Chapter One

by Milo Ketchum
1999

In which I describe my birth, my origins, my father and mother, my sisters and my early life.

My name is Milo Ketchum. Actually it is Milo S. Ketchum, Jr., but I dropped the Junior after my father died, so now he is Milo S. Ketchum Sr. My birth certificate shows Milo Beatty Ketchum, for my motherís maiden name, but evidently father wanted a junior. I did not do that to any of my sons. I am the youngest child, and I had two older sisters, Martha, six years older and Elizabeth, called Betty, two years.

I was born on March 8, 1910 in Denver Colorado. Our home was in Boulder, where my father was Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Colorado. He had taken a sabbatical that academic year to form a partnership with Herbert Crocker for the practice of Engineering. My sister, Martha, remembers that she had gone to the City Park, just up the street, had returned and there was my father, standing on the porch with a big grin.

My sister a few years ago told me that I was a "blue baby", short of oxygen. That she had discovered that Motherís blood was Rhesus Negative, incompatible with my fathers, Now some thing can be done about it but then it was unknown. The first child will not be affected but the rest will. Betty had a hard time through her life and died at the age of 72. I subsequently seemed to have been all right but I remember that my Mother said I had a difficult time, early. We moved back to Boulder in August and we lived there until 1919.

I am a full card carrying WASP (white anglo-saxon-protestant). Fatherís family came to this country in 1635 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and subsequently to the New Haven Colony in Greenwich, Connecticut. They moved on through the Mohawk Valley and Father was born on a farm near Kewanee, Illinois. His father was a giant of a man, a lay preacher in the Primitive Baptists, who did not believe in a paid clergy and other somewhat liberal ideas. Father was 6 feet 3 and 3/4 inches, shorter than his father. He took Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois, where he later met my mother. A biography is included as an Appendix at the end of this book.

Motherís family was ethnic Scottish. They migrated to Ireland in 1690 and to this country in 1740, and settled near Harrisburg. Pennsylvania. After the Revolutionary war they all moved to Southern Ohio, many families. The seemed to marry each other so the group was ethnically pure Scottish. Grand father was born in 1828 and attended the local Academy. He was a "Conductor" on the Underground Railway, escorting blacks to Canada. Well before the Civil War he moved to near Newton, Iowa, for farming. His wife died and on her deathbed she advised him to go back and marry Elizabeth Kerr, my grandmother. He was a member of the first state legislature and founded a college but it did not last through the Civil War.

My mother attended the state college at Ames and graduated about 1901. Then Columbia College, in New York City as one of the first graduates in domestic science. She met my father when she was teaching at the University of Illinois, Urbana, when he was an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering. They were married in 1903 and he obtained a position as a Contracting Manager for the Kansas City Steel Company. They moved to the University of Colorado in 1906.

I had two sisters: Martha, born in 1905 and Elizabeth, called Betty, born in 1908. When Martha was about 12, she had an infection in her hip which left her with one leg shorter than the other, This of course affected her whole life. She met and married Neilson Debevoise, a graduate student in History, when she was taking graduate work at the University. He became an archeologist and they spent several years in the Near East where she had her first child. During the war he enlisted as a captain in Army Intelligence, and served in Egypt. After, he worked for the State Department during the Truman to the Johnson years. They had two children, Tom, who became a Orthopedic physician, and Betsy Staz who lived in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.

Betty Ketchum, my other sister, graduated from the University of Illinois. Worked for several years in Chicago as a secretary and then returned to Urbana. She was married to Charles Odegaard, a history professor. During the war, he enlisted in the Navy, and served as the officer in change of defending one of the merchant ships. He was by turns, Dean of Liberal Arts at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and President of the University of Washington, Seattle. Betty died in 1980.

Of course I do not remember much about the early years, before I was 6, and my impressions of the remainder of the years in Boulder are fragmented. Here are some notes on my general impression of the area:

Boulder is located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of over a mile. To the East is the broad prairie which once was treeless but now verdant from irrigation. Immediately to the West are the foothills, characterized at the south end of the city by the Flat Irons, huge slab of stone laid up against the mountains. At that time the population of the city was in the order of twelve thousand, now fifteen times that size.

The address of our home was 1146 12th Street, facing the mountains, on the hill, and south of the business district, about two blocks from the Campus. It was a substantial frame house, surprisingly modern in design, painted red with white trim. An irrigation ditch ran through the property which, I am sure, must have been a source of worry to my mother. Fortunately it was not always full particularly in the winter. I remember one fall it was drying up and on the bottom were fish which some one called suckers, they were very ugly to my young mind. On the north side of the property there was a beautiful large stone masonry retaining wall, rising well above a man's height which was the pride of my father, who had written a book on the design of "Walls, Bins, and Grain Elevators".

In the back of the property there was a two story carriage house. We had no horses but I am sure it must have been used for that purpose. In this building I remember there was a side saddle that my mother have ridden. A wide lawn was between the house and the carriage house, and I vividly remember sitting on the lawn with my two sisters when our house keeper, a Welsh lady, no longer young, coming from the house and announced that the Lusitania had been sunk. It is odd how you will remember certain things. Of course I had not conception of what meaning of this but a remember the heavy emotion displayed.

Another memory is of a May Day celebration on the campus complete with a May pole and beautiful Maidens winding and unwinding the long ribbons tied to a pole. The whole family was there including my father. As a part of the celebration the male students had rigged a wagon with vertical stakes on the bed reproducing the famous scenes from the French Revolution of aristocrats being taken to the Guillotine. The students went around making a great show of arresting faculty members including my father and placing them in the wagon to be taken to Court in the adjacent Law Building there to be tried by the law students for their crimes and misdemeanors. I was disconsolate and cried copiously. I was reassured that this was all a joke and that my father would soon return. I am sure that I did not understand that if my father had not been well liked, they would not have done that. As I remember he was acquitted.


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