Monday, April 15, 2013

The Spakes of Memphis

by Pa Rock
Family Scribe

My dad's best friend during his military service in World War II was a young man from Memphis, Tennessee, by the name of Joe Spake.  I remember one vacation along the southern coast when I was about eight or nine.  On the way back to the Ozarks from South Carolina we made a swing through Memphis and visited with the Spake family.  The following year they came to see us in Missouri.  Sadly, Joe Spake died at a very young age and our families lost contact with each other.

Fast forward forty years:  I was listening to my car radio on the way to work at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa a couple of years ago.  There was a program playing that discussed the history of jazz which was interspersed with some really great music.  Toward the end of the show, I heard that the program was Beale Street Caravan and the host was a professional saxophone player by the name of Jim Spake.

Spake is an unusual name, and there was an obvious connection to Memphis with "Beale Street," so I went on the web and did some basic research.  It turns out that Jim was the youngest of three children of my dad's wartime friend.  Over the months I have exchanged quite a bit of correspondence with his older sister - a social worker.  I sent her a copy of my dad's handwritten memoirs, and she gave me copies of letters that her dad sent to her mother during the war - the ones that mentioned my dad.

Jim Spake is in Phoenix tonight.  He plays saxophone in a band called Lucero, and they have a one-night gig downtown.  I had intended to go, but with the recent surgery and my return to work this week, I decided that it would be better to stay home and conserve my energy.  Jim and I did have a good conversation on the phone where he proved to be every bit as personable as he was on Beale Street Caravan.  We talked for about thirty minutes and covered a lot of ground.

One point that he made was how important it is to preserve family history.  He said that he was going to encourage people in the older generation to write their stories - and being firmly in the older generation, I am determined to write my own story.

Of course, I have woven a lot of my personal history into this blog - and that's a start - but I need to get more serious with the effort.

And I will, thanks in no small measure to the encouragement of a new friend.

Welcome to Phoenix Jim Spake and Lucero.

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