose Anne Hartman Geitzen.

Getting goosebumps yet?

Anne HARTMAN Geitzen, who is now 87, took one look at the picture and said, “Well, of course I know who that is. It’s my Uncle Fred!”

Call me gobsmacked. There’s no other word for it.
Gus and Ione Hartman
My Grandparents

Anne’s father was Henry Hartman, my grandfather’s oldest brother. Fred was born in 1901, about a year ahead of my grandfather, and he’s squinting in the picture because he was shot near that eye in World War I.

Anne says there are only three of them left in her part of the family.  She and her sister, Martha, live very close to each other in Glen Ullin. Another relative, Viola, lives in DeKalb, Illinois. I had a wonderful telephone conversation with Anne the other evening and we promised to keep in touch. She told me Viola was the one with the computer and Anne had already mailed a letter to her with my information in it so that we could be in touch, too.

The world can seem so large. Over 313,000,000 people live in just the United States today. But every now and then, a series of seemingly insignificant events happen that make the world seem so much smaller. I value those twists in the road. They make me realize again that all kinds of exciting possibilities exist. One old picture brought several distant family members into the same intersection again.  What are the odds?

Somewhere, a man sporting a jaunty bowler and a leather jacket is smiling. Well played, sir. Well played.

(C) Copyright 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge


  1. Wow, what an interesting journey you've had with that photo! When I became a Christian, I decided that coincidences like that were nonexistent. I believe that sometimes God will just put together an extraordinary set of circumstances to make something completely mind-blowing happen. I'd say you've been God-smacked, not gobsmacked, LOL! But that's just me. However it happened, it's a great story and I'm glad you shared it! :0) Neat!

    1. Cindy: Thank you for your comment! And you could just be right :)

  2. That is a great story! It is a smaller world than we think. Here's mine -- I was in the middle of the Australian outback and ran into a friend from NYC. It was such a surprise I didn't even go up to him - just kept thinking he looked an awful lot like my friend. Then I went out to dinner and there he was again. So we kind of approached each other at the same time. And it was him!

  3. Wow! The odds of that happening must have been astronomical!!

  4. That is probably the coolest thing I've read in a long time. What a small world indeed. Dapper Dan from Florida is really a relative of yours from North Dakota! He sure did get around that Fred. Did you ever find out what was up with the huge icicle?

    1. Tameri: No idea what was up with that icicle. I'm kind of thinking it was a "look how much fun you're missing" picture sent to my grandfather or great-grandfather in sunny South Florida one winter lol. Fred, however, looks cold to me!

  5. Lovely story, with a nice twist. I love when that happens. Great picture, too. What fun.