The follow-up post: ice, COVID, more

Half a block away

ice tireThis is a follow-up post about what I’ve written about, most recently.

Remember that our car was stuck in the ice in February? Of course, you do. After we got out, and the snow and ice subsequently melted away, we discovered that our neighbor’s sidewalk was still very wet. There was water bubbling up from the intersection of their sidewalk and the walkway to their house.

Apparently, someone from the city or from National Grid, the power company, nicked the waterline. Their water bill must have been terrible for that quarter. The owner had to contact a company to use their backhoe to dig up a couple of sidewalk panels so that the leak could be fixed.

This explains why there was SO much water around our car thawing and refreezing since our car was essentially in front of their house.

Grandma Agatha

I’ve been trying to access the records of the court case involving my grandmother, Agatha Walker (later Green), and my biological grandfather Raymond Cone from October 1926.

Alas, I got word that they can’t find the records. They may have been misfiled or destroyed. And I know, from the conversation I had with the person at Family Court, that they are very interested in this case.

The unmasking

I’ve noted that our church had been masking during worship. However, the Session, the ruling body of the congregation, had commissioned a group of folks, expert in these things, including current and former members of the state Department of Health. The infection rate in Albany County, NY is presently at Green, or low, as is all of New York State. (Green is good, as we know.)

The bottom line is that, as of March 20, masks are optional during worship. The choir, for instance, had a discussion at the beginning of the St. Patrick’s Day rehearsal. Most chose to unmask while singing. BUT no one had to. I tended to keep my mask on while NOT singing but to take it off when I was.

Moreover, congregational singing was allowed, which made them, and me, very happy. And they passed the peace by moving around, rather than just waving at each other.

I will say that my comfort level with unmasking was based on the fact that the choir members are fully vaccinated. Moreover – and I don’t know how to say this without sounding pretentious – our congregation is of a demographic, educational, and political composition that most, if not all of them have gotten the vaccines and likely wearing masks frequently.

Now I know this could change with the BA.2 variant of Omicron in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The recent BAFTA awards in England may have been a super spreader event. And there are more stringent rules in place at church if the CDC guidance for our county goes to Yellow or Orange.

Former governor

Speaking of my church, you probably WON’T remember that I wrote about New York Governor Martin Glynn nearly a decade ago. The Glynn Mansion is half a block from my church! I have walked by it a few dozen times since writing that post. But only recently did I notice the commemorative plaque.

The research trip: Les Green, Agatha Walker, Raymond Cone

Family Court privacy

Les Green.montage
Les Green (X3); the woman in the lower right is Agatha

Back in February 2020, I had planned a research trip to the Broome County Clerk’s office to look at a particular law case. But the March sojourn was postponed for some reason.

The story of the trial appeared in the Binghamton Press, starting on 27 Oct, p. 5. “Negro minister to go on trial.” “The Reverend Raymond Cone, negro minister, charged with being the father of a child born out of wedlock of Miss Agatha Walker, 25 years old*, of 14 East street, a teacher in this Sunday school**, will go on trial in Children’s Court tomorrow before County Judge Benjamin Baker.”

In late September, my friend Cee and I went to the clerk’s office, and I was assured that the information I sought would NOT be there. This is contrary to what I was told 19 months earlier on the phone. In any case, we could not find it. We were directed to the Family Court office.

The person I talked with said that the boss was away, but that I could provide a narrative. So I wrote a request for the trial transcript. I was told back at the county clerk that I might well be denied because Family Court records are sealed for reasons of privacy.

Thank God it was Thursday

But we were given a glimmer of hope by a lawyer who gives advice once a week in the county courthouse. He pointed to  22 NYCRR 205.5, Privacy of Family Court records.

Frankly, I’m not seeing it in the text, but he had researched a similar case in June 2021. He explained that my request could be denied because Family Court records are sealed. But I could appeal to a state appellate judge. I might note, for instance:

1. All of the parties – Raymond Cone, Agatha Walker Green, and the child, my father, Les Green, are all deceased.
2. I am directly related to the participants.
3. Many of the details, including the conclusion by Judge Baker in January 1927 that Rev. Cone was acquitted, was widely known because it was published in the Binghamton newspapers.

* She was actually 24, and 23 when the event occurred on January 6, 1926
** I understand she headed the Sunday school

Things I’ll never know about dad

a mission

agathales
Les (center), Agatha (right), and presumably other Walkers

My sisters and I long knew the biological father of my dad, Les Green, was someone other than my grandfather, McKinley Green. But what we’ll never know:  was he aware of the name of his biological father, Rev. Raymond Cornelius Cone? Did he have any dealings with him whatsoever? I tend to doubt it, but…

And how did he feel about being treated as “illegitimate”? When did he find out? Did he know about the newspaper coverage? My maternal grandmother remembered the stories. Did this affect the way she saw Les Green? They were not fans of each other, which left my mother in the middle of that mess.

One of my sisters suggested that we ask dad about this while he was alive. I was highly resistant in no small part because whatever information that we did know came not from him but from his wife and mother-in-law. I surmised that it was not something he wanted to discuss. I could have been wrong, I suppose.

His maternal grandparents claimed him as their son in the 1930 Census, though the truth had come out in the subsequent decade. As mentioned before, Cone had denied paternity. This was, of course, far before the days of DNA testing that would have proved the minister was a lying son of a…

Did dad know that his mother Agatha, the day after he was born, had taken legal action against RCC? After reading the newspaper clippings from September 1926 through January 1927 in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, I’m still unclear precisely what Cone was being charged with. I THINK it was the failure to own up to the paternity, as opposed to assault or rape.

Mission back on

In March 2020, I had planned to go to Broome County Clerk’s office in Binghamton. Reportedly, there are printed volumes with the transcripts of trials of that vintage. But that trip was scuttled because of the COVID outbreak, with that office closed.

It has now reopened. I need to make a pilgrimage to my hometown to copy the record of grandma Agatha’s fierceness. Did dad believe that despite the verdict exonerating Cone, that his mom was telling the truth?

I’ve been working on my time-travel machine. One needs to line up the questions because one doesn’t know how long one can survive sojourning in the past.

Dad died on August 10, 2000.

 

Where do I go when it’s safe?

food and film

a-group-of-opened-cans-of-food-containing-fruits-vegetables-and-legumesKevin, who is from my home county, though I don’t think we met until college, asks what should be a simple question:

Where is the first place you are going when it’s safe to go out?

Of course, not everything will open up at the same time. The thing I miss the most, singing in the choir, is going to take a while longer than other activities. So, it’s a toss-up between going to the movies and going indoors to a sit-down restaurant.

Now there have been some cinemas open around here with a limited capacity. I’m not feeling at all comfortable with attending. Maybe by the time I take my second COVID shot, I’ll feel differently. Yet, watching movies from home is a lesser experience.

I have some HBO channels, though not MAX; Amazon Prime, and Apple TV. So I have the capacity to see films at home. I just don’t have the discipline to treat films at home as I treat movies in a place I have to sit in a dark room with strangers. And it’s been true for over 40 years.

As for restaurants, I’m not doing that indoors either. Or for that matter, outdoors. When the weather was decent, there was a row of outdoor dining options at the end of Madison Avenue, only a couple blocks from here. Not only did I never patronize them, when I needed to go to the local CVS, but I also made a point of walking on the other side of the restaurants.

Now, I did do takeout occasionally, and sometimes I’ve been anxious about buying THAT, depending on the size of the unmasked crowd I had to wade through. Besides, takeout is not sitting in a restaurant, with its ambiance. There’s a huge difference between being served by a waitperson and taking food home in metal containers.

Hometown

Right before the lockdown, I was planning a trip to my hometown of Binghamton, NY in late March. I wanted to see the court transcripts of the trial involving my grandmother Agatha Walker (later, Green), who levied charges against my biological paternal grandfather, Raymond Cone. These records are only available in paper form, not electronically.

The pre-adoption birth certificate

ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED

lesgreen.wwii
Less than a year later…
The state of New York lied to me. When I ordered my father’s pre-adoption birth certificate in March 2020, they told me it would take 15 months. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. I figured that the deadline would be shot to heck and that September 2021 was a more likely delivery date.

I was right about September, but wrong about the year. On September 4, 2020, I received what I’d been seeking from the state Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.

On the birth record was a stamp: This is not the current birth certificate on file.” It indicated that Leslie Harold Walker was “Known as Leslie Harold Green.” Father was listed as O.W. (out of wedlock), as I suspected. Mother was Agatha Walker, colored, born in Pennsylvania, who worked as a domestic. Les Green, of course, was my father.

More intriguing was the process by which McKinley Melvin Green adopted Leslie in September 1944, only a couple of weeks shy of Les’ 18th birthday. The report was quite a bit of legalese, with a dearth of periods. “Said parties having severally and personally appeared before me.” And “an investigation into the allegations of the petitioned proposed adoption being made by… the Department of Child Placing, Broome County Welfare.”

A good idea

Still no full stop. “It duly appearing that the moral and temporal interests of the said child, Leslie H. Walker, will be promoted by said adoption… The said McKinley M. Green is in all respects fit and proper person to adopt said child… The said McKinley M. Green has duly agreed to adopt said child and to make him his own lawful child…”

It goes on. “It further appearing that the said child, Leslie H. Walker, and the mother of said child, Agatha H. Walker, have duly consented in writing to such adoption.” Wait, there’s more. “And to a proposed change of the name of said child to Leslie H. Green….” It gets all “ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED.”

This is fascinating to me. McKinley and Agatha were married in 1931. But by 1936, they were no longer living together. In the 1940 Census, when Mckinley was residing in a boarding house, Agatha and Les were staying at Agatha’s parents’ house. But they were both listed as Green, or actually misspelled as Greene. In a 1942 photo in a Binghamton newspaper, Leslie Green was one of the Boy Scouts and McKinley one of the fathers.

After I was was about a year old, McKinley and Agatha lived on the second floor of 5 Gaines Street, while Les and his wife Trudy and I lived downstairs, along with my future sisters.

Also interesting to me is the fact that the change form for the adoption indicates Leslie H. Walker as an “infant” on September 13, 1944. He was 17 years and 50 weeks old at the time. What would the procedure have been if it had gone through two weeks later?

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