Thursday, October 4, 2012
Juliana Dotson, pictured above, is the chief cook and bottle washer at the Thomas-Foreman Home located on West Okmulgee Avenue. I remember when she was hired for the job. I was asked for a recommendation and I gave a positive one. Little did I realize how good a choice she was.
Judy, as she likes to called, talked with me the other day about some of the challenges and successes she has faced recently. She said some days she is the "Chief Squirrel Chaser." Two lamp handing from the ceiling by twisted-wire electrical cords need checking because they will not turn on. Squirrels are the suspects though they do not currently occupy the attic.
Right now, the gutters need to be cleaned out again. If the rain water is flowing properly, the cistern will be refilled. These issues are just some of the worries that burden Judy's shoulders.
The usual housekeeping chores are ever present just like they are in your own home. Artifacts and shelves need to be dusted and the floors swept. At least she has microfiber cloths and a modern vacuum cleaner to work with.
And then there is the bathroom that needs cleaning regularly. At least there is no ring in the tub because it has been decades since anyone took a bath in the Thomas-Foreman Home.
In her spare time, Judy has little time for idleness. She has an insatiable appetite for learning more about the former occupants of the home: Judge John Robert Thomas, his daughter Caroline and her husband Grant Foreman.
Did you know that there are believed to be more than 2,000 volumes in the home? I was stunned by the number.
Judy has been covering the books one at a time with sheet protectors. She cuts the edges to allow the front and back to lay flat. The protector is folded over the book to cover the boards and the spine. About half of the books have been covered so far.
It would take a case of boxes, each box holding 200 protector sheets, to finish the project of protecting the remaining books and then the manuscripts in the house.
As Judy has been protecting the books, she has made some discoveries. It has been possible to identify the owners of many of them. Some of Judge Thomas' books date from the 1830's. Some have inscriptions in Grant's handwriting that conveys his love for Carolyn.
I asked her if she had formed any impressions of the home's former occupants. Judy's response came quickly.
"While working with the manuscripts," she said, "I saw that Judge Thomas was a fair and compassionate man. During a murder trial, he confessed to have no heart for convicting a wife who had been repeatedly beaten by her husband before she killed him."
The Foremans were truly a loving couple who worked as a team in Judy's opinion. The cooperation they shared is reflected in the tremendous production in the number of books they both authored.
Judy is such a name dropper! She could not resist telling me a bit about the world the Foremans enjoyed touring. She described how the couple was in Egypt when King Tut's tomb was first opened. Grant also had an interview with Mahatma Gandhi two days before the British arrested the pacifist and threw him into prison.
It is clear to me that this "bottle washer" has fallen in love with the Thomas-Foreman Home. If you happen to be on West Okmulgee some Friday or Saturday between 10 and 5:00, stop by for a tour. Judy would just love taking a moment to share stories about the home's famous residents.