Thursday, October 28, 2004

More on Tombstone and Tombstones

John at Clemens family monumentThis is more like it: the Clemens family monument in Elmira, New York, along with the headstone of Samuel Clemens. John and I stopped there on our honeymoon in 1979.

I found a really neat web site today when I looked up Lester Moore of Tombstone fame. It's called Find A Grave ( This site has listings, with pictures, for every grave at Boothill Graveyard (a.k.a. Boot Hill Cemetery) in Tombstone. It also has thousands, perhaps millions (I have my doubts, but that's the claim), of other grave data entries from across the country. You can look up the graves of the famous, the infamous, and (if you're lucky) the long-lost relative. Many listings include pictures of both people and headstones, short bios and trivia.  People can add listings and photos, or leave virtual flowers on people's memorial pages.

This was on our honeymoon, in 1979.So you know, of course, that I had to do this for my mom. Her page, if you're curious, is here. By the time I came back to the page, about five hours after creating it, someone had already left flowers. How nice!  I highly recommend this web site to those of you who have buried one or both of your parents, a sibling or a dear friend. It's a nice, easy way to build a little memorial tribute on a site where it will be seen, and it helps to build yet another database for genealogy buffs. The advantage is that this one is free. The disadvantage is that it seems to be entirely  volunteer and user-driven, and is therefore extremely spotty in its coverage so far. 
I expect that will change, though, as more people use the site. And of course, even people who haven't lost a loved one can have fun looking up the graves of gunslingers, movie stars and other famous people.

I don't have much more to say on this subject, just a few more pictures. somewhere on old Route 66, 1986To make more text around which to fit the photos, I'll tell you a little bit about Tombstone, and about the other "memorial" I once designed. Let's start with the latter, because it's short and silly.

When I was about eight to ten years old, my family went on vacation to Cape Cod. One of the beaches there was on a stretch of ocean where the water that summer's day was exceptionally cold. A few people managed to go swimming anyway, but it was a feat akin to polar bear clubs going swimming at Christmas to show that they can. So I used my sand pail (or possibly my hands) to build a gravestone-shaped mound. On it I was going to inscribe the words, "In memory of those who froze to death," but my parents suggested an edit: "In memory of those who here froze to death." Nowadays I would put the word "here" at the end of the sentence.

Nobody knows her last name, but Margaria was stabbed by Gold Dollar.Tombstone, Arizona is promoted as "The Town Too Tough to Die." The site of the Gunfight at OK Corral, the little town in Southeast Arizona has a fair number of truly historic sites, and not much money to make everything slick and fancy. One of the museums, devoted to the Wells Fargo stagecoaches and related history, went out of business years ago, and its artifacts were auctioned off. The town has Wyatt Earp Days and other annual festivals, wherein people parade down the main street in character or in period costume. They still have the Birdcage Theater, the Crystal Palace (where you can have a beer or a sarsaparilla while watching a local band play rock and roll) and, of course, the O.K. Corral. Sadly, the dummies of the Earps and their enemies that stand in the old corral look quaint and horribly fake to anyone who's ever been to Disneyland, but in a way that adds to the charm. They do have scheduled reeanactments with live people, which I expect are much more satisfying.

from 1987 brochures.One attraction that makes me ache for the people trying to make a living in Tombstone is the Historama. Now, I haven't seen this thing in at least fifteen years, so it may be better than it was, but when I saw it it was, well, kind of pathetic. If I recall correctly, it was a combination of a film (narrated by Vincent Price, of all people!) and a rotating, cone-shaped model of the town and its buildings, and a few of its people. As Price recounts the history of the town, different parts of the model come into view, are illuminated, and sometimes move. When the town catches fire, red light bulbs come on inside the buildings. When one of the Earps gets shot in the back while playing pool, his little figure falls over with an audible clack. It's hard not to laugh. But as I say, I haven't been there in a very long time. It may be a little more sophisticated now, but don't count on it.  This town is kept going on the basis of a fairly meager tourist trade, affordable real estate, maybe a little mining (mines in Tombstone always used to fill up with water), occasional location filming, and the determined love of its citizens.  Fortunes are not made in Tombstone, not any more.


Photos by Karen and John Blocher.


justcherie said...

Your previous entry, and now this one, have been an inspiration for some ideas on journal entries of my own.  I'm collecting some articles, and looking for pictures, but I'm afraid I'm too obsessed with the election for now.  Maybe after tuesday!  In the meantime, I'm loving these!

alphawoman1 said...

Karen, you look so cute in the 1979 pic!  I love what you have done with your jnl. lol!  No really, it just seems a really bizarre thing to say.

ryanagi said...

Well! Look at you, you little hottie! :-)

olddog299 said...


I second ryangi's lust, er, emotion!  Sadly, the hat is from the "Second Coming of Carnaby Street Collection."  Actually, the only sad part was getting sucked into those fashions the first time around - 15 years earlier!  Ewww!

Great entries - either side of this one. I'm off to mine more information from your journal. Toodles...


valenceinc said...

Great journal entry!  Have you ever heard  the song "The Battle of Boothill" by Johnny Cash.  Great song.  Check out my book journal----->          Shelly